Christ has made us His friends by telling us all that God has given Him to reveal concerning our salvation, even as we remain obligated to keep His commandments (John 15:12–15). And we must never fail to emphasize that the initiative for our friendship with the Son of God does not come from us. We did not first choose Christ, but first He chose us (vv. 16–17). This does not mean that there is no sense at all in which we choose to become disciples of Christ; it does mean that we choose to become disciples only because our Savior chose us out of the world to be His disciples. Had He not chosen us first, we never would have chosen Him (Rom. 9:1–29).
Truly, we are humbled, and even honored, to have been chosen by Christ out of the world; however, His choice of us is not one that frees us of all difficulty in this life. In fact, His choice of us guarantees hardship and the world’s hatred. Jesus tells us not to be surprised if the world hates us, for we have been chosen out of the world (John 15:18–19). Our Lord does not mean that the world’s hatred of us exists as a possibility that may or may not be realized. Instead, Christ means that when the world hates us, we should not be surprised, for we do not belong to the world.
In this text, the Greek word translated as “world” (kosmos) refers not to the created order but to the system of rebellion against God. In other words, that the world will hate us means not that each and every person who lives in the world will hate us but that those who belong to the ranks of rebels against God and His reign will hate us. Christians are not taken out of the world in the sense that we are to disdain the created order; rather, we are separated from the world in that we are redeemed from sin and are now loyal servants of God. Augustine of Hippo, in a sermon on today’s passage, gets at this distinction when he writes, “We are forbidden to love the vice that is in [the world], and enjoined to love the nature [of the world, i.e., creation].”
The world cannot help but hate us, because those who are in rebellion against God hate everything that is not also in rebellion against Him. Jesus notes that we should not be surprised when the world hates us for following Him, for they hated Him first. If they hated Him and love us, then we would be greater than Him, but since the servants are not greater than the Master, the world’s hatred of Him guarantees it will hate us (John 15:20–21). We will be despised in many circles for keeping the commandments of Christ.