Proving Ourselves to Be “Men of Goodwill”
1. (a) What did an army of heavenly angels unitedly say at the human birth of “Christ the Lord”? (b) What indicates that there must be a few of such “men” today, and so what question arises?
AT THE human birth of “Christ the Lord,” who was to be the One anointed to “proclaim the year of goodwill on the part of our God,” an army of heavenly angels unitedly said: “Glory in the heights above to God, and upon earth peace among men of goodwill.” (Luke 2:13, 14) Doubtless, down through the nineteen centuries since then to this day those “men of goodwill” have proved to be few. They have been the “men whom [God] favours” (Moffatt), the men who have the goodwill or favor of Jehovah God. Few they must be indeed, because, particularly since the year 1914 C.E. till now, there has been little peace on earth and more and more persons betray that they do not have the “peace of God that excels all thought.” (Phil. 4:7) How, then, in this late day is it possible for us to become God’s “men of goodwill”? We want to be such, do we not?
2. What kind of lesson should we take from the Jews of the first century C.E., and why?
2 We should take a warning lesson from the Jews in Palestine during the first century of our Common Era. Their disastrous experience was not only historical but also pictorial, typical, exemplary. Says the inspired apostle Paul: “Now these things became our examples, . . .Now these things went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.” (1 Cor. 10:6-11) Certainly with the coming, the human sacrifice, the resurrection and the heavenward ascension of Jesus Christ back there the ends of long-standing systems of things arrived, just as it is written, in Hebrews 9:26: “But now he has manifested himself once for all time at the conclusion of the systems of things to put sin away through the sacrifice of himself.” We today are living in a corresponding conclusion of a system of things. This is very manifest since 1914 C.E., just as Bible prophecy and world events and conditions prove beyond a doubt. For us, then, the typical examples recorded in the Bible were written in warning.
3. (a) Like the Jews in the apostolic days, we have been living in the time of what? (b) What part of the “sign . . . of the conclusion of the system of things” has been taking place world wide, since when and by whom?
3 Like the Jews during the apostolic days of the first century C.E., we too have been living in the time of divine favor, “the year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah.” (Isa. 61:1, 2) Like them, too, we have been living in the conclusion of a system of things. When giving his prophecy concerning the “sign . . . of the conclusion of the system of things,” Jesus Christ said to his apostles: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:3, 14) Is not this “good news of the kingdom” being preached world wide today? Yes, according to all facts and figures. This has been true particularly since the year 1914 C.E., when, just as calculated by the International Bible Students Association, the Gentile Times, “the appointed times of the nations,” ran out and God’s due time came for him to install his Messianic kingdom in the heavens for the deliverance of mankind. Since then, not God’s coming kingdom, but God’s established kingdom, could be preached as good news world wide. And it has been thus preached! By whom? By Jehovah’s witnesses.
4. (a) As in the first century C.E., this preaching of the good news is an evidence of what attitude on God’s part? (b) Why should we take advantage of this?
4 In the first century the preaching of the divine message, “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near,” was a proof of God’s goodwill toward the Jewish nation. (Matt. 3:1, 2; 4:12-17; Isa. 9:1, 2) Likewise, today, the preaching of God’s established kingdom since 1914 C.E. has been an evidence of God’s goodwill. This is plainly so, inasmuch as, when this Kingdom preaching is finished, “then the end will come,” and that end of the present system of things means the “day of vengeance on the part of our God.” Forasmuch as the preaching of “this good news of the kingdom” still goes on, and this on an increasing scale on the part of Jehovah’s witnesses, this is evidence that we of this generation are still living in the “year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah.” After all this time of Kingdom preaching, that “year” must be running out, and we should take advantage of the “year of goodwill” before there breaks upon this whole system of things “the day of vengeance.” Have we done this, or shall we?
5. To those in a position like that of us today Paul wrote what in 2 Corinthians 5:21 to 6:2, and how long before Jerusalem’s destruction?
5 We are living in the time of opportunity, and our life is at stake. Shall we ignore the opportunity and thereby let the divine goodwill be extended to us in vain or shall we miss its purpose, thereby failing of salvation? To those who were in a like position as ours today the apostle Paul pleaded that it should not be so. In making his point he quoted from Isaiah 49:8, where we read: “This is what Jehovah has said: ‘In an acceptable time [or, in a time of goodwill (approval), marginal reading] I have answered you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’” (New World Translation, 1958 edition) Hence the apostle Paul writes: “The one [Jesus Christ] who did not know sin he made to be sin for us, that we might become God’s righteousness by means of him. Working together with him, we also entreat you not to accept the undeserved kindness of God and miss its purpose. For he says: ‘In an acceptable time I heard you, and in a day of salvation I helped you.’ Look! Now is the especially acceptable time. Look! Now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 5:21 to 6:2) Paul wrote that about the year 55 C.E., or about fifteen years before Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 C.E.
6. (a) Why are we today facing something worse than what befell the Jews in 70 C.E.? (b) As far as we are concerned, what do we not desire to be the case with respect to God’s exercise of goodwill?
6 With no less urgency the inspired argument of the apostle Paul applies today so far along in this “year of goodwill.” We are facing something far worse and more stupendous than the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 C.E. ever was. It is no mere national system of things that is approaching its calamitous end in the “day of vengeance on the part of our God,” but is the worldwide, international system of things, involving all peoples, tribes, races and unscriptural religions. If we desire prayer to the one living and true God to be acceptably heard and answered, now for a little while longer is the “time of goodwill” for it. If we wish to have divine help to escape being executed on the “day of vengeance,” now is the “day of salvation” for this. It is according to God’s undeserved kindness that the “year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah” is still with us. If we value the opportunity for everlasting life in happiness we will not want to miss the purpose of God’s undeserved kindness or to have his goodwill extended toward us in vain.
HOW TO MAKE THE PROOF
7. (a) Therefore for all lovers of everlasting life what question arises, and from what can it be answered? (b) To what course of action did John the Baptist, Jesus Christ and his disciples urge the Jews?
7 For all lovers of everlasting life in a righteous new system of things, the question arises at this critical time, How can I become one of God’s “men of goodwill,” or, How can I prove myself to be one of them? Either question can definitely be answered from the written Word of the great Life-giver, the God of goodwill. In the first century the call went out by John the Baptist and then by Jesus Christ and by his apostles: “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” After Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and shortly before he ascended to heaven, he said to his disciples: “In this way it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from among the dead on the third day, and on the basis of his name repentance for forgiveness of sins would be preached in all the nations.” (Luke 24:45-47) On the following day of Pentecost, when many Jews asked, “What shall we do?” the apostle Peter said: “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins.”—Acts 2:37, 38.
8. When God admitted the uncircumcised non-Jews into the Christian congregation, what did Jewish Christians say that He was granting to the nations?
8 More than three years later, when Jewish Christians at Jerusalem heard that uncircumcised non-Jews of the nations had been admitted to the Christian congregation, they said: “Well, then, God has granted repentance for the purpose of life to people of the nations also.”—Acts 10:1–11:18.
9. What step must follow repentance, and how did Peter stress this step in talking to a Jewish crowd in Jerusalem’s temple?
9 However, mere repentance, in the sense of heartfelt grief and sorrow at being a sinner and having committed sin, is not enough. This must be followed by action, by conversion or a turning away from sin and going in the way of righteousness, by a producing of fruits that are befitting to repentance. The apostle Peter stressed this additional step by saying to a crowd of Jews at the temple of Jerusalem: “God has fulfilled the things he announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer. Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the person of Jehovah and that he may send forth the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven, indeed, must hold within itself until the times of restoration of all things of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets of old time.” (Acts 3:18-21) Turning away from the sins repented of would insure the forgiveness of such sins by Jehovah God.
10. How does a person, after his repentance and conversion, become one of God’s “men of goodwill”?
10 This conversion or turning away from sin must be followed by baptism in water, whether in the case of natural Jew or in the case of uncircumcised Gentile. When the resurrected Jesus told his disciples to go and make disciples of people of all the nations, he added: “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.” (Matt. 28:19) The baptism in water is a symbol that repentance and conversion have already taken place and that now the baptismal candidate has fully presented himself or has dedicated himself unreservedly to the Father, God, through the Son, Jesus Christ. In this way a believing person becomes a disciple of Christ, and for this reason he at the same time becomes one of God’s “men of goodwill,” or, “men whom he favours,” or, “men on whom his favor rests,” and toward whom he extends his peace.—Luke 2:14, Moffatt; New English Bible.
11. In thus coming to God, whose example do we follow, when the fulfillment of what prophecy took place?
11 By thus coming to do God’s good pleasure they are not only obeying Christ’s command but also imitating his worthy example. When Jesus presented himself to God at the time of his baptism in the Jordan River at the hands of John the Baptist, the prophetic words of Psalm 40:7, 8 went into fulfillment, the words thereof being the expression of Jesus’ heart: “That being so, I said: ‘Here I have come, in the roll of the book it being written about me. To do your will [pleasure, margin; Young; good-pleasure, Rotherham], O my God, I have delighted, and your law is within my inward parts.’”—New World Translation, 1957 edition.
12. (a) Where are those prophetic words of the psalmist applied to Jesus on a certain occasion? (b) Likewise, at baptism what do we come to do, to gain God’s goodwill?
12 The inspired writer, at Hebrews 10:5-9, applies those words of the psalmist to the time of Jesus’ baptism, saying: “Hence when he comes into the world he says: ‘“Sacrifice and offering you did not want, but you prepared a body for me. You did not approve of whole burnt offerings and sin offering.” Then I said, “Look! I am come (in the roll of the book it is written about me) to do your will, O God.”’ After first saying: ‘You did not want nor did you approve of sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sin offering’—sacrifices that are offered according to the Law—then he actually says: ‘Look! I am come to do your will.’” That will of God was a good “will”; it was his good pleasure, or what pleased him. So, by coming at the time of baptism to do that divine will, Jesus came to do God’s good pleasure and God was well pleased in him. Likewise, when we undertake to do God’s will or good pleasure, we gain His goodwill, His favor.
13. (a) As “men of goodwill” we become associated with a people under a king belonging to whom? (b) How do they happily join in the “joyful shouting”?
13 As God’s “men of goodwill” we become associated with his people over whom his enthroned Son, Jesus Christ, now rules in the heavens as King. Prophetically it is written regarding this people, in Psalm 89:15-18: “Happy are the people knowing the joyful shouting. O Jehovah, in the light of your face they keep walking. In your name they are joyful all day long and in your righteousness they are exalted. For you are the beauty of their strength; and by your goodwill our horn is exalted. [Why?] For our shield belongs to Jehovah, and our king belongs to the Holy One of Israel.” Because their King belongs, not to any of the unpeaceable earthly nations, but belongs to Jehovah God, they happily join in joyful shouting. They enthusiastically join in preaching “this good news of the kingdom” in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, that these nations might be notified of the only rightful government before their end comes on the “day of vengeance on the part of our God.”
14. What do these “men of goodwill” prefer instead of having the King rage at them, and on what side of him are they anxious to be in this time of separating people?
14 They desire to abide in the favor of this King who belongs to Jehovah. They do not care to hear his growling and raging on the “day of vengeance” on the part of his God. They do not want to feel the heat of his wrath, but prefer the cooling refreshment of his favor. They have in mind Proverbs 19:12: “The raging of a king is a growling like that of a maned young lion, but his goodwill is like the dew upon the vegetation.” The sheeplike disciples are anxious to be on his right hand in this “time of the end” when he is separating the people of the worldly nations just as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats.—Matt. 25:31-46.
KEEPING OURSELVES IN JEHOVAH’S GOODWILL
15 Once having become men whom God favors, we need to continue proving ourselves to be his “men of goodwill.” This requires us to persist in seeking his goodwill, being upright in heart. The Proverbs put the matter straight for us, saying: “Those crooked at heart are something detestable to Jehovah, but the ones blameless in their way are a pleasure to him. He that is looking for good, will keep seeking goodwill; but as for the one searching for bad, it will come upon him.” (Prov. 11:20, 27) In the uprightness of our hearts we keep searching God’s Word to know how to enjoy his goodwill now and forever. We dread to become something detestable to Jehovah and to have bad come upon us in the “day of vengeance” that rapidly comes on apace.
16 If we continue seeking heavenly wisdom and act according to it, always being on the wait at wherever it can be gained, we shall assure ourselves of Jehovah’s goodwill. This will result in endless happiness to us. In Proverbs 8:34, 35 Wisdom personified speaks to us, saying: “Happy is the man that is listening to me by keeping awake at my doors day by day, by watching at the posts of my entrances. For the one finding me will certainly find life, and gets goodwill from Jehovah.” It therefore means happiness and life and divine goodwill toward us if we go to places where Jehovah’s “men of goodwill” meet together and wait regularly at the posts of the entrances there in order to go inside to hear the discussion of God’s written Word of wisdom, away from the wisdom of this world. With the psalmist they pray to Jehovah: “Teach me to do your will [pleasure, margin; good pleasure, Young; Rotherham], for you are my God. Your spirit is good; may it lead me in the land of uprightness.” (Ps. 143:10, edition of 1957) They know that if they do His good pleasure, they will enjoy his goodwill.
17 As the “day of vengeance” gets closer, more and more does it become advisable for Jehovah’s “men of goodwill” to meet together, with the motive of doing good to one another. Just as it is recommended to us in Hebrews 10:24, 25: “Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, . . . encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.” This course will strengthen us to persist in doing the things that are good in Jehovah’s sight and to be faithful in proclaiming the truths of his Word. Never let us forget these proverbial words of wisdom: “One that is good gets approval [favour, Young; Rotherham] from Jehovah, but the man of wicked ideas he pronounces wicked. False lips are something detestable to Jehovah, but those acting in faithfulness are a pleasure to him.”—Prov. 12:2, 22.
18. Along with what kind of sacrifices will our prayers be acceptable to Jehovah?
18 If we maintain ourselves within Jehovah’s goodwill we can be confident that he will hear our prayers. This is especially true if we offer our prayers together with offering to him the “sacrifice of praise” and the sacrifices of the “doing of good and the sharing of things with others,” the sacrifices that are described in Hebrews 13:15, 16. Then Jehovah will be pleased with our prayers, just as we are assured in Proverbs 15:8: “The sacrifice of the wicked ones is something detestable to Jehovah, but the prayer of the upright ones is a pleasure to him.”—Jer. 6:20.
19. Since when recently and how has Jehovah’s spiritual temple been shown to be a “house of prayer for all the peoples,” and in what words was this foretold?
19 During this still continuing “year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah” his spiritual temple has been made a house of prayer for all the peoples. This has particularly been true since the year 1935 C.E., when he began to bring to his spiritual temple a “great crowd” of worshipers “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues” to render to him sacred service alongside the remnant of anointed disciples of the Lamb Jesus Christ. (Rev. 7:9-15) By keeping spiritually clean and by remaining loyal to his Messianic kingdom they have the joy of knowing that He accepts their sacrifices of praise and of doing good and of unselfishly sharing with others. For their encouragement it was long ago prophetically written: “I will also bring them to my holy mountain and make them rejoice inside my house of prayer. Their whole burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be for acceptance upon my altar. For my own house will be called even a house of prayer for all the peoples.”—Isa. 56:7.
20. Our prayer heavenward is for us to be remembered with what, and therefore we keep in the company of those of what kind of speech?
20 It is a great joy today for one to be associated with Jehovah’s “men of goodwill.” We desire to keep clean enough and faithful enough to be considered worthy to be numbered among them. Therefore our constant prayer heavenward is: “Remember me, O Jehovah, with the goodwill toward your people. Take care of me with your salvation.” (Ps. 106:4) When in the company of these ones, we hear speech that is pleasing to Jehovah. “The lips of the righteous one—they come to know goodwill, but the mouth of the wicked ones is perverseness.”—Prov. 10:32.
21, 22. (a) How does being under Jehovah’s goodwill contrast with the time when we were under his anger? (b) For what length of time do we want our being under His goodwill to be, and accompanied with what kind of cry?
21 Once we were under divine anger because of our failure to do the will or good pleasure of Jehovah God. But now that we have taken advantage of his “year of goodwill,” that past experience seems as having been for a moment, as a dismal, darkening evening that is past. It calls to mind the expression of the psalmist David after he had been recovered from the divine displeasure: “Because being under his anger is for a moment, being under his goodwill is for a lifetime. In the evening weeping may take up lodging [with us], but in the morning there is a joyful cry.” (Ps. 30:5) By taking final advantage of Jehovah’s “year of goodwill” we have been delivered from the momentary evening of weeping under divine anger and we have entered into the morning of his goodwill with “a joyful cry.”
22 May we make our being under Jehovah’s goodwill, not for one mere morning, but “for a lifetime.” We have the opportunity to make that for a “lifetime” of eternity. Then we shall always be appreciatively giving a “joyful cry” because of being under Jehovah’s goodwill, and our cry will be one of thanksgiving and of praise to Him through Jesus Christ.