How Strong Is Your Faith?
“You endured a great contest under sufferings, sometimes while you were being exposed as in a theater both to reproaches and tribulations.”—Heb. 10:32, 33.
1. Why is strong faith needed by Christians now, and who serve as examples in this regard?
IT TAKES real faith for a Christian to endure suffering, to be abused and tormented and made a public show because of what he believes and preaches concerning God’s kingdom. It takes real fortitude for other Christians to stand loyally by and watch the treatment that faithful men who love God receive because of their not breaking integrity. Jesus Christ, their Exemplar, endured to the death. He said: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” (Matt. 24:13) Jesus knew of men who displayed such magnificent faith before he himself became a man to save the world by a ransom. The record of their faith stands as a testimony to this day in the book of Hebrews, chapter eleven. Faith is not just a thing of the past that prechristian people showed, but something that Christians must display now. In the face of all the modern ideas, scientific knowledge and theories taught today, how strong is your faith in Jehovah God, in his Son Christ Jesus and in the written Word of God, the Holy Bible?
2. What dilemma faces many in Christendom?
2 In the Western world, or in Christendom, people will say, “I believe in God.” That is very easily said. But do they really believe what Jesus said? For instance, he said: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) The majority of “believers” in God will say “Yes” to the question but at the same time express belief in the theory of the evolution of man. If one believes in the evolution of man, how can he believe in the creation of man by God and the fall of man into sin and death? And if he does not believe the Bible account of creation, why exercise faith in Christ Jesus?
3, 4. (a) What attitude regarding the Bible have some clergymen taken? (b) Does the Interpreter’s Bible commentary encourage faith in the Bible? Why?
3 It is not uncommon to hear clergymen say that the creation account of the Bible is a myth. If they believe that, then they do not believe God’s written Word, as the whole Bible rests its teaching on the creation of man by God. Redbook magazine of August, 1961, under the heading “The Surprising Beliefs of Our Future Ministers,” had this to say: “The Reverend James A. Pike, Episcopal Bishop of California, recently startled many United States churchgoers when he declared that he does not believe in the Biblical account of the virgin birth of Christ. It is a primitive religious myth . . . Asked to name other religious myths, Dean Pike mentioned Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden.” When this clergyman rejects the Adam and Eve account, then there is no need for the ransom sacrifice of Christ Jesus to take away the sin of the world, as he sees it. Mr. Pike assumes he has greater knowledge than the One who inspired the writing of the Bible. Whom do you believe, God or a mere man?
4 The Australian journal Pix in its issue of October 21, 1950, reported that Bishop Barnes of Birmingham, England, said: “The Old Testament was full of ‘folklore, defective history, half-savage morality.’” Another statement showing the clergy’s rejection of the Bible is found in the pamphlet In the Beginning. It reads: “Stories of the Patriarchs were passed from mouth to mouth for many hundreds of years before they were written down. We must not be surprised to find that they are sometimes inconsistent; we are not bound to believe that everything happened just as it is told in Genesis.” It is not surprising, therefore, that, although Jesus himself referred to it, the Genesis account in the Bible about Sodom, and Lot’s fleeing from that city, is referred to as a “myth” by many of the clergy of Christendom. In The Interpreter’s Bible, on page 626, under chapter nineteen of Genesis, the commentary says: “This story—belonging to a widely diffused class of tales having possibly a mythological background (See Skinner, Genesis, pp. 311-12)—of the destruction of a city which had once stood in the vicinity of the Dead Sea, probably at its southern end, was presumably current in Hebron when the Israelites settled there.” The critics of the Bible, yes, many clergymen of today, say the Bible story of Lot has a mythological background, but did Jesus believe this Bible story to be a myth? No! He told his apostles: “Remember the wife of Lot.” (Luke 17:32) Whom do you believe, Jesus or the higher critics? As for us, we believe Jesus, who himself believed the things “written aforetime.”
5. What was the apostle Paul’s view of holy writings?
5 It was about the year 56 (A.D.) that Paul wrote: “All the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4) What hope is offered us today in the Sodom and Gomorrah record in the Bible?
LOT AND SODOM AND GOMORRAH
6, 7. (a) Describe the conditions existing in Sodom where Lot lived. (b) What instructions regarding that city’s future and Lot’s future did the angels give?
6 Lot was the nephew of Abraham and resided in the city of Sodom. One evening about 1919 B.C.E. two angels who had previously visited Abraham at Mamre, near Hebron, west of the Salt Sea, came to the city of Sodom located in the “Low Plain of Siddim, that is, the Salt Sea,” probably in what is now the southeast corner of the Salt Sea. (Gen. 14:3) Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. He invited the angelic visitors to his home and urged them to stay overnight. “Before they could lie down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, from boy to old man, all the people in one mob. And they kept calling out to Lot and saying to him: ‘Where are the men who came in to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have intercourse with them.’ Finally Lot went out to them to the entrance, but he shut the door behind him. Then he said: ‘Please, my brothers, do not act badly.’” (Gen. 19:4-7) These men of Sodom wanted to use the two male strangers for their sexual pleasure. Lot refused, and the mob became angry. If it had not been for the angels’ pulling Lot back into the house and shutting the door, it would have been ruinous for Lot.
7 The angels were insistent that Lot, his wife and two daughters leave the wicked city early in the morning. The angels said to Lot: “We are bringing this place to ruin, because the outcry against them has grown loud before Jehovah, so that Jehovah sent us to bring the city to ruin.” So Lot prepared to leave. “When the dawn ascended, then the angels became urgent with Lot, saying: ‘Get up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are found here, for fear you may be swept away in the error of the city!’ When he kept lingering, then in the compassion of Jehovah upon him, the men seized hold of his hand and of the hand of his wife and of the hands of his two daughters and they proceeded to bring him out and to station him outside the city.” Lot and his family were then told: “Escape for your soul! Do not look behind you and do not stand still in all the District! Escape to the mountainous region for fear you may be swept away!”—Gen. 19:13-17.
8, 9. How did the prediction of Sodom’s end come about?
8 Lot did not want to die. He asked God to preserve his soul alive, but was unable to climb the mountain as directed. He pleaded for permission to flee to a nearby city and there, as he said, “my soul will live on.” They hurried on to the city of Zoar, and “the sun had gone forth over the land when Lot arrived at Zoar. Then Jehovah made it rain sulphur and fire from Jehovah, from the heavens, upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah. So he went ahead overthrowing these cities, even the entire District and all the inhabitants of the cities and the plants of the ground. And his wife began to look around from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.”—Gen. 19:18-26.
9 But what of Lot’s uncle? “Now Abraham made his way early in the morning to the place where he had stood before Jehovah. Then he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the District and saw a sight. Why, here thick smoke ascended from the land like the thick smoke of a kiln!”—Gen. 19:27, 28.
10. Had the destruction of Sodom been of concern to Abraham? Why?
10 As the smoke ascended Abraham must have wondered about the safety of Lot. The day previous, Abraham had made the request of Jehovah to save the city if only ten persons were doing what was right. But there must not have been even ten righteous persons in Sodom; so it came to ruin. However, “God kept Abraham in mind in that he took steps to send Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when overthrowing the cities among which Lot had been dwelling.”—Gen. 19:29.
11. Why should we believe in and have faith in the Sodom and Gomorrah account in the Bible?
11 Read the full account of this in your Bible at Genesis, chapters eighteen and nineteen. Is your faith in God’s Word strong enough to believe Sodom was destroyed at God’s direction and Lot and his two daughters reached Zoar safely? Jesus believed it, because he referred to this as happening and said: “Likewise, just as it occurred in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building. But on the day that Lot came out of Sodom it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed them all. The same way it will be on that day when the Son of man is to be revealed.”—Luke 17:28-30.
AN ILLUSTRATION FOR US
12. How were the Bible stories of Sodom and Noah’s day used by Jesus?
12 Jesus was talking to his disciples about the time when this whole wicked worldly system of things, the present Sodom and Gomorrah in which we are now living, would be destroyed. The ancient destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was one of the historical illustrations Jesus used to help his faithful followers get the right understanding of what was going to happen during his second presence and to “give us more faith.” (Luke 17:5) But Jesus gave them additional true history from God’s Word as set forth in the book of Genesis to establish their faith. He said: “Just as it occurred in the days of Noah, so will it be also in the days of the Son of man.” (Luke 17:26) By these illustrations what was Jesus trying to impress upon their minds and ours? Deliverance! But in order to gain salvation they had to come out from and be no part of this old world. In our present day there is a class of people, a great crowd, pictured by Lot and his two daughters. We see them fleeing this old world that is doomed to sudden destruction. They appreciate God’s loving-kindness, just as Lot said, “to preserve my soul alive.” (Gen. 19:19) For this they have to seek safety according to God’s arrangements. That means flee modern Sodom. Flee quickly from this old world in its time of the end.
13, 14. Whom do we not want to be like, and so what should we do?
13 Do not be like Lot’s wife, who stopped, looked back and got encrusted so as to turn into a pillar of salt. She never got to Zoar, but Lot with his two daughters did. That was their place of safety. Lot had faith, and it carried him through. Today people of goodwill must have the same strong faith in order to be taken through this time of trouble and the battle of Armageddon into God’s new world of righteousness. They must keep on praying the Lord’s prayer: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” That prayer will get an answer. Those who do the will of God will find complete safety and happiness under God’s kingdom.—Matt. 6:9, 10.
14 People of goodwill who are really seeking this kingdom today may escape with their souls. God’s prophet said: “Seek Jehovah, all you meek ones of the earth, who have practiced His own judicial decision. Seek righteousness, seek meekness. Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger.” (Zeph. 2:3) They dare not look behind. Otherwise, they too will be swept away “in the day of Jehovah’s anger.”
15. How did Peter view the Bible account of Lot and Sodom?
15 Just as Jesus believed in the history of Lot, so also Peter believed the story. So what if modern religionists do not? Listen to Peter’s strong language concerning evildoers and his confidence in Jehovah’s judgment upon them as recorded in the first book of the Bible, Genesis. Peter said: “Certainly if God did not hold back from punishing the angels that sinned [in Noah’s day], but . . . reserved [them] for judgment; and he did not hold back from punishing an ancient world, but kept Noah, a preacher of righteousness, safe with seven others . . . ; and by reducing the cities Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them, setting a pattern for ungodly persons of things to come; and he delivered righteous Lot, who was greatly distressed by the indulgence of the law-defying people in loose conduct—for that righteous man by what he saw and heard while dwelling among them from day to day was tormenting his righteous soul by reason of their lawless deeds—Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial, but to reserve unrighteous people for the day of judgment to be cut off.” (2 Pet. 2:4-9) Peter had faith and believed that Jehovah God did all these things. He believed this when he wrote about it A.D. 64, over 1,980 years after Sodom’s destruction.
FAITHLESSNESS IN CHRISTENDOM
16, 17. Show how faithlessness exists in Christendom.
16 Even though Jesus referred to it, still many of the modern-day clergy do not believe the story of Lot. What must they think of Jesus? The religionists cannot think much either of Peter, for he also referred to Sodom when describing the situation that would exist at this world’s end. Honest Christians who take time to study and search the Scriptures will discern the truth in them and build up their faith, wisely so, for one must “have faith to the preserving alive of the soul.”—Heb. 10:39.
17 How strong is your faith about Christ Jesus? According to your faith, did he exist? Was he the Son of God? Do you believe he died that mankind might live? Do you believe that he provided the ransom sacrifice and that without him no human creature can gain everlasting life? Have you not read First Timothy 2:5, 6, wherein it says: “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all”? It may be that you believe, but do you know there are a number of prominent clergymen who do not have faith in this truth? For example, Dr. Lyle Weatherhead, president of the Methodist Conference in Britain, said: “I do not believe Christ’s crucifixion was the will of God. Christ came to the world to be followed, not to be murdered.” (Awake! April 22, 1958, page 27) It is not at all surprising when we hear a religious leader like Harry Emerson Fosdick saying:
“Of course I do not believe in the Virgin Birth, or in that old fashioned substitutionary doctrine of the Atonement; and I do not know any intelligent Christian minister who does. The trouble with these fundamentalists is that they suppose that unless one agrees with them in their doctrinal set-up, he cannot believe in the profound, substantial, everlasting truths of the Christian gospel that transform men’s lives, and are the only hope of Christ’s saviorhood in this world.”—Christian Beacon, May 9, 1946, Vol. XI, No. 13.
If some clergy do not believe in Christ Jesus, his birth as the Son of God and his death as an atoning sacrifice, why should they stand before congregations claiming to be Christians? How can they build faith in others if they themselves have none? It is not difficult to understand how a “doctor of divinity,” like D. R. Keating, a minister of the United Church, could say:
“In the present condition of the churches I cannot figure out why a person, especially a man, wants to become a member of the church. He must either have relegated religion to one of the dispensable trivialities of his life, socially useful and personally harmless, or he has illusions about what he is getting into. Maybe he has been reading the New Testament and assumes that is what he will find in the churches. I, for one, admit that I can’t think of a church that I would bother crossing the street to enter if I were a layman.”—Winnipeg, Canada, Tribune, March 4, 1961.
How can anyone expect people to have faith in God and Christ Jesus when clergymen stand before the congregations and tell them that it was useless that they came to hear their sermons? Clergymen are supposed to be teaching faith in Christ as the way of salvation.
18. How does a Lutheran bishop view the world in which we live?
18 The New York Times of March 11, 1960, carried the following from a sermon by the “Right Reverend” Hanns Lilje, Lutheran Bishop of Hanover, Germany: “The scenery for Christianity has changed in our time more deeply and more fundamentally than most people realize. We do live for all practical purposes in a nonchristian world. The term should be used in its precise meaning. It is not an anti-Christian age. We live in a nonchristian period.” He ought to know! He is one of the leaders in the Lutheran religion and he in effect is saying that people in Christendom are non-Christians. His “church” and denomination make up part of Christendom, and Mr. Lilje says “we live in a nonchristian period.”
19. (a) In view of Christendom’s failure what should Christians do? (b) How does one gain faith?
19 If no one today is following in the footsteps of Christ Jesus it is high time that a strong call go out to flee, get out of Christendom’s false religions. Jesus said he was not a part of this world, including its religious system, although he was born under one, the Jews’ religion. He condemned its leaders as hypocrites. Millions of persons are born into a religious system today, but the people who love truth must think for themselves and then flee from Christendom and serve the true God Jehovah. Many of the religious clergy do not believe the story of Adam and Eve and some even reject Christ; but Paul said: “Just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22) So Paul believed in both. But this being made alive is not going to be forced upon everyone. Each person must have faith. “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” (Heb. 11:1) Paul argued: How could anyone call on the name of Jehovah to be saved if he never had faith in that one? And, further, how could anyone have faith if he never heard about the true God! In order to get such faith there must be a preacher of the good news. But how can there be a preacher unless he is sent forth? Paul concludes by saying: “So faith follows the thing heard. In turn the thing heard is through the word about Christ.”—Rom. 10:13-17.
GOD’S WORD BUILDS FAITH
20. Name some of the facts true Christians are acquainted with and accept in faith.
20 The very first Christians had faith in Christ Jesus because they saw and heard him. They had an assured expectation of things hoped for. They knew Jesus healed the sick, opened blind eyes, raised the dead and he himself was raised from the dead by Jehovah God. What more assurance of their hope did they need? They had faith based on real things that happened. Now we have the written record in God’s Word the Bible. We know what happened during Christ Jesus’ life on earth. We also have a sure record of what the apostles did. We see a Christian’s faith is based on the truth of real things seen, heard and that occurred. We know, and the early Christians knew, that they were condemned to death through Adam’s sin, as Paul explains: “That is why, just as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) Christians know why man dies and they also know that life is a gift from God through Jesus Christ our Lord. “For the wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23) Paul knew this and he believed it! Do you today? If you do, you have faith in God’s written Word.
21. (a) Who should also believe these facts? (b) What is it, then, that has caused disbelief?
21 Every clergyman in the world today representing Christendom ought to have that faith too; but their power to build such faith is gone. They have turned to the theories of men, evolution and to the education of the space age. To them the Bible is just a book out of date; but it is much better to listen to Jesus and the apostles who knew God’s purposes, and this is strengthening to our faith. Jesus said: “It is unavoidable that causes for stumbling should come. Nevertheless, woe to the one through whom they come! It would be of more advantage to him if a millstone were suspended from his neck and he were thrown into the sea than for him to stumble one of these little ones.” (Luke 17:1, 2) How many good people with some faith have been turned away from God and Christ by a faithless clergy! For this they must answer to God!
22. What is the fate of those renouncing faith?
22 True Christians will keep faith in God’s Word, the Bible, and in the sacrifice of Christ Jesus, but Paul warns all who renounce the faith and says: “If we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left, but there is a certain fearful expectation of judgment and there is a fiery jealousy that is going to consume those in opposition.” (Heb. 10:26, 27) Christ is not going to die again to save these who once had a knowledge and faith in Christ Jesus and who accepted him as their redeemer. If they throw their faith to the wind and reject God, his Word, and his Son, then God will not arrange to redeem them again. There is no longer any sacrifice for sins left! There is coming a judgment, a fearful one! Remember Sodom and Gomorrah. Faithless ones will not be able to flee like Lot and his two daughters. They will be caught in the fiery destruction. Some may try to escape but they will look around at antitypical Sodom, even as Lot’s wife looked back and became a pillar of salt, and in the battle of Armageddon others will die in the attempt to escape.—Gen. 19:26; 2 Pet. 3:10-13.
THE FAITH OF EARLY CHRISTIANS
23, 24. How does H. G. Wells show the difference in early Christianity and the church from A.D. 325 forward?
23 The clergy of Christendom today must take the responsibility, because through their organized religions since A.D. 325 Christendom has been pulling farther away from true Christianity and the Bible’s teaching. Modern historians recognize this fact. In the book The Outline of History by H. G. Wells, it is stated: “This date 325 A.D. is a very convenient date in our history. It is the date of the first complete general (œcumenical) council of the entire Christian world. . . . It marks the definite entry upon the stage of human affairs of the Christian church and of Christianity as it is generally understood in the world to-day. It marks the exact definition of Christian teaching by the Nicene Creed.
24 “It is necessary that we should recall the reader’s attention to the profound differences between this fully developed Christianity of Nicaea and the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. All Christians hold that the latter is completely contained in the former, but that is a question outside our province. What is clearly apparent is that the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth was a prophetic teaching of the new type that began with the Hebrew prophets. It was not priestly, it had no consecrated temple and no altar. It had no rites and ceremonies. Its sacrifice was ‘a broken and a contrite heart.’ Its only organization was an organization of preachers, and its chief function was the sermon. But the fully fledged Christianity of the fourth century, though it preserved as its nucleus the teachings of Jesus in the gospels, was mainly a priestly religion of a type already familiar to the world for thousands of years. The centre of its elaborate ritual was an altar, and the essential act of worship the sacrifice, by a consecrated priest, of the mass. And it had a rapidly developing organization of deacons, priests and bishops.”—Third Edition, pages 522, 523.
25. Who in our day see the difference in the Christianity of Nicea and the teachings of Jesus?
25 This is a historian writing in 1920, and he saw “the profound differences between this fully developed Christianity of Nicaea and the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.” Anyone today who is familiar with the Bible and the life of Christ can clearly see the profound difference between what Jesus and the early apostles did and what the clergy of Christendom are doing. Nineteen hundred years ago Christians were strong in faith. Where is that faith today in Christendom? God’s book, the Holy Bible, is considered by many as a fine piece of literary work but the Ten Commandments are just to be read, not something to live by.
26. (a) What did Paul say resulted to those disregarding the law of Moses? (b) What were some things Moses wrote about under the direction of Jehovah?
26 However, listen to what Paul says to us: “Any man that has disregarded the law of Moses dies without compassion, upon the testimony of two or three. Of how much more severe a punishment, do you think, will the man be counted worthy who has trampled upon the Son of God and who has esteemed as of ordinary value the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and who has outraged the spirit of undeserved kindness with contempt?” (Heb. 10:28, 29) Do you say that was “too severe” upon one who disregarded the law of Moses? Do you agree with those who say that what Moses wrote about, namely, Adam, Lot, Sodom and the Messiah (Christ), was nothing more than myths? Do you think Moses was wrong when he wrote: “You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. . . . You must not desire your fellow man’s house . . . wife . . . slave . . . nor anything that belongs to your fellow man”? Moses was the one who also wrote that “you must not take up the name of Jehovah your God in a worthless way, for Jehovah will not leave the one unpunished who takes up his name in a worthless way.” He also commanded that you people “must not make for yourself a carved image . . . because I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion.” Moses wrote this, not on the stone tablets, but in Exodus 20:1-17; but Jehovah directed him to write it all for our benefit.
27. How did Paul encourage the young man Timothy when it came to the Holy Scriptures?
27 Paul was convinced that Jehovah was behind the writing of the Scriptures. He told a young Christian full of faith: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) Paul believed the Bible. He had faith in its teachings.
28. What did Paul have to say to encourage those in need of keeping faith?
28 In these last days it takes strong faith to be a Christian, and to believe what is written in the Bible; but some people have it, and equip themselves to proclaim a message of God’s kingdom in spite of clergy ridicule. Paul knew that Christians would be having a hard time keeping in the ministry not only in his day but through all ages, due to governments and faithless religious leaders. So he admonished Christians, saying: “However, keep on remembering the former days in which, after you were enlightened, you endured a great contest under sufferings, sometimes while you were being exposed as in a theater both to reproaches and tribulations, and sometimes while you became sharers with those who were having such an experience. For you both expressed sympathy for those in prison and joyfully took the plundering of your belongings, knowing you yourselves have a better and an abiding possession.”—Heb. 10:32-34.
MODERN-DAY FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS
29, 30. Contrast the statement of one Dr. Baillie with the experiences of Jehovah’s witnesses during World War II and since.
29 In the days of the apostles many thousands of persons were enlightened with the truth of God’s Word and they walked in the footsteps of Christ Jesus and experienced what Paul described. They learned a new way of life, and this brought them real satisfaction, but along with it some opposition. This is what Christians today must remember. Just as Christians in former days were enlightened and endured a great contest under suffering, so Christians must do today. There is no easy way to be a true Christian. Dr. Baillie of the Union Theological Seminary, commenting on the present state of Christianity, is reported to have said: “That which has been on trial all these years is not Christianity at all. The experiment of living in a Christian way has not been made and until it is we just do not know anything about it. . . . Perhaps the world no longer persecutes Christians because there are no longer any Christians.”
30 We ask, Has Dr. Baillie observed the activity of Jehovah’s witnesses in the past forty-five years? True, if he is only looking at the Protestant and Catholic religious systems, there is no persecution of them. But what about the small group of Christian witnesses of Jehovah in Hitler’s day in Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and, in fact, all the world, including the United States and Canada, during World War II? And how about today? What is happening in East Germany, Poland, Russia and Christendom’s Catholic Spain? In these places Jehovah’s witnesses are enduring “a great contest under suffering,” and Jehovah’s witnesses in other parts of the world “express sympathy” for those in prison.
31. Why do Jehovah’s witnesses endure suffering the world around?
31 Jesus said concerning real Christians: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” (Matt. 24:13) A true Christian will endure suffering, and certainly those who stand firm for the principles Jesus lived by will have the experiences of “reproaches and tribulation” for being Christian. Jehovah’s witnesses have experienced the concentration camps, the gas chambers, starvation diets and imprisonments in most of the countries of Christendom. Furthermore, their work of preaching God’s kingdom was banned for years in many countries of Christendom. Why? Just because Jehovah’s witnesses wanted and insisted on living a Christian life, and they were willing to endure a great contest under suffering to do it. While not every one of these Christian witnesses of Jehovah was thrown into concentration camps, others who expressed sympathy for those in prison joyfully took the plundering of their belongings. Read the history of the modern-day witnesses of Jehovah as told in the book Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, and there you will learn of the persecution they endured at the hands of the clergy and the political rulers in Germany, Greece, Poland, Russia, Dominican Republic, Quebec, yes, in all parts of the world. However, they are still proclaiming God’s kingdom in all these countries today.
32. How do true Christians differ from Christendom’s religions when it comes to endurance in exercising freeness of speech?
32 A true Christian must be strong and, even though persecution gets more intense, he must still listen and do what God inspired Paul to write: “Do not, therefore, throw away your freeness of speech, which has a great reward to be paid it. For you have need of endurance, in order that, after you have done the will of God, you may receive the fulfillment of the promise.” (Heb. 10:35, 36) Jehovah’s witnesses will not give up their freeness of speech because of persecution. Jesus did not close his mouth because of the power of the political and religious crowd of his day. The religionists had to kill him to take away his freeness to speak the good news of God’s kingdom. Christians will not change today. On the other hand, Christendom’s religious organizations today do the bidding of the political rulers. In many places the pulpit has become the mouthpiece of the government’s ruler. The clergy have thrown away their freeness of speech to preach God’s kingdom in order to play favorite to the worldly political rulers. A Christian cannot compromise, because he knows that his ‘freeness of speech has a great reward to be paid to him.’
33. Why are many pulling away from Christendom’s religions, and whose example do they follow in so doing?
33 Hundreds of thousands of people are pulling away from the false religious organizations of Christendom because these institutions hold forth no promise. What can they promise? They reject the Bible. They have no “assured expectation of things hoped for.” But as for those seeking truth, God’s Word has brought them knowledge and understanding, and they have faith that God’s kingdom is near at hand. They believe what Paul said, even though written nineteen hundred years ago. “For yet ‘a very little while,’ and ‘he who is coming will arrive and will not delay.’” (Heb. 10:37) There has been no delay in the arrival of Christ Jesus. His second presence has been made manifest since 1914.a The time of the end is near! It is time to get out of this modern-day Sodom, just as Lot and his two daughters fled that wicked city centuries ago. Those who want to live in God’s new world will have to flee the Devil’s organization and find security in Jehovah’s organization. God will provide the safe place for all during the time of the battle of Armageddon. Do you have faith that God will do this for you? Lot and his two daughters had faith and they got to Zoar and lived on.
34. How are Jehovah’s witnesses showing they live by faith?
34 How true God’s Word: “‘But my righteous one will live by reason of faith,’ and, ‘if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him’”! (Heb. 10:38) Today Jehovah’s witnesses must live by faith, but it is an assured expectation with full confidence in the future, because the written Word of God tells them the future. They see things have happened and are happening that God’s Word said would occur. So this is no time for anyone knowing God’s Word to shrink back and return to the wicked organization of the old world, for God will have no pleasure with such a one. Paul was a determined man, strong in mind and of great faith, and could strengthen the faith of others. With conviction he said: “Now we are not the sort that shrink back to destruction, but the sort that have faith to the preserving alive of the soul.”—Heb. 10:39.
ANALYZING OUR FAITH
35. In analyzing our faith what questions demand an answer?
35 What kind of faith do you have? Is it the kind that shrinks back at every trial or difficulty that arises, or is your faith strong, built on the solid foundation of God’s Word? Is your faith strong enough to carry you on to ‘the preserving alive of your soul’?
36. How does Philippians 4:9 help us build a strong faith?
36 Paul, writing to the Philippians, said: “The things that 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.” (Phil. 4:9) What did the early Christians learn from Paul? What did they hear? What did they see? What had they accepted? Surely they saw Paul as a staunch Christian, dedicated to Jehovah God, walking in the footsteps of Christ Jesus. They knew a man willing to go through all kinds of sufferings, persecution, trials and even face death without shrinking back. They read his letter containing the experiences of what he went through for the sake of the good news of Christ. They knew Paul believed that Christ Jesus laid down his life for the saving of mankind and that Paul showed his belief by preaching God’s kingdom with Christ as King. These are just a few things Christians learn from Paul. Through Paul’s many letters and personal association he built up in others the necessary faith. The things that Paul preached and lived by, the early Christian witnesses of Jehovah learned, heard and saw and accepted. Now what? Will you faithful followers of Christ Jesus today practice these things? If so, with what result? “The God of peace will be with you.”
37. How does one gain the peace of God today, and who serves as the primary example of exercising proper love?
37 How can a person gain the peace of God today? First of all, by withdrawing from this wicked system of things. Then devote yourself wholly to the doing of the will of Jehovah God. Moses wrote: “I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion.” (Ex. 20:5) Therefore you as a Christian must serve God with your whole heart, with your whole mind, with your whole soul, with your whole strength. This will prove your real love for your Father in heaven. Add to that the second commandment you must follow, and that is, Love your neighbor as you do yourself. The best example that you have of this kind of love is the Son of God, Christ Jesus. If you want to become a Christian you must be as much like him as possible. You will want to copy him in everything he did. To do that you must read about him, find out all you can about his life and his work. This information is found in the written Word of God, the Holy Bible.
38. Why can we be sure that it is not a theological education that qualifies one as a true minister of Jehovah?
38 To follow in the footsteps of Christ Jesus does not require a training in a theological seminary or a religious college. If such higher education were necessary, then Peter and John could not have been apostles of Christ Jesus. Those two men were ordinary men with sound minds. They appreciated and loved truth. They were men who listened and learned from their teacher Jesus Christ. When their resurrected Teacher explained to them why he had died upon the torture stake, they were not the kind to shrink back but they were ready to move out, and at Pentecost they preached the things that they heard and believed. So the Bible record tells us that when the Jewish Sanhedrin “beheld the outspokenness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were men unlettered and ordinary, they got to wondering. And they began to recognize about them that they used to be with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) It is the spirit in a person, his zeal, devotion and knowledge that count, not his degree or diploma that hangs on a wall. These men had gained true knowledge because they had been with Jesus and learned the truth. They were fearless in expressing that truth. It was not their college education, or the rabbinical schools of their day, that qualified them as ministers of God. They never enrolled in them. They were ordained as God’s ministers by God, not by men. To wear “the cloth” the clergy of Christendom may trace their lines of descent back to A.D. 325 and the Nicean creed, but not back to Christ Jesus or the Word of God.
39. (a) What must every Christian be, and how did H. G. Wells show this to be the case with early Christianity? (b) Did Paul’s example show the early church to be a preaching organization? How?
39 This information should be of real encouragement to individuals in all parts of the world who love the Bible, and it should help them in taking their stand for the ministry. If Peter and John, fishermen, could be apostles of Jesus Christ and could qualify to represent God as his ordained ministers in the earth, then why cannot anyone who loves the truth in God’s Word and who is devoted to God and has dedicated his life to God’s service do likewise? All the early Christians were ministers and they studied God’s written Word. It becomes clear that every person who becomes a Christian must also be a preacher of the good news. The difficulty in Christendom today is that the clergy are the only ones recognized as ministers, and their congregations have been made a listening flock, not a preaching flock. There has been a development of the clergy class and a laity class in Christendom, and, as was pointed out in The Outline of History, H. G. Wells saw “the profound difference between the fully developed Christianity of Nicaea and the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.” Of early Christianity he said: “Its only organization was an organization of preachers, and its chief function was the sermon.” That is what real Christians today see the need for the organization to be. The whole organization of Jehovah’s witnesses is made up of ordained ministers, and their chief function and training is the use of the sermon. They use Bible sermons from door to door and in their home Bible study work. Christians now must be just like Jehovah’s witnesses in the days of the apostles, who went from house to house and delivered sermons to the people of the homes visited, to any family, and they studied the Bible with them. Paul said: “I did not hold back from telling you any of the things that were profitable nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house.” (Acts 20:20) H. G. Wells showed that from and after A.D. 325 the religious leaders of Christendom established elaborate rituals around an altar, consecrated deacons, bishops, priests, and established the mass, and went into the construction of temples. What a difference from the way true Christians worshiped the Almighty God Jehovah!
EACH ONE MUST EXERCISE FAITH
40. (a) What have Christendom’s leaders done for the people? (b) How did one religious leader describe the need in today’s religious organizations?
40 Christendom’s leaders have brought themselves into the position in which they find themselves today. They have made their millions of churchgoers, the laity, useless as far as the spreading of Christianity is concerned. The clergy have taught them to listen and to go through set formalisms in their temples each week. They put no responsibility upon their flock to preach in behalf of Christ and to tell others the good news of God’s kingdom. There are some clergymen today that realize their failure. For example, the “Reverend” John Heuse, director of New York city’s Trinity Parish, had this to say in his lecture “What Are Churches For?”
“No parish can fulfill its true function unless there is at the very center of its leadership life a small community of quietly fanatic, changed and truly converted Christians. The trouble with most parishes is that nobody, including the clergyman, is really greatly changed; but even where there is a devoted self-sacrificing priest at the heart of the fellowship, not much will happen until there is a community of changed men and women.”—Reader’s Digest, June, 1962.
41. (a) Who are at fault because of weak parishioners? (b) What basic quality of Christianity is missing?
41 Whose fault is this? The clergymen are to blame. They are not trying to turn their parishioners into Christians who would “endure a great contest under suffering.” Their parishioners do not want to be “exposed as in a theater to both reproaches and tribulation” for Christ’s sake. They refuse to be like early Christians, willing to go to prison if necessary just for the sake of preaching the good news of God’s kingdom. Why has Christendom failed? Their people do not “have faith to the preserving alive of the soul.” They do not know, nor have they been taught, what Christian work is. The people of Christendom have not been trained to stand up for that which is right. How could they? Jesus said: “If, then, a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matt. 15:14) Their flocks have not learned what Christianity is, what truth is. How could anyone expect them to, when one of their own clergymen says: “I, for one, admit that I can’t think of a church that I would bother crossing the street to enter if I were a layman.” (See pages 11, 12.) And a good many men and women do not go to their churches either. Very likely these nonchurchgoers noticed the true condition of the churches even before this clergyman did.
42. Why will ecumenical councils not unite the various religious denominations?
42 Let all the heads of the different denominations of the world gather together with Pope John XXIII in another ecumenical council. Let them try to unite the various religious denominations, both Protestant and Catholic, into a solid organization. Yet they will never make Christians out of their members. It takes more than consolidation. It takes God’s blessing, his spirit, his Word and the individual’s faith to be a Christian. Christendom has strayed too far away from God’s Word, the truth, to return. Too many of Christendom’s clergy have chosen small bits of the Bible to believe and scrapped the rest as a myth. In exchange they give their flocks their own ideas and, as Paul puts it, they “pay attention to false stories and to genealogies, which end up in nothing, but which furnish questions for research rather than a dispensing of anything by God in connection with faith.”—1 Tim. 1:4.
43. What is the Bible to a true Christian?
43 The real Christian knows through study of the Bible that the whole Bible is a book of action, a book of service, a book of faith, a book of truth and truly the Word of the Almighty God Jehovah. Christ Jesus only nineteen hundred years ago believed its true stories as written in the Hebrew Scriptures and he quoted them from the books of the Bible. Are you, then, going to teach others the same things that Jesus taught back there? Have faith in God’s Word. Study it! “Preach the word,” as Christians must! Then “be at it urgently in favorable season, in troublesome season.”—2 Tim. 4:2.
44, 45. How is a strong faith shown?
44 You believe that “with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.” (Rom. 10:9, 10) Well, then, is your faith strong enough to make you speak out as a Christian and to tell the truth of God’s promises regarding his kingdom, which is mankind’s only hope? Or, are you going to be like a certain group of so-called followers of Christ that James described as “hearers only, deceiving yourselves with false reasoning. For if anyone is a hearer of the word, and not a doer, this one is like a man looking at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, and off he goes and immediately forgets what sort of man he is.”—Jas. 1:22-24.
45 The logic of James is conclusive. He says: “Indeed, as the body without breath is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (Jas. 2:26) Faith expresses itself. It makes proclamation. Faith is not a dead thing, but it goes to work. Faith lets other people know what it believes. It speaks out from house to house. A minister of God with faith must be active. One who knows the Word of God preaches it. Faith has no fear to give testimony, Peter said. “But 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) One with faith in God and the Bible makes a defense before everybody.
46. Whom did Jesus choose to be his light bearers, and what example did he leave them?
46 Jesus, when speaking to Jews who were looking for the Messiah, did not pick out the scribes and the Pharisees to be the light of the world. He just chose ordinary men, men of faith. You remember that he said: “You are the light of the world. A city cannot be hid when situated upon a mountain. People light a lamp and set it, not under the measuring basket, but upon the lampstand, and it shines upon all those in the house. Likewise let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens.” (Matt. 5:14-16) This instruction in his Sermon on the Mount he gave to men and women alike. What an excellent service sermon it is! Jesus encouraged all people listening to take up the ministry, to represent God’s kingdom and work for it. He said: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness.” (Matt. 6:33) He taught lovers of righteousness how to pray. He showed them the need to sanctify the name of the Father, Jehovah, and pray for his kingdom so that his will would take place on earth just the same as in heaven. (Matt. 6:9-15) To keep at this ministry work personally requires real faith in Jehovah God, his Son Jesus Christ and God’s Word.
47. What should each one do now toward preserving alive the soul?
47 If you have such faith it will mean the “preserving alive of the soul.” So flee from the old world, headed for destruction as was Sodom, and be like Lot and his two daughters. Get up and go; be a minister of the good news! Do not hesitate to endure a “great contest under sufferings, sometimes while you [are] being exposed as in a theater both to reproaches and tribulations.” (Heb. 10:32, 33) Serve God as a real Christian and be strong in your faith. Believe his Word and gain everlasting life in the new world of righteousness.
a For more information on Christ’s second presence read chapter twenty-one of “Let God Be True,” page 249.