Are You Bearing Thorough Witness?
“I thoroughly bore witness.”—Acts 20:21.
1. What theme comes to the fore in regard to the ministry of Paul, particularly in the book of Acts?
WHAT one thing marked the ministry of Paul more than any other? It was his thoroughness in teaching the Word of God. Paul himself 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.” Then he goes on to say: “I thoroughly bore witness.” (Acts 20:20, 21) This theme or predominating thought of thorough witnessing comes impressively to the fore particularly in the book of Acts, where Paul’s wholehearted devotion to his preaching and teaching even under prison bonds is borne out in the words: “And he explained the matter to them by bearing thorough witness concerning the kingdom of God and by using persuasion with them concerning Jesus from both the law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening.”—Acts 28:23.
2. Give reasons why people were attracted to the message that Paul bore.
2 Paul was no skimpy giver. He was wholehearted, generous, spontaneous, helpful and ever alert to seize his privileges and responsibilities to bear thorough witness concerning the kingdom of God. He really meant what he said, and he said what he meant. The people in Paul’s preaching territory saw him in their homes. There was no shortage of visits from Paul and his fellow apostles in apostolic times. There is no shortage today in the New World society. Now can you see even further reasons why so many were attracted to the message that Paul bore and to the same message being borne today by those bearing thorough witness concerning the kingdom of God?
“BECOME IMITATORS OF ME”
3. What is the significance behind the words of Paul “Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ”?
3 Consider for a moment the real significance behind Paul’s words at 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ.” How did Paul thoroughly copy Jesus in his manner of preaching, yes, his whole life pattern, and thus set a sterling example for true Christians today? An examination of the Scriptures clearly shows that Paul carefully copied Jesus’ manner and procedure of declaring the good news. Please note how thoroughly he did this. For example, Jesus preached publicly, in the streets, synagogues and busy thoroughfares as well as from house to house and village to village. Jesus also made return visits on interested persons, conducted Bible studies with them and, on many occasions and in numerous places, conducted public meetings. (Matt. 5:1, 2; 10:5-14; John 21:15-17) Paul likewise participated in all these features of the Christian ministry. (Acts 20:20; 15:36; Gal. 6:6; Acts 20:7) What a wonderful example he set for all Christians who want to bear thorough witness to the kingdom of God!
4. Compare the public ministry of Jesus and that of the apostle Paul.
4 Of Jesus’ public ministry it was said: “He journeyed through from city to city and from village to village, teaching and continuing on his journey to Jerusalem.” “And you taught in our broad ways.” (Luke 13:22, 26) Comparably, of Paul’s ministry it is stated: “Consequently he began to reason in the synagogue with the Jews and the other people who worshiped God and every day in the market place with those who happened to be on hand.” (Acts 17:17) Yes, “every day” Paul preached in public places, just as Jesus did. So today Jehovah’s witnesses often preach on the street. Why? Because some persons cannot be reached at their homes but may be reached by preaching in public places. Have you not often seen these active ministers in the busy thoroughfares, in the marketplaces, wherever people are gathered, courteously offering them the message of life as contained in The Watchtower and Awake!? Preaching in the streets, synagogues and marketplaces was done by Jesus, by Paul, and is done by true Christians today. Have you ever seen your minister copy this example?
5. Describe the house-to-house ministry of Jesus and the apostles and the example it sets for all true Christians today.
5 Regarding the house-to-house ministry of Christ and his apostles the divine record states: “Shortly afterwards he went journeying from city to city and from village to village, preaching and declaring the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him.” (Luke 8:1) Of the apostles, the record further states: “Every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.” (Acts 5:42) Paul himself 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) Truly house-to-house preaching is a Christlike and apostolic method of declaring the good news thoroughly. How long has it been since your minister has gone from house to house so men might “hear” the message of the Kingdom? Indeed, has he ever copied this method established by Jesus and followed by the apostles?
6. What further methods of instruction did Jesus and the apostles extensively engage in, that they might bear thorough witness?
6 Moreover, when the early Christians found a person interested in the Kingdom message, they gave extended personal instruction in the home. These home Bible studies were free of charge. (Matt. 10:8; Rev. 22:17) It was by the personal instruction in the home that Jesus built up Mary and Zacchaeus as true disciples. (Luke 10:38-42; 19:5-9) The apostle Paul said on this matter of personal instruction and effective return visits: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow; so that neither is he that plants anything nor is he that waters, but God who makes it grow.” (1 Cor. 3:6, 7) So today Jehovah’s witnesses call back on persons who express interest in the good news. Home Bible studies held one or more times each week give profitable instruction, and in this way whole families come to know about Jehovah and his purposes. When was the last time your minister conducted a Bible study with you and made an effort to answer your Bible questions?
7, 8. (a) What proof do we have of public meetings being conducted by Jesus and the apostles? (b) How do Jehovah’s witnesses copy this example in their ministry?
7 Further, Jesus often used the method of public meetings to bear thorough witness to the Kingdom. He gave one of his best-known sermons in the open air, the famous Sermon on the Mount. Indeed, wherever Jesus found people, that was where he preached. “When he saw the crowds he went up into the mountain; and after he sat down his disciples came to him; and he opened his mouth and began teaching them.” (Matt. 5:1, 2) Paul copied Jesus in this during the months that he was in Ephesus on his third ministerial tour, for the record states: “Entering into the synagogue, he spoke with boldness for three months, giving talks and using persuasion concerning the kingdom of God. But when some went on hardening themselves and not believing, speaking injuriously about The Way before the multitude, he withdrew from them and separated the disciples from them, daily giving talks in the school auditorium of Tyrannus. This took place for two years, so that all those inhabiting the district of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.”—Acts 19:8-10.
8 Yes, this well-known preaching method of Jehovah’s witnesses today is nothing new. Jesus held public meetings, Paul conducted them, and so do true Christians today. In fact, the 1966 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses reports that 954,635 public meetings were conducted by ministers of the New World society in 1965. Jehovah’s witnesses are ever alert to preaching methods that will help them spread the glorious good news. They realize that the Kingdom is ruling and a new order is at hand and it must be publicized thoroughly by every means possible.
WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO THE MESSAGE OF THE KINGDOM?
9. What searching questions are here propounded for all persons to ponder over personally in regard to the thorough witnessing of ministers of the New World society?
9 Just as Paul bore thorough witness to the kingdom of God in favorable and troublesome seasons, so Christian ministers do the same today. But the question is, How do you react when they come to your door? Are you too busy, too occupied? Is your religion good enough for you? We ask this in all sincerity, but would such a view allow you to get answers to your questions concerning the troubles and problems of our present-day civilization? Do you believe that these men and women calling at your home are religious fanatics and hence do you prefer not to get involved with them? Are you perhaps like the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers who were upset by Paul’s preaching and called him a “chatterer” and a publisher of “foreign deities” and who took him up to the Areopagus on Mars’ Hill? However, there, with skillful teaching and persuasion, Paul argued in favor of seeking the true God; and, because of his declaration concerning the resurrection from the dead, some became believers. Among those who became believers were Dionysius a judge of the court of the Areopagus and a woman named Damaris and others besides them.—Acts 17:16-34.
10. Why is it so vital to be reasonable about our religion?
10 Thus these Epicurean and Stoic philosophers missed out on the blessing that Dionysius and Damaris gained. Remember, Jehovah’s Word states: “When anyone is replying to a matter before he hears it, that is foolishness on his part and a humiliation.” (Prov. 18:13) Why not, then, take a few moments to listen to the message of Jehovah’s witnesses the next time one of these ministers calls at your door? Why not be reasonable about religion? Perhaps their message contains more than you realize it does.—John 17:3.
11. Describe Paul’s activity while staying with Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth.
11 After the above-referred-to incident on Mars’ Hill Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. There the record states that he found a certain Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, along with Priscilla his wife. Paul went to them, and, on account of being of the same trade, he stayed at their home and they worked together, for they were tentmakers by trade. However, Paul would give a talk in the synagogue every sabbath and would persuade Jews and Greeks, according to the record. (Acts 18:1-4) Is that the way your minister takes care of his living expenses? Does he take care of his own financial problems by working so that he does not become an expensive burden on your congregation?
12. How did Paul take care of his living expenses while bearing thorough witness to the kingdom of God? What example can we learn from this today?
12 Paul wanted to be free of any accusations along this line and thus wrote to the church at Thessalonica: “Nor did we eat food from anyone free. To the contrary, by labor and toil night and day we were working so as not to impose an expensive burden upon any one of you. Not that we do not have authority, but in order that we might offer ourselves as an example to you to imitate us. In fact, also, when we were with you, we used to give you this order: ‘If anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat.’” (2 Thess. 3:8-10) What an example of wholehearted devotion! What commitment to the Gospel! What thoroughness in preaching, and what an example Paul was! How different from the so-called Christian ministers of today, many of whom are selfish and materialistic and who appear to be more interested in salary than salvation and preaching the Word of Jehovah!
PERSONAL BENEFITS GAINED FROM “THOROUGH WITNESSING”
13. Outline the many benefits that result from the ministry of the modern “Pauls.”
13 Just as many benefits flowed to men from Paul’s thorough witnessing, so many benefits result to all persons of honest heart from the ministry of the modern “Pauls” of the New World society today. What are some of these benefits? (1) A better moral climate accrues to those following the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. (2) Greater happiness and contentment follow in the life of those who apply Bible principles, for the Bible becomes an alive, useful, practical book, a book with a message, not a dead book. (3) The message of the Kingdom brings better marital relationships, better employer-employee relationships, and many are aided to change their lives in harmony with the Bible commands. Numerous ones have been helped to clean up common-law marriages and consensual-type marriages as well as saving marriages about to “go on the rocks.” Drunkenness has been curbed. Minds that were formerly selfish and materialistic have been transformed into clean, wholesome minds dedicated to the preaching of the good news of God’s kingdom.—Rom. 12:1, 2; 1 Cor. 5:9-11; 6:9-11.
14. How can a better moral climate result from an application of the teachings of Jesus and the apostles?
14 First of all, let us consider how a better moral climate can result from an application of the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. Paul said: “Flee from fornication. Every other sin that a man may commit is outside his body, but he that practices fornication is sinning against his own body.” (1 Cor. 6:18) He also said: “Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” (Heb. 13:4) To the young men and women Paul said: “Flee from the desires incidental to youth, but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, along with those who call upon the Lord out of a clean heart.” (2 Tim. 2:22) What wise counsel for all age-brackets, and how thankful we can be to have such splendid direction at a time when the moral climate has sunk to such an all-time low!
15. What blessings at the family level are available with the application of the apostle’s counsel at Colossians 3:13, 14?
15 And how about the blessing at the family level when we apply Paul’s fitting counsel, proving that a close family relationship requires a continual, united effort abounding in love? Listen to what he said: “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also. But, besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.”—Col. 3:13, 14.
16. How can the application of Scriptural counsel greatly reduce, if not eliminate, family dissension and personal contentions?
16 Note, too, the wise counsel he gave for overcoming family dissension and personal contentions. “You wives, be in subjection to your husbands, as it is becoming in the Lord. You husbands, keep on loving your wives and do not be bitterly angry with them. You children, be obedient to your parents in everything, for this is well-pleasing in the Lord. You fathers, do not be exasperating your children, so that they do not become downhearted.” (Col. 3:18-21) And with all our imperfections, do we not need such thorough, practical counsel if we are to have happiness and peace of mind in this troubled and perplexed world?
17. (a) In the field of employer-employee relationships, what counsel did the apostle Paul offer? Explain its practicality. (b) What benefits can be gained by applying self-discipline, as outlined by Paul at Hebrews 12:5, 6, 11-17?
17 Further, please, observe the excellent principles on employer and employee relationships enunciated at Colossians 3:23-25: “Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men, for you know that it is from Jehovah you will receive the due reward of the inheritance. Slave for the Master, Christ. Certainly the one that is doing wrong will receive back what he wrongly did, and there is no partiality.” Never should any Christian cheat his employer, but he should give a full day’s work. To do less not only would be wrong but it would likely lead to other unchristian attitudes and acts. How refreshing such an attitude in this day and age when shiftlessness, carelessness and irresponsibility are prevalent! Yes, even in the smallest matters self-discipline is required, and that excellent counsel Paul gives in this respect at Hebrews 12:5, 6, 11-17. The apostle Paul was truly one of the “gifts in men.” (Eph. 4:8) He made things so plain, so clear. Never was he ambiguous or double-minded. His hearers always knew what he was talking about, for his speech was pointed, practical and powerful!
18. Describe the greatest benefit that can come from the work of bearing thorough witness to all men.
18 Finally, what is the greatest benefit that comes from bearing thorough witness to the kingdom of God? Jesus said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) In a related vein Paul said, when writing to the Philippians: “Brothers, I do not yet consider myself as having laid hold on it; but there is one thing about it: Forgetting the things behind and stretching forward to the things ahead, I am pursuing down toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God by means of Christ Jesus. Let us, then, as many of us as are mature, be of this mental attitude; and if you are mentally inclined otherwise in any respect, God will reveal the above attitude to you. At any rate, to what extent we have made progress, let us go on walking orderly in this same routine.” (Phil. 3:13-16) Is it not your desire to gain everlasting life in a paradise earth under a new system of things? Can you not see, then, how vital it is to learn of God’s kingdom and not let anything stand in the way of your taking in this highly practicable knowledge?
19, 20. What should be the attitude of (a) the minister who is bearing thorough witness to the kingdom of God, and (b) the person hearing the message?
19 Yes, in the fields of morals, marital relationships, employer-employee relationships and in anticipation of gaining everlasting life, excellent benefits can certainly flow to all “men of good-will” who apply the principles set forth by Jesus and the apostles. Is not that the way you feel about it? Do you not desire these things for yourself?
20 How vital it is, then, for all of us who hear the message of the Kingdom to be honest and reasonable with ourselves and daily apply these divine principles in our lives. The modern ministers of the New World society are resolved to continue to be zealous, thorough and persuasive, just as Paul was, and gain the same reputation for faith, fine works and endurance that he did. Blessings will thus flow to them and those who listen to their teaching. (1 Tim. 4:16) It can be readily seen that thoroughness in bearing testimony to the message of the Kingdom brings inestimable benefits. The next time you receive an opportunity to hear the message of the Kingdom do not resist it; receive it. Give yourself an honest opportunity to hear what these dedicated Christians have to say, and we firmly believe that you will remember with gladness the day you allowed yourself to do this!