Food That Is Essential for Everlasting Life
1. Why are the things set forth in God’s Word like honey?
TO A hungry, famished person, even a taste of honey can bring renewed strength, can make his eyes shine. Of the things set forth in God’s Word, it is rightly said that they are “sweeter than honey and the flowing honey of the combs.” This is because of the tremendous benefits that divine guidelines bring to the lives of those receiving them with appreciation. (1 Samuel 14:27; Psalms 19:9-11; 119:103) For those gaining the wisdom set forth in the inspired Word, “there exists a future, and [their] own hope will not be cut off.”—Proverbs 24:13, 14.
2. If God’s spirit is going to accomplish good within us, what must we do?
2 We have God’s promise that he will ‘safeguard his servants for life everlasting,’ doing this by means of his spirit. (1 Peter 1:5) This is certainly encouraging. But we are mistaken if we think this comes with no effort required on the part of those so helped. God’s spirit can work to the good of any of us only to the extent that we cooperate with it, and such cooperation includes feeding on the inspired Scriptures. The Son of God showed why this is so.
3. What did Jesus Christ say that the spirit would do for his disciples?
3 Explaining to his disciples how God’s spirit would aid them, Jesus said: “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.” (John 14:26) After Jesus’ returning to the heavens, the spirit, in the capacity of a remembrancer, would recall to the minds of the disciples his sayings and, as a teacher, it would enable them to understand the application of the things brought to mind.
4. How can God’s spirit help us, and how does this emphasize the importance of increasing in Bible knowledge?
4 Since we have never been taught personally by Jesus Christ, our situation differs from that of the apostles. However, all the vital teachings of the Son of God are preserved for us in the Bible. So, whenever necessary, the holy spirit can recall to our minds points from the inspired Scriptures and help us in discerning their correct application. Since God’s spirit functions as a remembrancer and a teacher, we must cooperate with it by a careful consideration of the Bible. If our deposit of Scriptural knowledge is very limited, we cannot possibly get the full benefit from the spirit’s operating in our behalf as a remembrancer and a teacher.
5. (a) To benefit fully from the operation of God’s spirit, why is it important to put away bad traits? (b) What counsel did the apostle Peter give about spiritual feeding?
5 Then, too, the spirit is holy and, therefore, aids only those who are holy or clean from Jehovah’s standpoint. That is why it is not enough merely to read the Bible or to have it read to us. There also needs to be a heartfelt desire to put away all traits that conflict with God’s standard of cleanness or purity. Note how this is stressed in the following words of the apostle Peter:
“Put away all badness and all deceitfulness and hypocrisy and envies and all sorts of backbiting, and, as newborn infants, form a longing for the unadulterated milk belonging to the word, that through it you may grow to salvation, provided you have tasted that the Lord is kind.”—1 Peter 2:1-3.
6. Who are being urged to form a longing for the “milk”?
6 When we diligently strive to do God’s will, our minds and hearts are prepared to feed on the Scriptures. But still more is involved in developing a fine spiritual appetite. The apostle urged: “As newborn infants, form a longing for the unadulterated milk belonging to the word.” (1 Peter 2:2) Milk totally satisfies newborn babies. They want no other food. Like such infants, new believers need the ‘milk of the word’ and should cultivate a real desire for it. Then, on attaining Christian maturity, they would certainly want to have a like craving for the solid spiritual food.—Hebrews 5:12-14.
7. Why can we not expect to have a full understanding of God’s Word in a few years?
7 Yes, regardless of the length of time that we have been walking in the way of the truth, there still is much more to be learned about our Maker and his will for us. (Compare 1 Corinthians 13:12.) Because the Scriptures contain the thoughts of the all-wise God, Jehovah, even angels benefit from the revelations set forth therein. (1 Peter 1:12) How, then, could any human think that he can gain a complete understanding of God’s holy Word within a matter of a few years? So it would be most inappropriate to content ourselves with knowing a small portion of his Word and, in effect, be telling our heavenly Father that we wish that he had been less generous with his spiritual provisions contained in the Holy Scriptures.
CULTIVATING A TASTE FOR SPIRITUAL FOOD
8. What should incite us to want to gain a better understanding of the Scriptures?
8 Our love for Jehovah God and Jesus Christ should move us to want to understand as much of the Bible as possible. It is through the pages of the Scriptures that we are aided to come to know our heavenly Father and his Son better, drawing us closer to them. As the apostle Peter observed, we have already “tasted that the Lord is kind.” (1 Peter 2:3) In expression of his love, Jesus Christ died for us and made it possible for us to have a clean standing before our heavenly Father. (John 15:13; 1 John 2:2) As a result, we can approach Jehovah God freely, committing all our cares and anxieties to him. (Hebrews 10:19-22; 1 John 3:19-22) The blessings, guidance and help that we have received as disciples of Jesus Christ amply demonstrate that our Master is kind and has great affection for us. (Matthew 11:28-30) If what we have already tasted or experienced is so good, should we not want to conform ourselves even closer to the example of Jehovah God and that of his Son? (Psalm 34:8) Careful, prayerful consideration of the Bible will help us to do just that.
9. (a) What may work against a good spiritual appetite, and why so? (b) What can be done to improve our spiritual appetite?
9 What if you find that your longing for the “word” is not very great? Take time, then, to think appreciatively about what Jehovah God and Jesus Christ have done in your behalf. Also, examine whether you have spoiled your spiritual appetite by giving undue attention to the philosophies, speculations and propaganda of a world alienated from God. Another enemy of a spiritual appetite is a person’s largely restricting his reading to picture magazines or to material that does not require careful thought and meditation. It simply must be recognized that the Bible was written to instruct, not to entertain. While the words themselves may not be difficult, often the thoughts expressed convey a depth of meaning that can only be fathomed by taking time to reflect prayerfully on what is said.
10. What facts about the illustrations of Jesus Christ prove that casual reading of the Scriptures is not enough for one to gain accurate knowledge?
10 The illustrations used by Jesus Christ, for example, are simple. But the vital truths that they reveal cannot be discovered merely by a casual reading of any translation of the Bible. Remember, Jews who heard the Son of God speaking in their own language did not get the full impact of what he taught. Though ordinary persons understood the words that he used, the significance of what Jesus said remained hidden even from the educated. Why? The majority of Jesus’ listeners lacked humility and a longing for spiritual food. Hence, they made no further inquiry to gain real insight.—Matthew 13:13-15.
11. Why should we not be satisfied with superficial Scriptural knowledge?
11 Certainly, we do not want to be satisfied with a superficial knowledge of the Bible, perhaps being familiar with the Bible narratives or “stories,” as well as elementary doctrines. If we claim to love God and Christ, we need to be willing to spend time with the Bible, exerting ourselves to get the import, the sense and spirit of what it says and then to apply these. No worthwhile skill is gained without effort. Therefore, should we not expect to put forth great effort in order to increase our knowledge of Jehovah, the source of all wisdom?—Compare Proverbs 2:1-6; 1 Timothy 4:13-16.
12. What bearing does our attitude toward gaining accurate knowledge have on the blessings that we may receive?
12 Our attitude toward gaining a better understanding of God’s Word will have a direct bearing on the blessings that will be bestowed on us. A failure to use our opportunities to the full in coming to know Jehovah God better may not necessarily result in losing our lives. But it could lead to our being guilty of not carrying out the divine will in certain respects and then losing out on blessings. In one of his illustrations, Jesus showed that ignorance will not shield a person from a measure of loss. The servant who does things deserving of strokes because of not understanding his master’s will is still punished, though not as severely as the slave who, with full knowledge, deliberately disobeys. (Luke 12:47, 48) It is, therefore, a serious matter when a person fails to make room in his life for regular study of God’s Word and, as a result, is not making the needed advancement in Christian conduct and activity.
13. What can God’s Word help us to secure, and how should this affect our spiritual feeding?
13 The entire Word of God is designed to help us to “grow to salvation,” that is, to secure our final salvation as approved disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Hence, if we are truly interested in our eternal welfare, this should be manifest from our earnest desire to come to a better knowledge of Jehovah God and of his Son by means of the inspired Scriptures.
14. What effect can genuine interest in the spiritual welfare of others have on our spiritual appetite?
14 Of course, more than our own life is involved. (Compare 1 Timothy 4:16.) As followers of Jesus Christ, we have a commission to help others to become his disciples. (Matthew 28:19, 20) How can we do this when we are seriously lacking in Biblical understanding? Can we really say that we are genuinely interested in the spiritual welfare of others when we put forth only limited effort to increase in the very knowledge that could help them? At times the needed stimulation for improving a spiritual appetite comes when a person starts to teach someone else. Not infrequently those who increase the amount of time spent in sharing Bible truth with others find that their own desire for spiritual food is intensified. For example, questions raised by interested ones may provide the needed incentive for a person to dig deeper into the Word of God, with a view to providing satisfying answers.
15. How can persons who cannot read or who have difficulty in reading benefit from what is contained in the Scriptures?
15 But what about persons who have serious difficulty in reading or who are unable to read the Scriptures for themselves? They can get the benefit of what the Bible contains by having it read and explained to them. Then they can meditate on the information they hear and can apply it in their lives. (Revelation 1:3; Nehemiah 8:8) Of course, if the problem involves limited education, it would be good for such persons to take advantage of available arrangements for learning to read or to improve their reading ability. When only some portions of the Scriptures are available in a particular language, great responsibility falls on those who are teaching others and who know languages in which the complete Bible is available. Like the apostle Paul, they should strive to make known “all the counsel of God.”—Acts 20:27.
THE WORD’S EFFECT ON OUR LIVES
16, 17. (a) According to the apostle Peter, what impact did God’s Word have on first-century Christians? (b) What shows that personal effort was required for the “word” to be truly at work in believers?
16 Our prayerful consideration of God’s Word, in all humility, can have a wholesome effect on our lives now. This is evident from what the apostle Peter wrote to his fellow believers:
“Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth with unhypocritical brotherly love as the result, love one another intensely from the heart. For you have been given a new birth, not by corruptible [seed that is responsible for human, fleshly existence, which is subject to death], but by incorruptible reproductive seed, through the word of the living and enduring God. For ‘all flesh is like grass, and all its glory is like a blossom of grass; the grass becomes withered, and the flower falls off, but the saying of Jehovah endures forever.’ Well, this is the ‘saying,’ this which has been declared to you as good news.”—1 Peter 1:22-25.
17 Consider how Peter’s words applied to Christians in the first century C.E. When those disciples of Jesus Christ absorbed the truth of the “good news,” they were moved to put forth effort to purify themselves, to cast away wrong practices. With the aid of God’s spirit, they obediently conformed to what the truth required of them. As a result, they began displaying real love toward those related to them in the faith. (John 13:34, 35) However, this marvelous transformation in their lives did not come about without personal effort. Only by obediently yielding to the influence of the truth and of God’s spirit could they display unhypocritical brotherly love. For this reason, Peter could urge them: “Love one another intensely from the heart.” (1 Peter 1:22) The Greek word for “intensely” literally means “outstretchedly.” So, this display of love is not to be narrow or confined because of suspicion, envy or jealousy but is to be expressed from a pure heart. It is not a formalistic love lacking in genuine warmth but a love distinguished by intense feeling and affection. Because the God of love, Jehovah, had made such Christian disciples his sons, giving them a new birth, it was only right that they apply themselves diligently in giving proof of their sonship by manifesting intense love for their fellow believers.—1 John 3:10, 11.
18. (a) Why are the changes that can result from conforming to God’s Word not superficial or short-lived? (b) How does what is accomplished through the “word” and God’s spirit differ from the experience of sinful humans?
18 In the case of all disciples of Jesus Christ today, the changes that can result from feeding on and conforming to “the word of the living and enduring God” are not superficial or short-lived. That “word” is incorruptible. Hence, all who continue under the influence of the truth of the “good news” are continuously affected for good. While sinful humans, like the grass, lose their fine appearance and die, the changes effected by the enduring “word” and spirit of God remain.
19. How should we feel about our spiritual needs?
19 May we, therefore, never neglect our spiritual needs but be diligent in filling our minds and hearts with the truth. By our fine spiritual appetite we can gain spiritual health and strength. Then, as we humbly submit to the influence of the “good news” and God’s holy spirit, may we prove ourselves to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, aiding others to come to an accurate knowledge of the Scriptures. Thus our feeding on the enduring “word” will help us to grow to salvation, securing for us an eternal future.