Encouraging Aid to Stick to Our Decision
1, 2. (a) How did Jesus Christ illustrate the importance of sticking to our decision to serve God? (b) Why is it unwise to disregard Jesus’ counsel?
“NO MAN that has put his hand to a plow and looks at the things behind is well fitted for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62) To plow effectively, to make the furrows line up, a plowman has to keep his eyes on a fixed point at the other end of the field. How much more important it is to keep our eyes on our life’s goal! Then the precious days and years of our life-span will display a pattern that is consistent with the goal for which we are aiming.
2 The words of God’s Son quoted above show that, once we make a commitment to serve our Creator, we should be determined to stick to that decision, come what may. The world may offer what seems to be a more alluring course—the pursuit of pleasures, popularity or material possessions. But to look back longingly to any of these things—worse, to let them become the focal point of our lives—could mean the loss of the prize we seek. It could result in a wasted life.
3. What is a basic objective of our faith?
3 “Better is the end afterward of a matter than its beginning,” says Ecclesiastes 7:8. So, while making a start in our chosen course is essential, it is the finish that really counts. That is why, in God’s Word, so much stress is placed on proving faithful to the end. (Matthew 24:13) Our faith has as a basic objective, purpose or goal, the securing of salvation or everlasting life.—1 Peter 1:9.
4. (a) To remain faithful, what view of salvation is important? (b) What does 1 Peter 1:10-12 tell us about the interest of the prophets in the divine arrangement for salvation?
4 What can help us to persevere as loyal disciples of God’s Son? For one thing, we need to see clearly, feel deeply, the precious worth of the salvation we seek. The inspired words of the apostle Peter, a close associate of Jesus Christ, can greatly aid us in this regard. His admonition can help us to see that our final salvation is something for which we should gladly endure all the pressure of opposition, no matter how severe. It is something for which we should be willing to work, to sacrifice, yes, to die if need be. (Luke 14:26-33) At 1 Peter 1:10-12, the apostle writes:
“Concerning this very salvation a diligent inquiry and a careful search were made by the prophets who prophesied about the undeserved kindness meant for you. They kept on investigating what particular season or what sort of season the spirit in them was indicating concerning Christ when it was bearing witness beforehand about the sufferings for Christ and about the glories to follow these. It was revealed to them that, not to themselves, but to you, they were ministering the things that have now been announced to you through those who have declared the good news to you with holy spirit sent forth from heaven.”
A MATTER OF INTENSE INTEREST TO PROPHETS
5. What did the prophets foretell about Messiah’s sufferings?
5 Centuries before Jesus’ days on earth, the Hebrew prophets were inspired to foretell the suffering that would befall the promised Messiah or Christ. The prophecy of Daniel specified the time for the arrival of the Christ and indicated that he would be cut off in death after a ministry of three and a half years. (Daniel 9:24-27) From Isaiah’s prophecy we learn that the Messiah would be rejected and come to be a stone of stumbling. (Isaiah 8:14, 15; 28:16; 53:3) That prophecy also showed that he would carry the sicknesses of the people, be tried and condemned but remain silent before his accusers, would be spit on, numbered with sinners, pierced, die a sacrificial death and carry away sins in order to pave the way for many to gain a righteous standing with God. (Isaiah 50:6; 53:4-12) The prophecy of Zechariah pointed to Messiah’s being betrayed for 30 silver pieces. (Zechariah 11:12) And the prophet Micah foretold that the Christ, the “judge of Israel,” would be struck on the cheek.—Micah 5:1.
6. What details about Messiah’s sufferings are set forth in the Psalms?
6 Among the statements in the Psalms applying to Jesus Christ are the following: He would be betrayed by an intimate associate. (Psalm 41:9) Rulers, supported by their subjects, would range themselves up against him. (Psalm 2:1, 2) The Jewish religious builders would reject him. (Psalm 118:22) False witnesses would testify against the Messiah. (Psalm 27:12) On arriving at the place of execution, he would be offered a stupefying drink. (Psalm 69:21a) Those fastening him to the stake would be ‘at his hands and his feet’ like wild beasts. (Psalm 22:16) Lots would be cast over his garments. (Psalm 22:18) His enemies would mock him with the words: “He committed himself to Jehovah. Let Him provide him with escape! Let him deliver him, since he has taken delight in him!” (Psalm 22:8) Suffering from great thirst, he would ask for a drink and be offered sour wine. (Psalms 22:15; 69:21b) Just before his death, he would cry out: “My God, my God, why have you left me?”—Psalm 22:1.
7. What do the prophecies reveal about the “glories to follow” Christ’s sufferings?
7 As Peter points out, the prophets were also inspired to speak of the ‘glories that would follow’ Messiah’s suffering. By God’s majestic power, this faithful Son would be raised from the dead. (Psalm 16:8-10) On his ascension to heaven, he would be seated at God’s right hand, waiting until his enemies would be placed as a stool for his feet. (Psalm 110:1) He would occupy the position of an everlasting priest after the order of Melchizedek. (Psalm 110:4) His Father, “the Ancient of Days,” would grant him kingly authority. (Daniel 7:13, 14) The time would finally come for God’s anointed one to dash to pieces all nations opposing his rulership. (Psalm 2:9) He would then exercise dominion over the whole earth.—Psalm 72:7, 8; Zechariah 9:9, 10.
8. How did the prophets show intense interest in what they wrote, and why did they do so?
8 Yes, the prophecies provided splendid foregleams of the Messiah’s role in the divine arrangement for salvation or liberation from sin and death. His faithfulness under suffering, his death, resurrection and ascension to heaven as a glorious spirit person—all of these were needed for individuals to receive the foretold “undeserved kindness,” including forgiveness of sins and total reconciliation with Jehovah God as his sons. The prophets themselves could not fully understand how salvation would come through the Messiah. Nonetheless, as the apostle Peter shows, they were intensely interested in the things that they had recorded. They diligently examined the prophetic words, repeatedly studying their own prophecies to discover the significance of what they had been inspired to write. Recognizing that there were marvelous truths incorporated in the revelations that they had received, the prophets used their mental faculties to the full in an effort to gain the greatest benefit from the God-given predictions. This was despite the fact that it was not until the coming of the Messiah that individuals could be recipients of the foretold unmerited kindness. Nevertheless, what the prophets understood was enough to sustain them and it also incited them to want to know still more. They were especially interested in knowing about the conditions that would exist at the time of Messiah’s appearance, yes, in what “sort of season” he would undergo the foretold suffering and then experience exaltation.
9. Who especially benefited from the prophecies about the Messiah?
9 As Peter made clear, the Hebrew prophets came to understand that the Messianic prophecies were not primarily recorded for their profit but for the benefit of those who would actually be living at the time of Messiah’s appearance. (1 Peter 1:12) Regarding the revelations that he received, the prophet Daniel admitted: “I heard, but I could not understand.” (Daniel 12:8) However, persons who accepted the “good news” that was proclaimed in the first century C.E. were the ones who profited fully from the inspired words about Messiah’s first coming. It was to them that the prophets were actually ministering.—Matthew 13:16, 17.
10. How should we be affected by the interest that the Hebrew prophets showed in salvation, and why?
10 How, then, should our knowing about the intense interest of the prophets affect us? It should make us examine ourselves to see whether we have the same concern about salvation. Is our remaining approved servants of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ the main object in life? Are we truly intense about this matter? Certainly, we have good reason to be totally absorbed in proving ourselves to be loyal disciples of God’s Son. The Messiah came centuries ago. His sacrificial death provided the very basis for salvation and made certain the fulfillment of every single promise of God. (2 Corinthians 1:20) The passage of time in no way weakens the certainty of the fulfillment of the divine promises. Rather, it confirms that God’s desire is for as many as possible to gain salvation. (1 Timothy 2:3, 4; 2 Peter 3:9) So, with confidence, we can look forward to inheriting the blessings that the Most High has in store for faithful ones.
WHY ANGELS ARE INTERESTED
11. According to 1 Peter 1:12, how intense is the interest of the angels in the divine arrangement for salvation?
11 The example of the angels should also serve to encourage us to do our utmost to remain in God’s favor. Though having no personal need for the divine arrangement of salvation, faithful angels take a real interest in the outworking of God’s grand purpose for humankind. The apostle Peter wrote: “Into these very things [that occupied the attention of the Hebrew prophets] angels are desiring to peer.” (1 Peter 1:12) Yes, before the coming of Jesus Christ to this earth, the angels were desirous of knowing more about Christ’s sufferings, the “glories to follow these” and the impact of the “good news” on humankind. The apostle Peter could speak of them as “desiring to peer” into these matters. In the original Greek, the expression “to peer” suggests a stooping down with a view to scrutinizing an object more closely. But why were the angels so keenly interested in making a careful examination of Jehovah God’s revelation about salvation? As perfect spirit persons, why should the provisions for sinful, earthly humans particularly concern them?
12, 13. How might we explain the great interest of the angels in the salvation of mankind?
12 Since the angels are not all-knowing, they doubtless increase their knowledge by studiously considering God’s dealings and revelations. The arrangement for the redemption of the human race truly furnished a marvelous example of Jehovah’s love, justice, mercy and wisdom. Hence, by occupying themselves with gaining greater understanding of Jehovah’s arrangement for saving sinful mankind, the angels would come to appreciate their heavenly Father even more. They would learn things about his personality and ways that could not be discerned from a study or an examination of any other development in the universe.—Compare Ephesians 3:8-10.
13 Furthermore, the angels have a “fondness” for the human race. (Compare Proverbs 8:22-31.) They want to see mankind reconciled with the heavenly Father, Jehovah. That is why Jesus Christ could say: “Joy arises among the angels of God over one sinner that repents.”—Luke 15:10.
14. (a) What should the attitude of the angels toward our salvation help us to do? (b) What counsel of the apostle Peter should we keep in mind in order to remain faithful servants of God?
14 Yes, millions of angels rejoiced when we ourselves came to repentance. They are very much interested in seeing us maintain faithfulness to the very end. In effect, they are ‘cheering us on.’ May we not let our vision of the great heavenly host that have deep concern and affection for us become dim. Surely we want their joy respecting us to continue. This requires that we heed Peter’s admonition: “Hence brace up your minds for activity, keep your senses completely; set your hope upon the undeserved kindness that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”—1 Peter 1:13.
BRACING UP OUR MINDS FOR ACTIVITY
15. How are we to understand Peter’s admonition to ‘brace up our minds for activity’?
15 What does it mean for us to ‘brace up the mind for activity’? A literal translation of the apostle Peter’s words would be: “Gird up the loins of your mind.” In the days of the apostle, men wore long robes. When working or engaging in vigorous activity such as running, a man would pull up the robe between his legs and fasten it securely by means of a girdle. “To gird up the loins” meant to be prepared for activity. For us to ‘gird up the loins of the mind’ would, therefore, signify having our mental faculties in a state of preparedness for discharging our Christian obligations and for bearing up under whatever trial may befall us.
16. How can we show that we are ‘keeping our senses completely’?
16 With our mental powers in a state of readiness to continue in faithful service to God, we would certainly be ‘keeping our senses completely.’ We would be balanced in our thinking, able to evaluate matters properly. Our life would show that we have our faculties in control and are not yielding to the allurements of a world alienated from Jehovah God. (1 John 2:16) Foremost in our lives would be the doing of what is pleasing in the eyes of our heavenly Father and his Son.
17. (a) What is the “undeserved kindness” that will be brought to believers? (b) How do we ‘set our hope on the undeserved kindness that is to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ’?
17 To ‘brace up our minds for activity and to keep our senses completely,’ we must ‘set our hope on the undeserved kindness that is to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.’ At the time that the Lord Jesus Christ comes in glory, all those with the heavenly hope who have remained his devoted disciples will become sharers in divine undeserved kindness. (1 Corinthians 1:4-9) Not only will these spirit-begotten disciples experience refreshing relief from the suffering that they have undergone at the hands of wicked men; but also those Christians with the hope of an earthly paradise will be preserved alive through the “great tribulation” that follows Christ’s coming and have before them the prospect of unending earthly life. Indeed, we have good reason to keep ever before us the fulfillment of our Christian hopes, looking forward with eagerness to our being recipients of divine favor. Our confidence in the sure fulfillment of these hopes can spur us on in remaining loyal to our heavenly Father and his Son. May we set our sights firmly on the blessings that Christ’s coming in glory will bring for his faithful followers.—Matthew 25:31-46.
PROVING OURSELVES GOD’S OBEDIENT CHILDREN
18. How do we show ourselves to be “obedient children”?
18 In harmony with these hopes, our attitude should be that of “obedient children.” The apostle Peter continued: “As obedient children, quit being fashioned according to the desires you formerly had in your ignorance.” (1 Peter 1:14) As children who respect and love their heavenly Father, we should want to submit ourselves joyfully to his requirements, appreciating that this is the right thing to do. No longer do we want to conduct our affairs of life in the manner to which we were accustomed before becoming disciples of Jesus Christ. In our ignorance of God’s commands, we may have indulged our sinful passions, selfishly put our own interests first to the hurt of others, or centered our lives around gaining material possessions, popularity or authority. To a large extent, we patterned our lives in harmony with the attitudes, words and actions of those around us. We now know that such a way of life that ignores God is empty, meaningless.
19. As illustrated by the Mosaic law, what is included in being “holy”?
19 To enjoy a richness of life, we need to imitate Jehovah God, who is holy, clean or pure. Is our imitating our heavenly Father limited to formal worship? Note that the apostle Peter says: “In accord with the Holy One who called you, do you also become holy yourselves in all your conduct.” (1 Peter 1:15) Then he quoted from Leviticus 19:2, which reads: “You should prove yourselves holy, because I Jehovah your God am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16) These words in Leviticus appear in a setting that outlines what Jehovah God required of the Israelites in conducting both their formal worship and their regular daily affairs. Included among these requirements for holy conduct are: Proper regard for parents, honesty, consideration for the deaf, the blind and other afflicted ones, not harboring grudges but loving one’s fellowman, refraining from slander and from bearing false witness, and rendering justice. (Leviticus 19:3, 9-18) Really, then, no aspect of life is exempted from the requirement to be holy or pure from Jehovah’s standpoint.
“CONDUCT YOURSELVES WITH FEAR”
20. What should we keep in mind about judgment, and how should this affect our conduct?
20 Another powerful reason for living up to our dedication to God is found in the apostle Peter’s next words: “Furthermore, if you are calling upon the Father who judges impartially according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves with fear during the time of your alien residence.” (1 Peter 1:17) We should never lose sight of the fact that our heavenly Father, by means of his Son, will judge us. That judgment will not be influenced by outward appearances but will be impartial, in harmony with what we really are as persons. (Isaiah 11:2-4) So, if we acknowledge the Most High as our Father, we will want to conduct ourselves in such a way that he can look upon us with approval, rendering a favorable judgment toward us. We would rightly continue pursuing a course of life that reflects a healthy and reverential fear of Jehovah God.
21. How do we show that we view our being in this world as a time of “alien residence”?
21 Then, too, we need to appreciate that the world and what it has to offer are temporary. We are to think of ourselves as being in an “alien residence.” It is essential for us to guard against attaching ourselves to anything in this world as if it were going to continue forever. Even the once luxurious palaces of the kings of ancient Assyria, Babylon and Persia no longer provide a comfortable home for anyone; they lie in ruins. No architectural work, no product of modern engineering and technology, no painting, no sculpture, no single item manufactured by man can remain unchanged for all eternity. True, we must live in this world that is alienated from God, and we cannot “emigrate” from it. (1 Corinthians 5:9, 10) But we do not want to feel really ‘at home’ in the present arrangement of things. No, for we are looking forward to something far better, to the coming “new heavens and a new earth” of God’s making. (2 Peter 3:13) Our journey through life in the world is a ‘time of alien residence,’ and our attitudes, words and actions should demonstrate that this is the case.—Compare Hebrews 11:13-16.
A PRECIOUS PRICE WAS PAID
22, 23. Why should we feel forever indebted to Jehovah God and Jesus Christ?
22 Further emphasizing the importance of our continuing to be holy, devoted servants of Jehovah God, the apostle Peter writes: “For you know that it was not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, that you were delivered from your fruitless form of conduct received by tradition from your forefathers. But it was with precious blood, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, even Christ’s.” (1 Peter 1:18, 19) Having been redeemed from the condemnation of sin and death, we are under obligation to Jehovah God who made the arrangement for our being ransomed. Suppose a large amount of silver or gold had been paid to ransom us from death. Would we not feel deeply indebted to the one who made such a major material sacrifice in our behalf?
23 How much greater, then, is our indebtedness to Jehovah God and to Jesus Christ! The ransom price paid was far more valuable than any material treasure that can be lost, stolen or destroyed. Its value is greater than all the silver and gold found on earth today. The precious blood of the sinless Son of God is the valuable ransom price that was paid. It is the lifeblood of someone who had the right to live forever and, hence, of one who did much more than give up his life prematurely, as other men have done for what they thought to be a noble cause. The payment of this ransom price also provided the basis, as Peter says, for our being ‘delivered from our fruitless form of conduct received by tradition from our forefathers.’ How so?
24. Before we became disciples of Jesus Christ, how may our conduct have been “fruitless”?
24 When we accepted the fact of our having been ransomed or bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, we abandoned our former course of life. Without knowledge of Jehovah God or his purposes, our life had been “fruitless,” vain, empty, in that it revolved exclusively around the attainment of things that had no permanence. The way we conducted ourselves may even have harmed us mentally, physically and emotionally. Moreover, our parents and grandparents may have been unacquainted with the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, the standards and principles by which they conducted their affairs of life may not have been in harmony with the divine will. They may even have engaged in God-dishonoring religious practices. Thus, even the “tradition” we may have received from our ancestors respecting conduct did not lead to our enjoying a purposeful life.—Compare Matthew 15:3-9.
25. How can the words of 1 Peter 1:10-19 provide strong encouragement for us to remain faithful to Jehovah God and our Lord Jesus Christ?
25 Surely, the words of the apostle Peter are a real encouragement for us to stick to our commitment to serve Jehovah God as devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. Never should we allow ourselves to forget about the keen interest that the Hebrew prophets and the angels showed in the divine revelations concerning salvation. May we keep ever before us the certainty of God’s judgment, the fulfillment of our hope at the revelation of Jesus Christ, the importance of being clean in all our conduct because Jehovah’s holiness requires it, and the fact that the period of our life in this world is but a time of alien residence. Above all, may we never, no, never, lose sight of the fact that we have been ransomed with the precious blood of Jesus Christ!
26. How do the things this world can offer compare with what we gain from serving Jehovah?
26 When compared with the blessings that come from serving the Most High, the showy things of this world are really refuse. (1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Philippians 3:7, 8) No amount of money can buy a clean conscience, a meaningful life now and an abiding future of happy living. But faithful service to God does bring such blessings. What powerful reasons we have for making this our chief concern in life!