God’s Word Keeps Your Faith Alive
“Faith is not a possession of all people.”—2 Thess. 3:2.
1, 2. (a) What have many stored away in the libraries of the world? (b) Is this reservoir of wisdom useful?
THERE are thousands of reservoirs of knowledge in the earth where information covering every field of earthly activity is kept for constant use. Man has recorded and stored away millions of books in libraries in every corner of the earth. From family to national libraries these publications have come to be called “the memory of the human race.” “They are like a giant brain that remembers all that scientists, historians, poets, philosophers and others have thought and learned.” (The World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 12, page 212) The Bibliotheque Nationale Library in Paris, the largest in Europe, Russia’s Lenin Library in Moscow with over 14,500,000 books, its Leningrad Library with over 11,800,000 volumes, the New York Public Library with more than 7,500,000 volumes, and the Library of Congress with 12,000,000 books and pamphlets are just a few that give you an idea of the vast storehouse of knowledge that exists on the earth. In the Library of Congress there are thirty-six acres of floor space and two hundred and fifty miles of shelves.
2 Like frozen thoughts, there are stored the record of man’s errors, failures and accomplishments, documents, rare books, talking books and Braille for the sightless, maps, slides, films, musical records, medals, coins, plays, newspapers, art, microfilm and millions of books in thousands of languages. Complicated computers are being used to tap this huge storehouse of human thinking and are gathering, storing and producing wanted information in seconds. Man dreams of one day having a computer in his future home learning room that will tie him in with all the libraries of the world and bring all this information right into his home. Man hopes to be able to use this deepfreeze for greater accomplishments in the future.
3. (a) How should we view the vast storehouse of man’s wisdom? (b) How is its value finally determined?
3 Where does all this knowledge come from? It is true that through diligent research, experiment and experience man has recorded many valuable facts. There is also a vast array of theories, speculation and unfounded conclusions based on man’s likes and dislikes that fill libraries. No wonder Professor March said: “Of the making of books there is no limit, but like the great number of fish in the sea, it is the comparatively few that are worth the taking.” The writer of the Bible book Ecclesiastes in Ec chapter twelve, verses nine to fourteen, also eliminates a lot of man’s wisdom and points to the source of true wisdom. He writes: “The congregator had become wise, he also taught the people knowledge continually, and he pondered and made a thorough search, that he might arrange many proverbs in order. The congregator sought to find the delightful words and the writing of correct words of truth. The words of the wise ones are like oxgoads, and just like nails driven in are those indulging in collections of sentences; they have been given from one shepherd. . . . take a warning: To the making of many books there is no end, and much devotion to them is wearisome to the flesh. . . . God himself will bring every sort of work into the judgment in relation to every hidden thing, as to whether it is good or bad.” During the Christian apostle Paul’s missionary visit to Ephesus many became believers and publicly burned such worthless books, valued at fifty thousand silver pieces. (Acts 19:19) They were “possibly worth 2,000 English pounds, or 10,000 dollars,” according to a footnote on page 323 of Weymouth’s New Testament in Modern Speech.
4. Of what value is earth’s display of creation to man’s faith?
4 But there is still another impressive place to learn. Greater than all of man’s libraries combined, its size is 196,951,072 square miles. Yes, the earth makes an impressive library, with miles and miles of creative wisdom on display. The revelations of this wisdom increase man’s understanding of God, the Creator, even as Romans 1:20 says: “His invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship.” From his observation platform, the earth, man can look out into the heavens and listen while God’s creation talks. “The heavens are declaring the glory of God; and of the work of his hands the expanse is telling. One day after another day causes speech to bubble forth, and one night after another night shows forth knowledge. There is no speech, and there are no words; no voice on their part is being heard.” (Ps. 19:1-3) The impressions made last a lifetime, with wise men giving the great Creator the credit.
5. (a) Why is the Bible the most important book in the library? (b) What has it to do with faith?
5 And Jehovah God has added to this the most important book on earth’s shelves, His Word, the Bible. This book is different from the works of men. It does not give admonition based on man’s likes or dislikes. It is based on truths and facts. It is a living word. This word is powerful, exerting a force not found in publications of man’s origination. The apostle Paul describes it this way: “The word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and their marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) Over 1,500 years after Bible writing started, God’s Son came to earth. He studied this same word of truth and used it in his ministry. In prayer to his heavenly Father he said: “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) So is it true? Has it proved true in years gone by? Is it just partly accurate and partly vague so that it could apply at any time? Is its admonition practical in these times? Since this Word of God is the storehouse for faith-building knowledge, it has to be true. Anyone desiring to have faith must examine it and prove that point to himself. To have faith one must believe that God exists, that his word is true, and put forth an effort to keep that faith alive with food and protection: “Without faith it is impossible to please him well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.”—Heb. 11:6.
6. Give Scriptural facts proving the benefits of God’s Word.
6 People of the nation of Israel had been with Moses for some time, traveling in a wilderness area for forty years. There were years of hearing the laws of God, of admonition, of promised deliverances, and of blessings foretold. Now, were they reliable? Listen to Joshua’s report: “You well know with all your hearts and with all your souls that not one word out of all the good words that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed. They have all come true for you. Not one word of them has failed.” (Josh. 23:14) So there you have it, Joshua publicly stating that Jehovah’s Word was reliable; and God’s own Son examined this same Word and on up to the time he visited the earth, and he said God’s Word was true.
7. Why is faith not the possession of many people? (b) Yet how does Paul describe the brothers at Thessalonica?
7 In order to develop faith one must gain knowledge. To keep that faith alive one must keep on studying. One’s knowledge that keeps faith alive is not from the vast accumulation of human wisdom. Many have studied out religious doctrines and ways of life, have accepted certain ideas and even patterned their lives according to man’s direction. Then after a time, maybe half a lifetime later, they find these ideas to be faulty and contrary to what has been taught in the Bible and they become discouraged. People who come into this category number into the millions and are found in every community in the earth. The vacuum made by unfounded teaching and misrepresentation has produced anemic anti-God political systems, inert religious organizations and lifeless commercial systems. It is easy to see that, in spite of the greatest storehouse of human wisdom instantly available, man’s actions toward his neighbor are not improving. Yet notice the apostle Paul’s observation as he reports at 2 Thessalonians 1:3: “We are obligated to give God thanks always for you, brothers, as it is fitting, because your faith is growing exceedingly and the love of each and all of you is increasing one toward the other.”
8. How were the Thessalonians keeping their faith alive, and why is there more to it than urging?
8 Ask yourself: Are relations between human creatures improving in your neighborhood? among your religious associates? Paul said his brothers at Thessalonica were improving in faith and in love to one another. Why? Examine their activity a little closer. Turn to 1 Thessalonians 2:13: “Indeed, that is why we also thank God incessantly, because when you received God’s word, which you heard from us, you accepted it, not as the word of men, but, just as it truthfully is, as the word of God, which is also at work in you believers.” And they were doing something else, as Paul urged at 1 Thessalonians 5:21: “Make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine.” Yes, searching into God’s Word. It takes more than urging to keep faith living. Christendom is constantly saying, ‘We need to help our fellowman,’ yet is there more doing of this? As an example, for some time a poster was displayed in New York City subway trains that read: “God’s work must truly be our own—Put your faith to work—Today.” (A Public Service of Transit Advertising. Religion in American Life) Millions will read it, but how many will respond? Faith has to be there first, and that comes from a study of God’s reliable Word. That Word says at Romans 10:14: “However, how will they call on him in whom they have not put faith? How, in turn, will they put faith in him of whom they have not heard? How, in turn, will they hear without someone to preach?”
9. How does Jeremiah 17:5-8 contrast the result to the man without faith and the faithful one?
9 You may find wisdom in man’s publications that impresses you, yet your rejoicing turns to discouragement when under investigation the author turns out to be shortsighted, with selfishness prompting the publication in the first place. The most sincere author is limited by his ability, the availability of material for him, and is certainly shortsighted in the face of advancing sciences. Not that we say all the wisdom man has accumulated is discouraging or fails to build you up. There is much valuable instruction to be gained, but in addition to this we need God’s Word to develop faith. Many years ago Jehovah spoke to Jews this way: “Cursed is the able-bodied man who puts his trust in earthling man and actually makes flesh his arm, and whose heart turns away from Jehovah himself. And he will certainly become like a solitary tree in the desert plain and will not see when good comes; but he must reside in parched places in the wilderness, in a salt country that is not inhabited. Blessed is the able-bodied man who puts his trust in Jehovah, and whose confidence Jehovah has become. And he will certainly become like a tree planted by the waters, that sends out its roots right by the watercourse; and he will not see when heat comes, but his foliage will actually prove to be luxuriant. And in the year of drought he will not become anxious, nor will he leave off from producing fruit.”—Jer. 17:5-8.
10. (a) Who wrote the Bible? (b) How, then, can it be used as faith-building food?
10 Did you notice where the tree was getting its strength? A good root system, reaching into the water source. That is the way it is with keeping faith alive. You must have faith-building food. There is only one place to get that type of food and that is God’s Word. This Word is especially prepared for Christians. God’s Word, the Bible, was produced by His spirit; in fact, His spirit is so closely connected with it that Paul makes this statement at Ephesians 6:17: “and the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word.” Oh, yes, men were its writers; it is no hidden secret that about forty men were used to write the Bible. But it was not their will being recorded or expressed; rather, “prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.” (2 Pet. 1:21) God was responsible for the words or pictures of his purposes that they wrote down. Is it any more difficult for God to plant ideas and expressions in willing, fertile minds than to cause tiny seeds to germinate, sprout and grow into towering trees of a forest?
11. Show how it is possible for Jehovah to use man to record his Word accurately, so that it is inspired.
11 Centuries ago Jehovah set into operation certain boundaries that are still working today. Animate creatures the earth over have that strong urge to reproduce. Vegetation keeps on multiplying. While there are different factors and methods used, there is a definite pattern followed to reproduce, and the product is the image of the parents. What wisdom and laws are in operation to keep this process going and, to come down after hundreds of years, to find we still have animals, birds, fish, man, vegetation, and all abundant inside their family circles! In the multiplying of vegetation there are so many other things involved to make a successful product. Weather, moisture, nutrition in the soil, various plants needing soil of a certain type or chemical content. Many plants depend on pollination to produce fruit or seed. Wind, water, birds and insects provide this service. Bees trade this service for pollen or nectar, the raw material for honey. For example, the flowers with color and scent invite the bee to their treasure of nectar, for which the bee must dig, and in so doing it takes on pollen that it will rub on a neighboring flower and so cause pollination. What wisdom there is behind such a complicated arrangement! Yet all these interlocking agencies do their work so well, the whole thing is carried out without any undue strain or tension. Yes, there are hybrids, a mixing of parentage, and man has produced differences, but within the same family or species where no limits are in effect. But take the mule, a hybrid between the ass and horse; the offspring is sterile and cannot reproduce. It came up to the boundary and can go no farther. Is it any more difficult for God to have believing man write down his word and have that word protected by the same force holding these other boundaries in operation?
12. Describe the Bible’s availability.
12 So Jehovah provided sixty-six books of vital information that we have in our Bibles to this day. Not many years ago it was reported: “The Bible has been translated wholly or in part in 1,136 different languages, of these 215 are of the entire Bible and 273 of the complete Christian Scriptures . . . In 1958 one American Bible Society alone distributed more than 16.6 million copies of the Bible and added three new languages to the number of tongues in which it now appears, bringing the total to 1,136.” (Time, May 25, 1959) During the past 500 years billions of copies of the Bible have been printed, now in over 1,280 languages in whole or in part. This makes the Bible available to over 90 percent of the world’s population. It has existed a long time, parts of it helping man with good counsel for over 3,480 years.
EASY TO UNDERSTAND
13. Explain why the Bible should be easy to understand, yet where we will have difficulty.
13 Another thing, the Bible is easy to understand from the viewpoint of words and phrases used. “A. S. Cook computes the vocabulary of the English Authorized Version to 6,568 words or to 9,884, if inflected forms of nouns, pronouns, or verbs are included.” (In The Nation, September 12, 1912) Those with limited education can with effort soon gain knowledge from the Bible and, once having acquired some faith, can keep it alive and add to it little by little as they improve their studying ability. It is true there are some archaic words or expressions in older translations, but one can gain understanding by checking modern translations. The Bible uses down-to-earth ideas, illustrations and symbols. They were understood by farmers, fishermen, shepherds, rulers, tax collectors and housewives. Please read Matthew chapter thirteen; if you have difficulty with some term or description, it may be that your geographic location has something to do with it. Are figs, mustard seeds, thorns, dragnets, pearls and other items used in your locality, so that you understand them? They were used in the locality where Jesus spoke the illustrations in Matthew chapter thirteen.
14. Compare 2 Thessalonians 2:6, 7 in the King James and Douay Version Bibles. What are we going to do to understand this text?
14 To see how rewarding a study of the Bible can be, let us go back to 2 Thessalonians 2:6, 7. The text appears very difficult to understand, but we shall examine each word or idea and see how it all fits together. In the King James Version Bible it reads: “And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.” And in the Catholic Douay Bible you read it this way: “And now you know what withholdeth, that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way.” What does it mean? The words individually can be understood but the meaning is something else. Analyze it idea by idea now.
15. Why did Paul write Second Thessalonians?
15 First the context. Paul wrote this letter to help the Thessalonians keep their faith alive. He tells them: “Faith is not a possession of all people . . . the Lord is faithful, and he will make you firm . . . we hear certain ones are walking disorderly among you, not working at all but meddling with what does not concern them.”.(2 Thess. 3:2, 3, 11) Paul had commended them because of their growth in faith (2 Thess. 1:3), but he was concerned that something or someone would deaden that faith; in fact, he said it was “already at work.”—2 Thess. 2:7.
16-20. (a) To whom does the first occurrence of “ye” or “you” refer? (b) Explain the phrase “what withholdeth.” (c) Who is the “he” first mentioned? (d) When and how is that one “revealed”?
16 The two letters, First and Second Thessalonians, were written to the congregation of Christians at Thessalonica, Macedonia. (c. 50-51 C.E.) (1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1) So the first “ye” or “you” would be those Christians there at that time and, of course, the pronoun applies with equal force to Christians now. (Rom. 15:4) What is the meaning of “What withholdeth”? Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary says on “Withhold”: “To hold back; to check; restrain. To refrain from granting, allowing, or the like; as to withhold assent.” The Christian apostles received their authority from Jesus Christ to act as a restraint. (Matt. 10:1) “As long as the twelve apostles of Christ lived and oversaw the Christian congregation, they held up or slowed down the apostasy, the falling away to Babylonish religion. They acted as a restraint upon the development of a religious organization that professed to be Christian but that was really antichristian and Babylonish.”—“Babylon the Great Has Fallen!” God’s Kingdom Rules!, page 474.
17 The apostles had the authority to keep the congregation subject to Christ; but they, who acted as a restraint upon lawless action in the congregation, would be taken away in death and then the congregation would fall away to lawlessness and false teachings. (2 Cor. 10:2-6; 2 Thess. 2:3-12; 2 Tim. 4:3, 4; Acts 20:29, 30) Again, at Matthew 18:18, Jesus clearly shows the restraining force these mature men, operating under Jehovah’s spirit, would have in the congregation. See also Ephesians 4:11-13 and Acts 20:28. Paul, one of such men, was acting as a restraint, as shown at 2 Thessalonians 3:6: “Now we are giving you orders, brothers, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to withdraw from every brother walking disorderly and not according to the tradition you received from us.”—See also 2 Thessalonians 3:10-15; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8; Colossians 2:8; Acts 20:31; Ephesians 4:17–6:9; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 2 Corinthians 10:2-6.
18 “He”—this is the one to be revealed. “He” is the one referred to in 2 Th 3 verse three as “that man of sin,” “the son of perdition.” Notice how Paul describes them at Acts 20:29, 30: “I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” These apostate leaders of professed Christians were to grow in strength and influence, and as soon as the restraint was out of the way they would take over.
19 This class of professed Christians came on the scene since Pentecost of 33 C.E. and particularly after the death of the twelve faithful apostles of Jesus Christ. They are organized into the religious clergy of Christendom and form a dominant part of Babylon the Great. Since Babylon the Great is still operating, this “man of sin” or “man of lawlessness” is still here.
20 “Revealed.” Says Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary: “To communicate or impart by supernatural means or agency. To divulge (something secret or hidden); to disclose. To open up to view; as, a painting reveals the painter. Implies an unveiling, as of something not clear to human vision or beyond one’s knowledge.” Therefore, this class of professed Christians came out into the open at the death of the apostles; “he” was revealed in his time.—2 Pet. 2:1-3.
21. Why does Paul say that “mystery of iniquity doth already work”?
21 “Mystery of iniquity doth already work.” When Paul wrote his second letter to the Thessalonians about 51 C.E. this “mystery” or secret falling away from true Bible doctrines was already in operation. Men of influence in the congregation were already bowing down to Babylonish worship.
22. Show the meaning of “he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.”
22 “He who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.” In 1611, when the King James Version Bible was written, “let” still carried the thought of restraint. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary gives this archaic definition: “To hinder; impede; prevent.” That is the meaning we will have to keep in mind. At Acts 20:29 Paul says: “I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you.” See also 2 Peter 1:12 to 2:3. At the death of the apostles the restraining force was out of the way, the stop sign was down and the wolves came in with full power.
23. What does 2 Thessalonians 2:6, 7 mean to us now?
23 Having in mind what your research has told you, put it together and it sums up this way: You Christians know that the faithful apostles stopped the apostate leaders of professed Christians from bringing in Babylonish worship. However, this restraint must be gone with the death of the apostles and these wolves must come out into the open and lead the congregations to Babylonish worship.
24. What does faith do for you and others?
24 Your faith, then, is a signpost that says you have a reservoir of truth that is available to others. If that reservoir has evaporated to a dangerous low mark, then you are the first one to suffer losses of blessings from Jehovah God, and those who come to you for faith-building knowledge will have to go away empty-hearted. The constant urging of God’s Word is to build faith regularly by feeding on God’s Word, “the holy writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through the faith in connection with Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3:15) Jesus himself describes faith’s operation and it is so recorded at John 7:38: “He that puts faith in me, just as the Scripture has said, ‘Out from his inmost part streams of living water will flow.’” Our treasure will then be wisdom from God’s Word, and our faith will be alive.