“Keeping a Tight Grip on the Word of Life”
“HE HUNG on like a bulldog,” is a common expression. To describe an uncommon grip demands an uncommon expression. So it could be said, too: “He hung on like an ant.” An inspired proverb states: “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.” (Prov. 6:6) In truth it could also be said: “Go to the ant, you of feeble grip, and be wise.”
One observer saw an ant dragging along a grasshopper sixty times its own weight. That is the equivalent of a man’s dragging four and a half tons. Another ant, suspended by gripping a string with its hind feet, held in midair a pair of gloves eleven hundred times its own weight. To match this a man would have to hang by his toes and support by his teeth more than eighty tons. Fighting ants never let go. Even when their heads are snipped off their jaws remain clamped to the bodies of their adversaries. It is reported that in India and Algeria ant heads are sometimes used as stitches. The edges of a wound are pressed together, the widely opened jaws of the ant are brought close, and finally it seizes both edges and holds them together. Then the native “surgeon” snips off the bodies of the ants, leaving the heads holding fast, where they remain until the wound is healed.—Nature’s Ways, pages 148, 149.
Herod “sent and had John beheaded in the prison”. Many of the witnesses of God and Christ were “executed with the ax for the witness they bore to Jesus and for speaking about God”. To those who would be finally approved Jesus said: “Prove yourself faithful even with the danger of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Matt. 14:10; Rev. 2:10; 20:4, NW) Regardless of what happens, God’s servants must heed Paul’s words: “Keep doing all things free from murmurings and arguments, that you may come to be blameless and innocent, children of God without a blemish in among a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you are shining as illuminators in the world, keeping a tight grip on the word of life.” (Phil. 2:14-16, NW) The Christian’s grip on God’s Word must be uncommonly tight. Tighter than the bulldog’s grip or the ant’s.
WAYS OF WEAKENING OUR GRIP ON GOD’S WORD
Literal beheading has frequently been used against Christians to break their integrity, and this as recent as the rule of Hitler’s nazis, when some of Jehovah’s witnesses were beheaded. However, in the majority of cases today Satan and his invisible and visible representatives do not use such violent methods. They use more subtle means to loosen the Christian’s “grip on the word of life”, means that are more tricky because their true intent is disguised.
In these days science is used as a pry to separate the people from their faith in the Bible. And science is making headway. It is making headway not only among the orthodox church members, but also among the clergy of these systems. In the Catholic pamphlet The Holy Bible, the Heritage of Catholic Family Life, published in 1952 under imprimatur of Archbishop O’Boyle of Washington, D.C., it is stated: “Can the six days of which Moses speaks be these long periods described by geologists? Certainly they are not. Moses knew nothing of modern science; his picture of the universe is quite naïve, no further advanced, in fact, than that of the people among whom he lived three thousand years ago.” That means one of two things. Either the Catholics are saying the Bible is not God’s inspired Word, or they are contending God the Creator has ideas about the earth’s formation that are naïve, no farther advanced than the superstitions of primitive peoples, and nowhere nearly as sound as the speculations of today’s puny men of science. And the ironical part is that these Catholic blasphemies against the Bible were published in celebration of Catholic Bible Week! Similar assaults against the Bible come regularly from Protestant clergy also. Millions are losing their grip on God’s Word and in its stead grabbing hold of scientific philosophies.—Col. 2:8.
Popular magazines loosen the grip of many on the Word of life. Look, February 26, 1952, tried to appear sensational by apparently suddenly discovering the Bible was filled with errors. It called attention to about half a dozen spurious passages, such as Mark 16:9-20, John 8:1-11 and 1 John 5:7. After citing these few big errors Look glibly states that Bible scholars agree that there are from 20,000 to 50,000 errors in the Bible. Does not this leave the impression that these thousands of errors are serious ones, like those mentioned, and hence that the Bible is wholly unreliable? Actually, serious errors are remarkably few, and years ago they were ferreted out and eliminated in modern translations. Scholars recognize how remarkably accurate has been the preservation of the Scriptures. In a mercenary endeavor to be sensational Look misrepresented the Bible, subtly discrediting it. The secular press in general leaps to the opportunity to shake confidence in the Bible.
Pagan teachings have filtered their way into Christendom’s doctrines and separate the people from God’s Word. Such doctrines as trinity, eternal torment, prayers for the dead, purgatory, and many others, can be traced to pagan religions and cannot at all be proved by the Bible. Both Catholics and Protestants who are informed will admit that many of their teachings and customs are of pagan origin, but rather than lament about it they glory in it. For instance, New York city minister Donald Harrington, after showing the pagan origin of many of the Christmas customs, declared: “It is this integration of pagan rites and ceremonies which stands as an example of the universality of God and makes one realize that Christmas is not merely a Christian festival but a holiday of mankind.” (New York Times, December 24, 1951) How different from Paul’s inspired words!—”Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? Further, what harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does God’s temple have with idols?”—2 Cor. 6:14-16, NW.
Today we are told we must be practical, and that the Bible is highly impractical in this modern age. A New York minister named Call, of a Unitarian church, gave the usual lip service but destroyed the effect on the grounds of impracticality. In denouncing high ideals he singled out Christ’s sermon on the mount for attack. He praised it as the “Christian ideal embodying many fundamental moral principles”, but opposed taking it too seriously. “When you tear that great sermon out of its context,” he asserted, “and apply it in our place, time and circumstance, it is woefully impractical. Those who preach it do not practice it and they have no expectation of trying to practice it, for if they did they would be summarily entombed in wards for the mentally ill.”—New York Times, June 30, 1952.
Jesus preached it and practiced it and because of this was put to death. His true footstep followers today preach it and practice it to the best of their imperfect abilities and because of this are considered impractical and insane by many and are often imprisoned and frequently killed. But rather than follow in Jesus’ steps, Christendom’s clergy run with the pack in the wake of worldly politicians and philosophers and scientists. Only a glance at this world with its filth and corruption, its plots and lies, its violence and bloodshed, should suffice to show its ways are not practical. Obedience to Bible principles is the only really practical remedy, but even the clergy seek to break the “grip on the word of life”.
Much more could be produced showing how the clergy weaken instead of strengthen faith in the Bible. The fundamentalists teach pagan doctrines under a Bible label, and the modernists babble higher criticism to undermine the Scriptures. Atheists are more honest, and do the Bible far less harm. The clergy are wolves in sheep’s clothing; the atheists are wolves in wolves’ clothing, and everyone knows where they stand. (Matt. 7:15) Knowingly or not, the clergy in general have become Satan’s fifth column. “Such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light. It is therefore nothing great if his ministers also keep transforming themselves into ministers of righteousness. But their end shall be according to their works.”—2 Cor. 11:13-15, NW.
TIGHT MENTAL GRIP ON GOD’S WORD
But it is not only science, propaganda, paganism, false philosophies about being “practical”, and many other follies that loosen the grip of blind leaders and blind followers, that true Christians must shun. Our own flesh tries to break our “grip on the word of life”. Love for self, or for other creatures, or for material gain—any or all of such loves that cater to the desires of the fallen flesh are perhaps the most powerful forces at work to slowly pry loose our grip on Bible truth. The fact that these forces do exert themselves slowly and loosen the grip gradually only makes them the more dangerous. The way to resist the entering wedges of these forces is to keep the mind centered on the principles of God’s Word. In that way we keep a mental grip on the Word of life.
It is not a literal grip on a literal book that counts. Hypocrites and others may clutch the Bible in their hands, but keep no hold upon it in their minds. Priests and preachers and members of religious orders may go about with it in their hands, be seen reading it in public places, and otherwise display it for show. The courts make a pretense of gripping the Bible, using it to swear upon in their proceedings. Public officials take oaths of office with their hands resting upon the Bible. But it is not such showy laying hold upon the Bible that meets Paul’s admonition about “keeping a tight grip on the word of life”.
To get the mental grip that will preserve us from assaults from within and without requires study, then obedience to the things learned. Thus you will “quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and complete will of God”. (Rom. 12:2, NW) A sincere and meek mental grip on God’s Word will enable one to heed Paul’s counsel: “Deaden, therefore, your body members which are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Do not be lying to one another. Strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality which through accurate knowledge is being renewed according to the image of the one who created it.”—Col. 3:5, 9, 10, NW.
Christ Jesus had a real mental grip on God’s principles, and he cited these to turn aside the assaults of Satan. (Matt. 4:1-11) He, and not the scientists and politicians and philosophers and “practical” religionists, is the “model for you to follow”. (1 Pet. 2:21, NW) Jehovah rejects those who reject his Word; and actually confusion, and not true wisdom, is the lot of the worldly wise who do this: “The wise men are put to shame, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of Jehovah; and what manner of wisdom is in them?” (1 Sam. 15:26; Jer. 8:9, AS) On one occasion Jesus said: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and have revealed them to babes.”—Matt. 11:25, NW.
Some are honest enough to acknowledge the confused state brought about by relaxing the grip on God’s Word to take hold of intellectual philosophies. Bishop Austin Pardue, of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, said on August 7, 1950: “We Christians of today are tragically unworthy. But just a word to the self-righteous outsiders who point to our hypocrisy; we can always make room for more hypocrites and we cordially invite them to come over and join us. Our hypocrisy is not deliberate, but convenient. The vicious malady of our orthodox American denominations comes from the corroding acids of disbelief which have watered down our convictions to the point of where much of our religion has become a matter of mere custom and tradition. On the other hand, destructive higher criticism of the Bible has become so universal that many of us modern ministers hardly know what we believe. On the other hand, we have become such worshipers of intellectual cults and clichés that we dare not believe any longer in the supernatural powers of prayer and sacrament.”
We should not be impressed or swayed by the worldly intellectuals that wallow in confusion. Jehovah and Christ are not: “For you behold his calling of you, brothers, that not many wise in a fleshly way were called, not many powerful, not many noble; but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put the wise men to shame, and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put the strong things to shame; and God chose the ignoble things of the world and the things looked down upon, the things that are not, that he might bring to nothing the things that are, in order that no flesh might boast in the sight of God.” “He that boasts, let him boast in Jehovah.”—1 Cor. 1:26-29, 31, NW.
So when there floods in upon you the barrage of propaganda from scientists, philosophers, politicians, higher critics, pagan fundamentalists and others that tends to weaken your grip on the Bible, resist! Keep your grip on the Word of life!