Kingdom Heirs Keep Integrity
1. (a) Why did Jesus inherit a more excellent name? (b) Who may profit by his example, and how?
PROVING faithful to the death, Jesus inherited a name more excellent than that of the angels. Of all God’s intelligent creatures, he was the One to demonstrate that a son of God could keep perfect integrity to God, thus showing Satan to be a liar. Accordingly, the apostle Paul writes: “After he had made a purification for our sins [by providing the ransom] he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty in lofty places.” What a grand example he set for all who await the ‘coming’ of the Kingdom—both those of the “little flock” who inherit the heavenly kingdom and those who will be the earthly subjects of that kingdom! As the same apostle states later: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, as we look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”—Hebrews 1:3, 4; 12:1, 2.
2-4. (a) How did Jesus progressively train and organize his disciples for preaching activity? (b) How do we know that they took the “good news” to the people’s homes? (c) What fine precedent did this activity provide for God’s servants today?
2 Not only did Jesus provide a splendid example for his followers, but he also taught and trained them, in order that they could continue God’s work after he had gone away.
“He went journeying from city to city and from village to village, preaching and declaring the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him.”—Luke 8:1.
3 Later, Jesus sent the 12 out on their own “to preach the kingdom of God and to heal.” “They went through the territory from village to village, declaring the good news and performing cures everywhere.” (Luke 9:2, 6) In the cities and villages they were to search out deserving ones, and this they did by going to the people’s homes. It required courageous maintaining of integrity on their part, even as it does of Jehovah’s Witnesses in many territories today, because of opposition to the message. Jesus said: “If the house is deserving, let the peace you wish it come upon it; but if it is not deserving, let the peace from you return upon you. Wherever anyone does not take you in or listen to your words, on going out of that house or that city shake the dust off your feet.”—Matthew 10:7, 11-14.
4 Later, when Jesus designated 70 other disciples, he told them: “Look! I am sending you forth as lambs in among wolves.” These, too, were to visit the homes of the people, for Jesus went on to say: “Wherever you enter into a house say first, ‘May this house have peace.’ And if a friend of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if there is not, it will turn back to you.” Even if the people did not listen to the “good news,” they were to be warned that the kingdom of God had come near! (Luke 10:3-11) This provides a fine precedent for the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses today, as these go from house to house with God’s message of comfort and of warning.—Isaiah 61:1, 2.
PREACHING DESPITE PERSECUTIONS
5. In what ways did the resurrected Jesus emphasize the kind of work ahead for his followers?
5 At Jesus’ death, those disciples were scattered. But on numerous occasions following his resurrection in the spirit he appeared to them in materialized bodies, to reassure and strengthen them. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8) On one of these occasions Jesus asked Peter three times whether he really loved and had affection for him. Peter became grieved at this, but three times Jesus emphasized that, in evidence of love and affection, Peter must feed and shepherd his “lambs,” his “little sheep.” (John 21:15-17) At another appearance, Jesus told his 11 faithful disciples:
“All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth. Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
There was much work ahead for them.
6. Why would Jesus’ disciples do ‘greater works’?
6 Jesus had told his disciples: “Most truly I say to you, He that exercises faith in me, that one also will do the works that I do; and he will do works greater than these, because I am going my way to the Father.” (John 14:12) They would cover a larger territory than he had and would carry on the work of preaching God’s kingdom over a much longer period of time.
7. What marvelous thing led to a thorough witness on the day of Pentecost, and with what astounding result?
7 After arriving at the right hand of his Father in heaven, Jesus did a marvelous thing. On the day of Pentecost, 33 C.E., he poured out holy spirit upon his waiting disciples, anointing them to be heirs with him of God’s heavenly kingdom. Eventually, 144,000 would be chosen from mankind to be kings and priests in heaven with Christ. As a result of the thorough witness given on just that one day, 3,000 Jews and proselytes heartily embraced the word and were baptized.—John 14:2, 3; Revelation 14:1-5; 20:4, 6; Acts 2:1-4, 14, 40, 41.
8-11. (a) What conflict now raged between the Jews’ leaders and the apostles? (b) How did the apostles show themselves to be integrity-keepers? (c) According to Acts 5:40-42, what fine example did those apostles leave for God’s servants today?
8 The preaching of the “good news” spread through the territory of Jerusalem like wildfire. And so did opposition to God’s kingdom. Soon the apostles were hauled before the Jewish court of the Sanhedrin and forbidden to speak in the name of Jesus. Would they hold fast their integrity? Peter and John replied: “Whether it is righteous in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, judge for yourselves. But as for us, we cannot stop speaking about the things we have seen and heard.” On this occasion the apostles were released, and they and their companions immediately gave thanks to God, petitioning him: “Now, Jehovah, . . . grant your slaves to keep speaking your word with all boldness.” So they continued to preach with the help of Jehovah’s spirit.—Acts 4:19, 20, 29, 31.
9 Again the religious leaders arrested the apostles and put them in jail. But it was not God’s will that they stay there. During the night Jehovah’s angel released them, so that daybreak found them teaching again in Jerusalem’s temple.—Acts 5:17-21.
10 What could the Sanhedrin do to stop the spread of the “good news”? Once more, the apostles were brought into court, and the high priest charged them: “We positively ordered you not to keep teaching upon the basis of [Jesus’] name, and yet, look! you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you are determined to bring the blood of this man upon us.” The uncompromising response of those apostles rings out, down through 19 centuries:
“We must obey God as ruler rather than men”!
What could the Jews do with these integrity-keepers? The law teacher Gamaliel gave wise advice: “Do not meddle with these men, but let them alone; (because, if this scheme and this work is from men, it will be overthrown; but if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them;) otherwise, you may perhaps be found fighters actually against God.”—Acts 5:27-39.
11 So the apostles were flogged, ordered to stop speaking and then were released. What was their reaction? They rejoiced in that they were counted worthy to suffer on the basis of Jesus’ name.
“And every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.” (Acts 5:40-42)
These Kingdom heirs were determined to endure what was necessary in order to continue doing God’s work. They thus set a fine example for all witnesses of the true God who have continued proclaiming the Kingdom “publicly and from house to house” down to this day.—Acts 20:20, 21.
THE KINGDOM “GOOD NEWS” SPREADS
12. As shown at Acts 8:1-4, how does persecution often result in the further spreading of the “good news”?
12 Again the persecution intensified, so that all except the apostles were scattered into nearby Judea and Samaria. But this served only to expand the witness, for “those who had been scattered went through the land declaring the good news of the word.” (Acts 8:1-4) Interestingly, the same thing has happened in modern times. When dictatorial governments have tried to stop Jehovah’s Witnesses by scattering them to isolated areas, they have kept on preaching there, and the “good news” has spread.
13 However, back there in the first century, was the Kingdom message going to be carried only to the Jews and the neighboring Samaritans? Would the complete membership of the kingdom of the heavens be made up from among them only? Even with the marvelous witness that was being given, that was not to be. Apparently in 36 C.E., as God’s special “week” of favor toward the Jews ended, Jehovah directed Peter to visit an Italian army officer, Cornelius, at his home in Caesarea. As Peter was preaching to this non-Jew and his household, holy spirit fell upon them, anointing them to be Kingdom heirs. They were baptized as the first uncircumcised Gentile converts to Christianity.—Acts 10:1-48.
14 Later, when the apostle Paul and his companions met with violent opposition from the Jews in Antioch of Pisidia, Paul told those Jews: “It was necessary for the word of God to be spoken first to you. Since you are thrusting it away from you and do not judge yourselves worthy of everlasting life, look! we turn to the nations. In fact, Jehovah has laid commandment upon us in these words, ‘I have appointed you as a light of nations, for you to be a salvation to the extremity of the earth.’” (Acts 13:46, 47) As Paul stated later in an illustration, those unbelieving Jews were like natural branches lopped off an olive tree. The Jews could have provided the full number of Kingdom heirs. However, in their place, “people of the nations,” like branches of a wild olive tree, were being grafted in, and thus “all [spiritual] Israel,” up to its full Kingdom membership, would be “saved.”—Romans 11:13-26; Galatians 6:16.
INTEGRITY UNDER “TRIBULATIONS”
15, 16. (a) What did Paul do and say with regard to “tribulations,” and what fine pattern does this provide us? (b) What should be our attitude toward opposition by governments or family members, and what outcome are we promised?
15 Despite further persecutions, that faithful traveling overseer, the apostle Paul, returned to Antioch, in order to strengthen and encourage the disciples and to build up the congregational organization. It was then that Paul said:
“We must enter into the kingdom of God through many tribulations.”—Acts 14:21-23.
16 Paul continued to have his share of hardships and trials. But he was exemplary in holding fast his integrity. He provided a fine pattern for many in modern times who have to put up a hard fight for the faith. Some of these have had to contend with beatings, imprisonments and danger to life itself. Opposition has come from dictatorial governments, or even from dearly loved relatives. Some have been disowned by family members on account of their accepting and acting on “this good news of the kingdom.” (Matthew 24:14) However, such ones have been greatly comforted by Jesus’ words: “No one has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the good news who will not get a hundredfold now in this period of time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, with persecutions, and in the coming system of things everlasting life.” (Mark 10:29, 30) They do indeed reap “a hundredfold” in their intimate relationship with Jehovah and his Son and in their joyful association with Jehovah’s earth-wide family.
17. (a) With what temptations did early Christians also have to contend? (b) What splendid example and advice did Paul provide for us?
17 The apostle Paul and his companions had to fight also against the world’s temptations to immorality and materialism. They were just human, as we are. When faced with such enticements we should do as did Paul, who said: “I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.” And like Paul, we, too, may find protection in telling our neighbors about God’s kingdom. As Paul said concerning such sacred service: “Really, woe is me if I did not declare the good news!”—1 Corinthians 9:16, 27.
18. What encouragement did Paul leave for all true Christians, and how do you respond thereto?
18 The apostle Paul also told fellow anointed Christians: “If, then, we are children [of God], we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ, provided we suffer together that we may also be glorified together.” But what he went on to say applies equally well to the “great crowd” of “other sheep,” who today are reaching out for the glorious reward of life eternal in the paradise earth. (Revelation 7:9; John 10:16) Paul encourages all true Christians, saying:
“Who will separate us from the love of the Christ? Will tribulation or distress or persecution or hunger or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . To the contrary, in all these things we are coming off completely victorious through him that loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor governments nor things now here nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:17, 35-39; see also 2 Corinthians 11:22-28.)
Are you cultivating that kind of confidence in God’s love and in the ‘coming’ of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus? You should be!
19. What warning did Paul give about another mortal danger?
19 Another danger against which you need to be fortified in “the last days” is false teaching. Paul warned against this also. (Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Timothy 3:1, 13) From where do false teachers come, and how may we guard against them?