They Keep On Walking in the Truth
“No greater cause for thankfulness do I have than these things, that I should be hearing that my children go on walking in the truth.”—3 John 4.
JEHOVAH approves only of those worshiping him “with spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) They obey the truth, accepting the entire body of Christian teachings based on God’s Word. This “truth of the good news” focuses on Jesus Christ and the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty by means of the Kingdom. (Galatians 2:14) God lets “an operation of error” go to those preferring falsehood, but salvation depends on having faith in the good news and walking in the truth.—2 Thessalonians 2:9-12; Ephesians 1:13, 14.
2 Kingdom proclaimers are “fellow workers in the truth.” Like the apostle John and his friend Gaius, they resolutely hold to the truth and walk in it. With Gaius in mind, John wrote: “No greater cause for thankfulness do I have than these things, that I should be hearing that my children go on walking in the truth.” (3 John 3-8) Even if elderly John did not introduce Gaius to the truth, the apostle’s advanced age, Christian maturity, and fatherly affection made it fitting that this apparently younger man be viewed as one of John’s spiritual children.
The Truth and Christian Worship
3 To learn the truth, early Christians met as congregations, often in private homes. (Romans 16:3-5) They thereby received encouragement and incited one another to love and fine works. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) Regarding professed Christians of later times, Tertullian (c.155–after 220 C.E.) wrote: “We meet to read the books of God . . . With those holy words we feed our faith, we lift up our hope, we confirm our confidence.”—Apology, chapter 39.
4 Singing was likely a part of early Christian meetings. (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16) Professor Henry Chadwick writes that the second-century critic Celsus found the apparently melodic chants used by professed Christians “so beautiful that he actually resented their emotive effect.” Chadwick adds: “Clement of Alexandria is the earliest Christian writer to discuss what kind of music is appropriate for Christian use. He directs that it should not be the kind associated with erotic dance music.” (The Early Church, pages 274-5) Just as the first Christians evidently sang when they met together, so Jehovah’s Witnesses often sing Bible-based songs that include powerful anthems lauding God and the Kingdom.
5 In the early Christian congregations, overseers taught the truth, and ministerial servants assisted fellow believers in various ways. (Philippians 1:1) A governing body that relied on God’s Word and holy spirit provided spiritual guidance. (Acts 15:6, 23-31) Religious titles were not used because Jesus had commanded his disciples: “Do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One.” (Matthew 23:8, 9) In these and many other respects, there are parallels between the early Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Persecuted for Preaching the Truth
6 Although they proclaimed the peaceful Kingdom message, the early Christians were persecuted, even as Jesus had been. (John 15:20; 17:14) Historian John L. von Mosheim called first-century Christians “a set of men of the most harmless inoffensive character, who never harboured in their minds a wish or thought inimical to the welfare of the state.” Dr. Mosheim stated that what “irritated the Romans against the Christians, was the simplicity of their worship, which resembled in nothing the sacred rites of any other people.” He added: “They had no sacrifices, temples, images, oracles, or sacerdotal orders; and this was sufficient to bring upon them the reproaches of an ignorant multitude, who imagined that there could be no religion without these. Thus they were looked upon as a sort of atheists; and, by the Roman laws, those who were chargeable with atheism were declared the pests of human society.”
7 Priests, artisans, and others making their living from idolatry incited the populace against the Christians, who did not engage in idolatrous practices. (Acts 19:23-40; 1 Corinthians 10:14) Tertullian wrote: “They take the Christians to be the cause of every disaster to the State, of every misfortune of the people. If the Tiber reaches the walls, if the Nile does not rise to the fields, if the sky doesn’t move or the earth does, if there is famine, if there is plague, the cry is at once: ‘The Christians to the lion!’” Regardless of the consequences, true Christians ‘guard themselves from idols.’—1 John 5:21.
The Truth and Religious Observances
8 Those walking in the truth avoid unscriptural observances because ‘light has no sharing with darkness.’ (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) For instance, they do not celebrate Christmas, held on December 25. “No one knows the exact date of Christ’s birth,” admits The World Book Encyclopedia. The Encyclopedia Americana (1956 Edition) states: “Saturnalia, a Roman feast celebrated in mid-December, provided the model for many of the merry-making customs of Christmas.” M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia notes: “The observance of Christmas is not of divine appointment, nor is it of N[ew] T[estament] origin.” And the book Daily Life in the Time of Jesus observes: “The flocks . . . passed the winter under cover; and from this alone it may be seen that the traditional date for Christmas, in the winter, is unlikely to be right, since the Gospel says that the shepherds were in the fields.”—Luke 2:8-11.
9 Easter supposedly commemorates the resurrection of Christ, but reputable sources link it with false worship. The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible says that Easter was “originally the spring festival in honor of the Teutonic goddess of light and spring known in Anglo-Saxon as Eastre,” or Eostre. In any case, the Encyclopædia Britannica (11th Edition) states: “There is no indication of the observance of the Easter festival in the New Testament.” Easter was not an early Christian observance and is not celebrated by Jehovah’s people today.
10 Jesus did not command his followers to commemorate either his birth or his resurrection, but he did institute the Memorial of his sacrificial death. (Romans 5:8) Indeed, this is the only event he commanded his disciples to observe. (Luke 22:19, 20) Also called the Lord’s Evening Meal, this annual event is still being observed by Jehovah’s Witnesses.—1 Corinthians 11:20-26.
The Truth Declared Throughout the Earth
11 Those who know the truth consider it a privilege to devote their time, energy, and other resources to the work of preaching the good news. (Mark 13:10) Early Christian preaching activity was supported by voluntary donations. (2 Corinthians 8:12; 9:7) Wrote Tertullian: “Even if there is a chest of a sort, it is not made up of money paid in entrance-fees, as if religion were a matter of contract. Every man once a month brings some modest coin—or whenever he wishes, and only if he does wish, and if he can; for nobody is compelled; it is a voluntary offering.”—Apology, chapter 39.
12 The global Kingdom-preaching work of Jehovah’s Witnesses also is supported by voluntary donations. Besides the Witnesses, grateful interested people count it a privilege to support this activity with their contributions. Here, too, a similarity exists between the first Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Truth and Personal Conduct
13 As ones walking in the truth, early Christians complied with the apostle Peter’s counsel: “Maintain your conduct fine among the nations, that, in the thing in which they are speaking against you as evildoers, they may as a result of your fine works of which they are eyewitnesses glorify God in the day for his inspection.” (1 Peter 2:12) Jehovah’s Witnesses take those words to heart.
14 Even after apostasy had made inroads, nominal Christians avoided immoral activities. W. D. Killen, professor of ecclesiastical history, wrote: “In the second and third centuries the playhouse in every large town was a centre of attraction; and whilst the actors were generally persons of very loose morals, their dramatic performances were perpetually pandering to the depraved appetites of the age. . . . All true Christians viewed the theatre with disgust. . . . They recoiled from its obscenity; and its constant appeals to the gods and goddesses of heathenism outraged their religious convictions.” (The Ancient Church, pages 318-19) Jesus’ true followers today also avoid obscene and morally degrading forms of entertainment.—Ephesians 5:3-5.
The Truth and “the Superior Authorities”
15 Despite the fine conduct of the early Christians, most Roman emperors misjudged them. Historian E. G. Hardy says that the emperors viewed them as “somewhat contemptible enthusiasts.” Correspondence between Governor Pliny the Younger of Bithynia and Emperor Trajan shows that ruling classes were generally unaware of the true nature of Christianity. How do Christians view the State?
16 Like Jesus’ early followers, Jehovah’s Witnesses are in relative subjection to governmental “superior authorities.” (Romans 13:1-7) If there is a conflict between a human demand and the divine will, they take the stand: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) Says the book After Jesus—The Triumph of Christianity: “While Christians may not have engaged in emperor worship, they were not rabble-rousers, and their religion, while odd and at times offensive from the pagan point of view, posed no real threat to the empire.”
17 Early Christians were advocates of God’s Kingdom, even as the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob exercised faith in that promised ‘city made by God.’ (Hebrews 11:8-10) Like their Master, Jesus’ disciples were “no part of the world.” (John 17:14-16) And as regards human warfare and strife, they had pursued peace by ‘beating their swords into plowshares.’ (Isaiah 2:4) Noting an interesting parallel, lecturer in church history Geoffrey F. Nuttall commented: “The early Christian attitude to war was more like that of the people who call themselves Jehovah’s Witnesses than it is comfortable for us to suppose.”
18 As neutral individuals in subjection to “the superior authorities,” the first Christians were no threat to any political entities, and neither are Jehovah’s Witnesses. “It takes a bigoted and paranoid imagination to believe that the Jehovah’s Witnesses pose any kind of threat to any political regime,” wrote a North American editorialist. “They are as non-subversive and peace-loving as a religious body can be.” Enlightened authorities know that they have nothing to fear from Witnesses of Jehovah.
19 One way in which the early Christians showed respect for “the superior authorities” was by paying their taxes. Writing to Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161 C.E.), Justin Martyr held that Christians paid their taxes “more readily than all men.” (First Apology, chapter 17) And Tertullian told Roman rulers that their tax collectors owed “a debt of gratitude to Christians” for their conscientious payment of taxes. (Apology, chapter 42) Christians benefited from the Pax Romana, or Roman Peace, with its law and order, good roads, and relatively safe maritime travel. Recognizing their debt to society, they heeded Jesus’ words: “Pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Mark 12:17) Jehovah’s people today follow this counsel and have been praised for their honesty, as in the payment of taxes.—Hebrews 13:18.
The Truth—A Binding Tie
20 Because they walked in the truth, the early Christians were bound together in a peaceful brotherhood, even as Jehovah’s Witnesses are today. (Acts 10:34, 35) A letter printed in The Moscow Times said: “[Jehovah’s Witnesses are] well known as very nice, kind, and meek people who are very easy to deal with, never put any pressure on other people and always seek peace in their relationship with others . . . There are no bribe-takers, drunkards or drug addicts among them, and the reason is very simple: They just try to be guided by their Bible-based convictions in everything they do or say. If all the people in the world at least tried to live according to the Bible the way Jehovah’s Witnesses do, our cruel world would be absolutely different.”
21 The Encyclopedia of Early Christianity states: “The early church saw itself as one new humanity in which previously hostile groups, Jews and Gentiles, could live together in one body of peace.” Jehovah’s Witnesses also are a peace-loving international brotherhood—truly a new world society. (Ephesians 2:11-18; 1 Peter 5:9; 2 Peter 3:13) When the chief security officer of the Pretoria Show Grounds in South Africa saw how Witnesses of all races met there peaceably as convention delegates, he said: “Everyone was and is courteous, people speaking nicely to one another, the attitude displayed the past few days—it all testifies to the calibre of the members of your society, and that all live together like one happy family.”
Blessed for Teaching the Truth
22 By their conduct and preaching activity, Paul and other Christians were “making the truth manifest.” (2 Corinthians 4:2) Do you not agree that Jehovah’s Witnesses are doing the same and are teaching all nations the truth? People throughout the earth are embracing true worship and are streaming to ‘the mountain of Jehovah’s house’ in ever-increasing numbers. (Isaiah 2:2, 3) Every year, thousands are baptized in symbol of their dedication to God, resulting in the formation of many new congregations.
23 Though of various backgrounds, Jehovah’s people are united in true worship. The love they display identifies them as Jesus’ disciples. (John 13:35) Can you see that ‘God is really among them’? (1 Corinthians 14:25) Have you taken a stand with those teaching all nations the truth? If so, may you show lasting gratitude for the truth and be privileged to walk in it forever.
How Would You Respond?
• In manner of worship, what similarity is there between the early Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses?
• What is the only religious observance kept by those walking in the truth?
• Who are “the superior authorities,” and how do Christians view them?
• How is the truth a binding tie?
1. On what does “the truth of the good news” focus?
2. For what was the apostle John especially thankful, and what was the nature of his relationship with Gaius?
3. What was the purpose and benefit of meetings held by the early Christians?
4. Singing has played what role at Christian meetings?
5. (a) How was spiritual direction provided in early Christian congregations? (b) How have true Christians applied Jesus’ words recorded at Matthew 23:8, 9?
6, 7. Although they proclaim a peaceful message, how have true Christians been treated?
8. Why is Christmas not celebrated by those walking in the truth?
9. Why have past and present servants of Jehovah avoided Easter celebrations?
10. What observance did Jesus institute, and who have kept it properly?
11, 12. How have those walking in the truth always supported their preaching activity?
13. As regards their conduct, what counsel of Peter is heeded by Jehovah’s Witnesses?
14. What is the Christian view of immoral entertainment?
15, 16. Who are “the superior authorities,” and how have they been regarded by those walking in the truth?
17. (a) The early Christians were advocates of what government? (b) How have true followers of Christ applied the words of Isaiah 2:4 in their lives?
18. Why has no government any reason to fear Jehovah’s Witnesses?
19. Regarding taxes, what can be said about the early Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses?
20, 21. With respect to a peaceful brotherhood, what has been true of both the early Christians and Jehovah’s present-day servants?
22. What has been happening because Christians have been making the truth manifest?
23. How do you view those who are teaching all nations the truth?
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Christian meetings have always been a blessing to those walking in the truth
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Jesus commanded his followers to observe the Memorial of his sacrificial death
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Like the early Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses show respect for “the superior authorities”