Conduct “Worthy of the Good News”
1. Of what outstanding value is the Bible to us?
THE Bible reveals what is God’s will for his creatures. By studying it one who was previously without experience or understanding can become wise; it provides a guide to a clean way of life, which brings a good conscience and rejoicing to the heart. That is why the information found in the Bible concerning laws, commandments and principles of Jehovah is something more to be desired than all the material riches in the world. “The law of Jehovah is perfect, bringing back the soul. The reminder of Jehovah is trustworthy, making the inexperienced one wise. The orders from Jehovah are upright, causing the heart to rejoice; the commandment of Jehovah is clean, making the eyes shine. The fear of Jehovah is pure, standing forever. The judicial decisions of Jehovah are true; they have proved altogether righteous. They are more to be desired than gold, yes, than much refined gold; and sweeter than honey and the flowing honey of the combs. Also, your own servant has been warned by them; in the keeping of them there is a large reward.”—Ps. 19:7-11.
2. How does an accurate knowledge of the Bible guide us in conduct that is “worthy of the good news”?
2 It can therefore be seen that in order for our conduct to be “worthy of the good news” we need as a foundation an accurate knowledge of God’s Word the Bible and a sincere appreciation for the information it contains, along with a wholesome fear of Jehovah. With this proper foundation we will have the proper view of right and wrong. It will help us avoid the mistake of cultivating self-righteousness to be seen of men. Of such ones the apostle Paul wrote, at Romans 10:3: “Because of not knowing the righteousness of God but seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.” The sincere worshiper of God does not want to be like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, to whom Jesus said: “You . . . , outwardly indeed, appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matt. 23:28) Rather, by a sincere and diligent study of God’s Word the servant of God learns to ‘abhor what is wicked and cling to what is good.’—Rom. 12:9.
3, 4. (a) On what two great commands is right conduct based? (b) The rules and commands of God affect what relationships, and what relationship is the most important?
3 Conduct “worthy of the good news” is based on the same two great commandments that were the basis for God’s dealings with the Israelites, namely, ‘to love God with all one’s heart, soul, strength and mind and to love one’s neighbor as oneself.’ So, with these two commands in mind, let us examine some of the basic requirements for righteousness as set forth in the Bible by our Creator and heavenly Father. As we do so, we shall see that the rules or commands of God affect different parts of our lives and our relationship with others: our relationship with God, with our families and with our fellowmen. And as we consider these commands of God, it is not just blind obedience that is required but, rather, seeking with ‘our whole mind and heart’ to understand and appreciate why God tells us to do this or that, or not to do a certain thing, so that we may serve him with understanding.—Phil. 1:9; Matt. 22:37.
4 As we have seen, our relationship with God is of vital importance. Our worship of him must be clean and pure and undivided. It calls for firm faith in his Word, fearing him alone as God, giving him exclusive devotion.
5. (a) What things must one put away from his life if he is to be a true worshiper of God? (b) If a professing Christian were to follow superstitious practices, what would this show?
5 For us to give this kind of worship to Jehovah and thus come into a proper relationship with him we must put out of our lives any false practice of worship that is based on wrong teaching, on paganism or on superstition. Because of superstition some find it difficult to break away from hurtful fears. A common fear that is manifest in many lands is fear of the “spirits” of the dead, or fear of those (sometimes called “witches”) who claim supernatural powers. To protect themselves against such, superstitious people wear charms around the neck or arm or other parts of the body, these charms being made of different substances, such as, for example, the bones of a dead child, with the thought that the spirit of the child would provide protection. Likewise elaborate funeral practices are followed in order to appease the “spirit of the departed one.” All-night “wakes” are held following a death, with paid mourners making much noise so that the “spirit” of the dead will not feel he is forgotten or dishonored, and return and bring some evil on the family. All such ideas are based on the false doctrine that the soul of man is immortal and continues living after death. The Bible makes it plain that this is not so. (See Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; Psalm 146:3, 4.) To follow such practices shows a lack of faith and understanding if it is done by a professing Christian, and it would demonstrate that he did not appreciate his proper relationship to Jehovah. True worship requires not only a knowledge of what the Bible says but also faith in it and backing up that faith by actions in harmony with God’s Word. While it is natural to feel genuine sorrow at losing a loved one in death, the Christian avoids any hypocritical outward show of sorrow for the sole purpose of satisfying pagan customs or traditions.—Jas. 1:22-25.
6. Who are the “evil spirits,” and how do Christians protect themselves against them?
6 It is true that there are evil spirits, but these are not the spirits of humans who died some time in the past. In fact, they were once angelic sons of God who rebelled with Satan and are now known as demons or wicked spirits. (Jas. 2:19; Rev. 16:14; Eph. 6:12) But the true Christian is provided with proper armor to defend himself against the machinations of these evil ones. Those who stand firm in the truth of God’s Word, who are active in proclaiming “the good news of peace,” who have their faith strong like a large shield and put their hope and trust in Jehovah for salvation, are assured of protection from any attacks of these wicked ones. (Eph. 6:14-18) The Christian would never, therefore, resort to demonism or witchcraft for protection or for healing purposes. The dedicated Christian is commanded by God to put faith in Him.
RESPECT FOR GOD’S LAW ON BLOOD
7. (a) What can a Christian do when he gets sick, but what does he not do? (b) Why does God’s law on the prohibition on the use of blood still apply to us today?
7 This does not mean that, when a Christian gets physically sick, he foolishly rejects proper medical help. He does not selfishly expect God to perform a miracle of healing on his behalf. Rather, the Christian uses good sense in taking reasonable and proper care of his body, and, if he falls sick, he accepts with gratefulness any medical help that can aid him. But he does not resort to “faith healing,” since miraculous healing and other such gifts that were present in the early congregation in the time of the apostles have long since passed away. (1 Cor. 13:8) Nor does he resort to witchcraft. At the same time he is also alert to see that the kind of medical treatment he receives does not violate God’s law regarding blood. The divine law concerning blood applies to Christians today just as it did to the nation of Israel. Though the law covenant with Israel is no longer in force, God’s law prohibiting the taking of blood into the human body still applies. This is because it was originally given to the common forefather of mankind, Noah, just after he came out of the ark after the global flood. On that occasion God plainly stated to Noah: “Only flesh with its soul—its blood—you must not eat.”—Gen. 9:3-6.
8. How was this prohibition on the use of blood made clear at a special meeting of the apostles and older brothers in Jerusalem?
8 The prohibition on the use of blood was made very clear to the Christian congregation at a special meeting of the apostles and older brothers at Jerusalem some years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The inspired decision was: “The holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep yourselves free from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper. Good health to you!” (Acts 15:28, 29) You will note that keeping free from blood was considered just as necessary as keeping free from fornication.
9. How do Christians show respect for the sanctity of blood in connection with eating meat?
9 It is clear, then, that true Christians are required to show respect for the sanctity of blood, because it represents life. (Lev. 17:11) Jehovah’s witnesses show this respect by being careful to avoid any violation of this law. The law on blood applies to any kind of blood, animal or human. A Christian is under obligation not to eat anything “strangled,” because it has not been bled. The principle on this matter is stated at Leviticus 17:13: “As for any man . . . who in hunting catches a wild beast or a fowl that may be eaten, he must in that case pour its blood out and cover it with dust.” For the same reason an animal that is found dead as a result of being caught in a trap or being torn by another animal would not be fit for food for a Christian, since it had not been bled at the time of death. Likewise, when one buys meat, either in a market or from a hunter, the Christian should be satisfied that the animal was properly bled so that he does not risk a violation of this law of God. While in most lands licensed slaughterhouses and butchers do bleed meat and so it is generally safe to eat, this is not always so and especially when we are buying from an individual hunter. Also, the Christian would not eat sauces in which blood has been mixed. Of course, a little blood remains in the meat itself even though an animal has been bled; this cannot be avoided. It is the blood that is flowing through the veins that must be drained off in order to meet the requirements of God’s law.
10. Why do Jehovah’s witnesses refuse medical blood transfusions?
10 A very common practice in hospitals throughout the world today is that of giving blood transfusions in cases where the patient has lost much blood due to an accident or operation, or is said to require blood to build up strength. In harmony with the scriptures quoted above, Jehovah’s witnesses recognize that to take blood into the body in this way would likewise be a violation of God’s law. It is quite clearly stated by the apostles: “Keep yourselves free from . . . blood.” This refusal by Jehovah’s witnesses to take blood into their bodies by medical transfusion is not because of foolish stubbornness, but because they respect God’s law; they respect His decision on how blood may be used, since blood represents life, which is a gift from God. At the same time Jehovah’s witnesses will accept any other medical treatment that does not violate God’s law, such as transfusions of salt solution or other preparations instead of blood.
11. What principle stated by Jesus at Matthew 10:39 applies in such circumstances?
11 Everyone wants to live, and it is natural to seek any remedy to prolong life or the lives of those one loves. However, a dedicated Christian will not seek to save his life in a way that would violate God’s law. He appreciates that his everlasting life is at stake. He bears in mind the words of Jesus when he said: “He that finds his soul will lose it, and he that loses his soul for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 10:39) It takes faith to stick to God’s law at such times, but by doing so the Christian shows he really is obeying the first great commandment, to love Jehovah with all his heart, soul, strength and mind. He appreciates that it is his dedicated relationship to Jehovah that he must guard at all costs.
HONORABLE CONDUCT IN MARRIAGE
12. (a) Why has Jehovah the right to decide what is proper conduct between the sexes? (b) How, then, should marriage be treated?
12 Man was not meant to live alone. It was Jehovah’s purpose for the earth to be filled with human creatures, and he arranged for this to come about by men and women coming together in marriage and building up families. For that reason he created the two sexes, “male and female,” and to the first pair God gave the command: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth.” Since Jehovah God is the one who created the different sexes along with their organs of reproduction, he has the right to decide on what is proper conduct between man and woman. Rightly, marriage should be treated with honor and respect.—Gen. 1:27, 28.
13. (a) Who only may properly enjoy sexual relations? (b) Is polygamy permitted for Christians, or what is the standard for them?
13 Right from the beginning God made clear certain principles concerning this relationship. The privilege of sexual relationship between man and woman was to be permitted only in the marriage state. So it was that after God created the first woman he brought her to the man and gave her to him as his wife. (Gen. 2:21-24) Although Jehovah later permitted polygamy in the nation of Israel, that was not the way God established the pattern in Eden, and he does not now permit this for Christians. Through Christ Jesus he restored the basic principle of marriage, that man should have but one wife. This principle was clearly understood by the early congregation, and so we find the requirement for an overseer in the congregation, as recorded at 1 Timothy, chapter 3, verse 2, that he should be a “husband of one wife.”
14. What decision must be made by a polygamist before he can be accepted as a dedicated associate in the New World society?
14 In lands where the custom is for men to have more than one wife this Bible principle may present a difficulty to some. A man may have more than one wife, but he hears the “good news,” appreciates it, and wishes to associate with the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses. But his marriage state does not agree with the principles set out in the Bible for Christians; so what is he to do? Yes, the “good news” in this respect is a challenge to him. It will mean a big change in his life, putting away all his secondary wives, keeping only the one wife whom he is Scripturally permitted to have. This is a decision that he must make for himself, but he must make it if he is to be accepted as a dedicated servant of Jehovah in association with God’s people.
15. (a) How should the marriage bond be viewed? (b) What can be said about fornication and “trial marriage”? (c) What should first be done in order for a couple to enter into an honorable marriage?
15 The marriage of a man and woman, giving them the right to enjoy the sexual relationship together, was meant to be a binding tie, not one to be broken for any reason at all. After speaking of the first marriage in the garden of Eden, Jesus went on to say: “Therefore, what God has yoked together let no man put apart.” (Matt. 19:6) By these words Jesus showed the seriousness of marriage for the Christian, that it was not something to be treated lightly. Anything, then, that would violate the divine marriage arrangement would be unrighteous, hence disobedient and displeasing to man’s Creator, Jehovah. Since the sexual relationship is to be enjoyed only in the marriage state, the man with his lawful wife and the woman with her lawful husband, fornication is forbidden. So it would be improper and in violation of God’s commands for any unmarried man to have sexual relations with any woman, married or unmarried. Likewise, it would be wrong for an unmarried woman to have sexual relations with any man. This would rule out any “trial marriage” that is practiced in some countries, a young couple living together just to see whether they are suitable, but without entering into a permanent and binding marriage. To the contrary, it is necessary for there to be a proper marriage recognized by both the man and the woman as binding and permanent, with the marriage properly registered as a testimony to their honorable intentions, before entering into the marriage privilege of sexual relationship. Even though this may sometimes take a few months to arrange, yet the young man and woman preparing for marriage should keep morally clean by refraining from sexual intercourse until the marriage is registered. By doing this they show proper respect for the divine marriage provision, treating it as something honorable.
16, 17. How should a married couple show respect for the marriage arrangement, and what quality will help them to do so?
16 After marriage is entered into, the couple must continue to show respect for the marriage arrangement. The Bible states concerning Christian marriage: “Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” (Heb. 13:4) Having in mind that Jehovah is the judge and that all our actions are open before him will help the married man and woman to avoid any unfaithfulness to their marriage partner. Also, their love for each other strengthens their loyalty to each other and helps avoid unfaithfulness. “In this way husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself, for no man ever hated his own flesh; but he feeds and cherishes it, as the Christ also does the congregation, because we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and he will stick to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’” Certainly the husband would not be loving his wife if he committed adultery with another woman. Nor would he be loving the other woman, since he would be causing her to sin also and to come under judgment from God.—Eph. 5:28-31.
17 The man and woman were meant to “stick” to each other. That means to continue firmly united, both with the desire to make the marriage last. How can this be? Only if the quality of love is present. In many marriages this quality is often lacking. In some lands there is little or no companionship between the man and woman in marriage; they do not share their thoughts nor spend time in each other’s company, not even eating their meals together. Often the woman is looked upon more as a servant in the house than as a companion and partner in the marriage contract.
18. (a) What example did Jesus set for Christian husbands? (b) In what practical ways does a husband show love for his wife?
18 What, then, should be the attitude of the Christian man toward his wife? This is well illustrated at Ephesians 5:25 and 28, which reads: “Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it. In this way husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies.” Jesus was long-suffering, patient and kind to his Christian brothers in the congregation. He was happy to be with them and to talk with them about the wonderful things of God’s kingdom. Besides declaring the “good news” to the general public in Palestine he spent many hours with his faithful disciples explaining the truth to them. He showed the deep quality of his love in finally giving up his earthly life as a sacrifice in order that the congregation might be saved to eternal life. This is the kind of love a husband should have for his wife. He learns to enjoy her companionship. Because he wants her to gain eternal life, he gladly seeks opportunities to discuss with her the wonderful hope of life in a new world that he has learned by means of the “good news.” Even if both husband and wife have accepted the “good news,” they would continue to speak together of those things to build each other up in faith.
19. In what two ways is a Christian man under obligation to provide for his family?
19 It is true that a husband has a duty and obligation of caring for his wife and children in a material way. The Bible plainly states: “Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.” (1 Tim. 5:8) But in addition to caring physically he must care even more for the spiritual needs of his family, just as Christ cared for the congregation.
20. What kind of preparation will Christian parents make for their children, and in what will this result?
20 Do you have children? If so, what kind of preparation are you making for their future? A good education in the world so that they might improve their economic and social position? These are not the all-important things. Appreciating that marriage is from Jehovah, and that the fruit of marriage, children, is also a gift of Jehovah, parents who love Jehovah will want their children to grow up to serve Him. (Ps. 127:3) For this reason, Christian parents will train their children from an early age in wholesome conduct, in study of the Bible and in declaring the “good news” to others, all to God’s glory. “And you, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah.” If this command is followed, the children will grow up strong spiritually and be able to resist the temptations of the world, and their faith and right works will be a glory to their parents as well as to Jehovah.—Eph. 6:4.
21. How does the Christian wife best show her love for her husband?
21 In all these things the wife will give loving support to her husband and head. The wife best shows her love for her husband in the way she cooperates with him, humbly accepting Jehovah’s arrangement that “the head of a woman is the man.” (1 Cor. 11:3) By sharing together as companions in a study of the Bible, in attending meetings with God’s people, in proclaiming the “good news” to others and in all other activities in the home, the family, husband, wife and children, will grow together in love and in joy. Appreciation for the “good news of [God’s] kingdom” will move each sincere person to work toward having his own family life in harmony with these fine Bible principles.
22. (a) On what ground only does the Bible allow for divorce that really ends the marriage? (b) In view of the seriousness of marriage, what wise counsel is to be followed in selecting a mate?
22 But what can be done where the marriage is not a happy one, where there are disagreements over religion or over other matters? Are there any grounds upon which such a marriage might be ended by divorce, allowing the man or woman to marry another partner with whom they feel they could get along better? The Bible does not permit divorce just for any reason. While the law of the land may permit a divorce just because a husband and wife do not get along together and want to be free to marry somebody else, the Bible states only one reason allowing for a divorce that really brings the marriage to an end, namely, adultery. Jesus made this clear when he said: “I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication [that is, adultery], and marries another commits adultery.” (Matt. 19:9) By the act of adultery the unfaithful mate really becomes one flesh with someone other than his lawful marriage partner. Of course, the faithful partner may choose to forgive this act and continue to live with his mate, but if he chooses to divorce because of the adultery of his mate, then he will be free to marry some other person, since the marriage contract is thus Scripturally as well as legally broken. In view of the need for understanding and love to make a marriage last, the dedicated Christian heeds the wise counsel of the Scriptures to marry “only in the Lord,” that is, to marry one who is, like him, a dedicated Christian.—1 Cor. 7:39.
23. Where there is division in the home, what will the Christian mate strive to do?
23 Where the home is divided on matters such as religion, the Christian mate who recognizes the seriousness of marriage will do all that he can to try to heal the differences that exist in the home. He will not seek to leave his unbelieving mate, but, rather, through patience and kindness, work for the salvation of his mate if at all possible.—1 Cor. 7:10-16.
24. How may the “good news” present a challenge to the family circle, and to what will answering this challenge in the right way lead?
24 Conduct “worthy of the good news” then means more than just talking about it to others and making a profession of serving God. It must be conduct that comes from putting on the ‘new personality,’ which is expressed at all times and certainly within the family circle—the husband toward his wife, the wife toward her husband, the parents toward the children and the children toward their parents. If your family life, because of custom or for some other reason, falls short of these Bible requirements, then certainly your hearing this fine counsel from the Bible presents you with a challenge. Will you make the needed change? If you do, you can be assured of a rich blessing from Jehovah, the Originator of marriage, and the One who will grant eternal life in a new world to all obedient families of mankind.