Looking Intently at the Chief Agent of Life
“Look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. . . . Indeed, consider [him] closely.”—Heb. 12:2, 3.
1. How and why can things often be seen in a fresh light?
HAVE you ever known what it is to look at a certain well-known object and then come to see it in a fresh light? Perhaps it has been placed in a different setting, or your own awareness has developed and become keener, or there may be some other reason. This is often true, for instance when you have grown up and then revisited the place and scenes of your childhood. It may not have changed and you recognize the old landmarks, yet it all looks so different, often smaller. In your childhood it was your whole big world. But now, in comparison, it is just a small corner.
2. (a) How did Eve come to look at things through another’s eyes? (b) Who was at work on Eve, and how can this be proved?
2 This viewing of things in a different light is also true of situations and problems, and may well be due to someone else’s influence or suggestion. In other words, you learn to look at things through someone else’s eyes. This may or may not prove beneficial, depending on whose influence is at work on you. A striking example of this is seen right at the start of human history. By listening to the suggestion made through the serpent, Eve learned to look at the forbidden fruit through someone else’s eyes. She no longer saw it as something forbidden, not even to be touched, but now saw it as extremely desirable from every point of view. (Gen. 3:1-6) Thus, as the Bible shows, Satan, “the original serpent,” the one who was really at work on Eve, did not prove to be an agent or instrument leading to life and enlightenment, though posing as such. Rather, as Jesus said of him, he was a “manslayer” and a “liar.” He was actually “the one having the means to cause death, that is, the Devil.”—Rev. 12:9; John 8:44; Heb. 2:14.
3. What methods have always underscored Satan’s objectives?
3 Satan’s policy and tactics ever since then have been the same. By subtle and deceitful means he tries to influence others to look at things through his eyes. He trains his agents, both visible and invisible, to adopt the same methods. The apostle Paul, in his day, had occasion to refer to certain men as “false apostles, deceitful workers,” and says in explanation, “And no wonder, for Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light. It is therefore nothing great if his ministers also keep transforming themselves into ministers of righteousness.” The same warning is appropriate today—2 Cor. 11:13-15.
4. In what respects should we be on guard?
4 With this in mind, how timely and necessary it is to be on guard and not to take things for granted. No matter how popular certain viewpoints may be, no matter what our religious background may be, we should be anxious to get and keep the right viewpoint on the fundamental things that affect our worship and our salvation. We need to learn how to keep looking intently at the things that are true and worth while.
IDENTIFYING THE CHIEF AGENT OF LIFE AND LIGHT
5. How did God show he was neither thwarted nor frustrated by the events in Eden?
5 Though to Satan it might have seemed he had gained a complete victory in causing the deflection of the first perfect human pair, this was not really so. Jehovah’s purpose was not thwarted by what happened in Eden, or by any of the subsequent results of that initial disobedience and rebellion. On the contrary, as soon as that outbreak occurred, Jehovah foretold what he would do and how it would work out. He foretold that the seed of the woman “will bruise you [the serpent, actually referring to Satan] in the head,” implying the crushing and destruction of Satan and his influence in due time.—Gen. 3:15.
6. What steps did God take to promote faith in his first prophetic promise?
6 Who this promised “seed” would be was not disclosed when first mentioned, but God kept that hope and promise alive by giving additional information from time to time. To Abraham, God gave the oath-bound promise that through “your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves.” To David, a descendant of Abraham, God promised: “I shall certainly raise up your seed . . . and I shall certainly establish the throne of his kingdom firmly to time indefinite.” Through the prophets, especially David in his many psalms, also through Isaiah, God gave many thrilling details of this coming one, who, as Jehovah’s “anointed one” and king, would ultimately crush and destroy all of God’s enemies. According to Jehovah’s sworn oath, he would also be “a priest to time indefinite according to the manner of Melchizedek.” The kings and high priests in Israel, when installed in office, were anointed with a special oil, but this coming one would be anointed by the “spirit of the Lord Jehovah” to do a grand work as mentioned at Isaiah 61:1-3. These and many other promises gave rise to the Jews’ sure hope of a coming Messiah, or Christ both words meaning “anointed.”—Gen. 22:18; 2 Sam. 7:12, 13; Ps. 2:1-9; 110:1-7.
7. Describe how the identity of the promised seed was disclosed?
7 Finally, just over forty centuries after that first promise, the time came to disclose the identity of the “seed.” It was not left to conjecture. It was disclosed, not through a prophet on earth, but by means of a heavenly messenger “sent forth from God” on a special mission. It was the angel Gabriel, who came to Mary, “a virgin promised in marriage to . . . Joseph of David’s house,” telling her she had “found favor with God; and, look! you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you are to call his name Jesus. This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father.” After her inquiring how this could be, since she was not having intercourse with a man, the angel continued: “Holy spirit will come upon you, and power of the Most High will overshadow you. For that reason also what is born will be called holy, God’s Son.”—Luke 1:26-38.
8. At Jesus’ baptism, what further identification was given?
8 The anointing of Jesus by God’s spirit did not take place at his birth, but occurred thirty years later, when he was baptized in the Jordan River by John. John himself bore witness concerning this, saying: “I viewed the spirit coming down as a dove out of heaven, and it remained upon him,” adding that this was the sign that Jehovah, who sent him to baptize in water, had told him to look for. Later, when attending the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus stood up and read from the scroll of Isaiah where it was written: “Jehovah’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor . . .” After finishing the quotation he declared: “Today this scripture that you just heard is fulfilled.”—John 1:32-34; Luke 4:16-21.
9. Who were first convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, and how was this shown?
9 The disciples of John the Baptist, on being introduced to Jesus, quickly recognized him as the Messiah. One of them, named Andrew, after spending the day with Jesus at his lodging, “found his own brother, Simon, and said to him: ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means, when translated, Christ).” Toward the end of his ministry, Jesus, after asking his disciples how others were identifying him, said to them: “You, though, who do you say I am?” and Simon Peter at once replied: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus then made the comment that this discernment on Peter’s part was not due to any revelation from a human source, saying that “flesh and blood did not reveal it to you, but my Father who is in the heavens did.”—John 1:41; Matt. 16:15-17.
10. In what other aspect can Jesus be identified, and why is this important?
10 Going back, though, to the one who in Eden started deception, resulting in death, we are interested in learning, not only about Jesus Christ as being the promised seed, we also want to know if he can be identified as God’s agent opening and leading in the way of true enlightenment and eternal life. This would surely be a grand and complete answer to the Devil’s challenge and would vindicate Jehovah and cause his name to be sanctified. Additionally, it would be a great help to us on the vital questions of true worship and salvation. As we look into God’s Word, the Bible, we will find that this identification is clearly confirmed. Encouraging true Christians, both in his day and ours, Paul wrote: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, as we look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. . . . Indeed, consider closely the one who has endured such contrary talk by sinners against their own interests, that you may not get tired and give out in your souls.”—Heb. 12:1-3.
11, 12. (a) On what occasions was Jesus referred to as “Chief Agent”? (b) How do these references help us respecting our salvation and true worship?
11 This title, “Chief Agent,” (Greek: arkhegós) well describes the position given to Christ Jesus by God. It occurs four times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. In the first instance, Peter used it when, shortly after Pentecost, 33 C.E., he told the Jews that “God . . . has glorified his Servant, Jesus.” He then said: “You disowned that holy and righteous one, and . . . you killed the Chief Agent of life. But God raised him up from the dead.” Later, when the apostles were forbidden by the Sanhedrin to teach on the basis of Jesus’ name, Peter replied: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” After telling them that they were responsible for slaying Jesus, “hanging him upon a stake,” Peter continued: “God exalted this one as Chief Agent and Savior to his right hand,” and concluded: “And we are witnesses of these matters, and so is the holy spirit, which God has given to those obeying him as ruler.” Lastly, besides the reference at Hebrews 12:1-3, Paul earlier says in that same letter regarding Jesus that “it was fitting . . . in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Chief Agent of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”—Acts 3:13-15; 5:27-32; Heb. 2:10.
12 From these passages alone how clearly the way of salvation and acceptable worship is marked out for us! How obvious it is that we cannot obey God as ruler and have his favor unless we recognize the appointment of Jesus as his “Chief Agent,” who has been invested with ‘all authority in heaven and on the earth’! (Matt. 28:18) How important it is that we view this one through Jehovah’s eyes, and not through Satan’s eyes as did those religious leaders who “killed the Chief Agent of life.” These two opposite viewpoints are still possible, and both in fact are in active operation in our day.
13. (a) What is the root meaning of the Greek word arkhegós? (b) How is this true of Christ Jesus, in contrast with the trinitarian view?
13 Other translations, including the Authorized Version, render the Greek word arkhegós as “author,” instead of “Chief Agent,” at Hebrews 12:2, but this is neither accurate nor in harmony with other scriptures. The derivationa of this word has the thought of being chief or first in order of time or rank. That is true of Christ Jesus, but it does not make him the author or originator of life or of salvation. He was not, as trinitarians believe, the author or beginner of creation, but, as stated at Revelation 3:14, he was “the beginning of the creation by God,” that is, the first one to be created by God, the Creator. This is in harmony with the clear expression of the relative positions of Jehovah and Christ Jesus as we read at 1 Corinthians 8:6: “There is actually to us one God the Father, out of whom all things are, . . . and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are.” In other words, there is the one Source, Jehovah, who uses many agents, but who has made his beloved Son, Christ Jesus, his Chief Agent.
14. In what way only can we properly appreciate Christ Jesus?
14 It is not surprising that Satan, through his agents and through false religion, has done everything possible to cause confusion and blind “the minds of the unbelievers, that the illumination [enlightenment] of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God [but not God himself], might not shine through.” (2 Cor. 4:4) To avoid this blinding influence, we must keep close to God’s Word, the Bible. By so doing we can learn to look closely at Christ Jesus from God’s viewpoint, through his eyes, and rightly appreciate his Son as the Chief Agent of life and light.
15. According to John, when and how was the Son first used as God’s agent?
15 In this connection, it is interesting and helpful to review what John wrote on this subject in introducing his Gospel account of Jesus. Other Gospel writers trace Jesus’ ancestry back to Adam, but John, in a few short, concise, yet profound statements, takes us back to the real beginning, the beginning of creation. Referring to Jesus by his prehuman title the “Word” (Greek: Logos), John says that “this one was in the beginning with God.” Then showing that the Word was the agent of life, John writes: “All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence.” As for being the agent also of enlightenment, John next says: “What has come into existence by means of him was life, and the life was the light of men.” John is then inspired to make a very significant and encouraging statement in view of the conflict and hostility arising out of Satan’s subtle and deceitful move that started in Eden. John says: “And the light is shining in the darkness, but the darkness has not overpowered it.”—John 1:1-5.
16. How does John help us to see who can benefit from such agent?
16 Well, you say, it is good to know that the forces of darkness did not overpower the light bearer, Christ Jesus, but of what benefit is that to me? It would seem that the forces of darkness, of evil, corruption and violence, not to speak of false religion, are more active than ever before, and more difficult to overcome. True enough, but let us pay a little more attention to what John said relative to this. After mentioning that John the Baptist’s mission was to “bear witness about the light,” the apostle John continues: “The true light that gives light to every sort of man was about to come into the world.” This surely means that whatever sort of person you may have been, you can benefit from that agent of light. You are not automatically exempt from that benefit, resulting in your position’s being hopeless, unless you make it so. In support of this, note John’s further words. He first acknowledges that, generally speaking, Jesus was not accepted, neither by the world of mankind, even though it “came into existence through him,” nor on ‘coming to his own home did his own people (the Jews) take him in.’ He then adds: “However, as many as did receive him, to them he gave authority to become God’s children, because they were exercising faith in his name.”—John 1:6-12.
17. What further aid did Jesus himself give in this regard?
17 Later, John quotes Jesus’ own words that throw still further light on this, showing the responsibility that rests on the individual in using his freedom of choice in the matter of exercising faith. As far as God is concerned, Jesus said that “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” Explaining why men in general have not accepted, but have spurned this marvelous provision of God’s undeserved kindness, resulting in their remaining under a judgment of condemnation, Jesus further said: “Now this is the basis for judgment, that the light has come into the world but men have loved the darkness rather than the light . . . For he that practices vile things hates the light and does not come to the light, in order that his works may not be reproved. But he that does what is true comes to the light, in order that his works may be made manifest as having been worked in harmony with God.”—John 3:16-21.
18. How should we decide as to the two alternatives facing us?
18 If you love the darkness rather than the light, if you are unwilling to suffer reproof and correction, or unwilling to acknowledge the need to change your viewpoint and course of action, that is your responsibility. But if at heart you realize the need to make a change, if you are willing to learn how to practice what is true in harmony with God’s will, thus exercising faith in God and in his beloved Son, then we invite you to share with us in a further discussion of this subject.
HOW WE CAN IDENTIFY OURSELVES WITH JEHOVAH’S CHIEF AGENT
19. In what way is the Christian congregation identified with Christ Jesus?
19 As already noted, the early Christians, under the lead of the faithful apostles, were made conscious of their close identification with Christ Jesus as God’s Chief Agent and as their head. Nearly forty years before John wrote his Gospel account of Jesus, Paul had enlarged on this theme of the unique position God had given to the “Son of his love,” saying that “he [the Son] is before all other things and by means of him all other things were made to exist, and he is the head of the body, the congregation.”—Col. 1:13-18; see also Ephesians 2:19-22.
20. What kind of danger did Paul warn of, and how did it operate?
20 However, Paul next found it necessary to warn of the danger of “being shifted away from the hope of that good news which you heard.” Many times he wrote and spoke of this danger and identified its root cause. He said to the older men of the Ephesus congregation: “From among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” To another congregation he wrote: “Let no one seduce you in any manner.” To seduce means to lead astray, to entice from rectitude or duty, and especially to induce a woman to surrender her chastity. In harmony with this, notice what Paul said to the congregation at Corinth: “For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, for I personally promised you in marriage to one husband that I might present you as a chaste virgin to the Christ. But I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent seduced Eve by its cunning, your minds might be corrupted away from the sincerity and the chastity that are due the Christ. For, as it is, if someone comes and preaches a Jesus other than the one we preached, . . . you easily put up with him.”—Col. 1:23; Acts 20:30; 2 Thess. 2:3; 2 Cor. 11:2-4.
21. How were both Adam and Eve ensnared by Satan, sounding what warning for us?
21 It would seem that, while the serpent seduced Eve, it was Eve herself who seduced her husband, using her influence in that direction. The record says simply concerning the forbidden fruit that “she gave some also to her husband when with her and he began eating it.” (Gen. 3:6) But we cannot imagine that it was merely some sort of dumb action or mute appeal on her part. Though both were seduced from their former rectitude and integrity, they were not alike in the matter of being deceived. We have the inspired statement that “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was thoroughly deceived,” that is, she was influenced to believe what was false. This did not relieve or excuse her from being “in transgression,” for she well knew that what was uttered through the serpent was a contradiction of what God had said. (1 Tim. 2:14; Gen. 3:1-5) So we observe how cunningly Satan used his tools, both at the start of human history, also in the early days of the Christian congregation, and no less so in our day. The main question that concerns us is, How can we avoid being either deceived or seduced? Unlike the first human pair, we want to ensure and preserve our identification with Jehovah through his Chief Agent. How can we best do this?
22. (a) How can we get God’s viewpoint on matters requiring attention and decision? (b) When approaching the Bible, what dangers must we be careful to avoid?
22 To avoid being ensnared on any count, we must learn how to view all things through God’s eyes. We must learn how to keep looking at things from his standpoint, whether in matters of doctrine, or in understanding of world conditions, or in personal problems and deciding what course to take when we are confronted with various pressures. How can this be done? By keeping close to God’s Word. That is largely why it was written. As the psalmist said: “Your word is a lamp to my foot, and a light to my roadway.” (Ps. 119:105) There is something else, however, that is important. Many have paid close attention to the Bible with a keen and critical eye, examining it from the viewpoint of human wisdom and philosophy, with the result that their faith, also the faith of those listening to them, is more and more undermined as regards accepting the authority of the Bible as the inspired Word of God. Others, devoutly religious in their way, regularly read and study the Bible, but they read it through someone else’s eyes. That is, they first of all accept the viewpoint and authority of one of the churches of Christendom, or a religious group of some kind, and their understanding of what they read must be made or forced to conform to the traditions held by that church or group. There is much truth in the old saying that there are none so blind as those who do not want to see, none so deaf as those who do not want to hear something contradictory to cherished ideas strongly entrenched.
23. (a) What contrast did Jesus make between his disciples and the Jewish leaders? (b) How did Jesus show the close connection between the heart attitude and mental vision?
23 Listen to Jesus’ words on this point. Regarding the Jewish leaders who were “versed in the Law” and had the “key of knowledge,” he said: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have carefully hidden these things from wise and intellectual ones, and have revealed them to babes. . . . who the Father is, no one knows but the Son, and he to whom the Son is willing to reveal him.” Then identifying these “babes,” Jesus turned to his disciples and said: “Happy are the eyes that behold the things you are beholding.” (Luke 10:21-23) The religious leaders were in the best position to recognize and accept Jesus as their Messiah. Yes, they were well versed in their Scriptures, but they were even more well versed and deeply entrenched in their traditions. Their whole outlook was influenced by bad and selfish motives, desiring to appear outwardly righteous to men, but inside being full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matt. 23:28) Pinpointing the root of the trouble, and showing the strong connection between the right heart attitude and the ability to see aright with clear vision and be rightly guided thereby, Jesus said to these leaders and their supporters: “I well know that you do not have the love of God in you. . . . How can you believe, when you are accepting glory from one another and you are not seeking the glory that is from the only God?” If the physical eye or the mental eye is giving a distorted vision due to a bad defect or bad motive, then that person’s whole life and course of action will be affected thereby and likely end in disaster. As Jesus expressed it in the Sermon on the Mount: “The lamp of the body is the eye. If, then, your eye is simple, your whole body will be bright; but if your eye is wicked, your whole body will be dark. If in reality the light that is in you is darkness, how great that darkness is!”—John 5:42-44; Matt. 6:22, 23.
24. In seeking God’s viewpoint and blessing, what steps must we take, and what incentive are we given?
24 Thus, besides keeping close to God’s Word, we must also keep close in mind the need to maintain a right attitude of heart and mind in all sincerity and humility. We must be willing to look at things in a fresh light, also to adjust or correct our course of action accordingly, in order to bring ourselves fully in line with God’s own viewpoint as taught in the Bible. This will of necessity lead to a close identification on our part with Jehovah and with his Chief Agent. With such a worthy motive, we can look forward with great interest and confidence to a further examination of the Scriptures, remembering what Jesus said: “Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you.”—Luke 11:9.
a Strong’s Concordance: Greek Dictionary, p. 16, Nos. 746, X747.
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The outpouring of God’s spirit on Jesus after his baptism identified him as God’s Anointed One
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The serpent seduced Eve by its cunning. We can avoid Satan’s snares by viewing all things through God’s eyes