All, “Stand Firm”
“Consequently, my brothers beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, stand firm in this way in the Lord, beloved ones.”—Phil. 4:1, NW.
1. Quote or read again 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15 and show how it might properly be viewed by us.
WHEN we younger ones of the Lord’s other sheep read such a passage as 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15, it is as though our great “oldest brother,” Christ Jesus, through Jehovah’s “faithful and discreet slave” class, were speaking to us and saying to us that, because of the good news it has preached to us, we have the opportunity for salvation, and we are thankful for the admonition Jehovah gives to us through this channel to “stand firm.”
2. Wherein is found a proof that sanctification can be maintained?
2 The presence upon the earth for forty years since the birth of the heavenly kingdom of solid, sound, faithful members of the “little flock” of sanctified ones and also of members of the Lord’s other sheep who have been long in the ministry is proof, not only that sanctification is Jehovah’s will for Christians, but also that it is something that can be maintained year after year. It is proved to be both real and possible. Those of Jehovah’s servants who recognize themselves to be of the body members of Christ or the sanctified congregation in humility before God thank him for the privileges they have had and are having now, and they know that they, too, must continue to stand firm and maintain their sanctification, clinging to it like a bulldog. They seek no retirement from service, no deflection inconsistent with their anointing. Their steps toward their heavenly prize have taken them too far along the way for them even to think of turning aside at this late date. To them the Kingdom prosperity that is present and ahead is no real indication that any should slack the hand and ease up, or settle down and seek personal pleasure, but, rather, continue to push on, even as Paul himself said: “Brothers, I do not yet consider myself as having laid hold on it; but there is one thing about it: Forgetting the things behind and stretching forward to the things ahead, I am pursuing down toward the goal for the prize of the calling above and which God extends in Christ Jesus. As for us, our citizenship exists in the heavens, from which place also we are eagerly waiting for a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will refashion our humiliated body to be conformed to his glorious body according to the operation of the power which he has, even to subject all things to himself. Consequently, my brothers beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, stand firm in this way in the Lord, beloved ones.” (Phil. 3:13, 14, 20, 21; 4:1, NW) The aged congregation, including the “remaining ones” or “discreet slave” and its members, have longed for the increase they now see, and, now seeing it, they have great joy.
3. Explain the relationship between the apostle Paul and the Philippian congregation, and show parallel facts today.
3 As was his privilege with the Thessalonians, so it seems that Paul was the first one to preach the good news to the Philippians before he wrote the foregoing. The tie of love between Paul and the congregation in Philipʹpi was strong. Paul visited them twice after their establishment and strengthened them in the faith. He wrote to them his epistle appearing in the Christian Greek Scriptures as Paul’s letter “to the Philippians,” and the Philippians rendered both spiritual help and material assistance to Paul. Surely they filled his longing. They were his joy. Speaking from the standpoint both of the old organization and the older ministers in God’s work in this day, we say, You who have more recently come to the truth and service of Jehovah, you who are of the Lord’s other sheep, adding to both the numbers and activity of this New World society, “you are our joy.” We have longed for you. You are living evidence and proof that devotion to Jehovah’s righteous cause is not confined to a small handful, but it embraces many, even you, and to you we say, “stand firm in this way in the Lord, beloved ones.”
4. Discuss the glory and adornment of the New World society.
4 The claimed glory of the old system of things is shabby and shoddy, because it is the reflection of the evil of its false god, Satan the Devil. The wonderful glory of Jehovah’s kingdom is beyond description in our inadequate words, because it is a reflection of the glory of the true God, Jehovah. As far as we upon the earth are concerned, as the representative members of the nucleus of the New World society, our common purpose is the worship of this glorious God. Jehovah’s glory and beauty on the earthly organization of God’s servants are found in its faithful members who themselves conform to the principles of righteousness; and thus, in some measure, although limited indeed, the glory of God is reflected. When you learn of the provisions of Jehovah as outlined in his Word, take your stand on his side, dedicate yourselves to him and uphold his cause, you are the adornment of this Christian group. Jehovah knows those who are his, and if you are his he knows you and loves you. Your fellow servants upon the earth hold you in high esteem, and you who are younger brothers in the worship and service of God are in fact as the joy of God’s earthly organization now. You have a great responsibility to keep clean and upright, not going along in the way of the nations which do not know God, because “the man that shows disregard is disregarding, not man, but God, who puts his holy spirit in you.”—1 Thess. 4:8, NW.
5. To you of the Lord’s other sheep what does 1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20 say, and what debt do you owe?
5 As you continue faithful to Jehovah it is as though your older brothers and your older “discreet slave” say to you: “For what is our hope or joy or crown of exultation—why, is it not in fact you?—before our Lord Jesus at his presence? You certainly are our glory and joy.” (1 Thess. 2:19, 20, NW) It follows that you have a great debt, a spiritual debt to God, and to his faithful society which has brought to you the truth to which you have responded and which has led you to set your feet in the path of holiness and salvation. Pay your debt in loyalty and loving devotion.
6. Mention briefly some additional preliminaries of sanctification.
6 We can say that sanctification is received not only from God and through the truth and its being preached to us, but also through dedication to Jehovah. Hence sanctification of the members of the body of Christ comes through union with him, through the spirit of God upon them, through their faith in Jehovah and his Word, and faith in Christ Jesus, his provision for life. As it is written: “According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, with sanctification by the spirit, for the purpose of their being obedient and sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ.”—1 Pet. 1:2, NW.
7. In paragraph seven, several points are made regarding ecclesiastical sanctimoniousness. Please relate them in your own words.
7 Well, in all these points relative to sanctification and how it is received, where do the showy ecclesiastical ceremonies come in? Nowhere. They have nothing to do with the sanctification taught in the Bible. They are inventions of men dating from outright paganism, embellished through the imagination of modern pagan worshipers to impress and mislead the people. One of the outstanding proofs, in addition to the Bible, that the claimed sanctification through the childish ceremonies of orthodox Christendom is false and but contributes to hypocritical sanctimoniousness is found in the fact that Christendom is morally bad, rotten and corrupt in its every department, reproaches Jehovah God, fights against him, not for him and his cause, persecutes to the limit those who are trying to teach the people the clean principles of God’s holy Word, and is doomed to destruction at the hands of Jehovah’s chief vindicator, Christ Jesus, at the near battle of Armageddon. Its pagan and false doctrines of so-called “sanctification,” and other doctrines and practices as well, have not a single Scriptural support. They perpetrate a great wrong upon mankind in general because they hide from the eyes of the people the truth of God’s Word, the Bible, concerning true holiness. The leaders and the people share in their common guilt in reproaching God’s name.
8. What must those devoted to righteousness do?
8 In our consideration of sanctification we need not be confused or discouraged by what orthodox religion has done to this golden expression found in God’s Word, which is filled with meaning and which is a Christian essential. You who are devoted to righteousness cannot afford for a minute to go along with the old world, this old system of things, and its standards, its doctrines, or its practices. Stand clean. Maintain your sanctification and your hope of sanctification to life.
9. What point does Paul make regarding self-control?
9 One of the points Paul makes in writing to the Thessalonians on self-control is: “That each one of you should know how to get possession of his vessel in sanctification and honor, not in covetous sexual appetite such as also those nations have which do not know God; that no one go to the point of harming and encroach upon the rights of his brother in this matter, because Jehovah is one who exacts punishment for all these things, just as we told you beforehand and also gave you a thorough witness.” (1 Thess. 4:4-6, NW) (A similar use of the word “vessel” is where Saul is called a “chosen vessel” at Acts 9:15.)
10. How is “vessel” here used, and in what way is self-control an essential?
10 Here the body of each individual Christian is referred to as a “vessel.” It is speaking of the body or the self of the servant of God as an instrument to be used by the Christian in the proper manner. This requires self-control. It results in dependability, and this dependability comes from our proper evaluation of our relationship to Jehovah God, of our glorious treasure of service and of the theocratic New World society and our part in it. One maintaining sanctification is a dependable man or a dependable woman. That this is not automatically kept but must be constantly pursued is suggested by Paul’s entreaty: “Only behave in a manner worthy of the good news about the Christ, in order that, whether I come and see you or be absent, I may hear about the things which concern you, that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one soul fighting side by side for the faith of the good news, and in no respect being frightened by your opponents. This very thing is a proof of destruction for them, but of salvation for you; and this indication is from God, because to you the privilege was given in behalf of Christ, not only to put your faith in him, but also to suffer in his behalf.”—Phil. 1:27-29, NW.
11, 12. What is necessary in order for sanctification to be maintained?
11 We have mentioned briefly the agencies through which sanctification is attained. In order for sanctification to be maintained it is necessary to keep bright these agencies of its attainment. Sanctification is from Jehovah God. To maintain it, keep the heart fixed on Jehovah. Sanctification is through the truth of Jehovah’s Word, the Bible. To continue in this condition of holy devotion it is necessary that the Word of truth be constantly studied and adhered to. The waters of truth are represented as a great stream, flowing from the temple of Jehovah. (Rev. 22:1, 2) From this abundant stream Christians must continually fill their hearts and minds, and, as they so keep drinking these waters of life, within them fountains of water bubble up to impart everlasting life.—John 4:14.
12 To us the opportunity for sanctification was brought because we were ministered to by some other person who was preaching the good news of God’s Word. Our sanctification, from this standpoint, depended upon that ministry. In order for us to maintain our sanctification it is essential that we be active in the ministry, engaging in it, preaching, carrying the truth to others. This activity is a proof of our ministry and glorifies our God in harmony with what the sanctified Lord Christ Jesus stated: “My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit and prove yourselves my disciples.” (John 15:8, NW) The devotion to Jehovah, evidenced by our water immersion in symbol of our dedication to him, must be constant, and therein our unity with our fellow servants be manifested. Keep strong the faith that brought us into relationship with Jehovah, so that his spirit leading to sanctification may ever rest upon us. Like the Thessalonians, we today know the orders to Christians from God’s Word. “For you know the orders we gave you through the Lord Jesus.”—1 Thess. 4:2, NW.
ARE THE OTHER SHEEP SANCTIFIED?
13. Paul identifies sanctified ones. Who are they?
13 We previously noted that in addressing the Thessalonians Paul was writing to prospective members of the body of Christ, sanctified by Jehovah God because set apart to do the work of those who are his spiritual sons. “Moreover, brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant concerning those who are sleeping in death, that you may not sorrow just as the rest also do who have no hope. For if our faith is that Jesus died and rose again, so, too, those who have fallen asleep in death through Jesus God will bring with him. For this is what we tell you by Jehovah’s word, that we the living who survive to the presence of the Lord shall in no way precede those who have fallen asleep in death, because the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet, and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first. Afterward we the living who are surviving will together with them be caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Consequently, keep comforting one another with these words.” (1 Thess. 4:13-18, NW) Then, too, in connection with the maintaining of sanctification and abstaining from fornication Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I, then, take the members of the Christ away and make them members of a harlot? Never may that happen!”—1 Cor. 6:15, NW.
14. To whom does Revelation 7:9 refer?
14 With application at the time they were written as well as in our day, the foregoing texts we have considered from the Christian Greek Scriptures have immediate reference to the sanctified, consecrated, spiritual sons of God. What may be said then concerning the other sheep of the Lord Jesus? What about the great crowd of God’s servants, referred to, for instance, in Revelation 7:9 (NW), as: “Look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes, and there were palm branches in their hands”? Their service of praise to God is shown in Re 7 verse 10: “And they keep on crying with a loud voice, saying: ‘Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”
15. Is that “great crowd” sanctified?
15 That very chapter of Revelation makes it clear that these are not the sealed 144,000 of spiritual Israel. Rather, they are manifested after consideration is given to the congregation or body of Christ. The “great crowd” certainly are not sanctified in the sense of being members of the congregation of spiritual Israel; and yet do the requirements of holiness fall upon them in view of all the foregoing evidence which we have considered concerning the clean and pure worship of the true God, who himself is holy and righteous? We say, Yes, for the reason that Jehovah God does not approve unrighteousness, and those of the great crowd of his other sheep are certainly in his approval, if, as and when proving their faithful devotion to him. Their dedications are unquestionably genuine. Their service of praise to him is now swelling into a tremendous chorus to his honor and glory. They beautify the organization of Jehovah’s people on earth in this day. They love Jehovah and he loves them. Their prospects for everlasting life in the new world are thrilling. Even as Jehovah enjoined holiness upon the class of his earthly servants without heavenly hopes as expressed to them in Leviticus, at which time he called attention to his own holiness, and as Peter laid down this same principle as one to govern Christians of his day, so it now applies to all Christians in our day, including those of the Lord’s other sheep.
16. Where is the “great crowd” shown to be serving, and to what conclusion does this lead us?
16 There is another reason for this conclusion, which is the fact that Revelation 7:15 represents these of the great crowd as “before the throne of God, and they are rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple, and the one seated on the throne will spread his tent over them.” (NW) We cannot conclude that anyone serving Jehovah in his temple or in connection with his temple is corrupt, ungodly, unholy. “In his temple doth every one speak of his glory.”—Ps. 29:9.
17. Distinguish between consecration and sanctification.
17 Is sanctification synonymous with consecration? No, because consecration refers to the act of Jehovah in selecting and empowering the High Priest Christ Jesus and those of the anointed associate priests with Christ Jesus. (See The Watchtower, May 15, 1952.) Sanctification is in relation to other things. It contrasts one who is properly called “sanctified” with an unsanctified person or an unsanctified condition. Therefore, it is with complete propriety that Jehovah God, through his great appointed Judge, Christ Jesus, determines who are serving him faithfully and so are worthy of his approval because of their devotion to him.
18, 19. In discussing believing and unbelieving marriage mates, how does the apostle Paul apply sanctification?
18 Note the application of this principle by the apostle Paul in the seventh chapter of First Corinthians where he is discussing the relative sanctification of an unbelieving married person who has a mate that is a Christian. His words are: “If any brother has an unbelieving wife, and yet she is agreeable to dwelling with him, let him not leave her; and a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and yet he is agreeable to dwelling with her, let her not leave her husband. [Why?] For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in relation to his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in relation to the brother; otherwise, your children would really be unclean, but now they are holy.”—1 Cor. 7:12-14, NW.
19 In this divided family there is a contrast between the favorable position in which the unbelieving mate is found in relation to the believing one and the unfavorable position if both mates were not believing. The holiness is shown to be to the young children, who otherwise would be unclean, if neither one of the parents was a believer, or if the other parent was not sanctified in relation to the believing one. This does not mean that the unbelieving mate is not personally responsible for his course of unbelief, and it does not mean that the believing mate is going to take the unbelieving one into everlasting life in unbelief. We are interested in the fact that the apostle Paul does say the unbelieving one is sanctified relatively, although he does not become a sanctified one or “saint.” We mention it here to show that it is proper for those of the Lord’s other sheep in reading in God’s Word the requirements for sanctification to Jehovah God to apply to themselves those principles of righteousness that must be followed and live up to them. It is proper, too, for them to know that they must maintain their condition of devotion to God’s righteous cause in order to be a praise to his name and to inherit everlasting life in his righteous new world. (2 Pet. 3:13) As it is written to the sanctified congregation: “God called us, not with allowance for uncleanness, but in connection with sanctification.” (1 Thess. 4:7, NW) Although the other sheep are not members of the “holy nation” composed of those called “saints” or “sanctified ones,” they are now closely associated with that nation as part of the “one flock” under the “one shepherd.” Hence they must not act as a defiling influence among them as the “mixed crowd” once did among the sons of Israel in the wilderness. (Num. 11:4, NW) No; but they are required to measure up to the requirements of holiness as far as these apply to the Lord’s other sheep and so be safe companions of the remnant of the “little flock” of sanctified ones.
20. With what encouragement to stand firm does Paul close his first letter to the Thessalonians?
20 Paul closes his first letter to the Thessalonian congregation of sanctified ones on such a happy and encouraging note, saying: “May the very God of peace sanctify you completely. And with soundness in every part may the spirit and soul and body of you brothers be preserved blameless at the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who is calling you is faithful, and he will also do it. The undeserved kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” (1 Thess. 5:23, 24, 28, NW) In accord with God’s sanctifying completely the remnant of the “little flock” yet on earth he will deal favorably with the “great crowd” of faithful other sheep because of their loyal relationship with the sanctified remnant.—Matt. 25:34-40, 46.
For “anyone that calls upon the name of Jehovah will be saved”. However, how will they call upon him in whom they have not put faith? How, in turn, will they put faith in him of whom they have not heard? How, in turn, will they hear without some to preach?—Rom. 10:13, 14, NW.