A Congregation Anointed for Kingdom Proclamation
1. What were questions about world salvation two thousand years ago?
QUESTIONS of world importance confront us today. They are related to questions that we would have faced if we had lived nearly two thousand years ago, in the Middle East. Back there those questions were of world importance because they revolved around a world savior, a Messiah! The time was then due for him to make his first appearance. Hence interested people were in expectation of him. At his appearance would he be hailed with delight by all the world of mankind? Or would he disappoint them in doing what he was commissioned to do at that time? Who would be convinced that he was the Messiah who did exactly what the Holy Scriptures foretold about him, and so follow him as their Leader? Who would not be offended at him but be drawn to him? Who today are being drawn to the world-saving Messiah, and how?
2. (a) The Principal One of the “seed” of God’s “woman” was to fulfill what role? (b) The other ones of the woman’s “seed” were to be who, and be taught by whom?
2 For our safe guidance today, let us remember that the true Messiah was to be the Principal One of the foretold “seed” of God’s “woman,” and was to be ‘bruised in the heel’ by the Great Serpent, Satan the Devil. The “woman” or mother of the “seed” is God’s wifelike heavenly organization made up of holy spirit creatures, angelic “sons of the true God.” The woman’s promised “seed” is made up of sons of hers, the Principal One thereof being the Messiah and the others being his spiritual followers. With respect to these lesser members of the woman’s “seed” we have these words of Isaiah 54:13 as addressed to the symbolic “woman”: “And all your sons will be persons taught by Jehovah, and the peace of your sons will be abundant.” Properly, the “sons” would be taught by the woman’s heavenly Husband, Jehovah, the Father of the “seed.”—Isaiah 54:5.
3. To whom did Jesus apply the word “sons” in Isaiah 54:13, and how are these now taught without the Teacher’s being visible?
3 The Principal One of the woman’s “seed,” Jesus Christ, made an application of the words addressed to the woman in Isaiah 54:13. In what connection? Well, when talking to Jews who were not drawn to him as the Messiah and so were murmuring against him, Jesus said: “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him; and I will resurrect him in the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by Jehovah.’ Everyone that has heard from the Father and has learned comes to me.” (John 6:44, 45) Of course, Jehovah is not the visible Teacher of any of us, but he has provided an inspired Textbook for us. So by means of this and by the operation of his holy spirit, he teaches us the facts about the Messianic “seed” of his “woman.” In this way he drew the lesser ones of the “seed” to the Principal One thereof, the Messiah, and forms a congregation.
4. By the third year of Jesus’ public activity, how did the views of Jesus’ apostles compare with those of the people as to who he was?
4 By that time, in the third year of Jesus’ public activity, the Jewish people should have come to some decision as to who this miracle worker was in God’s purpose. How many of them showed that they were being “taught by Jehovah” with respect to his Messiah? It was timely for Jesus to ask his apostles about this:
“He questioned them, saying: ‘Who are the crowds saying that I am?’ In reply they said: ‘John the Baptist; but others, Elijah, and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has risen.’ Then he said to them: ‘You, though, who do you say I am?’ Peter said in reply: ‘The Christ of God.’ Then in a stern talk to them he instructed them not to be telling this to anybody, but said: ‘The Son of man must undergo many sufferings and be rejected by the older men and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised up.’”—Luke 9:18-22; compare Mark 8:27-32.
5. According to Matthew 16:16-19, what did Jesus say to Peter in response to his answer to the question?
5 The apostle Matthew’s account enlarged on the matter, saying: “In answer Simon Peter said: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ In response Jesus said to him: ‘Happy you are, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal it to you, but my Father who is in the heavens did. Also, I say to you, You are Peter, and on this rock-mass I will build my congregation, and the gates of Haʹdes will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of the heavens, and whatever you may bind on earth will be the thing bound in the heavens, and whatever you may loose on earth will be the thing loosed in the heavens.’”—Matthew 16:16-19.
6. What shows that Peter did not misinterpret Jesus’ words about the “rock-mass,” and who did Paul say was the “rock-mass”?
6 From this commendation given to Peter it is evident that he was one who had been taught by Jehovah and had learned from Him. So he was drawn to Jesus and came to him as the Messiah or Christ. Peter’s name means “stone,” or “piece of rock.” But this did not mean that he was the “rock-mass” upon which Jesus would build his congregation. Neither was the “rock-mass” the confession that Peter had made: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The “rock-mass” was Jesus himself. Peter did not misinterpret Jesus’ words. Never did he claim to be the “rock-mass” (Greek, petra) according to 1 Peter 2:4-10. Furthermore, the apostle Paul, whose writings Peter recognized as part of the inspired Scriptures, wrote: “For they [the Israelites in the wilderness] used to drink from the spiritual rock-mass that followed them, and that rock-mass meant the Christ.”—1 Corinthians 10:4; 2 Peter 3:15, 16.
7, 8. (a) What did the apostles mistakenly think the kingdom of the Messiah was to be? (b) To whom were the “keys” of the kingdom of the heavens to be given, but upon whom was the congregation to be built?
7 When Jesus spoke to his apostles about the kingdom, they thought of a kingdom based upon the government that would have its capital at Jerusalem, where King David had ruled. They expected Jesus as the Messiah to set up his government at Jerusalem, as a successor to King David. As an evidence that this was their idea, they said to Jesus after his resurrection from the dead: “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” (Acts 1:6) For the time being, before the festival day of Pentecost of 33 C.E., they did not understand that the kingdom of the risen Christ was to be a superhuman one ruling over far more than the earthly nation of Israel. That being the case, it was quite in order for Jesus, after Peter’s confession of him as the Christ, to bring up the subject of “the kingdom of the heavens.”
8 The “keys” thereof he was giving to Peter. (Matthew 16:19) Still, the congregation was to be built by Jesus Christ on the royal “rock-mass,” the Messianic king. And, just as the “gates of Haʹdes” would not overpower the foundation “rock-mass” but Jesus Christ would be raised from the grave on the third day, so those “gates of Haʹdes” would not overpower the Messiah’s congregation. It too must rise from the dead.
THE INVISIBLE HELPER OF THE CONGREGATION
9. Christ’s followers were to be brought together to form what, and yet what would they also be, like ancient Israel?
9 Unlike Christ’s apostles, the nation of Israel remained confused as to who Jesus was in Jehovah’s purpose. Hence the individual Israelites who accepted him as Messiah or Christ would be brought together to form a new nation. This nation would be as much a congregation as ancient Israel had been. They would be a congregation of proclaimers of the Messianic king and his kingdom!
10. In 1 Peter 2:8-10, how did Peter point out that striking fact, and what is included among the “excellencies” that are to be declared abroad?
10 This striking fact was learned by the apostle Peter as one who was “taught by Jehovah.” One of the last things he wrote to fellow believers contained these words: “To this very end they [the unbelieving Israelites] were also appointed. But you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:8-10) The “excellencies” of that wonderful One would include his ability to carry out his purpose regarding his Messiah in spite of all the antagonism of those who rejected his Son as Messiah. His “people for special possession” are obligated to praise Jehovah for his Messianic kingdom.—Isaiah 43:21.
11, 12. Why did Jesus promise to send his disciples a “helper,” and what did Jesus say about the helper?
11 Such an obligation the new “holy nation” could not carry out in their own strength amidst a hostile world. Jesus, knowing this, said to his faithful apostles before he was taken away from them under arrest by his enemies: “I shall not leave you bereaved. . . . But the helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the things I told you.” Also: “When the helper arrives that I will send you from the Father, the spirit of the truth, which proceeds from the Father, that one will bear witness about me; and you, in turn, are to bear witness, because you have been with me from when I began.”—John 14:18, 26; 15:26, 27.
12 Jesus also added: “If I do not go away, the helper will by no means come to you; but if I do go my way, I will send him to you. . . . when that one arrives, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own impulse, but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things coming. That one will glorify me, because he will receive from what is mine and will declare it to you. All the things that the Father has are mine. That is why I said he receives from what is mine and declares it to you.”—John 16:7, 13-15.
ARRIVAL OF “THE HELPER,” THE HOLY SPIRIT
13. The promised “helper” was to be imparted in whose name, and to the believers in whose name?
13 Not quite five hundred years before Jesus Christ made that promise to his apostles, Governor Nehemiah at Jerusalem recorded the prayer respecting God’s dealings with the Israelites: “You were indulgent with them for many years and kept bearing witness against them by your spirit by means of your prophets.” (Nehemiah 9:30) And now, during the physical absence of Jesus the Messiah from his disciples, that same spirit of Jehovah God was to come to their help. It would be imparted to them only in Jesus’ name. It would be imparted only to those who would believe that Jesus was the name of the true Messiah. When was it first imparted?
14, 15. (a) Jesus climaxed his forty days after his resurrection by promising his disciples what thing different from John’s baptism? (b) What question would there be about this promised baptism?
14 For forty days after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead on Sunday, Nisan 16, 33 C.E., he remained here at the earth, but invisibly so. At times, he did like holy angels of old, materialize in human form, to furnish his disciples the proof that he was indeed risen from the dead, but as a spirit. On such appearances to them he kept “telling the things about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:1-3) Some of the apostles had been disciples of John the Baptizer. And now on the fortieth day, the day of his ascension to heaven, Jesus Christ made his disciples highly expectant when he said to them: “John, indeed, baptized with water, but you will be baptized in holy spirit not many days after this.” (Acts 1:4, 5) John’s baptism of the repentant Jews had been in symbol of their repentance over their sins committed against God’s law through Moses.
15 Such water baptism may have given them a sense of relief together with a good conscience. But what would be the effect upon Jesus’ disciples from being “baptized [immersed] in holy spirit”? It ought to be energizing, because God’s holy spirit is his holy, invisible active force.—Matthew 3:11.
16. According to Jesus’ words in Acts 1:6-8, what was the holy spirit to energize them to do?
16 On its arrival, what would God’s holy spirit energize the receivers to do? Just before his ascension to heaven, Jesus said to his disciples: “You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8) In those words lies the answer to our question: Energize the receivers of holy spirit to give a worldwide witness to the fact that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ.
17. On the fiftieth day from his resurrection, under what circumstances was Jesus’ promise to his disciples fulfilled?
17 Jesus Christ ascends to heaven. Ten days pass. The fiftieth day from his resurrection arrives! At Jerusalem the Jewish festival day of Weeks or Pentecost (meaning “Fiftieth” as applying to a day) proceeds. Early in the morning about one hundred and twenty disciples are met together, not at the festive temple, but in an upper chamber, waiting. “Suddenly there occurred from heaven a noise just like that of a rushing stiff breeze, and it filled the whole house in which they were sitting. And tongues as if of fire became visible to them and were distributed about, and one sat upon each one of them, and they all became filled with holy spirit and started to speak with different tongues, just as the spirit was granting them to make utterance.”—Acts 2:1-4.
18, 19. As explained by Peter, what prophecy began to come true on that day of Pentecost, and how long after its utterance?
18 Ah, at last, after more than eight hundred years since its utterance, the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32 had begun to be fulfilled. Startled Jews gathered to observe the phenomenon. Some charged the disciples with being drunk. Boldly the apostle Peter said to them:
19 “On the contrary, this is what was said through the prophet Joel, ‘“And in the last days,” God says, “I shall pour out some of my spirit upon every sort of flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy and your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams; and even upon my men slaves and upon my women slaves I will pour out some of my spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. And I will give portents in heaven above and signs on earth below, blood and fire and smoke mist; the sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and illustrious day of Jehovah arrives. And everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.”’”—Acts 2:16-21.
20. What baptism there took place, and whom did Peter identify as the one used to do the baptizing?
20 Baptism in holy spirit had taken place, just as Jesus had promised. The spirit’s being said to be ‘poured out’ would harmonize with the fact that it is like a fluid element for baptism or immersion. We remember that God gave John the Baptizer the sign regarding Jesus, to show that “this is the one that baptizes in holy spirit.” (John 1:33) True to this fact, the apostle Peter identified the glorified Jesus Christ as being God’s agent in pouring out the holy spirit upon these first Christians. Said Peter further to those Jewish celebrators of Pentecost: “This Jesus God resurrected, of which fact we are all witnesses. Therefore because he was exalted to the right hand of God and received the promised holy spirit from the Father, he has poured out this which you see and hear.”—Acts 2:32, 33.
21. How could Peter say that they saw and heard that which the glorified Jesus poured out?
21 They saw and heard the operation of holy spirit, in that they saw the tongues as if of fire above the heads of the disciples and heard the foreign languages miraculously spoken by the disciples.
22. What else then took place with the disciples, to correspond with what took place upon Jesus after his baptism in water?
22 However, more than a mere baptizing of Jesus’ disciples in holy spirit had taken place on that day of Pentecost. The anointing of them with holy spirit had also taken place. Just as Jesus was anointed with holy spirit after his baptism in water and he thus became Christ or Anointed One, so too with his disciples. They were anointed with that in which they are baptized.
23. Also, with what were the disciples sealed, as explained by Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:21, 22?
23 Furthermore, they were sealed with that spirit in token of their spiritual inheritance to come. This accords with what the apostle Paul said to the Christian congregation in ancient Corinth, Greece: “He who guarantees that you and we belong to Christ and he who has anointed us is God. He has also put his seal upon us and has given us the token of what is to come, that is, the spirit, in our hearts.”—2 Corinthians 1:21, 22.
24 The apostle John, who was there at that Pentecostal outpouring of holy spirit, understood what had taken place. So this is what he wrote to fellow believers: “You have an anointing from the holy one; all of you have knowledge. And as for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to be teaching you; but, as the anointing from him is teaching you about all things, and is true and is no lie, and just as it has taught you, remain in union with him.”—1 John 2:20, 27.
BEGETTING BY HOLY SPIRIT
25. For a baptized Christian to have a heavenly inheritance in view, what operation of holy spirit was it necessary for him to undergo?
25 There is another feature about this operation of God’s active force. Jesus indicated it when he said: “Unless anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3, 5) A Christian with a heavenly inheritance in view must imitate his Master Jesus by being baptized in water. In this way he symbolizes the dedication of himself to Jehovah God, to do the divine will. (Matthew 28:19, 20) But there must also be an operation of holy spirit upon him. Why? Because, as the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:50, “flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom, neither does corruption inherit incorruption.”
26. After writing about the anointing, the apostle John speaks about what relationship of the anointed ones with God?
26 If the disciples are to be put in line for entrance into God’s heavenly kingdom, they need to be “born again” and thus become spiritual sons of God. As in Jesus’ own case, it is the spiritual son of God that is anointed with holy spirit. This accounts for it that, after speaking about the anointing, the anointed apostle John goes on to say, in 1 John 3:1-3:
“See what sort of love the Father has given us, so that we should be called children of God; and such we are. That is why the world does not have a knowledge of us, because it has not come to know him. Beloved ones, now we are children of God, but as yet it has not been made manifest what we shall be. We do know that whenever he is made manifest we shall be like him, because we shall see him just as he is. And everyone who has this hope set upon him purifies himself just as that one is pure.”
27. How is it shown in John 1:11-13 that human parents have nothing to do with a Christian’s being “born again”?
27 Human parents do not have anything to do with a person’s being “born again.” Out of a person’s own conviction he has to accept Jesus as the Messiah and follow him as the one anointed by God to be the King in the heavenly Messianic kingdom. Then it rests with God’s will as to whether to beget such a follower of Christ by holy spirit. Not human parents, but God begets children for heaven. That is what the apostle John says. Here are John’s words: “He,” that is, Jesus Christ at his coming to the Jewish nation nineteen centuries ago, “came to his own home, but his own people did not take him in. However, as many as did receive him, to them he gave authority to become God’s children, because they were exercising faith in his name; and they were born, not from blood or from a fleshly will or from man’s will, but from God.” (John 1:11-13) By God’s begetting they become his spiritual sons. He does not beget them in a mother’s womb.
“A NEW CREATION”
28. Who is it that determines that there shall be spiritual children for God, and how are these, in a sense, “firstfruits of his creatures”?
28 Do not human parents decide for themselves about having children of their own flesh and blood? Yes! So, too, God decides about whom he will beget to be his spiritual son with a heavenly inheritance. “Because he willed it, he brought us forth by the word of truth, for us to be certain firstfruits of his creatures.” So writes the disciple James to Christians whom he calls “the twelve tribes that are scattered about.” (James 1:1, 18) In agriculture, “firstfruits” are taken out from a new crop and are dedicated to God as something holy and something due him. Who, then, are the spiritual firstfruits? Those whom the heavenly Father begets according to his own will and by means of the “word of truth.” These he takes out from the human family to be a heavenly Kingdom class.
29. For a Christian to be able to enter into the heavenly kingdom, what does 1 Peter 1:3, 4 show to be required of him?
29 To the same “firstfruits” class the Christian apostle Peter wrote: “You have been given a new birth, not by corruptible, but by incorruptible reproductive seed, through the word of the living and enduring God.” (1 Peter 1:23) The “new birth” or the being “born again” is required for a Christian’s final entrance into the heavenly kingdom. Hence Peter writes: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for according to his great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance. It is reserved in the heavens for you.”—1 Peter 1:3, 4; note also 1 John 3:9.
30, 31. (a) Those who have received the “adoption as sons” make what outcry to God? (b) Those having such an adoption are in what covenant and form what kind of nation?
30 To Christians in the Roman province of Galatia who had received the “adoption as sons,” the apostle Paul wrote: “Now because you are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of his Son into our hearts and it cries out: ‘Abba, Father!’ So, then, you are no longer a slave but a son; and if a son, also an heir through God.”—Galatians 4:5-7.
31 Christianized Jews, like Paul himself, were no longer slaves under the Law covenant that had been mediated by the prophet Moses. They were now spiritual sons of God and were in the “new covenant” mediated by Jesus Christ, a Prophet greater than Moses. That new covenant produces what the old Mosaic Law covenant failed to produce, namely, “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5, 6; Hebrews 8:6-13; 1 Timothy 2:5, 6) The “holy nation” that is in the new covenant is therefore a spiritual Israel, made up of Christians who are Jews or Israelites inwardly. These have been circumcised in their hearts rather than outwardly in the flesh. So we read in Romans 2:28, 29.
32. According to 2 Corinthians 5:16-18, why do we know no Christian, not even Christ himself, according to the flesh?
32 In the face of all these new features about the spiritual sons of God, can we be surprised at all that the apostle Paul speaks about “a new creation”? No! It is just logical for him to do so. Reasoning from the fact that Jesus Christ had been raised up from the dead as a heavenly spiritual Son of God, the apostle Paul says: “Consequently from now on we know no [Christian] man according to the flesh. Even if we have known Christ according to the flesh, certainly we now know him so no more. Consequently if anyone is in union with Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away, look! new things have come into existence. But all things are from God.”—2 Corinthians 5:16-18.
33. To gain entrance into the heavenly kingdom, is circumcision in the flesh necessary, or, if not, what is?
33 From all of this it follows that fleshly circumcision of a person as a fleshly descendant of the patriarch Abraham or as a natural Jew is not a requirement for us to gain salvation through the Messiah, Christ. In the case of those persons who expect to go to heaven, what really is necessary? The inspired apostle Paul answers with these straightforward words: “Neither is circumcision anything nor is uncircumcision, but a new creation is something. And all those who will walk orderly by this rule of conduct, upon them be peace and mercy, even upon the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:15, 16) This whole “Israel of God” is a “new creation.”
34. For a settlement of the dispute on whether fleshly circumcision was necessary for eternal salvation, what did the Antioch congregation do?
34 Today some persons who have the fleshly circumcision may dispute those words of the inspired apostle Paul, a Christianized Jew. But even for sixteen years after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ there were those who argued for fleshly circumcision as being necessary to eternal salvation. This proved to be the case in Antioch, Syria, where Christ’s disciples were first called Christians. (Acts 11:26) So, what then? The Antioch congregation sent Paul and his missionary companion Barnabas and others “to go up to the apostles and older men in Jerusalem regarding this dispute.” (Acts 15:1, 2) So a council of the apostles and elders of the Jerusalem congregation took place, to render a decision as to whether non-Jewish believers in Christ needed to be circumcised outwardly in the flesh.
35. What did holy spirit have to do with the decree issued by the Jerusalem Council, and what did the decree say?
35 Finally, after much discussion and the producing of evidence bearing on the case, the disciple James appealed to the pertinent words of Amos 9:11, 12 that had been inspired by God’s holy spirit and that were already being fulfilled under the guidance of the holy spirit. Plainly this was the direction of God’s holy spirit that outward circumcision in the flesh was not necessary for Gentile believers who had been taken out from the nations for Jehovah’s name. Undoubtedly God’s holy spirit had called up this deciding scripture in James’ mind and also guided him as to recommending the salient points to be covered in the resolution to be issued by the Jerusalem Council. Here is how the Council’s decree read:
“The holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper. Good health to you!” (Acts 15:3-29; 21:25)
Thus it was decided that what was necessary for Christians to realize a heavenly inheritance was, not outward circumcision in the flesh, but one’s being a “new creation.”
36. By their anointing, it is incumbent upon the spirit-begotten congregation to carry out what commission, and with respect to that what does Jehovah teach them?
36 Back there in the first century C.E. the Christian believers rejoiced over that decision of the Jerusalem Council. We ourselves today can still rejoice over that same inspired decision. From the Holy Scriptures we recognize that the spirit-begotten Christian congregation as a “new creation” is anointed with Jehovah’s spirit, just like the Chief One of that congregation, Jesus Christ. So now it is incumbent upon that congregation to do what that anointing commissions them to do, namely, “to tell good news to the meek ones.” Jesus Christ himself did not sidestep the obligation to do this but set the pattern for all his followers. (Isaiah 61:1-3) As spiritual sons of God they are taught by Jehovah what to tell out as “good news” from Him. (Isaiah 54:13) By the faithful example and words of his Son Jesus Christ, Jehovah teaches the Christian congregation that the lifesaving news to tell out everywhere is the good news of the Messianic kingdom of God.