God’s Spirit Essential to Maturity
1. Is there Scriptural evidence showing that worship of Jehovah is a primary requirement?
WORSHIP of Jehovah is a vital necessity for all who would enjoy Jehovah’s favor and gain endless life in his kingdom. Now, at the same time that his devoted people are obeying the command, “Say among the nations, Jehovah reigneth,” they are also responding to the appeal, “Oh worship Jehovah in holy array.” (Ps. 96:9, 10, AS) Indeed, worship will be the Kingdom rule and test, for “it shall come to pass, that every one . . . shall go up from year to year to worship the King, Jehovah of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso of all the families of the earth goeth not up unto Jerusalem to worship the King, Jehovah of hosts, upon them there shall be no rain”. (Zech. 14:16, 17, AS) Jesus likewise stressed the importance of worship as a primary requirement, embodied in the law given to Israel, when he rebutted Satan’s temptation: “Go away, Satan! For it is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’”—Matt. 4:10, NW.
2. Did Jesus hold to a different conception of worship compared with that of the Jews, and in what particular respect?
2 The Jews thought their form of worship entirely satisfactory, claiming it was in accord with God’s original direction. But Jesus stated otherwise when the Samaritan woman at the well raised the question by saying: “Our forefathers worshiped in this mountain; but you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where persons ought to worship.” He replied that, on the point at issue as expressed by her, the Jews had the advantage, for “we worship what we know, because salvation originates with the Jews”, but “you worship what you do not know”. But though the Jews enjoyed a better understanding than the Samaritans as to God’s requirements respecting worship, Jesus then went on to give a much deeper and altogether different aspect concerning worship. He said: “The hour is coming, and it is now, when the genuine worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for such kind to worship him.” What a contrast with any previous conception! In their form of worship the Jews were principally concerned with the outward things of time and place and manner of observance; but now Jesus was saying that genuine worship went deeper than the things which are seen, and it must be “with spirit and truth”; which means not only clean, but mature, worship.—John 4:20-24, NW.
3. What three reasons can be given to show the importance of understanding the significance of worshiping “with spirit and truth”?
3 Surely it is highly important to understand as clearly as possible the full significance of worshiping by means of that which is unseen to the outward eye, namely, “with spirit and truth”! Important for two reasons: First, because “the things seen are temporary, but the things unseen are everlasting”. (2 Cor. 4:18, NW) Secondly, because things unseen are not so easily understood and appreciated as things that are seen. And, from another angle, we might add a third potent reason; for if we are lacking in wisdom and understanding we are going to be unsteady in our ways, as James argues at James 1:5-8. We are also going to be in grave danger of being deceived on this vital question of genuine, acceptable worship of the true and living God, for, “when you did not know God, then it was that you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.” (Gal. 4:8, NW) So, then, being faced with the important part played by God’s spirit, both in the matter of worship and in gaining a mature understanding, let us first examine the question, Scripturally, as to why God’s spirit is essential to gain maturity in understanding.
4. (a) Does Psalm 147 show that its fulfillment is in our day? (b) How does it stress the essential heart attitude to gain maturity of understanding?
4 All spirit and understanding originate with Jehovah, “out of whom all things are.” There is no measure to either spirit or understanding as far as he is concerned. “Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; his understanding is infinite.” And while quoting this fifth verse of Psalm 147 (AS), it will pay us to look briefly at the context of this prophetic Psalm as having direct bearing on this subject. It commences with a call to praise Jehovah, which is “comely” because praise is an expression of worship. Then Ps 147 verses 2 and 3 show it has its fulfillment in this our day when Jehovah is building up his kingdom organization (Jerusalem) and gathering in both the remnant of the “little flock” and all his “other sheep” to become “one flock”, and graciously healing them completely from their previous sick spiritual condition. Later, Ps 147 verses 10 and 11 make the contrast between two kinds of men: the man of the world in whom Jehovah takes no pleasure, but who trusts in his own strength and understanding, symbolized by the horse and its rider, and the man who fears Jehovah and realizes his utter dependence on his loving-kindness. Then comes a stirring description of the wealth of blessing and provision made for the ‘children of Zion’, who find refuge in his organization and in whom he takes great pleasure as they render acceptable praise and worship. They are ‘filled with the finest of the wheat’, that is, spiritual food and understanding of the highest excellence. In fact, to them only does Jehovah reveal and ‘show his word’ and its hidden meaning. Truly, he “hath not dealt so with any [other] nation”. (Ps. 147:20) Thus this Psalm reveals the essential heart attitude in order to gain understanding by God’s spirit. It also reveals the one and only channel by which the spirit and understanding are given, that is, the Lord’s organization, “Zion,” under the headship of Christ Jesus, “through whom all things are.”—1 Cor. 8:6, NW.
5. How does 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 show that God’s spirit is essential to gain understanding, involving what two indispensable things?
5 We come now to our main passage of Scripture showing why God’s spirit is essential to understanding. The apostle Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 (NW) that the treasures of God’s wisdom, expressed in his eternal purpose, are wrapped in a “sacred secret”, “hidden wisdom,” which “not one of the rulers of this system of things came to know” or understand. In fact, these treasures are hidden so securely that it is quite impossible for man by his own wisdom to “conceive” these things. Then Paul explains why: “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.” Ah yes! The riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge go down deep. (Rom. 11:33) Two things are indispensable if we are to gain an understanding and appreciation: First, God must give a revelation, and, secondly, we must be in touch and in harmony with the channel of his spirit, which conveys and opens up the revelation given by God to his people. We of ourselves cannot search into the deep things of God; it is only God’s spirit that can do that. Here we note three proofs of the apostle’s statement.
6 (1) We remember that the deep truth as to the real identity of the Son of man when on earth was understood only by a special revelation made by God to Peter. It was not understood through any wisdom inhering in “flesh and blood”. (Matt. 16:17, NW) (2) In Ephesians 3:5-9 (NW) Paul explains how the sacred secret, “which has from past eternity been concealed in God,” has now ‘been revealed by spirit’. Then at the close of that chapter (vv. Eph 3:18-21), in glowing and lofty phrase, Paul portrays the glorious prospect to be enjoyed by the true congregation when reaching maturity while still on earth, to have such fullness of understanding so as to be “thoroughly able to grasp mentally . . . the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge”. Paul concludes with an expression of worship “to the one who can, according to his power which is operating in us, do more than superabundantly beyond all the things we ask or conceive”. God’s spirit is indeed essential for such undreamed-of riches of mature understanding! (3) For final confirmation, note what Peter says about the early prophets, and even the angels, as not being able to understand certain aspects of God’s purpose, even after “diligent inquiry and a careful search”. But such things have now been revealed by the spirit and have been announced “through those [the apostles, part of God’s channel] who have declared the good news to you with holy spirit sent forth from heaven”.—1 Pet. 1:10-12, NW.
7. What is the purpose of Paul’s remarks at 1 Corinthians 2:11-16?
7 Returning to 1 Corinthians, second chapter, now notice that Paul evidently realized his statement at 1 Co 2 verse 10 would not be readily grasped. So he continues at some length in 1 Co 2 verses 11 to 16 to explain how the spirit reaches into the deep things of God, and the part we play therein. Thus he guards against any wrongful conclusion that, since it is only God’s spirit that can successfully search, therefore all we can do is to ask and wait for a direct revelation from God to enlighten us as to his purpose and his will for us; which, in fact, is what many religious folk do.
8, 9. (a) What is meant by “spirit” as related to man? (b) To what extent and along what lines can man’s spirit operate?
8 Paul invites us to consider man in order to aid us in realizing just what is meant by God’s “spirit”, and how it operates and searches. Very well, then, let us consider man, originally made in God’s likeness. Man has a body which he can exercise and put to work to do things. Such visible activity we describe as physical energy. But man also has a mind which he can exercise and put to work. He can reason and think deeply, and entertain strong desires and attachments, and he can come to decisions and determine on a certain course of action governed by some principle or policy. It is this invisible active mental force that we call “spirit”. If a man shows he has arrived at very definite conclusions and decisions, we say he is “strong-spirited”; or if his general course is governed by evil thoughts and motives, we say such person has a “bad spirit”.
9 Think of the amazing influence for good or evil made possible by the exercise of a man’s spirit, or mental force, especially if harnessed to some suitable agency, such as an organization of some kind. What a powerful influence is exercised by the strong, ruthless spirit of a dictator at the head of a totalitarian organization, dominating the spirit of perhaps millions of people and controlling their lives! Again, how pointed the apostle’s question at 1 Co 2 verse eleven!—“Who among men knows the things of a man except the spirit of man that is in him?” (NW) Who, for instance, can follow the arguments and working of a lawyer’s mind as his spirit grapples with the technical niceties of the law? Only another lawyer.
10. How does the spirit of Jehovah contrast with that of man? and what question does this raise?
10 So by considering the illustration of man and his spirit, with all its manifold possibilities, it helps us to realize how infinitely greater must be the spirit of Jehovah in its boundless variety of operations and powerful influence. Seeing as we do the tremendous contrast between the creature and the Creator, then how is the gulf bridged so that we can come to an understanding of the deep things stored up in the mind of the Creator?
BUILDING THE “BRIDGE”
11, 12. (a) What illustration is used to show how the gulf can be bridged? (b) In its application, how is it seen to be appropriate?
11 Since things unseen are not so readily appreciated as things that are seen, we again turn to a human illustration to help build up a mental picture that we can retain. A composer of music conceives in his mind a masterpiece, a symphony, with its various parts, its deep harmonies and themes, building up to a glorious climax. But how is he to convey the message of that symphony to those desiring to hear it? How to bridge the gulf? First, he puts it all down in writing, the written score. Then he arranges for the appointment of a conductor, who himself must have the spirit of music and must be well trained, so that, after a thorough study of the written score, its every note and bar, he can fully enter into the mind of the composer and catch his spirit and therefore be enabled to faithfully interpret every passage of that symphony. Still the gulf is not bridged! Under the direction of the conductor and leader comes the orchestra, that select and highly trained and organized body of musicians, each with his instrument (an orchestra is of no good without instruments) and each thoroughly familiar with the music after diligent study and practice. At last comes the night of the concert. We see the brilliantly lit auditorium packed out and the audience waiting there, silent, tense, expectant. And as the music pours forth and finally rises to a breath-taking, thrilling uplift of exultant melody, the spirit of the whole audience rises in full response to the spirit of the composer. The gulf is bridged!
12 In applying this illustration, the Creator has conceived in his mind a glorious purpose, which, for our benefit, he has caused to be recorded, namely the written Word. He has appointed a Conductor, who, by close study and training in obedience under test, is fully qualified to be “an interpreter, one among a thousand”; his own beloved Son, who is specially blessed with “the spirit of wisdom and understanding”. (Job 33:23; Isa. 11:2, AS) Under this Interpreter and Leader, there has been built up an organized body of devoted followers, who, by complete dedication of themselves to Jehovah, are blessed with his spirit and who, by study and training, learn to have “the mind of Christ”. (1 Cor. 2:16) These are composed primarily of the “little flock”. But, in these days, they are augmented by thousands of the Lord’s “other sheep”, like massed choirs added to an orchestra to give adequate expression to some great work. All are equipped with instruments, if we like to think of all the various kinds of literature as such. In any case, each has that most marvelous of instruments, the human voice, which can be extremely effective if you “continue applying yourself to public reading” so as to make the written Word “live”. (1 Tim. 4:13, NW) As with music, one can hold his audience more by making his instrument “speak” rather than by relying solely on technical brilliance. Thus, like the orchestra which learns how to translate the written score into its appropriate musical sounds and harmonies, we also, being “taught by the spirit”, learn how to “combine spiritual matters with spiritual words”. (1 Cor. 2:13, NW) In this way the gulf is bridged by means of the three indispensable things: the spirit, the Word and the organization.
13. How is a meeting of the minds made possible between the Creator and the creature?
13 Surely we can now better appreciate that when it says it is God’s spirit alone that can search into the “deep things of God” it does not mean we are left inactive. Far from it! In actual fact, we must do the searching, but must be careful never to attempt it by our own spirit of human wisdom. But by taking the necessary preliminary steps, to be discussed later, we learn how to gain “wisdom from above” (Jas. 3:17, NW), all the while keeping close to that bridge—the spirit, the Word and the organization. In that way there can be a meeting of the minds, our mind with that of the Creator’s; and he has graciously come down to our level, so to speak, so that our spirit can submit to and co-operate with his. That is exactly how the scripture describes it, when, telling how a certain need is met by God, it says: “The spirit itself [God’s spirit] bears witness with our spirit.” (Rom. 8:16, NW) Also, when we are conscious as to how inadequate is the working of our own mind, or spirit, when seeking to properly express ourselves in prayer, God’s “spirit . . . joins in with help for our weakness”.—Rom. 8:26, NW.
14. With regard to searching the “deep things”, what Scriptural guidance and encouragement are given?
14 So again we say, we must do the searching, but only because “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”. Hence Paul says: “The spiritual man examines [searches] indeed all things,” “even the deep things of God.” (1 Cor. 2:10, 12, 15, NW) This is in harmony with those many admonitions throughout God’s Word to seek and search and study and dig. And remembering the Lord’s word: “How much more so will the Father in heaven give holy spirit to those asking him!” let us “keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching”.—Luke 11:13; Jas. 1:5, NW.
15. In seeking to acquire understanding through Bible study, what warning must we heed?
15 A word of warning about that bridge. Do not attempt to span the gulf by building a private bridge of your own! As in the giving of prophecy in the first instance “no prophecy of Scripture springs from any private release”, so likewise, in gaining the proper understanding of prophecy in its fulfillment, we need to submit ourselves both to God’s spirit and his organization, Zion; for it is only the ‘children of Zion’ that are “taught of Jehovah”. (2 Pet. 1:20, NW; Isa. 54:13; 30:20, 21, AS) It is not sufficient to possess a Bible and study it, or join in with some religious body that believes in open Bible study. No matter how hard and seriously and prayerfully we study, we cannot get the true understanding apart from the organization and the spirit. So do not trust your weight on any home-made construction. Do not even lean upon such, but “trust in Jehovah with all thy heart, and lean not upon thine own understanding: in all thy ways acknowledge him, and he will direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes; fear Jehovah, and depart from evil”. (Prov. 3:5-7, AS) Individual Bible study, certainly! Independent Bible study, beware!
16. To what danger does Paul point at 2 Corinthians 11:13-15?
16 Neither, of course, should we put our trust in anyone else foolhardy and egotistical enough to claim to be an individually appointed “bridge-builder”, which is what the Latin word pontifex means. Even if one has been in the Lord’s organization in time past and enjoyed a clear understanding and been privileged to help others, and then severed his connection with the organization, it is impossible for such one to retain a true understanding, and especially impossible to gain further enlightenment. It is likely, though, that such a one will himself be deceived on that score and will attempt to deceive others, because of Satan, who ‘transforms himself into an angel of light’.—2 Cor. 11:13-15, NW.
17. In what respects is the theme of maturity seen to be important?
17 Heeding this warning, then, let us go on to maturity of understanding, which leads to mature worship, our being filled “with spirit and truth”, and which, in turn, is expressed in mature, sacred service. Yes, it is maturity that is the main theme running throughout our study here. To use a well-known saying, “Quality is better than quantity.” The riches of understanding depend on the sincerity and depth of appreciation, rather than on the amount of head knowledge of the truth. Paul did not cry out about all the truths he had learned as piling sky-high, but he exclaimed: “Oh the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge!” (Rom. 11:33, NW) It is not on the number of instruments that an orchestra depends for quality, but on the richness of tone.
18. Why is maturity so essential, as discussed at 1 Corinthians 3:1-4?
18 This question of maturity of understanding immediately follows Paul’s explanation of how the spiritual man can examine and search all things. For he goes on to say, in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 (NW), that those at Corinth were not yet “spiritual”, but were “fleshly” minded, immature babes in Christ, still only fit for a milk diet and hence in a weak condition, not strong enough to resist the fleshly impulses of jealousy and strife and sectarianism. In the natural way, babies may be the most lovable little objects and surely are so in their parents’ eyes; but that does not apply spiritually.
19. How is maturity of understanding defined, and is it intended for only a few?
19 Besides mature understanding as being necessary to learn how to overcome successfully the fleshly impulses, Paul points out at Hebrews 5:11–6:3 (NW) another reason why this maturity is so essential. After saying that a babe restricted to milk food illustrates one “unacquainted with the word of righteousness”, satisfied with understanding merely the ‘elementary doctrines’, then Paul stresses that “solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong”. What a fine definition of what mature understanding means! Therefore let us by all means “press on to maturity”. After having first “tasted that the Lord is kind”, we must not stand still, but must “grow to salvation”. (1 Pet. 2:2, 3, NW) The emphasis is on the need for continual, steady progress. It does not mean something frightfully involved, something possible only to a select few who have been years in the truth and enjoyed a good education. Here the natural illustration does not apply. For while the time taken for growth from babyhood to maturity stays within certain limits, spiritual growth is not so governed. The chief determining factor is depth of heart devotion and appreciation. It is this that determines the quality of our understanding.
20. By what procedure is progress made toward this maturity?
20 There is in these days no shortage of the solid food provided at the Lord’s table, taken from his Word and suitably prepared for assimilation by the theocratic organization, with the aid of the spirit. If you are sincere and meek and teachable, need you take long in grasping the elementary doctrines? Why not go quickly on to solid food? The thing is, never stop making progress, through either getting discouraged or becoming conceited. Why not follow Paul’s admonition, who, after telling of his own determination to keep on “pursuing down toward the goal”, said: “Let us, then, as many of us as are mature, be of this mental attitude; . . . At any rate, to what extent we have made progress, let us go on walking orderly in this same routine.” From your first contact with God’s organization you have been taught in a practical way through the various study meetings and ministry course how to make progress in understanding. Well, just continue on in the same orderly fashion, following the “same routine”, and “keep your eye on those who are walking in a way that accords with the example you have in us [the apostles]”. In that way we can be assured at all times of Jehovah’s favor by keeping company and keeping step with the “genuine worshipers” who “worship the Father with spirit and truth”.—Phil. 3:14-17; John 4:23, NW.
WHO ARE SPIRITUALLY MINDED?
21. What question arises on this account regarding the Lord’s “other sheep”?
21 Some, perhaps many, of our readers have been waiting to ask, saying: Is it not a fact that the foregoing scriptures are addressed only to those who are of the “little flock” with the heavenly hope before them? And is it not only these, begotten by God’s spirit, who can be said to be “spiritual men”, enabled by God’s spirit to understand the “deep things of God”? In brief, is it Scriptural to say that those of the Lord’s “other sheep” are spiritually minded?
22. Under what unusual circumstance did Jesus discuss the question of worship?
22 In answer, let us ask a question that may start our minds in the right direction. To whom did Jesus speak those gracious words of life and give that penetrating and new conception of worship “with spirit and truth”? To his close followers who were shortly to receive the outpouring of the spirit at Pentecost? No; not even to an Israelite; but to an outsider, a woman of Samaria. Surprising! Yes, the disciples were surprised. More surprised still, doubtless, when they learned that after a mere two-day visit by Jesus many more Samaritans believed and confessed: “We know that this man is for a certainty the savior of the world.”—John 4:27, 42, NW.
23. Do the “other sheep” give occasion for surprise in this day? and with what Scriptural warrant?
23 John, who had the pleasure of recording that incident, was again surprised many years later, when, in vision, after hearing a detailed count of the 144,000 sealed slaves making up the spiritual Israel, he then saw “a great crowd, which no man was able to number”, ascribing salvation to God and to the Lamb, and he had to confess his ignorance as to their identity. We are not suggesting that those Samaritans were of the same company as the “great crowd” of Revelation 7, the Lord’s “other sheep”. The presumption rather is that if those Samaritans held to their belief in Jesus they would join with those Gentile believers who were in due time added to the congregation, the “little flock”. But the element of surprise is the same and it suggests that we, too, must be prepared for similar surprises, especially on account of those who unexpectedly come right along into the Lord’s favor in this late day. Who, among our readers who were present in New York city, does not recall that extraordinary shrill gasp of delighted surprise coming from that vast, almost invisible, audience filling the Yankee Stadium that warm summer night in August, 1950, when the speaker announced that some of the prospective “princes” of the new earth were present?—Ps. 45:16.
24. In view of what do we think these “other sheep” need mature spiritual understanding?
24 These “other sheep” today are not seen outside the court of the temple, but right inside; for that is where John saw the “great crowd”, standing “before the throne of God” rendering “sacred service day and night in his temple”. (Rev. 7:9-15, NW) They are not the “living stones” which build up that “spiritual house”. (1 Pet. 2:5, NW) But in view of their close relationship and acceptance with God and the Lamb, also their clean worship by having “washed their robes” and by rendering sacred service in that spiritual house, who would deny they are among the genuine worshipers who worship “with spirit and truth”, and who are spiritually minded, “minding the things of the spirit”? For they are certainly not “minding the things of the flesh”. And surely those serving in privileged positions of responsibility as “princes” need to have mature understanding, which can be gained only by the aid of the holy spirit.
25. How does Hebrews 11 throw light on this subject as to the attitude and hope of those proving faithful before Christ’s day?
25 The determining factor seems to be, Where are their minds and hearts fixed and their hopes centered? Are they storing up for themselves treasures upon earth, partaking of the spirit of this world, or are they in the same happy position as those described in Hebrews chapter 11? The language here, too, is surprising, when you remember this Heb chapter 11 is telling of those men and women of strong faith and devotion who lived and died before Christ’s day. It says, “They are reaching out for a better place, that is, one belonging to heaven,” and that therefore God “has made a city ready for them”; and that the effect of that provision and promise was to make them “strangers and temporary residents in the land” wherein they dwelt. In other words, it caused them to turn away from the world and the “spirit of the world”, and instead to set their faces toward that theocratic kingdom and government which is essentially spiritual, the “New Jerusalem”, which comes down “out of heaven”. They had no thought or hope of going to heaven, but they looked forward to being part of that new world society which belongs to heaven, and were mentally fully attune with it, though living so long before its time. Note, too, that surprising expression about Moses’ having the same mind, or mental attitude, as Christ in “choosing to be ill-treated with the people of God rather than to have the temporary enjoyment of sin” along with the “treasures of Egypt”.—Heb. 11:13-16, 25, 26; Rev. 21:2, NW.
26. Should we conclude that all God’s people need to be spiritually minded, and with what prospects as expressed in Psalm 23?
26 The weight of Scriptural evidence would therefore seem to be overwhelmingly in favor of the conclusion that all the Lord’s sheep must be like-minded, spiritually minded, and we invite and encourage all those who recognize they have been brought into the “one flock”, under the “one shepherd” (though not all of the same fold), to unite in feeding together in the rich “green pastures”. Be refreshed by the living “waters of rest”, guided “in the paths of righteousness” to a mature understanding “for his name’s sake”, realizing we can render acceptable and genuine worship only if we are filled with his spirit and with his truth.—John 10:16, NW; Ps. 23:2, 3, AS, margin.