If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.
These words acquire a peculiar solemnity when we recall the fact that they were uttered by our Lord Jesus Christ when the dark shadow of the cross, which expressed the world’s hatred toward Him, was already falling across His pathway. On ahead He saw Calvary where He, the sinless One, was to be made sin for us. And there He was to experience all the hatred and malignity that man, activated by demon power, could heap upon Him. He had no illusions as to His future. He knew from the first just how His earthly ministry would end. He came from heaven to close it in that very way. He said, long before, “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mat_20:28; Mar_10:45). He knew that He would meet with rejection on every side, but He came to die for those who hated Him, for those who trampled upon the love and grace of God as seen in Him.
And now He calls upon those who trust Him to walk with Him, recognizing the fact that this world system is incurably evil, that it can never be improved but will ever stand in opposition to God. Many Christians have imagined that it can be improved. Many have supposed that it was the program of the church to make the world over, and so, to make it better. But as you look out upon this world today after nineteen hundred years of gospel preaching it is still the most wicked of all possible worlds. And it is just as evil now as it ever was. People ask, “But is not the world better, because of so many millions of Christians in it?” They forget that Christians are not of the world, for the Lord Jesus Christ tells us right here that He has chosen us out of the world. So when you want to see whether the world is any better than it was when it crucified the Lord of glory, subtract the church and everything connected with it, and all you have left is the world in its stark hideousness and hatred of God-just the same wicked world today as when its representatives cried in Pilate’s judgment hall, “We have no king but Caesar” (Joh_19:15), and as for Jesus, “Crucify him! crucify him” (Luk_23:21; Joh_19:6)! And so these words come down to us, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” (Joh_15:18). And we need to remember that we begin our Christian life by choosing One whom the world rejects. We identify ourselves with Him by faith. That is why the Spirit of God elsewhere says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1Jn_2:15-17). Some people are perplexed when we use this term, the world. They ask the question, “Just what do you mean when you speak of Christians not loving the world and Jesus choosing us out of the world. What world do you mean? Do you mean the universe as such?” No “Do you mean the globe?” No, not that. “What, then?” This order or system of humanity that has turned its back on God. That is the world. And that world, I repeat, is just the same today as it ever was. When a Christian tries to be a friend of the world, he constitutes himself, at least in that act, into an enemy of God. Scripture uses strong language for those of His children who try to be friends of the world. In James we read, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (Jam_4:4).
We have pledged ourselves to the One whom the world rejects. Therefore, we are guilty of spiritual adultery if we throw our arms about the world that has refused Him. Oh, if every Christian could realize that he is called out of the world. If we only understood the heavenly nature of our calling, we would not raise so many questions as to whether there is any harm in this or that. The one great question would be, “Is this of the Father, or is it of the world?” If it is for the glory of God, I can go on with it gladly, but if not, then it should have no place in my life as a Christian.
This world hates Christianity. We see many examples of that today. How Christians are suffering in various parts of the world where once they seemed to have a welcome! Only a few years back Japan was heartily patronizing Christianity, and today they are declaring that it is an enemy of the State. The last word we hear is that all Christian missionaries are ordered to leave the land. Why? Because they know that Christianity is the very antithesis of the theories that they are now advocating and by which they hope to dominate eastern Asia. We see the same attitude on the part of other great world powers. Christ is still the hated One. The opposition to Him becomes more and more intense. It behooves us to ask ourselves if we are really prepared to stand with and for Him no matter what attitude men may take round about us. They hate our Lord. They hate His very grace and lovingkindness because it is such a reflection upon their pride and spirit of warfare that is opposed to the humility of Jesus. Men detest Him for His very lowliness.
He says, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (Joh_15:19). What a wonderful thing to be chosen out of the world! I am sure when we look forward and think of the judgment, we can thank God that we have been chosen out of the world.
But what shall we say of those who hope to be delivered and who profess to be Christians, but who are now seeking to get all the pleasure and good times the world can give them. One thinks of Lot and his family so long ago. They moved down to Sodom in order that they might participate in worldly things, tired of the life of separation lived up there on the hills of Palestine. Step by step downward, until they became ensconced in Sodom. Then came the day when the judgment of God was about to fall upon that guilty city and the angels came to bring the message, “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed” (Gen_19:17). We are told the angels commanded Lot to go to his relatives in the city, men who had married his daughters and tell them that tomorrow the judgment was to fall. But they mocked Lot when he talked to them about judgment. Why? Because he had lived so much like the rest of them. And now they thought he was demented.
Are you and I so living that our testimony really counts when we warn men to flee from the wrath to come, or are we living so near to the edge of the world, are we so much like those around us, that others question whether we really believe what we are professing? Oh, if there ever was a day when God is calling to absolute separation from this world, this is the time!
“Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also” (Joh_15:20). There you have the two classes, those who are subject to Him and those who refuse to own his authority. The lines are being drawn closer and closer, and will be drawn more and more definitely. As we read our Bibles and the newspapers and look around about us, we cannot help but believe that even now, perhaps, we are moving right on toward the darkness and horrors of the Great Tribulation. And if that be so, the hour when the Lord Jesus Christ “shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (1Th_4:16) must be very close at hand. Let us see that we so live, so behave ourselves, so use the talents that God has entrusted us with in order that our actions toward those about us, in the family, in the professing church and in the world around, will carry weight. That when we hear that voice, that shout, that trump, we will go with gladness and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.
One thing I am sure of is that there will never be a Christian in that day who will wish he had been a little more worldly or enjoyed more of the frivolity of the present moment. But there will be tens of thousands of believers who will in that day be willing to give almost anything if they had been more interested in the things of the Lord during the little time that they spent in this scene. God give us to live as those who have been chosen out of the world! When we came to Christ we said farewell to the world. We left it all for His name’s sake. Oh, how can we then go back on that which meant so much to us in the hour of our first love.
Let us search our hearts, and if we find that the world means more to us now than it did then, let us repent and “do our first works over again” that we may have His approval in the coming day.
The world hates God; it will hate us. If we are seeking its love, it will only be at the cost of faithfulness to Christ. That is the trouble with the world. It does not know God. Do we know Him? We never can know Him if we reject Jesus Christ. He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (Joh_14:6). “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Act_4:12). He came to reveal the Father. He has told out all that God is, and if men spurn Him, it is because they know not God. When we receive Him, we receive eternal life. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (Joh_17:3).
“If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin” (Joh_15:22). Responsibility increases with knowledge. People have said to me, “If that is true, then what about the heathen? Are not the heathen all right just as they are? Why should we go to them with the gospel? For if we do not go, they will not have sin. Does that mean that the heathen are saved without the gospel?” Not at all. The first chapter of the epistle to the Romans explains that. It is not because of what they do not know-not because of the rejection of the Savior of whom they have never heard-but because of what they do know, because of the light of conscience which they already have that they are condemned. They are doing day by day the things that their own consciences tell them are wrong.
The Christian is to go to them with the gospel and proclaim a full and free salvation through the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, bringing a message of joy and happiness such as they never have known in their idolatry. When they hear, they are responsible to accept the gift of God. Every time we preach the gospel here at home we must remember that to some it is “the savour of death unto death; and to others the savour of life unto life” (2Co_2:16). Men, hearing the message, either accept Christ as Savior or spurn the Word and increase their condemnation. It is a solemn thing when life is offered and men refuse it. That is what we are told in the earlier part of this book when Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus. He said, “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (Joh_3:19-21).
And so the greatest condemnation rested upon those who heard and rejected Christ when He came. He came and revealed God. They rejected Him, and thus rejecting Him they had no cloak for their sin, for in hating Him they hated His Father also.
“If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father” (Joh_15:24). That is, the Lord Jesus Christ not only ministered by word of mouth but He authenticated His teaching by His acts of power, and every miracle wrought by Christ proved that He was what He professed to be, the holy, spotless Son of God. The people went in crowds to see His miracles, but they rejected the One who wrought these works and therefore, added to their own condemnation. Of this He says, “But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause” (Joh_15:25). He quotes from Psalm 69, where we have a wonderful prophetic picture of His dying on the cross for our sins. It is in that connection we read, “They … hate me without a cause” (Psa_69:4). There was no reason why Jesus should be hated. He came with a heart full of love for mankind and went about doing good. Men spurned Him because His very purity brought their impurity out into the light, His very holiness accentuated their unholiness, His perfect righteousness but manifested their unrighteousness. They said, “Get Him out of the way!”
There is a story told of an African chiefess who happened to visit a mission station. The missionary had a little mirror hung up on a tree outside his cabin. The chiefess happened to look into the mirror and saw herself reflected there in all her hideous paint and evil features. She gazed at her own ugly, grotesque countenance, started back in horror, and said, “Who is that horrible looking person inside that tree?” “Oh,” they said, “it is not in the tree. The glass is reflecting your own face.” She could not believe it until she held that mirror in her hand. She said, “I must have the glass. How much will you sell it for?” “Oh,” he said, “I don’t want to sell it.” But she insisted and begged, until finally he thought it might be best to sell it to her to avoid trouble. So he named the price, and she took it. Then as she said, “I will never have it making faces at me again,” she threw it down and broke it to pieces.
That is the way people treat the Bible and Jesus Christ. The Word of God shows up men’s wickedness. They say, “Down with Christ! We don’t want your Bible, and we don’t want your Christ.”
But now, what is our power for testimony as we go to meet a world like this? In the last two verses Jesus again refers to that blessed One whose coming He had promised in the earlier part of His discourse. “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (Joh_15:26-27). We have no power in ourselves. As Christians we are weak and have no ability to stand against the enemy, but “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1Jn_4:4). And so our reliance is upon the Divine Comforter, the third person of the Trinity, who has come to take the Savior’s place and to empower us to go forth and bear witness that through this testimony men may be saved.