The Spirit, the Organization, and the Word
1. What is a Christian held responsible to consult and study? Why?
SINCE the Holy Bible sets out God’s will, and since a Christian is dedicated to doing God’s will, the Christian is held responsible to consult and study God’s Word. Only that way he can learn how to gain eternal life. To Timothy Paul the apostle wrote: “From infancy you have known the holy writings which are able to make you wise for salvation through the faith in connection with Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.”—2 Tim. 3:15, 16, NW.
2. How is it shown Bible reading and study is not limited to officials?
2 True, those words of Paul were written to a man who was an overseer in the Christian congregation. But this does not mean that personal reading and study of the Holy Scriptures is limited to only an official servant class, and the rank and file of the congregation may not study it for themselves. Timothy knew the holy writings before ever he became an overseer; and the fact that an overseer is to be an example to the flock means the members of the flock are to follow his example in themselves studying God’s Word. In this way they can determine whether the things taught them are true, that is, in harmony with God’s will and Word.
3, 4. Can a Christian with just the Bible alone understand God’s Word? And what are the reasons for the answer given?
3 But now a question. Can any individual Christian with just the Bible alone understand by himself all that the Scriptures teach? Is all he needs for determining God’s will the Bible alone? He has a right to have a personal copy of God’s Book and he is under apostolic instructions to make a private study of that Book. But he cannot depend upon just himself to understand it fully. In a general letter to Christians the apostle Peter writes: “Consequently, we have the prophetic word made more firm, and you are doing well in paying attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and a daystar rises, in your hearts. For you know this first, that no prophecy of Scripture springs from any private release. For prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.” (2 Pet. 1:19-21, NW) Since God’s Word was released to us through men under the power of God’s holy spirit or active force, the help of God’s spirit is needed in understanding that Word.
4 The canon or authorized collection of inspired Hebrew Scriptures was finished in the fifth century before Christ, and yet the Hebrews who knew the original language of it could not understand its full meaning. The prophetic writers themselves did not understand the meaning of the prophecies they uttered and wrote down. How was it, then, that the early Christians came to get an understanding of those Scriptures? By the help of God’s spirit or active force with its illuminating power operating upon their minds.
5. How does Paul explain the need of the spirit in connection with God’s sacred secret?
5 To illustrate: There is a sacred mystery contained in God’s Word, and which holds out the hope of heavenly glory for Christians. It takes the illuminating power of God’s spirit to probe into the depths of that secret and discover its meaning to us. Showing our need of the spirit’s help Paul writes: “We speak God’s wisdom in a sacred secret, the hidden wisdom, which God foreordained before the systems of things for our glory. This wisdom not one of the rulers of this system of things came to know, for if they [Jewish rulers with the written Hebrew Scriptures] had known it they would not have impaled the glorious Lord. But just as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, neither have there been conceived in the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love him.’ For it is to us God has revealed them through his spirit, for the spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God. So, too, no one has come to know the things of God, except the spirit of God. Now we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that have been kindly given us by God. . . . because they are examined spiritually.”—1 Cor. 2:7-10, 11-14, NW.
6, 7. (a) In apostolic days how did the spirit manifest its power toward the disciples? (b) Of what is having the spirit a seal?
6 Yes, we need the spirit in addition to God’s written Word. Again emphasizing this, Paul writes: “You, when you read this, can realize the comprehension I have in the sacred secret of the Christ. In other generations this secret was not made known to the sons of men as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by spirit.” (Eph. 3:4, 5, NW) In apostolic days the Christian believers had God’s spirit make his written Word plain to them. Not only that, but they also received gifts of the spirit which manifested itself in various ways by miraculous power to speak foreign tongues, translate them, perform cures, do powerful works and utter prophecy. In his same letter the apostle tells how, after they had believed the Word, they received the outpouring of God’s spirit with its various manifestations. This was as an authoritative seal upon them that they belonged to God and were his possession.
7 Writes Paul: “We should serve for the praise of his glory, we who have been first to hope in the Christ. But you also hoped in him after you heard the word of truth, the good news about your salvation. By means of him also, after you believed, you were sealed with the promised holy spirit, which is a token in advance of our inheritance, for the purpose of releasing by a ransom God’s own possession, to his glorious praise.” “Christ Jesus himself is the foundation cornerstone. In union with him you, too, are being built up together into a place for God to inhabit by spirit.”—Eph. 1:12-14; 2:20, 22, NW; 2 Cor. 1:21, 22.
8. What fruit of the spirit strengthens us to endure many things?
8 This holy spirit communicates a joy to believers even in the face of persecution and oppression. Paul says that this was true of the Thessalonians, to whom he writes: “You accepted the word under much tribulation with joy of holy spirit, so that you came to be an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” One of the fruits or products of the holy spirit in us is a joy over God’s Word, work and people. This joy strengthens us to endure many things we could not otherwise bear, especially in the right frame of mind and heart.—1 Thess. 1:6, 7, NW; Gal. 5:22; Neh. 8:10.
9. How are we not to grieve the spirit, and of what help is it to us when studying God’s Word?
9 Because of the important part the spirit performs in us as Christians, we should not grieve it by working against its operation or by living contrary to that which it seals us as being, namely, God’s possession, children belonging to him. “Do not be grieving God’s holy spirit, with which you have been sealed for a day of releasing by ransom.” (Eph. 4:30, NW) If we all have this holy spirit or active force at work in us in common, and if we let it bring forth its fruitage in expressions of love, all of us are bound together by a force that is stronger than human relationship. Having this spirit does not relieve Christians of studying and consulting God’s Word to ascertain his will. But when they do study the written Word, then God’s spirit helps them understand and appreciate it.
NEED OF HIS ORGANIZATION
10, 11. In addition to the Word and the spirit, what also is needed by Christians, and why is this so?
10 God’s spirit is an active force that does things. It was used to call for the disciples Barnabas and Saul to be set aside for special missionary work. It was used to forbid them to speak God’s Word in the district of Asia. Also it did not let Paul travel eastward into Bithynia, but directed him westward into European Macedonia. (Acts 13:2; 16:6-10, NW) However, may we today expect God’s spirit to move us around that way in our individual efforts in God’s service? No; the spirit is not manifesting itself in that way today. Nevertheless, we can look to see what God’s leadings indicate while we are diligently consulting his Word. But if each of us were left to himself just because he has a copy of the Bible and were to direct his movements independently as he thought he understood that Word, what? It is likely, or possible, that there would be a great deal of confusion or working in competition among us.
11 Hence, besides individually possessing God’s Word, we need a theocratic organization. Yes, besides having God’s spirit of illumination, a Christian needs Jehovah’s theocratic organization in order to understand the Bible. He needs to attend the meetings arranged for by that organization and to study with fellow Christians. He needs the organization, too, in order to work in harmony with God’s purposes and to be directed aright in his movements. The reason is that Jehovah God is dealing with his organization, and does not deal with individuals who are outside of his organization or who defiantly try to act independently of it.
12. Why is it so necessary to see the theocratic organization and receive of its services?
12 Aside from Jesus Christ, God’s Word of prophecy did not foretell the personal work, course and activities of any individual. His Word foretells his dealings with his theocratic organization under Christ, and about its work, its experiences, its persecutions, its deliverance and its triumph. Consequently, if we do not see the organization but try to apply the prophecies to ourselves individually, we cannot see prophecy’s true fulfillment and understand God’s Word. If we are not attached to his organization and working in harmony with it and undergoing its experiences, we cannot get the sense of God’s Word and do his work right. It took Jesus the head of God’s organization to open up the minds of his disciples to grasp fully the meaning of the Scriptures. After Jesus ascended to heaven, it took the apostles under the power of God’s spirit given through Jesus to explain the deep things of God’s Word and purpose. The apostles were foundation members of God’s visible organization back there. Today Jehovah God has built up his visible organization with those whom he has delivered from great mystic Babylon, in fulfillment of Bible prophecy. In our days the steady unfolding and understanding of God’s written Word has been by means of this theocratic organization filled with his spirit.
13. Who does Isaiah’s prophecy show get the benefit of Jehovah’s teaching and dealings?
13 Jehovah is dealing with his visible organization and he knows those who belong to it no matter how isolated bodily they may be from others of his organized people. It is his organization that he is teaching through its head Jesus Christ. Those who are lovingly holding with that organization get the benefit of his dealings and teaching. It is not to any one of us, but is to the organization whom he addresses as his wife that he speaks these words: “Thy Maker is thy husband; Jehovah of hosts is his name: and the Holy One of Israel is thy Redeemer; the God of the whole earth shall he be called. And all thy children shall be taught of Jehovah; and great shall be the peace of thy children.”—Isa. 54:5, 13, AS.
14. Why does possessing the Bible not do away with the need of the organization to get the benefit of God’s direction and leadings?
14 Just because you have the Bible and have it as your guide and basic instruction Book, you cannot act independently and imagine you have direct connections and dealings with Jehovah apart from and with slight to the theocratic organization. His Word does not teach that you can go on your own with just the Bible and with a private operation of the holy spirit upon you. It is necessary to see God’s handiwork and to recognize the organization he has built up and deals with. This organization, filled with his spirit and adhering strictly to his Word, is what he uses today in guiding us in our combined efforts throughout the world. This organization is needed in order to integrate the efforts of all of us throughout the many nations of many different languages. It is needed for serving all believers unitedly with the revelations of God’s Word. It brings all Kingdom publishers into co-operation with the one “pure language” of the truth. It prevents our working to cross-purposes, or duplicating our efforts, or having territories overlap, or having weaknesses resulting from disunity, and other things hindering our getting God’s work done. Jehovah is directing his organization through its Head Jesus Christ. If we want to get the benefit of his direction and leadings we need to work with the organization. If the enemy isolates you, then carry on as you have been taught and trained through the organization.
15. To tell us where to go, what is it we hear behind us?
15 This is the proper thing to do, rather than to look for an angel to appear as in days of old and give us specific directions as to what to do in this and that case, or than to hear a clairaudient voice speak to us out of the invisible and tell us what to do and where to go. That is not the meaning of Isaiah 30:20, 21 (AT): “Your Teacher will no more hide himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. And when you turn to right or to left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it!’” The voice behind us is God’s voice from the past, speaking through his written Word as it is made plain through his organization.
16. Why do we well look to the organization for territory assignment?
16 To the visible theocratic organization we can look to give us an assignment in which to work, and this will keep us from straying onto another’s territory and causing confusion, irritation and friction. It will bring our efforts into harmony with those of all other Kingdom publishers in the territory of the local congregation and will result in peace and unity. This will please God, for it is written: “God is a God, not of disorder, but of peace. As in all the congregations of the holy ones, . . . let all things take place decently and by arrangement.”—1 Cor. 14:33, 40, NW.
17. Aside from general direction by the organization, what are we left free to decide, and how is this Scripturally shown?
17 While we work under God’s general direction by collaborating with his theocratic organization, he leaves us free to decide upon our more personal or private movements. On numbers of occasions the apostle Paul was guided directly by operations of the spirit or visions from the Lord. This was for his general movement; but in other respects he had to lay out his personal plans and decide upon what arrangements were best to make. On his first missionary trip with Barnabas he was sent specifically by call of the holy spirit. But as to his second missionary trip it was Paul who said to Barnabas: “Above all things, let us return and visit the brothers in every one of the cities in which we published the word of Jehovah to see how they are.” (Acts 13:1-4; 15:36, NW) But there was disagreement as to who should be taken along, and there was no direct action of the holy spirit or of an angel to settle the difficulty. Again, when the Lord Jesus appeared to Paul and informed him of the work Paul was to do, he said: “Get on your way, because I shall send you out to nations far off.” Those were general directions, but Paul was left to plan his movements and then to work at them and see how far they matched God’s will. He tells us that he resolved for himself to go to really foreign territory where Christ had not yet been preached, so as not to build on another’s foundation.—Acts 22:17-21 and Rom. 15:18-21, NW.
“IF JEHOVAH WILLS”
18. After making his plans what did Paul trust God for, and how is it shown whether God let Paul’s plans be interfered with?
18 Paul did not brag of what he was going to do, but he did map out what seemed to serve the best interests of the work and its expansion. He trusted God to guide him in carrying out these plans and to back him up in them as far as it worked in harmony with God’s purpose. Did God let Paul’s plans get interfered with? Writing to the congregation at Rome, Paul shows God did, for he says: “I was many times hindered from getting to you. But now that I no longer have untouched territory in these regions, and for some years having had a longing to get to you whenever I am on my way to Spain, I hope, above all, when I am on the journey there, to get a look at you and to be escorted part way there by you after I have first in some measure been satisfied with your company. But now I am about to journey to Jerusalem to minister to the holy ones.” Telling of hindrance elsewhere, Paul wrote the Thessalonians: “Brothers, when we were bereaved of you for but a short time, in person, not in heart, we endeavored far more than is usual to see your faces with great desire. For this reason we wanted to come to you, yes, I Paul, both once and a second time, but Satan cut across our path.”—Rom. 15:22-25 and; 1 Thess. 2:17, 18, NW.
19. Was Paul improperly blaming things on the Devil, and how does the account show he made decisions and tried to carry them out?
19 Paul was not improperly blaming something onto the Devil. No doubt by his fanatical dupes on earth Satan raised up effective barriers against Paul’s coming back to Thessalonica when he wanted to go there. At any rate, all these things show that Paul was left to much personal freedom and much personal responsibility in outlining his course in spreading the good news. He was not looking for God’s angel at every turn or for a vision or a clairaudient utterance of the holy spirit. He made decisions. For instance, he determined in his spirit that “he would travel to Jerusalem, saying: ‘After I get there I must also see Rome.’” He was so set on going up to Jerusalem from there at Ephesus that, when the holy spirit by various agencies indicated Paul would run into trouble in Jerusalem, he pushed ahead in his determination. At Caesarea, just 55 miles from Jerusalem, he received final warning by the prophet Agabus. So the disciples there tried to dissuade him. But Luke tells us: “When he would not be dissuaded, we acquiesced with the words: ‘Let the will of Jehovah take place.’” And Jehovah’s will did take place. Paul eventually did get to Rome, even though it was as a prisoner.—Acts 19:21; 20:22-24; 21:4, 10-14, NW.
20, 21. (a) After making personal plans, for what should we look? (b) What admonition is given us against bragging about our plans?
20 Thus it is with us today. As we cooperate with the theocratic congregation of Jehovah’s people we are left to considerable freedom of movement. The responsibility is left to us of planning for our personal course of action in our territory. After we have decided on our personal course, we can look for Jehovah’s blessing, guidance and use of us in his service. If we sow much, making good preparation for it, we may expect to reap much; and vice versa.
21 We should not brag over our plans or rely on our own strength and wisdom to carry them out. James warns against this, with these straightforward words: “Come, now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will travel to this city and will spend a year there, and we will engage in business and make profits,’ whereas you do not know what your life will be tomorrow. For you are a mist appearing for a little while and then disappearing. Instead, you ought to say: ‘If Jehovah wills, we shall live and also do this or that.’ But now you take pride in your self-assuming brags. All such taking of pride is wicked. Therefore, if one knows how to do what is right and yet does not do it, it is a sin for him.”—Jas. 4:13-17, NW.
22. After making our plans, to whose will should we subject them, and how should we take our experiences while pushing ahead?
22 In accord with this, after we have made our personal plans regarding where, when and how we are going to be active in the field as a public witness of the Most High God, we should say, “If Jehovah wills, I will do his work then and there.” If he spares you and lets you get there and serve, you can thank him for this privilege. If you have pleasant experiences and get encouraging results from your efforts, you can thank him for these expressions of his favor, because every good gift and every perfect present comes from him the Father of celestial lights. If there is opposition or trials, if favorable results do not quickly show up, you can study the matter and determine how far Satan is responsible, as in Paul’s case, or how far the fault lies with you in your lack of preparation for service, your lack of tact, your bringing reproach on the message by personal conduct, or other causes. Do not be discouraged by trouble, opposition or persecution; no more than Jesus or Paul was. But, knowing you are doing God’s will, carry on his service faithfully and by this persistence defeat the enemy’s intention.
ARMOR OF PROTECTION
23. Why and how does the organization co-operate with you at work?
23 Your authority to do God’s work as one of his proclaimers of the good news of his kingdom you have direct from his Word. His theocratic organization recognizes your authority from his Word, the Bible. So it uses you as one of its representatives in the field and it co-operates with you, supplies your needs, and renders you assistance. It gives you the benefit of what legal help and protection it can furnish you. It helps you to fight for the truth in unity with your brothers all over the earth.
24. So how are we advised we must fight, but not against whom?
24 You cannot stand alone. You must fight shoulder to shoulder with your fellow witnesses, as Paul describes it: “You are standing firm in one spirit, with one soul fighting side by side for the faith of the good news, and in no respect being frightened by your opponents. This very thing is a proof of destruction for them, but of salvation for you; and this indication is from God, because to you the privilege was given in behalf of Christ, not only to put your faith in him, but also to suffer in his behalf. For you have the same struggle as you saw in my case and as you now hear about in my case.” (Phil. 1:27-30, NW) You must not fight physical combats with men and women outside the theocratic organization. Certainly you must not do so within the organization. You must fight the common enemy, and not your brothers. All the time be “earnestly endeavoring to observe the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace [between the brothers]. One body there is, and one spirit, . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all persons, who is over all and through all and in all”. This insures victory, this unity!—Eph. 4:3-6, NW.
25. Is all our defense left to organization and angels? What instrument plays a part?
25 The theocratic organization affords us a great deal of help and protection, not to speak, too, of the invisible holy angels under Christ. Yet there are also personal defensive measures that we must individually take. In these measures the written Word of God performs a necessary and vital part; it is powerful for our protection. Paul makes this clear in his further words to the congregation of Ephesus with whom he was pleading for Christian unity.
26. Who are our real foes? So what must we make personal use of?
26 We are in a real fight, and Paul points out who our real foes are against whom to strive, saying: “Put on the complete suit of armor from God that you may be able to stand firm against the machinations of the Devil; because we have a fight, not against blood and flesh, but against the governments, against the authorities, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.” In view of this, think of what we are up against—all this great invisible host is against us! It is working in an organized way by means of the visible organization of the Devil with all its propaganda and all its power to put us under pressure to destroy our faith and to entice or force us away from God’s service. We would quail in terror if we did not assure ourselves that God has made provision for protecting us. But we may not leave all the responsibility of protecting us to God. He has provided certain things for us to use for protecting ourselves and our brothers, and we must use these. What? The pieces making up the complete suit of spiritual armor. Not to use it leaves us exposed.
27. What is our girdle, our breastplate, our footwear in this outfit?
27 “On this account,” continues Paul, “take up the complete suit of armor from God, that you may be able to resist [all the above-mentioned spirit foes] in the wicked day and, after you have done all things thoroughly, to stand firm. Stand firm, therefore, [how?] with your loins girded about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, and with your feet shod with the equipment of the good news of peace.” Righteousness is a breastplate of protection for our hearts, and the peaceful gospel message equips our feet to march on in field service in a peaceable way. Promoting peace rather than tactlessly stirring up strife makes it easier going for us over longer distances. Righteousness and the good news of peace you learn from the Bible and with the help of the theocratic organization.
28. What is our shield, and how is it made large?
28 “Above all things, take up the large shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the wicked one’s burning missiles.” Our faith, which rests on our knowledge of God’s Word and on our acquaintance with him and his works, prevents the burning missiles of bitter words of reproach and false accusation from sticking in us and inflicting a mortal wound on our spirituality. The more we know God’s Word and the more experience we have with his dealings, the larger our shield of faith becomes.—Ps. 64:3; Jer. 9:8.
29, 30. What are our helmet and our sword? How are these provided?
29 But there is more you need: “Also accept the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word, while with every form of prayer and supplication you carry on prayer on every occasion in spirit.” For a protection of your head or mind God has provided the helmet of salvation or “hope of salvation”. By begetting Christ’s “little flock” of followers with his spirit the heavenly Father has created in them a hope of heavenly salvation. But today by means of his Word and his organization God acquaints the “great crowd” of other sheep with a hope of salvation to life in human perfection on a paradise earth. By faithfully enduring as Christians and thus gaining God’s approval we increase our hope or our expectation of receiving the things we desire according to his promise. With this intelligent hope of salvation we fight on with the “sword of the spirit, that is, God’s Word”.
30 It is a spiritual sword for battling with the enemy at close quarters. The spirit of God forged, hardened, shaped and sharpened that sword, because the writers of that Word were just men and so they needed the spirit or active force of God to move them to write God’s message. Hence God’s spirit speaks to us by that Word, and that Word is an expression of the spirit of God. His spirit is invincible, and that is what makes this sword of God’s Word invincible against man and devil.—Eph. 6:11-18, NW; 1 Thess. 5:8, 9.
31. How did Jesus set us an example as a swordsman? How did he pray?
31 Jesus set us the example in using that spiritual sword, God’s Word. When the Devil put him to the test in the wilderness, Jesus parried every stroke of the Devil’s suggestions with the sword of God’s Word, saying, “It is written.” And when the Devil and all his organized demons attacked Jesus through their wicked visible organization and assailed his message and his course of action, he met their assaults with a thrust of the spiritual sword, quoting the written Word of God. “It is written” killed or stopped cold the traditional arguments and worldly philosophies or unscriptural reasonings of the religious dupes of the demons. But along with his expert use of this sword from God Jesus prayed. He prayed regularly and sincerely and in full accord with God’s purpose set out in his recorded Word. So his prayers were heard.
32. Why is this the “wicked day”? What does it make urgent?
32 With Satan and his demons now cast down from heaven and creating woe on the earth and warring against those belonging to God’s woman or organization, we are in the wicked day. We must wrestle determinedly against the mighty spiritual foes. We therefore need to put on and keep on the full suit of armor from God. The armor is the same for each and every one of us, and with it we can stand firm unitedly and hold the enemy at bay and beat back their assaults. So keep on each piece. Keep your heart fixed on righteousness, God’s righteousness, for your protection. Hold fast and enlarge your faith as a shield. Keep walking in the equipment of the good news of peace to protect you from the hardness of the road. Buckle about you the belt of the truth for strength to bear the load and to hold out. Keep your head helmeted with the right hope which leads to no disappointment. Strengthen your grip on the sword of the spirit, God’s Word. Now that we have come to close grips with the enemy, learn to brandish this sword. With it turn aside every hostile thrust and drive this two-edged weapon into the vitals of the enemy’s propaganda, traditions, philosophies and deceptive arguments.
33. Can we thus fight and pray while under detention? How so?
33 If we are thus armored, we need never back down before our assailants, and the Devil and all his hosts of demons cannot do us one bit of spiritual harm. We may be killed as a result of their invisible influence on their earthly agents, but God will safeguard and preserve our inheritance of life in the new world, granting us a resurrection in his due time. We may be in prison or concentration camp because of demonized men and governments, but our enemies cannot take our spiritual armor off us. We can still retain this armor and fight in it there in detention, for Paul himself was wearing this armor in prison at Rome when he wrote us to wear it. And as we fight in it we can keep in communication with God and his invisible organization by means of prayer, every form of prayer, praise, thanksgiving, appreciation, petitions, and earnest supplications, for ourselves and for our brothers, our fellow fighters. Prayer makes us feel divine aid near.
34. What place, then, must we give God’s Word, and with what outcome?
34 All considered, then, we cannot underestimate the value, importance and power of God’s Word. We must give it a continual place in our lives, ahead of the words and commandments of any men who would make God’s Word null and void, even under persecution. For our guide Psalm 119:161 (AS) says: “Princes have persecuted me without a cause; but my heart standeth in awe of thy words.” Hence we cleave to God’s written Word and obey it. By taking heed to his Word we can cleanse our path and keep it pure and clear through this dirty world. His Word taken into hearts and heads can make our minds over, and in this way can transform our lives away from all imitating of this corrupt system of things over to a course acceptable to God, in full harmony with him and leading us to eternal life in his new world.—Rom. 12:1, 2, NW.