“Become Reconciled to God”
“But all things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of the reconciliation.”—2 Cor. 5:18, NW.
1. Despite conditions today, why do men of faith have confidence in Jehovah?
JEHOVAH God declares, “I, Jehovah, change not.” The knowledge of this fact gives great comfort to men of good will throughout the world today as they consider the wonderful purposes of God, which were foreshadowed as far back in human history as the garden of Eden. There Adam stood in a favored position before his Creator, with the prospect of a happy life on earth before him. Certainly the world of mankind today is far from that original position within God’s favor, and most persons think it only an idle dream that humankind will ever again have the prospect of peaceful and joyous life stretching before them as Adam did. Nor with the passing of the centuries have the majority of the human family again come close to God. World conditions show that the nations merely worship him with their lips and not with their hearts. The peoples generally do not reflect a love of God nor of their neighbor; instead, crime and delinquency are continually on the increase and the threat of war never abates.
2. What great need is there today, and what attitude is essential?
2 Therefore the words Paul wrote to the Corinthians now ring out even more clearly and with greater urgency than at the time they were written: “Become reconciled to God.” Yet it is a surprising fact that many persons see no need for a reconciliation with God. They feel that they are already saved and can do no wrong in his sight. But they overlook the warning Jesus gave to those who piously took this attitude, at the same time letting the world know how “good” they were. He spoke of the Pharisee who went into the temple to pray, saying: “O God, I thank you I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.” Jesus’ words of favor were not with this Pharisee, but with the humble tax collector. He was not even willing to raise his eyes toward heaven, but earnestly entreated God, saying: “O God, be gracious to me a sinner.” The tax collector showed by his humble attitude before God that he was conscious of his spiritual needs and he prayed that he might be reconciled to God. He was not demanding something from God, but asked for mercy and help. Nor did he enter the temple with the smug, complacent attitude of the Pharisee, which is reflected by many people today. They say, “I have my church and lead a good life.” They are sure that God will look after them and pave the way for their salvation—the very point of view of the Pharisee. He declared that he was not like most men: he led a good life and paid his tithes regularly to the church. Still meekness and humility were lacking, and these are essential qualities for all of mankind who hold dear the Scriptural promises that they may some day be reconciled to God and blessed by him.—Luke 18:9-14, NW.
3. What wrong viewpoint do some have toward God? What do they lack?
3 Some who do not realize their need for reconciliation take the imperious attitude, “If there is a God, he should do something to correct world conditions.” Unless they see a display of God’s power with better conditions for themselves and their families, they will do nothing on behalf of God. They lack faith and do not put forth the effort to find the pathway that leads to life. Although they may spend years learning how to earn a living, they do not consider it of importance to study the guide God has given us for life. So in their indifference they say, “Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.” They feel that God should prove to them that he is going to do something for them, and until that time comes they have no use for him.
4. What repercussions followed Adam’s disobedience?
4 In view of such widespread lack of faith and even indifference toward God you may well ask, Will mankind ever be reconciled to God? Will the blessing of unity between the Creator and the created ever become a reality? By what means? Will all men be reconciled to God? The Scriptures definitely establish that Jehovah God has provided a way whereby mankind will be restored to divine favor. It is true that from the time of Adam’s disobedience and rebellion in Eden men have been under the condemnation of God and his sentence of death. Paul explained this to the Romans by saying, “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12, NW) The disobedience of Adam brought a breach to the harmonious relationship between men and God. No longer was Adam permitted to remain in his beautiful paradise home. No longer did he have the prospect of everlasting life before him, nor could he pass it on to his children. Rather, he was now sentenced to toil in hard labor week after week in order to provide the necessities for himself and his growing family.
5. Describe the course men have followed through the centuries.
5 Since imperfection and the condemnation of death were passed on by Adam to all his sons, the outlook seemed bleak that men could ever be restored to God’s favor. Centuries after the rebellion the psalmist David wrote, “There is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Ps. 14:3, AS) Certainly man was in no position to restore himself to favor and life; in effect, to lift himself up by his own bootstraps. Instead, during the centuries of history, while man has done that which was right in his own eyes, the course he has chosen has been one of sorrow and death with the pillaging and ruining of the earth. Rather than living under God’s blessing and enjoying the service of enlarging the boundaries of the original paradise home, men have followed the road of unhappiness and misery. Therefore we ask, How could the blessings of life with God’s favor and a paradise condition on the earth be restored? How could such a reconciliation with God come about?
PROVISION FOR RECONCILIATION FOREKNOWN
6. How can we be sure Jehovah will yet bless his servants?
6 The arrangement for reconciliation has been known to God from the beginning and has been recorded in the pages of the Bible for the comfort and hope of men of faith. In Isaiah 45:21, 22 (AS) Jehovah reassures us that his purposes will never fail: “Who hath showed this from ancient time? who hath declared it of old? have not I, Jehovah? and there is no God else besides me, a just God and a Saviour; there is none besides me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else.” From the start of human history Jehovah has held out the assurance that those who serve him will not do so in vain. His purposes shall be accomplished and the earth shall be restored as a happy home for his servants.—Isa. 45:18.
7. To what does Isaiah 45:9-13 compare men? and what bearing does this scripture have on reconciliation?
7 Through his prophet Isaiah Jehovah showed the futility of all efforts of men to do the work God has assigned to himself. Mankind is likened to clay in the hands of a master craftsman, a potter, and Jehovah shows that the clay cannot fight against the one molding it or in any way change the pattern or arrangements of its fashioner. “‘Woe to him who strives with his Maker—a pot with the Potter! Does the clay ask its potter, “What are you making?” or a man’s work say to him, “You have no hands!”?’ . . . Thus says the LORD [Jehovah], the Holy One of Israel, who formed it: ‘Will you question me concerning my children, or give me orders regarding the work of my hands? I made the earth, and created man upon it; my hands stretched out the heavens, and all their host I marshaled; I have roused one in righteousness, and all his ways will I level; he shall build my city, and shall set my exiles free, not for price or reward,’ says the LORD of hosts.” (Isa. 45:9-13, AT) Jehovah here pointed forward to the one whom he would appoint in righteousness to reconcile those who have the love for God in their hearts. Once more the point is clearly emphasized that it is only through God’s arrangement that reconciliation for mankind and the blessings of God’s favor with life can be enjoyed.
8. From what time has Jehovah held out hope of redemption?
8 From the very beginning Jehovah pointed forward to Jesus’ sacrifice of his human life as the turning point that would restore the favorable relationship between God and men. “He was foreknown before the world’s foundation, but he was made manifest at the end of the times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, the one who raised him up from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope might be in God.” (1 Pet. 1:20, 21, NW) After their disobedience in the garden of Eden Jehovah clothed Adam and Eve with the skins of animals. Thereafter the Bible record tells us that the animal sacrifice of Abel was accepted by God, for such a sacrifice properly prefigured the arrangement of Jehovah that without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin.—Heb. 9:22.
9. Of what was the passover sacrifice a shadow?
9 The passover lamb that was sacrificed by each household of Israelites just prior to their flight out of Egypt also typified and foreshadowed the sacrifice that Jesus was to make. In ancient Egypt under the passover arrangement the blood of the lamb was sprinkled on the lintel and sideposts of the door of each home, and those who showed faith in the directions of Jehovah in this regard had his blessing with life for their first-born. In that way the sacrifice of the passover lamb cast light on the arrangement of God that was to come to fruition hundreds of years later, paving the way to reconciliation and everlasting life. (Ex. 12:21) For that reason Paul wrote: “For, indeed, Christ our passover has been sacrificed.” (1 Cor. 5:7; 1 Pet. 1:19, NW) John the Baptist also bore record of this when Jesus appeared before him in the wilderness. As Jesus approached, John said, “See, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!”—John 1:29, NW.
10. What price was required for sin atonement? How was this provided?
10 The law covenant that Jehovah made with the nation of Israel likewise offered a preview of the reconciliation that would come about by the sacrifice of Christ. It was the law, as recorded at Deuteronomy 19:21, that provided a life should go for a life. This was a clear statement of Jehovah’s righteous requirement. Just as Adam through disobedience had forfeited any right to an everlasting, perfect human life, so it was only Christ Jesus as his human equal before God who could balance the scales of justice in God’s sight. The inability of sinful man to meet God’s requirements is clearly shown in Psalm 49:7-9 (AT): “But no man can at all ransom himself, or give a price for himself to God; since the ransom of his person forever and ever is too costly, that he should continue to live forever, without seeing the Pit.” Since the life Jesus received as a human son of Jehovah was perfect, he could stand alongside Adam as his equal, and is aptly described as the second Adam, or “the last Adam.” Only the offering up of his perfect human life could forever atone for the loss that Adam had caused to mankind.
11. Why was not the right to life restored through the Mosaic law?
11 Though the law given through Moses itself was good, being a provision of Jehovah, it could never restore the right to eternal life for mankind, for as long as men continued sinful and imperfect they would remain incapable of keeping the law in righteousness. It was for this reason that Jesus’ willing sacrifice was required, as we are told at Acts 13:38, 39 (NW): “Let it therefore be known to you, brothers, that through this One a forgiveness of sins is being published to you; and that from all the things from which you could not be declared guiltless by means of the law of Moses, everyone who believes is declared guiltless by means of this One.”
12. What was the purpose of the law?
12 According to the provisions of the law that God gave Israel, regular sacrifices of bulls and goats were offered, but the continual shedding of the blood of these animals could never take away sin. (Heb. 10:4) At Galatians 3:19-25 (NW) Paul asked the question: “Why, then, the Law?” The reply is given: “It was added to make transgressions manifest, until the seed should arrive to whom the promise had been made, . . . Is the Law, therefore, against the promises of God? Never that! For if a law had been given which was able to give life, righteousness would actually have been by means of law. But the Scripture delivered up all things together to the custody of sin, that the promise resulting from faith toward Jesus Christ might be given to those exercising faith. . . . Consequently, the Law has become our tutor leading to Christ, that we might be declared righteous due to faith. But now that this faith has arrived, we are no longer under a tutor.” Perhaps even more pointedly, in Romans 10:4 (NW), Jehovah explains to us: “For Christ is the accomplished end of the Law, so that everyone exercising faith may have righteousness.” All the various commandments of the law time after time called the attention of the Israelites to their inability to perfectly keep God’s requirements and thus gain life. But to those who were sincere and humble of heart and mind the law taught one lesson: the need for a redeemer to reconcile them to God.
13. How was the death of Jesus foreshadowed?
13 One final prophetic illustration may be mentioned to show that Jehovah knew from ancient time the provision he would make for reconciliation to life for mankind. This was beautifully shown in the twenty-second chapter of Genesis as God directed Abraham to offer his dearly loved son Isaac in sacrifice. Abraham’s tremendous faith in Jehovah and his purposes permitted him to proceed with the arrangement right down to the point of offering up the life of Isaac. Isaac, in turn, assisted his aged father in the preparations and showed his submissive willingness to the direction of his God Jehovah and his father Abraham. As a result Jehovah extended his blessing to Abraham with the promise that through the lineage of Isaac all nations of the earth would be blessed. Because of his great faith in God Abraham enjoyed a favored position, and is described as Jehovah’s “friend for ever.” (2 Chron. 20:7) In this illustration Abraham well pictured Jehovah, who offered his only-begotten Son Jesus in sacrifice, and Isaac pictured Jesus in his willing compliance with his Father’s will.
14. (a) Explain John 3:16. (b) How did Jesus follow the will of his Father?
14 The arrangement for reconciliation is Jehovah’s loving gift for mankind. As the scripture records: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, NW) We know that Jehovah has no love for this old world of unrighteousness and evil, but his love abounds for the new world of righteousness that he will establish under Christ as King. It is for this world and on behalf of men of good will of all generations that Jehovah provided this sacrifice of his dearly beloved Son. Knowing it was God’s will that he die to provide the ransom, Jesus prayed to his heavenly Father shortly before the time of his betrayal: “Father, if you wish, turn this cup aside from me. Nevertheless, let, not my will, but yours take place.” (Luke 22:42, NW) Paul reminds us of the undeserved kindness of Jehovah in this regard by saying: “For, indeed, Christ, while we were yet weak, died for ungodly men at the appointed time. For hardly will anyone die for a righteous man; indeed, for the good man, perhaps, someone even dares to die. But God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:6-8, NW) Following his death and subsequent resurrection to heaven itself, Jesus made presentation of the value of his sacrifice before his Father and by so doing put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.—Heb. 9:23-28.
15. What is the one course by which we may be reconciled to God?
15 To come into God’s favor now and to hold firm the prospect of continued blessing from Jehovah, it is essential to accept in faith this provision for human reconciliation. This we should do with great joy and with a desire to serve Jehovah to the fullest extent of our abilities. As Paul expressed it: “For if, when we were enemies, we became reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, now that we have become reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only that, but we are also exulting in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” (Rom. 5:10, 11, NW) Through Christ men of faith can again stand in the favored position that Adam once enjoyed in the garden of Eden. In fact, no other name has been given under heaven whereby men may be saved. Jesus himself testified, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”—John 14:6, NW.
NOT ALL MEN RECONCILED
16. Who will receive salvation?
16 Jehovah through his undeserved kindness has extended the opportunity for reconciliation of all men everywhere. Since his provision is for those of every race, language or position in life, does that mean that everyone will gain its benefits? In order to gain God’s favor, the Scriptures show that something is expected of the individual. (Matt. 21:28-30) God does not make salvation or reconciliation compulsory or automatic. Peter comments on this by saying, “And if the righteous man is being saved with difficulty, where will the ungodly man and the sinner make a showing?” (1 Pet. 4:18, NW) Obviously from the experience of his ministry and from his knowledge of God’s Word, Peter did not expect even every Christian to remain faithful and gain salvation.
17. How did the Jewish nation respond to Jesus’ ministry?
17 A case in point is the Jewish nation. Jesus had confined the few years of his earthly ministry in preaching to the Jews, in keeping with Jehovah’s promise to them that if they were faithful and obedient to his direction they would be a holy nation, a people for his name’s sake. The facts show, however, that they did not accept the wonderful opportunity before them as a nation. They failed to continue in obedient service to Jehovah’s commandments and refused to accept the Messiah when he appeared. No wonder Jesus condemned them for their lack of faith and even opposition to God’s service. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent forth to her,—how often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks together under her wings! But you people did not want it. Look! your house is abandoned to you.”—Matt. 23:37, 38, NW.
18. What opportunity did the Jews’ lack of faith open for the people of the nations?
18 Later on when the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans he showed that the Jewish nation had lost its opportunity. No longer was the prospect to be exclusively theirs that from their ranks would be selected the kingdom of priests, the chosen of Jehovah, to rule with Christ in the kingdom of the heavens. Rather, in 36 (A.D.) the message of the Kingdom began to be preached to the people of all nations. Paul explained that the casting away of the Israelite nation from their position of favor opened the way of reconciliation for the world. Then, lest the Roman Christians fall into the same snare as the Jews had before them, he wrote: “For their lack of faith they were broken off, but you are standing by faith. Quit having lofty ideas, but be in fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. See, therefore, God’s kindness and severity. Toward those who fell there is severity, but toward you there is God’s kindness, provided you remain in his kindness; otherwise, you also will be lopped off. They also, if they do not remain in their lack of faith, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again.” (Rom. 11:20-23, NW) So it happened that the very people who at one time spurned Jesus with the words, “We are Abraham’s seed,” found themselves cast off for not displaying the faith of Abraham.
19. Will all men eventually be reconciled to God? Explain.
19 In the sixteenth chapter of Luke Jesus again emphasized the fact that not all men will be reconciled to God, not even all those who claim to be his devoted servants. To the money-loving Pharisees who sneered at him he warned: “You are those who declare yourselves righteous before men, but God knows your hearts; because what is lofty among men is a disgusting thing in God’s sight.” He continued by relating the illustration of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man in time died and was buried, and while he continued in anguish he saw Abraham afar off, with Lazarus reclining in the favored position with him. But the only answer the rich man received from Abraham in response to his plea for mercy was, “A great chasm has been fixed between us and you people, so that those wanting to go over from here to you people cannot, neither may people cross over from there to us.” Certainly we cannot say that all rich men are condemned in God’s sight, for that is not the meaning of the parable. But Jesus pointed out that the money-loving Pharisees who declared themselves righteous before men could not deceive God. Though rich in the possession of his Word and in opportunities to honor him, they would not even supply the spiritual food, the meat in due season, to those who craved a few crumbs of it as Lazarus had. For that reason Jesus delivered a factual indictment against the faithless clergy of his day, as recorded in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew.
20. What warning to the rich man class did God give through Ezekiel and Jeremiah?
20 In similar vein, Jehovah inspired Ezekiel to write: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, even to the shepherds, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Woe unto the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the sheep?” (Ezek. 34:2, AS) The final unhappy end for such ones who, knowing God’s Word and provisions, only fatten themselves on them, believing the Scriptures to be a profitable means of personal gain, is recorded at Jeremiah 25:34-36 (AS): “Wail, ye shepherds, and cry; and wallow in ashes, ye principal of the flock; for the days of your slaughter and of your dispersions are fully come, and ye shall fall like a goodly vessel. And the shepherds shall have no way to flee, nor the principal of the flock to escape. A voice of the cry of the shepherds, and the wailing of the principal of the flock! for Jehovah layeth waste their pasture.”
21. Why will some not cross the chasm mentioned by Jesus?
21 Just as Abraham in the prophetic near-sacrifice of Isaac portrayed Jehovah God, so in the illustration that Jesus gave of the rich man and Lazarus, Abraham again pictured Jehovah. A great chasm was shown to exist between those hypocritically serving God for personal interests and those who, like Lazarus, found God’s favor because of their sincere search for truth and earnest prayer for mercy. As Jesus clearly showed, those who willingly continue to fulfill the illustration of the rich man class, while neglecting the comfort and spiritual nourishment of the humble people of the world, will never be reconciled to God.
GAINING JEHOVAH’S FAVOR
22. Why will not mere confession gain favor with God? What is required?
22 Nor for the average man, sincere though he may be, can a weekly confession gain a right standing with God. Instead of mere lip service, a changed, positive course of action is required, and it must be based on knowledge. (1 Pet. 1:14, 15) It is impossible to win God’s favor by following a zigzag course of conduct, during the week running amuck and then on one day of the week suddenly assuming an air of piety and devout worship. Jehovah looks upon the heart and knows the mind of man; and so a mere profession of righteousness is not sufficient to gain a blessing from God. A man who has an abiding love for righteousness will practice it. He will look to God and to his Word for guidance, never thinking that a simple confession to another imperfect and sinful human can right repeated and deliberate wrongs. To think that telling one’s sins and shortcomings to another person will in some way miraculously clear the slate before God is to show an undue and superstitious reverence for such person. This is certainly not in accord with the Scriptures nor with God’s arrangement that Jesus serve as our mediator. The apostle Paul vigorously protested against men of his time who wished to honor him as a deity. When the people of Lystra attempted to do acts of worship to Paul and Barnabas, they cried out, saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are human creatures having the same infirmities as you do, and are declaring the good news to you, for you to turn from these vain things to the living God.”—Acts 14:15, NW.
23. (a) How did Paul view his service to Jehovah? (b) Will God overlook the willful practice of sin?
23 Even though Paul was constantly active in Jehovah’s service, he never took the attitude that he had done enough so that he could now relax and slow down or retire. He did not advocate a mere confession as the way to become reconciled to God. Rather he pictured himself as pursuing and stretching forward toward the goal that God sets up in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:13, 14) He realized his imperfections and shortcomings and knew that it was only through Jehovah’s mercy that he had the wonderful privilege of knowing the truth and bearing witness to God’s purposes. He said: “For I am not conscious of anything against me. Yet by this I do not stand vindicated, but he that examines me is Jehovah.” (1 Cor. 4:4, NW) While at times we can encourage and strengthen our brothers by listening to their problems and giving them Scriptural counsel, we should never think that a confession is going to change their standing before God. It is the course of action that a person follows that counts, not mere words. He must no longer be guided by the old-world standards, but must make his mind over according to God’s Word of truth. This is clearly shown in Hebrews 10:26-29 (NW): “For if we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left, but there is a certain fearful expectation of judgment and there is a fiery jealousy that is going to consume those in opposition. Any man that has disregarded the law of Moses dies without compassion, upon the testimony of two or three. Of how much more severe a punishment, do you think, will the man be counted worthy who has trampled upon the Son of God and who has esteemed as of ordinary value the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and who has outraged the spirit of undeserved kindness with contempt?”
24. What choice is before each person?
24 In despair some think that they have sunk so low in the mire of human troubles that they have no hope. This is not necessarily so. Instead, a choice is open to each person. It is up to him whether he wishes to heed the call to quit being fashioned after the old-world system and to become reconciled to God or not. To such Jehovah writes: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword; for the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken it.”—Isa. 1:18-20, AS.
25, 26. What examples show everyone has an opportunity to enjoy God’s favor?
25 Jesus himself declared that the publicans and harlots would enter the Kingdom before the rebellious and self-righteous chief priests and elders of the people. This does not say that such publicans and harlots would continue in their evil course of action, but, as Jesus explained, they believed and showed faith. Because of this faith their past course of action was to be washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. Jesus further showed that no one is too insignificant or lowly to receive God’s loving provision for ransom and reconciliation. Using the illustration of a shepherd, he asked: “What do you think? If a certain man comes to have a hundred sheep and one of them gets strayed, will he not leave the ninety-nine upon the mountains and set out on a search for the one that is straying? And if he happens to find it, I certainly tell you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that have not strayed. Likewise it is not a desirable thing with my Father who is in heaven for one of these little ones to perish.”—Matt. 18:12-14, NW.
26 The same point is shown in the gladsome welcome that was accorded the prodigal son in the parable in Luke 15. The son journeyed to a far country, where he spent his time in riotous living until he was driven by the pangs of hunger to herding swine. Finally he came to his senses and returned to his father’s home, where he was received with happiness. The father announced: “This my son was dead but has come to life again, he was lost but has been found.” In the same way, even though one has taken a course that led him far from the house of his heavenly Father, Jehovah God, and has spent his time and life in foolish living, if he comes to his senses and realizes his shortcomings, it may be that Jehovah’s mercy and forgiveness will be extended to him. We are told, “He is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9, NW) Though Jehovah’s great provision for reconciliation and blessing is for men of all kinds, of all walks and positions in life, still it will be received only by those who devote themselves to God with their whole heart, mind, soul and strength.—1 Tim. 2:3, 4.
27. Why must we study to be pleasing to God?
27 To gain God’s favor and to be reconciled to him, study is essential. (John 17:3) Every person needs to continue growing in his knowledge of God’s Word. No one can say he knows it all, because the light of understanding is shining more and more to the perfect day. Are you handicapped by a lack of education, which makes it difficult for you to understand the deep things of the Scriptures? Do not be discouraged, but remember the counsel of James: “If anyone of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching, and it will be given him.” (Jas. 1:5, NW) Just as it is Jehovah who has made all provisions for reconciliation to himself through Christ, so it is Jehovah who has given us the guide to follow in his Word and who helps us follow it. In order to be pleasing to God in the service we render we need to be able to thoroughly grasp mentally the depth of the Scriptures and be rooted and established on a solid foundation of truth. What another person may know about the Bible is of no value to you, but it is your personal understanding of the truth that will serve you at all times as a foundation for faith.
28. Is belief in God sufficient for Christians?
28 If your heart condition toward God is right, such an accurate knowledge of the Bible, free from superstitious traditions and creeds, will bring strong faith. But knowledge in itself is not enough to be pleasing to God; faith in itself is not enough; zealous works are not enough. But it is the combination of knowledge, faith and service that finds Jehovah’s approval. The accurate knowledge of the truth we gain gives a firm foundation for our faith, and the unshakable conviction we enjoy through faith motivates us to action, to proving our faith by our works.
29. How did Jesus show that more than a good life is required by God?
29 In all these respects Jesus is the guide we should follow toward reconciliation. He devoted himself whole-souled to the service of his Father, “leaving you a model . . . to follow his steps closely.” He was not satisfied with simply leading a good life as a carpenter, but became active in the ministry as a good shepherd, gathering into one fold all those who were righteously disposed of the nation of Israel. He devoted his life to searching primarily for the lost sheep of that nation, and then organized his disciples to carry on the work following his death. He directed that this good news of the Kingdom should be proclaimed down until the very end of this system of things; for he knew that it was God’s purpose in time to gather out faithful men and women from all nations, and he paved the way for this.—Eph. 2:15-18.
PUBLIC DECLARATION TO ALL MEN
30. What event in Jesus’ ministry showed the way was to be opened for people of all nations to hear the truth?
30 Foreknowing that God would open the way to reconciliation to the people of other nations, he spoke freely on one occasion to a Samaritan woman at the well near the city of Sychar. There he told her: “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. God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.” (John 4:23, 24, NW) No longer would the worship of God be confined to one people or centered at one place, whether at Jerusalem or any other “holy city.” Instead, the way was being opened for men of all kinds wherever they might be to follow the direction of God’s spirit and be refreshed by the waters of truth. During the last three and a half years of his human life Jesus devoted himself to the ministry of reconciliation, serving as the spokesman and ambassador of his Father, Jehovah. The message Jesus brought the people carried the hope of everlasting life, for Jesus well knew the purposes of God from man’s creation in Eden until the present. He informed the Samaritan woman: “Whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty at all, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water bubbling up to impart everlasting life.”—John 4:14, NW.
31. How do many fall short of real service to Jehovah?
31 Having received these life-giving waters of truth for yourself, are you one who gladly invites others to share them with you? There are millions today who call themselves Christians but who do not actually follow Christ by devoting their lives to ministerial service. Millions have a basic knowledge of the Bible and declare they have faith in Jesus and drink of the waters of life. They thank God they are not as other men, pointing with disdain at the nations they call heathen; but, unlike true sheep, they do not follow the lead of the shepherd. Those who are truly Jehovah’s witnesses for reconciliation are happy to be of service to God and to their fellow men. They say as recorded at Hebrews 13:15 (NW): “Through him let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.”
32. What great service has been entrusted to us?
32 The apostle Paul was instrumental in bringing the good news for the first time to the peoples of the nations, and he spoke forcefully of the great work God has granted to those who understand his purposes today. He said: “But all things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of the reconciliation, namely, that God was by means of Christ reconciling a world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and he committed the message of the reconciliation to us.” (2 Cor. 5:18, 19, NW) Oftentimes great emphasis is laid on saving souls for Christ. However, it is not to Christ that we must be reconciled, but rather to Jehovah, our heavenly Father, through his Son, Jesus Christ. Christ himself serves as the Mediator and the foremost minister of the reconciliation, and as we continue in this work that he instituted, we are in effect associates of Christ in reconciling men to God.
33. How did Paul prove himself a faithful ministerial servant?
33 What have you done personally with this message of reconciliation? Are you sharing in this ministry? Nothing should weaken your faith or deter you from pressing forward in the service of God. You will recall that Paul counted it so important that even though he was imprisoned, mobbed, beaten, or was in perils from his own countrymen on account of the truths he preached, still he declared: “Nevertheless, I do not make my soul of any account as dear to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry which I received of the Lord Jesus, to bear thorough witness to the good news of the undeserved kindness of God. I have exhibited to you in all things that by thus laboring you must assist those who are weak and must bear in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, when he himself said, ‘There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.’” (Acts 20:24, 35, NW) Even though Paul was committed to chains, he did not permit this to stop his ministry of reconciliation, but he prayed that he might have the ability to speak with all freeness of speech to make known the good news for which he served as an ambassador.—Eph. 6:19, 20.
QUALIFYING FOR THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION
34. Who qualifies for this ministry? How?
34 Some raise the objection that they could not possibly share in this ministerial work because they are not qualified to do so. However, Jehovah has never chosen the self-wise and intellectual ones of the world, but rather he uses those who are humble and meek to carry out his service. In order that the young minister Timothy might prove qualified for the work that was ahead of him, Paul encouraged him: “Continue applying yourself to public reading, to exhortation, to teaching. . . . Ponder over these things, be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons. Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” (1 Tim. 4:13-16, NW) We can do the same today.
35. How does Jehovah qualify his witnesses for the ministry of reconciliation?
35 If we devote ourselves to gaining an understanding of the Word of God and then speak boldly and freely concerning it to others, we shall be able to answer the question, “And who is adequately qualified for these things?” in the same manner that Paul did: “We are; for we are not peddlers of the word of God as many men are, but as out of sincerity, yes, as sent from God, under God’s view, in company with Christ, we are speaking.” (2 Cor. 2:16, 17, NW) We can say this because Jehovah himself is our teacher through his Word. He sends his spirit for our guidance and strengthening, and by his organization today he instructs and prepares his ministers for their service. Those who share in the ministry of reconciliation explain their qualifications as being from God: “Not that we of ourselves are adequately qualified to reckon anything as issuing from ourselves, but our being adequately qualified issues from God, who has indeed adequately qualified us to be ministers of a new covenant.”—2 Cor. 3:5, 6, NW.
36. What is our motive for serving God? How may we do so?
36 Do we show by mature service that we are adequately qualified for the work we have to do? Can we say that the knowledge of Christ is perceptible through us because of our active ministry? Do we let our light of truth shine, reflecting like mirrors the glory of Jehovah and using great freeness of speech? If we are sincere in saying we appreciate the great love Jehovah has demonstrated by providing the way to reconciliation, then we should be willing to prove our love by taking part in the service he directs. We owe our hope of life to his provision through Christ. Knowing this, we should be anxious to extend the living waters of truth to others, just as Jesus did to the Samaritan woman. We may talk to the people as we call from door to door; we may spend a few minutes speaking the truth to our neighbors; we may take an hour to conduct a Bible study with a person of good will. This is all in keeping with Jesus’ direction that this good news of the now-established Kingdom would be preached in all the inhabited earth. In this way men of all kinds, of whatever nationality or color, may come to find and follow the pathway to a favorable standing before God.
37. Give reason why the message is urgent today.
37 There is an urgency in this message, because God has set a limit to the ministry of reconciliation. “True, God has overlooked the times of such ignorance, yet now he is telling mankind that they should all everywhere repent. Because he has set a day in which he purposes to judge the inhabited earth in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and he has furnished a guarantee to all men in that he has resurrected him from the dead.”—Acts 17:30, 31, NW.
38. To what do Christians look forward? How do they react?
38 Our ministry today does not point to the futile dreams of men who hope to patch up the world with political or religious adhesive tape, nor are such schemes in accord with the message Jesus taught. He told the disciples that they should pray for the establishment of the kingdom of God, under which the will of his heavenly Father would be done on earth as in heaven. He further stated that his kingdom was not of this old-world system, but that a change-over to a righteous theocratic rulership must come. (John 18:36) This will take place at the battle of Armageddon when Christ serves as the executioner for his Father, Jehovah, against those who alienate themselves from God and oppose the ministry of reconciliation. We know that the destruction of those who have no faith in God is not slumbering, for Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise. Therefore let us not close our eyes to the signs of the times in which we are living or draw back our hands from the work that has been given us to do. Do not take the attitude of those who say, “If there is a God, why doesn’t he do something?” Be assured that he has done something! He has provided his Son for the redemption of men of faith and will shortly complete the carrying out of his purposes with regard to the earth by wiping out the old system of things at Armageddon to make way for the new heavens and new earth wherein dwells righteousness.
39. (a) How are blessings of reconciliation now manifest? (b) How will they be brought to completion?
39 Then again, as in Eden, men will have the prospect of everlasting life in happiness upon the earth before them. Some will live through that time of trouble, just as Noah and his family lived through the flood, and will continue their existence under the perfect rulership of Christ the King. As God’s provisions for the blessing of men come into full effect, sickness and finally death will no longer have control over the bodies of men but will disappear. By the close of the thousand-year reign of Christ men will be completely restored to the righteous and favored standing in God’s sight that has been lost since the time of Adam’s deflection in Eden. Even at this time for those who are chosen by God to be within the heavenly “little flock,” there is the assurance that righteousness has been imputed to them and that they have been reconciled to God through the death of his Son. (Rom. 5:10, 11; 2 Cor. 5:18-21) But for all who look forward to life on the cleansed earth the reconciliation to God will come to its fullness at the close of the thousand-year reign of Christ. The knowledge of the reconciliation arrangement and the peace of mind it brings to God’s people now through faith, they will enjoy in completion at that time. During that righteous rule the beauties of the paradise as it was in Eden will be extended to envelop the entire earth as hundreds of thousands of Armageddon survivors work together to beautify their earthly home, and God’s purposes will be carried out as man serves under his direction.
40. What is the wise course to follow now despite all obstacles?
40 In view of these facts, even though we may have trouble and persecution for the present because of keeping a firm grasp on the word of truth, we should never faint or get weary in well-doing. We are told that weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning; and that certainly will be true for all those who are privileged to enter the new world under Christ’s enduring rule. This is the dark period of human history under the control of Satan, but even now the darkness is fading to make way for the dawn of the new world of righteousness. Will you be privileged to see and enjoy these tremendous changes in human history? If you have this hope, then share in the world-wide ministry of reconciliation that Jehovah’s witnesses are accomplishing today. It is as though God were making entreaty through them, saying, “As substitutes for Christ we beg: ‘Become reconciled to God.’”—2 Cor. 5:20, NW.
41. What prospect is now before men who love and serve Jehovah?
41 So doing you will have the true happiness that comes only by peace with God. You will see the time come when God will do to all subjects of Christ’s kingdom as he does now to those Christians in the new covenant: write his law in the hearts of all men. Then there will no longer be a need for every man to teach his neighbor and his brother, saying, ‘Know Jehovah; for they will all know him, from the least of them to the greatest. Jehovah will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.’ (Jer. 31:33, 34; Ezek. 11:19, 20) Imagine living with your neighbors and working together under such happy conditions! Before you there will stretch a thousand years devoted to mankind’s reconciliation to God, and beyond that there will be an eternity in Jehovah’s service. The loving provisions of Jehovah for mankind will also be reflected in his blessing upon all creation. To enjoy life then, share now in the ministry of reconciliation.
Indeed, you who were once alienated and enemies because your minds were on the works that were wicked, he now has again reconciled by means of that one’s fleshly body through his death, in order to present you holy and unblemished and open to no accusation before him, provided, of course, that you continue in the faith.—Col. 1:21-23, NW.