Be Ready Always to Make a Defense
“Always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you, but doing do together with a mild temper and deep respect.”—1 Pet. 3:15.
1. To what are ministers of Jehovah God likened? In what sense must they be like that?
JEHOVAH’S witnesses have been likened to men versed in the highest law, teaching the law of God to men of good will. According to Webster’s Dictionary, a lawyer is “one versed in the laws, or a practitioner of law, counselor, barrister, etc.” Although not all Christians are “lawyers” practicing in earthly law courts, they must be versed, not in man-made laws, but in the law of Jehovah, the supreme Lawgiver. They must be practitioners and counselors of Jehovah’s law and they must be successful defenders of Jehovah’s law.
2. (a) What is law? (b) About what law do Jehovah’s witnesses counsel people, and why?
2 People go to an earthly lawyer to ask for legal counsel to avoid harm or injury. Law is defined as a rule of action or conduct. A lawyer therefore counsels people how to act or conduct themselves in harmony with the law, and defends such lawful actions in court. While worldly lawyers find out what actions and conduct are in harmony with human laws, Jehovah’s witnesses are primarily interested in knowing what actions and conduct are in harmony with Jehovah’s supreme laws. They like to counsel people about God’s law and word. But not only does Jehovah’s law, like human laws, state rules of action and conduct, but it gives those versed in it Christian faith and sure hope. Thus by teaching God’s law to men of good will Jehovah’s witnesses are helping them, not only to bring their actions and conduct into harmony with God’s law, but also to become strong in Christian faith and hope, avoiding harm and injury or penalty from the supreme Judge, Jehovah.
3. To whom did Peter write his first letter?
3 As good Christian teachers of law Jehovah’s witnesses must not only expound the law of God but must also defend the faith and hope based on this law. Like lawyers, they must not only counsel but also defend. This divine requirement is stated in 1 Peter 3:15: “Always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you.” To whom does this rule apply? Whom did the apostle Peter expect to be always ready to make a defense? Did he expect it only of a special priestly class or did he expect it of all claiming to be Christians? Therefore, does this rule also apply to the person reading this issue of The Watchtower? From the opening verse we learn to whom Peter was addressing his letter, namely, “to the temporary residents scattered about in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, to the ones chosen.” These temporary residents were Christians living among non-Christian Jews and Gentiles in the Roman provinces in Asia Minor. Commenting on 1 Peter 1:1, the Roman Catholic Bible translator Rupert Storr says that the apostle Peter wrote his first letter to Christians and that chapters 1Pe 1:3 to 4:11 are a sermon addressed to newly baptized ones.
4. To whom do Peter’s words in 1 Peter 3:15 apply?
4 Of these Christians, and according to this Bible translator, even of newly baptized ones, Peter expected that they be always ready to make a defense and give good reasons for the hope in them. So 1 Peter 3:15 applies to Christians, and they must all fulfill the divine requirement of defending successfully their hope. Do you, reader of The Watchtower, count yourself to be a Christian? If so, then this rule always to be ready to make a defense for the hope in you also applies to you. Are you ready? If not, a minister of Jehovah’s witnesses will be glad to help you.
5, 6. (a) In what situation were the early Christians in Asia Minor? (b) What counsel does Peter give them to help maintain good conduct?
5 These early Christians in Asia Minor were not in a very comfortable situation. From the tenor of Peter’s letter it seems they were experiencing many trials, but more severe trials lay ahead. The fiery persecution to be launched against Christians by Emperor Nero had not yet begun. Like thousands of men of good will today, these newly converted Christians had abandoned their former religions, idols, cults and superstitions, their ‘fruitless form of conduct received by tradition from their forefathers.’ (1 Pet. 1:18) They were putting off their old personality and bringing their conduct into harmony with God’s law and word. Now they were no longer living “for the desires of men, but for God’s will.” Their former coreligionists could not understand this change and viewed it as apostasy to the popular religious, national and social life, just as today. It was a crime! These new Christians became the objects of hate and persecution because they “put away all moral badness and all deceitfulness and hypocrisy and envies and all kinds of backbiting.” “Because you do not continue running with them in this course to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you.” (1 Pet. 2:1; 4:4) Yes, the Devil himself gets enraged when people start to bring their actions and conduct of life, their faith and hope into harmony with Jehovah’s supreme and perfect law. “Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.”—1 Pet. 5:8.
6 It is not easy to defend one’s hope in such a situation. In his letter Peter admonishes these Christians not yet experienced in trials and persecutions to rejoice, even if grieved by various trials. “Maintain your conduct right among the nations.” “Be sound in mind, therefore, and be vigilant with a view to prayers.” “Keep your senses, be watchful” among men who are proceeding “in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and idolatries that are without legal restraint.” (1 Pet. 2:12; 4:7; 5:8; 4:3) They should be closely united under theocratic rule and organization. “Love one another intensely from the heart.” “Above all things, have intense love for one another. . . . Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. In proportion as each one has received a gift, use it in ministering to one another.” (1 Pet. 1:22; 4:8-10) And “finally, all of you be like-minded, showing fellow feeling, exercising brotherly love, tenderly affectionate, humble in mind, not paying back injury for injury or reviling for reviling, but, to the contrary, bestowing a blessing, because you were called to this course, so that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Pet. 3:8, 9) This counsel should keep these Christians closely united and protect them from falling back.
7. (a) How did they become Christians? (b) What should they now do too?
7 There was one more thing necessary to maintain the right course of conduct, namely, the declaring and defending of their hope. These Christians had been taught the right course of conduct by the preaching of the good news, through which they had received a living hope. Peter reminded them of this fact, writing: “To you, [the prophets] were ministering the things which have now been announced to you through those who have declared the good news to you with holy spirit sent forth from heaven.” And now, what should they also be doing? What does Peter expect from each and every one of them? Listen! “Hence brace up your minds for activity,” he commands. What kind of activity? Peter answers: “‘That you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” And when should they declare these excellencies? “Always ready to make a defense . . . for the hope in you.”—1 Pet. 1:12, 13; 2:9; 3:15.
8. In what situation are Christians today? And what results from the teaching of God’s law and word?
8 Today similar conditions exist as in Asia Minor nineteen hundred years ago. The same Devil is walking about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour, and the nations are doing the same will, proceeding “in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and idolatries that are without legal restraint.” So the same instructions apply today to Christians, if they wish to maintain their good conduct and be able to defend their faith and hope. The good news of God’s kingdom by Christ is now being preached to men of good will and the same brotherly love unites Christians closely together under theocratic organization. And because of the preaching of the good news people are coming out of darkness as they did nineteen hundred years ago; they quit ‘being fashioned according to the desires they formerly had in their ignorance,’ becoming true Christians, living now to do God’s will, having a living hope. Through this preaching activity over 70,000 left their former course last year and became true Christians. In the last ten years Jehovah’s witnesses have grown from 230,532 to 717,088 ministers.
DEFEND YOUR HOPE SUCCESSFULLY
9, 10. (a) Describe the Christian’s hope? (b) When will the realization of this hope be?
9 All these Christians have a magnificent and sure hope worth defending at all times and before all kinds of men. This hope is based on the sure foundation of God’s Word, the Bible. This Word assures them that Jehovah God created the earth to remain forever, to be populated with meek and righteous men, whereas all evildoers and wicked ones will be cut off. (Eccl. 1:4; Isa. 45:18; Ps. 37:9, 10, 29) No wars will then threaten and terrify earth’s inhabitants. Everlasting peace and happiness will be the result of knowing and obeying Jehovah’s law and word. (Mic. 4:3, 4; Isa. 11:9) Indeed a new world, a world without tears, mourning, outcry or pain, even without death. Men will have everlasting life in a paradise earth because of their knowledge about God, Jehovah, and his Son Christ Jesus. (Rev. 21:3, 4; John 17:3) Jehovah’s kingdom guarantees the realization of this divine hope.
10 This realization will come in our day. The great battle of Jehovah, called in Hebrew Har–Magedon, will wipe off this old wicked system of things. Jehovah’s witnesses have the sure hope that this great change from the old to the new system will take place within this generation. What a hope!—Rev. 16:16; Matt. 24:34.
11. How must this hope be preached, and what is necessary?
11 This hope must now be declared to all kinds of men in all the inhabited earth. But this preaching and teaching must be done effectively and successfully. Of what good is it to use your whole strength preaching the good news about God’s kingdom in your territory if you cannot say the right things when you speak to the people at their doors or in their homes? Are you able to give good reasons for your hope? Willingness is not sufficient. When you are witnessing, do you want to be always walking from house to house, climbing stairs, knocking at doors, talking to people, and yet failing to convince? To the contrary, you want to walk, climb, knock, talk and convince. You want to be successful in bringing the thoughts of the people into harmony with Bible truths by being able to defeat false doctrines, showing trinity to be false, immortal soul pagan, purgatory nonexistent, being able to paint a glorious picture of the new world and to give hope and comfort. This implies that you must know your belief and that you can give strong reasons for your hope.
12. What fruit does correct instruction bear, as shown in the case of Apollos?
12 An excellent example of this we have in Acts 18:24-26. Apollos was an eloquent man and well versed in the Scriptures. This man had some knowledge and “as he was aglow with the spirit, he went to speaking and teaching with some correctness the things about Jesus, but being acquainted with only the baptism of John. And this man started to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him into their company and expounded the way of God more correctly to him.” This correct instruction bore good fruit. Apollos, now able to accurately defend his faith and hope and eager to help others, continued his journey and “greatly helped those who had believed on account of God’s undeserved kindness; for with intensity he thoroughly proved the Jews to be wrong, while he demonstrated publicly by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.”—Acts 18:27, 28.
13. What must persons who just believe in God or have some knowledge receive today?
13 So, like Aquila and Priscilla, all Christian ministers should be able to teach the truth more correctly to persons who just believe in God or who have some knowledge of the Bible. For this, accurate knowledge is necessary to be a fruitful and productive minister, as the apostle Paul wishes all Christians to be, “that you may be filled with the accurate knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual discernment, in order to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him as you go on bearing fruit in every good work.”—Col. 1:9, 10.
14. When one is preaching, why are lots of words not the important thing?
14 To please Jehovah fully Christians must not only preach the good news but must bear fruit. There must be freeness of speech of the right kind, not just glib wordiness. It is not lots of words that are necessary, but words that give good reasons for your faith and hope. Do people understand your words? The apostle Paul says it is better to speak five words with understanding, that others might be instructed verbally, than ten thousand words in a tongue or words no one understands.—1 Cor. 14:19.
15. To whose satisfaction must a minister answer questions? Why? What is necessary?
15 Christians should heed Paul’s counsel and instruct others verbally with words of understanding. Their minds must be filled with accurate knowledge about Jehovah God, about his Son, Christ Jesus, his kingdom, his purposes regarding the universe and mankind, about his laws and principles. Only then will Christians be able to defend their belief and hope successfully. May we ask you: Have you absorbed this knowledge? Can you answer, not only to your own satisfaction, but to the questioner’s satisfaction? Have you applied your mind to the utmost in study so that you can handle the Word of God effectively, as a real artist, with no cause for shame at being unable to refute opposers? Paul admonishes Christians: “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.”—2 Tim. 2:15.
16. (a) What do parents expect from their children? (b) What does Jehovah expect from his servants?
16 In preaching and defending the good news and when called upon to give a reason for your hope, you should not always conveniently rely on others, thinking they can do it better. Jehovah expects you to be capable of establishing your hope on the basis of the Bible yourself. You certainly do not wish to belong to those who are “always learning and yet never able to come to an accurate knowledge of truth” and therefore unable to defend your hope yourself. (2 Tim. 3:7) Parents expect their children to grow up to be self-reliant. It may be a pleasure for a mother to take the hand of her little boy and lead him safely across the street. She would certainly be disappointed though if her twenty-year-old son would say: “Mamma, hold my hand and take me over.” A student of law too must stand alone in court one day and defend his case. So Jehovah too expects Christians to grow up, to be able to render account to everyone at all times regarding the foundation truths of his Word, the Bible.—1 Cor. 13:11.
17. Why is daily Bible study most important?
17 Daily study will be a requirement if you want to be such a productive Christian minister. You must thoroughly know what you want to defend toward all kinds of men. Therefore reserve time to study God’s Word. Do not think you are too young or too old. Do not think your worldly education is not good enough. Whether you are young or old, having a higher or a lower education, you can all learn to know your Bible. Use the Bible daily; daily read and meditate, even if it is only for fifteen or thirty minutes, then you will surely become a real artist in the use of God’s Word regardless of your age and education. What we do daily we eventually master. Daily study is one of the most important factors in developing the ability to effectively preach and defend the true faith and hope. Christians must learn it. “But let our people also learn to maintain right works so as to meet their pressing needs, that they may not be unproductive.” (Titus 3:14) Through study you prepare yourself “so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one.”—Col. 4:6.
LET THE BIBLE DEFEND YOUR HOPE
18. Why should you use the Bible in preaching and defending your hope?
18 The most successful way to preach and defend your hope is by the use of the Bible. Your hope is from the Bible. Defend it with the Bible. Not you, but God’s Word, the Bible, must convince men of good will of the correctness of your hope. Not in your preaching alone, but in your efficient use of the Bible do you really defend your faith and give reasons for your hope. Use your Bible as much as possible. Let the Bible speak instead of yourself. How do you describe the new earth? Only by talking? This is a weak defense of your Kingdom hope. Do you back your preaching up with scriptures out of the Bible? Do you know at least ten scriptures by heart to paint a marvelous picture of the new earth? Then you will always be ready to give good reasons about your hope. Only by going to the Bible can people see that your hope is based on and in harmony with the Bible and therefore trustworthy. After leaving, people will have to say: “He showed it to me in the Bible!”
19, 20. (a) Why must Christians be able to explain Bible truth so that it is easily understandable? (b) Give an example. (c) What should each Christian do?
19 Christians must also be able to explain Bible truth correctly and convincingly, in a manner to be easily understood. This means preparation. Can you, for example, explain the earthly resurrection? Catholics are taught in their “Apostles’ Creed” to believe “in the resurrection of the flesh,” the same flesh that was laid in the grave. Did you know that? No wonder many of them have such an odd conception of the resurrection and often smile when you mention it. They see before their mind’s eye, inspired by false religious teachings, the heavy gravestones being pushed aside in the cemetery and the same old bodies coming up out of the graves, with perhaps an arm or a leg missing.
20 You know that the Bible does not teach such a thing. However, it does teach the resurrection of the same personality, naturally having a fleshly body, of “all those in the memorial tombs.” (John 5:28) How can you explain this wonderful and comforting Bible doctrine convincingly? How can you free people from the wrong and superstitious ideas of false religion? Only if you occupy your mind daily with God’s Word. Hunt for good Scripture texts and arguments to support your hope about the resurrection of dead persons and not fleshly bodies. Speak with other ministers of Jehovah’s witnesses. Listen to how they explain and defend the hope for the dead. Note the main arguments and Bible verses for later use. Here is an example. From where did Jehovah take the body for the first man Adam? Genesis 2:7 says: “Then Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground,” and Genesis 3:19 tells us where the same body would go, when dying: “For dust you are and to dust you will return.” Facts prove this to be true. All bodies laid in graves return to dust, to the elements of the earth. These bodies cannot be resurrected, they return to dust. But as Jehovah provided Adam a body out of dust from the ground, so he will provide out of the dust of the ground a body for the resurrected person. And, as in the case of Adam, Jehovah will again ‘blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man will come to be a living soul.’ Look for more arguments. Resurrection is only one of the wonderful Bible doctrines. There are many others. Prepare a new one every week or every month and you will soon see how you become more efficient from week to week in effectively, simply and convincingly explaining Bible truth.
21, 22. (a) How should a minister view objections? Give examples of good refutations. (b) We are counseled to do what?
21 A successful defender of Christian faith and hope must certainly be able to refute objections. When preaching the Kingdom news Jehovah’s witnesses hear the same objections again and again. As a conscientious minister you will not ignore these objections. Make a list of them. Meditate upon them. Search again for pointed arguments and appropriate texts in the Bible to refute these objections in defense of your belief.
22 Often people object when you are describing the peaceful and righteous conditions of the new earth, saying that paradise is in heaven and there will never be such conditions here on earth. How can you convince such people that your hope for a paradise earth is sound Bible teaching? For instance, you can illustrate it with Isaiah 65:21, 22, where it states about the new earth that they will build houses and inhabit them, they will plant vineyards and eat the fruit thereof. Isaiah is surely not speaking here of a building and planting program in heaven; he is describing peaceful and righteous conditions here on earth. Furthermore, Isa 65 verse 25 says: “The wolf and the lamb themselves will feed as one, and the lion will eat straw just like the bull.” This prophecy can apply only to the earth. No one would want to maintain that one day lions will eat straw in heaven. Look for more such convincing arguments and give good reasons for your hope by handling the Word of God aright. If you make a thorough refutation of one objection each week, or even each month, then you will become more efficient in defending your faith and giving strong reasons for your hope to all kinds of men.
23. How does The Watchtower, along with other publications of the Society, help you to defend your hope? Give examples.
23 As a successful defender, be on the alert to find good points in the Watchtower magazine and other publications of the Society that you can use well in explaining Bible teachings and in refuting objections. Try to find at least one good point in each Watchtower. Note it. Add it to your prepared answers and refutations. In this way you will keep alive, fresh and up to date.
24. Why must Christian hope be defended with tact?
24 To defend your hope successfully, you must not only have knowledge about your hope, but also tact, as Peter said: “But doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect.” How would you, for instance, defend your faith tactfully if a Catholic person told you that there would never be peace on earth? You may show him in a Catholic translation of the Bible the prophecy the angels pronounced at Jesus’ birth as recorded in Luke 2:14: “ . . . and on earth peace to men of good will.” (Dy) He will agree that this prophecy has not been fulfilled yet. Hence, either the angels did not prophesy aright or peace must come to the earth at some time. Tell the person that Jehovah’s witnesses believe what is stated in this Catholic Bible translation, that they believe the angels’ prophecy to be true and that therefore peace will be established on earth but that only men of good will will enjoy this peace, and that you are looking for such people, to help them to learn more about this peaceful earth. In such a tactful and kindly manner you are drawing attention to God’s Word. When you defend tactfully your hope with God’s Word, then there will be no wrangling and you can hope that people of good will may become favorably impressed. “A slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be tactful toward all, qualified to teach, . . . instructing with mildness those not favorably disposed, as perhaps God may give them repentance leading to an accurate knowledge of truth.”—2 Tim. 2:24, 25.
25. What is the divine will for all Christians?
25 Therefore Christian defenders of God’s Word and principles, young or old, ‘do your utmost, as workmen with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of truth aright’ by being ‘ready always to make a defense before everyone that demands a reason for the hope in you, but doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect.’ This is the divine will for you, and by thus accomplishing your Christian ministry you may be assured of attaining the fulfillment of your hope.
If, now, I am declaring the good news, it is no reason for me to boast, for necessity is laid upon me. Really, woe is me if I did not declare the good news! If I perform this willingly, I have a reward; but if I do it against my will, all the same I have a stewardship entrusted to me.—1 Cor. 9:16, 17.