Foreknowledge Compatible with Free Will
“I know what their temperament will lead to, even now, before I bring them into the land, which I promised them on oath.”—Deut. 31:21, AT.
1. How do Presbyterian teachings deny man’s free will?
IT IS not denied by predestinarians that men are free moral agents, yet their own teachings certainly deny it. Do not the following statements from their publication rob of real meaning their contention that men are free to will good? “Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation.” But when God intervenes to convert an otherwise helpless sinner he “enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good”.a God promises to “give unto all those that are ordained unto life, his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe”.b So those not ordained have no free will or ability to believe. Similarly, God is “renewing and powerfully determining their wills” in order to make men “willing and able” to answer his call.c Even after starting in the right way the “perseverance of the saints depends, not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election”.d And where is the free will of individuals to be found in their statement that God is “governing all his creatures; ordering them, and all their actions”?e If God did “unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass”, and to show his sovereign power over some did “ordain them to dishonor and wrath”, and to show his grace toward others did predestinate them to life “without any foresight of faith or good works”, then how can it be argued that there is no “violence offered to the will of the creatures”? Yet such is the caliber of predestinarian logic. Little wonder they give up reasoning on the matter and refer to their doctrine as “this high mystery of predestination”!f
2. In what respect do Presbyterians parrot the Pharisees?
2 From all eternity God is supposed to have decreed whatsoever takes place, and to have fixed the destiny of all men and angels to either everlasting life or everlasting death, yet neither making use of his foreknowledge to do it nor violating the free will of any creature in doing it.g To fit into such a scheme Jehovah would have to create each individual in such a way that it would automatically do just what he had predestined for it to do. This puts the predestinarians in the same doctrinal boat with the Pharisees, about whom Josephus wrote: “When they determine that all things are done by fate, they do not take away the freedom from men of acting as they think fit; since their notion is, that it hath pleased God to make a temperament, whereby what he wills is done, but so that the will of man can act virtuously or viciously.”h From the foregoing it is evident that predestinarians pay only lip service to individual free will, while doctrinally denying it in all practical respects.
HOW JEHOVAH MOLDS US
3. What do some contend, and how do they support their contention?
3 Some will contend that Jehovah God does shape man in such a way as to force him into a certain course of conduct, doing violence to the creature’s freedom of will or choice, and thus making things work out according to the divine predestination of matters. They cite the text that speaks of Jehovah as the great Potter and men as helpless clay to be molded as he sees fit. Also they point to the time when God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, which hardness brought Pharaoh into destruction in the Red sea. Can these cases be harmonized with individual freedom of will? Yes, and by way of laying a foundation for solid answers consider some points relative to changing or molding anew the human mind.
4. How do messages from the five senses reach the brain, and what then happens?
4 Men know much about the mind, but much more they do not know. Yet a mixture of fact and theory gives this basic view of the mind’s function. When light enters the eye it is changed into electricity by the time it reaches the gray matter of the brain’s cerebral cortex. When sound enters the ear it reaches the gray matter as electrical impulses. Similarly messages come to the brain from the senses of smelling and tasting and feeling, reaching the brain’s cortex as electrical currents. Inside the cortex of gray matter is the white matter of the brain, and through this the gray matter sends electrical messages, to connect up with other cells or cell groups in other sections of the gray matter. Thus when the vision section sees danger it speeds messages to the motor section to inaugurate necessary muscular action, either for fight or for flight. So in all other mental processes the gray matter communicates with its various parts, doing so by setting up circuits through the white matter.
5. What further sheds light on the brain’s operation and marvelousness?
5 Every thought, every action is recorded as an electrical path through the white matter. If it is an old idea or frequent act it uses the previously made circuit, strengthening and entrenching it still more. That is why repetition fixes thoughts firmly in mind, and repeated actions become habitual. They come easy thereafter, and are hard to remove. New thoughts and new deeds require the setting up of new circuits, and that is more difficult. At birth the brain of the human babe is almost blank, only a few circuits being there, such as the instinct to suck and a few other basic patterns necessary for survival. But it is not a near blank for long. The five senses pour in their messages, and as the years pass an appalling maze of circuits accumulate—more, it is estimated by scientists, than all the hookups of telephone wires, exchanges and receivers in existence. One scientist estimated that “the human brain has sufficient storage capacity to remember fifty times as much information as is contained in the seven million volumes of the Library of Congress”. Truly man is “fearfully and wonderfully made”! (Ps. 139:14) How careful we should be to take in the right thoughts, do the right deeds, set up the proper circuits, that we do not get our mental wires crossed and snarled up in evil thinking and acting!
6. How do men and animals differ in these respects, and what makes a man what he is?
6 If we did not possess free will, but instead our course were fixed for us, we would not have the power of molding our minds according to our wishes, according to the things we chose to take into the brain. We would be more like creatures of instinct, like lower animals. Their brains are not so blank as humans’ at birth; most of their circuits are already there, and they can add but few thereafter. They come nearer to being predestinated at birth than do men. They primarily follow God-given instinct. Man, on the other hand, makes up his own mind. And because each one does it differently, each one is a separate individual, a distinct personality. It is a person’s thoughts and acts that make him what he is. Jehovah God so states: “Just as he hath thought in his own mind, so he is.” (Prov. 23:7, Ro) From the heart, which frequently stands for the mind, come words and acts. (Matt. 12:34; 15:19) So what a person thinks, says and does is largely governed by the mind. To change himself, to remold himself, he must change his thinking; for as he thinks, so is he.
7. What command is given to men, and why, and how can they heed it?
7 Because men in this old dying world think and speak and act wrong, because such unbelievers are vessels of wrath headed for destruction, and because they must be remolded into vessels of glory to Jehovah if they are to escape being shattered like a potter’s vessel by the King’s rod at Armageddon, the vital command to them is: “Quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over.” (John 3:36; Rom. 12:2, NW) If they make their minds over they are changed persons; for as they think, so are they. They must let the old circuits put into their brains by the schemes and propagandas, the lusts and immoralities of the old world fade out through disuse, and replace them with new circuits built up by the right thinking and acting recommended by Jehovah’s new world. If so, they will be remolded into a new personality: “You should put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct and which is being corrupted according to his deceptive desires; . . . you should be made new in the force actuating your mind, and should put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loving-kindness.” “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.”—Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:9, 10, NW.
8. Why can it be said Jehovah can change men without forcing them?
8 So it is by taking in accurate knowledge about Jehovah and Christ that human creatures made of dust or clay can be remolded, changed from vessels of wrath to vessels fit for divine mercy. (John 17:3) On the other hand, this information, instead of remolding men born under wrath and condemnation into vessels of glory, hardens some even more as vessels of wrath, even driving them to murder. (John 8:37-45; Acts 7:54-60; 2 Tim. 3:8) And this testimony that either hardens vessels of wrath or remolds them into vessels fit for mercy, where is it found? In God’s Word, the Bible. So through his Word Jehovah either makes persons more stubbornly wicked or changes them into his glorious servants, and this without any forcing of the creature, but rather it is as the creature himself wills to react. It is like a person that receives a letter from a certain man and which makes the person change his mind, and as a result the person says, “That man made me change my mind.” Yet there was no forcing involved; the person changed of his own free will.
9. How is Romans 9:21-24 to be understood, and what other text shows this understanding true?
9 It is with this view of matters that Romans 9:21-24 (NW) should be considered: “What? Does not the potter have authority over the clay to make from the same lump one vessel for an honorable use, another for a dishonorable use? If, now, God, although having the will to demonstrate his wrath and to make his power known, tolerated with much long-suffering vessels of wrath made fit for destruction, in order that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory, namely, us, whom he called not only from among Jews but also from among nations, what of it?” Does not Jehovah have a right to declare his message to all men taken from the same place, the dust of earth, and allow it to shape them for or against him, according to their own freewill reactions to its declaration? Certainly, and beforehand he indicated in his Word that one class would be hardened as vessels of wrath and another class would be flexible in their thinking when hearing the truth and welcome it and make their minds over in accord with its impact, thereby becoming vessels of mercy. That the individual himself can, by his own course in harmony with Jehovah’s will, make himself into a “vessel for an honorable use” is specifically stated at 2 Timothy 2:20-22 (NW): “Now in a large house there are vessels not only of gold and silver but also of wood and earthenware, and some for an honorable purpose but others for a purpose lacking honor. If, therefore, anyone keeps clear of the latter ones, he will be a vessel for an honorable purpose, sanctified, useful to his owner, prepared for every good work. So, flee from the desires incidental to youth, but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, along with those who call upon the Lord out of a clean heart.” To say Jehovah forces men to be a good or bad vessel is unscriptural. He does mold us through his Word, for good if we will let him.
10. How did God harden Pharaoh’s heart without violating free will?
10 Now to consider the controversial text wherein Jehovah said: “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you.” (Ex. 7:3, 4) Now Jehovah did not actually harden the heart of Pharaoh so that Pharaoh lost his free will in the matter. His heart hardened because of the message declared to him by Moses and Aaron. It was what caused him to react in hard stubbornness and anger. But since the message Moses and Aaron declared was really Jehovah’s message, the account says Jehovah hardened his heart. The repeated extension of God’s mercy to him by the lifting of plague after plague did not soften the Egyptian ruler, but as is usual in the case of bullies and tyrants this forbearance only made Pharaoh more intolerable, brought to the fore all the more his bullying characteristics. At Exodus 8:15 the result of relief is shown: “When Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart.” And again after the lifting of one of the plagues: “Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also.” (Ex. 8:32) Also 1 Samuel 6:6 states: “The Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts.” Does it not say Pharaoh hardened his own heart? Yes, because that was actually what happened. It only says Jehovah did it because that was how Pharaoh reacted to Jehovah’s message. Mercy shown to such arrogant men only serves to let them store up more wrath against themselves. (Rom. 2:4, 5) It is not unusual for wicked men to interpret Jehovah’s long-suffering as a sign of weakness and thus become more set in their evil ways, thinking the time of reckoning will never come: “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” (Eccl. 8:11) Pharaoh’s heart was so set in him.
11. How does the Bible itself interpret a similar situation, proving the viewpoint to be no private interpretation?
11 The charge that such a view of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is private interpretation cannot be proved, because the Bible itself so interprets a similar expression. At Isaiah 6:10 Jehovah tells Isaiah: “Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.” Now, God did not mean for Isaiah to actually go and fatten their hearts and stop up their ears and close their eyes to forestall any repentance; but he was predicting that that would be the effect of the message that Isaiah had been commanded to go and tell the people, that the people themselves would show closed eyes and unhearing ears and fatty hearts, that they would not repent and turn to Jehovah for healing spiritually. The message declared made these rebellious ones unreceptive because it did not please them, and since Isaiah delivered it he was said to have done these things to them. But that they did it to themselves is shown by no less an authority than Jesus himself, for in quoting this prophecy as having fulfillment upon rebellious ones in his day he said: “The heart of this people has grown thick, and with their ears they have heard with annoyance, and they have shut their eyes.” Years later Paul quoted it in the same words. Though in Isaiah’s prophecy it speaks of Isaiah as doing it, both Jesus and Paul show the people themselves did it, and not actually Isaiah.—Matt. 13:14, 15; Acts 28:25-27, NW.
12. Who makes men’s paths straight, men or God?
12 Another instance of this is where God’s servants are commanded to “keep making straight paths for your feet”, and yet elsewhere it is said concerning Jehovah: “He will make straight your paths.” (Prov. 3:6, AT; Heb. 12:13, NW) Who makes the paths straight? Predestinarians say it is God, not men, and try to prove it by quoting Jeremiah 10:23: “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” Man in himself cannot do it, but Jehovah will do it for him, not through predestination, but through His Word: “How can a young man keep his path pure? By heeding thy word.” “Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light on my path.” (Ps. 119:9, 105, AT) It is you that must of your own free will “keep making straight paths for your feet”, but since you can do it only by heeding God’s Word it is also correct to say Jehovah “will make straight your paths”, by means of his Word.
FOREKNOWLEDGE NO VIOLATION OF FREE WILL
13. What shows Jehovah’s power of foreknowledge?
13 Jehovah God can penetrate the innermost thoughts of the mind, and foresee the course that will be taken by not only individuals but also classes. (1 Sam. 16:7; Eph. 3:20; Heb. 4:12) He created the mind that directs man, knows its intricate operation, and can instantly detect the bent of man’s mind and know what that bent of mind will eventually lead to. He took just such a measure of men’s minds before the Noachian flood, and found them unreformable. (Gen. 6:5, AT) Before the Israelites entered Canaan Jehovah gave testimony against them for future reference, to show he foreknew what their mental disposition would lead them to and that they had been forewarned: “I know what their temperament will lead to, even now, before I bring them into the land, which I promised them on oath.” (Deut. 31:21, AT) He also foreknew and described in advance as a warning for us the wickedness of men in these last days of this old world; also the existence of a “great crowd” that would serve him. (2 Tim. 3:1-5, 13; Rev. 7:9, NW) So Jehovah foreknows that the majority of mankind today will perish with Satan at Armageddon, and that only a minority will side with him and live. (Isa. 24:6; Jer. 25:33) Hence he foreknows the fate of millions as a class, and so it is no great thing if he foresees the end of an individual. Yet in general he restricts his foreknowledge to classes rather than to the individuals comprising them.
14. What are some contentions concerning foreknowledge, yet what shows free will of individuals is preserved?
14 Foreknowledge, without certain prior conditions existing by which to determine the logical result to be expected, amounts to the same thing as predestination. Predestinarians disagree, for they say predestination is not based on any foreseen works of the individuals involved, as that would make destiny-fixing dependent on future works, and that they will not accept. Yet others still contend that God’s foreknowledge that some individuals in view of certain inward conditions will fail, forces them to fail in order that the divine foreknowledge be proved right. Or, for that matter, that God’s foreknowledge that the majority will perish at Armageddon rules out any widespread conversion to godliness. Their analysis fails to reach the root of the matter. The point is, the mere exercise of his foreknowledge based on certain existing conditions is not what makes the foreseen happen. His exercise of it is a gracious service to men, for it makes possible the warnings in his Word. Since they primarily concern classes without fixing the fate of individuals, it makes it possible for individuals to put themselves in the surviving minority class and to shun the perishing majority group. To be saved individuals must be, not according to the King James Version “ordained to eternal life”, but according to modern translation “rightly disposed for everlasting life”, and such personal disposition is unaffected by foreknowledge. (Acts 13:48, NW; Ro; ED) The individual’s inmost thoughts, his heart condition and his deeds are the basis on which judgment and destiny rest. (Rev. 2:23, NW) Otherwise, why would Jehovah test persons, and why would the Devil rage like a lion to devour the faithful? The issue of integrity would become meaningless, unreal.
15. What illustrations concerning inanimate things show foreknowledge does not make things happen?
15 To illustrate how the mere exercise of such conditioned foreknowledge does not of itself destroy independent action, consider examples of the limited use human creatures make of it. An astronomer can foretell when a certain comet is going to streak through the sky, or when there will be an eclipse of the sun or moon. Does his foreknowledge of the comet’s visit or the eclipse make such things happen? An engineer may know bridges, and see a weak brace, and know that when a heavy freight train comes along the brace will give way and the bridge collapse. Does his mere knowledge of the weakness make the brace break and the bridge fall? A machinist may use X ray to see a hidden flaw within a steel part of a machine and thus know the part will break under the strain of operation. But would not the part break regardless of whether the machinist knew the weakness or not? We know the sun will rise tomorrow, but it is not our knowing that fact that makes it rise.
16. What illustrations involving animate things make the same point?
16 Or take illustrations of animate things. We know that a cat will play with a mouse and a dog will chase a rabbit. We know that because of our knowledge of cats and dogs. But our mere knowing it does not bring it about. If we were totally ignorant of the ways of cats and dogs when in the presence of mice and rabbits, the tormenting play and the frantic chase would still take place. You may know someone who is an alcoholic, and know that when he begs money from someone he is going to spend it for liquor. But your foreknowledge of that does not make him do it. When you have close friends and learn their mannerisms or mental tendencies or peculiarities, you often know in advance what they will do under certain circumstances. But your foreknowledge due to insight into their personalities does not force them to so act, does it? They still act of their own free will, unmaneuvered and uncoerced by your foreknowledge, do they not? You may know how the quarreling nations of East and West will react under certain conditions, but because of that you would not think it just for you to be blamed for the squabbles, would you?
17. Why is it illogical to blame God for what he reads in a human mind?
17 So why blame God for what his foreknowledge reveals to him? He knows what is in the human mind, how it works, and is aware of its bent toward good or evil. But just that he can read what is in a man’s mind and see the way it will go does not make him responsible for what is in that mind, any more than we are responsible for what we may read in a book. It is the one who wrote the book that is responsible for its contents, and it is likewise the individual that harbors improper thoughts that is responsible for them. The thought is not put there by God, any more than we put the printed thought in the book we read. And just as we can either read or refrain from reading the book, so Jehovah can either look into or refrain from looking into our mind, can either foresee the course our mind will direct us into or withhold such knowledge from himself. In any event, we are created free moral agents and use that freedom as we choose.
ADAM MADE “VERY GOOD”
18. Why did Jehovah make man, and what illustration shows this purpose could be realized more so if man was a free moral agent?
18 Some, still stubbornly seeking to shift blame to God, criticize him for making man with free moral agency, saying if he had not done so man could never have gone wrong. Their reasoning is very shallow. Jehovah created man for His pleasure, and faithful men do give pleasure to God. (Ps. 35:27; 147:11; 149:4; Rev. 4:11) And it is the faculty of free will in man that greatly contributes to Jehovah’s pleasure. This is illustrated in man’s affairs, who was given dominion over the earth as God holds it over the universe. Man can make a mechanical dog, wind it up, and watch it hop around, knowing exactly what it will do. It is void of will, restricted by mechanical design. It may entertain for a time, but is not nearly as enjoyable as a live dog. The live dog has a certain measure of choice, and when we exercise dominion over it and train it we derive pleasure from it. The dog may be trained to do tricks, or render valuable service, such as that performed by a sheep dog. We are pleased because the dog does not obey us just because it has to, can do no differently. It gives us pleasure when it obeys us out of free choice, thus showing attachment to us. But if it rebels against our training, such as sheep dogs sometimes do by turning killer, we have no pleasure in it and are forced to destroy it because it misused its power of choice.
19. (a) So why was man given free moral agency, and how was he safeguarded? (b) How does God’s creating for his pleasure rule out Calvinist predestination?
19 In the same way man’s proper use of free will brings pleasure to God. Jehovah had many creations without free will, such as the stars and planets, which mechanically obey his laws of motion and stay in their assigned orbits; and even lower animals, and especially insects, are rather mechanical in action, since they are governed largely by instinct instead of reason. Man was to be something different, something higher, something suitable to put over the rest of earthly creation to exercise proper dominion over it, as a faithful servant of Jehovah. To make him “very good” for such an assignment Jehovah made man in God’s image, with qualities of justice, love, wisdom and power. (Gen. 1:26-31) A mechanical man, which is what one without free will would amount to, might have power, but would lack the other divine attributes. Justice implies the ability to choose between right and wrong. Wisdom involves among other things the intelligence needed to make the right choice. Love is shown by obedience to the commands of the Creator, and must be freely and cheerfully given to be genuine and a pleasure to the recipient. (1 John 5:3) God gave man these qualities, and the instructions for their proper use, and even added a conscience to guide when doubts as to right or wrong arose. (Rom. 2:12-16) But if the man rebels he is destroyed, just as is the sheep dog that turns killer. Yes, Jehovah could have made a robot instead of a man, but it would have given him no more pleasure than a mechanical dog gives us. So just as we prefer live dogs over mechanical ones, so Jehovah wanted live men with free moral agency instead of mechanical men. And, incidentally, since Jehovah created all things, including men, for his pleasure; and since he takes no pleasure in the death of men, he would hardly have predestinated many to die before he made them. Such creations would have brought him no pleasure, and would be a violation of his expressed principle of creating only for his pleasure.—Ezek. 18:23, 32; 33:11.
20. Despite some chronic complainers, what shows man would not wish to be other than a creature of free will?
20 Those who complain about being made with free will would not have it otherwise. They do not want to be a machine, or even a living insect guided only by instinct, responding in a mechanical way to environment, devoid of intelligence, unable to make decisions or cope with unanticipated changes in conditions. As men they would not welcome partial removal of their free will, such as happens when men go to prison, having little say as to where they go, what they do, how they live, and so forth. Even persons of Satan’s world are hemmed in and their free will is circumscribed to an extent. They are enslaved by a rotten system, their minds shaped by demonistic propaganda, spiritually blinded by false religions, physically bound down to an office desk or factory assembly line, with noses kept to irksome grindstones to meet the obligations of time payments and other accumulated responsibilities under a system that regiments humanity to facilitate the exploitation thereof. Men fight and die for freedom. They want freedom of worship now, but some object because God gave it to Adam and Eve. That pair misused their freedom; so some say they should never have had it. Many men misuse freedom of worship today; is that reason to deny it to all?
21. For what should we be thankful, and busily do what?
21 We are free moral agents, thank Jehovah for that. We are not motorcars at whose wheel God sits and steers in the right or wrong way, guiding us beyond our power to control. He does not run us by some celestial remote-control system as men can drive cars or sail ships or fly planes by remote control. We are not predestinated to go this way or that, like puppets with strings attached and which God sits around and pulls to suit his whim. He made us men, not puppets, not machines. Instead of fretting over it, quibbling with God about it, we should busy ourselves in using it rightly, in harmony with divine requirements, and thereby assure ourselves of everlasting life.
22. What do some critics say, but what illustration shows them wrong?
22 When Jehovah pronounced his earthly creation, including man, “very good” it meant perfect: “His work is perfect.” (Deut. 32:4) Yet some say, If Adam and Eve had been perfect they would not have wrongly used their freedom of will and choice. But not necessarily so. A machine may be well designed, of flawless materials, of excellent workmanship, and accompanied by clear instructions as to the kind of fuel that will suitably run it, and warnings against using inferior fuels. Now, if the wrong fuel is deliberately used in defiance of the manufacturer’s careful instructions and the machine is fouled up and ruined, can the maker be blamed for producing an inferior machine? Not rightly so. It was the same with Adam and Eve. Their minds were perfect. Their bodies were perfect. Their provided food for mind and body was perfect. They were clearly and perfectly instructed as to what fuel to take in and what to reject. Then Satan through the serpent suggested a change in fuel, saying it would give them more power, give them a lift, make them like gods. So Eve took in the wrong fuel and got fouled up. She gave some to Adam and he was fouled up. Both were beyond repair; they were deliberate in their disobedience to instructions. Of them it is true: “God made mankind right, but they have sought out many villainies!” —Gen. 2:16, 17; 3:1-6; Eccl. 7:29, Fenton.
23. What was the test in Eden to measure or demonstrate?
23 If Adam and Eve could not have used their free moral agency wrongly, it would not have been really free. God put them to a simple test to see how they would use it, to determine their holiness. It was a question of holiness, not of physical perfection. God knew they were perfect, and if that meant inability to fall away he would never have posed the test, knowing that due to their perfection they could not fail. The covering cherub was perfect until iniquity was found in him. (Ezek. 28:15) His perfection did not prevent his fall. His lack of holiness brought on his fall. Today some men choose to do right and serve God in holiness, but that does not make them perfect. Conversely, Adam and Eve chose to do wrong and be unholy, but that did not mean they were imperfect to begin with. It just means men are free moral agents, able to choose for themselves, and their right use of this ability is not a matter of perfection but of holiness. So the test in Eden was not to measure perfection or imperfection, but was to demonstrate holiness or unholiness.
24. How must Jehovah’s people now demonstrate holiness?
24 In these closing days of wickedness Jehovah’s people must demonstrate holiness. They must not foul their minds with the filthy mental food on the propaganda tables of this old world, but must feed on the feast of fat things Jehovah provides. (Isa. 25:6; 28:8) Minds must be cleansed and made over, mental circuits formed by old-world thinking and acting faded out and new ones put in according to new-world specifications. By privately studying regularly, by attending all meetings regularly, and by engaging in all features of the preaching work regularly mental circuits are deepened and such good activities become habitual, not at all the struggle they are when the mental circuits are weak and faint because used only occasionally. For ourselves and for others, make them strong!—1 Tim. 4:16.
25. What are the varying effects of the message when preached in the territories, and why is clay a fitting symbol for people?
25 The others for whose sake we must diligently preach are those out in the territories. When the message reaches them, how will they react? Will their mind, like pliable clay, be impressed with the truth, allow itself to be reshaped by it, brought into conformity with righteous Bible principles, be molded into ways of holiness to Jehovah? Or will the message come up against a mind that resists it, hardens against it, opposes it, ridicules and scoffs at it in a vain display of worldly superiority? Clay is a good symbol, for to shape into fine vessels it must be the right kind of clay, ground fine with no coarseness or hard lumps remaining, saturated with water, easily molded, able to hold its form and not sag out of shape, and not crack when burnt in the kiln. Similarly, persons must be of the right kind of soil, not rough or coarse in conduct nor with hard or stubborn streaks in them, but be saturated with the water of truth, fine-textured, smooth, pliable, meek, easily shaped to allow for thorough remodeling after the image of Christ, and then never drift back or collapse to the former shape or crack under the fiery tests of persecution sure to come. (Matt. 13:23; Heb. 10:39; 1 Pet. 2:21; 4:12) Jehovah, through his Word declared by his witnesses, will mold both vessels of wrath and vessels for glory. When a witness tells one householder there is no eternal torment the person may respond, “You make me so happy!” The next householder may cry, “You make me so mad!” It is the message that really makes them react, one so differently from the other. It is the message that makes the witnesses a sweet odor to one and a foul odor to the other, that molds one as a vessel of wrath and the other as a vessel of mercy.—2 Cor. 2:14-16, NW.
26. Of what may we be sure, and what question faces each individual?
26 Of this all may be sure. We will allow God to either reshape us or make us shapeless. We will become vessels of mercy and conform to the molding influences of his Word, or we will harden as vessels of wrath and be reduced to formless rubble by his King’s iron rod. (Ps. 2:6-9) The question before each individual is, Do we choose to remain a vessel of wrath, or to reform as a vessel of mercy? We are free moral agents empowered to answer as we choose, unhindered by predestination, uncoerced by foreknowledge.
a Id., Chapter IX, Sections 3, 4, pages 41, 42.
b Id., Chapter VII, Section 3, page 30.
c Id., Question 67, pages 166, 167.
d Id., Chapter XVII, Section a, page 65.
e Id., Question 18, page 140.
f Id., Chapter III, Sections 1, 5, 7, 8, pages 13-17.
g Id., Chapter III, Sections 2, 3, pages 14, 15.
h Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVIII, Chapter 1, ¶3.