“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.” (John 16:1-4)
Jesus gave the provocative warnings to His disciples in John 15:18-25 in order to prepare them for the eventual conflict they would encounter as followers of Christ. He wanted to protect them from falling away. The phrase “keep you from falling away” is one word in the Greek: σκανδαλίζω; skandalizo. It is where we derive our English word scandal or scandalize. It means to experience anger or shock regarding what has been said or done.
Jesus wanted His disciples, at that time and for all time, to know that conflict and persecution should be expected if one is truly committed to the Gospel of Christ. Jesus even gave some examples of what that persecution would look like: being put out of the synagogue and suffering death due to those who believe they are serving God by killing Christians. Perhaps this is a veiled reference by Jesus of Saul of Tarsus who would later become the Apostle Paul (Acts 8-9; 22:1-21; 26:1-23). Those who persecute believers of Christ do so because they do not know Christ or God the Father.
Jesus stated these truths prior to their occurrence so the disciples would remember that Jesus said these things would indeed happen. Jesus His disciples to be prepared for conflict. He did not want them to be surprised when persecution occurred. In fact, one of the Bible’s recurring themes is that God uses conflict to develop men and women to become the leaders He desires and uses.
As one pastor has written, “Early church history shows that Jesus’ predictions came true. For example, the entire purpose of the epistle to the Hebrews is to warn Christians from a Jewish background not to deny Christ under pressure from the Jews to do so. Prior to his conversion, Paul—then known as Saul the Pharisee—was looking to stamp out the early Christian movement (Acts 9:1–2). After Paul came to Christ and began preaching the gospel, Jews incited opposition to his ministry (13:50–51). To be forewarned is to be forearmed, and Jesus, as our wise Shepherd, told His disciples the hard truth that such persecution was coming in order to keep them from committing apostasy—falling away fully and finally from a profession of faith in Christ. None of the original disciples—and none of His later followers, by extension—would be able to say that they had no idea what they were getting into when they resolved to follow Christ.”
I Peter 4:12-16 says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.”
May truth and grace reside here.
Soli deo Gloria!