How to Identify the True Religion
BUT you may ask: How can a person know what is the right way to worship? How can he determine which is the true religion? Is there any sure way of identifying it?
Yes, there is. Jesus Christ gave the rule for doing this. He explained that the true servants of God could be distinguished from the false ones by what they produce. He said: “By their fruits you will recognize them.” (Matt. 7:16) Therefore, it is possible to identify the true religion by the fruitage produced by its people.
What, then, are some of the fine fruits that true worshipers would produce? Is there really one religion whose people stand out as different from all the others because of their producing these fruits? Let us see.
Love Among Themselves
Jesus said that having love among themselves would distinguish his true followers from other people. He said: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.”—John 13:35.
This love that would distinguish Christ’s true followers is not expressed merely with the lips, but it deeply affects their way of life. It influences their attitude toward peoples of all races and nationalities. Do the churches with which you are acquainted instill in their members such genuine love? For example, what happens when grievances between worldly nations lead to war?
The facts show that by far the majority of religions have blessed their members who have taken up weapons and slaughtered their fellow believers of another race or nationality on the battlefields. Do you think that such a course is demonstrating love toward fellow believers? Could you, for instance, imagine Jesus preaching a sermon urging his disciples to kill one another at the command of the State just because they happened to be living in different nations? No, such a course is not in accord with the Bible, nor does it reflect the spirit of God.—1 John 3:10-12; Matt. 5:44.
There is a religion, however, that refuses to become entangled in such strife in any way, regardless of the pressures brought upon it to do so. Magdalen Goffin, London history scholar, noted that during the second world war “the only group consistently to stand up to Hitler (and they are today repeating their defiance in the Soviet Union) were the Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Emphasizing the contrast, she said: “Both the Evangelical Church and [the] Catholic Church . . . became the tools of Fascism. For this the Catholic bishops and the Papacy must shoulder the main responsibility.”—The New York Review of Books, August 21, 1969.
Just think how pleasant life could be if all persons on earth would demonstrate the Christian fruitage of love! But actually, such pleasant relations between peoples are possible. The Sacramento, California, Union commented editorially: “Suffice it to say that if all the world lived by the creed of the Jehovah[’s] Witnesses there would be an end of bloodshed and hatred, and love would reign as king.”—July 9, 1965.
Respect for God’s Word
Another way in which the true religion can be identified is by its attitude toward God’s Word the Bible. Jesus at all times demonstrated respect for God’s Word, time and again appealing to it as the final authority on matters. (Matt. 19:4-6; Luke 24:44, 45) How do the churches of Christendom measure up in this regard? Do they have such deep respect for the Bible?
Well, what have we seen in connection with a number of church teachings; for example, the Roman Catholic teaching on celibacy? Why, even Pope John XXIII said that “the Scriptures do not impose it.” The Scriptures, in fact, show that marriage for Christian ministers is proper. (1 Cor. 9:5; 1 Tim. 3:2, 12) Yet the church continues to impose celibacy upon its clergymen. Is it showing respect for the Bible to prescribe rules that are in opposition to Bible teachings?
But there is a religion that is outstandingly noted for its adherence to and respect for the Bible. Last summer France-Soir, a leading French newspaper, said: “The doctrines of Jehovah’s witnesses are based on the Bible.” England’s Weekly News, September 27, 1969, also observed: “Perhaps the real secret of the Witnesses’ success is because they know their Bible so well, they’re able to answer any question convincingly with a Biblical quote.”
Jehovah’s witnesses also build respect and confidence of others toward God’s Word, as the Catholic magazine Ave Maria, February 24, 1962, notes: They “are willing to spend any amount of time studying with an interested householder.”
Sanctify God’s Name
The true religion also stands out from all others because of the concern it shows for God’s name, which the Bible reveals is Jehovah. (Ps. 83:18)a Jesus set the example in honoring the name of God, making it known to his disciples, and even teaching them to pray: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.”—Matt. 6:9; John 17:6, 26.
Well, then, do the churches of Christendom sanctify God’s name? Do they treat it as something holy, and make it manifest to mankind, as Jesus did? Is there a religious group that is prominently known for publishing the name of God?
Yes, there is one religion whose people are outstandingly noted for their devotion to Jehovah! Marcus Bach, writing in Adult Student of November 1956, observed: “In the ranks of Jehovah’s witnesses are people of every class and culture; but they all hold one element in common: allegiance to Jehovah.”
Proclaim the Kingdom of God
The true religion can further be identified by its preaching of God’s kingdom. Jesus Christ also set the example in bearing this fruitage, for he journeyed “from city to city and from village to village, preaching and declaring the good news of the kingdom of God.” (Luke 8:1) And his first-century followers imitated him, calling with the Kingdom message “from house to house.”—Acts 20:20, 25.
Who, then, are taking the Kingdom message to the homes of the people today, and doing it in the way Jesus and his apostles did? When you see a minister calling from house to house and you hear him talk about God’s kingdom as mankind’s true hope, with what religion do you usually associate him?
Identifying that organization, Charles Samuel Braden writes in his book These Also Believe: “No single religious group in the world displayed more zeal and persistence in the attempt to spread the good news of the Kingdom than the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Separate from the World
Yet another distinguishing mark of the true religion is its obedience to the Bible requirement to keep separate from the world and its affairs. Jesus Christ showed the proper position of true worshipers when he said: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.”—John 17:16.
But what about the churches in your community? Are they and their clergy really “no part of the world”? Do they keep separate from its affairs? You know the answer to such questions.
However, you probably also know about a people in your community who refrain from involvement in the world and its affairs. Commenting about Jehovah’s witnesses, Chicago Today, October 18, 1969, said: “Their belief pattern, moreover, calls for total noninvolvement with the political society in which they dwell.” They really are “no part of the world.”
Has not this examination been helpful in identifying the true religion? Yes, it is by such an investigation that the true servants of God can be distinguished from the false ones. But there is another factor that bears consideration.
Prosperity of True Religion
While the churches and their clergy are in confusion, disintegration and decline, there is a religion today that is enjoying marvelous spiritual prosperity. Newsweek of January 5, 1970, observes: “The Catholic diocese of Rothenburg [Germany], for example, reports that ‘entire families are suddenly converting to the Jehovah’s witnesses.’” Actually thousands of persons every week, on the average, are now associating with Jehovah’s witnesses and taking up true worship.
What does all this indicate? Who are showing true Christian love? What religion is noted for its high regard for the Bible? Who are sanctifying, that is, treating as holy, God’s name Jehovah? What people are diligent in proclaiming the kingdom of God? And who keep separate from the world and its affairs?
Yes, what religious group does all of these things? And which group has the evidence of God’s blessing?
a Some translations substitute the title Lord for the name Jehovah. However, in the original Hebrew the proper name of God appears. This name is usually translated Jehovah, but the Catholic Jerusalem Bible renders it Yahweh.