The Transforming Power of God’s Word
Can the Bible really transform people’s lives? What evidence is there that it can?
AMONG God’s creations there are many marvelous transformations that delight and astound. For example, if a person had not seen it or been told about it, could he ever imagine that an offensive-looking little caterpillar would change into a breathtakingly beautiful butterfly? Yet this is what occurs. Is it not also amazing that tiny seeds planted in the spring become nutritious red beets, green beans or ears of corn a short time later?
Despite the grandness of these transformations, there is another that is even more beautiful and desirable. It is the change made in a human whose former course of life was molded by the wicked environment of the world. The Christian apostle Paul calls attention to this marvelous transformation in a letter to personal friends in Corinth, Greece, writing:
“What! Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom. And yet that is what some of you were. But you have been washed clean.”—1 Cor. 6:9-11.
Think of that! Some Christians in Corinth had formerly been fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves and drunkards. But then they abandoned that course of life and became upright men and women. What a remarkable transformation! How was it ever made? Was it a change then commonly experienced? Can such transformations be realized today?
EFFECT OF CHRISTIAN TEACHING
The transformation of those Corinthians was accomplished by their listening to and putting faith in the message about Jesus Christ. Evidence presented to them from the Scriptures convinced the Corinthians that Christ was indeed the Son of God, that he had been raised from the dead, and that by following his blameless example they, too, could win their Creator’s favor and blessing. Their convictions were so strong that, with the aid of God’s spirit, they put away their former bad practices and became footstep followers of Jesus.
This transformation, however, was not limited to persons in Corinth. Throughout the Roman Empire sexual abuses, “unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, injuriousness, . . . envy, murder, strife, deceit, malicious disposition” were prevalent. (Rom. 1:26-31) Nevertheless, the Christian message effected a change in many, including ones in the city of Colossae to whom the apostle Paul wrote: “In those very things you, too, once walked when you used to live in them.”—Col. 3:5-7; see also Ephesians 4:17-19.
The apostle Paul himself once had a malicious disposition and practiced wicked works, even being an instigator in the arrest and murder of Christians. (Acts 7:58; 8:1; 9:1, 2) Before becoming a Christian his fellow worker Titus, too, followed an unrighteous course, as Paul reminds him: “For even we were once senseless disobedient, being misled, being slave to various desires and pleasures, carrying on in maliciousness and envy, hateful, hating one another.”—Titus 3:3.
The apostle Peter also noted that many Christians had once “proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries.” But then they changed, Peter explained. And what an effect it had! Others simply could not understand it.—1 Pet. 4:3, 4.
Many historians have well documented the tremendous transformation Christian teaching effected in the lives of people. Observed one of them in the book Readings in Ethics: “Christianity, within twenty-five years of its inception, gave a totally new life to thousands and thousands. This new life most noticeably expressed itself in a virtue which the Stoics condemned and which certainly was absent from the practice of the public.” And the noted historian John Lord observed in The Old Roman World: “The true triumphs of Christianity were seen in making good men of those who professed her doctrines . . . We have testimony to their blameless lives.”
WHAT ABOUT TODAY?
Is the Christian message now having a similar effect on the lives of men and women? Are people changing from their former immoral ways and patterning their lives in harmony with Jesus’ example? Does God’s Word truly have transforming power today?
A look at Christendom might indeed cause one to believe that the Bible no longer exercises beneficial effects on the lives of people. For everywhere there exists a cesspool of crime and immorality. Malicious disposition, hatred, strife, envy, murder, deceit, along with drunkenness, drug addiction and sexual immorality, are rampant.
This does not mean, however, that God’s Word has lost its transforming power. The fact is that Christendom is really not Christian. She has only assumed the name of Christ. Actually her principal teachings and practices are as pagan as those of ancient Rome. The Bible is not really accepted in Christendom as a guide by which to live. However, when individuals do embrace its teachings, God’s Word can transform their lives just as surely as it altered people’s lives in the first century. There is ample evidence of this.
POWER TO END IMMORALITY
The ministry of Jehovah’s witnesses is designed to acquaint people with this Book that has such tremendous force for good. Instruction in God’s Word has caused thousands of persons willingly to cease from immoral conduct. Typical is the example of the young woman who explained earlier this year:
“At the time I was studying the Bible with Jehovah’s witnesses I had a man rooming at my house. I had really grown fond of him. Although we didn’t share the same bed, there were times we did get together. We thought this was all right. But things changed when the minister of Jehovah’s witnesses that I was studying with read me the scripture at First Corinthians 6:9, showing that neither fornicators nor adulterers would inherit God’s kingdom. I realized that what we were doing did not meet the Bible’s high standards for Christians. I realized, too, that if I wanted to have God’s favor, if I wanted to tell others the good things I had learned, I would have to change my way of living. So I told him, No more sexual relations.”
She not only stuck to this decision, but later was honorably married, and now shares in teaching others the Bible’s righteous principles. Even as many in the first-century Christian congregation formerly had been fornicators and adulterers, the same is true in the Christian congregation today.
The extent of the Bible’s transforming power is seen in the fact that even harlots have been aided by Bible truths to give up their unclean activities. (Matt. 21:31, 32) Sometime ago, for instance, a woman in South America who ran a brothel began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s witnesses. Soon she realized that to be a true Christian she must make a radical change. And this she did! She gave up her business of prostitution, married the man with whom she had been living, was baptized, and now is actively engaged in helping others also to learn Bible truths.
POWER OVER ALCOHOL
One of the greatest causes of troubles in the family and community is alcoholism or drunkenness. In the United States it is considered the number four health problem, and in other lands of Christendom it is as bad a problem or even worse. Yet, God’s Word has time and again proved successful in transforming drunkards into upright, sober Christians, even as it did in the first century.—1 Cor. 6:10, 11.
In one instance an Oregon man, when under the influence of alcohol, would harshly mistreat his wife and four children. For years his drunken bouts continued, even after his wife started studying the Bible and became an exemplary Christian. Then, in 1957, he agreed to have a Bible study. His eldest son, now a member of the headquarters staff of Jehovah’s witnesses in Brooklyn, New York, observes:
“Within just a short time Bible principles started to affect my father’s life. He quit drinking, changed his bad habits and became a very good example to those in the small community where we lived. He was baptized in 1958, and now serves as a ministerial servant in the local congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses.” How happy this family is that God’s Word has such transforming power!
Even persons who have sunk to the depths of alcoholism on “skid row” have been transformed by the Word of God. One alcoholic spent thirteen years on the “skid row” of New York city. During this time he would, on occasions, obtain a copy of The Watchtower or Awake! and read it. The Bible articles impressed him. In 1954, when he went into the hospital for treatment, he swore never again to take another drink, and he never did. As soon as he came out of the hospital he located a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s witnesses and began to attend regularly. He explained: “For the first time in my life I truly began to live.” In 1958 he was baptized, and he has served as a faithful minister with a New York City congregation ever since.
TRANSFORMING HOSTILE ATTITUDES
How often hostile feelings develop between individuals, families and nations! And over such insignificant matters! Fights, feuds and wars then result, and much blood is spilled. Happily, God’s Word has the power to destroy these hostile attitudes, and replace them with feelings of love, peace and friendliness.
An interesting instance is that involving two neighbor ladies in Switzerland who for years had quarreled and feuded. All members of both families suffered from the resulting tensions. Then, not long ago, one of the ladies began a study of God’s Word. The minister studying with her explains the effect this had: “The day came when she had the courage to speak to her neighbor with whom she had hardly exchanged a cordial word for years, and asked her pardon, although she was certainly not alone to blame for the state of affairs. All concerned were happy and felt freed.”
But this was not the conclusion of the matter. Although the neighbor lady had previously rejected the Bible message, when a minister of Jehovah’s witnesses next called, her response was: “Please come in, I must quickly tell you something.” Then, after telling about her neighbor’s wonderful change of attitude, she said: “There is really something in your religion, because I am sure that my neighbor was encouraged by a woman in your faith to make peace with me. I have seen her going there regularly.” This lady also began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s witnesses. God’s Word truly does have the power to destroy hostile attitudes and to bring peace!
Although the Bible’s counsel to ‘beat swords into plowshares and spears into pruninghooks’ has not been heeded by the unchristian nations of Christendom, individuals and even entire communities have. (Isa. 2:4) A few years ago the people in two villages in Mexico were armed with pistols and rifles for use during feuds. As a result, slayings would frequently occur, but when the government would try to prosecute the guilty, no one would say anything. Then one family accepted a Bible study with a visiting minister of Jehovah’s witnesses. Eventually practically every one in the villages began studying and embraced the Bible truths. Hostile attitudes were soon replaced with friendly ones, and the weapons were sold and with the money Bibles were purchased.
POWER TO CREATE NEW PERSONALITIES
God’s Word truly has power to transform personalities! The change begins in the mind, as the Bible notes in the encouragement: “Quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over.” (Rom. 12:2) So, first, knowledge of Jehovah God and his grand purposes must be taken into the mind through Bible study. But, then, to be rid of the malicious disposition and strife of this system of things, one’s heart must be moved by the information. He must have the desire to please his Creator, whose appeal is: “Strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality.”—Col. 3:9, 10; Eph. 4:22-24.
Everywhere God’s Word is transforming lives and making good people from bad, even as it did in the first century. A few years ago a minister was calling on homes in the Fiji Islands when he met a leading businessman who warmly welcomed him in and told him: “For years the village was plagued by a group of hooligans who caused the businessmen much trouble and loss of property. Then about a year ago Jehovah’s witnesses came to town. Before long certain of the leading ones of this band of hooligans became Witnesses and are now peaceable and respectable citizens. The entire situation has seen a great improvement within the past year because of this.”
Become acquainted with the power of God’s Word! Accept the offer of Jehovah’s witnesses to conduct a personal Bible study with you and your family free of charge. You will find that what an early president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, once said is indeed true: “Studious perusal of the Sacred Volume will make better citizens, better fathers, better husbands . . . The Bible makes the best people in the world.”