Keeping a Firm Grip on the Word of Life
“Take hold on discipline; do not let go. Safeguard it, for it itself is your life.”—Prov. 4:13.
1. Why do Jehovah’s witnesses not have clergy and laity as do the orthodox religions of Christendom?
EVERY associate a minister? What a strange religion Jehovah’s witnesses practice! Yes, strange indeed to those of orthodox religions of this changing world, where each church still has its pastor, priest or otherwise-named religious leader who considers as his flock all who attend “his church.” But Jesus gave no instruction about a clergy and a laity. Hence Jehovah’s witnesses recognize no such distinction. Jesus made no room for clergymen, doctors of divinity, or “fathers” as distinguished from the ‘common herd’ of sheep. In fact he warned against it, as did his apostle Paul. So to be one of Jehovah’s witnesses one must be a minister. In the organization of Jehovah’s witnesses all are brothers, all are preachers of the good news of God’s established kingdom.—Matt. 23:8-12; 1 Pet. 5:3; Matt. 24:14.
2. (a) How widespread is the teaching work of Jehovah’s witnesses? (b) Do they preach to one another at their Kingdom Halls? To whom do they preach?
2 Today we are experiencing a revival of the apostolic type of teaching. Even as Jesus instructed his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations and to teach the people, so today Jehovah’s witnesses are spread all over the globe, all doing the identical work of teaching the people, all speaking in agreement, fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought. Associated with the more than sixteen thousand congregations world-wide, and cooperating together as teachers of the Bible, are upward of 700,000 ministers of Jehovah’s witnesses. Contrary to the misunderstanding of many, these ministers do not preach to one another at their congregational meeting places. No, but in such meeting places, each locally known as Kingdom Hall, they assemble to study together God’s Word to prepare themselves as more efficient servants of God for teaching others. These others that they teach are persons of good will whom they meet in their door-to-door ministry and who are desirous of being free from false religious bondage and coming into the freedom of Christ. These are the members of their congregations, these are the ones to whom they minister, the ones Jesus commissioned them to find and to teach.—Gal. 5:1; Rev. 7:9, 10, 13-17; Matt. 28:19, 20.
3. How do they render service to these many members of their missionary congregations, and how do they consider such service?
3 To free these persons from the confusing doctrines of this world’s many conflicting religions requires patience, diligence and insight. Jehovah’s witnesses annually call on many millions of people with the life-giving message of truth. To persons showing interest they make return visits. During the year just past they made 33,327,637 such return visits or back-calls. They then painstakingly aid those genuinely desiring life and who manifest such by devoting time to making a detailed study of God’s Word. Thus it can readily be seen why Jehovah’s witnesses devote so much of their time to study, privately and congregationally. They give serious consideration to the command of Jesus: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them . . . , teaching them.” Their unselfish performance of this commission results in honor to their God and to their Master, as well as salvation to those whom they teach and to themselves. This teaching they do not consider as one of the “least commandments” of Jesus, but as one of “the more important things” entrusted to them.—Matt. 28:19, 20; 5:19, 20; 1 Tim. 4:15, 16; Phil. 1:9, 10.
4. What will you gain by attending the meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses and especially the Watchtower study?
4 Are you, if you are one of Jehovah’s witnesses, qualified to give instruction to those unlearned? or do you yourself need to learn the first principles? In either case, you still vitally need the association of your brothers, where you can have your ‘weak hands and feeble knees’ strengthened and can receive needed counsel. Your attending study meetings at the Kingdom Hall, especially the weekly Bible study, as discussed in The Watchtower, will build you up spiritually. Without such association and help one takes up corrupting association with worldlings, and thus one’s mind is open to the assault of Satan’s demons. Jude, in speaking of this condition to be manifest in “the last time,” counsels: “But you, beloved ones, by building up yourselves on your most holy faith, and praying with holy spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love, while you are waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ with everlasting life in view.”—Isa. 35:3, AS; Prov. 11:14; 1 Cor. 15:33; Jude 20, 21.
5, 6. (a) In what way can you make a public declaration of your hope and test whether you are in the faith? (b) Why should each one contribute his comment?
5 So make it your business to attend Kingdom Hall when The Watchtower is studied. And, so as not to miss any of the discussion and also to show no disrespect for the One making the provision, be on time! You will not attend this important meeting just to listen to what someone else has to say. No, but make “a public declaration” of your hope. Further, “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.”—Jas. 1:22-25; Heb. 10:23-25.
6 “Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are.” There is no better way of doing this than by offering your comment. Do not say, ‘I’ll keep quiet; someone else can express it better.’ Someone else can only express his own understanding. Your particular expression may incite someone to good works. All are in a school for life. All hope to receive life in the new world. So study as though your life depended on it, because it does. Then declare your faith and test it by expressing yourself among your brothers. If your answer is right, fine; you are inciting others to love and right works; if not, correction will aid you to get straightened out and you will not continue to err when you are distributing life-giving knowledge to others. Remember that private thinking might be embarrassing. So do not always be just on the receiving line, but “let anyone who is being orally taught the word share in all good things with the one who gives such oral teaching.”—2 Cor. 13:5; Gal. 6:6; 1 Cor. 14:11, 12.
7. Of what importance is it to progress in the truth, and what is an important aid in this respect?
7 It is impossible to stand still in Jehovah’s organization. Advancing in the truth is like ‘bucking the tide.’ If you do not progress you will ‘go downstream’ and eventually end up in the ‘dead sea.’ So advance, grow up, mature! It is a matter of making the mind over, learning to think on your own, not independently but according to God’s way of thinking, as clearly defined in his Word. One coming out of the religions of this world, where one paid someone to do one’s thinking, must undergo a radical change. So you must “quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and complete will of God.” Prepare for the congregational studies by reading and studying the Bible and the Watch Tower publications at home. Read a portion of the Bible daily. Try to cover the entire Bible during the course of the year. Reading the Bible is like listening to Jehovah speak of past, present and future happenings. It aids you in locating yourself in Jehovah’s arrangement of things. As you read the Bible, along with The Watchtower, make progress from the elementary doctrines and become mature. And dismiss from your mind the God-dishonoring theories taught by the many conflicting religions of this passing old world. As you partake of solid food you will find your “perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” So, as you learn through private study and in congregational study, you will be able to “carry on as men.”—Rom. 12:2; Heb. 5:11-14; 1 Cor. 16:13.
8, 9. How alone can those attending the Watchtower study benefit?
8 At the Kingdom Hall study of The Watchtower, questions will be propounded by the Watchtower study servant. Everyone in attendance has the privilege of responding. It is a spirited meeting, enjoyed by all. It is not a place to come and sleep. Each one there should be present not only physically but “in spirit” as well. Accurate knowledge cannot be assimilated by one asleep. In Gethsemane Jesus asked his disciples, whom he had requested to watch while he prayed to his Father, this question: “How can you sleep?” How can you sleep when the words of life are being discussed? Jesus promised that where there are two or three met together in his name, he will be in their midst. Certainly no one wants to sleep with such an important guest present!—Luke 22:46; Matt. 18:20; 1 Thess. 5:6.
9 During the meeting do not let your mind wander from the important spiritual matters under discussion onto mundane things. Forget, at least during that period, about such things as your home duties, your job, etc., and concentrate on taking in accurate knowledge. “Keep your minds fixed on the things above, not on the things upon the earth.” “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.” Put anxiety away as you place your mind on spiritual matters, making Jehovah’s kingdom and his righteousness your greatest care.—Col. 3:2; 1 Tim. 4:15, 16; Matt. 6:33.
ON THE ALERT
10, 11. (a) What dangers may be avoided by gathering and partaking at Jehovah’s table? (b) How does Peter express the plight of those falling to appreciate the privilege of associating with the New World society?
10 There is every reason why we should gather together today at Jehovah’s table to receive of his goodness. The time for the bright-shining of the truth has arrived. Those who immerse themselves in God’s interests are safely hidden in the secret place of the Most High. The Devil, having been violently hurled from heaven to earth by Jehovah’s great archangel, now is on the prowl, seeking to draw away from the truth and devour those not alert, those not busy in the work of the Lord God. It becomes increasingly important to cherish divine instruction and discipline in order to be assured of God’s favor and protection. “Once saved always saved” is a dangerous slogan. Through adopting it many have become negligent and careless with once-cherished privileges of service. Thus a way has been opened for the demons to come in and occupy their minds. Paul was inspired to utter timely warning for us today. He said that some, because of not glorifying and thanking God for his undeserved kindness, “became empty-headed in their reasonings and their unintelligent heart became darkened. . . . just as they did not approve of holding God in accurate knowledge.”—Rev. 12:12; 1 Pet. 5:8; Prov. 4:13; Rom. 1:21-23, 28-32.
11 Neglecting study, failing to keep up with the truth, forsaking the assembling with others of like precious faith, causes some to drift away. It causes them to lose appreciation for their uncommon privilege as servants of God. Peter expresses their plight: “It would have been better for them not to have accurately known the path of righteousness than after knowing it accurately to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them. The saying of the true proverb has happened to them: ‘The dog has turned back to its own vomit, and the sow that was bathed to rolling in the mire.’” They take themselves out from under the shadow of God’s wings.—2 Pet. 2:17-22; Prov. 18:1.
12. Why is activity in Jehovah’s service essential?
12 Life in the new world of righteousness is too precious to sacrifice on the altar of neglect, lack of appreciation or disobedience. Study of God’s Word is important. But it is just a means to an end: the obedient activity in telling the good news of salvation by Jehovah. There is no place in God’s organization for a lazy man. Jesus set the example when just a lad. He was surprised that his parents did not know that he would be about his Father’s business. So we should be about our Father’s business, making it our business. Consequently, “do not loiter at your business. Be aglow with the spirit.” “Become steadfast, unmovable, always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.”—Luke 2:49, AV; Rom. 12:11; 1 Cor. 15:58.
MAKING USE OF THE TIME
13, 14. (a) What rare privilege does God extend to his servants today, and how do they guard it? (b) What results from their exercising that privilege?
13 The time is ripe for the vindication of Jehovah’s name. Rare indeed is the privilege extended to man by the Sovereign Lord of the universe to share in that vindication. We contribute by exposing God’s enemies and by furnishing to Jehovah the answer he requests, namely, that there are persons on earth anxious to devote their time, effort and life to prove the Devil to be a liar. The integrity-keeping witnesses of Jehovah refuse to compromise on righteous principles. They refuse to allow passion to affect their standing as servants of God. Never again will it be necessary for men to uphold God’s side of the issue, because, with the abyssing of Satan and his demon associates and with the humiliation and destruction of his visible agents, the issue will be settled. Then all breathing creatures will praise Jehovah.—Ps. 150:6.
14 Now is the time to find one’s place in the New World society and to maintain such place. It is God’s will “that all kinds of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” Love of God and love of neighbor impels all of God’s servants to study with the purpose in view of engaging in that great lifesaving work. The time is limited. May “the peace of God that excels all thought . . . guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus. . . . The things which you learned as well as accepted and heard and saw in connection with me, practice these; and the God of peace will be with you.”—1 Tim. 2:4; Eph. 5:15, 16; Phil. 4:7-9.