Do You Really Accept the Teachings of Christ?
Is it necessary to believe everything in the Bible to be Christian? If one leads a “good” life, is that enough?
FAR from being soft-spoken and inoffensive, Christ Jesus was outspoken in behalf of the truth. The things he said did not always please his hearers, not even all who professed to be his disciples. He made no pretense at promoting interfaith movements, but uncompromisingly advocated the pure worship of the only true God. Jesus did not practice an “easy” religion, nor did he advocate that kind of religion for others. He was an energetic minister of God.
After being immersed by John the Baptist in the fall of the year 29 (A.D.), he began to teach his first disciples. The next spring while attending the Passover in Jerusalem he exposed the commercialism that was being carried on right in the temple area, overturning the tables of the money-changers. It was about that time that John the Baptist was thrown into prison because of his outspoken preaching, and there he stayed over a year till his execution. Jesus was not deterred by John’s imprisonment. He opened an intensive two-year public ministry in Galilee, and in the synagogue of his own home town of Nazareth he read his commission from the scroll of Isaiah for all to hear.
During the second year of his Galilean ministry, Jesus designated the twelve who were to be apostles. He both took them along with him and sent them out on assignments by twos to give them training in the ministry that they were to continue after his death. His preaching took him into the neighborhood of Phoenicia, through Judea and Perea and on to Jerusalem and the climax of his earthly career there in the spring of 33 (A.D.).
ATTITUDE TOWARD THE SCRIPTURES
Jesus accepted the Scriptures as the inspired Word of God. He was no higher critic, professing to teach the Bible but taking issue with the things it says. He did not discount the record concerning Adam and Eve as a fable, but he quoted from the authoritative Genesis account of the matter, saying: “Did you not read that he who created them at the beginning made them male and female and said: ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh’?” He believed the account about Jonah and the big fish and he spoke of the flood of Noah’s day as a historical fact. Never once did Jesus question the truthfulness of any part of the Bible record. Although portions of the Scriptures reached back to events over four thousand years past at the time he referred to them, he did not suggest that they might better be replaced by more up-to-date ideas. And neither does anyone who is a true follower of Christ take such a viewpoint.—Matt. 19:4, 5; 24:37, 38; Luke 11:30.
When turning back the unholy advances of the Devil, Jesus declared: “Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.” As he had done during his human life, so also after his resurrection from the dead, he impressed the importance and reliability of the Scriptures on the minds of his followers. “Commencing at Moses and all the Prophets he interpreted to them things pertaining to himself in all the Scriptures.” He knew that the only way for them to have a firm faith was for them to have an accurate knowledge of God’s Word. Do you accept the entire Bible as God’s inspired Word and do you know what it contains? That is part of being a Christian.—Matt. 4:4; Luke 24:27.
Certainly for one to believe the teachings of Christ he must know and worship the God that Christ worshiped. Do not erroneously conclude that Christians are to worship Christ; that is not what he taught. True, he is a god, a mighty one, but he did not worship himself and he did not teach his disciples to worship him. Rather, on the day he was resurrected he told Mary Magdalene: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.” The Father was not to be ignored as if he were one and the same with the Son. Jesus said: “He that sent me is real.”—John 20:17; 7:28.
It is true that his opponents accused Jesus of making himself equal to God by calling God his own Father, but in so doing they misrepresented the facts, as do those who teach the doctrine of the trinity today. Jesus answered their falsehood by saying: “Most truly I say to you, The Son cannot do a single thing of his own initiative.” No, he was not equal to God, and he further emphasized that point by saying: “The Father is greater than I am.” (John 5:18, 19; 14:28) His own disciples properly understood the matter, and when he asked them, “Who do you say I am?” they did not confuse his identity with that of the Father or say that he was a member of a triune Godhead. No; Peter said: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” His Father had sent him to earth to glorify God and to “give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.”—Matt. 16:15-17; 20:28.
Whom, then, did Jesus worship, and whom does he teach us to worship? He answers: “It is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’” Perhaps the Bible translation you have does not say “Jehovah” at Matthew 4:10 but says “the Lord.” If so, please note that Jesus was quoting this from another source, saying, “It is written.” He quoted from Deuteronomy 6:13, where, in the King James Version, the word “LORD” is printed in all capital letters. Why? Because the original text at this place contains the Hebrew characters for the name of God, Jehovah. Jesus used that name and kept it prominent, his own name meaning “Jehovah is salvation.” He taught us to pray: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.” In his own prayer to the Father he said: “I have made your name manifest to the men you gave me out of the world.” Jesus was a worshiper of Jehovah God, and those who are his disciples follow his example.—Matt. 6:9; John 17:6.
VIEWPOINT TOWARD OTHER RELIGIONS
It is a common thought among professed Christians in our time that membership in any church is all right as long as the individual is sincere. That being so, it is considered poor taste to criticize the religion of another person. Those who hold to these ideas may feel that theirs is a tolerant Christian viewpoint. Do the facts support the case?
Christ did not agree that everyone worships the same God or that all religion is good. He outspokenly told the clergy of his day: “You know neither me nor my Father. . . . You are from your father the Devil and you wish to do the desires of your father. . . . He that is from God listens to the sayings of God. This is why you do not listen, because you are not from God.”—John 8:19, 44, 47.
Well aware of the divine requirements for salvation, Jesus knew that not all religions lead to life, and he never left that impression with others. In his sermon on the mountain he said: “Go in through the narrow gate; because broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are the ones going in through it; whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it. Many will say to me in that day: ‘Master, Master, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you at all. Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”—Matt. 7:13, 14, 22, 23.
Jesus rebuked the religious leaders for failing their flocks. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut up the kingdom of the heavens before mankind; for you yourselves do not go in, neither do you permit those on their way in to go in.” They were failing to direct the people to the Kingdom of God. Yes, they made professions of piety, claiming to be servants of God and the religious instructors of the people, but they were frauds, and Jesus said: “You also, outwardly indeed, appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”—Matt. 23:13, 28.
Statements like those make some pious folk shudder, but why be offended? Our disgust should be directed against the religious hypocrites, against those who endanger the lives of others by making it hard for them to get into the Kingdom, whether in Jesus’ day or in this twentieth century. Principled persons not only approve of the exposure of dishonesty, but participate in it in order to protect their neighbors.
Love, compassion, patience and peace are important qualities. They must be cultivated and exercised by Christians in their relations with one another and in their relationships with those on the outside, even when they may be abused. God has shown these qualities toward us and we are under obligation to show them toward others. But we must not confuse love of neighbor with love of God-dishonoring sin and unscriptural religious doctrines. We must not condone wrong. Love of God will move us to stand firm for his righteous principles. Love of neighbor will cause us to warn him of the pitfalls that surround him. That is Christian love—love that shows itself first of all in loyalty to God, and then in seeking the lasting welfare of one’s fellow.—Luke 10:27.
Just as Jesus’ teaching did not appeal to those who insincerely clung to false practices and teachings, so, too, it did not appeal to those who might have been indifferent or lazy. They had to want the truth to get it. “Accordingly I say to you,” counseled Jesus, “Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you.” Our desire to understand the Bible must be strong, so that we keep on studying and asking and seeking until we get the point of it.—Luke 11:9.
There are others besides the lazily indifferent ones who do not find the teachings of Jesus appealing. They are those who look to the learned men of this world to tell them what to do or who rely on the wisdom of the world as their guide. Greatly upset by the effectiveness of Jesus’ teaching, the Pharisees argued: “You have not been misled also, have you? Not one of the rulers or of the Pharisees has put faith in him, has he?” (John 7:47, 48) Their argument was wholly irrelevant, but it is an argument that easily eclipses reason. People look for evidence of worldly approval. But Jesus took the opposite viewpoint, saying: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and have revealed them to babes. Yes, O Father, because to do thus came to be the way approved by you.” (Matt. 11:25, 26) God’s Word is based on the very Source of wisdom, Jehovah God. It is completely reliable and in harmony with established truths that may be uncovered in any other field of research. But it is not based on the wrong thinking and philosophies of the old world, and for that reason it does not appeal to those who subscribe to that sort of intellectualism. If your acceptance of Jesus’ teachings depends on their being approved by worldly intellectuals, then you will not be a Christian.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
From the time he began his Galilean ministry in the year 30 (A.D.) Jesus boldly proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was at hand, and fittingly so, because he as its anointed King was present. But it was not the time for him to take his kingly power and begin to rule. No, he was to ascend to heaven and sit at his Father’s right hand until the appointed times of the nations ran out A.D. 1914. Then, in fulfillment of his own prophecy, the Son of man would come “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Matt. 22:44; 24:30) His was to be a heavenly kingdom. There he could take action against the great oppressor of humankind, Satan the Devil, and put him and his demons out of existence. As heavenly king he would do on a grander scale for his earthly subjects the things that he miraculously performed during his earthly ministry. “For this is the will of my Father,” said Jesus, “that everyone that beholds the Son and exercises faith in him should have everlasting life, and I should resurrect him at the last day.” (John 6:40) The eyes of the blind he will open and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. The crippled and diseased will be healed, and he will grant abundant prosperity to his subjects.
Let none be confused by the claims of political impostors who say that world communism will deliver the people into a prosperous and happy new world. Nor let anyone think that the kingdom of which Jesus spoke finds its fulfillment in democracy. Democracy is rule by the people, but Jesus taught us to seek continually the kingdom of God, His kingdom ruled by His anointed Son. Being Christian means to recognize that, indeed, Jesus is the Christ, the One anointed by Jehovah God as King, and to submit to the laws of his Kingdom rule and to promote the interests of that kingdom at all times.
MORE THAN A “GOOD LIFE”
It is obvious that being a Christian involves much more than leading a “good life.” It is more than honoring one’s parents and refraining from murder, adultery, theft and falsehood. To a man who said he kept all these commandments Jesus advised: “Go, sell what things you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower.” (Mark 10:17-22) Yes, “be my follower.” Accept the teachings of Christ, believing the Bible and giving Jehovah God exclusive devotion as Jesus did. Follow the example of Christ, breaking off your purely selfish pursuits in the old world and becoming a zealous minister of God as Jesus was.
Happy are those who do it! No distress that will come upon the human race in the days ahead will be able to shake their confidence. And no persecution that may befall them as servants of God, not even death itself, can rob them of the realization of their hope. “Therefore everyone that hears these sayings of mine and does them will be likened to a discreet man, who built his house upon the rock-mass. And the rain poured down and the floods came and the winds blew and lashed against that house, but it did not cave in, for it had been founded upon the rock-mass.” (Matt. 7:24, 25) It is such faith that those have who really believe the teachings of Christ.