Christians Need Accurate Knowledge
“This is right and acceptable in the sight of our Savior, God, whose will is that all kinds of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.”—1 Tim. 2:3, 4.
1. Why is knowledge of the right kind so important to Christians?
AN INSPIRED proverb recorded long ago in the Word of God says: “That the soul should be without knowledge is not good.” (Prov. 19:2) Especially now in this time of the end of the wicked world is it vital to have divine guidance. If a person is going to please God, he must know what God wants him to do. Only by gaining the required knowledge will he be able to make straight paths for his feet, avoiding the delinquent course of the world, and taking hold of the promise of everlasting life in God’s new world.
2. (a) What provisions to fill man’s need for knowledge has God made? (b) In this regard what earnest desire should everyone associated with the New World society have, and why?
2 Jehovah God has made every provision to fill man’s need for proper knowledge. “If anyone of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching, and it will be given him.” Knowledge of himself and of his purposes he has made available in abundance in his inspired Word, the Bible. And, lovingly, he has provided his organization to draw to the attention of God-fearing persons the fulfillment of prophecies that were written for our day, to point out what the divine will is for us and to set the example in conforming to that divine will. Everyone who associates with Jehovah’s New World society now or later should have an earnest desire to learn, to gain accurate knowledge of the divine will. So doing they will prove that they are included among the “many peoples” who are now saying: “Come, you people, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will instruct us about his ways and we will walk in his paths.” Association with the New World society is important, but it is not enough. Each one must become educated in the divine will and then do it.—Jas. 1:5; Isa. 2:3.
3. What is God’s will respecting us, and how can we show proper respect for his Word, the Bible?
3 Expressing very clearly what God’s will respecting us is, the apostle Paul said: “This is right and acceptable in the sight of our Savior, God, whose will is that all kinds of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” For one to neglect a study of God’s Word or to read it over hurriedly without grasping the sense of it shows disrespect for the One who is its Author. It shows a failure to conform to the divine will that we “come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” It is important to “acquire wisdom, and with all that you acquire, acquire understanding.” Thus equipped, one has a solid basis for enduring faith and he is in position to share his faith with others.—1 Tim. 2:3, 4; Prov. 4:7.
WHAT ABOUT CHRISTENDOM?
4. When people turn to the religious organizations of Christendom, to what may they find that their thoughts and activities are being directed, and in what ways are those organizations failing their members?
4 Much has been said in recent years about the progress of religion, and no doubt there have been many persons who have been greatly distressed by the world conditions and who have turned to the religious systems for comfort. But are they there finding that hope? Are they being pointed to God’s kingdom as man’s hope and given a sound Scriptural foundation for that belief, or, rather, are they being told that the United Nations is man’s “last, best hope”? Are they finding in the churches the answer to their spiritual need, or, rather, the answer to their social need, as indicated by an article in the Saturday Evening Post of October 4, 1958, which says: The churches “are not only sanctuaries but also complex meeting places with Sunday schools, auditoriums for plays and dances, social rooms with dating parlors and hi-fi. Some have bowling alleys, table tennis and outdoor tennis courts. Most have kitchens to serve social gatherings”? How many of those associated with the religious systems of Christendom really know what hope there is for mankind and believe it? Are they equipped to do as the apostle Peter counsels them: “Sanctify the Christ as Lord in your hearts, always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you, but doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect”?—1 Pet. 3:15.
5. How is membership in Christendom’s religious organizations determined?
5 It is interesting to consider briefly the membership of the churches. The basis for counting members varies considerably, but it is not dependent upon whether the individuals are following in the footsteps of Christ Jesus and obeying his command to be his witnesses. (Acts 1:8) In the Roman Catholic Church one is counted as a member when he is baptized as an infant. The infant has nothing to say about it, but he is counted as a member. Other churches may not count them as members until they are confirmed. Since the age of confirmation may vary from five or six to the midteens, the child may or may not know such things as the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the answer to questions found in the Church Catechism. In this way one becomes a member of a church, but it is not necessary to follow in the footsteps of Christ Jesus to remain a member of it. Otherwise the jails in the United States would not be filled with criminals, 85 percent of whom profess membership in some religious organization.
6. In reviewing figures for membership in the Catholic Church, what sheds considerable light on their meaning?
6 According to figures contained in the World Almanac from 1955 to 1956 the Roman Catholic Church realized a 2.8-percent increase in membership worldwide, bringing the total to 484,077,000 members. Of course, that includes increases that result from natural population growth, which for the same period is reported as 1.7 percent for the world. How many of the remaining number have become Catholics because they have personally chosen that religion? It would be difficult to say, but the following facts cast some light on the extent to which there is any actual growth of the organization. As reported in Time magazine, Catholic Bishop Stephen S. Woznicki of Saginaw, Michigan, shows that large numbers of the Catholic population are not practicing members. Further he said: “There has been great progress in the physical condition of dioceses, but the spiritual condition is an entirely different question.” And the 20th Century Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, in its comments on Spain, where the Catholic Church is the state church, says: “According to canonical law, everyone who has been baptized belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, even if afterwards he dissents.” The practice is unmistakable in Italy, as an example. In the Italian elections a few years ago the Communist party and its allies took 35 percent of the votes, although Catholic voters have been warned that it is wrong for them to vote for the Communist party. Yet according to the Catholic Register of September 29, 1957, the country was still 99.5 percent Catholic.
7. (a) As to figures for membership in the Protestant churches, what facts help one to appreciate the true condition of those organizations? (b) What does the prophecy recorded at Zechariah 8:23 foretell for our day, and is it being fulfilled upon Christendom?
7 What of the Protestant churches? The 1959 Yearbook of American Churches, published by the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., shows that in 1956 there were 60,148,980 Protestants in the United States; in 1957, 59,823,777. The loss is explained as due to the fact that one group included in 1956 did not report 1957 figures, and it suggests a 2.1-percent increase as better representing the situation. In evaluating what this means, the following points are of interest. According to figures presented in the book The Church of England, of those who are members of the Church of England, it is estimated that less than 8 percent are even present to share in communion services at Easter. And speaking of America, Time quotes Dr. Liston Pope, dean of Yale Divinity School, as saying: “There is no great religious revival in America, and probably will not be in the accepted sense . . . At this time of the greatest need, the influence of religion on human affairs appears to be indirect, and, all told, rather minimal.” And as to the value of statistics that show large numbers of members, the World Christian Handbook says: “In certain areas . . . religious censuses are carried out by the Governments concerned . . . They reveal wide disparities from some of the figures which the Churches themselves claim and these differences are something of an embarrassment to the Churches. Fortunately or not, such census figures are not available on a world-scale.” The book also states: “In most countries Christians form a very small minority, and it is likely to become even smaller since, generally speaking, the churches of the world are not increasing in proportion to the growth of population.” Clearly it is not upon Christendom that the prophecy is being fulfilled that says: “In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold, out of all the languages of the nations, they shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”—Zech. 8:23, AS.
GROWTH OF THE NEW WORLD SOCIETY
8. (a) Who are God’s servants in the earth today, and what work are they accomplishing? (b) What is Jehovah’s judgment against the false shepherds, and why? (c) To whom do the “sheep” really belong?
8 Regardless of the failure of Christendom, Jehovah God does have his witnesses on the earth, and they are sharing in the most important educational work being done today, that foretold by his Son Christ Jesus: “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) The religious clergy of Christendom may protest that Jehovah’s witnesses are invading their pastures and taking away their sheep. But Jehovah God views the matter differently. To those false shepherds who have caused their flocks to forget the name of Jehovah God, and who have directed their confidence to governments of men instead of the kingdom of God, and who have not instructed and equipped them to make public declaration of their faith in imitation of Christ Jesus, but have kept them for their own selfish advantage, Jehovah says: “Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my sheep at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the sheep; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; and I will deliver my sheep from their mouth, that they may not be food for them.”(Ezek. 34:10, AS) They are Jehovah’s “sheep,” and he is gathering them into his New World society.
9. By what means has the number of Jehovah’s witnesses increased?
9 When one observes the tremendous growth of the New World society he cannot help but feel the responsibility that falls upon Jehovah’s witnesses. During the past few years there have been hundreds of thousands of newly interested persons leaving their old way of life and making their association with Jehovah’s witnesses. It is of interest to note that this increase is due to the fact that grown-up people who have a mind of their own are taking their stand for truth and righteousness. They have not become part of the organization through infant baptism or some other meaningless ceremony. Those individuals that increase the numbers associated with Jehovah’s witnesses have done their own thinking and have made their own decisions.
10. How many new ones began to share in the preaching work with Jehovah’s Witnesses during 1958, and why?
10 In just the past year of 1958 there were 81,425 more persons who associated themselves with Jehovah’s witnesses and preached the things that they had heard and learned. They were so enthusiastic about the new way of life set forth to them in God’s Word that they wanted to tell others. But with this great influx of persons coming into the New World society it places a responsibility upon all other members of this Society to see that these new ones get an accurate knowledge of the truth. These new ones appreciate the Kingdom, love it, and they see the possibility of everlasting life as a prize to be gained through Christ Jesus, their Lord. They have come to appreciate that Jehovah God, their Life-giver, should be given exclusive devotion and that one cannot serve two masters, God and the Devil.
11. (a) For these new ones to stay with the organization, what do they need, and how are they going to get it? (b) What pointed counsel on the matter did Peter give?
11 All these beginners need help as far as further knowledge is concerned. If all these new publishers of the Kingdom are going to stay in Jehovah’s theocratic organization, continually praising his name, they must be assisted. Paul wanted to give that assistance and did so, and that is why he stated: “Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1) It is a challenge to all who have been Jehovah’s witnesses for years, and a responsibility placed upon them, to see to it that all the 798,326 who are now associated with the organization grow to maturity and become strong, hardy Christians. All who are in the organization should feel just as Peter felt when he said: “Certainly if, after having escaped from the defilements of the world by an accurate knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they get involved again with these very things and are overcome, the final conditions have become worse for them than the first. For 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.’”—2 Pet. 2:20-22.
12. Why did Peter say he was writing to those who had accepted the truth, and what good counsel did he give?
12 Peter helped early Christians by talking to them plainly about God’s Word and showing them what course had to be taken. Christians of today must do exactly the same. When writing to those who had accepted the truth Peter said: “Beloved ones, this is now the second letter I am writing you, in which, as in my first one, I am arousing your clear thinking faculties by way of a reminder, that you should remember the words previously spoken by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles.” (2 Pet. 3:1, 2) They needed accurate knowledge, and Peter was anxious to help them to get it. He warned them against wrong thinking and impressed on their minds a proper appreciation of their service. Peter expressed the same idea that is found in Revelation 16:15, our yeartext, which emphasizes the need for staying on the watch, as otherwise one will be stripped naked because he has fallen asleep at his post of Christian duty. Peter emphasized this point when he said: “Since you are awaiting these things, do your utmost to be found finally by him spotless and unblemished and in peace. . . . be on your guard that you may not be led away with them by the error of the law-defying people and fall from your own steadfastness.” (2 Pet. 3:14, 17) How necessary, then, it must be for each one to be on guard and awake prior to the battle of Armageddon! This is just as necessary for all the new ones as it is for the older ones in the truth. Each must keep his outer garments of the ministry.
13. With a great crowd of “other sheep” coming into the organization now, what does it mean for those who are already Jehovah’s witnesses?
13 If one does not keep his ministerial garments on, it shows that he has returned to the defilements of the old world from which he was saved. Certainly no one who has an accurate knowledge of the truth wants to see himself, or anyone else, slip back into that condition. As Jehovah’s witnesses draw ever closer to the final battle and the time for the complete vindication of Jehovah’s name, it makes our hearts rejoice because of the great crowd of “other sheep” that are coming into the organization. But with the coming of that great crowd it means greater work, harder work, on the part of those who are already Jehovah’s witnesses. These new ones must be provided with good spiritual food. They must have accurate knowledge. Therefore everyone who is dedicated to Jehovah God should feel the responsibility that falls upon the whole organization of Jehovah’s witnesses to help one another, and especially these 81,425 that have just come into the organization during the past year.
14, 15. (a) During the past decade what growth has been seen in the New World society? (b) In what respects particularly do the new ones need assistance?
14 This heavy responsibility is not a new one. This great crowd has been making itself manifest year by year, as the following chart shows.
THE GROWTH OF THE NEW WORLD SOCIETY
1948 to 1958
Service Average Inc. over Percent Peak of
Year Publishers Prev. Year of Inc. Publishers
1948 230,532 49,461 27 260,756
1949 279,421 48,889 21 317,877
1950 328,572 49,151 18 373,430
1951 384,694 56,122 17 442,380
1952 426,704 42,010 11 456,265
1953 468,106 41,402 10 519,982
1954 525,924 57,818 12 580,498
1955 570,694 44,770 8.5 642,929
1956 591,556 20,862 3.6 640,347
1957 653,273 61,717 10 716,901
1958 717,088 63,815 9.8 798,326
15 During the past decade there has been a constant ingathering of the “other sheep” and this ingathering has increased year by year, from 40,000 a year up to over 60,000 a year. When we look at the average yearly increase in the number of those who are publishing the good news of the Kingdom, it is evident that the growth has been rapid. Now in the last year, 1958, the difference between the average number of publishers and the peak number is over 81,000. This throws an even greater responsibility upon Jehovah’s organization. Knowing of the great work of preaching and teaching that it is necessary to accomplish during this time of the end, we want all of these and many more lovers of righteousness to come to an accurate knowledge of the truth and to have a regular share in the ministry every month during the 1959 service year and the years to follow. That means that they are going to need the help of the more mature ones in the congregation. Are you willing to do as the apostle Paul, extending a helping hand to your Christian brother and encouraging him to “press on to maturity”? (Heb. 6:1) These new ones must develop good habits of Bible study, both privately and congregationally, and they must continue to grow in appreciation of their privilege as witnesses of God. These newly active persons are close neighbors of ours now, and we must show love for our neighbors as for ourselves by helping them to get a full appreciation of Jehovah’s righteous principles and of how one walks in the footsteps of Christ Jesus.
16. (a) How many more shared regularly in publishing the good news last year, and how many were baptized? (b) Of those who are already sharing in the preaching work how many still need to progress to the point of water baptism, but what is necessary first?
16 In looking at the chart showing the growth of the New World society, you will observe that there were 63,815 more who shared regularly each month in publishing the good news than during the previous year and that those who were baptized in water this year to symbolize their dedication to Jehovah God totaled 62,666 persons. Here we find a difference of only 1,149, if we assume that those who became regular publishers were the ones baptized. And that means that in our peak number of publishers there are still well over 82,000 persons throughout the world that need to come to a full appreciation of God’s Word and be baptized. But before they are baptized they should know the Word of God and the course of action that it is proper for them to take. They should appreciate the high standard that God requires for Christians. This information is available for all, but it is the responsibility of the mature Christian to see that they get the information and read about it before they are baptized, not necessarily afterward, because that often is too late.
17. Before one is baptized, what changes in his way of life must take place, and what if he is baptized before making those changes?
17 Jehovah wants a clean, peaceable, wholesome organization, people who are wholly devoted to him and who know their responsibilities as ministers. If one has not escaped from the defilements of the world but is still carrying on its wrong practices, then he is still asleep as Christendom is. When one takes on the responsibilities of a Christian he must stay awake; only persons who are awake, clean and alive to their responsibilities are acceptable for baptism as Jehovah’s witnesses. Otherwise their dedication is not true to Jehovah God. It is hypocritical, and so could not be accepted by the God of holiness.
18. What things should one learn, and in what way should he show his sincerity before presenting himself to be baptized?
18 So before a person ever presents himself for baptism in symbol of his dedication he should have studied more than the promises concerning God’s new world of righteousness. He may want life, but does he want to conform to Jehovah’s righteous requirements? Is he thoroughly convinced that the Bible is the Word of God? Does he know what it says about drunkenness, proper relationships between the sexes, and separateness from the old world? Has he studied long enough to appreciate the difference between true religion and false doctrines? Does he really want to be a minister of God, following in the footsteps of Christ Jesus by preaching publicly and in the homes of other people about the Kingdom? Is it just a passing fancy, or has he demonstrated his sincerity by going along in the work and by attending the congregational meetings where training in the ministry is provided? He should thoroughly appreciate what he is doing before he is baptized.
19, 20. (a) How much instruction did the Ethiopian eunuch and those baptized at Pentecost have before they were baptized, and wherein is the situation different today? (b) Before one takes the step of baptism, what should he clearly appreciate?
19 Perhaps the question will arise: Just how much advance training and instruction did the three thousand who heard Peter on the day of Pentecost and were baptized that very day have? What about the Ethiopian who was an official in the service of Queen Candace and who was baptized after just a brief discussion on a chariot ride? Were they properly instructed before they were baptized? The answer must be Yes. Remember, they were all Jews or proselytes to the religion practiced by the Jews. As such they had been instructed in the Word of God, because they heard it read regularly in their synagogues. In fact, those baptized at Pentecost were in Jerusalem for a celebration that had been commanded in the Law given by God through Moses. Jesus himself said: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the seat of Moses. Therefore all the things they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds, for they say but do not perform.” (Matt. 23:2, 3) So they knew the contents of the Scriptures then available, but there was something else that they learned before being baptized, and that was that Christ Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, the one through whom Jehovah had made provision for salvation. Hearing the evidence of this and being persuaded of its truthfulness, they realized that they could no longer be a part of an organization that did not believe it and, worse, that was responsible for putting to death the Son of God. They repented of the guilt that rested upon them because of belonging to the religious system whose leaders and whose followers had shouted for Jesus to be impaled. They unreservedly expressed their faith in Christ Jesus and were ready to tell others about it.
20 However, in this time of the end the majority of members of the religious systems of Christendom have not been instructed in the Bible. Surveys show that few of them can even name the four Gospels, let alone know what they contain. They are badly in need of careful instruction in even the elementary truths, and until they learn these things they are not in position to make a dedication. They should clearly know what they are doing, that they are not simply joining a church, but that they are entering into a sacred relationship to Jehovah God, that they are going to be teachers of the truth to others and that, regardless of the consequences, they must continue to walk in their integrity. They should be wide awake to the significance of Christian baptism, and determined with the help of God to live up to it, before taking that step.
21. How can we assist those who want to be with the New World society to progress to the point of baptism and then to continue in their progress to maturity?
21 The responsibility rests upon all dedicated persons possessing an accurate knowledge of the truth to help these who have not got rid of all the defilements of the world, but who want to be with the New World society, to clean up and to clothe themselves “with the new personality which through accurate knowledge is being renewed according to the image of the one who created it.” (Col. 3:10) Let them appreciate fully what Jehovah’s requirements are. They should receive personal instruction from a mature person in studying the books “Let God Be True” and “This Means Everlasting Life.” They should also know the contents of the latest books “Your Will Be Done on Earth” and From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained. Even after they have made a dedication someone should continue to study with them to help them to gain this information that is so important to their continued advancement to maturity. “Really, then, as long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” (Gal. 6:10) As we give them this continued assistance, we will be pleased to see them shoulder their responsibility as Christian witnesses and become capable teachers of the truth. They will take hold of added privileges of service, seeking first the Kingdom and God’s righteousness.