Calvary Road Baptist Church

“SORROWFUL BUT NECESSARY PREPARATION”

John 16.1-6 

We live in a dangerous world. The physical dangers that we face produce some reasonable responses. Some people respond to potential threats to their physical safety with fences around their property. Some people react with bars on their windows and reinforced doors at the entrances to their homes. Others install real-time motion detection activated cameras, floodlights, and sensors that alert the dweller when windows are opened.

Should such perimeter defenses fail to deter a threat, some people have resorted to preparing to preserve their physical safety through various devices to employ while waiting for law enforcement to respond to an emergency call. The devices can be everything from chemical or pepper sprays to batons, tasers, edged weapons, and even various firearms types.

In my 70 years, the only time a 911 call was made to secure emergency help from law enforcement for me, the police officers responding to the call were told I was being attacked by two men, and help arrived at my home 20 minutes after the call was placed. At that time in my life, I had no means of protecting myself other than my bare hands, with no real perimeter defense measures in place. Additionally, and more importantly, I had no means to protect either my wife or my daughter. I hope I learned from that.

Our various government jurisdictions are far better prepared to defend themselves than it seems they will allow citizens to protect ourselves from harm at a personal level. We lead the world in the design and the deployment of unmanned surveillance and attack drones. Before drones were developed, we launched orbiting surveillance satellites to cover the earth with extremely high-resolution cameras and radiofrequency devices. We can tell how tall a person is within a couple of inches from a satellite camera orbiting the earth hundreds of miles away. We can also use ground-penetrating radar to see what is buried beneath the surface and out of visual sight.

Additionally, our satellites retrieve every radio broadcast and almost every cellular telephone conversation throughout the world. Of course, the problem with satellites is the predictability of their orbits. The only telephone conversation that is not guaranteed to be scooped up by a satellite is a landline telephone to a landline telephone conversation. And that conversation may still be recorded because of the access to their systems every American telephone company provides to the National Security Agency.

Before drones and before satellites (which are still being used), our famous surveillance aircraft, the U-2 spy plane and the SR 71 Blackbird, were developed. The U-2 is a relatively slow but very high flying reconnaissance aircraft initially designed to overfly Soviet airspace to see what they were doing. It worked for a while until CIA pilot Gary Powers was shot down while piloting his U-2 over the Soviet Union. The SR 71 Blackbird never came close to being shot down because it flew so fast and so high. But that program was costly and has been discontinued.

Because we live in such a dangerous world, both individuals and nations have always been wary of their vulnerability to attack. Lacking technology, from the dawn of human history until the invention of the airplane, clans, tribes, and nations have relied upon spies to infiltrate those who might pose a threat to them and lookouts to observe as far beyond their borders as the curvature of the earth would allow.

Only the United States, with weak Canada to the North, and weak Mexico to the South, and positioned between the two most expansive oceans in the world, for too long lived without any concern for what happened beyond our borders. We felt very safe from threats to our safety. That lack of concern evaporated on December 7, 1941.

Looking back more than three thousand years, tiny Israel’s occupation of land frequently overrun by much larger Gentile nations demanded the exercise of caution, and they made use of what we call watchmen.[1] Translating two Hebrew words, hpu (tsaphah)[2] and rmv (shamar)[3], a watchman was different from a shepherd. A shepherd’s task was to feed the sheep and protect the sheep from attack by ravening wolves. A watchman, on the other hand, neither fed nor protected anyone. The watchman’s sole responsibility was to provide a warning of approaching danger.

On occasion, the pastor is called upon to function much like a watchman, though the Greek word translated pastor is the Greek word poimήn, meaning shepherd. Take our present distress as an illustration in point. Would any but the most obtuse and carnally-minded Christian doubt that we are facing the most alarming threats to the cause of Christ and our way of life our country has ever seen? For the first time in American history, the tide has turned against the Christian faith.

There is no denying that opposition against Baptists was fierce in the early days of the American colonies. However, conditions were moving in the right direction almost from the beginning, with Christian liberties and the fruit of evangelism waxing and not waning. The cost was high, but God blessed and Christian liberty, such as has never before been seen among men, flourished in our land.

Now, however, the opposite is trending. Would anyone deny that? Could anyone deny that? If threats loom large and opposition to the cause of Christ is on the rise, what would you expect wise believers to do? What should a Christian woman expect her Christian husband to do to demonstrate his wisdom, his responsibility, and his willingness to prepare for what is undoubtedly coming? What might a reasonable person look for in the conduct of responsible Christian parents to prepare themselves and to learn how to prepare their children for the days of trouble ahead?

How to deal with the coming opposition is not apparent. It is not intuitive. To know what to do, one must be taught God’s Word. And to be taught God’s Word, one must be willing to learn to learn. How much does a teacher expect from a student who never attends class? What is the likely outcome when comes the day of testing if the student has not attended to the instruction made available but that he did not avail himself of?

Suppose there is concern for the cause of Christ, concern for the children, concern for the spouse, and concern for others in great need of exhortation and encouragement. Would you not expect spiritual Christians to be more alert, exercise greater caution, and sense spiritual alarm? Yet, what have we seen occurring in the Christian community instead? We have seen more and more professing Christians surrender their commitment to public worship, yielding themselves to fewer and fewer opportunities to learn and grow and fellowship with other Christians.

I speak not to those exercising appropriate caution for their physical health because of advancing age and other comorbidity issues. I am referring to Churches all across the country, and Christians throughout our nation, who are surrendering without opposition what our enemies would seize from us if they had to resort to option.

What does the Chinese Communist Party seek to accomplish with Christians in China? They want them to stop attending Church. What did the Soviet Union wish to achieve with Christians? They tried to prevent them from attending Church. What do militant Hindus and militant Buddhists try to accomplish in their respective countries? They want Christians to stop going to Church. The same is true in Vietnam. And in Muslim countries? They want Christians to stop going to Church.

Yet, we have Christians in the United States who do just that. With pathetically weak justification, they decide to skip the midweek Bible study because it takes a rush to get here on time or skip Sunday evening worship for some lame reason. Understand that I am not suggesting each adult does not have the liberty to make his or her own choices. But I ask you how the watchman will discharge his obligation to issue a warning of approaching danger to those who decided to stay home?

Ponder how you would answer that question as you make your way to our text for this morning’s message from God’s Word. When you find John 16.1-6, I invite you to stand for the reading of God’s Word: 

1 These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.

2 They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.

3 And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.

4 But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.

5 But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?

6 But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. 

If you are familiar with John’s Gospel, you might notice the change in the character of Christ’s discourse from chapters 14 and 15. Chapter 14 was a chapter of comfort. Chapter 15 was a chapter of admonition. Beginning with our text, you will notice the transition in chapter 16 to the prevalence of prediction of warning. Let me suggest that chapters 14 and 15 are somewhat more pastoral, with chapter 16 showing that aspect of the Savior’s ministry that is slightly more like a watchman.

Here He is warning His men. However, unlike 21st century professing Christians who choose to absent themselves from opportunities to be warned, our Lord’s men were a somewhat captive audience.

Five things to take note of: 

First, THE PREPARATION OF THE APOSTLES 

Verse 1:

“These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.” 

Please take note of what the Lord Jesus Christ is concerned with regarding His men. He does not display concern for their physical safety. He seems not to be alarmed by the physical threats they will face, the torture, and the mistreatment that will come their way. His concern is that they would be offended, scandalized, caused to stumble in their Christian walk. The Greek word translated offended is scandalίzoo.[4]

Scandalίzoo is a Greek verb derived from the noun scandalon, referring to a snare or a trap.[5] The Lord was concerned that His men might be caught by surprise as they were moving through life, the way an animal is caught by surprise in a snare, or booby traps injure the way soldiers.

What would their defense be to the sudden onslaught of persecution and intense spiritual opposition? It certainly would not be avoidance. There is no indication those men ever evaded persecution.

Recognize, Christian, that what is going to happen to you is going to happen to you. You will not evade and escape. You are going to be caught up in it when it comes. The Savior planned to prepare them for it by warning them of it. That is what I would like to do, as well. However, who can warn someone by teaching and preaching if they are not here and attentive? 

Next, THE PREDICTION FOR THE APOSTLES 

Verse 2:

“They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.” 

An observation and an implication:

This verse speaks to the apostolic band’s immediate future experiences, when intense persecution would arise from the Jewish population in and around Jerusalem following the Day of Pentecost. The hostility would reach its pinnacle in Acts chapter 7, with the martyrdom of Stephen. There can be no question that the religious zealots who set upon Stephen because he was right, and they could not admit they were wrong, were nevertheless convinced in their minds and hearts that they were on God’s side. Of course, in the crowd that day and looking on, as much convinced he was in the right as the rest of them, was Saul of Tarsus.[6] Following his Damascus Road vision and subsequent conversion to Christ, Christianity’s greatest enemy would become the greatest Christian who ever lived, the Apostle Paul.[7]

Does it surprise you that the Lord Jesus Christ did not here speak to His apostles about the persecution they would suffer at the hands of Gentiles? Suppose the total span of time each of the apostles were persecuted were divided between persecution inflicted upon them by Jewish people and persecution inflicted upon them by Gentiles. In that case, there can be no doubt that they experienced far greater suffering at Gentiles’ hands. Therefore, the reason mention was only made of suffering persecution at the hands of Jewish people is that the Jewish persecution would be suffered initially, with Gentile persecution being inflicted upon them subsequently. Thus, by the time the Lord’s men began to suffer persecution at the hands of Gentiles, they were already seasoned veterans who knew what was going on and would be well prepared to deal with the sufferings they then faced. 

Third, THE PROVOCATION AGAINST THE APOSTLES 

Verse 3:

“And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.” 

Though the persecution predicted in verse two will be inflicted on the apostles only by zealous Jewish men, there is no doubt that what moved the Jewish men to do what they would do would also move the unsaved Gentile men do what they would do. What lies at the bottom of it all? What causes people to mistreat other people in general? This is a far broader issue than narrowly focused religious persecution, in my opinion. To be sure, the Lord Jesus Christ was speaking to His men about the opposition they would receive from spiritual adversaries, be they Jewish or pagan Gentiles.

Yet, from time immemorial and around the world, human beings have always mistreated human beings. Men have always brutalized women. Men have always brutalized other men. Men have always been predators toward children. Women have always mistreated men, taking into account their smaller size and relative weakness. And women have always mistreated women and children, though not nearly in so predatory a fashion as men.

What is behind all of this mistreatment of other human beings? The reason people do what they do to other people, and most especially the cause of religious persecution against Christians for serving God and honoring the Savior, is because they do not know God or His Son.

The mistreatment of Christians, the slander against Christians, the lying against Christians, the blaming of Christians, the brutality against Christians, and the martyrdom of Christians. Whether the opposition is mild or intense, motivated by religious fervor, or just because believers in Christ are different, the underlying cause of it all is not knowing God or His Son, Jesus Christ.

Unsaved human beings are estranged from God, alienated from God. They have ever and always shaken their fist in rebellion against God. They have always opposed the plan, the purpose, and the people of God. Regardless of what a friend, relative, or loved one offers as an excuse to justify their misconduct toward Christians, the real reason is that they do not know God. 

Fourth, THE PREDICAMENT THEY ARE FACING 

Verse 4:

“But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.” 

What can we learn from these two sentences spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ to His eleven remaining apostles? Do we not realize that timing is critical? Can we not appreciate His judgment that some essential matters are best presented later rather than sooner? Has anyone ever asked you, “Why didn’t you tell me that before?” It seems the Lord Jesus Christ was anticipating that type of question, whether it was asked out loud or merely framed in their thoughts.

The reason He did not tell them before was not that He was withholding pertinent information from them. It was because He was the lightning rod to the opposition, and so long as He was in the picture, the opposition would be directed at Him and not to His followers. Therefore, there was previously no need for Him to say these words.

He speaks these words now because He is about to be removed from the picture. In an hour or two, He will be identified by Judas Iscariot, removed from them as He is taken into custody, and then crucified. He will return to them three days later, following His resurrection. Then He will appear to them on several occasions before ascending for the final time to the Father’s right hand, where He is presently enthroned on high.[8]

Soon, they will feel the full force of opposition that had previously been directed at Him. Then, because He waited until now to tell them, they will remember what He said about their persecutors. They will have been properly prepared. 

Finally, THE PAIN THEY ARE EXPERIENCING 

5  But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?

6  But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. 

Which of these two options was the better of the two for Christ’s apostles, in your opinion? Is it better to be uninformed and, therefore, unprepared for what will undoubtedly come upon them? Or is it better to be challenged with painful truths that are hard to swallow and difficult to deal with? Obviously, the latter of the two. That understood, let us marvel at the Lord’s dealings with them in their pain before He begins to speak to them in subsequent verses about the ministry of the Holy Spirit He will give to them as an ascension gift:

First, in verse five, He calls them out on a question they did not ask Him. They had asked Him in the Upper Room where He was going, but it was then not a germane question and not pertinent to the point He was trying to make at that time.[9] They should have asked where He is going at this time. However, they are too caught up in their feelings to have the presence of mind to ask the question that should have been asked. “Where are you going?” He is going “my way to him that sent me.” They should have asked Him where? It would have benefited them to ask, as well as to hear His answer. But they never asked.

In verse 6, the Lord Jesus speaks to the pain caused by His strong words of preparation to them, words that caused them heartache and anxiety, but words they needed to hear. Their hearts were filled with sorrow. It was understandable. They felt they were losing the One they had committed their lives to. The One they looked to for salvation, for leadership, and for comfort has told them He was leaving them, and they could not follow Him. He comforted them in chapter 14. He admonished them in chapter 15. This warning is tough to take. It pained them to hear what He said to them. But it was good for them to hear because it prepared them for what was coming. 

The situation you are in is somewhat different than the one the apostles found themselves in. The Savior knew the exact timetable of events. His men would have to deal with, so He knew precisely when to tell them what they needed to hear.

With you it is different. We know the spiritual slide into the abyss is in progress. We know our country is no longer the nation it once was, and apart from a great revival, we have lost this great nation forever.

The cancel culture is in the ascendency. People are being fired from their jobs simply because they are perceived to be at the conservative end of the political spectrum. The apostasy is so great that many are thought by normal Christianity to be wholly unreasonable and dangerous to their well-being.

The question, in light of this trend, is what the child of God should do? Do Christians voluntarily surrender what we know our spiritual adversaries want to take from us forcibly? Do we choose to attend Church less often, gather with the saints on fewer and fewer occasions each week, when we know they want to force us to do precisely that? How different is that from allowing soldiers to herd you into railroad cars meekly?

And this is at a time when we need to be comforted, admonished, and prepared for what is coming. Does one learn more by attending Church less? Is one better prepared by being trained less frequently? Are we more like an assembly when we assemble on fewer and fewer occasions?

Do moms and dads and new Christians help themselves by attending only worship services designed to evangelize the lost while staying home from Church during times of much-needed training and instruction?

As we get closer to the end, we need each other more and more. Isolation and self-indulgence are no remedy for success. It was a good thing for those eleven men that the Lord challenged the tunnel vision that resulted in them not asking an important question that needed to be asked but for their selfish attention to themselves.

They needed the doctrine, the reproof, the correction, and the instruction in righteousness their Master provided to prepare them.

Are we any different?

__________

[1] 2 Samuel 18.24-27; 2 Kings 9.17-18, 20; Psalm 127.1; Isaiah 21.6, 11-12; Ezekiel 3.17; 33.2, 6-7; Hosea 9.8

[2] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver & Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew And English Lexicon, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979), page 859.

[3] Ibid., pages 1036-1037.

[4] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 253.

[5] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 926.

[6] Acts 8.1

[7] Acts 9.1-22

[8] Psalm 16.11; 110.1; Matthew 26.64; Mark 12.36; 14.62; 16.19; Luke 20.42; 22.69; John 3.13; 13.1; 14.2-4; Acts 1.9-11; 2.33, 34-35; 7.56; Romans 8.34; Ephesians 1.20; 6.9; Colossians 3.1; Second Thessalonians 1.7; Hebrews 1.3, 13; 8.1; 9.24; 10.12-13; 12.2; 1 Peter 3.22; Revelation 19.11

[9] John 13.36-37

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