Holding Fast the Public Declaration of Our Hope
“Let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that promised. And let us consider one another to incite to love and right works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.”—Heb. 10:23-25, NW.
1. (a) Why do Jehovah’s witnesses desire to live? (b) On what solid basis is their hope of life fixed?
JEHOVAH is the Giver of life. He also gives knowledge to man as to how he can attain life. Jehovah’s witnesses have the hope of eternal life and are grateful for the knowledge they have of how life can be theirs unendingly through Jehovah’s undeserved kindness. They want to live, for with life they can worship the Sovereign Ruler of the universe. (Ps. 118:17) The majority of human creatures do not want to die and return to the dust, for in the grave where man goes there is no knowledge or wisdom, nor can the dead do any work. “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.” (Eccl. 9:5, 10, AS) Life, living in God’s new world, is the hope held out for man. Jehovah’s witnesses have hope in that new system of things, and this faith and hope are based on their knowledge of Jehovah’s Word.
2. Why should we study Jehovah’s Word?
2 Jehovah’s words have power. “For the word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword.” (Heb. 4:12, NW) With this truth in mind we should want to know what Jehovah says at any time, if it is within our finding out. We should certainly want to study his sayings. When God says something we should listen, because what he says has a tremendous effect on animate and inanimate things. “By faith we understand that the systems of things were put in order by God’s word, so that what is beheld came to be out of things that do not appear.” (Heb. 11:3, NW) David, a man who was after God’s own heart, appreciated the power of Jehovah’s word, for he stated: “By the word of Jehovah were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” (Ps. 33:6, AS) Man cannot conceive the power in the Creator’s words. It is written that “power belongeth unto God” and “the Almighty . . . is excellent in power.” (Ps. 62:11; Job 37:23, AS) With all the power in heaven and earth as Sovereign Ruler, he can certainly make his Word to stand and never return to him unfulfilled. Hence he himself says: “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isa. 55:11) Words so powerful we should study.
3. How should we regard the words of Jehovah’s chief spokesman, Christ Jesus?
3 When Jesus walked this earth he spoke the words of his Father in the heavens. He had faith in Jehovah’s words. His course of life was based on his Father’s promises. It was Jesus himself who said: “The sayings that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you that do not believe.” (John 6:63, 64; 8:26-28, NW) It is a fact that the majority of humans who lay claim to being Christian set themselves up as judges of God’s words and they individually decide whether certain texts of the Bible are true and can be accepted or whether they should be discarded. Their wisdom they set above that of Jehovah God himself. They class themselves with those who do not believe. Marginal reading of John 6:63 (NW) makes Jesus’ expression even stronger: “The sayings that I have spoken to you mean spirit and mean life.”
4. How did Jesus illustrate the danger of false reasoning?
4 This is no time to push aside the Word of God and say: “I’ll look into that some other time. I have yet many years to live; so I’ll do it later when convenient.” Man reasons that there is so much of importance in this world to care for that he does not have time for the ‘old’ Bible. He wants to keep up to date. He thinks that accumulating riches will make him enjoy life in his later years. But he may never enjoy his savings and he can easily lose out on living eternally. At one time Jesus illustrated this: “The land of a certain rich man produced well. Consequently, he began reasoning within himself, saying: ‘What shall I do, now that I have nowhere to gather my crops?’ So he said: ‘I will do this: I will tear down my storehouses and build bigger ones, and there I will gather all my grain and all my good things, and I will say to my soul: “Soul, you have many good things laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, enjoy yourself.’” But God said to him: ‘Unreasonable one, this night they are demanding your soul from you. Who, then, is to have the things you stored up?’ So it goes with the man that lays up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God.”—Luke 12:16-21, NW.
5, 6. Contrastingly, what do those who reason correctly do?
5 To be rich toward God, to hold fast your hope, you must study the precious Word of God and continuously make public declaration of it. Anyone having the hope of life in the new world must boldly and thoughtfully tell out this good news, making it known to everyone who will listen. “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness,” said Jesus, because words so preached would be words of life. (Matt. 24:14, NW) Faith in the true God on the part of any individual comes by hearing the words of God. “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 someone to preach?” (Rom. 10:14, NW) One who knows the words of eternal life must teach them so that others can hear and so that those who do hear can have faith. Then these in turn will study God’s Word like the teacher. “Preach the word” is the admonition of that faithful follower of Christ Jesus who knew that faith is built on accurate knowledge. (2 Tim. 4:2) To live in the new world one must be filled with the knowledge of God. If you could not be filled with the knowledge of God, then you would have to say that God is not a good teacher. True Christians realize, however, that they will “all be taught by Jehovah.” (John 6:45, NW; Isa. 54:13, AS) Learning from such a wonderful Teacher you will not want to keep the knowledge to yourself, “for with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.”—Rom. 10:10, NW.
6 Our concern, then, is with ourselves, making ourselves a group of good preachers. Paul urged: “Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching.” (1 Tim. 4:16, NW) Wisely, then, each of us determines to study God’s Word, the Bible, thus paying attention to ourselves and assuring ourselves of everlasting life. At the same time, by studying the Bible diligently we are able to pay constant attention to our teaching; we can be sure that that which we tell others is the truth. As Christians we must follow Jehovah’s instruction. “Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life. Enter not into the path of the wicked, and walk not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it; turn from it, and pass on.” (Prov. 4:13-15, AS) How much more clearly can it be stated? Here it says instruction is our life! Better, then, that we pay attention to instruction, learning how to live.
‘A TIME SUCH AS NEVER WAS’
7. In what outstanding respects is our day unlike any other “since there was a nation”?
7 Ours is a very wicked day, the worst in all history. On every side of us we see hatred, strife, war. Nearly every man’s hand seems to be against his neighbor. The world is filled with selfishness, fear. Such are products of a mad, hateful world whose god is Satan the Devil. Yes, God’s Word says that Satan is the god of this system of things. On this vital subject Jehovah’s witnesses are trying to enlighten the people’s minds. At the same time we hold out to peoples of all nations the hope that Jehovah holds out: His kingdom, the only hope for mankind. This old world’s inhabitants need instruction so that they can turn from the wicked course that will lead to death. “If, now, the good news we declare is in fact veiled, it is veiled among those who are perishing, among whom the god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through.” (2 Cor. 4:3, 4, NW) Today as never before the light is shining through in the message that Jehovah’s witnesses regularly take to willing listeners in all nations of the world. Hundreds of thousands are listening. More and more are taking in knowledge and instruction and thus starting on the road to life everlasting. This is the time for the great witness to be given as Jesus foretold: “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations, and then the accomplished end will come.” (Matt. 24:14, NW) Will you share in this great work of “announcing Jehovah’s kingdom”? You can, and you will want to if you make it your business to heed instruction from God’s Word and hold fast to that instruction.
8, 9. Why is it so very important for the true God’s worshipers to be now genuinely united in study and work?
8 Now is the time when those desiring to live in Jehovah’s new world must stick together. Privately studying your Bible is necessary, but jointly studying with those of like precious faith is even more necessary. Since the words of God, as set forth in the Bible, are so powerful that by holding on to their instruction life can be gained, what should a believer in God’s Word do? He should first study, then talk about that which he studies. To gain knowledge one must work. To retain that knowledge he must use it. You will want others to know what you know, therefore you will talk. As Jehovah’s chief witness Christ Jesus preached the good news and brought salvation to mankind. But now he is not with us in the flesh as he was nineteen hundred years ago when he led the apostles and set them the proper example. “We are therefore ambassadors substituting for Christ, as though God were making entreaty through us. As substitutes for Christ we beg: ‘Become reconciled to God.’” (2 Cor. 5:20, NW) Those words Paul addressed to the congregation at Corinth. Today Jehovah’s witnesses everywhere are a united congregation of Jehovah God. Unitedly, jointly they have a work to do, that is, to preach to all the world, to show all lovers of righteousness the way to life. Every one of Jehovah’s witnesses must keep alive to the truth as expressed in His Word, because it is necessary for every individual in his theocratic organization to think as Jehovah thinks. He being their Teacher and his Word being their textbook, they will think alike, work alike and worship alike. Hence their sticking together in Jehovah’s theocratic organization means for them their everlasting life. Were any individual in this New World society to try to go alone, he soon would see that he never could succeed or realize his hope in life. That individual never would get into the new world. So individually each one of us must stay in Jehovah’s New World society and at the same time be active as a part of it.
9 Clearly now Jehovah God through Christ Jesus is gathering together all who are of good will and who love righteousness. (Zeph. 2:1-3) This he is doing before his battle at Armageddon. Those who now lay hold on instruction will flee from this old world and get into the new system of things. With so many of the “other sheep” being gathered into the New World society it is essential that Jehovah’s witnesses must get to know one another, especially within each of their congregations. They must learn of the benefits of that congregation and what it will do for them. Jehovah’s witnesses soon learn that it is essential for them to go to every meeting arranged for them for their education and instruction. To get life they must constantly seek knowledge and learn more of Jehovah and his purposes. They must fully appreciate they cannot get along without his written Word. Also, they will learn that they cannot get along without Jehovah’s organization. Their sticking together, their jointly studying God’s Word, makes Jehovah’s witnesses very vigorous. It sets them apart distinctly from all others in this world. They truly are Bible students; they constantly practice the teachings of God’s Word.—John 13:17.
10. What proof of present-day widespread appreciation of the sound counsel of Hebrews 10:23-25 can we recognize?
10 “Let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that promised. And let us consider one another to incite to love and right works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.” (Heb. 10:23-25, NW) This sound counsel has been talked about many times. Probably all in your congregation have used this scripture, either at service meetings or at the theocratic ministry school, pointing out how necessary it is for every one of Jehovah’s servants to assemble with his brothers, now more than ever because we are living at the end of this old system of things. Let us here examine this text to see what vital force there is in it and how it must affect us in our daily lives.
“PUBLIC DECLARATION OF OUR HOPE”
11. Is house-to-house witnessing the “public declaration” mentioned at Hebrews 10:23, and why do you answer yes or no?
11 This scripture that says “Let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope” does not mean merely doing this by going from house to house witnessing day by day throughout our lives. Many other scriptures definitely prove we must go from home to home preaching the good news of the Kingdom. That is a point beyond dispute. But what important fact is brought to our mind in this text under consideration? Does its statement—”Let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering”—apply to our house-to-house witnessing? Have in mind the context. What is Paul talking about here when addressing the Hebrews? He tells them to make a public declaration, but where? The context shows it must be in the congregation of Jehovah’s people. There is a definite reason, too, for making this declaration and coming together in the congregation to do it. It must be a declaration that will incite to love, to help others in right works and to encourage one another in the Christian ministry. By doing these things all will be helped to remain united, to stay in the organization. Our congregation meetings themselves provide positive assistance to others. Yes, it is our public declaration of our hope in the congregation that does much for others of the congregation.
12. How are the true worshiper’s “public declaration” and his survival for life in the new world inseparably linked?
12 The New World society consists of many congregations scattered all over the earth. Many are in English-speaking communities. Others are among Germans, French, Japanese; in fact, assemblies are held in more than a hundred tongues in all parts of the world. But regardless of what language is spoken Jehovah’s witnesses must come together in congregation meetings. Every dedicated member of the New World society must regularly assemble with others and get the benefit of his brothers’ knowledge as well as give to his brothers the benefit of his knowledge. Before one makes his public declaration in the congregation of God’s people it is essential for him to engage in private study. But that is not all. After the private study you must meet with the congregation and make a public declaration of what you have learned If one tries to go alone without the organization, it will be only a matter of time until he will be in want; and if he stays away from the congregation too long, he will die of starvation for spiritual food. A Christian witness of Jehovah cannot get out of line for New World living and survive for the new world. After one has made his day-by-day and week-by-week private study he should make his ‘advancement manifest to all persons’ by expressing before the congregation what he believes so that the other members of the congregation may thereby be incited to love and right works and encouraged to greater activity.—1 Tim. 4:15, NW.
13. What benefits result to the true worshiper who now recognizes and discharges the twofold obligation resting upon him?
13 Daily reading and study of the Bible are needful. Bible study aids also should be read, such as the Watchtower magazine and books distributed by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society; for every reasonable observer knows there are no other publications like these. All these printed products will help the truth seeker to get a broader understanding of the Word and purposes of Jehovah so that he will be able better to express his hope at the congregation meetings. By filling the mind with divine instruction and truth it will help the witness of Jehovah to prepare his talks for the theocratic ministry school that he attends; it will aid him in sharing in the service meeting and Watchtower study meeting, and it will help him in preparing short sermons to use from house to house. God’s Word says we are to make a “public declaration of our hope.” Ask yourself: ‘How many times have I expressed myself in the Watchtower study meeting during the last six months, or the last year?’ It is very important that in these studies each one speak up as he has opportunity, because upon each one rests a twofold obligation. First, you have opportunity to make public declaration of your hope; and, second, the expression affects those who are listening and should incite them to love and the right kind of works. This you can do when you do not forsake assembling with your brothers in the congregation.
14. Among Jehovah’s true worshipers what responsibility is individually discharged in this “day of judgment,” and how?
14 Another point: “Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are. Or do you not recognize that Jesus Christ is in union with you? Unless you are disapproved. I truly hope you will come to know we are not disapproved.” (2 Cor. 13:5, 6, NW) Under that wholesome counsel by Paul it is very necessary for each one of us to look after himself. It is not just a matter of saying, ‘I am one of Jehovah’s witnesses,’ or one’s coming to a meeting and there sitting quietly. It really is a matter of inspecting yourself, testing or proving yourself by answering questions in public, voluntarily or when called upon. How can anyone say he is one of Jehovah’s witnesses if he does not attend and participate in the meetings of true worshipers of Jehovah? (John 4:23) How can he say, even to himself, that he believes the truth of God’s Word if he never expresses that truth to his brothers? One might be born a Catholic and be baptized into that religious cult when he is but a few days old and be called a Catholic for the rest of his life. Or he may be born of Protestant parents or Moslem parents or Jewish parents, and the name of his parents’ religion will go with him the rest of his life unless he personally decides to progress. But as for Jehovah’s witnesses, each must make a decision for himself. It is not for any parent to decide for his child to make a dedication to Jehovah God through Jesus Christ. Each must personally prove that he is one of Jehovah’s witnesses through public expression of his faith and hope in Jehovah’s new world before the congregation of Jehovah’s people. It is your active belief that will incite others to greater activity; therefore the knowledge you have gained should be expressed aloud before the congregation for the benefit of all.—1 John 4:17, NW.
15. Benefit to others who attend congregation meetings results from what individual action on your part?
15 Needful it is, then, to keep testing ourselves, keep on proving what we ourselves are, as to our faith. We can make mistakes, we can get out of line with Jehovah’s principles of truth and righteousness, we can drift, think on wrong things; and, not having read and studied the Word of God enough, we can get to forming our own philosophies on life. Individuals may even go so far as to express what they think God himself should be like and what he should be doing. But one knows that he can not become acquainted with another unless he talks to him or reads about or otherwise communicates with him. No one can come to know God unless he listens to him through his written Word. In private study you can take in much information about God, but by attending congregation meetings your advance study, having equipped you, enables you to express your belief and hope, to benefit others. It is very unprofitable for a Christian witness of Jehovah to forsake regularly assembling with other dedicated Christians. Think of the harm he does to himself and also to others. He is not incited to love and right works, for he does not hear his fellow workers comment and he is not there to give comment to help them.
“WE MAY HAVE FREENESS OF SPEECH”
16. How may one incite others and also himself be incited to love and right works?
16 Jehovah’s visible organization has arranged for weekly Watchtower studies in every congregation throughout the world. It is advisable to attend these. Other meetings, too, such as the theocratic ministry school and the service meeting, yield a rich blessing and help one to hold on to instructions. Whenever you attend these meetings do not sit back and feel that it is so much better for any other person to express himself. In your simple, pleasant manner and with, probably, hesitant speech, even you can incite others to love and right works. You can encourage others by your right expression. Were you ever in a Watchtower study where a brother or sister you have been working with for months spoke up for the first time? It gave you a little thrill to hear this one speak, did it not? After the meeting you very likely complimented that one. To you it was a joy and a real pleasure to hear that person speak. It encouraged you to do greater works, as Paul said; and so, by making public declaration of your hope, you will be inciting and also be incited yourself to love and right works. Why not, then, give the other persons that same sense of joy, that same pleasure you had, by letting them regularly hear you speak in the Watchtower study? Without question they will appreciate your comment. You may be older in the truth and so they will be happy to hear what you have to say. Or you may be new in the truth and then they will rejoice to see your progress in understanding.
17. When one’s exercising “freeness of speech” results in an erroneous expression in the hearing of other Bible students, how do all jointly profit?
17 To express ourselves is both practical and necessary, for to a great extent we really do not know what we do believe until we start talking or start writing, that is to say, communicating. If we never express ourselves, then our thoughts never come into a form to benefit others or even ourselves. Some excuse themselves by saying that if they speak they may give an incorrect or misleading answer. Do you keep quiet because you might make a mistake? Even your making that mistake is to your benefit. How so? Because then someone else will give the correct answer and, additionally, the chairman will express himself and point out the right answer and finally the paragraph will be read to complete the answer to the question. For a moment you may be a little ashamed, but you did express to the congregation what you believe. You found out you were wrong and so by studying along with other members of the congregation and by expressing yourself you discovered your error. By keeping quiet you may never have known of your error. So now you have the opportunity of changing your thinking. You want the right ideas in your head, and now you have changed some wrong thought and have substituted the correct one. No worshiper of Jehovah wants to go from house to house talking about Jehovah’s purposes and telling householders the wrong things. So, then, your brother, helped you to correct the error you made in your public declaration in their hearing. Do not let the error you think you might express hold you back from speaking. Your mistake may sharpen the correct answer in the minds of others. If one did all his own thinking and never consulted anyone else or expressed himself to others, he never would be able to test himself. That underscores the value of “freeness of speech”; and that is why we have the admonition, “Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are.”
18. Growth in accurate knowledge and in ability to use it skillfully for Jehovah’s purpose comes through what simple practice?
18 We must advance, increase, grow up in Jehovah’s organization; we cannot stand still. Through the Watchtower magazine and all companion publications, as well as through the congregation, circuit and district servants, the Watch Tower Society constantly stresses that we must study. Serious study is hard work. But it does yield happy results. It takes effort to search the Scriptures, but you know that the knowledge gained spells out life. Taking in knowledge of Jehovah God and of his Son, said Jesus, means everlasting life. (John 17:3) One who wants life must listen to the Giver of life, Jehovah, for it is written: “Most truly I say to you, He that hears my word and believes him that sent me has everlasting life, and he does not come into judgment but has passed over from death to life.” (John 5:24, NW) Everlasting life is due, then, to hearing the Word and believing Jehovah God, for it was God who sent Christ Jesus; and by having this faith we are able to pass over from death to life. By assembling ourselves together for making public declaration of our hope we continue learning and growing, advancing to maturity.
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