Jesus—His Life and Message: John 15: If the World Hates You

July 13, 2021

by Peter Amsterdam

Earlier in John chapter 15, Jesus told His disciples that they were His friends. He reminded them that He had told them everything He had heard from His Father, that He had chosen and appointed them, and that they would bear abiding fruit. He also stated that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.1 Throughout the rest of this chapter, as Jesus continued teaching, His focus turned toward the persecution His disciples would face in the not-too-distant future.

These things I command you, so that you will love one another.2

Bible commentators differ on whether this verse is connected to the preceding verses where Jesus spoke of His disciples as His friends rather than servants and said that He had chosen and appointed them to bear abiding fruit, or whether it is connected to the verses that follow. Here, it is being connected to the verses that follow. Jesus made a point to emphasize the importance of the disciples loving one another.

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.3 

Jesus knew that the world would hate the disciples, just as He had known that the world would first hate Him. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus made a similar point. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.4

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.5

In saying “if” you were of the world, Jesus was stating that they were not of the world. Rather, He had chosen them to come out of the world and to no longer be part of it. Because of this, the world would hate them. The Gospel writer emphasized “the world” by repeating it five times in this one sentence. Because the world is what it is, and Christians are not to be of this world, it is inevitable that the world will act toward believers as they did against the Lord. A similar point is made in the book of 1 John: Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.6

“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”7

Jesus reminded them of something He had said earlier in this Gospel. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.8 The treatment given to a master determines the treatment given to the servant. As His servants, the disciples could expect no better treatment than what Jesus would receive. He was persecuted and killed, and so they could expect the same. Of course, many people also believed in Jesus and His Word and so too would many believe in the message the apostles would preach and teach.

But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.9

Here Jesus is speaking specifically about those who would persecute believers. They would do so because they do not know God. Jesus and His ministry made known the Father, the One who sent Jesus. Thus, when people rejected Jesus, they rejected the Father who sent Him. Such rejection leads to persecution of those who preach the gospel.

If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.10

Jesus pointed out the seriousness of rejecting Him. If He had not come and told them that He was the Messiah, they might have been able to claim that they were ignorant of who He was; but under the circumstances, there was no excuse for rejecting Him. They couldn’t say that if He had given evidence that He was the Messiah and that He was sent by the Father they would have believed Him; He did those things, yet they still didn’t believe. There was no excuse for their unbelief.

Whoever hates me hates my Father also.11

Jesus then pointed out that He and His Father are so closely connected that in hating Him they are hating the Father as well. Elsewhere in the Gospel of John, we read of those who hate Jesus: The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.12 This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.13

If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.14

This is similar to what Jesus had said earlier, when He referred to the words He had spoken to them. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin. Now He refers to the works He had done. These works undoubtedly included the miracles He had performed, but wasn’t limited to them. He referred to them as works “no one else did.” An example of such a miracle was when Jesus healed a blind man. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind.15

“But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’”16 

Jesus pointed out that the Law, God’s words to them, would be fulfilled. He quoted from the Psalms, either from Psalm 35 or 69. Let not those rejoice over me who are wrongfully my foes, and let not those wink the eye who hate me without cause.17 More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause.18 These verses speak of hatred without any reasonable foundation or adequate cause. One author explains: It is this kind of hatred that the Jews had exercised toward Jesus. … The Jews saw themselves as the upholders of the Law, but in their zeal for the Law they incurred the condemnation of the Law by rejecting the Christ to whom the Law bore its witness.19

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”20 

In the face of the world’s hatred, the disciples would need an advocate, a helper. Various translations use the terms Spirit, Counselor (CSB, NIV); Comforter (KJV); Advocate (NLT, TNIV); and Helper (ESV, NAS, NAU, NKJV).

Jesus had spoken earlier of the Helper, saying, I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever21; and The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.22 Now He states that the function of the Spirit of truth, whom He will send from the Father, and who proceeds from the Father, is to bear witness of Jesus. After Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the Spirit would continually bear witness of Him.

Along with the Holy Spirit, the apostles would also bear witness of Jesus. They were not to leave all of the work of bearing witness about Jesus to the Spirit; they were also sent to preach the gospel. The apostles were uniquely able to tell others about Jesus, as they were with Him from the beginning. As disciples of Christ, we too, like the apostles of old, are called to bear witness of Jesus, to be a conduit through which the Holy Spirit can speak to people’s hearts, so that they can receive Christ as their Savior.


Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

General Bibliography

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1 John 15:16.

2 John 15:17.

3 John 15:18.

4 Matthew 10:25.

5 John 15:19.

6 1 John 3:13.

7 John 15:20.

8 John 13:16.

9 John 15:21.

10 John 15:22.

11 John 15:23.

12 John 7:7.

13 John 3:19–20.

14 John 15:24.

15 John 9:32.

16 John 15:25.

17 Psalm 35:19.

18 Psalm 69:4.

19 Morris, The Gospel According to John, 605.

20 John 15:26–27.

21 John 14:16.

22 John 14:26.