More Is needed than Bibles
THE Bible continues to be printed and distributed by the millions of copies year after year, and that in ever more tongues. It now appears, in whole or in part, in upward of twelve hundred languages, 1,202 to be exact.
In the United States as well as in many other lands around the world, a Bible week is annually observed by Protestants, usually beginning with the second Sunday in Advent. (Incidentally, “Advent” refers to a preparatory period, four weeks before Christmas.) There is even a Roman Catholic Bible week in certain lands, such as in the United States, where it falls in February, it being celebrated in connection with Catholic Press month.
Commendable as are the printing and distributing of the Bible—although it must be admitted that not all of it is being done out of purely religious or even out of philanthropic motives—more is needed. It is not enough for people to have the Bible in their homes, nor even that they read it from time to time. They must understand what they read and know what to do about it. True, parts of the Bible, such as its historical portions and its moral precepts, are quite clear for all to comprehend who approach it objectively. But there is also much that cannot be understood without assistance; and, not understanding it, many stop reading the Bible, while others charge it with contradicting itself. In particular is there need for help to understand the fulfillment of Bible prophecies, and especially those that relate to our day.
In fact, Bible prophecies cannot be understood by anyone until God’s due time. Thus Daniel, who was used by God to record many prophecies, said regarding some of them, “I heard, but I could not understand.” Why not? Because it was not God’s due time, for which reason God told him: “Go, Daniel, because the words are made secret and sealed up until the time of the end.” At that time “the ones having insight will understand.” And why? Because of those prophecies being fulfilled. In the same way, it was only after Jesus Christ had fulfilled certain prophecies that his apostle Matthew was able to call attention to certain events and show how they fulfilled this prophecy and that.—Dan. 12:8-10; Matt. 2:22, 23; 3:3; 8:17; 21:4, 5; 27:9, 10.
Equally important to understanding the Bible is God’s holy spirit. Only upon receiving the holy spirit at Pentecost were the Christian apostle Peter and his associates able to preach with understanding and show the fulfillment of prophecies, and so it has been since. As the apostle Paul shows, “God has revealed [these things] through his spirit.”—1 Cor. 2:9, 10; Acts 2:2-36.
Another requirement for understanding the Bible is a right heart condition, a sincere desire to learn, a ‘consciousness of one’s spiritual need.’ That is why Jesus spoke in parables or illustrations, to separate the casual and curious listener from the sincere inquirer. The latter would heed Jesus’ words: “Let him that has ears listen,” that is, remain to hear more.—Matt. 5:3; 13:9-16.
In particular is help needed from God’s dedicated servants to understand the Bible. This is strikingly borne out by the experience recorded at Acts 8:26-39. A sincere inquirer, an Ethiopian official, was reading the prophecy of Isaiah but could not understand it until Philip, the evangelist, made it clear to him. If reading the Bible were all that were needed to understand it and to be impelled to act upon it, then each individual member of the Christian congregation would be complete in himself, like a whole human body, but not so. The apostle Paul likens the entire Christian congregation to a human body and the individual members to the various parts or organs of a body, such as the hands, feet and head. All of these have the greatest need for one another, for which reason it has well been said of them: “All the organs of the body are constantly in debt to one another.” Yes, as the apostle shows: “The eye cannot say to the hand: ‘I have no need of you’; or, again, the head cannot say to the feet: ‘I have no need of you.’” If Bibles were all that were needed, then the illustration of Paul would be pointless.—1 Cor. 12:21.
The very fact that Jesus Christ gave his congregation “some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers,” shows that more is needed than Bibles. As the inspired writer goes on to show, God provided these men for “the training of the holy ones, for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ, until we all attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to the measure of growth that belongs to the fullness of the Christ.”—Eph. 4:11-13.
Just as human instruments, dedicated to Jehovah God to do his will and upon whom he has placed his spirit, were needed in the early days of Christianity, so there is need for such today. By means of a figure of speech Jesus foretold that there would be human instruments. This is found in his great prophecy regarding the end of the system of things, where we now find ourselves: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their [spiritual] food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.” This “slave,” the facts show, is to be found among the Christian witnesses of the New World society.—Matt. 24:45-47.
Yes, more is needed than printing and distributing Bibles. They must be read, understood and acted upon. The Bible, and Bible prophecies in particular, cannot be understood until God’s due time, and then only by sincere inquirers with the help of God’s holy spirit and his dedicated earthly instruments. That is why this magazine is published and why the witnesses of Jehovah stand ready to instruct personally every sincere seeker for truth, and that “without money and without price.” Having ‘received free, they give free.’—Isa. 55:1; Matt. 10:8.