While the first 17 verses of chapter 15 discuss relationships within the Christian community, verses 18 and following discuss the relationship between the Christian community and the outside world. In the first instance, the relationship is characterized by love, but in the second it is characterized by hate. This is a new reality that the disciples must deal with, one that exists to this day. To begin to understand this phenomenon, we must remind ourselves that the world Jesus speaks of is continuing to live in rebellion against God. Jesus brought this contrast between God and Rebellion into the harsh light of day and the people didn’t like it, and His disciples will soon do the same thing with the same result. We too will make this contrast easy to see if we live according to His teachings, and in doing so we will also cause some to believe and be saved, but the majority will not appreciate our work. For this reason, Christians in “tolerant” America are ridiculed in the press, movies and television, and are sometimes singled out in the public square for derision.
Christians are not “of this world” but instead “our citizenship is in heaven.” (Phil. 3:18-20) The world we live in today is “post-modern” meaning that the overriding standard of morality is what is right for me. Post-modernism doesn’t allow anyone to say that something is “right” or “wrong” absolutely and calls on individuals to seek that which is right for them and demands “tolerance” from everyone else. Obviously, post-modernism is not the philosophical basis of the Bible, and as we all know many people have a hard time listening to anyone tell them differently. This entire philosophy demonstrates that most people do not wish to be reconciled to God, or as Jesus put it, to “know the One who sent me.”
As a result of Jesus’ ministry, the world was left “without excuse.” He has spoken the truth of sin, death, right and wrong, and He topped it all off by confirming His teachings with miraculous signs so that there would be no way for anyone to claim that His teachings were simply another random philosophy: They were the very words of God. As a result, rebellious humanity in large part hated both Jesus and His Father, as the prophets had foretold.
Jesus reminds the disciples about the coming of the Holy Spirit. Note that this is not a teaching about the Holy Spirit as much as it is teaching about what their responsibility would be. The presence of the Holy Spirit is beneficial in a great many ways, but it doesn’t mean that we have no work to do; our part is to teach people about the Gospel and make disciples.
Jesus has told His disciples unpleasant facts about their future, and now in 16:1-4 He tells them why He has done so. The unpleasant future would soon begin with the arrest and senseless murder of Jesus Himself by Jewish leaders who believed that they were keeping God’s Law by doing so. The book of Acts documents a reign of terror against the early church in which many were arrested and tortured or murdered by people who thought they were doing God’s work in silencing God’s truth that is not only an irony but sheer madness. Jesus has told them of these things so that they would not drift away from their faith when the trials came; so that they would hold steadfast in the knowledge that God’s plan was playing out. In truth, the more the church has been persecuted, the more it has grown because of the courageous stand taken by the followers of Christ. Sadly, there have also been times when the church itself has persecuted the truth by torturing and murdering “heretics” who were teaching the truth within the church.