Producing the Chief Agent of Divine Rulership
“God exalted this one as Chief Agent and Savior to his right hand, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”—Acts 5:31.
1. Why will it not work out in salvation for us if we ignore the Chief Agent of Divine Rulership?
THE ONE whom the Divine Ruler of the universe exalts to be his Chief Agent and a Savior we cannot afford to ignore. If we ignored that Chief Agent and tried to come to the Divine Ruler in worship, it would not work out in salvation for us. It is only by means of his Chief Agent that the Divine Ruler gives to us the means for gaining salvation to perfect life and happiness in the blessed new order that the Divine Ruler has promised. People everywhere need to know this vital fact.
2. In view of what recent action by the Jerusalem Sánhedrin did that judicial court need to know that fact?
2 Nineteen hundred years ago the highest religious dignitaries in Jerusalem needed to know that fact. Those men made up the supreme judicial court of the land, the Sánhedrin. In a judgment handed down some weeks previous, they had condemned that much-disputed person, Jesus Christ, to death. Before them they now had the twelve leading followers of that controversial person. On the witness stand Simon Peter and the other eleven followers told the Court that the man whom they had condemned to death was made God’s “Chief Agent and Savior.” In response to a Court order they said:
3. In response to the order of the Sándedrin, what did those twelve followers of the condemned man say about obedience and the Chief Agent?
3 “We must obey God as ruler rather than men. The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus, whom you slew, hanging him upon a stake. God exalted this one as Chief Agent and Savior to his right hand, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these matters, and so is the holy spirit, which God has given to those obeying him as ruler.”—Acts 5:29-32.
4. The one exalted to be Chief Agent and Savior was to give what to Israel, and according to what covenant of God?
4 Let the high court of Jerusalem like it or not, that impaled Jesus was alive from the dead, even at God’s right hand, and thus able to act as the Chief Agent and Savior for the Divine Ruler, in behalf of the nation of Israel. A “Chief Agent and Savior,” to do what? “To give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” This “forgiveness of sins” was to be according to a “new covenant” that the Divine Ruler had promised to establish with his chosen people.—Jer. 31:31-34; Luke 22:20.
5. (a) Before Jesus’ death, by whom had repentance been preached to Israel? (b) What questions were now pertinent as to repentance and forgiveness of sins and the relationship of the members of the Sánhedrin to God?
5 That Jerusalem Court knew that before the appearance of Jesus Christ on the earthly scene, John the Baptist had preached: “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” Then, after John the Baptist was imprisoned, this Jesus Christ whom John had baptized took up the same message, saying: “Repent, you people, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” (Matt. 3:1, 2, 13-17; 4:12-17) This continued down till Jesus’ death under the instigation of the Jerusalem Sánhedrin Court. Was there now any difference in the matter of repentance on Israel’s part? What were the sins that were to be forgiven? Were not the members of the Court given good cause for thought by the words of Simon Peter before them? How was their relationship with God now affected? Did this relationship rest on the same basis as before? Let us see.
6. How did Jehovah become obliged to redeem his people Israel out of Egypt, and how did he do so?
6 The nation of Israel came into existence down in the land of Egypt, during the 215 years of sojourn of Jacob (Israel) and his descendants down there. (Gen. 49:28-33) Sometime after the death of the Egyptian prime minister Joseph, the son of Jacob, the Israelites were brought into slavery, and an attempt was made to wipe out the nation. Then at God’s own foretold time he brought these descendants of Jacob (Israel) “out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slaves.” This was after God had ordered them to celebrate a new Supper, the Passover supper, there in Egypt on Nisan 14 of the year 1513 B.C.E. On the evening of that day the Passover lamb was slaughtered and its blood was splashed upon the doorposts and lintels of the Israelite houses, and it was then roasted whole and eaten behind blood-marked closed doorways. God accepted the sacrifice of that Passover lamb and delivered them from Egypt after their sacrificial supper. He had, as it were, purchased them through that sacrificed Passover lamb. (Ex. 12:1 to 13:18) Thus the nation of Israel was a people “whom God went to redeem to himself as a people.”—2 Sam. 7:23.
7, 8. (a) How, at the Red Sea, did God further establish his ownership of the people of Israel? (b) What did Jehovah proceed to enter into with Israel at Mount Sinai, and what did he tell Moses to say as a proposal?
7 Under the leadership of the prophet Moses, God led the redeemed Israelites safely through the waters of the Red Sea but drowned behind them the Egyptian army that was in pursuit. (Ex. 14:1 to 15:21) This miraculous deliverance of the nation of Israel established all the more God’s ownership of them; they really belonged to him. In the third lunar month (Sivan) after their coming out of the land of Egypt, God brought them to the foot of Mount Sinai on the Arabian Peninsula. The prophet Moses, as the mediator between God and the nation of Israel, went up into Mount Sinai (Horeb) to deal with God in behalf of this redeemed people. Now steps were taken to establish a covenant, that is, a solemn, validated contract, between God and this redeemed people of Israel. Note what God told Moses to tell the people:
8 “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, that I might carry you on wings of eagles and bring you to myself. And now if you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property out of all other peoples, because the whole earth belongs to me. And you yourselves will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”—Ex. 19:3-6.
9. Did God proceed on the basis of his right, to bring Israel into a holy covenant with him, or how did he handle the matter?
9 In that way the obligations of the covenant were clearly stated and the covenant was given a definite purpose, to produce a “kingdom of priests,” a “holy nation,” belonging to God. Here it is not to be overlooked that God did not force this covenant upon the nation of Israel. He did not say: ‘I have redeemed you from slavery in Egypt and I have also delivered you from the waters of the Red Sea, and therefore you belong to me by right and purchase. I can do with you what I want, and what I say goes as law and you will have to obey it.’ Instead, what God instructed Moses to tell the people indicates that God wanted to know whether his redeemed people desired, were willing, to enter into a holy covenant with him. Rather than dictatorially, tyrannically, force a covenant upon them, God waited for them to express their will in the matter. No willingness on their part, no covenant!
THE EXPRESSED WILL OF THE REDEEMED PEOPLE AWAITED
10. Why did that covenant require a mediator, and what human factor did God recognize in the matter?
10 This was to be a bilateral covenant, that is to say, a solemn contract or engagement between two parties. Inasmuch as it was to be a covenant between the Most Holy God and imperfect, sinful human creatures who had inherited condemnation and death from Adam and Eve, this covenant required a mediator, whom God recognized as righteous because of faith, namely, Moses the son of Amram the Levite. (Gal. 3:19, 20) God, the one Party, showed his desire to enter into the covenant, but now, what was the will of the other party that was invited to enter into the covenant? The formal inaugurating of the covenant between God and Israel waited upon the expression of the will of the invited lesser party. To such an extent as this God recognized human will.
11. What attitude did Israel express toward the proposed covenant, and before that expression to Jehovah, what did Jehovah not state to them?
11 What attitude did the people, who were here represented by their national elders, assume toward the proffered covenant? The Bible record says: “So Moses came and called the older men of the people and set before them all these words that Jehovah had commanded him. After that all the people answered unanimously and said: ‘All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do.’ Immediately Moses took back the words of the people to Jehovah.” (Ex. 19:7, 8) Before Jehovah God received that expression of willingness on the part of the people, he did not state to them from the top of Mount Sinai the Ten Commandments, the fundamental laws of the proposed Law covenant.—Ex. 19:9 to 20:22.
12. (a) So what was it left to the people to do about the covenant? (b) What shall we call that act of the Israelites toward the covenant, and what descriptive term is expressed in Romans 6:13?
12 It was left to the people to express their free choice, either to accept or to reject the divine proposal. It was left to them to decide with free moral agency either to become Jehovah’s “special property out of all other peoples” or to refuse to become such because of the terms laid down. So, when this redeemed people answered as one man to the divine proposal, “All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do,” or, literally, “we shall be doing,” what were they doing? What shall we call that act of theirs, in other words? Is it too much to say that it was a committing of themselves to Jehovah God to do his will as spoken by Him? Does it parallel what the Christian apostle Paul said to the Christian congregation in Rome: “Present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, also your members to God as weapons of righteousness”? (Rom. 6:13) An American Translation renders this stronger, saying: “Offer yourselves to God.” The New English Bible: “Put yourselves at the disposal of God.” The Revised Standard Version: “Yield yourselves to God.” Moffatt’s A New Translation: “You must dedicate yourselves to God.”
13, 14. (a) Why was it that Jehovah offered to them the covenant rather than force it upon Israel, and, by their response, what were they in effect doing? (b) When did they reaffirm their will, and what did they thus become to Jehovah?
13 Jehovah did not use heavy persuasion with the Israelites, saying: ‘I have redeemed you from Egypt and I have delivered you from the Red Sea. Moreover, you are the natural seed of Abraham my friend. Therefore you must enter into this covenant with me.’ True, it was for those reasons that God offered to them a covenant relationship with him, and he did set an inviting prospect before them for entering the covenant. But it rested with the Israelites to choose whether to become the people of Jehovah as their God. Accordingly, when they said: “All that Jehovah has spoken we shall be doing,” they were dedicating themselves to Jehovah to be His people, to do His will that was to be set out in the covenant. Later, after the giving of the Ten Commandments and then the delivery of a set of laws to Moses, the covenant was validated over the blood of animal victims. And thereby the Israelites became the dedicated people of God in a binding covenant with Jehovah God. On that occasion, even with better knowledge, the people reaffirmed their determination to do Jehovah’s will, for the record at Exodus 24:7, 8 tells us:
14 “Finally he [Moses] took the book of the covenant and read it in the ears of the people. Then they said: ‘All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do and be obedient.’ So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it upon the people and said: ‘Here is the blood of the covenant that Jehovah has concluded with you as respects all these words.”’—See also Hebrews 9:18-20.
15. Of how long a duration was that covenant, and upon whom was it binding?
15 That covenant, inaugurated with those members of that redeemed people there at Mount Sinai, was not only binding upon those present but binding also upon their fleshly, natural descendants. It was a “covenant to time indefinite.” (Lev. 24:8) This put all their natural descendants in a covenant relationship with God for as long as the covenant endured. As a consequence those Israelites who were born in the wilderness after the inaugurating of that covenant at Mount Sinai were in that covenant with God in the fortieth and last year of their enforced wandering in the wilderness. So they continued to be a dedicated people or nation.
16. On the plains of Moab, how did many choose not to remain in covenant relationship with Jehovah?
16 However, in that final year (1473 B.C.E.) thousands of members of that dedicated nation did not choose to remain in covenant relationship with Jehovah. They proved this on the plains of Moab. In Moses’ account of this we read, in Numbers 25:1-5:
“Now Israel was dwelling in Shittim. Then the people started to have immoral relations with the daughters of Moab. And the women came calling the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people began to eat and to bow down to their gods. So Israel attached itself [or, Israel paired themselves off, AT; or, Israel yoked himself, RS] to the Baal of Peor; and the anger of Jehovah began to blaze against Israel.
“Hence Jehovah said to Moses: ‘Take all the head ones of the people and expose them to Jehovah toward the sun, that the burning anger of Jehovah may turn back from Israel.’ Then Moses said to the judges of Israel: ‘Each one of you kill his men who have an attachment [who paired themselves off, AT; yoked themselves, RS] with the Baal of Peor.’”—NW; Mo.
17. (a) How many died there for breaking their covenant with Jehovah? (b) How does Jehovah, at Hosea 9:10, speak of their attaching themselves to the Baal of Peor?
17 There were twenty-four thousand who died as a result of this breaking of their engagement to do “all that Jehovah has spoken.” (Num. 25:9; 1 Cor. 10:8) More than seven hundred years later Jehovah referred to this shocking incident, by means of his prophet Hosea. He first tells how desirable the nation of Israel was to him and then tells how it was that many Israelites made themselves disgusting to him. Jehovah says: “Like grapes in the wilderness I found Israel. Like the early fig on a fig tree in its beginning I saw the forefathers of you people. They themselves went in to Baal of Peor, and they proceeded to dedicate themselves to the shameful thing, and they came to be disgusting like the thing of their love.” (Hos. 9:10, NW; AT) Moffatt’s Bible translation says: “They devoted themselves to Baal the Infamous.” (Also Leeser’s) Because it was from Jehovah God that those Israelites were separating themselves to go over to another deity, the Revised Standard Version says: “They . . . consecrated themselves to Baal.” (Also American Standard Version; New American Bible; New English Bible)
18. (a) How does the Jewish Publication Society translation of Hosea 9:10 bring out the disloyalty of their act toward Jehovah? (b) How is the disloyalty brought out in connection with the same Hebrew word in Ezekiel 14:7, 8?
18 Those unfaithful Israelites had been dedicated to the only living and true God, but now they separated themselves from Him to devote or dedicate themselves to Baal. To bring out that disloyal act, the Jewish Publication Society Bible says: “They separated themselves unto the shameful thing.” The vital Hebrew verb here is na·zarʹ, and is used in connection with what a Jewish Nazirite did when he specially separated himself to God. (Num. 6:1-8) In the days of the prophet Ezekiel, shortly before the first destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E., there were many Israelites who acted similarly to what the unfaithful Israelites did in the days of Moses on the plains of Moab. In regard to such disloyal ones Jehovah said to the prophet Ezekiel:
“Any man at all from the house of Israel or from the alien residents that reside as aliens in Israel, that withdraws himself [na·zarʹ] from following me and that brings up his dungy idols upon his heart and that sets the very stumbling block causing his error in front of his face . . . I must cut him off from the midst of my people; and you people will have to know that I am Jehovah.”—Ezek. 14:7, 8.
19. (a) Does the dedication of those disloyal Israelites to the Baal of Peor involve any other dedication? (b) Instead of speaking of a separating of themselves to Baal of Peor, what does Numbers 25:3 definitely say?
19 Thus the very language indicates that those separatist Israelites were first in a covenant relationship with Jehovah God, into which relationship their forefathers had brought them by saying to the mediator Moses: “All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do and be obedient.” (Ex. 24:7; 19:8) But now, by forsaking the covenant and going over to idolatry, they were breaking their dedication to Jehovah and dedicating themselves to the thing idolized. Numbers 25:3, instead of speaking of Israel’s separating itself to Baal, says definitely: “So Israel attached itself [yoked himself, RS; AS; let himself be bound, Ro; joined himself, Yg;a Mo; Le; Je;b also Nu 25 verse 5] to the Baal of Peor.” This should be a warning to us today, if any of us have any relationship with Jehovah God. (1 Cor. 10:6, 11) We do not desire to commit the same fatal mistake. It would mean disloyalty to or rebellion against divine rulership.
LEADING THE WAY TO A NEW COVENANT
20. (a) Why was that first covenant not faultless, and so what did this allow for? (b) Through what prophet was the new covenant foretold, and what did Moses say about the better mediator?
20 The covenant that Jehovah made through Moses with the dedicated people of Israel was a “covenant to time indefinite.” That covenant entered into at Mount Sinai was not faultless, because of the imperfection of the Israelites and their mediator Moses. It allowed place, therefore, for a better covenant, a new covenant. Accordingly Jehovah God purposed a new covenant, and the privilege of entering into this second covenant was to be offered to the nation of natural Israel. More than six hundred years before this new covenant was inaugurated through a new mediator, Jehovah foretold it through the prophet Jeremiah in the seventh century before the coming of that better Mediator. (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:6-13) The coming of this better and greater Mediator was foretold by the prophet Moses, and he said that this coming mediator would be raised up from among the Israelites; he would be a natural Israelite.—Deut. 18:15-19; Acts 3:22, 23; 7:37, 38.
21. (a) When, where and with what announcement was this better mediator born? (b) Why did Jesus celebrate the Jewish Passover, and at his last celebration, what did he identify himself to be, and how?
21 In the year 2 B.C.E. that better Mediator was born, as a descendant of King David and in David’s city, Bethlehem. At the same time he was the Son of God, and at his birth the angel of God announced to the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem: “I am declaring to you good news of a great joy that all the people will have, because there was born to you today a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10, 11) Being born of a Jewish mother, this one who was to be “Christ the Lord” was a natural Jew and under the Law of the covenant that Moses had mediated between God and Israel. In confirmation of this we read, in Galatians 4:4: “But when the full limit of the time arrived, God sent forth his Son, who came to be out of a woman and who came to be under law.” Being under the law of the covenant with Israel, Jesus Christ celebrated the Passover supper. At his last celebration of the Passover, in 33 C.E., he pointed to himself as being the Mediator of the promised new covenant. How? He now set up what is called the Lord’s Supper, and when he handed out the cup of wine to his faithful apostles he said: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in your behalf.” (Luke 22:20) Jesus shed his own blood to validate that covenant.
22. (a) When did Jesus undertake to become the mediator of the new covenant? (b) Why did John at first object to baptizing Jesus?
22 However, like the prophet Moses, the Lord Jesus had to undertake to become that Mediator of the new covenant. When did he undertake to do this? At the time of his baptism in the Jordan River. At the age of thirty years he left his carpenter shop in Nazareth and went to John the Baptist to be immersed in water. This was a new kind of baptism for John to perform. Up till then, as we read in Mark 1:4, “John the baptizer turned up in the wilderness, preaching baptism in symbol of repentance for forgiveness of sins.” (Luke 3:3) But Jesus the Son of God did not come to John the Baptist to be baptized in symbol of repentance for forgiveness of sins. Jesus was perfect and sinless. (Heb. 7:26) He did not come to John with a bad conscience and seek to have a “request made to God for a good conscience.” (1 Pet. 3:21) John knew this, and that is why we read that John “tried to prevent him, saying: ‘I am the one needing to be baptized by you, and are you coming to me?’” What, though, did Jesus reply?
23. What did Jesus reply to John, and why did he speak of its being “suitable for us to carry out all that is righteous” even though he had kept the Law?
23 “In reply Jesus said to him: ‘Let it be, this time, for in that way it is suitable for us to carry out all that is righteous.’” (Matt. 3:13-15) What did Jesus mean by that? As a natural Jew, he had kept the law of the Mosaic covenant faultlessly. On this point he said later on in his Sermon on the Mount: “Do not think I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I came, not to destroy, but to fulfill.” (Matt. 5:17) Of course, the Law covenant with Israel was God’s will, but Jesus had been carrying out God’s will in that respect all through his earthly life down to his baptism. So Jesus’ words, “all that is righteous,” meant something that went beyond the Law covenant, but something that would be in fulfillment of the symbolic features of the Law covenant. This was “all that is righteous,” for it was God’s will for him to carry this out. So this is what he undertook to do at his baptism.
24. According to Hebrews 10:5-10, which particular one of the prophecies was Jesus fulfilling by presenting himself for baptism?
24 By presenting himself for baptism, Jesus really fulfilled the words of “the Prophets,” just as he said. The apostle Paul indicates which of the prophecies Jesus fulfilled, in Hebrews 10:5-10, where we read concerning Jesus at the time of his coming for baptism: “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.’ . . . By the said ‘will’ we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time.” Jesus was thus fulfilling Psalm 40:6-8. The “will” of God called for Jesus to sacrifice himself, his “body.”
25. (a) Of what, then, was Jesus’ water baptism a symbol? (b) How was Jesus already dedicated and redeemed?
25 Since the prophecy called for this, well, then, Jesus would have had a bad conscience if he did not come to do God’s special will and therefore present himself to John for baptism. It is evident that Jesus’ being baptized was symbolic. His baptism was not “in symbol of repentance for forgiveness of sins.” It was in symbol of Jesus’ coming or presenting himself to do God’s will, which divine “will” included the offering of Jesus’ body in sacrifice once for all time. As a natural Jew he was already under the Mosaic law and was a member of the only nation on earth then dedicated to God, to do “all that Jehovah has spoken.” Also, as the firstborn son of Mary, whose firstborn son her husband Joseph adopted as his own firstborn son, Jesus was sanctified to God and belonged to him. (Ex. 13:1, 2) For this reason Jesus had to be redeemed by Joseph and Mary in order to allow him to engage in secular work. (Num. 3:13-51; 18:14-16) So Jesus’ baptism pictured, not a dedication of himself to God, but the presentation of himself to do God’s will even to the point of sacrifice.
26. (a) How did God make manifest his acceptance of Jesus’ presentation of himself? (b) To what extent did Jesus in the flesh carry out that divine “will”?
26 Jehovah God made manifest that he accepted this presentation of his Son Jesus in that He poured out his holy spirit upon the baptized Jesus and let His voice be heard from heaven, saying: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matt. 3:16, 17) Thereafter John the Baptist announced the anointed Jesus as “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:28-36; Acts 10:37, 38) Jesus carried out God’s will to the very end of his days in the flesh on earth. During his last night on earth in his natural human body he prayed to God and said: “My Father, if it is not possible for this to pass away except I drink it, let your will take place.” (Matt. 26:39-44) On the following afternoon, about three o’clock, while Jesus was hanging on the torture stake, as John 19:30 tells us, “Jesus said: ‘It has been accomplished!’ and, bowing his head, he delivered up his spirit.” Thus, according to God’s will, Jesus’ body was offered up once for all time.
27. (a) What kind of resurrection did Jesus Christ have, and why? (b) How did he then come into possession of all mankind, with what in store for the dead?
27 In harmony with this sacrificial offering up of his perfect human body, Jesus Christ was raised from the dead on the third day, not in a body of blood and flesh, but in a spirit body. (1 Pet. 3:18; 1 Cor. 15:42-45) On the fortieth day from his resurrection, Jesus ascended to heaven and there presented to God the value or merit of his human sacrifice in behalf of all mankind. He had said on earth that he had come “to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matt. 20:28) The apostle Paul speaks of Jesus as “having suffered death, that he by God’s undeserved kindness might taste death for every man.” Paul also speaks of “a man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all.” (Heb. 2:9; 1 Tim. 2:5, 6) Thus Jesus Christ, by presenting to God the life value of his human sacrifice, ransomed all mankind, purchased them, even without their requesting him to do so. On this account, there will be, under his heavenly kingdom, a “resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) Jesus Christ owns them all.
28. (a) Thus the resurrected Jesus Christ became what with respect to mankind’s salvation? (b) Of what greater thing does he serve also as Chief Agent?
28 In this way, according to the divine “will,” Jesus Christ the Son of God became the Chief Agent of salvation to all mankind. This is what we are to understand from Hebrews 2:9, 10, which reads: “We behold Jesus, who has been made a little lower than angels, crowned with glory and honor for having suffered death, that he by God’s undeserved kindness might taste death for every man. For it was fitting for the one for whose sake all things are and through whom all things are, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Chief Agent of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” And in Hebrews 5:9, 10: “And after he had been made perfect he became responsible for everlasting salvation to all those obeying him, because he has been specifically called by God a high priest according to the manner of Melchizedek.” This one proved himself worthy to serve as the Chief Agent of Divine Rulership.
a Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible (1862).
b The Jerusalem Bible (1966).
[Picture on page 682]
Although the people of Israel really belonged to Jehovah, he did not force his covenant upon them but waited for them to indicate their desire in the matter