The Gospel of John: The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend.

The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him.” (John 7:32)

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” This saying is an ancient proverb which suggests that two opposing parties can or should work together against a common enemy. The earliest known expression of this concept is found in a Sanskrit treatise on statecraft, the Arthashastra, dating around the 4th century BC, while the first recorded use of the current English version came in 1884.

If you recall when we began studying John 3, there were four primary religious, political and/or social groups distinguishing themselves in ancient Israel. These four included the Essenes, the Zealots, the Sadducees and the Pharisees.

The Essenes dwelt in the ancient caves of Qumran. This group withdrew from society and chose to remain separated unto themselves. The New Bible Dictionary describes them as A Jewish religious group of the Second Temple Period that emerged and flourished in Palestine from the second century BC to the first century AD. The Essenes are often connected with the Jewish sectarian community known from the Dead Sea Scrolls.”

The Zealots were a political group who hated Rome and its occupation of Israel during the first century. Easton’s Bible Dictionary explains that the Zealots were “a sect of Jews which originated with Judas the Gaulonite (Acts 5:37). They refused to pay tribute to the Romans, on the ground that this was a violation of the principle that God was the only king of Israel. They rebelled against the Romans, but were soon scattered, and became a lawless band of mere brigands. They were afterwards called Sicarii, from their use of the sica, i.e., the Roman dagger.” One of Jesus’ disciples was known as Simon the Zealot (Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13).

The Sadducees were one of two religious groups in Israel during Jesus’ lifetime. We do not know exactly when this group originated but it occurred during the inter-testimental period. They are first mentioned in Scripture in Matthew 3:7 (Mark 1:7-9; Luke 3:7-9) where John the Baptist says to them, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matthew 3:7.) The next time they are spoken of they are represented as coming to our Lord tempting him. He calls them “hypocrites” and “a wicked and adulterous generation” (Matt. 16:1–4; 22:23). The only reference to them in the Gospels of Mark (12:18–27) and Luke (20:27–38) is their attempting to ridicule the doctrine of the resurrection, which they denied. They also denied the existence of angels. They are never specifically mentioned as a group in John’s Gospel though the apostle many times refers to them, as in today’s text, as the chief priests. Most of the chief priests were Sadducees. They centered themselves within the temple.

The second religious group were the Pharisees. The Tyndale Bible Dictionary describes the Pharisees as a “religious sect active in Palestine during the NT period. The Pharisees are consistently depicted in the Gospels as Jesus’ antagonists. It is commonly held that the Pharisees represented mainstream Judaism early in the first century and that they were characterized by a variety of morally objectionable features.” The Pharisees were centered within the Jewish Synagogues and among the common people. Jesus pronounced His most scathing rebuke of the Pharisees in Matthew 23.

The Sadducees and the Pharisees did not get along with each other. See Acts 22:30-3:10. Yet, they had a common enemy in Jesus Christ. It was because of this common hatred, that they became so-called friends.

Dr. John MacArthur explains, “The Pharisees and chief priests historically did not have harmonious relationships with each other. Most of the chief priests were Sadducees, who were political and religious opponents to the Pharisees. John repeatedly links these two groups in his Gospel (see also 7:45; 11:47, 57; 18:3) in order to emphasize that their cooperation stemmed from their mutual hatred of Jesus. Both were alarmed at the faith of those indicated in 7:31 and, in order to avoid any veneration of Jesus as Messiah, attempted unsuccessfully to arrest him (v. 30).”

The officers the two groups sent to arrest Jesus were the Temple guards who maintained order in the Temple and surrounding area. The reasoning for arresting Jesus was because the crowds were believing that Jesus was the Messiah. This the Sadducees and the Pharisees would not tolerate.

Jesus’ enemies today come from all walks of the political, social and religious strata. While they may not agree on many other issues, they do agree on their mutual hatred for Christ, the Gospel and Christians. They oppose Christian businesses and anyone who has a different opinion or point of view than they. This opposition is also increasingly expressed on talk shows, comedy monologues, political speeches, editorials and awards programs. The passion of their verbal vitriol seemingly knows no bounds and is increasing in its depths of vulgarity.

2 Timothy 3:12-15 says, Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

This philosophy of joining with other groups to fight a common enemy is not exclusive to non-Christians. Christians and the church are not immune. Many times various religious groups join forces against such issues as abortion or pornography. This may be a noble attempt to change the culture but it is also dangerous because it has the possibility of confusing the message of the Gospel and people’s understanding of what it biblically means to be justified. While social problems remain an important issue, they will not truly be solved unless there is a conversion of people unto faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Only when the heart and soul of the sinner is changed will the expressions of man’s sinful heart and soul be likewise changed and eliminated.    

The battle for truth, the Bible and the Gospel will continue until Jesus comes. Be faithful, beloved!

Soli deo Gloria!


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