Saturday, September 8, 2012
1st John Chapter 3 Part 9
3:13 Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.
This is perhaps one of the shortest verses in John’s epistle but one worth pausing at and reflecting over. Let’s slowly mull over what John is presently telling us and discover what the rest of Scripture has to say about the matter. First John offers some plain counsel: do not marvel. We find a descriptive usage of this term in Revelation when John beholds the woman riding the beast. When he saw this woman John “marveled with great amazement,” Revelation 17:6. John was shocked. He counsels Christians not to be shocked when the world hates us.
And indeed he speaks to fellow Christians, for he pauses and adds in “my brethren.” It is, as always, his brothers and sisters in Christ that he warns, teaches, and admonishes. Christians should not be shocked or marvel when the world hates us.
What does the world mean? There are a few possibilities. The first means simply the earth itself. Obviously this is not John’s meaning in this verse. The second would be the totality of mankind: all the population of the world. But John creates a dichotomy before he makes mention of the term “world” demonstrating that this is not what he is referring to. He contrasts the world with “my brethren” (Christians) and therefore subtly lets us know that this entity, corporately known as the world, is going to hate those who are Christians; and for this we are not to marvel. The world then means the world system over which Satan presides, Luke 4:5-6; John 14:30. This also explains certain passages in which the writer creates a dichotomy between believers and the unsaved: “We know that we (Christians) are of God, and the whole world (this world system, kingdoms, government, etc) lies under the sway of the wicked one,” 1st John 5:19.
This brings us to the next logical question: why does the world hate us? Jesus tells us “This is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil,” John 3:19. Christ, as the light of this world (John 8:12) convicts it of its ungodly principles and morality. Christ’s light can only be approached if a man or woman is willing to step into it and see what we truly are under the scrutiny of God’s brilliant holiness. God created us for one condition and we have gone far astray in search of pleasures that will never satisfy, Ecclesiastes 7:29. If we want genuine peace with God we must first be willing to hear God’s assessment of the human condition. Only when one understands that we need to be saved from the moral ruin of sin can salvation be effectually offered.
To Christian teachers, pastors and leaders who are well loved by the world Jesus our Lord has something to say about that, too. “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets…Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets,” Luke 6:22-23, 26. It is not for the loving humility Christians ought to demonstrate toward a hurting world that causes them to be excluded, reviled and hated; it is for the doctrine, and our loyalty to that doctrine’s Teacher, that compels it. When Jesus walked the earth the masses loved His miracles but hated His teaching; they followed for the bread but left when the doctrine was less than pleasing, John 6:26, 66.
If the world then does not hate a Christian for his doctrine it is a fair sign that his doctrine has been sorely compromised. Where Jesus, the perfect sinless one was rejected (John 1:11) are His followers more happily received? In the same sermon where Jesus condemned men well loved for their false doctrine He also let us know that a Christian’s aspiration was not to excel his Master, but to emulate Him on every conceivable level, Luke 6:40. We are not permitted to go beyond the boundaries God has set up. If our Lord says “yes” then we may; if our Lord says “no” then we may not, and we ought to accept that what He says He says for our good. It is when the heart convinces the mind that we know what is good for us better than God that false doctrine can find a more suitable roost in us.
If the world is to hate us, let it be because we will not have Christ being head of all; it is because it is Christ only, and nothing else compares. He is not greatest of all gods, lords, teachers, gurus and mystics; there is but Christ and He suffers no rivals, Matthew 23:8; John 10:8. This exclusive attitude was a thorn in the side of ancient Rome. The Romans would have been content to allow the Christians to worship Jesus as their prominent deity, but the Christians went beyond that by saying Jesus was the only one worthy of worship; their doctrine condemned the rampant idolatry of the Roman world by proclaiming one God and Lord, with the supposed rivals being unmasked as demonic impostures. The universal reach of the gospel is nothing less than this. Jesus’ sufficiency to save is available and powerful for man or woman, young or old, in America, India, China, Russia or anywhere. Do not marvel then if the world hates you because your love, no matter how clearly demonstrated, is motivated by this singular and awesome truth: “[God] made [Christ] to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,” 2nd Corinthians 5:21.