John 15:18-27 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What does Jesus inform His disciples about the world’s attitude towards Him? See John 15:18 (printed below)

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before you. (John 15:18)

In verse 18 the Lord Jesus informs us that the world possesses a perpetual hatred towards Him (the Greek verb translated “hate” occurs in the perfect tense, indicating a continuing state or action). The disciples may have initially been taken aback by our Lord’s statement, for they had yet to hear the “Hosannas” uttered by the crowd on Palm Sunday turn into the blood-curdling cry of “Crucify him!” on Good Friday. Our Lord wants us to be aware that the world’s hatred for His disciples is but an extension of its hatred for Christ Himself: “the world hated me before you.” This is so not only with regard to time—the world’s hatred for Christ pre-dates its hatred for Christ’s disciples—but also in terms of priority: the world does not hate us because of who we are in and of ourselves, but because of our identification with Christ.

2. How does Jesus describe His disciples’ relationship to the unbelieving world in verse 19 (printed below?)

If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:19)

In verse 19 the Lord Jesus draws a sharp distinction between His disciples and the world. Humanity is ultimately divided between those who have become disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and those who remain in alliance with the world. The world has a love—an affinity and communion—for those who belong to it and are one with it. But the world exhibits a deep hatred for those who have abandoned their unholy alliance with it in favor of a new and righteous alliance and allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ (cp. 1 Peter 4:1-4).

3. Of what does Jesus warn His disciples in verse 20 (printed below?)

Remember what I told 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 keep yours also. (John 15:20)

In verse 20 the Lord indicates that we, as His disciples, may expect to receive the same reception and treatment that our Lord Himself receives from the world. Note: when you live in a society that is strongly influenced by the gospel—or when you have very many Christians living very much like the world—minimal hostility is experienced. But when the Christian and the church is faithful to Christ and yielded to His Holy Spirit, and when the Holy Spirit withdraws His restraining influence from the society at large, then the “hostility index” soars. Note verse 20b; here is the assurance that within a world that is at enmity against Christ there will be those who receive the Savior, those whom the Spirit of God converts unto Christ.

4. According to verse 21 (printed below), why does the world exhibit hatred towards Christ and His disciples?

But they will do all these things to you for my name’s sake, because they do not know the one who sent me. (John 15:21)

The world hates Christ because it does not know the One who sent Christ (verse 21b). “To know” here has the meaning “to have an intimate relationship with someone,” “to have an affinity with someone or something,” “to have a love for someone.” The world by nature does not have such a relationship with God; on the contrary, mankind by nature is in a state of enmity against God (note Romans 8:7). Mankind by nature is under the dominion of the devil (note Ephesians 2:1-3a).

5. Why do you suppose the world hated Jesus because of the works He performed? See John 15:24 (printed below)

If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have had sin; but now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father. (John 15:24)

According to verse 24 the world hates Christ because of the works He did in its midst. Jesus is referring both to His works of power as well as His works of goodness (note John 10:32). These works verify the fact that Jesus Christ truly has been sent by God and these works demonstrate the very nature and life of God. In the absence of such works—such divine credentials—Jesus’ teaching might have been dismissed and one’s self-righteous complacency left undisturbed. But the works performed by Jesus gave divine authority to His teaching and serve as living demonstrations of His divine teaching. Supported by His divine works, our Lord’s divine life and teaching bring conviction to the world of sinful mankind.