The Need of Noninflammable Materials
1. When was the Christian congregation founded, and on what foundation, and how did Peter’s keynote speech show that fact?
THE only foundation allowed for “God’s building” is his Son Jesus Christ. The true Christian congregation, not Christendom, was founded on that foundation nineteen centuries ago, on the day of Pentecost, Sivan 6, of the year 33 C.E. at Jerusalem. Serving as ‘God’s fellow worker,’ the apostle Peter courageously announced God’s foundation for God’s building and concluded his keynote speech to the Jews there assembled, saying: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for a certainty that God made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you impaled.”
2. To what foundation did Peter’s counsel to the conscience-stricken Jews point, and where do members of God’s building stand in this space age?
2 Then, when conscience-stricken Jews asked what they should do according to God’s provision, Peter still held true to God’s one foundation by counseling them: “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the free gift of the holy spirit.” (Acts 2:1-38) That foundation there laid has withstood the raging storms of the centuries. Today, in this materialistic, modernistic, science-worshiping, nuclear, space age, the members of God’s building stand unmoved on that same imperishable foundation.
3, 4. (a) What sacrifice must we accept as lying at the basis of our salvation, and why? (b) In building, is it sufficient to build on him only as the ransom sacrifice and what did Peter’s Pentecost speech show?
3 Building on Jesus Christ as the Foundation means more than building on him as the ransom sacrifice for our sins. It is true that his human sacrifice lies at the basis of our salvation to eternal life. We must accept in their strict meaning Jesus’ words: “The Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matt. 20:28) We must accept in their exact sense the apostle Paul’s words: “Our Savior, God, whose will is that all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all.” (1 Tim. 2:3-6) But we must accept him as more than our Ransomer.
4 We must put faith and hope in him as the resurrected Jesus Christ, exalted to glory in the heavens. This was how Peter preached him to the Jews on the day of Pentecost. He presented him as the resurrected Jesus, whom God had exalted to his own right hand and made to be the King-Priest foreshadowed by the ancient Melchizedek king of Salem and priest of the Most High God.
5 Thus Jesus ascended to heaven, in fulfillment of Psalm 110:1 as written by King David. Hence Peter, after telling of Jesus’ being exalted to God’s right hand, refers to Psalm 110:1 and says: “Actually David did not ascend to the heavens, but he himself says, ‘Jehovah said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.”’” It is therefore to the exalted Lord Jesus Christ at God’s right hand in heaven that verse four of Psalm 110 is addressed, in these words: “Jehovah has sworn (and he will feel no regret): ‘You are a priest to time indefinite according to the manner of Melchizedek!’” This fact is repeatedly confirmed later on in the inspired scriptures addressed to the Christianized Hebrews. (Acts 2:32-35; Heb. 1:1-4, 13; 5:5-10; 6:19 to 7:22; 10:12, 13) As Christians we must accept Jesus in that official position.
6. (a) By now how have conditions with regard to God and his Christ changed since those described in Peter’s speech? (b) How have the Gentile nations treated Christ, but how must we now accept him?
6 However, since the apostle Peter made his Pentecostal speech, circumstances have changed radically with regard to God and his Christ. Just ten days before Peter’s speech Jesus had ascended to heaven to sit down at God’s right hand, and only 638 years of the Gentile Times of 2,520 years’ length had passed. But now those Gentile Times have ended. Autumn of 1914 marked their end. Jesus’ time of waiting at God’s right hand has ended. At that time God brought him forth as his enthroned, crowned King, fully authorized to start ruling in the midst of his enemies. God then sent the rod of his installed King Jesus Christ out of the heavenly Zion, with the command to go subduing in the midst of his enemies. Since then he has reigned. He was rejected by men, by the Gentile nations who have preferred their League of Nations and its successor, the United Nations; but we must now accept him as God’s reigning King! If we put faith in him as the “precious corner of a sure foundation” laid in heavenly Zion, we shall never go panicky over world conditions or come to disappointment.—Isa. 28:16; 1 Pet. 2:6-8.
7. How has Christendom formally recognized Christ as a ransom sacrifice but how does she treat him in his present-day capacity?
7 Christendom, with her hundreds of millions of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant members, has seemingly made much of the sacrificed Christ. She displays crucifixes everywhere, showing Christ nailed to a cross. She has her church steeples topped with crosses to symbolize the instrument on which Christ was put to death. She celebrates her religious masses daily, her annual Good Friday, her weekly or monthly Lord’s supper. She pays formal respect to him as a ransom sacrifice, but she stumbles over him as reigning King at God’s right hand. Christendom, up to more than half her population, worships before the ruler of Vatican City as the reigning “Vicar of Christ.” At the same time, up to the whole of her population (961,112,000), Christendom rejects the reigning heavenly Christ and chooses to have no king but Caesar, the political factors of this earth with their United Nations, even Vatican City advocating this organization.
8. How are men trying to devaluate Jesus Christ today, and from what unexpected quarter does this attack come against him?
8 Today, in this time of modernistic thinking, men are attempting to strip Jesus Christ even of his status as the Son of God and of his value as the ransom sacrifice for saving mankind. This new attack on Jesus Christ comes from an unexpected quarter, from ordained Protestant clergymen who are on the faculties of theological seminaries and departments of religion and yet are endeavoring to introduce a “theology without God” and a religious philosophy that “God is dead.” Says an article published in the 1966 Edition Britannica Book of the Year, page 671:
9. How has this rejection of traditional belief in God been accompanied by a seemingly “deepened loyalty to the figure of Christ,” so that what does being a Christian mean?
9 “What do the proponents of this radical theology suggest as a substitute for the idea of God, and why do they (or should they) still claim the name ‘theologian’? It may seem paradoxical, but the repudiation of traditional theism has been accompanied by a deepened loyalty to the figure of Jesus. He is, in another of [the German pastor] Bonhoeffer’s phrases, ‘the man for others,’ who, by his utter dedication to the welfare of his fellowmen even unto death, made possible for them—and made possible for us today—a life of courage and hope. To be a Christian does not mean to recite the creed or to participate in the ritual of the Church but to be a man for others, too, and to consecrate one’s life to their service, thus both finding and manifesting the freedom of the authentic humanity disclosed in the life and death of Jesus Christ.”
10. Is that the Christ whom Paul laid as a foundation in his day, and, in that regard, how did Paul present Christ in Colossians 2:2-10?
10 Such a mere Godless, humanitarian Christ is not the one whom the apostle Paul laid as a foundation in his day. The question of who and what Jesus Christ is presents no mystery to honest Bible students today. Who the Christ was to be was long a “sacred secret of God,” but the apostle Paul goes on to say with regard to the revealed Christ: “Carefully concealed in him are all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge. This I am saying that no man may delude you with persuasive arguments. . . . Therefore, as you have accepted Christ Jesus the Lord, go on walking in union with him, rooted and being built up in him and being stabilized in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with faith in thanksgiving. Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ; because it is in him that all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily. And so you are possessed of a fullness by means of him, who is the head of all government and authority.”—Col. 2:2-10.
11. This is the Biblical Christ recognized as the Foundation by what Christians today, and so of what may a person who undertakes a Bible study with them be sure?
11 This is the Biblical Christ whom Jehovah’s witnesses of today recognize as the Foundation that Jehovah God has provided. This is the only Foundation upon whom Jehovah’s witnesses as “God’s fellow workers” can build and do build. Any seeker after God who comes in contact with Jehovah’s witnesses today and undertakes a study of the Holy Bible with them can be perfectly sure of one thing: that he will not be led away from Christ into the religious philosophies of Christendom but that he will faithfully be built up spiritually on the only Biblical foundation there is, and that is Jesus Christ the Son of Jehovah God.
HOW ARE WE BUILDING?
12. Though we are on the right Foundation, what fire warning does Paul give us in 1 Corinthians 3:12, 13?
12 We are now absolutely sure of being on the right foundation. How, though, are we to be built up upon this Foundation? The apostle Paul sounds a note of warning in this regard, saying to “God’s fellow workers”: “Now if anyone builds on the foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood materials, hay, stubble, each one’s work will become manifest, for the day will show it up, because it will be revealed by means of fire; and the fire itself will prove what sort of work each one’s is.”—1 Cor. 3:12, 13.
13. As to one’s watching how he is building on the right Foundation, what questions arise as to what is built up?
13 This is why Paul said earlier: “Let each one keep watching how he is building on it.” (1 Cor. 3:10) But what is it that a fellow worker of God is building on the one foundation, Jesus Christ? Is it a doctrinal structure, a building made up of Bible teachings? And may some of these doctrines be compared to gold, silver, precious stones, wood materials, hay, stubble, according to their religious worth or importance? And is this a doctrinal structure that a person is building up within himself by his personal Bible study and by getting an understanding of Bible teaching and then exercising faith in it? And is it our doctrinal building that is to be tested by fire as to the durableness of its materials? Is it one’s personal self-instruction in knowledge, understanding and faith about which the apostle Paul is talking?
14, 15. What does Paul’s language show he is talking about building, and how does the context prove this?
14 Look again! Read Paul’s words again! He is not talking about building a doctrinal structure and developing a well-worked-out religious creed or set of beliefs. No, but he is talking about building people. He says: “You people are . . . God’s building.” (1 Cor. 3:9) This building was foreshadowed by the temples that the Jews built for the worship of God at Jerusalem. In logically following up this thought, the apostle Paul proceeds to say:
15 “Do you not know that you people are God’s temple, and that the spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you people are.”—1 Cor. 3:16, 17.
16. So this is a temple of what, and built upon what, and built for what purpose?
16 This temple of living persons, this spiritual temple, is being built up with Jesus Christ as the essential, main foundation. “You,” says Paul, in Ephesians 2:20-22, “have been built up upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, while Christ Jesus himself is the foundation cornerstone. In union with him the whole building, being harmoniously joined together, is growing into a holy temple for Jehovah. In union with him you, too, are being built up together into a place for God to inhabit by spirit.”
17. As “God’s fellow workers,” are we creating, or just how are we building on the Foundation?
17 So, as “God’s fellow workers,” we are not creating people who did not exist before, but we are making certain persons out of people who already exist as humans. With God’s help, what sort of persons are we making out of people? We are making disciples of Christ out of them; we are making Christians in the true sense; we are building up Christian personalities in others. This is what we should be doing, if we are building on the precious Foundation that Jehovah God has laid in the heavenly Zion, namely, Jesus Christ. We desire to produce the real Christians; otherwise, our work at building will be wasted.
18. How did Jesus, in his parable of the wheat and weeds, illustrate the need for carefulness, and so how could we be working with the planter of the weeds?
18 In his parable of the wheat and the weeds (or tares) Jesus pictured that there would be many imitation Christians. Outwardly, at the start of growth, the real thing and the imitation would look quite alike so that the one could easily be mistaken for the other. That is why, when the farm laborers wanted to pull out what looked to them like weeds at an early stage of growth, the farm owner said: “No; that by no chance, while collecting the weeds, you uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the harvest season I will tell the reapers, First collect the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them up, then go to gathering the wheat into my storehouse.” (Matt. 13:29, 30) Jesus explained that, “as for the fine seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; but the weeds are the sons of the wicked one.” (Matt. 13:38) Consequently, as Paul warned, we have to watch how we are building on the Foundation Jesus Christ. If we are building imitation Christians, symbolic weeds, then we are working with the planter of the weeds, Satan the Devil.
19. As to what we build, what question arises, and what choice of materials can we make to determine the outcome?
19 Will the sort of Christians we build withstand the day of fire? Or will all our work go up in smoke? It all depends upon what we build into the Christians that we are making. We must build with fire-resistant, noninflammable materials, as it were. In our building work we can use materials that compare with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble. Of course, if we build with materials corresponding with woodstock, hay, stubble, we could normally expect our building to be destroyed in the fire. Gold, silver, precious stones are noninflammable. They would be expected to stand up under the fire test.
20. By what methods has Christendom been making professed Christians over sixteen centuries, and what question comes up?
20 For sixteen centuries Christendom has claimed Christ as her Foundation and has produced thousands of millions of professed Christians, and today she has over 961 million of them left. In earlier centuries she has forced them into her religious organization at the point of the sword. She has baptized them into the church system as infants a few days old. She has adopted the religious philosophies and practices of pagans in order to ease their way over into the church system. She has let her religious flock remain a part of this political, commercial, social, militaristic world while at the same time giving them good standing in the church system. What sort of Christians has she produced?
21. When will the answer to the question be fully furnished, and what will happen to Christendom and her flock?
21 If the answer is not already manifest in the case of individual churchgoers of Christendom, it will shortly be manifest in the oncoming fiery day just preceding the world’s Armageddon. Then Christendom as a whole will stand exposed as not Christian. Then Christendom will be laid bare as being a part, in fact, the dominant part of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false, Babylonish religion. It will be revealed that she has built Christians in name only, using combustible ways and means like wood, hay, stubble. The climax of the spiritual harvesttime will come, and the symbolic weeds will be completely separated from the true Christians and will be burned, literally destroyed, as pictured in the parable of the wheat and the weeds. (Matt. 13:36-42) Then all Babylon the Great, including unchristian Christendom, will be brought to everlasting ruin.—Rev. 18:1 to 19:3.
GOLD, SILVER, PRECIOUS STONES
22. If building with noninflammable materials, how have we been building with gold, silver, precious stones, and how does Psalm 19 indicate this?
22 Well, then, have we been building disciples of Christ with symbolic gold, silver and precious stones? Yes, if we have been inculcating, engraving in these converts the laws, commandments and principles of God’s written Word. Yes, if we have been instilling in them the chaste, peaceable “wisdom from above.” (Jas. 3:17) In Psalm 19:7-11 we read: “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 comb. Also, your own servant has been warned by them; in the keeping of them there is a large reward.”
23. How does the apostle Peter compare the quality of faith that must be built in one?
23 Furthermore, as regards the quality of faith, conviction, confidence in God and Christ, the apostle Peter writes: “For a little while at present, if it must be, you have been grieved by various trials, in order that the tested quality of your faith, of much greater value than gold that perishes despite its being proved by fire, may be found a cause for praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”—1 Pet. 1:6, 7.
24. How did Jesus indicate to the Laodicean congregation that there is spiritual gold to be acquired?
24 To the Laodicean congregation the glorified Jesus Christ mentioned gold and said: “You are miserable and pitiable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire that you may become rich.”—Rev. 3:14-18.
25. How do the Proverbs speak of the gold, silver and precious things that can be used as noninflammable materials?
25 As respects the lasting preciousness of wisdom, discernment, understanding and thinking ability, the wise man of old was inspired to write: “If you keep seeking for it as for silver, and as for hid treasures you keep searching for it, in that case you will understand the fear of Jehovah, and you will find the very knowledge of God. For Jehovah himself gives wisdom; out of his mouth there are knowledge and discernment. And for the upright ones he will treasure up practical wisdom.” (Prov. 2:4-7) “Happy is the man that has found wisdom, and the man that gets discernment, for having it as gain is better than having silver as gain and having it as produce than gold itself. It is more precious than corals, and all other delights of yours cannot be made equal to it.”—Prov. 3:13-15.
26. What, then, does building with the noninflammable materials mean as regards the disciples whom we are making?
26 To make sure of the permanence of the building work and to have divine approval upon it, we must build with these things that the inspired Bible compares with gold, silver, corals and precious stones. It means that the persons whom we are striving to make disciples of Christ we must educate, train, discipline in the godly qualities of heavenly wisdom, spiritual discernment, appreciation of integrity, devotion to Bible principles, respect for the laws, commandments, orders, reminders and judicial decisions of Jehovah God, faith in his written Word, sticking to the theocratic organization of God’s people, love of God’s “sheep” that are in the care of the Fine Shepherd Jesus Christ, unbreakable attachment to God’s Messianic kingdom and a fearless willingness to bear witness to it. We are “God’s fellow workers,” and so we need to build up in the disciples of Christ the new personality that is like that of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 4:20-24 tells us:
27. What does Ephesians 4:20-24 have to say about this “new personality”?
27 “You did not learn the Christ to be so, provided, indeed, that you heard him and were taught by means of him, just as truth is in Jesus, that you should put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct and which is being corrupted according to his deceptive desires; but that you should be made new in the force actuating your mind, and should put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.”
28. What must we do with the old personality, and what action must follow this up?
28 Similar are these instructions in Colossians 3:9-12, 14: “Do not be lying to one another. Strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality, which through accurate knowledge is being made new according to the image of the One who created it, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, foreigner, Scythian, slave, freeman, but Christ is all things and in all. Accordingly, as God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering. But, besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.”
29. What quality will such materials prove to have in the day of fiery test, and what kind of disciples are we trying to build in obedience to Matthew 28:19, 20?
29 Building materials such as these, which are incorporated into a Christian personality, are noninflammable materials. They will prove enduring and resistant to the fire of any day of examination and testing of the genuineness of one’s Christianity. This is the type of Christian that will come through any fiery period still Christian, whereas a mere professor of Christianity would be reduced to ashes and be exposed as an imitation, a counterfeit. This is the Christian, the disciple of Christ, that we are trying to produce in obedience to Jesus’ command: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.”—Matt. 28:19, 20.
30. (a) As we near the day for destruction of Babylon the Great, what questions arise as to our building work? (b) What do we not desire to suffer then, but what do we desire to receive?
30 What sort of work is our building work? What sort is it proving to be today when the exposure of falsities, the modernistic thinking, the insanity of nationalism and the disregard for God’s laws are putting to the proof the genuineness and endurance of everyone’s Christianity? What sort will our building work prove to be in the day near at hand when Jehovah God destroys Babylon the Great and, with it, every imitation Christian? We do not care to suffer fire loss and have all the product of our Christian building work disappear. We prefer to receive a reward for work of the right sort done with enduring, fire-resistant, noninflammable materials. Says 1 Corinthians 3:14, 15: “If anyone’s work that he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward; if anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved; yet, if so, it will be as through fire.”
“SAVED . . . AS THROUGH FIRE”
31. As a builder, why did Paul write his two letters to the Corinth congregation, and what reward did he want to have, according to his first letter to the Thessalonians?
31 The apostle Paul did not want to suffer any fire loss. That is why, in the case of the Corinth congregation, he wrote his two letters to the Corinthians. He said to them that he desired to “present you as a chaste virgin to the Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:2) That is why Paul wrote to the persecuted Christians in Thessalonica and said: “You became imitators of us and of the Lord, seeing that you accepted the word under much tribulation with joy of holy spirit, so that you came to be an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For what is our hope or joy or crown of exultation—why, is it not in fact you?—before our Lord Jesus at his presence? You certainly are our glory and joy.” (1 Thess. 1:6, 7; 2:19, 20) What a reward for Paul to present them as a product of his work!
32, 33. (a) What can be said about a builder who suffers fire loss, as to whether he himself will be saved? (b) To snatch him out of the fire, what will his brothers, “God’s fellow workers,” have to do?
32 Will a builder who has built on Christ as the Foundation with inflammable materials himself pass through the fire and at last be saved? Possibly not! He himself may be destroyed in the fire! However, if he is saved to life eternal, then it will be because he has come through the fire that destroyed his own building work on others. To gain such a salvation after proving to be such a poor builder, he will have to incorporate in himself building materials, Christian qualities, that will make him at last fire-resistant. He will have to be snatched from the destructive fire by the loving, timely intervention of his Christian brothers.
33 As one modern translation of 1 Corinthians 3:15 (Mo) presents the case: “If a man’s work is burnt up, he will be a loser—and though he will be saved himself, he will be snatched from the very flames.” If he chooses to remain on the one true Foundation, Jesus Christ, his brothers as “God’s fellow workers” will have to do some rebuilding in him, building into him the noninflammable, fire-resistant Christian qualities. Hence Jude 22, 23 tells us:
34. How does Jude 22, 23 speak of a similar act of rescue?
34 “Also, continue showing mercy to some that have doubts; save them by snatching them out of the fire. But continue showing mercy to others, doing so with fear, while you hate even the inner garment that has been stained by the flesh.”
35. (a) What course is too dangerous to rely upon for gaining salvation? (b) Can anyone escape coming into the fire test, and how do true lovers of Christianity desire to come through the fire?
35 None of us who professes to be a Christian can escape coming into the fire of the decisive test. Every lover of true Christianity will desire to come through that fire, with tested Christian qualities, to the glory of God the Great Builder, whose fellow workers we are. For anyone carelessly to rely on escaping eternal destruction by at last being barely saved with merely suffering the loss of the product of one’s activity is too dangerous a course. What real lover of life in God’s service wants to be saved from annihilation by being snatched out of the fire? Sincere, wise fellow workers of God do not care to prove themselves poor builders and suffer fire loss. They appreciate the joyful reward that God holds out to all his faithful fellow workers. This is what they desire and what they are working for!
36. As regards personal benefit, what building work should we appreciate, and what action should we take toward it, in what way, with what result?
36 Let us, then, appreciate all the Christian building work that God’s constructive theocratic organization is doing on each one of us. At the same time let us do God’s approved work in cooperation with that organization, as we continue building on the one right foundation, Jesus Christ, doing so with the noninflammable, fire-resistant materials of spiritual gold, silver and precious stones. This will result in our own everlasting life and that of others on whom we do building work.