As Jesus prayed in John 17:14, He made a profound statement. He said, “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”
This statement proclaims how Jesus Christ transformed His disciples by giving them God’s word. Because they were transformed, they were no longer of the world, meaning they no longer held the world’s mindset. Thus, the world hated them.
Now when Jesus said that He gave them God’s word, He didn’t mean that He gave them the scriptures. The disciples had known the scriptures from the time they were children. Starting at the age of five, they would have begun attending school, where they would spend several hours per day memorizing the Old Testament.
The Old Testament scriptures were so familiar to the disciples, that Jesus could say things like, “You have heard it said, (quotes Old Testament scripture),” and the disciples would know the scripture and where to find it. You find the same phenomenon with the Apostle Paul, who would write things like, “As it is written…” before quoting Old Testament scripture, with the expectation that the reader would know the verse.
However, just because one knows what the scripture says does not mean that they know the Word. Often it is that men know the scripture without knowing the heart of God. They know the verses without knowing the God Who inspired them. They know the words without knowing what they actually teach.
Scripture without the Lord is dead. Such was the case for the Pharisees and the Sadducees of Jesus’ day. They knew the entire Old Testament word for word, but they didn’t know God. They didn’t know the Gospel. They didn’t understand God’s master plan, which is our redemption and reconciliation to Him.
Thus, to the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Old Testament became an endless list of proclamations, rules, laws, ceremonies, commandments, and ordinances. Knowing these scriptures meant endless word studies, explorations of word definitions, and debating whether the words actually meant what they said.
This impacted the way the scriptures were taught as the disciples were growing up. So, when Jesus said, “I have given them thy word,” He was saying that He completed the word they knew by giving them the Living Word, Himself.
He accomplished this by speaking past the noise of doctrinal debates by going to the heart of what the scriptures addressed. While the Pharisees and Sadducees quoted the commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” before debating what the definition of “adultery” was, Jesus said, “If you look upon a woman to lust after her, you have committed adultery in your heart.”
In that teaching, Jesus pointed out that the sin in your heart is what separates you from God.
Many people parse words from the scriptures to delude themselves into thinking that they haven’t sinned. They redefine terms, they make excuses or find exceptions. However, when we apply the teachings of Christ to the words of the Law, we find not only are we all sinners, but we still have sin in our hearts.
It’s a sentiment the Apostle Paul knew all too well when He wrote, “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”
In Romans 7, Paul related how he struggled with sin, not doing the things he knew he should, while doing the things he knew he shouldn’t. It came to the point that even when he did the right things, he did those things with sin in his heart. It all came to the conclusion of Paul confessing his wretchedness and proclaiming his faith that Christ would redeem him from his brokenness.
Paul had this keen awareness of his broken condition because he not only knew the scriptures, but he knew the God behind the scriptures. Thus, in Galatians 3:24, he wrote that the “law is our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”
As we continue to hold ourselves up to the light of the scriptures and the sinless perfection of Christ, we continually see our need for his grace and forgiveness. Thus, we find ourselves continually trusting in His forgiveness, and as we do that, we find ourselves being transformed by the scriptures to the point that we become more aligned with the values, character, and mission of Christ.
When that happens, we are no longer of the world, as Christ said. And when we are no longer of the world, we no longer have its values and mindset, it rejects us and we become its enemy.
We should not fear this, however, as Christ went on to pray that God would not take us out of the world, but that He would protect us from the evil one.
Christ wants us to be in the world so we can lead others to salvation. However, He wants us to be protected from being overcome by the world, absorbed by the world, or destroyed by the evil one. Knowing that this was Jesus’ prayer for us, and that the Father answers Jesus’ prayers, this should give us confidence.
So, spend time in the word, get to know the Lord through the word, and let that transform you. Then, boldly carry that word to others.