Verses 18–25

Here Christ discourses concerning hatred, which is the character and genius of the devil’s kingdom, as love is of the kingdom of Christ. Observe here,

I. Who they are in whom this hatred is found—the world, the children of this world, as distinguished from the children of God; those who are in the interests of the god of this world, whose image they bear, and whose power they are subject to; all those, whether Jews or Gentiles, who would not come into the church of Christ, which he audibly called, and visibly separates from this evil world. The calling of these the world intimates, 1. Their number; there were a world of people that opposed Christ and Christianity. Lord, how were they increased that troubled the Son of David! I fear, if we should put it to the vote between Christ and Satan, Satan would out-poll us quite. 2. Their confederacy and combination; these numerous hosts are embodied, and are as one, Ps. 83:5. Jews and Gentiles, that could agree in nothing else, agreed to persecute Christ’s minister. 3. Their spirit and disposition; they are men of the world (Ps. 17:13, 14), wholly devoted to this world and the things of it, and never thinking of another world. The people of God, though they are taught to hate the sins of sinners, yet not their persons, but to love and do good to all men. A malicious, spiteful, envious spirit, is not the spirit of Christ, but of the world.

II. Who are they against whom this hatred is levelled-against the disciples of Christ, against Christ himself, and against the Father.

1. The world hates the disciples of Christ: The world hateth you (John 15:19); and he speaks of it as that which they must expect and count upon, John 15:18; as 1 John 3:13.

(1.) Observe how this comes in here. [1.] Christ had expressed the great kindness he had for them as friends; but, lest they should be puffed up with this, there was given them, as there was to Paul, a thorn in the flesh, that is, as it is explained there, reproaches and persecutions for Christ’s sake, 2 Cor. 12:7, 10. [2.] He had appointed them their work, but tells them what hardships they should meet with in it, that it might not be a surprise to them, and that they might prepare accordingly. [3.] He had charged them to love one another, and need enough they had to love one another, for the world would hate them; to be kind to one another, for they would have a great deal of unkindness and ill-will from those that were without. “Keep peace among yourselves, and this will fortify you against the world’s quarrels with you.” Those that are in the midst of enemies are concerned to hold together.

(2.) Observe what is here included.

[1.] The world’s enmity against the followers of Christ: it hateth them. Note, Whom Christ blesseth the world curseth. The favourites and heirs of heaven have never been the darlings of this world, since the old enmity was put between the seed of the woman and of the serpent. Why did Cain hate Abel, but because his works were righteous? Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing; Joseph’s brethren hated him because his father loved him; Saul hated David because the Lord was with him; Ahab hated Micaiah because of his prophecies; such are the causeless causes of the world’s hatred.

[2.] The fruits of that enmity, two of which we have here, John 15:20. First, They will persecute you, because they hate you, for hatred is a restless passion. It is the common lot of those who will live godly in Christ Jesus to suffer persecution, 2 Tim. 3:12. Christ foresaw what ill usage his ambassadors would meet with in the world, and yet, for the sake of those few that by their ministry were to be called out of the world, he sent them forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. Secondly, Another fruit of their enmity is implied, that they would reject their doctrine. When Christ says, If they have kept my sayings, they will keep yours, he means, They will keep yours, and regard yours, no more than they have regarded and kept mine. Note, The preachers of the gospel cannot but take the despising of their message to be the greatest injury that can be done to themselves; as it was a great affront to Jeremiah to say, Let us not give heed to any of his words, Jer. 18:18.

[3.] The causes of that enmity. The world will hate them,

First, Because they do not belong to it (John 15:19): “If you were of the world, of its spirit, and in its interests, if you were carnal and worldly, the world would love you as its own; but, because you are called out of the world, it hates you, and ever will.” Note, 1. We are not to wonder if those that are devoted to the world are caressed by it as its friends; most men bless the covetous, Ps. 10:3; 49:18. 2. Nor are we to wonder if those that are delivered from the world are maligned by it as its enemies; when Israel is rescued out of Egypt, the Egyptians will pursue them. Observe, The reason why Christ’s disciples are not of the world is not because they have by their own wisdom and virtue distinguished themselves from the world, but because Christ hath chosen them out of it, to set them apart for himself; and this is the reason why the world hates them; for, (1.) The glory which by virtue of this choice they are designed for sets them above the world, and so makes them the objects of its envy. The saints shall judge the world, and the upright have dominion, and therefore they are hated. (2.) The grace which by virtue of this choice they are endued with sets them against the world; they swim against the stream of the world, and are not conformed to it; they witness against it, and are not conformed to it. This would support them under all the calamities which the world’s hatred would bring upon them, that they were hated because they were the choice and the chosen ones of the Lord Jesus, and were not of the world. Now, [1.] This was no just cause for the world’s hatred of them. If we do any thing to make ourselves hateful, we have reason to lament it; but, if men hate us for that for which they should love and value us, we have reason to pity them, but no reason to perplex ourselves. Nay, [2.] This was just cause for their own joy. He that is hated because he is rich and prospers cares not who has the vexation of it, while he has the satisfaction of it.

--Populus me sibilat, at mihi plaudo Ipse domi-- --Let them hiss on, he cries, While in my own opinion fully blessed. Timon in Hor.Much more may those hug themselves whom the world hates, but whom Christ loves.

Secondly, “Another cause of the world’s hating you will be because you do belong to Christ (John 15:21): For my name’s sake.” Here is the core of the controversy; whatever is pretended, this is the ground of the quarrel, they hate Christ’s disciples because they bear his name, and bear up his name in the world. Note, 1. It is the character of Christ’s disciples that they stand up for his name. The name into which they were baptized is that which they will live and die by. 2. It has commonly been the lot of those that appear for Christ’s name to suffer for so doing, to suffer many things, and hard things, all these things. It is matter of comfort to the greatest sufferers if they suffer for Christ’s name’s sake. If you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you (1 Pet. 4:14), happy indeed, considering not only the honour that is imprinted upon those sufferings (Acts 5:41), but the comfort that is infused into them, and especially the crown of glory which those sufferings lead to. If we suffer with Christ, and for Christ, we shall reign with him.

Thirdly, After all, it is the world’s ignorance that is the true cause of its enmity to the disciples of Christ (John 15:21): Because they know not him that sent me. 1. They know not God. If men had but a due acquaintance with the very first principles of natural religion, and did but know God, though they did not embrace Christianity, yet they could not hate and persecute it. Those have no knowledge who eat up God’s people, Ps. 14:4. 2. They know not God as he that sent our Lord Jesus, and authorized him to be the great Mediator of the peace. We do not rightly know God if we do not know him in Christ, and those who persecute those whom he sends make it to appear that they know not that he was sent of God. See 1 Cor. 2:8.

2. The world hates Christ himself. And this is spoken of here for two ends:—

(1.) To mitigate the trouble of his followers, arising from the world’s hatred, and to make it the less strange, and the less grievous (John 15:18): You know that it hated me before you, proton hymon. We read it as signifying priority of time; he began in the bitter cup of suffering, and then left us to pledge him; but it may be read as expressing his superiority over them: “You know that it hated me, your first, your chief and captain, your leader and commander.” [1.] If Christ, who excelled in goodness, and was perfectly innocent and universally beneficent, was hated, can we expect that any virtue or merit of ours should screen us from malice? [2.] If our Master, the founder of our religion, met with so much opposition in the planting of it, his servants and followers can look for no other in propagating and professing it. For this he refers them (John 15:20) to his own word, at their admission into discipleship: Remember the word that I said unto you. It would help us to understand Christ’s latter sayings to compare them with his former sayings. Nor would any thing contribute more to the making of us easy than remembering the words of Christ, which will expound his providences. Now in this word there is, First, A plain truth: The servant is not greater than his Lord. This he had said to them. Matt. 10:24. Christ is our Lord, and therefore we must diligently attend all his motions, and patiently acquiesce in all his disposals, for the servant is inferior to his lord. The plainest truths are sometimes the strongest arguments for the hardest duties; Elihu answers a multitude of Job’s murmurings with this one self-evident truth, that God is greater than man, Job 33:12. So here is, Secondly, A proper inference drawn from it: “If they have persecuted men, as you have seen, and are likely to see much more, they will also persecute you; you may expect it and count upon it: for,” 1. “You will do the same that I have done to provoke them; you will reprove them for their sins, and call them to repentance, and give them strict rules of holy living, which they will not bear.” 2. “You cannot do more than I have done to oblige them; after so great an instance, let none wonder if they suffer ill for doing well.” He adds, “If they have kept my sayings, they will keep yours also; as there have been a few, and but a few, that have been wrought upon by my preaching, so there will be by yours a few, and but a few.” Some give another sense of this, making eteresan to be put for pareteresan. “If they have lain in wait for my sayings, with a design to ensnare me, they will in like manner lie in wait to entangle you in your talk.”

(2.) To aggravate the wickedness of this unbelieving world, and to discover its exceeding sinfulness; to hate and persecute the apostles was bad enough, but in them to hate and persecute Christ himself was much worse. The world is generally in an ill name in scripture, and nothing can put it into a worse name than this, that it hated Jesus Christ. There is a world of people that are haters of Christ. Two things he insists upon to aggravate the wickedness of those that hated him:—

[1.] That there was the greatest reason imaginable why they should love him; men’s good words and good works usually recommend them; now as to Christ,

First, His words were such as merited their love (John 15:22): “If I had not spoken unto them, to court their love, they had not had sin, their opposition had not amounted to a hatred of me, their sin had been comparatively no sin. But now that I have said so much to them to recommend myself to their best affections they have no pretence, no excuse for their sin.” Observe here, 1. The advantage which those have that enjoy the gospel; Christ in it comes and speaks to them; he spoke in person to the men of that generation, and is still speaking to us by our Bibles and ministers, and as one that has the most unquestionable authority over us, and affection for us. Every word of his is pure, carries with it a commanding majesty, and yet a condescending tenderness, able, one would think, to charm the deafest adder. 2. The excuse which those have that enjoy not the gospel: “If I had not spoken to them, if they had ever heard of Christ and of salvation by him, they had not had sin.” (1.) Not this kind of sin. They had not been chargeable with a contempt of Christ if he had not come and made a tender of his grace to them. As sin is not imputed where there is no law, so unbelief is not imputed where there is no gospel; and, where it is imputed, it is thus far the only damning sin, that, being a sin against the remedy, other sin would not damn if the guilt of them were not bound on with this. (2.) Not such a degree of sin. If they had not had the gospel among them, their other sins had not been so bad; for the times of ignorance God winked at, Luke 12:47, 48. 3. The aggravated guilt which those lie under to whom Christ has come and spoken in vain, whom he has called and invited in vain, with whom he has reasoned and pleaded in vain; They have no cloak for their sin; they are altogether inexcusable, and in the judgment day will be speechless, and will not have a word to say for themselves. Note, The clearer and fuller the discoveries are which are made to us of the grace and truth of Jesus Christ, the more is said to us that is convincing and endearing, the greater is our sin if we do not love him and believe in him. The word of Christ strips sin of its cloak, that it may appear sin.

Secondly, His works were such as merited their love, as well as his words (John 15:24): “If I had not done among them, in their country, and before their eyes, such works as no other man ever did, they had not had sin; their unbelief and enmity had been excusable, and they might have had some colour to say that my word was not to be credited, if not otherwise confirmed;” but he produced satisfactory proofs of his divine mission, works which no other man did. Note, 1. As the Creator demonstrates his power and Godhead by his works (Rom. 1:20), so doth the Redeemer. His miracles, his mercies, works of wonder and works of grace, prove him sent of God, and sent on a kind errand. 2. Christ’s works were such as no man ever did. No common person that had not a commission from heaven, and God with him, could work miracles, John 3:2. And no prophet ever wrought such miracles, so many, so illustrious. Moses and Elias wrought miracles as servants, by a derived power; but Christ, as a Son, by his own power. This was it that amazed the people, that with authority he commanded diseases and devils (Mark 1:27); they owned they never saw the like, Mark 2:12. They were all good works, works of mercy; and this seems especially intended here, for he is upbraiding them with this, that they hated him. One that was so universally useful, more than ever any man was, one would think, should have been universally beloved, and yet even he is hated. 3. The works of Christ enhance the guilt of sinners’ infidelity and enmity to him, to the last degree of wickedness and absurdity. If they had only heard his words, and not seen his works,—if we had only his sermons upon record, and not his miracles, unbelief might have pleaded want of proof; but now it has no excuse. Nay, the rejecting of Christ, both by them and us, has in it the sin, not only of obstinate unbelief, but of base ingratitude. They saw Christ to be most amiable, and studious to do them a kindness; yet they hated him, and studied to do him mischief. And we see in his word that great love wherewith he loved us, and yet are not wrought upon by it.

[2.] That there was no reason at all why they should hate him. Some that at one time will say and do that which is recommending, yet at another time will say and do that which is provoking and disobliging; but our Lord Jesus not only did much to merit men’s esteem and good-will, but never did any thing justly to incur their displeasure; this he pleads by quoting a scripture for it (John 15:25): “This comes to pass, this unreasonable hatred of me, and of my disciples for my sake, that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law” (that is, in the Old Testament, which is a law, and was received by them as a law), “They hated me without a cause;” this David speaks of himself as a type of Christ, Ps. 35:19; 69:4. Not, First, Those that hate Christ hate him without any just cause; enmity to Christ is unreasonable enmity. We think those deserve to be hated that are haughty and froward, but Christ is meek and lowly, compassionate and tender; those also that under colour of complaisance are malicious, envious, and revengeful, but Christ devoted himself to the service of those that used him, nay, and of those that abused him; toiled for others’ ease, and impoverished himself to enrich us. Those we think hateful that are hurtful to kings and provinces, and disturbers of the public peace; but Christ, on the contrary, was the greatest blessing imaginable to his country, and yet was hated. He testified indeed that their works were evil, with a design to make them good, but to hate him for this cause was to hate him without cause. Secondly, Herein the scripture was fulfilled, and the antitype answered the type. Saul and his courtiers hated David without cause, for he had been serviceable to him with his harp, and with his sword; Absalom and his party hated him, though to him he had been an indulgent father, and to them a great benefactor. Thus was the Son of David hated, and hunted most unjustly. Those that hated Christ did not design there in to fulfil the scripture; but God, in permitting it, had that in his eye; and it confirms our faith in Christ as the Messiah that even this was foretold concerning him, and, being foretold, was accomplished in him. And we must not think it strange or hard if it have a further accomplishment in us. We are apt to justify our complaints of injuries done us with this, that they are causeless, whereas the more they are so the more they are like the sufferings of Christ, and may be the more easily borne.

3. In Christ the world hates God himself; this is twice said here (John 15:23): He that hateth me, though he thinks his hatred goes no further, yet really he hates my Father also. And again, John 15:24; They have seen and hated both me and my Father. Note, (1.) There are those that hate God, notwithstanding the beauty of his nature and the bounty of his providence; they are enraged at his justice, as the devils that believe it and tremble, are vexed at his dominion, and would gladly break his bands asunder. Those who cannot bring themselves to deny that there is a God, and yet wish there were none, they see and hate him. (2.) Hatred of Christ will be construed and adjudged hatred of God, for he is in his person his Father’s express image, and in his office his great agent and ambassador. God will have all men to honour the Son as they honour the Father, and therefore what entertainment the Son has, that the Father has. Hence it is easy to infer that those who are enemies to the Christian religion, however they may cry up natural religion, are really enemies to all religion. Deists are in effect atheists, and those that ridicule the light of the gospel would, if they could, extinguish even natural light, and shake off all obligations of conscience and the fear of God. Let an unbelieving malignant world know that their enmity to the gospel of Christ will be looked upon in the great day as an enmity to the blessed God himself; and let all that suffer for righteousness’ sake, according to the will of God, take comfort from this; if God himself be hated in them, and struck at through him, they need not be either ashamed of their cause or afraid of the issue.