Teaching Men of Good Will
“Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.”—Matt. 28:19, 20.
1. (a) What is the outstanding failure of the old world’s educational systems? (b) What steps are men of good will taking to avoid destruction with the old world?
IMPROPER education will cost this world its life at the battle of Armageddon. It is not the failure of their schools to produce scientists and engineer in sufficient member that is the threat to their lasting security. It is their failure to teach men to fear God that is their downfall. As appropriate to modern-day Christendom as to ancient Israel are the words found in Hosea 4:6: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: . . . seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I also will forget thy children.” (AS) But hundreds of thousands of men of good will are demonstrating their desire for education from a higher source by turning to Jehovah’s New World society. They say: “We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” They want to learn. What they will be taught are ‘the things Jesus commanded.’ And the most effective way to teach them is in the way that Jesus and his apostles did.—Zech. 8:23, AS.
2. What are some of the outstanding things taught by Jesus?
2 Briefly, just what did Jesus teach? Primarily he came to bear witness to the truth about his Father, Jehovah, to glorify him and to make known his name. (John 17:4, 26; 18:37) He laid great emphasis on the kingdom of God as the thing for which men should pray and in which they should put their confidence. He taught his disciples to seek it first. (Matt. 6:10, 33) They learned about God’s provision for salvation. The need for love and humility was impressed on their minds. He taught them to demonstrate their faith by works of faith, to become teachers of the truth. And he taught them both to have and to help others to have faith in the Holy Scriptures.
3. What will result if we copy Jesus’ method of teaching?
3 As we carefully study Jesus’ method of instruction we will be happy to find our own teaching ability improve and our fruitfulness in the ministry increase. We should not expect that all will listen; not all listened to him. But the sheep recognized his voice and followed him because he is the Right Shepherd. If we teach the things that Jesus did and in the way he did, then through us the sheep will also be able to recognize the voice of the Right Shepherd and will eagerly turn and follow, not us, but him.—John 10:16.
4, 5. (a) What is the difference between preaching and teaching? (b) What things about the Father did Jesus teach his disciples?
4 It is one thing to tell another person, to preach to him; it is quite another to teach a person, to help him to understand and believe. Jesus patiently taught his disciples about the Father, because he knew that their taking in knowledge of Him would mean life. “The fear of Jehovah is the start of wisdom, and knowledge of the Most Holy One is what understanding is.” (Prov. 9:10) When they came to know Jehovah and have the proper fear of him, they would show wisdom, they would know what to do with the things they learned, because wisdom is the ability to use knowledge.
5 Jesus not only told them to pray to the Father but showed them how to do it. (Matt. 6:5-15) He taught them to rely on God, to accept the things that sustain life as provisions from their heavenly Father. (Matt. 6:25-34) He built up their confidence in the Scriptures as God’s Word by quoting from them and explaining them. To a Samaritan woman he explained that it would be wrong to limit the worship of God to some city or mountain, because “God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) In view of man’s relationship to God, he pointed out that it is only right that man’s works should be done, not for self-exaltation, but to praise God. “Likewise let your light shine before mankind, that they may see your right works and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens.” (Matt. 5:16) Jesus had come to glorify his Father and to help men of good will to see their relationship to Him; so he made sure that these points were deeply impressed on the minds and hearts of his disciples.
6. With what illustrations did Jesus show what it means to ‘seek first the kingdom’?
6 ‘Seek first the kingdom of God.’ It is easy to say, but how can the point be expressed in such a way that its meaning will be understood and it will govern the life of the hearer? Jesus knew that if the things to be learned could be illustrated from the lives of his hearers, from their daily experiences, their desires and their customs, things would be most easily grasped, because his hearers could visualize the things of which he spoke. He likened the intense desire one should have for that kingdom to the desire a man must have so that, having found buried treasure, he would sell all his belongings to buy the field where it was located. (Matt. 13:44) He compared the ability to recognize the sign that would mark his presence in Kingdom power to the ability of one to observe the change of the seasons. He could learn if he wanted to. (Matt. 24:32, 33) The lack of gratitude for the invitation to the Kingdom was illustrated by the indifferent attitude of men invited by a king to a marriage feast, but who were too preoccupied with other interests to attend. Their disrespectful response to their ruler brought punishment upon them.—Matt. 22:1-14.
7. How did Jesus warn against false teachers and show that not all will inherit the Kingdom?
7 Obviously, not all would inherit the Kingdom. Jesus used the attitude of two sons to put the point across. One was outwardly respectful to his father, but he did not obey. The other was at first a bit reluctant to do his father’s bidding, but he regretted his mistake and did obey. “Which of the two did the will of his father?” Jesus asked. “The latter,” they said. What a powerful introduction to the argument that the outwardly righteous religious leaders had failed to respond to the teaching of John the Baptist, but sinners who had not previously responded to God’s Word did repent and now were in line for the Kingdom! (Matt. 21:28-32) He showed how undesirable it would be to go to the false religious teachers for spiritual food by comparing them to dirty dishes, from which no one would want to eat. It is true, he said, they look good on the outside, like “whitewashed graves,” but no one would want to be part of the corruption inside. (Matt. 23:25-28) Others might better understand the point by his reference to fish that would be rejected from a fisherman’s catch, so he used the parable of the dragnet. (Matt. 13:47-50) He made the message live in the minds of his hearers by such fitting illustrations.
8. In what way did Jesus make appealing the acceptance of Jehovah’s means of saving?
8 Another point they must learn was that Jesus is the one through whom God provides salvation. The idea did not appeal to everyone, and to many Jesus was “a stone of stumbling and a rock-mass of offense.” (1 Pet. 2:8) Jesus, however, masterfully presented the subject in a way that would appeal to his hearer and for that one’s everlasting blessing. For a hard-working Samaritan woman who daily drew water from a well Jesus associated the benefits of belief with her daily work. “‘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.’ The woman said to him: ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may neither thirst nor keep coming over to this place to draw water.’” (John 4:14, 15) She was interested, and he went on to explain further. For others who opposed him he painted a picture that would be hard to forget. He compared their rejection of him to the foul deed of the cultivators of a vineyard who refused to pay the owner his due and who even murdered his son when he came to see about the matter.—Luke 20:9-18.
9. How and why did he teach them love and humility?
9 Jesus knew that love and humility are essential for one to gain life in the new world. To acquire them requires education of the heart. They could best learn by seeing them demonstrated; so he drew their attention to the countless expressions of love that Jehovah had showered upon them. They could also observe love and humility in Jesus’ attitude and his ministry, in the “tender affection” he felt for those he taught, in his prayers to his Father in heaven, when he washed their feet, and when he willingly laid down his life for mankind. As they would reflect upon the things they had seen and heard, that instruction would begin to penetrate to their heart, to soften it and to cause it to respond. “We love, because he first loved us.”—Matt. 9:36; 1 John 4:19.
10. What fine examples of refutation are found in the record of Jesus’ ministry?
10 When Jesus sent out his disciples he gave them careful instructions on how to perform their work. He told them what to say and do. He prepared them for the opposition they would meet and impressed on their minds the grand privilege that was theirs. (Matt. 10:1-28) They knew that teaching would require that they both present the truth to men of good will and beat back the insincere attacks of the adversaries. As they observed Jesus they learned how he handled the situations that arose. His position was strong; he had the truth. An example of the simplicity and forcefulness of his argument is found at Matthew 9:11-13. The Pharisees tried to make the disciples of Jesus feel uncomfortable by asking, “Why is it that your teacher eats with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus himself answered the question: “Persons in health do not need a physician, but the ailing do. Go, then, and learn what this means, ‘I want mercy, and not sacrifice.’ Accordingly, I came to call, not righteous people, but sinners.” On another occasion his healing of sick persons on the sabbath was called into question. His answer could not be refuted: “Who will be the man among you that has one sheep and, if this falls into a pit on the sabbath, will not get hold of it and lift it out? All considered, of how much more worth is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do right on the sabbath.” (Matt. 12:9-12) When questions were not asked with the desire to learn, his answers were very brief, but they were put in such a way that honest hearers would recognize that he taught the truth.
11. What made Jesus’ teaching so persuasive?
11 What is it that gives such force to the words of Jesus? Why is his speech so persuasive? First of all, because he taught the truth and he had Jehovah’s spirit. Also, it was because he presented it in terms that his hearers could easily grasp. Fishermen would easily grasp the idea when he illustrated his points with fish and nets. Who that knew anything about farming would not appreciate his comments on the harvest, men working in a vineyard, a hen with her chicks, an animal caught in a pit, and the weather? Those affected by chores at home would better grasp the message when he illustrated with patches on worn clothing, the effect of yeast on bread, dirty dishes, and the things children do. To others, references to wages and to Gehenna, Jerusalem’s city dump, would vividly convey thoughts. Jesus was flexible, adaptable in his presentation of the truth. The message itself did not change in the least, but he understood the people he was teaching because he was interested in them, and he approached the subject from their viewpoint. He watched for the reaction of his hearers and then took it into consideration in his further comments. He associated points difficult to accept with things well known to them. He made his counsel clear-cut by using vivid contrast. He is a teacher we should copy.
PAUL TAUGHT JEWS AND GENTILES
12. In a sermon to the Jews, how did Paul present the matter of belief in Christ, and what would particularly make his arguments appeal to his hearers?
12 Paul, a zealous apostle of Jesus Christ, applied himself wholeheartedly to the work of teaching the truth; and in the record of his ministry too we can find many helpful points. In Acts 13:16-41 is a sermon he gave to the Jews, and here is a fine example for us to follow. It is appealing, persuasive and to the point. Note that at the outset Paul avoided any argument on the superiority of Judaism by addressing himself to them as a people who feared God and then acknowledging that “the God of this people Israel chose our forefathers.” But he was not so tactful that he failed to present the truth. He laid the groundwork for his discussion of the Messiah by presenting accepted historical material that showed the waywardness of the nation. By bringing John the Baptist into the picture, he showed that a then well-known public figure had accepted Christ. He argues that rejection of Christ by the rulers did not discredit him; to the contrary, it fulfilled the prophecies and should confirm their faith in him. Tactfully he tied in belief in Jesus with acceptance of the beloved King David, and then showed the superiority of Jesus’ position. He built his argument on things they knew and believed. In a stirring conclusion, he urged them not to fulfill the prophecies that describe those who would scorn in disbelief. No honest-hearted Jew who is acquainted with the history of his own people and who sincerely believes the things written by the prophets of God could turn his back on the argument there presented.
13. What made Paul’s presentation of the truth both appealing and effective even for those who did not accept the Bible?
13 Paul speaks of himself as the one who had the good news entrusted to him by the Lord God for the people of the nations. Preaching to them presented problems quite different from those met with among the Jews. Acts 17:22-31 contains an example of how the good news may be presented to such persons, and it provides a fine guide for those with similar assignments today. Paul was interested in the people he served and observant of their way of life. He begins by remarking interestedly on their religious devotion and commenting on one of their places of worship. He ties in true worship, not with their idolatry, but with their proper desire to worship a God unknown. Since the people worshiped many gods, Paul carefully explained what he meant when he spoke of God. He reasons that the One who is Creator of the world could not be an idol and does not live in a man-made temple. Now is the time, argues Paul, to inform ourselves of his purpose and conform to it so that we might have a favorable standing in the day of judgment. There could be no confusing of this message with what they heard at their temples. While it was tactful, it was also pointed. It made clear who God is, what hope he sets before us, and what we should do. Are your sermons as well presented as that?
MODERN-DAY TEACHING OF TRUTH
14. Illustrate how one can tactfully help householders who say they learn the same things in church.
14 So today Jehovah’s witnesses call at the homes in obedience to the command of Jesus to teach all nations and to make known to them the “good news of the kingdom.” They want to be sure that the people really do learn, that they see the difference between the message they bring from the Bible and the teachings presented from the average pulpits of Christendom. If you tell the general churchgoer that we must have faith, he will reply that he hears these things in church. Tell him that he must take in knowledge of God, and he will assure you that he knows that. Yes, he believes in God’s kingdom too, he will tell you. The minister who is qualified to teach cannot feel that he has finished his job by merely telling the householder about these things. If the person is willing to listen, the minister wants to be sure that he really understands the message. So the minister may proceed to point out that the faith needed to please God is more than mere belief; it must be based on an accurate knowledge of his Word. (Heb. 11:1, 6) When speaking about God, he may point out that God has a name, Jehovah, and that to really know him we must understand his purposes as set out in the Bible. (Ps. 83:18) Or he may clarify that the Kingdom is a real government operating from heaven that will soon wipe wickedness from the earth, and that now we must conform our lives to God’s requirements if we are to gain life everlasting under it.—Dan. 2:44.
15. As with the early Christians, what makes the teaching done by Jehovah’s witnesses today effective?
15 Church members today have the Bible and many have heard what it says. They are much like the Jews of Jesus’ day; they had the Scriptures and had often heard them read. But they did not get the sense of them. When Jesus and the apostles taught the people, they were amazed at it. They did not teach as the religious clergy did. They were sincere, they knew that they were teaching the truth, and God’s holy spirit backed them up. (Acts 4:13) So today, when Jehovah’s witnesses perform their ministry at the homes of the people, they use the Bible skillfully, reading appropriate Bible texts and then taking time to draw particular attention to the points of instruction contained in those texts and commenting on their application to our day. They do not only preach; they are also teachers of God’s Word.
16, 17. What excellent counsel does the Bible give on how to perform our ministry when we meet persons who are not interested, and what effect does this have on our teaching?
16 When Jesus was not favorably received in a certain Samaritan village, James and John were incensed and said: “Master, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and annihilate them?” (Luke 9:54) Jesus reproved them for it. We do well to take the occurrence to heart. There is no reason to get excited about it when we meet indifference or even open opposition. Paul’s counsel is: “A slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be tactful toward all, qualified to teach, keeping himself restrained under evil, instructing with mildness those not favorably disposed, as perhaps God may give them repentance leading to an accurate knowledge of truth, and they may come back to their proper senses out from the snare of the Devil, seeing that they have been caught alive by him for the will of that one.”—2 Tim. 2:24-26.
17 We are sent to teach them the truth. A cutting, sharp tongue seldom is a good teacher. “The one that is wise in heart will be called understanding, and he that is sweet in [his] lips adds persuasiveness.” (Prov. 16:21) Our hearts go out to these people who have been “skinned and knocked about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36) Although they may coldly reject the message when we call, we do not hold it against them. ‘Love is long-suffering. It does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury.’ (1 Cor. 13:4, 5) We know that it means life for them if they will embrace the truth. We do not force the message on them, but ‘instruct with mildness those not favorably disposed.’ Because of this loving attitude on the part of Jehovah’s witnesses thousands have learned the truth. “The heart of the wise one causes his mouth to show insight, and to his lips it adds persuasiveness.” (Prov. 16:23) Being wise, his heart, or seat of motive, is stirred by love. That helps him to keep in focus the real situation of the people he serves, to show insight in dealing with them. It causes some to listen to what he has to say, to be persuaded by it, and to “come back to their proper senses out from the snare of the Devil.”
PROGRESS TO MATURITY
18. (a) How do Jehovah’s witnesses demonstrate real love for men of good will? (b) What suggestions are given to enable Christian ministers to be sure that instruction they give will really take hold?
18 When Jehovah’s witnesses find one who responds to the voice of the Right Shepherd, do they feel that the job is done? Not at all. They help him to come into association with the Shepherd’s fold of his sheep and to grow to Christian maturity. Regularly each week they will call back to study the Bible with the responsive one so that he can see what it tells him to do. Great care should be taken by the one who is teaching to be sure the person of good will is really learning, that he understands the points, and is making progress toward maturity. Not all will progress at the same pace, but by careful organization the spiritual development of each one will receive proper attention. Encourage the new one to express himself. “Let anyone who is being orally taught the word share in all good things with the one who gives such oral teaching.” (Gal. 6:6) And when the comment is given, if it is apparently not given with understanding, show yourself to be a real teacher by discussing the point further and drawing out more comments from the student. Teach the student to reason things out, to see their relation to things previously learned, to include in his answers the scriptures that prove them to be right. Repeat specially important points so they will not be forgotten.
19. What besides accurate knowledge should we also endeavor to teach persons of good will?
19 More is needed if this person is truly to become a disciple of Christ Jesus. He should learn to look to Jehovah for guidance and cultivate a keen desire to please him. He should be helped to appreciate the viewpoint of the psalmist David, who said: “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. Your spirit is good; may it lead me in the land of uprightness.” (Ps. 143:10) More than getting the answers in his head, we should help him to get God’s law on his heart. “And this is what I continue praying, that your love may abound yet more and more with accurate knowledge and full discernment, that you may make sure of the more important things, so that you may be flawless and not be stumbling others up to the day of Christ, and may be filled with righteous fruit which is through Jesus Christ, to God’s glory and praise.” (Phil. 1:9-11) Yes, when the truth takes hold and develops in the heart of the individual, he will begin to bear fruit.—Matt. 13:23.
20. How may newly interested ones be prepared for a part in teaching others the truth?
20 It usually is not long until a person of good will begins to see that Christians have work to do. But with some it takes longer than for others to find it in their heart to do it. It does not happen all at once, but there is much a good teacher can do to prepare for it. Each week spend some time to acquaint them with Jehovah’s organization and how it does its work. Acquaint them with the meetings and how they are conducted. Invite them to attend. As you tell them of your own house-to-house ministry during the week, show them briefly from the Bible why you do it that way. (Acts 20:20) Later you may relate an encouraging experience you have had when calling back on a good-will person. That opportunity could be used to show that Jesus commanded that the sheep be fed. (John 21:15-17) On another occasion you might acquaint them with the training program and the fact that new ones are not sent off on their own but are lovingly assisted step by step until they feel qualified to help others. Do not feel you have to invite them in the service the first time you tell them about it. Prepare them for it. As the entire arrangement takes shape in their mind and from your studies they begin to see the urgent need for others to learn, they will want to have a share. Love based on knowledge will remove any fear of telling others what they have learned and will replace it with a burning desire to show their appreciation to Jehovah by serving him.—1 John 4:18.
21. What work is it urgent to do now?
21 In all parts of the world there is an urgent need for teachers of the good news. Are you as a Christian qualified to teach? Are you taking steps to progress beyond Christian infancy so you can be a teacher? Are you willing to use the truths and the abilities you now have to help others to learn the truth so they can gain life in God’s new world? If so, now is the time to share in this God-given privilege of service. As you do, whether new or experienced in the ministry, follow the advice recorded at 1 Timothy 4:16: “Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching.”