There is so much in chapter 16 that is relevant for today. Let’s look at three things in particular.
1) Hostility toward Christians and martyrdom: In verse 2 Jesus makes it clear the His followers would eventually be “outcasts from the synagogue.” Jesus’ disciples and early followers were Jews who continued to worship in the Jewish synagogues. Jesus preached in the synagogues and the Apostle Paul often went to the synagogue to preach when he first entered a new city as a missionary in the book of Acts. Today we would call them Messianic Jews – Jews who believed Jesus was the promised Messiah.
Jesus tells them this will not always be allowed. At some point in the near future, they would be banned from the synagogues. This attitude had already begun to develop among the Jewish religious leaders (John 9:22).
Then Jesus candidly remarks in verse 2 that “an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.” That is what happened with the first Christian martyr, Stephen (Acts 7-8), as well as others in the years to come.
In verse 3 Jesus explained that this would happen because those killing His followers did not know Him, and thus also did not know the Father – even they were killing His followers in the name of God.
The same thing is happening today when Islamic terrorists kill Christians in the name of Allah.
2) Hostility toward Christians and the American culture: In verse 33 Jesus said we can have peace in Him, but in the world we would have “tribulation” (trouble, suffering, trials, sorrows). We all want to live a life of peace and not be persecuted. For much of American history, the public attitude toward Christianity has been positive and life was comfortable. Things are quickly changing.
Our modern culture preaches tolerance and understanding, but seems to offer it to every group except Bible believing Christians. If you are liberal and believe the Bible is wrong, you’re fine. If you are conservative and believe the Bible is God’s word and accurate, you’re not fine.
While we need to point out the hypocrisy of the liberals and help them see how blinded they are by their prejudices and biases, we need to understand that ultimately our peace does not from being accepted in our culture. It comes from being in a genuine and growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus made it clear that in this world we will have tribulation and trouble. This world in not our home – no matter how much we like it. We are citizens of God’s Kingdom and that takes precedence over our American citizenship.
3) Evangelism in a lost world: In verses 8-11 Jesus explains the role of the Holy Spirit in evangelism. The Spirit is one who convicts the lost of their sin, of their need for righteousness, and of the judgment that awaits them. He convinces them that Jesus is the answer. We cannot do what the Holy Spirit does. Our role is to love people, pray for them, serve them at a point of need, and share the gospel of Jesus with them. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to draw them to Jesus. We are instruments, but He does the work.
Too often we try to do the Spirit’s job. It doesn’t work. We also put pressure on ourselves to accomplish what is impossible for us to accomplish. I’m not saying we don’t have anything to do. The opposite is true. We have much do. We are to share the gospel. We are to love the lost, pray for them, and serve them when there are needs in their lives. Like I said, there is much for us to do.
But what we cannot do is win them to Jesus. That is the Holy Spirit’s job. He is the only one who can convict them of their sin and need for Jesus.
When we understand our role and His role, we do more and we do it more effectively. This is especially true in today’s often hostile culture.
Pastor Steve Hogg