God’s Hidden Wisdom—A Sacred Secret
“A physical man does not receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him . . . However, the spiritual man examines indeed all things.”—1 Cor. 2:14, 15.
1, 2. (a) Humanly speaking, how did the Christian movement get started and take shape? (b) As viewed by the Christian Bible writers, what questions arise?
FOR over fifteen centuries it seemed that the nation of Israel was destined for all time to be Jehovah’s instrument for the outworking of his purpose. They were his chosen people, and they relied heavily on their cherished Scriptures to prove it. Then, for their rulers, a disturbing thing happened. A new preacher appeared and, around him, a new movement started. After three and a half years it seemed that this new movement could be written off as a failure, for those rulers succeeded in getting rid of its leader by exposing him to public disgrace and impalement on a torture stake. His few followers went underground and met behind closed doors. (John 20:19) But was it written off? Just fifty-one days later a still more disturbing thing happened. That new movement came to life again and spread like wildfire! Its spokesman, Peter by name, after a stirring public talk, proving all his points from the Jews’ own Scriptures, caused his hearers to be “stabbed to the heart,” and, as a result, “those who embraced his word heartily were baptized, and on that day about three thousand souls were added” to the movement. For the next three and a half years the movement grew and spread. An extraordinary thing then occurred, taking even the movement itself by surprise. That same spokesman, Peter, took an unprecedented step and opened the door to the despised, uncircumcised Gentiles to join their ranks. Soon its members, now of many nationalities, began to be established in congregations in all that part of the world. The movement was taking shape, like an instrument that could be used for a definite purpose. What did it all mean?—Acts 2:37, 41; 10:44-48.
2 So far we have traced the origin and growth of this new movement as it might appear to men. Remember, however, following our previous discussion, we are interested in looking at it from the viewpoint of the Christian writers of the Greek Scriptures. Did they judge this movement, that came to be known as the Christian church, merely from a human viewpoint? Or can it be proved that their conception gives overwhelming evidence of divine inspiration and Authorship, making it impossible to give the credit to human originality? That is the challenging question we want to decide.
A SPIRITUAL NATION
3. What claims as to nationhood did the Christian movement have from man’s viewpoint?
3 We have previously shown how God’s former instrument, fleshly Israel, was truly a nation in every respect. But what about this new instrument? Judged by human standards, it does not comply with a single one of the requirements we reviewed, entitling it to be called a nation. Where is its country, marked on the map? From the days of the apostles onward, true Christians have been found scattered all over the world. By no means can it be said that they were, or are, of a common stock, or that they speak the same language. As to government, true Christians have been and are to be found as law-abiding citizens under the many governments, in all the different countries, with their varying customs, traditions and institutions.
4. In what way does the Bible call this movement a nation?
4 Yet those Christian writers do speak of this movement as constituting a nation, and not just a body of people united by the same beliefs. Peter says of them: “But you are ‘a chosen race, . . . a holy nation.’” How is this true? The answer is, they are a spiritual nation, for, as Paul says: “Our citizenship exists in the heavens.” A spiritual nation? No one had ever thought of such a thing. Such a conception was certainly not of human originality.—1 Pet. 2:9; Phil. 3:20. See also Matthew 21:43.
5. (a) How are the Scriptures consistent in showing spiritual Israel to be a nation? (b) What special significance has this had since A.D. 1919?
5 When, however, we appreciate the viewpoint as set forth by those Christian writers, we can see how true it is and how everything fits in. Those of spiritual Israel do have their own covenant, the “new covenant,” of which Jesus is the Mediator. They are all of common stock, spiritually, for “all who are led by God’s spirit, these are God’s sons . . . God’s children.” They do all speak the same language, the “pure language” of God’s Word, which “word is truth.” They all come under, and give undivided allegiance to, the heavenly government, the “princely rule” laid on the shoulder of the King, Christ Jesus, who rules from the nation’s capital city, the “city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem.” Especially since A.D. 1919 have they been a true nation, for then, when again it seemed they were in danger of being written off, they experienced as it were a new birth, as Isaiah said of them in his prophecy: “Will a nation be born at one time?” Then, too, they were brought into a greatly improved condition under Jehovah’s blessing, described by Isaiah as a ‘land brought forth in one day,’ yes, a land with well-defined boundaries of safe, relative freedom, as determined theocratically by God’s Word.—Heb. 9:15; Rom. 8:14-16; Zeph. 3:9; John 17:17; Isa. 9:6; Heb. 12:22; Isa. 66:8.
6. How does Christendom evince its utter failure to appreciate the Bible viewpoint?
6 This spiritual nation, dwelling in its own country, can indeed be located in God’s map, his Word, but do those of Christendom appreciate this viewpoint? Not at all. Take the church of Christendom that claims to be the one, true, universal church, the Roman Catholic Church. Surely there we should find the correct understanding of nationality as it affects Christians. But what do we find? As we all know, there are French Catholics, German Catholics, English Catholics, in fact an almost endless list. Do they all view themselves, first and foremost, as members of the one spiritual nation? Is that the view they take, is that their line of action, in time of war? The answer is painfully evident. They view their nationality, with all its claims of loyalty and patriotism, from the ordinary human, fleshly level. They know no other level. How can they, if their church does not tell them? They are French, German and English first, and their religious ties have to take second place, if they are not ruthlessly trampled on, when war breaks out. The same argument applies in general to the Protestant churches.
7. From whom has God kept his wisdom hidden, but to whom and how has he revealed it?
7 Seeing Christendom’s lamentable failure to appreciate the spiritual viewpoint of the Christian Greek Scriptures, how, then, are its clergy and spokesmen in position to criticize those writings and their inspiration? How true was the apostle’s word when he wrote: “We speak God’s wisdom in a sacred secret, the hidden wisdom . . . This wisdom not one of the rulers of this system of things came to know . . . [but] the things that God has prepared . . . God has revealed them through his spirit, for the spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God.” Yes, there is the source of inspiration of those Christian writers—God’s holy spirit. Prior to Pentecost and the outpouring of God’s spirit, they were not ready to entertain the idea that God was about to change his instrument for the outworking of his purpose. But after that stirring event, not only did they begin to realize that there was such a change, but their writings reveal a spiritual conception that could have come only from Jehovah himself. Do you appreciate this?—1 Cor. 2:7-10.
A SPIRITUAL TEMPLE
8. (a) What is usually meant by a temple or church? (b) How does the Bible describe the Christian church in this regard?
8 One more aspect in confirmation of this same subject we wish to draw to your attention. When enumerating the various things qualifying fleshly Israel as Jehovah’s instrument, we noted their temple, situated on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. This was important, for it was the center of their worship. Does Jehovah’s new instrument, the Christian church, have a temple? Ordinarily, a temple means but one thing, and that is an edifice built of stone or some other material, a building dedicated to the service of a deity. In Christendom a temple, or church, is a place of public Christian worship. In any case, it is a literal building that can be marked and located on a map. Well, where is the temple of the true Christian church? The answer is, Scattered worldwide! How so? It is a spiritual temple. Who had ever thought or heard of such a thing? But in that same chapter where Peter speaks of the true church as a “holy nation” he earlier speaks of the individual members as “living stones . . . built up a spiritual house [or temple] for the purpose of a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,” who is laid as the “foundation cornerstone.” What a lofty conception! As Paul says: “Do you not know that you people are God’s temple, and that the spirit of God dwells in you?”—1 Pet. 2:5, 6; 1 Cor. 3:16.
9. Does Christendom appreciate this viewpoint, and how is this proved?
9 Again we ask, Does Christendom appreciate this? Not only has she failed to do so, but, due to her worldly-minded influence, the very word “church” has largely lost its original meaning. In the King James Version of the Bible the word “church” is a translation of the Greek word ekklesía, meaning a congregation called out from the world for God’s purpose, as his instrument. (See Matthew 16:18; Acts 5:11; 11:22; Romans 16:5.) That Greek word was never used for a building. But today, whenever people speak about a church, or going to church, they invariably refer to a literal building, or place of worship. Immense sums of money are spent on some of these historic buildings, but who gives a thought to the spiritual health of the congregations connected therewith?
10. What is meant by God’s “temple” at Revelation 7:15, and what encouragement does this give?
10 Rather than dismiss the subject on this somber note, we remind you of that inspiring vision recorded at Revelation, chapter 7:1-8. In the first eight verses we have a description of the true church, making up the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel. Then follows the description of a “great crowd,” taken “out of all nations,” picturing lovers of righteousness who “come out of the great tribulation” on Satan’s world during this interval of God’s patience. Their hope of a future life lies in a paradise earth. But what is their present position of service before God? The record says: “They are rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple.” In some earthly building? Of course not. They are learning, with great joy and satisfaction, how to serve God acceptably and actively, by serving in close association with Jehovah’s instrument, the faithful remnant of the true church. Not as in Christendom’s churches, where very few have a direct part in their services, but in God’s spiritual temple everyone is invited and helped to “always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” Are you enjoying a part in this service? Can we help you in this respect?—Rev. 7:9-15; Heb. 13:15.
11. What further comparisons can be made between spiritual and fleshly Israel, leading to what conclusion?
11 Thus far we have examined two of the qualifications that made fleshly Israel a chosen instrument, their nationhood and temple, and then we have seen the close correspondence with the true church, only in a spiritual way. Similarly, we could take up fleshly Israel’s other qualifications, their priesthood and high priest, also their sacrifices, and show how these are to be found in God’s new instrument. In each feature, however, the Christian writers reveal a new conception, a spiritual and heavenly one, including the promises given, in contrast with the writers of the Hebrew Scriptures. Surely we must admit that, though they did not write from the same viewpoint, there is a wonderful inner harmony between the two sets of Bible writers. There is no collision.
12. On what authority do the Christian writers base their spiritual conception?
12 One more question. From where did those Christian writers get the authority for their conception of things? Since they put things, not on merely a higher human level, but on a completely different kind of level, a spiritual one, it would seem they must have gotten their authority from an entirely new source. But here is an amazing thing. Their writings show, time and again, that they obtained the support for their new conception from the very records of those ancient Hebrew prophets, who so many think of as men groping after God and whose writings are considered to be so down to earth and nonspiritual.
13. How does Paul prove his argument as to (a) the real Israel, (b) a new people called, and (c) their acceptance in God’s sight?
13 In proof of this, consider briefly the apostle’s argument commencing at Romans, chapter 9, where he explains about the change in God’s instrument. He shows that “not all who spring from Israel are really ‘Israel.’ Neither because they are Abraham’s seed are they all children . . . That is, the children in the flesh [by ordinary procreation] are not really the children of God, but the children by the promise are counted as the seed,” even as Isaac was a child of God’s promise, being born when Abraham and Sarah were “as good as dead” as far as giving birth to a son was concerned. (Heb. 11:12) Then, with further quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures, Paul proves that God has the absolute right to choose whom he will, and that those ancient prophets foretold that God would ultimately choose a people not previously recognized, as Hosea wrote: ‘I will say to those not my people: “You are my people, the sons of the living God.’” (Hosea 2:23; 1:10) With further quotations, he then proves that “people of the nations,” Gentiles, obtained the ‘righteousness resulting from faith,’ which righteous standing fleshly Israel failed to obtain because, says Paul, Israel “pursued it, not by faith, but as by works,” that is, the works of the Law. Finally, Paul quotes what both Moses and Isaiah recorded as spoken by God against Israel: “I will incite you people to jealousy through that which is not a nation,” and, “I was found by those who were not seeking me.” (Deut. 32:21; Isa. 65:1)—Rom. 9:6-8, 25, 26, 30-32; 10:19, 20.
14. What further points are likewise proved as to (a) priesthood and sacrifice, and (b) circumcision?
14 In every case, the seeds, or roots, of the Christian writers’ conception of things were found embedded and hidden, so to speak, in the Hebrew Scriptures. For instance, Paul shows that the high priest who would provide the only acceptable sacrifice, something far better than animal sacrifices, would not be a Levitical priest, as required by Israel’s law. How do we know? Because, says Paul, their Scriptures made it “abundantly clear that with a similarity to Melchizedek there arises another priest, who has become such, not according to the law of a commandment depending upon the flesh [or fleshly descent], but according to the power of an indestructible life, for in witness it is said: ‘You are a priest forever according to the manner of Melchizedek.’” (Heb. 7:15-17; Ps. 110:4) Again, Stephen, in his defense before the Sánhedrin, quoted from Isaiah’s prophecy, where a dwelling place for God is foreshadowed of a different and higher kind than Israel’s beautiful stone temple. (Acts 7:48, 49; Isa. 66:1) Also, Paul spoke about the circumcision of the spiritual Jews (Christians) as being “of the heart by spirit, and not by a written code [of the Law].” But Moses, centuries before, had spoken about the circumcision of the heart as being more important than that of the flesh.—Rom. 2:29; Deut. 10:16; 30:6.
15. The inner harmony of the Scriptures proves what, and leading to what conclusion?
15 In view of all this evidence piling up, showing such a wonderful spiritual conception on the part of those Christian writers, yet harmonizing so closely with the pattern of the Hebrew Scriptures, how can it possibly be credited to human inspiration and originality? Surely it is true that, as in the first instance, “prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit,” so it is also equally true that the proper understanding of prophecy can at no time be determined by men exercising their own wisdom, but it depends entirely on the Author of prophecy, speaking in his own time through those filled with his spirit.—2 Pet. 1:21.
THE WORK OF ONE MAN, OR OF GOD?
16. How did Israel develop as a nation while in Egypt?
16 We turn now to a different line of evidence. Consider what happened shortly after Israel left Egypt. First, however, we remind you that 215 years previously Jacob and his twelve sons and their little ones went down into Egypt because of the famine. It was a family affair. God said to Jacob in a vision at that time: “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I shall constitute you there into a great nation.” This did not mean as a great sovereign power, but numerically, for the record says that “the sons of Israel became fruitful and began to swarm . . . at a very extraordinary rate.” (Gen. 46:3; Ex. 1:7) Their whole stay in Egypt was on sufferance, for they were stock raisers, a “detestable thing to Egypt.” So they dwelt “in the land of Goshen,” apart from the Egyptians. Under such conditions, it would not be wise, or even possible, to develop a strong, independent national policy, or system of government. They would live quite simply as an agricultural community, along the patriarchal lines to which they were accustomed.—Gen. 46:34.
17. From Moses’ birth, what did Israel undergo, leading to what important events?
17 Then “there arose over Egypt a new king who did not know Joseph,” and for at least eighty years, from the time of Moses’ birth to the exodus, the lives of the people were “bitter with hard slavery . . . under tyranny.” No opportunity for national development there. Then came the ten plagues and the exodus, and finally all Israel, with a “vast mixed company” that went with them, safely crossed the Red Sea—with the Egyptian hosts behind them, all dead. Less than three months afterward, ‘Israel went camping in front of the mountain (Mount Sinai).’ This was a most important period in Israel’s history. It was really the commencement of a separate and independent national existence for that people. But how did it develop, seeing they lacked experience in national and governmental affairs?—Ex. 1:8, 14; 12:38; 19:1, 2.
18. While at Mount Sinai, how much of the Pentateuch did Moses probably write?
18 This is what happened. First, God gave the Ten Commandments, also a large number of “judicial decisions” dealing with such matters as slavery, compensation for injuries, cases of stealing, seduction, loans, and so forth, also observance of sabbaths and festivals. But this was not all. A few days thereafter Moses again went up into the mountain to receive further instructions, and “continued in the mountain forty days and forty nights.” With what result? All the evidence points strongly to the fact that Moses wrote the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and perhaps the opening chapters of the book of Numbers while at Mount Sinai.—Ex. 21:1; 24:18.
19. Humanly speaking, what did the one man Moses produce for Israel?
19 If we are to take all this record as of human authorship, as is generally understood, then we would have to say that, within a few months, the one man, Moses, produced a comprehensive and detailed blueprint for every aspect of Israel’s national life, both civil and religious. Not only the fundamental laws, the Ten Commandments, and not only innumerable regulations of a civil nature, but that one man also gave written instructions, covering every minute detail, concerning Israel’s religious life and worship. This included the construction of the Ark, the tabernacle and its contents, the surrounding courtyard, garments for the priests and high priest, their installation ceremonies, including full details of the materials to be used, their color and measurements, and so forth. Besides that, in Leviticus, we have all the laws regulating the access of the people to God, and the different kinds of offerings.
20. Why is it impossible to attribute all this to one man?
20 Frankly, it is impossible to attribute all this to one man. Apart from the immense amount of detail, the whole conception is of such a high order. No man or government has produced anything to equal it, or come anywhere near it. Admitted that in the patriarchal society, which God dealt with prior to Moses, there would be well-established codes of law, but much of Moses’ work was in the nature of providing for a new system of worship for a people blossoming into full nationhood. Neither can it be allowed for a moment that Moses, though “instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians,” copied from that pagan pattern of life and worship.—Acts 7:22.
21. What further evidence proves that Moses and all the Bible writers were inspired to write by Jehovah’s spirit?
21 Two more points are worthy of note. Whereas it often takes generations for a nation to evolve a system of laws and then find they have to be adjusted and altered, the laws given through Moses were subject to no such treatment, not by a hairbreadth. The other point is this. Paul says: “The Law has a shadow of the good things to come,” and in his letter to the Hebrews he takes many aspects of the Law and shows how they appropriately picture “heavenly things themselves.” Now, how could Moses possibly have foreseen and directed what he wrote so as to foreshadow something of which he had no knowledge? In fact, how was the apostle Paul, or any other man, by exercising his own mental ability, able to see the heavenly pattern of Jehovah’s new instrument beautifully mirrored in that ancient Law? How convincing it is that both Moses and Paul, and all the other Bible writers, were inspired by Jehovah’s holy spirit to write his great Book!—Heb. 10:1; 9:23.
22. In what way was the law code rewritten in one word, and how does this compare with Moses’ writing?
22 After Moses, then what happened? Over fifteen centuries later another Bible writer explains how that law covenant came to be written off. He says that God “blotted out the handwritten document [or covenant] against us . . . He has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the torture stake.” Then, in another place, the same Bible writer, humanly speaking, rewrites the entire law code in one word—LOVE! He argues and proves that “love is the law’s fulfillment,” and that “the entire Law stands fulfilled in one saying, namely: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’” This is not love as men know it, which is predominantly an emotional affair, but as seen and exemplified in Jehovah himself, for, says the apostle John, “God is love.” This may not be so spectacular as all that Moses produced, but it goes far deeper.—Col. 2:14; Rom. 13:10; Gal. 5:14; 1 John 4:16.
23. What blessings and prospects await those who truly accept the Bible as God’s Word?
23 Thus, from whatever angle or aspect we consider this subject, when we once get the right viewpoint we can appreciate more than ever before that indeed “all Scripture is inspired of God” and is an imperishable memorial to “Jehovah the God of truth.” We can have full confidence, not only in the authenticity of the Word, the entire Bible, but also in the certainty of the outcome of all that it has foretold. The New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses, a people wholly dedicated to Jehovah and who accept his Word wholeheartedly, are right now experiencing some of these good things, and you, too, can share in them. As Jehovah himself expressed it, saying: “My word . . . will not return to me without results, but it will certainly do that in which I have delighted, and it will have certain success in that for which I have sent it. For with rejoicing you people will go forth, and with peace you will be brought in.”—2 Tim. 3:16; Ps. 31:5; Isa. 55:11, 12.
24. What further question arises in connection with the Bible?
24 In seeking to gain a proper evaluation of any book, or collection of books, as with the Bible, it is a great aid, if not an absolute necessity, to become acquainted with the personality of the author. How can this be done? It will be worth our while to give this our special consideration as far as the Bible and its Author are concerned.