Do Not Miss the Purpose of Jehovah’s Deliverance
“Working together with him, we also entreat you not to accept the undeserved kindness of God and miss its purpose.”—2 Cor. 6:1.
1. How did the apostle Paul receive Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, and why did he appreciate it?
WHEN the apostle Paul spoke of Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, he was speaking from experience. Paul had accepted undeserved kindness himself from Jehovah and he appreciated it very much. Jehovah’s undeserved kindness was extended to him when he was actually on a mission to persecute Jehovah’s true servants, but Paul had a good heart, a receptive heart, and his heart was receptive to Jehovah’s kindness. (Acts 9:1-30) Paul reviewed his former course of conduct with the congregations in Galatia when he wrote: “You, of course, heard about my conduct formerly in Judaism, that to the point of excess I kept on persecuting the congregation of God and devastating it, and I was making greater progress in Judaism than many of my own age in my race, as I was far more zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” (Gal. 1:13, 14) But through Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, Paul was delivered from the unscriptural traditions of his fathers. He repented of his past course in life and set out on a new course.
2. What privilege was opened up to Paul through undeserved kindness? How did he respond?
2 At Galatians 1:15, 16 we learn that Paul was called to the Christian ministry through the undeserved kindness of Jehovah God. He said: “God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through his undeserved kindness, thought good to reveal his Son in connection with me, that I might declare the good news about him to the nations.” He also confirmed to the Ephesians that it was through undeserved kindness that he was called to the ministry: “I became a minister of this according to the free gift of the undeserved kindness of God that was given me according to the way his power operates. To me, a man less than the least of all holy ones, this undeserved kindness was given, that I should declare to the nations the good news about the unfathomable riches of the Christ.” (Eph. 3:7, 8) Paul showed that he appreciated Jehovah’s undeserved kindness by working hard in the ministry extended to him and thus he could very well recommend that others follow his example in the Christian ministry.—1 Cor. 11:1.
NEED FOR A CHANGED VIEWPOINT IN CORINTH
3, 4. Was there good reason for Paul to write the Corinthians about not missing the purpose of Jehovah’s undeserved kindness? Explain.
3 There was good reason for Paul to write to the Corinthians about Jehovah’s deliverance and his undeserved kindness. Apparently some of the Corinthian Christians had missed the purpose of Jehovah’s undeserved kindness. Ancient Corinth was reputedly a corrupt city, infamous for the worship of the false goddess Aphrodite, which included immoral sex worship. Of course, the Corinthian Christians had been delivered from slavery to this part of Babylon the Great. But apparently some in the congregation had slipped back into immorality and had missed the purpose of Jehovah’s deliverance. It seems that they began to allow their environment to influence them to wrongdoing, for Paul said: “Actually fornication is reported among you, and such fornication as is not even among the nations, that a wife a certain man has of his father. And are you puffed up, and did you not rather mourn, in order that the man that committed this deed should be taken away from your midst?”—1 Cor. 5:1, 2.
4 Others in the Corinthian congregation had begun to follow men instead of Christ and so divisions or sects were forming in the congregation. This is evident by Paul’s words, “For the disclosure was made to me about you, my brothers, by those of the house of Chloe, that dissensions exist among you.” (1 Cor. 1:11) These Christians who were splitting up the Lord’s congregation were also missing the purpose of Jehovah’s deliverance and his undeserved kindness.
5. How did the congregation at Corinth respond to apostolic counsel?
5 Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian congregation certainly helped the congregation to clean itself up. Those who were immoral were disfellowshiped, thrown out of the congregation. (1 Cor. 5:5, 11) Good counsel was given and all were admonished to work together in unity and love, following Christ and not men. (1 Cor. 1:10) Apparently the congregation took Paul’s counsel to heart, for his second letter to the Corinthian congregation gave them good commendation and encouragement, and Paul concluded at 2 Corinthians 13:11 by saying: “Finally, brothers, continue to rejoice, to be readjusted, to be comforted, to think in agreement, to live peaceably; and the God of love and of peace will be with you.”
6. Explain why Christians today should reflect on Paul’s counsel not to miss the purpose of Jehovah’s undeserved kindness.
6 We do well today to reflect on Paul’s counsel to the Corinthians not to accept Jehovah’s undeserved kindness and miss its purpose. As those Corinthian Christians were surrounded by bad influence, we too must live, for the most part, in a wicked environment. Around us there are many who practice immorality, thievery, lying, cheating and other things detestable to Jehovah God. Of course, those who practice these things are not true Christians, but as true Christians we have left these things behind. The truth has set us free from these evil things. As Paul said: “That is what some of you were. But you have been washed clean.” (1 Cor. 6:11) As Christian witnesses of Jehovah we have particularly been delivered from slavery to Babylon the Great and her false doctrines and traditions as well as from the wickedness of this old system of things. Such deliverance, and the freedom that comes with it, is truly undeserved kindness from Jehovah God.
7. How did Paul evaluate the knowledge of Christ and the Christian ministry in comparison with the prestige and wealth of the Pharisees?
7 We have also been delivered from the materialistic bent which the people of this old system of things have, just as Paul was delivered from materialism in his day through Jehovah’s undeserved kindness. Paul himself, a former Pharisee, was a fine example of appreciation because he was willing to leave behind the prestige and the wealth of the Pharisees. Paul indicated that he did not overlook this aspect of his deliverance and Jehovah’s undeserved kindness. He considered prestige and wealth and worldly comforts as mere refuse or garbage when compared to the blessings he received through Jehovah’s undeserved kindness. He wrote: “Yet what things were gains to me, these I have considered loss on account of the Christ. Why, for that matter, I do indeed also consider all things to be loss on account of the excelling value of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. On account of him I have taken the loss of all things and I consider them as a lot of refuse, that I may gain Christ.” (Phil. 3:7, 8) Yes, Paul used his Christian freedom well.
DO NOT MISS ITS PURPOSE
8. (a) What questions are here appropriate? (b) How might some answer?
8 In reflecting on Paul’s counsel and also the good example he set, we might ask: What are we doing with our freedom today? Are we following Paul’s good example, or perhaps have we missed the purpose of Jehovah’s deliverance? Some might reply: “How could we miss the purpose of Jehovah’s deliverance?” Someone could argue, “I try to live a clean life. I’m not involved in any immorality. I attend most of the meetings and I’m a regular proclaimer of God’s kingdom. I get out in the field service every month.”
9, 10. (a) What mistake do some Christians make? Does this affect their spirituality? (b) Give an example of what could happen when one tries to serve two masters.
9 But suppose we look at it this way: Even though you associate with a congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses, how strong are your ties to the old system of things? How closely are you connected to it? Some may be trying to serve two masters. They like the new system under Christ Jesus and are willing to do a little for it, but actually they work much harder for the old system of things under Satan the Devil. But make no mistake, Jesus said that one cannot serve two masters. He said: “You cannot slave for God and for Riches.” (Matt. 6:24) If we maintain strong ties with the old system of things, then this means very weak ties with the new system of things. If our ties to the old system are strong, then it means we are spiritually weak and are not reaching out for privileges of service, not making progress as Christians in Jehovah’s organization today.
10 Consider the example of a Christian who is an excellent worker on his job. His employer likes him and values his hard work. His employer knows that he is honest, that he is trustworthy, and therefore pays him well. The brother enjoys his work, he likes being trusted and he feels that all of this is a good recommendation as a Christian, having in mind Paul’s words at 1 Timothy 3:7, where he said we should have “a fine testimony from people on the outside.” But then what happens? The brother is offered a promotion. This means more responsibility. Now the job requires overtime work. Then it may cut into congregation meeting attendance and field service time. And how about personal study and family study? Often these things must be sacrificed completely by the one who is willing to accept more responsibility from his employer.
11. What danger could befall those who value material possessions too highly?
11 Has something like this happened to you? Does your employment prevent you from serving Jehovah as you should? Do you value the esteem of your employer more than Jehovah’s esteem? Where would you stand if Babylon the Great were destroyed tomorrow, followed shortly by the destruction of the rest of this old system of things? Would you escape such destruction or would you be caught up in it? Do you have a good conscience in connection with Jehovah’s service?
12. (a) Is it necessarily wrong to have material possessions? Why do you so answer? (b) What mistake did Demas make?
12 Satan operates very slyly through a love of material things. Of course, it is true that there is nothing wrong with a fine automobile, a good television, a fine home, appliances or other things if we can afford them and still put Jehovah God first in our lives. But the point is, do some put material things first and Jehovah second in their lives? This happened to some back in Paul’s day. We recall that Demas was an associate of Paul in the Christian ministry and he joined with Luke in sending greetings to the Christian congregation in Colossae by means of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. However, later on Demas forsook Paul and the Christian ministry. Why? Paul wrote Timothy: “Demas has forsaken me because he loved the present system of things, and he has gone to Thessalonica.” (2 Tim. 4:10) So even back in Paul’s day, there were those who began loving material things and worldly pleasures more than the Christian ministry and thus completely missed the purpose of Jehovah’s undeserved kindness.
13. (a) What is one reason for the problems facing Christendom? (b) Can we learn anything from this?
13 When love of material things comes before love of Jehovah, then truly we are missing the purpose of Jehovah’s deliverance from this old system. We could soon become like the apostate Christians that are found in Christendom today. What little Christianity they may have had is now being crowded out by their love of material possessions and worldly pleasures. In reporting on the problems that face Christendom’s churches, one well-known American newsmagazine said: “What religious institutions are encountering, they say, is not hostility or division. . . . but massive indifference in a world increasingly enveloped by material values and worries.” (U.S. News & World Report, March 23, 1970, page 44) So these apostate Christians have replaced God with material things, making such their god and worshiping these material possessions. This could easily happen to us as Christians if we allow our love for Jehovah and his service to cool off and become influenced by the old system’s love of material possessions.
BENEFITING FROM AN ANCIENT EXAMPLE
14. (a) What was the purpose of Jehovah’s deliverance of Israel from Babylon in 537 B.C.E.? (b) What were the faithful Jews to do at that time?
14 It is good for us to recall the deliverance of natural Israel from Babylon of old. That deliverance was for a purpose. Jehovah God wanted his true worship reestablished in Jerusalem and his temple rebuilt. In fact, the decree issued by Cyrus and recorded by Ezra specifically mentioned the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple: “Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God prove to be with him. So let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of Jehovah the God of Israel—he is the true God—which was in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:3) So faithful Jews were to leave old Babylon, return to Jerusalem, and there rebuild Jehovah’s temple and the city and begin reading Jehovah’s law to the people. They were to start offering the sacrifices to Jehovah again as commanded in his law. They were to learn all the requirements of true worship and then obey them.
15, 16. (a) Was it an easy thing for the remnant of Jews to return to Jerusalem and Judah? Explain. (b) What may have prevented many Jews from returning to Jerusalem?
15 Was this an easy assignment for those faithful Israelites? Certainly not. All of this involved effort—hard work. It meant a long trek through semidesert land, leaving behind the comforts of a nice home in Babylon and perhaps a good job there. It meant that they were to enter a broken-down city and build houses for themselves, houses that certainly would not be as comfortable as those they had enjoyed in the more modern city of Babylon. Food might be scarce, and of little variety. Life would not be so easy. It really meant rough going for those Jews who were putting true worship first.
16 On the other hand, some Jews may have loved old Babylon too much, not appreciating the real purpose of Jehovah’s deliverance. They may have liked their good jobs and their comfortable homes in the great city of Babylon. Some may have liked these things too much to leave them behind and return to Jerusalem. Perhaps they were too settled in their ways in old Babylon to consider a move. Besides that, they may have made good friends with some of the Babylonians for business reasons. Or perhaps they had good businesses which took much of their time and they did not want to give these up to return to Jerusalem and start all over, so to speak. Yes, it may have been a bleak prospect indeed for some of those Jews who held material possessions in higher esteem than the privilege of seeing true worship restored in Jerusalem.
17. (a) Who assisted the faithful remnant that returned to Judah and Jerusalem? (b) What blessing and privilege did these faithful Jews enjoy?
17 But those who did appreciate Jehovah’s deliverance from Babylon had Jehovah with them to help them. Ezra tells us: “Then the heads of the fathers of Judah and of Benjamin and the priests and the Levites rose up, even everyone whose spirit the true God had roused, to go up and rebuild the house of Jehovah, which was in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:5) Yes, Jehovah was with those faithful ones who appreciated his deliverance from Babylon and his undeserved kindness. With Jehovah’s help, they were able to restore true worship in Jerusalem, and this was a wonderful privilege for them. Indeed, they rejoiced at seeing true worship reestablished. The record says: “As for all the people, they shouted with a loud shout in praising Jehovah over the laying of the foundation of the house of Jehovah. And many of the priests and the Levites and the heads of the paternal houses, the old men that had seen the former house, were weeping with a loud voice at the laying of the foundation of this house before their eyes, while many others were raising the voice in shouting for joy.” (Ezra 3:11, 12) On the other hand, those who loved their homes in Babylon and their good jobs there more than the restoration of true worship lost out on this wonderful privilege of restoring true worship in Jerusalem.
18. What is involved that makes the matter more serious today? And what questions are asked?
18 However, this matter is even more serious today. More is involved than just losing out on a privilege of service. Today LIFE is involved. When Babylon the Great is destroyed, it will be too late to get out. Those who have trusted in it and in the rest of the old system will fall with it. So we ask: What is your position? Do you feel you can serve Jehovah and still put secular work or material possessions ahead of true worship?
19. Explain how we can follow Paul’s counsel at 2 Corinthians 13:5, and what could this reveal?
19 This is a good time to heed Paul’s counsel at 2 Corinthians 13:5: “Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are.” Why not sit down and analyze your schedule of activities. What does it reveal concerning your time? Is most of it taken up by secular work and caring for material possessions? Would it be difficult for you to give up your material possessions right now if Jehovah required it? If you have answered Yes, then you are in a very dangerous position. Your life is at stake now!
20. (a) What counsel of Jesus is very timely here? (b) What is it therefore appropriate for us to do?
20 Certainly this is no time to lose our position of favor in Jehovah’s organization. No one knows exactly when the “great tribulation” will strike and destroy this wicked system. We must be ready! Jesus said: “But pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth. Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur, and in standing before the Son of man.” (Luke 21:34-36) It is therefore appropriate for each one of us to stop and test our faith to see if it is strong and whether we are spiritually awake. Then, if necessary, we should change our thinking so as to show appreciation for Jehovah’s deliverance and for his undeserved kindness.
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The Israelites who responded to King Cyrus’ decree to rebuild Jehovah’s temple appreciated the purpose of their deliverance; they put true worship ahead of material possessions. What is your position regarding true worship today?