John 15:18-27 Preaching the gospel with divine love and authority
If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.
20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.
22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. 25 But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated ME without a cause.’
26 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, 27 and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”
Jesus prepares His disciples for the work of evangelizing the world. But not without first opening their eyes to the grave reality that awaits them. The world is severely polarized; they were either loved on one side or hated on the other. Jesus’ persecution and torture in the hands of His own people was representative of the world’s harvest field. The disciples would be mostly persecuted and hated like their master was. Nevertheless, they were to continue in their testimony of repentance and salvation but not without the enablement of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit causes the disciples to project God’s authority and love convicting sinners through the gospel message. Today’s passage prepares us for the inevitability of persecution when we speak the message of truth. The truth functions as bridges drawing true seekers to Christ while setting them free from sin’s bondages.
If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.
The world is severely polarized: those who are of God, and those who are not; there is no third category. There will be no fence sitting as every man and woman will be called to take a stand. The author portrayed the world as godless, with its inclinations and culture diametrically opposed to God. Therefore, the world instinctively hated Jesus because they hated the truth. Likewise, they will hate those who expose their evil deeds and those whom Jesus has chosen.
If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.
People align themselves with their respective masters. And battle lines will be drawn according to their respective allegiance. By virtue of the fact that believers are disciples or “slaves” of Jesus the master, they will be persecuted because the world has called the devil their master. If they recognized Jesus as coming from God, they would likewise recognize His disciples as well. Similarly, if they crucified Jesus, they would likewise crucify His disciples. There will come a time when every man and woman will forsake their family members and align themselves with respect to their masters.
If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.
The generation who witnessed the words of Jesus and who saw His works bore a greater responsibility to respond to Him in faith. Although Jesus had performed so many miracles in full view of the hearers, they refused to acknowledge Him as the Christ (John 12:37). Hence, they compared unfavorably with people of earlier generations who did not have the privilege to witness these things. Hence, they bore greater consequences for their rejection of Christ whom they have seen and heard: but now they have no excuse for their sin. Cities that were centers of Jesus’ ministry will receive greater judgment as compared to the sinners of Sodom (Matthew 11:23). Their sins were grave in that with their repudiation of the Son, they were also repudiating the Father. Jesus came to show them love, and the way of truth, but they reacted with hatred and murder. By rejecting the giver of love and salvation, they chose for themselves the other alternative – death. Their hatred of Jesus and their violence towards Him was without a cause, depicting a heart of pure evil and violence.
When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father.
When Christ ascended to heaven, the testimony of His words and works would continue through His disciples. Therefore, the Holy Spirit came to enable the disciples of Christ to testify of the truth and to perform miraculous signs in the name of Christ. Christ expressly instructed His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they receive the Spirit of truth from the Father (Acts 1:8). As Jesus Himself received the Spirit at the start of His ministry, He now poured forth the Spirit upon His disciples (Acts 2:33). It is through the Holy Spirit, that the gospel of truth can be preached in divine love and authority.
Genuine seekers of the truth will eventually arrive at the gospel of Christ. Christ is Himself the very essence of truth. In fact, truth is Christ: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1). Therefore, one who seeks the truth will eventually find Himself in Christ. The opposite is also true: a churchgoer who does not seek the truth will find Himself estranged from Christ and the Spirit. Truth, of which Christ is author traverses culture and religion. Some are kept from the truth by their past experiences and some by false teachings passed down from their fathers. However, if values that concern the fear of God, the love of God, justice and mercy towards others are accepted as truth, people will eventually find their convictions in Christ as the Lord and Savior.
Therefore, from the viewpoint of evangelism, the church cannot preach Christ without preaching the truth. Many truth seekers kept themselves away from the church because all they heard is Christ’s forgiveness without the ways of Christ. There is every reason to agree that the Law of Moses must first be introduced as a necessary foundation before Christ came. Without the Law that imbued God’s values system into the Jewish culture, people would not have recognized the Christ when He came. Nor would they have responded to John’s baptismal ministry. As the church continues to teach the truth, people who seek the truth will eventually come to Christ. Truth functions as bridges that reach out to those who seek the truth.
There are of course those who having heard the truth felt condemned by it. And hence, they decided to close their ears to the truth as such are not true disciples of Christ. Contrarily, Jesus said, “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32). The more one understands the truth, the more he will be drawn to Christ, as truth and Christ are one. Therefore, in the process of evangelization, after the seed of truth is sown, the Spirit ministers to him and convicts him of sin and his need for forgiveness.
One who professes to walk in the truth but has no fear of God has not yet arrived at the truth. Truth is not limited to ethics and general principles concerning life, it includes the fear of the One who created all things. Hence, if one appears morally upright in his dealings with people, but has no fear of God, he has yet to arrive at the truth. Creation itself bears the features of Christ depicting His love, righteousness and power. The existence of God is unmistakably displayed through the works of creation. The apostle Paul said,
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20
Christ in His many parables decorated His teachings with illustrations using nature. He demonstrated the love of God by drawing attention to the care God employed towards the birds in the air and the lilies of the field. One can do his utmost to follow the moral principles of life but refuse to acknowledge his Maker and his need for mercy and forgiveness. In rejecting Christ, he cuts himself off the life of God, the end of which is death.
The Spirit projects the authority and love of God through the messenger to the hearers resulting in conviction. Put in a nutshell, the Spirit enables believers to function as the mouthpiece of God. The truth of the gospel in order to be effective must be spoken with divine authority and love. Even a hardened sinner could well memorize the testimony of the gospel and present it with utmost clarity. But if hearers could not sense God’s authority in calling them to worship Him, and if they could not feel His love’s beckoning, men will not fall down in repentance. Repentance is the result of the truth spoken with authority and love of the Spirit. The authority of God demands justice and obedience to the truth. The love of God allows sinners to approach God inviting them to make a fresh start with Him.
- Are you taught to preach the gospel by solely emphasizing on the forgiveness of Christ and His blessings? People must come to Christ because they understood the need to walk in His ways and be reconciled to God. Only then they will receive salvation and forgiveness of sin.
- Are you accustomed to preaching the gospel by persuasion rather than by the authority and the love of God? Divine authority and love is not a skill that can be acquired by practice nor is it a mental state gained through much study. However, if you yield yourself to the Spirit’s control in your daily endeavors, the gospel will be projected subconsciously through your life in divine love and authority.
Dear Lord, as I yield myself to your Spirit’s control, fill my words and works with your authority and love. Use me to be your mouthpiece of truth and hope drawing people into your kingdom. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.