Encouraging Others to Endure
1. (a) What did Paul urge upon his Hebrew brothers? (b) How often is it good to encourage one another?
IT WAS only about nine short years before Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. that the apostle Paul wrote his dynamic letter to the Hebrew congregation of Christians in that city. In the previous article we considered what he said in Heb chapters one and two of that letter. In Heb chapter three of the letter to Christianized Hebrews Paul urged his Hebrew brothers to consider the apostle and high priest Jesus, who was faithful as a Son over the house of God. Christians have before them the opportunity to be of that household if they make fast their hold on their freeness of speech and their boasting over the hope firm to the end. That means endurance. Christians must avoid developing “a wicked heart lacking faith by drawing away from the living God,” but, rather, they must keep on exhorting and encouraging one another each day as long as it may be called “Today.”—Heb. 3:12, 13.
2. In chapter four of the book of Hebrews, how did Paul encourage his brothers?
2 In the Scriptures there are many fine words of counsel, many examples for us to consider. Paul reminded the Hebrew Christians there in Jerusalem of some of these examples for their encouragement. He told how God became disgusted with ancient Israel and did not let most of the older Hebrews who came out of Egypt enter the Promised Land. Why not? Because, lacking faith, they acted disobediently. Now, we do not want similarly to fall short of gaining the promise. The good news has been declared to us, and if we exercise our faith we can be sure of entering into ‘God’s rest.’ So we exhort one another and encourage one another not to fall into the same pattern of disobedience as those who came out of Egypt did. We should always have high appreciation for the good news declared to us and keep our faith strong. Let the Word of God exert its power in our lives. “For the word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and their marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.”—Heb. 4:1-5, 11, 12.
3. What circumstances might have become a snare to the Hebrew Christians?
3 Those Hebrew Christians of the first century lived in the midst of great crowds of Jews who practiced the traditional rabbinical religion, and who attempted to follow the law covenant despite the fact that it had ended. Christians were in the minority and so were unpopular, persecuted and hated. But they could not begin to think of returning to Judaism to avoid the hatred and persecution, nor could they allow themselves to be attracted to the social festivities connected with the synagogues. They had to have sound knowledge and understanding of how Christ fulfilled the Law, in order to keep from falling back to Judaism and the offering of animal sacrifices, all of which by now was nothing more than empty, ineffective ritual in God’s sight.
4. What are some of the doctrines that Paul included in his letter to build up the Hebrews?
4 Under these conditions, who was better able to understand the pressure and persecution to which Jewish Christians there in Jerusalem were exposed than the apostle Paul? Who was better equipped to supply them with powerful arguments in refutation of the Jewish tradition than Paul, a former Pharisee? With his knowledge of the Mosaic law learned at the feet of Gamaliel, he was able to present uncontestable proof that Christ is the fulfillment of the Law, along with its ordinances and sacrifices, and that the former arrangement had now been replaced by far more glorious realities. All the strikingly brilliant new teachings about the Christ were here presented to the Jewish converts with such abundant proof from the Hebrew Scriptures that no reasonable person could fail to be convinced and built up spiritually. The letter to the Hebrews shows Paul’s deep love for his brothers and his burning desire to help them in a practical way in their time of great spiritual need.
SUPERIORITY OF THE NEW OVER THE OLD
5. How did he stress the superiority of the new Christian arrangement?
5 A consideration of this letter to the Hebrews shows how Paul stressed the superiority of the new arrangement that God had made for his people. Under this new system of things Jesus Christ became the high priest forever, one who does not need any successors, as the high priests did in the ancient Levitic days. He does not need daily to offer up sacrifices for his own sins and then for the people’s sins as those high priests did. He was able to make one sacrifice for the people’s sins perpetually, and then sat down at the right hand of God.—Heb. 6:20; 7:11-28; 8:1; 9:6-28.
6. Why was the new covenant so superior to the law covenant?
6 Now a new covenant has come into operation that does things that the law covenant could never do. The law covenant kept reminding men of their sins, requiring that they continually offer up sacrifices. And yet, it could never open the way for man to receive everlasting life. Paul quoted from Jeremiah’s prophecy concerning a new covenant that Jehovah would make: “‘This is the covenant that I shall covenant toward them after those days,’ says Jehovah. ‘I will put my laws in their hearts, and in their minds I shall write them.’” And he continued quoting: “I shall by no means call their sins and their lawless deeds to mind anymore.” “Now where there is forgiveness of these,” Paul reasons, “there is no longer an offering for sin.” (Heb. 10:16-18; 8:7-13; Jer. 31:31-33) So the new is vastly superior to the old in many ways.
7. (a) How did Paul stress the importance of having faith? (b) How did the example of Jesus demonstrate the relationship of faith and endurance?
7 In Heb chapter 11 of Paul’s letter to the Hebrews faith was stressed as absolutely necessary, for without it it is impossible to please God. The Christianized Hebrews knew about their forefathers, the faithful men of old. So Paul was able to use the experiences of Abraham and those other men of faith as a means of encouragement. Those devoted men of God demonstrated the absolute necessity of maintaining strong faith under many tests. Then in Heb chapter 12 Paul capped his argument off with reference to the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, saying: “So, then, because we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also put off every weight and the sin that easily entangles us, and 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. For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 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) The faithful endurance of Christ is our example to copy. He endured contrary talk and pain because he could by faith see, beyond the experience of death, the joy ahead. If our faith is strong, so that we visualize the New Order ahead of us, we too should be able to endure. By thus keeping a spiritual spotlight on the superiority of Christ’s example and on the Christian arrangement, Paul was able to exhort his fellow servants of God to maintain a high appreciation of sacred things.
ENCOURAGED TO APPRECIATE SACRED THINGS
8. How do sanctification and appreciation of sacred things relate to endurance?
8 He showed too the importance of sanctification and cleanness, tying them all together, thus: “Pursue peace with all people, and the sanctification without which no man will see the Lord, carefully watching that no one may be deprived of the undeserved kindness of God; that no poisonous root may spring up and cause trouble and that many may not be defiled by it; that there may be no fornicator nor anyone not appreciating sacred things, like Esau, who in exchange for one meal gave away his rights as firstborn. For you know that afterward also when he wanted to inherit the blessing he was rejected, for, although he earnestly sought a change of [his father’s] mind with tears, he found no place for it.” (Heb. 12:14-17) Yes, Esau could not hold appreciation of sacred things even under the slight pressure of feeling hungry. He did not have the faith required to visualize the joy that was to come to the faithful ones. He failed to endure so small a test. In these “last days” food shortages will occur and we too may sometime feel hungry. But that is no reason to give up our blessed position as God’s servants. Jehovah will help us through all our trials, be they small or large. (Matt. 4:1-11) Jesus is our great example in this regard.
9. What is one of the best ways to help ourselves and others to appreciate spiritual things and the need to endure?
9 As a cure for those who may become dull in their hearing and who slip into inactivity, Paul recommends: “Let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that promised. And let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.” (Heb. 10:23-25) By this we are impressed with the importance of both attending meetings and regularly participating in meetings, in order to maintain our appreciation of spiritual things. Those who have become weak or dull in their hearing can be renewed or incited to love and fine works by our bringing them to Christian meetings. There is really no substitute for this provision of God.
10. (a) Why should we be encouraging one another now? (b) What quality moves one to encourage one’s brothers?
10 Paul told us to be encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near. Now that we have reached this stage in history when the end of Satan’s rule is near at hand, it becomes imperative to keep on encouraging one another. While most of the true Christians today may not have come out of the Jewish religious system that opposed and persecuted early Christians, nevertheless, we are surrounded by temptations and are under the pressure of persecution and hatred from many other sources. We have come out of Babylon the Great, which still appears to be materially prosperous in some places, but we certainly do not wish to return to her evil practices. Peter warned against such a thing as that. (2 Pet. 2:21, 22) Now is a time to maintain high appreciation for the sacred things we have learned about. Because of the love existing in the Christian congregation, all desire to see their brothers and sisters endure and continue in the way that leads to everlasting life. Therefore, it is a time for exhorting and encouraging one another. Each one of us can remember what the apostle Paul did to encourage and help his brothers. He emphasized for them the superiority of this new and better arrangement that God has made for his people. Therefore, there should be no inclination on our part to drift away to the world and its religious systems.
11. How do we benefit by the spiritual things Paul wrote to the Hebrews?
11 We too can benefit from what Paul told the Hebrews, reminding ourselves about the great provision Jehovah made through the everlasting priesthood, the benefits of the new covenant, and the taking away of sins forever through the one sacrifice of Christ. Although we may have heard these things many times, they are not something common or ordinary. They are absolutely superior. Repetition of the truth is upbuilding. There are many excellent opportunities to speak of the spiritual benefits we all enjoy as Jehovah’s dedicated servants in these “last days.” By reminding one another of these all-important things we shall be helping one another to keep from slowly drifting away.
12. (a) Why is knowing how to gain everlasting life so special now? (b) What are some of the other things comparatively few people have now?
12 What are some of the spiritual benefits that we as Jehovah’s Christian witnesses can speak about to one another? They are very numerous. We can start by saying we know how to get life; we appreciate the ransom sacrifice of Christ. (Rom. 6:23) Think of those who are still practicing Judaism and still waiting for a Messiah, or think of those who are pagan, knowing little or nothing about Christ and the hope of life. (1 Cor. 1:18, 23) Or, think of Christendom, which is all mixed up with many false theories and philosophies and is not taking the course that leads to salvation by Christ. (Compare Matthew 15:1-9.) In contrast, Jehovah’s servants have been set free from the traditions of Babylon the Great. (John 8:31, 32) We do not live with fear of suffering in purgatory or hellfire. We know that the dead sleep. We have the wonderful resurrection hope. (John 5:28, 29; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Rev. 20:4-13) We are not confused by any false Trinity teaching. We have been made free from superstitions—not relying upon charms, images, idols, not having to crawl upon our knees up the sides of mountains or to altars in religious ceremonies. We do not suffer from spiritual neglect by the false shepherds in Christendom nor are we oppressed by her clergy. (1 Cor. 10:14; Matt. 9:36; Luke 22:25, 26; 2 Cor. 1:24) These truths are something special that comparatively few people understand.
13. How do those who serve Jehovah find protection against demonism?
13 Think of how Jehovah has opened up the minds and understanding of his people to appreciate the dangers of demonism in its many manifestations, such as astrology and fortune-telling, and how he provides protection against it. (Deut. 18:10-12; 1 Cor. 10:21; Gal. 5:19, 20; 1 Tim. 4:1; Rev. 18:4, 23) Though others are afraid, we do not have to fear spiritism.—Num. 23:21, 23; Prov. 18:10.
14, 15. At this time in world history, what are some advantages God’s servants have?
14 World conditions are growing worse from day to day. Men become faint out of fear of what is coming. Among all people Jehovah’s Christian witnesses alone have a real hope for the future. These Christians have loving brothers who comfort and build them up; when one is in need, others are there to help. Especially when Babylon the Great is destroyed amid great violence it will be a time for these faithful Christians to comfort and aid one another and watch Jehovah’s salvation. There will indeed be many blessings by being in the ranks of Jehovah’s people then.—Luke 21:26; 1 Thess. 5:12-15; Rev. 17:15-18; 19:1.
15 We know why wickedness has been allowed. We understand the meaning of the “last days” and we need not be involved in the world’s politics and confusion. True Christians do not become embroiled in the strikes, riots, insurrections and lawlessness of these “last days.” All of this is a protection for us.—Ex. 9:15, 16; Job 1:6–2:10; John 6:15; 17:16; Rom. 13:1-9.
16. What are some of the things in which we personally benefit because of knowing and living by God’s Word?
16 Personally Jehovah’s witnesses have many benefits. Because we do not experience the anxieties of those in this old system of things who have no hope, we can avoid many afflictions. Anxiety is one of the chief causes of heart disease. By following Jehovah’s laws on morality we avoid the venereal diseases of the world, which are spreading so fast in these “last days.” We keep ourselves clean from the tobacco habit, and this is a protection against cancer, which afflicts so many now. We do not become drunkards and thus are not afflicted with the destructive effect of alcoholism on the mind and body. We do not suffer the unhappiness that gambling losses bring. Worldly holidays cause many people to go into debt in showing the “holiday spirit,” and thereafter they spend many, many months trying to settle these debts. In contrast, knowledge of the truth from God’s Word makes us happy, and it is said that a happy heart is good medicine. There is also much happiness in giving the truth to others. So many benefits there are, in every way!—Phil. 4:6, 7; Gal. 5:19-23; Prov. 4:20-22; Matt. 5:3-12; Acts 20:35.
17. By keeping God’s laws, what benefits come to Christian families?
17 A great number of worldly families today have been broken up because of failure to respect the laws of Jehovah. But Jehovah’s teaching has helped us to attain family unity. Following the Scriptures, children properly instructed by their parents in Christian activities are protected from the harmful effects of delinquency and addiction to narcotics that are so prevalent today and that result in so much distress and unhappiness.—Eph. 6:1-4; Prov. 3:1, 2.
18. With scriptures, show the superiority of Christian companionship over worldly companionship.
18 Our association together in the Christian congregation and companionship with our brothers is a great blessing, for it is a real pleasure to be around those who are producing the fruitage of the spirit. Thus, we do not become involved with the works of the flesh, which are so detrimental.—Prov. 17:17; Gal. 5:22-26; 1 Cor. 15:33.
19. (a) Can you think of more reasons to be thankful to Jehovah? What are some of them? (b) How can we endure to the end?
19 It would be possible to go on and on spending many hours reviewing the blessings Jehovah’s arrangement provides for his servants. Who but Jehovah’s servants can see what God’s kingdom means since the King Jesus Christ began to rule in the heavens in 1914 C.E.? (Ps. 2:4-6; 110:1, 4; Dan. 2:44; 7:13, 14; Matt. 11:25-27; 13:44; Rev. 11:15-17; 19:11-21) Who else understands how, under that Kingdom rule, Jehovah will make this earth a paradise in which man will live forever? (Rev. 21:1-5; Ps. 37:9-11, 29; Eccl. 1:4; Isa. 65:17-23; Ezek. 34:25-27; Luke 23:42, 43) As you read God’s Word, keep thinking on all the ways Jehovah has provided what we need, and never fail to thank Jehovah. (Rom. 8:28) It is this sort of appreciation of the good things of Jehovah and this thinking on his many blessings that build up and encourage. These are the things for us to talk about. (Acts 14:21, 22; 1 Cor. 14:3) This is how we can help one another to maintain our spirituality. Even though tests may come, we have been given so many provisions by Jehovah to help us to endure. (Jas. 1:12) As individuals and congregations we have fortified our faith so we are in an excellent position to endure to the end, as we resist the temptations and evil influences of these “last days” and share in the proclamation of the good news. Hence let our determination be the same as expressed by the apostle Paul: “Now we are not the sort that shrink back to destruction, but the sort that have faith to the preserving alive of the soul.”—Heb. 10:39.
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By commenting in meetings we encourage and exhort one another to endure
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Are the things that we talk about really those matters that bring spiritual benefits?