Assume Your Christian Obligations
“He that says he remains in union with him is under obligation himself also to go on walking just as that one walked.”—1 John 2:6.
1. (a) What questions arise when speaking of Christian obligations? (b) What is an obligation, and how can it be said that Christians are under obligation to God?
CHRISTIAN obligations! Can there be talk of Christian obligations? Are not a Christian’s worship and service voluntary? True, the Christian’s worship is voluntary. His coming to God, dedicating his life to God and his rendering acceptable service is voluntary, resulting from the free exercise of his free will, even as were the sacrifices of the ancient Israelites. (2 Chron. 29:31; Ps. 110:3; Rev. 22:17) Still the Christian has an obligation to do God’s will. How so? According to Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, an obligation is “that which a person is bound to do or forbear; any duty imposed by law, promise, contract, oath, or vow . . . state of being indebted for an act of favor or kindness.” Are Christians under obligations? Definitely! First of all, all men, including non-Christians, are indebted to God for the favor or kindness of life they have received. Note what is stated in Revelation 4:11: “You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.” The Creator’s worthiness to receive glory and honor because of creating us gives all men the obligation to render such glory.
2, 3. (a) In what further ways are Christians under obligations? (b) What scriptures prove this?
2 But Christians are even more indebted. How so? By accepting the ransom from death to everlasting life, which God provided through Christ Jesus—a very valuable favor. (1 Pet. 1:18, 19; 1 Cor. 7:23) Now Jehovah could hold us under obligation on this basis alone; but, instead, with his demonstration of love he appeals to us on the basis of love. “The love is in this respect, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent forth his Son as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins. Beloved ones, if this is how God loved us, then we are ourselves under obligation to love one another.” (1 John 4:10, 11) By having had our debt of sin forgiven by God, we are under obligation to forgive those who sin against us. (Matt. 18:32-35) By reason of this we are indebted to our neighbor; we owe him love.—Rom. 13:8.
3 Further, an obligation can be ‘any duty imposed by law,’ or a command, and Christians, for example, are under command to love. (John 15:9-11; 13:34, 35; Matt. 22:37) In addition to our obligations by reason of our indebtedness to God, and by reason of his commands, we have had duties imposed on us by reason of our vow of dedication to God on the basis of his provision through Christ Jesus. “He that says he remains in union with him is under obligation himself also to go on walking just as that one walked.” (1 John 2:6) “Pay to the Most High your vows.”—Ps. 50:14; 61:8; Luke 9:23.
4, 5. (a) In what way have Christians become obligated to others? (b) How did the apostle Paul show that he was under obligation?
4 Having received the benefits of Christ’s ransom sacrifice, we are also obligated to help others get such benefits. “By this we have come to know love, because that one surrendered his soul for us; and we are under obligation to surrender our souls for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16) Yes, in looking after the interests of our brothers and preaching the good news to others we may even bring our freedom and our very lives in danger, but this we are now obligated to do. Further, we received the good news because someone else put forth the effort to preach to us, likely spending many hours in calling back and studying with us. Now we are under obligation to make our contribution to advance the Kingdom work by preaching, by aiding financially and by showing hospitality. “For it was in behalf of his name that they went forth, not taking anything from the people of the nations. We, therefore, are under obligation to receive such persons hospitably, that we may become fellow workers in the truth.”—3 John 7, 8.
5 The apostle Paul said that he was under obligation to preach to those of the nations. “Both to the Greeks and to Barbarians . . . I am a debtor: so there is eagerness on my part to declare the good news also to you there in Rome.” (Rom. 1:14, 15) And speaking of those of the nations who had received the truth from the disciples in Jerusalem, Paul wrote: “Yet they were debtors to them; for if the nations have shared in their spiritual things, they also owe it to minister publicly to these with things for the physical body.” (Rom. 15:27) So Paul knew he was under obligation to preach. He did not sit comfortably back and say he would preach only if and when he felt like it, that his preaching was, after all, only voluntary. His awareness of his obligation moved him to fight against the tendency of the flesh to want to take it easy. He knew that, in order to win life, he had to exert himself vigorously. (Luke 13:24) He showed his sense of obligation when he wrote: “If, now, I am declaring the good news, it is no reason for me to boast, for necessity is laid upon me. Really, woe is me if I did not declare the good news!”—1 Cor. 9:16.
6. (a) In what way have some Christians become discouraged in their service to God because of a wrong understanding of 1 Corinthians 9:17? (b) What arguments show it is proper for the Christian to compel himself to do what is right?
6 But some may argue, “Is not the Bible against obligatory service? Does not Paul also say in this 1 Co chapter 9 that he would get his reward only if his service was willing, meaning entirely free from any sense of obligation? And, therefore, if one does not feel the urge and desire to preach, is it not in vain to compel himself to do it simply because he knows it is right? Should not the desire come from the heart?” Yes, the desire should come from the heart, but we know that the human heart is often selfish and deceptive. (Jer. 17:9, 10) It often takes much study of God’s Word, many prayers and vigorous exertion on the part of the mind and the will to overcome the selfish tendencies of the flesh. (Rom. 7:18-25) Some Christian witnesses have heard the above-mentioned argument and become discouraged and depressed with their service, some even stopping because they did not feel a natural urge or desire to preach. They feel, if they must discipline themselves to do what is right, it will be in vain. But this is not true. We are obligated to discipline ourselves to avoid the wrong. “So, then, brothers, we are under obligation, not to the flesh to live in accord with the flesh.” (Rom. 8:12) And we must discipline ourselves to do the right by using our power of reason.—Rom. 12:1.
7. What was it that Paul spoke of performing willingly, and what reward was he speaking of in 1 Corinthians 9:17? What was he under obligation to do?
7 But what did the apostle Paul mean at 1 Corinthians 9:17, when he wrote: “If I perform this willingly [of my own choice, New English Bible], I have a reward.” What was this ‘willing’ performance he was talking about, and what was the “reward”? Was the performance the preaching, and the “reward” everlasting life? Let us examine the context a little. Paul acknowledges in his letter to the Romans (1:14) that he was a debtor to the Greeks, so he was obligated to preach the good news to the Greek-speaking Corinthians, and this he confirms when he says: “Woe is me if I did not declare the good news!” (1 Cor. 9:16) In the ninth chapter of 1 Co this letter Paul is defending his apostleship against his critics by ‘boasting’ that he preached at his own expense; he did not make use of his right to receive financial help in connection with this. (1 Cor. 9:15) So the performance that he did willingly, of his own choice, was, not the preaching itself, but the doing of the preaching at his own expense. The “reward” that he mentions is simply his right to boast of something that he did of his own choice, without obligation. The preaching he was obligated to do; it was not of his own choice, and for doing it he could claim no “reward” in the way of right to boast. (Luke 17:10) Thus he writes: “What, then, is my reward? That while declaring the good news I may furnish the good news without cost, to the end that I may not abuse my authority in the good news.”—1 Cor. 9:18.
PRINCIPLES FOR ASSUMING OBLIGATIONS
8. To whom is the Christian’s primary obligation, and what is involved?
8 So it is Scripturally established that Christians are under many obligations, which include preaching the good news. These are proper burdens that the Christian must bear. (Matt. 11:30; Gal. 5:6) To assume all our Christian obligations we need to know exactly what they are, and in what order they must be cared for. Success in our performance requires the following of certain basic principles. First, our primary obligation is to Jehovah. “Fear the true God and keep his commandments. For this is the whole obligation of man.” (Eccl. 12:13; Matt. 22:37) All of God’s commandments constitute obligations for the Christian, and include preaching, maintaining our integrity and following Godly principles at all times. (Gal. 5:22, 23) These primary obligations fall equally on all dedicated Christians regardless of their place in God’s organization.
9, 10. (a) Is one freed from some Christian obligations because of having taken on others? Explain. (b) How should the Christian view additional obligations from God?
9 Next, all Christian obligations must be cared for. One is not free from some Christian obligations by reason of having taken on others. Jesus clearly showed this principle when he said to the Pharisees who were under the Mosaic law, which was in force at that time: “You give the tenth of the mint and the rue and of every other vegetable, but you pass by the justice and the love of God! These things you were under obligation to do, but those other things not to omit.” (Luke 11:42; Matt. 23:23) Note that the fulfilling of the obligation to give the tenth of the mint and other things did not free these from performing the “weightier matters” of the law, and the reverse was also true.
10 A third principle is that dedication to God obligates the Christian to do God’s will as revealed; additional obligations from God must be assumed as they come. God can extend obligations in scope, increase their detail or add new obligations as he wills. The Christian has the obligation to prove to himself the “good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom. 12:2) Increased knowledge and understanding can make us aware of additional obligations.—Phil. 1:9, 10; 3:15, 16.
11, 12. (a) How can there arise a ‘conflict of interests’ for the Christian in assuming his obligations, and what Bible principles must he keep in mind? (b) How can the Christian make room for the increasing obligations?
11 A fourth principle is that there must be no conflict of interests. Since the whole obligation of man is to keep God’s commandments, the Christian is not free to take on other obligations that conflict with or work contrary to the primary obligations to God. Being slaves purchased with the precious blood of Christ, none of us could allow ourselves to become slaves to another master. “No man serving as a soldier involves himself in the commercial businesses of life, in order that he may gain the approval of the one who enrolled him as a soldier.” (2 Tim. 2:4; Matt. 6:24) A Christian does well to consider this when selecting secular work or taking on business or other obligations.
12 A fifth principle is that, since obligations can be increased and since we cannot cut out some Christian obligations to make room for others, it is necessary to find a proper balance, to “make sure of the more important things.” (Phil. 1:9, 10) It means we will free ourselves from things we are not obligated to do to make room for the growing Kingdom interests. (Eph. 5:15, 16) So with these five principles in mind let us see just what the Christian obligations include.
PRIMARY CHRISTIAN OBLIGATIONS
13. (a) Outline in detail some of the primary obligations falling on all Christians. (b) What scriptures support this?
13 First, the primary obligation that rests upon all Christians is to be well-qualified ministers of God, to uphold Jehovah’s name and purpose in action and word. Since this involves carrying out specific commands that God states at specific times, it includes now, in this “time of the end,” the preaching of this good news of the Kingdom throughout all the earth for a witness to all nations. (Matt. 24:14) “Ascribe to Jehovah the glory belonging to his name.” (Ps. 96:2-4, 8, 10; Rev. 14:6, 7) It means going from house to house, using God’s Word properly in our teaching, keeping proper record so that we can be sure to give a witness to the occupants of every house, and can properly follow up where interest is shown. It means preparing sermons, making return visits, conducting Bible studies, as well as training others to become proficient in this work. “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright. . . . be gentle toward all, qualified to teach.” (2 Tim. 2:15, 24) The primary obligation on all Christians includes personal study of God’s Word and also attending and participating in all congregation meetings, including assemblies. (Heb. 10:24, 25; 2 Pet. 1:19-21; 3:2, 18) In other words, everything necessary to save ourselves and those who listen to us.—2 Tim. 3:14-17; Rom. 15:4; 1 Tim. 4:16.
14, 15. (a) Aside from obligations to preach, what other obligations does a Christian have? (b) What position do these obligations occupy in relation to the obligation to preach?
14 To be worthy of the primary obligation a Christian must also include every aspect of his personal and family life, of his relationship to his marriage partner, children, parents, Christian brothers, congregation overseers, worldly employer or employees, neighbors, relatives, business associates as well as this world’s governmental authority. (Eph. 5:2, 28; 6:1, 4-9; Col. 3:22–4:1; Rom. 12:17; 1 Tim. 5:8; Rom. 13:1-7) Therefore, if you are a husband and father, included is your obligation to care well for the material and spiritual needs of your family. If you are a married woman, you have the wifely and Christian obligation to be a helper to your husband and to care for your children. Your becoming a Christian witness dedicated to Jehovah with obligations to preach and attend meetings should not result in the neglect of your family obligations, rather, in better care of them. How so? Because the caring for your family obligations has now become more than a mere human and social obligation. Such has become a Christian obligation, a part of keeping God’s commandments. But neither should the caring for family obligations result in the neglect of obligations to preach and participate in congregation meetings.
15 Performing of family and congregation obligations does not free or excuse you from the obligations of being honest and dependable with your employer, employees, business associates, government officials or others. In addition to being legal obligations, such are even more compelling as Christian obligations. The Christian is obligated to lead a life of moral cleanness and uprightness. His actions and speech must be exemplary. “Therefore, whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.”—1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17; Titus 2:1-10.
16. (a) What wrong attitude could some have as to their obligations? (b) Why is the Christian obligated to assume all additional obligations from God?
16 Not only are there many obligations now resting on Christians, but since we are living in the “time of the end” when the New World society is being built up, obligations are sure to be increased. One cannot say, “When I got baptized we did not have all these obligations with sermons, teaching, training program, hour goals, and such things, so they are not binding on me. I am only obligated to do what I agreed to do when I was baptized.” Of such one we could ask, “What did you agree to? Was it just to preach the good news with a card or phonograph, or perhaps a sermon? Not at all! Your dedication was to do Jehovah’s will as that is revealed through Christ Jesus, the holy spirit and the Bible.” So by our dedication vow we are bound to perform whatever additional obligations Jehovah places upon us. And when we consider our indebtedness to God, there is an even more compelling reason for us to assume additional obligations. Remember, ‘we are under obligation to go on walking as that one walked.’—1 John 2:6; Luke 24:48.
17. How did Jehovah increase the obligations of the Israelites as they were entering the Promised Land, and in what fields especially?
17 That Jehovah can expand our obligations in scope, increase specific detail or add new obligations can be seen in his dealing with the nation of Israel. They received a basic set of laws and obligations at Mount Sinai, recorded in the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. But when they were ready to enter the Promised Land, they got increased obligations, some wider in scope, others greater in detail and also some entirely new obligations. This can be seen from a comparison of the law from Sinai with the book of Deuteronomy, which name means “Second Law.” For example, though teaching and its importance were mentioned in the law from Sinai, yet in the book of Deuteronomy the responsibility of teaching—when, how and why—was spelled out in detail. Not only the importance of showing love, but the many ways in which love was to be demonstrated in practice, and the many actions that are regulated by the motive of love are shown in detail in Deuteronomy. Increased obligations were specified relating to their social life, family life, religious festivals, strictness for pure worship and many warnings against false worship. Instructions were given in detail as to identifying and clearing out of apostates. So here Jehovah demonstrated that he could and did increase his righteous requirements or obligations on his people.
18-20. How has an increase in the Christian obligations within the New World society been observed (a) in the field of knowledge and teaching? (b) in our ministry? (c) in developing love and spirituality? (d) in strictness for pure worship?
18 Today in the Christian New World society we observe also that Jehovah in his wisdom and care for his people has gradually increased our obligations as he has prepared us for living in his new order. Take the matter of knowledge and teaching. Over the years the number of meetings held weekly by the congregation has increased and these have become more specific in their purpose, requiring more preparation and greater personal participation, and thus greater personal benefit. There are also the circuit and district assemblies, as well as national and international assemblies, all of which are a part of the pattern of our meetings for increased knowledge and specific training. As for our ministry, also here we have experienced more specific instruction giving greater personal responsibility. Personal teaching from house to house, on back-calls and Bible studies, magazine distribution, proper coverage of territory with the house-to-house record, use of sermons and the training program, all place greater obligations on us individually. Also in this field our obligations will continue to grow. Time alone can place additional obligations. “You ought to be teachers in view of the time.”—Heb. 5:12.
19 This growth has not been one-sided, not a sort of organizational and efficiency growth at the expense of love and spirituality. No, for at the same time we have been taught with greater emphasis and detail the need of prayer and how to keep close to God, how to show love for God, our families and our fellow Christians. There has been good counsel on showing more love in preaching as well as in assisting others in the congregation according to the needs of each individual.
20 At the same time, in the counsel from the pages of this magazine there has been a note of increased strictness with regard to pure worship, the placing of additional obligations on each one individually, strict counsel on morals, honesty, neutrality and such requirements as showing respect for the sanctity of blood. Congregations have been kept clean from growth of apostasy by the application of such sanctions as probation or disfellowshiping when necessary. But even this strictness has been balanced with mercy and love.
21, 22. (a) How should a Christian view the increase of obligations? (b) How can one take on these obligations so as not to be overburdened?
21 If we were to view all these obligations from a purely human standpoint, we might feel overwhelmed, but there is no need for this. Jehovah knows our needs and abilities, and he is leading his people as a careful, loving shepherd, well aware of our limitations. But we must assume each obligation as it comes and in that way the increase will not be too great a burden. If we fall behind, then the accumulated burden of unassumed obligations can become too great to be borne. So know that your primary obligations are to preach the good news of God’s kingdom and to lead exemplary Christian lives. Then determine if your place in the congregation gives additional obligations, and what they are. Next, make a practical schedule to spend some time on each and stick to it. None can be pushed aside. Follow Jesus’ example, for we are under obligation “to go on walking just as that one walked.”—1 John 2:6.
22 But how does one reach out for additional obligations? What do these involve, and how can they be cared for? This will be taken up for consideration in the following article.
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Preaching the Good News
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Caring for Family Needs