The Living Word
“For the word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of the soul and spirit, and of the joints and their marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”—Heb. 4:12, NW.
1. What is the Bible?
JEHOVAH’S Word: what is it? “The Bible,” you correctly say. What is the Bible? It is a collection of books constituting the inspired recorded revelation of God. It is the great religious document. The mere possession of the Bible, written by hand and printed by machine, has given to its possessors degrees of satisfaction, for varying reasons. Does the total significance of the Word of God lie in its being just a book to be quoted to some extent by conflicting religions for its pithy sayings and well-turned phrases? No, thanks to its Author, there is more to it than that.
2. What moves men to act?
2 Since men have been upon earth their minds have been constantly assaulted for capture. Now as in no previous era men’s hearts and minds are flooded with propaganda, the purpose of which is to determine their course of action. What causes people to do what they do? Ideas. Ideas are in their minds, leading them on in one course or another. People are not automatons, nor do they operate solely by instinct. Men have minds and hearts in which are seated reason and motive. Therein ideas are plantable, and the objective of the old-world propaganda is to sweep through the minds of all persons, regimenting or lining them all up in opposition to the kingdom of Jehovah God by Christ Jesus.—Prov. 23:7.
3. Concerning the word of the Devil what may be said?
3 The demonic source of unclean teachings is the Dragon Devil. Through his beastly organization he operates upon the selfish minds and hearts of the falsely prophesying rulers and leaders of the people, and through them upon the minds of the people of the world in general. Prophetically, the Revelation states: “I saw three unclean inspired expressions that looked like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the wild beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are, in fact, expressions inspired by demons and perform signs, and they go forth to the kings of the entire inhabited earth, to gather them together to the war of the great day of God the Almighty.” (Rev. 16:13, 14, NW) The appeal of such expression or word of the Dragon in its many forms is to selfishness, to the self-interest of men, inducing them to follow such seeming self-interest ahead of and in disregard of principles of righteousness.—John 3:20, NW.
4. Describe and illustrate the relationship of words to ideas.
4 Obviously, in all of this conflict for the minds of men, words are the chief tools for conveying ideas. Words are symbols of mental images and impressions, used to convey such ideas from intelligent person to intelligent person. Words have significance because of the association therewith of the ideas they represent. Without this association of ideas, accepted and understood by all concerned, a word is just an unintelligible sound or a meaningless written symbol. This is illustrated clearly in the fact that a word has significance to a person who understands the particular language of which it is a part, but has no meaning to another person entirely unfamiliar with that language. In our own language, whatever that may be, we, no doubt, frequently inquire as to the meaning of a word that is new to us. The explanation may be given to us in many other words with which we do associate the accepted meaning, and thus we come to an understanding of the meaning of the new word. The point is, words convey ideas. Ideas are what move men to act.
5. Wherein is the force of words and of ideas?
5 Words have their force in what they represent; ideas have their power in the result they accomplish in the minds and actions of men. To the extent that the many millions of books that men have written present truthful information that builds up the mind they are beneficial. To the extent to which man’s writings influence the thinking and acts of man they are powerful. To the extent to which any written or spoken or otherwise symbolized idea conveys to the mind wickedness and ungodliness, leading to a course in transgression of God’s righteous principles, such is devilish and works against the best interest of mankind and to the defamation of Jehovah’s name.—John 8:42-47, NW.
6. In what regard does the controversy for the minds of men exist?
6 Obviously, it is not primarily in relation to mere facts as such that an issue exists, but, rather, it is in regard to teachings that affect man’s relationship to God that the vital controversy for the minds of men is found. In quantity the Word of God, the Bible, is in great contrast with the published word of man. Reportedly, in the Library of Congress alone there are seven million volumes, reminding us that “of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” (Eccl. 12:12) In the “little” Bible there is an abundance of facts set out that are common knowledge, such as many references to the beauties of the natural creation.
7. How do men in general view Bible principles of conduct?
7 Not only do these accepted facts appear in the Scriptures, but therein principles of conduct are found. Generally speaking, people will agree that those principles are good, and are content that many such principles have been incorporated into the laws of the nations. In point, the Bible condemns lying, stealing and murder. Recognizing good principle, the laws of the land also forbid these things and provide punishment for transgression under certain circumstances. However, the righteous principles of God’s Word are more difficult for men than is the acceptance of Bible facts of common knowledge. Many people say with their lips and in their publications that Bible principles of conduct are good, and yet the actual, consistent and persistent practice of those very principles by such people is indeed a rarity. Unapplied, they are not living principles.
8. In addition to facts of common acceptance and principles of conduct, what powerful third feature is contained in the Bible?
8 Common fact and good principles do not exhaust the Word of God. Prophecy also is there. Although it is one of the Bible’s most amazing and powerful features, the interpretation and fulfillment of which are in the hands of Jehovah God, to the world in general Bible prophecy is absolutely dead; both the so-called Christian and the non-Christian world are dead, unresponsive to it. Generally speaking, Bible prophecy is not understood, not believed; it is given no credit, is ignored.
9. The most important element of the Bible is what?
9 God’s Word includes more than even these foregoing features. This is the most important element of the Bible: its revelation of the true God. It contains his many titles, and identifies him by his name JEHOVAH. Bible facts, principles and prophecies all find their real value in pointing to the living God.—Jer. 10:10, AS.
10. The infinite mind of Jehovah God is revealed to man in what way?
10 Because the Bible is the Word of the living God it is living and has power; standing in the world as a bulwark against the flood of hurtful propaganda, it alone offering a safeguard for the minds and hearts of men. It is a revelation of the mind of the Creator, Jehovah God, and is his instrument to convey to the minds of men ideas of his infinite mind. It is composed of words that are Jehovah God’s words, available to us in whatever language is ours, translated for us from the original languages of the first Bible records. Those words stand for ideas that are God’s thoughts. Just as certainly as the great Word Giver is the living God, so certain it is that his inspired word of truth is the living Word.
11. Of the Word of God and the word and violence of men, which is more powerful?
11 Common is the saying to the effect that the pen is mightier than the sword. That is a recognition of the fact that ideas conveyed to the minds of men are more powerful than merely physical force. (Heb. 11:34, NW) Not only is God’s Word more powerful than physical force and violence, but it is mightier than the penned or spoken words of all the propaganda agencies of this ungodly old world. It is alive. The old world is dying, and its words are death-dealing. Common also is the motto “Actions speak louder than words.” Such motto recognizes the fact that it is possible to say one thing and do another. What a person eventually does reveals that which is in his heart, even though his speech may deceive.—Matt. 23:3, NW.
12. Illustrate how beautiful expressions may be used but not be conformed to.
12 I am thy servant; give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies. It is time for Jehovah to work; for they have made void thy law. Therefore I love thy commandments above gold, yea, above fine gold. Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way. Thy testimonies are wonderful; therefore doth my soul keep them.” (Ps. 119:125-129, AS) The beautiful and wonderful expressions contained in this passage can be repeated without either the speaker’s or the hearer’s actually believing them. A person can say to God, ‘I am thy servant,’ and yet refrain from serving Jehovah. He can ask for understanding, but can avoid the study of God’s Word, from which alone understanding can come. Profession can be made that a person loves God’s commandments above gold and yet the one so professing can disregard God’s commandments, reading them in the Bible and not following them, but instead turning his time and efforts to the acquiring of gold. If God’s precepts concerning all things are actually esteemed to be right and held valuable and proper for keeping, then the servant of Jehovah, upon coming to an understanding concerning Jehovah’s counsel upon any matter, will follow that counsel and will actually and literally avoid falsities because he hates them, delighting rather in his very being to keep the wonderful testimonies of God.
13. State the essentials that empower the Word of Jehovah.
13 God’s words are powerful, living and effective: first, because they are from the Creator of the universe, Jehovah God Almighty, and are backed up by his power and almightiness and they are right; second, if received into good and honest hearts and minds they guide the servant of God in a proper course of action, which will result in lasting life to him and to the exultation of the God whose commandments are obeyed and thereby justified. The fact cannot be overemphasized that words symbolize ideas. God’s ideas must get into your mind, and in order for them to be powerful they must have an effect upon your thinking and your course of life. Therein is their power; but simply having a book called the Bible in the possession of individuals or of nations without applying the things that God has caused to be set out in that book is of no benefit to the possessors. The result of following God’s Word is the worship of Jehovah and hence life for his worshipers. Simple faith in the Scriptures, based on an understanding and appreciation of them and on love for God and uprightness, is the great requirement filled by the Word of God.
14. In your own words state the contrasts set out in Psalm 1:1-6.
14 This is a contrast in two general courses of action and thought, set out in the very first Psalm in words as follows: “Blessed [happy] is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the wicked, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of scoffers.” This means that regardless of the extent to which wicked advice, sinful practices and scorn of God and his Word come to the attention of the man blessed by Jehovah, he will put these things aside. “But his delight is in the law of Jehovah; and on his law doth he meditate day and night.” In language symbolic, but which certainly conveys the proper thought, the end of such one is shown to be this: “And he shall be like a tree planted by the streams of water, that bringeth forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also doth not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” Wicked counselors, including the religionists that persistently advise you to disregard the study of God’s Word with Jehovah’s witnesses, are not fruitful trees that prosper. No, “the wicked are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the wicked shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For Jehovah knoweth the way of the righteous; but the way of the wicked shall perish.”—Ps. 1:1-6, AS.
15. (a) How powerful is the Word of God in our lives? (b) Give the meaning of “getting the sense of it.”
15 How powerful is the Word of God in our lives? As far as the individual is concerned, that depends measurably on whether or not he gets the sense of it. This is shown many times by Jesus, who, on one occasion, referred to “the one hearing the word and getting the sense of it, who really does bear fruit and produces, this one a hundredfold, that one sixty, the other thirty.” (Matt. 13:23, NW) What does it mean to get the sense of the Word of God? Jesus in a corresponding account makes it plain: “These are the ones that, after hearing the word with a right and good heart, retain it and bear fruit with endurance.” (Luke 8:15, NW) To get the sense of God’s Word means to hear it with real perception and appreciation, to appreciate its signification, the purport, drift, the meaning that is rational, intelligible and in accord with all the rest of God’s Word and with Jehovah’s righteousness. It takes a right and good heart to do that, and such heart will retain the word. The power of God’s living Word is manifested as being in the heart of such a person by the fact that he bears fruit and has endurance through his service to Jehovah’s praise. “On this account take up the complete suit of armor from God, that you may be able to resist in the wicked day and, after you have done all things thoroughly, to stand firm.”—Eph. 6:13, NW.
16. Show what tremendous power for protection and for offense is exerted by the living Word.
16 The sixth chapter of Ephesians, in which God’s provision is symbolically referred to as a suit of armor, shows that God’s Word has power both for protection and for offense in Christian warfare. (Eph. 6:17, NW) The apostle Paul stated the same truth in this way: “The night is well along; the day has drawn near. Let us therefore put off the works belonging to darkness and let us put on the weapons of the light.” (Rom. 13:12, NW) Undoubtedly it was from the Hebrew prophets of God that the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures drew for this representation of God’s Word as vital fighting equipment, because in Isaiah they read: “And he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a mantle.” (Isa. 59:17, AS) The prophet also stated: “And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me: and he hath made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he kept me close.” (Isa. 49:2, AS) The mental and, therefore, vital protection of the truth is further shown in its renovating process as applied to the Christian’s mental disposition: “And 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) This is a tremendous power exerted by Jehovah’s Word in the lives of his people.
17. As to the building up of Christians, what has the power?
17 To those among whom he had gone preaching the kingdom of God, Paul explained that he was leaving and that they would not see him again. He warned them against symbolic wolves who would come among the Christian flock and teach words contrary to the truth that the apostle Paul had brought to them and that had blessed them so richly. Paul said: “I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore keep awake, and bear in mind that for three years, night and day, I did not quit admonishing each one with tears. And now I commit you to God and to the word of his undeserved kindness, which word can build you up and give you the inheritance among all the sanctified ones.” (Acts 20:29-32, NW) Paul here shows the power of God’s Word to build up the Christian congregation. There is nothing else that can do so and bring them the inheritance that is gained through maturity and faithfulness.
18. In our lives, what has power of identification?
18 Furthermore, the Word of God repeated and expressed by his servants has power to identify them as worshipers of Jehovah. Opposite identification is also contained in the words of those who speak contrary to the Scriptures. The great Teacher used a very obvious illustration to make this point, stating: “For there is not a fine tree producing rotten fruit; again there is not a rotten tree producing fine fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For example, people do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they cut grapes off a thorn-bush. A good man brings forth good out of the good treasure of his heart, but a wicked man brings forth what is wicked out of his wicked treasure; for out of the heart’s abundance his mouth speaks.”—Luke 6:43-45, NW.
19. Explain what is another exclusive power of God’s Word.
19 This living Word of God exerting power is said to be sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of the soul and spirit and being able to discern what is in the heart of man. (Heb. 4:12, NW) No other word in existence can do that. None but the living Word of God has the power thus to discern and judge. Jesus spoke the word of his heavenly Father and said: “He that disregards me and does not receive my sayings has one to judge him. The word which I have spoken is what will judge him in the last day.” (John 12:48, NW) The apostle Paul looked forward to the great “last day” of judgment in which we are now living, and, while giving immediate counsel to the congregation at Corinth, he also spoke prophetically, saying: “Hence do not judge anything before the due time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring the secret things of darkness to light and make the counsels of the hearts manifest, and then each one will have his praise come to him from God.”—1 Cor. 4:5, NW.
20. Comment on the “dividing of the soul and spirit.”
20 In connection with this power of judgment of God’s Word, we recall that it “pierces even to the dividing of the soul and spirit.” (Heb. 4:12, NW) The soul and the spirit are not synonymous. The living creature is the soul, but his spirit is his motivating force. It moves him. A man may have a good spirit or a bad spirit. Sometimes we say: “I can’t be there in person, but I’ll be there in spirit,” and that is a proper expression, justified by the Scriptures. For instance, Paul stated to the Colossians: “For though I am absent in the flesh, all the same I am with you in the spirit, rejoicing and beholding your good order and the firmness of your faith toward Christ.” (Col. 2:5, NW) So searching and piercing is the Word of God in the lives of his people that it distinguishes and even enables each one to distinguish between that which he actually does, which can be seen by other persons as well, and the spirit in which he does it, that is, his motive, his moving force. Self-examination in the light of God’s Word enables us to determine whether we are doing what we do because of love for God.
21. Why and how must we serve Jehovah, and what enables us to do so?
21 So powerful is Jehovah’s Word that it enables us to serve God persistently, consistently and faithfully, enduring year after year, progressing in the truth, maintaining joy and happiness, and this regardless of what any other creature does or seems to do, whether he is in the organization of God’s people or outside the New World society. We must serve Jehovah God because of our personal relationship to him, and must live our own lives properly in harmony with God’s Word and let other people live their lives, bearing before God their own responsibility for their course of action. (Gal. 6:5, NW) We can fool other men. Men can fool us. If we refuse to permit God’s Word to penetrate us and search us out, discerning between our soul and spirit, we may accomplish self-deception, but we do not change God’s Word and its judgment, nor Jehovah himself nor Christ Jesus, his appointed Judge. Because it declares Jehovah’s judgments, which are sure, God’s Word has the power to burn and to break, as he states: “Is not my word like fire? saith Jehovah; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” (Jer. 23:29, AS) We must never draw back from his glorious service.
Oh how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day. Thy commandments make me wiser than mine enemies; for they are ever with me. . . . I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might observe thy word.—Ps. 119:97-101, AS.