Appreciating Basic Christian Publications
“The heart of the righteous studieth to answer.—Prov. 15:28.
1, 2. How do Kingdom publishers become competent in their ministry, and why is this necessary?
TWO of Jehovah’s witnesses were going from door to door with the message of God’s kingdom. At one door a householder raised an objection that the newer publisher could not answer. The more mature one stepped forward, answered the question from the Scriptures to the householder’s satisfaction, and made a good presentation of the truth as well as a sound impression for the Christian message they were carrying. Later, the newer one said: “I would never have been able to answer that question!” But the more mature publisher assured the newer one that with continued study and service he would indeed be able to do so.
2 All Kingdom publishers have had similar experiences. If they have become really competent in their ministry, able to answer such questions and refute major objections, it is because their study of the Bible and Bible publications has provided knowledge, and their service has helped them to become efficient in its use. As we saw in our previous lesson, neither study nor service can be omitted by one who wishes to be strong in the truth. And this strength and maturity is important, for, like Paul’s, the weapons of our warfare are to be “powerful by God for overturning strongly entrenched things,” and we should be successful in toppling false reasonings raised up against right knowledge of God. Can you do this? Do you have the required maturity yet?—2 Cor. 10:4, 5, NW.
3. What rewards prompt busy publishers to spend much time in added study?
3 When brothers have a sound knowledge, are able to answer questions well, make good presentations in the service and are sought out by other brothers who are looking for help and information, there is no mystery about their source of understanding. Probably they have no more time than you do. They may have a wife, children, a home and may face the same or sometimes even greater problems in supporting them than other brothers do. Further, because of their added time spent in service their day actually may be busier than yours. But they are entirely wrapped up in the truth. They get great happiness out of gaining sound knowledge and they are thrilled when their extra study proves to be of special and perhaps unexpected use in presenting the Kingdom message. They do not say that they have no time for study, because they know that it is not only more service, but better service that is required. Not only do they put more hours into Jehovah’s service, but they put more into those hours, increasing not just the quantity but also the quality of their service. They know that if they were to stop going forward they would begin to slide backward; that if they do not continue to learn they will cease to know. Therefore, their continual study makes their sound knowledge possible.
4. How can you improve your Christian witnessing?
4 All of Jehovah’s servants have the obligation to speak clearly, simply and in an easily understood manner. But to speak clearly we must know what we are talking about. We must understand not only the truth but also the views of the people in our territory, for only if we know their objections can we clearly answer them. We should continually examine our presentation of the Kingdom message, listening to what people say in reply to it and striving to be understood by them. And when we encounter a situation that we cannot cope with we can give it further thought later, working out the answer to it, so we will know what to say when it comes up again.
5, 6. How can you get wisdom, what determination is necessary in order to find it, and what proves the value of study?
5 It is true that “if anyone of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching.” But asking is not the end of the matter. If it were, we should not be told: “With all thy getting get understanding.” And: “The heart of the righteous studieth to answer.” (Jas. 1:5, NW; Prov. 4:7; 15:28, AS) We could not expect to gain wisdom if, after asking, we ignored the provision God has made for us to gain it. Jehovah makes the provision for wisdom, but it must be sought like a precious treasure, and with the determination with which miners and prospectors search valuable metals from the ground. The Proverbs say: “My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and lay up my commandments with thee; so as to incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thy heart to understanding; yea, if thou cry after discernment, and lift up thy voice for understanding; if thou seek her as silver, and search for her as for hid treasures: then shalt thou understand the fear of Jehovah, and find the knowledge of God. For Jehovah giveth wisdom; out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding: he layeth up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to them that walk in integrity.”—Prov. 2:1-7, AS.
6 This is not merely theoretical. The value of such study is seen in actual practice. The new ones in the congregation who mature most rapidly are those who obey the command to “apply your mind to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge,” who remember that “a truthful witness saves lives,” and who do not consider their relative newness in the truth to be an excuse for not being able to do so. They realize the importance of Christian publications and congregational meetings arranged for their strengthening, and they seek every method to broaden their knowledge and understanding.—Prov. 23:12; 14:25, RS.
7. How will basic theocratic publications aid the maturing Christian?
7 Those who really are growing in maturity find that familiarity with basic theocratic publications is a tremendous aid in their field ministry, enabling them to draw on a firm background of knowledge and thus to answer most of the questions they encounter in field service. Further, when they prepare a discourse for delivery at congregational meetings they do not merely rehash material that they presented in all their previous talks, but they search for further information that will make the talk really alive with sound spiritual counsel. Their zeal for knowledge may even prompt them to dig back into things that were published long before they came into the truth, expanding and deepening their understanding, and ever growing in Christian maturity.
8. What information from earlier Society publications might be used in preparing talks, and how can you find such points?
8 Do you dig out older publications to expand and deepen your knowledge on subjects about which questions arise? Have you really studied these earlier publications? When a brother gives a talk, can you, to impress the information upon your mind further, identify the particular publication from which his points were taken? If he discusses Jesus’ earthly family, do you remember that the “Questions from Readers” section of the December 15, 1950, Watchtower told how we know that Jesus did have other brothers and sisters? When he points out that the Christian should not use profanity, do you remember that this was discussed in the article “Progress Toward Taming the Tongue,” February 15, 1951? When he tells about the different kinds of spirit creatures, namely, angels, cherubim, seraphim and the archangel, and describes their various positions, do you remember that this was considered on pages 50 to 53 of the book “The Truth Shall Make You Free”? Probably you will not remember the dates or page numbers, but do you remember the discussions? Can you use the Scripture index to find the pages? Can you explain these matters when someone questions you about them? Brothers who have a mature knowledge may even have recently looked up these subjects to refresh their memories on them before discussing them with newly interested persons.
9. What will prevent Scriptural studies from becoming a chore?
9 How is your background of knowledge? If you are a newer one in the congregation, have you studied just one of the Society’s publications, like the book “New Heavens and a New Earth”, or perhaps two of them, or have you dug back to be sure that you know the essential information in “Let God Be True” and “This Means Everlasting Life”? Studying them is not a chore, but a pleasure when your interest is not in the number of pages you are to read, but rather in the knowledge that you will get, in the way it will strengthen your faith and help you to be a better Christian servant. Never think: “Oh, I know most of that.” For you will find, indeed, that you do not and that you will be strengthened by your additional study.
10, 11. Give examples, either the ones cited here or others you can think of, to show the importance of information in “This Means Everlasting Life”.
10 What should you know from the book “This Means Everlasting Life”? There are many things, but just consider this example: When you meet someone who cannot understand how Jehovah God could be without a beginning, from everlasting to everlasting, and with an infinite existence before ever we came to life, do you remember that in chapter two it says: “Is that impossible? What about space and time? Where does space begin? When did time begin? The science of mathematics knows such a thing as infinity; and it should be no more difficult to accept that God always was than that time and space go on forever, into the past and into the future.”
11 Then, if someone denies that we need the Bible as a guide for our worship, can you show that Jesus set the example of basing our activity upon what the Bible says? In Luke 4:16-21 (NW) we find that Jesus’ “custom on the sabbath day” was to enter into the synagogue and read aloud from the Scriptures. In Matthew 4:4, 7, 10 we learn that, when being tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Jesus three times repelled the Tempter by quoting from memory three texts from Deuteronomy, each time saying: “It is written.” Further, Luke 24:27 (NW) says: “And commencing at Moses and all the Prophets he interpreted to them things pertaining to himself in all the Scriptures.” Would you have remembered these points that show that Jesus set the example of using the Bible as a guide for our worship? They were contained in chapter seven, “The Book of Life-giving Knowledge,” in “This Means Everlasting Life”.
12. What basic doctrines should you be able to explain from your study of “Let God Be True”?
12 Further, everyone within the congregation should have studied and should be able to explain the basic doctrines outlined in the study aid “Let God Be True”, including the history of the Bible and how the Bible was brought down to our day, who Satan is and what influence he has at the present time, what man is, why evolution cannot be true, why the trinity doctrine is false, why a ransom was necessary and how it was provided, what the true congregation of God is, and how we know that ours is the “time of the end.” An entire chapter in “Let God Be True” is devoted to each of these subjects. Thinking back over each of these things now, can you explain them? As a mature Christian minister you should be able to do so.
13. For what several reasons should you search back through the Society’s earlier publications?
13 These two books, “Let God Be True” and “This Means Everlasting Life”, provide basic knowledge. And once you have completed your study of them you can then look to even older publications. Remember, “the spiritual man examines [searches] indeed all things,” and should know even the deep things of God. There is so much richness in God’s Word, and so many things of value, that it is impossible for all of these things to be repeated every few months. Yet more than half of Jehovah’s witnesses today were not witnesses as recently as 1949! And a million more people are reading this magazine now than were reading it in May, 1955, just twenty-four months ago! How can all these people get the things they have missed? Only by studying earlier publications and digging back through previous issues of The Watchtower kept in the library at your local Kingdom Hall. There is much in the way of spiritual riches and aids toward mature knowledge in these earlier publications, and their study is most certainly worth your time. By checking back through the Society’s earlier publications you will learn where to find the answers to questions that arise, and you will rejoice to see your understanding continue to grow. The added knowledge that you thus gain will make you stronger in your faith, of more value to your brothers and of more service to the organization. Certainly these are good reasons for following the example of the psalmist who said: “I will meditate on all thy work, and muse on thy mighty deeds.”—1 Cor. 2:15, NW; Ps. 77:12, RS.
14. What illustration of the importance of serving Jehovah during our youth was given in “Remembering the New World’s Creator”?
14 Let us now see what some of the things are that we might learn through continual review of these older publications: In a discourse that stresses the importance of spending our youth in Jehovah’s service, a speaker bases his comments on Ecclesiastes 12:1-7 (RS), which begins: “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come, and the years draw nigh, when you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.’” He then uses the verses that follow to paint a vivid picture of how “evil” days come on those who have not spent their lives in Jehovah’s service, but who have misspent their youth and vigor and have no memory of their Creator and no understanding of his marvelous doings now. In the summertime of life things looked bright, but in the winter of old age they darken. The arms and hands tremble, the legs weaken and bend, the feet shuffle and drag along. The old man does not sleep soundly, for he does not have the sleep of a wise and discreet man, nor the sweet sleep of the honest laboring man. On the stairs he is fearful, in the crowded streets he is in terror, and the slightest weight is a burden, until finally “the silver cord” of life is loosed, “the golden bowl” of man’s marvelous brain is broken, and the body’s “dust returns to the earth as it was.” The height of vanity, the speaker points out, is a youth that ignores the Creator and grows old in such willful ignorance to have only a sorrowful, broken-down, wasted condition to show for what could have been a prosperous and blessed life. But far different is the contented maturity of the man who still enjoys the same blessings that he received during a happy youth wisely spent in Jehovah’s service. Where did the speaker get such a telling application of this scripture? Why, from the article “Remembering the New World’s Creator” in The Watchtower, November 15, 1945. Do you recall it?
15. What is the real meaning of the word “minister,” what can be shown from this, and where was this information found?
15 Another brother, wishing to illustrate the duties of a minister, points out in a talk at the service meeting that the very word “minister” emphasizes the thought of service, of one who is not exalted but is in a subordinate position. The word “minister,” he shows, is of Latin origin, coming from the term minus, meaning less, and the comparative ending ter; just as the word of opposite meaning, magister or master, is drawn from the term magis, meaning more, and the comparative ending ter. The Hebrew word usually translated “minister” is also just as well translated “servant” and “servitor.” And the Greek word in question is diákonos, which literally means “through dust,” and points to one who is dusty from running in the service of another. How different, he points out, is this true and Biblical meaning of the word from the exalted position often given to Christendom’s clergy, and how appropriate this word is to those who engage in the service activity of the true God! Where did the speaker get this interesting information? From “God’s Ministers of Good News” in the October 15, 1947, Watchtower. Would you have thought of going there?
16. How would you answer a scoffer who ridiculed the idea that animals survived the Flood in the ark, and where was this information published?
16 Then, working in the service with a mature publisher, you meet a scoffer who has no confidence in the Bible and says that, for example, the account of the Flood is ridiculous because the ark could never have held all the animals. But the mature brother points out that this objection is not sound. The ark was from 450 to 547 feet long (depending upon which cubit was used in measuring), 75 to 91 feet wide, and 45 to 54 feet high—a sizable structure that allowed abundant room for the various animal “kinds” described in Genesis, and from which all the varieties we now know have sprung. Where did he get this Bible-vindicating information? Why, from “Noah’s Passenger List” in the December 22, 1951, Awake! Would you have remembered it?
17. What is wrong with the idea that the Great Pyramid of Giza was God’s witness in stone?
17 At a home Bible study you meet a person who has been told that the measurements of the Great Pyramid of Giza harmonize with Bible prophecy and that we should study it to learn God’s purposes. You do not know what to say about this, but know that long ago it was discussed in the Society’s publications. So you search back year by year through the volumes of The Watchtower until you come to the November 15 and December 1, 1928, issues. There you learn what is wrong with this idea and decide to present these points to your questioner: First, Egypt was a Devil-ruled pagan country, not a place for divine revelation; second, God does not accomplish his work through the type of slave labor that built the pyramids; third, Christians are told that they must live by faith, not by sight; and fourth, if the Christian congregation was to be taught by the measurements of this ancient pile of stone either Jesus or some of the apostles would have said something about it; and they did not. A briefer account of this is found in the May 15, 1956, issue of The Watchtower.
18. How can you show that it is both important and proper to quote various parts of the Bible?
18 A neighbor, with whom you are talking about the blessings of God’s kingdom, says: “Oh, by jumping here and there in the Scriptures you can prove any old thing, even the most fantastic doctrines.” But you point out that you cannot prove just any old thing from the Bible and still have this harmonious book agree with itself! And certainly if you are to show that all the prophets foretold our days and their events, and that they all taught certain doctrines harmoniously, you must quote from several or all of these prophets. Is this a Scriptural method? Yes, you point out, it is. In the sermon on the mount alone Jesus quoted twenty-one times from the Hebrew Scriptures. In the five chapters of 1 Peter there are thirty-four quotations from ten different books of the Law, Prophets and Psalms. In the one book of Matthew there are 122 such quotations! Were these faithful men of God jumbling texts together to support just any old ideas? Certainly not! And it is our privilege today, in this “time of the end,” to “run to and fro” through the Scriptures to learn what they say, and our “knowledge shall be increased” as Jehovah’s prophet Daniel (12:4) long ago foretold. Where did you find these impressive facts about the propriety of quoting the Bible? In the article “The Key to Studying the Bible” in the February 1, 1949, Watchtower.
19. How would you answer a man who said not all the Bible is genuine?
19 The same article will give you a telling point to use when a person says that you must be selective about the parts of the Bible that you use because not all of it is genuine. It shows that the Greek Scripture writers made about 740 quotations from and references to the earlier Hebrew Scriptures, quoting from thirty-five books of the Hebrew Scriptures, or all except Ruth, Ezra, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. Now if Jesus and his apostles thus accepted these books without question, how is any man to say he knows more about the reliability of the Scriptures than they did? If you are one of the well over one and a half million readers of this magazine who were not reading it when this information was published, then we urge you to dig back through these earlier magazines to benefit from the material that they contain.
20. How will faithful servants of Jehovah pay attention to their knowledge and teaching, and with what result to them?
20 By thus reviewing some of the things that have been published in previous years you will soon come to realize why some brothers have a far greater knowledge of such things than do others who have not refreshed their minds upon them. If, as faithful servants of Jehovah, we are eager for understanding and anxious to expand our ability to teach, we will take advantage of every available means to increase our knowledge. We will make regular and continual use of the information in “This Means Everlasting Life” and “Let God Be True”, and in previous issues of The Watchtower and in other Society publications. As Paul instructed Timothy, we will continue applying ourselves to public reading, to exhortation and to teaching. We will ponder over these things, we will be absorbed in them, letting our advancement be manifest to all persons. We will continue to improve our service, examining it, analyzing the effects our testimonies have on our listeners, considering their viewpoints and making every effort to speak simply, clearly and understandably. Thus we will follow Paul’s instruction and reap its rich reward: “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, 15, 16, NW.