Appreciating the Salvation of Our God
1, 2. What big mistake is made by so many of mankind, and with what result?
DOES God owe us something? Many people act as though he does. They view life as something to be used merely for gain and selfish pleasure. But they get no real satisfaction out of life. This is because they violate the first and second commandments as stated by Jesus Christ: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah, and you must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength.’ The second is this, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’”—Mark 12:29-31.
2 Very few of mankind are interested in obeying these commands today. They are like the rich man in one of Jesus’ parables who said: “Soul, you have many good things laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, enjoy yourself.” But that man lost his soul that same night. (Luke 12:16-21) So it is today. Those who fail to become rich toward God, but who, rather, make their own materialistic paradise in this system of things, are due to lose all during the “great tribulation” that is about to sweep in upon the earth. Their interests are material, physical—not spiritual.—Matt. 24:21, 22; Jer. 25:31-36; Jas. 5:1-5.
3. Contrast the outlook of the “physical man” with that of the “spiritual man.”
3 How shortsighted is this “physical man”! The things of the spirit of God are foolishness to him, so that he cannot see beyond a lifetime of seventy or eighty years, at most. But the “spiritual man” can see into eternity. Even ‘spiritual men’ who have material possessions are counseled “to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be liberal, ready to share, safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, in order that they may get a firm hold on the real life.” “Fine works” are required of all of us who seek “the real life.” In the mirror of God’s perfect law we can see how far we measure up to the requirements for everlasting life. “He who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and who persists in it, this man, because he has become, not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, will be happy in his doing it.”—1 Cor. 2:14, 15; 1 Tim. 6:18, 19; Jas. 1:25.
4. What is necessary, if we are to search out the wisdom of God?
4 Speaking of the salvation that comes first to the Jews, and then to the nations, Paul declares: “O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments are and past tracing out his ways are!” (Rom. 11:33) Does this mean that God’s wisdom is so deep that we may never understand his ways? Far from it! But we must come to God’s Word with the right mental and heart attitude. We would not expect the Bible to read like a worldly novel, the purpose of which is merely to entertain. The Bible requires study, with a right motive. In Jesus’ day there were some who came to him with wrong motives, seeking some selfish advantage or some loophole to entrap him. (John 6:26, 27; Luke 20:20-26) However, it was only to those who sought him humbly from a pure heart that Jesus granted understanding of the deeper spiritual things of God’s Word. (Matt. 13:10-15; Luke 13:23, 24) It is urgent that we, too, gain heart appreciation of Bible teachings, which are so different from worldly philosophies.
“SIN” AND “RANSOM”
5. (a) What is the Scriptural viewpoint of “sin”? (b) How is release from sin an undeserved kindness?
5 For example, take the matter of “sin.” We may live in a permissive or other kind of society that does not appreciate what “sin” means. But “sin” has existed ever since the rebellion in Eden. It is a missing of the mark of perfection, or falling short of the righteousness of God. (Rom. 3:23, 24) We inherited sin from our disobedient ancestor Adam, and so all of us are sinners. In ancient times, it took God’s law given through Moses to identify clearly what sin is, even though death resulting from sin had been ruling as king over mankind for thousands of years. That law also clearly demonstrated that man in himself can find no release from sin. Today, also, we should be deeply aware of sin and its consequences. (Rom. 5:12-14; 7:7, 21-25) How unworthy we are in ourselves of release from sin and its effects! What undeserved kindness, then, is shown by God in providing the release from sin, on the basis of his Son’s perfect sacrifice!—Eph. 2:4-8.
6. (a) What is the basis for release from sin? (b) Who are the ones that will not find it difficult to understand the ransom?
6 This leads on to the Bible teaching of the “ransom.” Release from sin comes on the basis of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. Is this matter of the “ransom” so difficult that we may not gain understanding of it, even to the point of being able to explain it clearly to others? Never may that be said! In fact, the Bible doctrine of the ransom, when properly understood, is enthralling, faith-inspiring! If we were to subscribe to the teachings of Christendom’s clergy, who describe Jesus as “God incarnate” and hence as a kind of half-God, half-man, or if we were absorbed in the Oriental philosophy that man’s goal should be the oblivion of nirvana, we might find the ransom difficult to comprehend. But if we are pursuing “righteousness, faith, love, peace, along with those who call upon the Lord out of a clean heart,” then it will not be too difficult to understand and rejoice in Jehovah’s marvelous provision of the ransom.—2 Tim. 2:22.
7. How may “ransom” be defined?
7 As a perfect man—nothing more, nothing less—and the exact counterpart of the once-perfect Adam, Jesus could give “himself a corresponding ransom for all,” that is, for all of sinner Adam’s imperfect offspring. (1 Tim. 2:5, 6) The Greek word antiʹly·tron, used only at this one place in the Scriptures, is defined thus: “a ransom, price of redemption, or rather a correspondent ransom. ‘It properly signifies a price by which captives are redeemed from the enemy; and that kind of exchange in which the life of one is redeemed by the life of another.’ So Aristotle uses the verb antilytróo for redeeming life by life.”a Yes, even proud Aristotle understood the idea of “ransom.” But had he lived four centuries later, his philosophies—embracing triune gods, evolution and the soul’s immortality—would no doubt have prevented him from appreciating the significance of Jesus’ ransom.b
8. How, and in what order, are all to be “made alive”?
8 The soul of sinful man is not immortal! It has no life right. The Bible teaching is plain: “The soul that is sinning—it itself will die.” (Ezek. 18:4, 20; Matt. 10:28) Yes, the soul of sinful man dies, but the Bible presents a marvelous hope: “For just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive. But each one in his own rank: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who belong to the Christ during his presence.” Just as surely as Christ rose from the dead, so now, at the time of his invisible presence, the small band of his anointed followers are “made alive” with him. (1 Cor. 15:20-23) In due order, too, others of mankind who exercise faith may expect to be set free “from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.”—Rom. 8:21.
9. In what way do Jesus’ followers contrast with Adam’s family?
9 This teaching of the ransom brings to our attention two families—the family of Adam and the family of Jesus Christ. Both families are described as being “many.” (Rom. 5:15) There is no special requirement for becoming one of Adam’s sinful family. All are born into it by the natural procreative process. But, concerning what Jesus did, it is written: “For even the Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Mark 10:45; Matt. 20:28) How “many”? As we have already seen, he gave himself “a corresponding ransom for all.” He tasted death “for every man.” (1 Tim. 2:5, 6; Heb. 2:9) During the past six thousand years, Adam’s family has multiplied into the billions. Christ purchased them all. But to enjoy an approved standing with God they had to exercise faith in Jesus Christ as the one through whom God has made eternal life available to them. (John 3:16, 36) It is written of Jesus’ followers: “As many as did receive him, to them he gave authority to become God’s children, because they were exercising faith in his [Jesus’] name; and they were born, not from blood or from a fleshly will or from man’s will, but from God.”—John 1:12, 13.
10. Why did Jesus not raise a natural family?
10 It is likewise with those who, through the sin-atoning value of Jesus’ sacrifice, gain eternal life in Jesus’ family on earth. They, too, must exercise faith in Jesus’ blood, which is the basis for their redemption from sin and death. (Heb. 9:12, 28; Rom. 5:8-11) As a perfect man, Jesus might have married and raised his own family, and what a talented, outstanding family that could have been! But was that what Jesus wanted? Was that Jehovah’s purpose in sending Jesus to earth? Jesus was concerned with doing his Father’s will, which involved issues far more important than starting a new family of his own. (John 5:30; 6:37-40) Above all, Jesus was interested in seeing Jehovah’s holy name and purpose vindicated in connection with the original human family. For ‘God had rested from his creative works in confidence that his grand purpose of filling a paradise earth with righteous descendants of Adam would be accomplished by the end of his seven-thousand-year-long ‘rest day.’—Gen. 2:1-3; 1:27, 28.
11. (a) How does Jesus become the “Eternal Father”? (b) Whom does God first adopt as spiritual sons?
11 Man as a creation of God had been perfect, and there was a way by which perfection could be restored. So why should a new human family be started? What was required, rather, was the sacrifice of the perfect Jesus, so that the God-loving, obedient ones among Adam’s offspring could be transferred over, adopted as it were, into Jesus’ family, with him as its “Eternal Father” by virtue of the ransom. (Isa. 9:6) But first in God’s purpose, a “firstfruits,” a small number from Adam’s family, would, on the basis of their faith in Jesus’ sacrifice, be adopted as spiritual sons, to share with Jesus by a spiritual resurrection in his heavenly kingdom over the human family.—Rom. 8:23; Jas. 1:18.
12. (a) What does the ransom make possible for mankind? (b) How should we react to the provision of the ransom?
12 The ransom opens the way for incomparable blessings for mankind in general—paradise restored earth wide, the survival of many lovers of righteousness into that paradise, the resurrection of the billions of human dead and the removal of sickness, sin and death. It makes possible peace, contentment and harmony for all of Jehovah’s creation. (Ps. 37:10, 11; 72:7, 8; John 5:28, 29; Isa. 33:24) How the contemplation of these glories to come makes us glow with appreciation for the marvelous love and undeserved kindness of Jehovah as expressed through his Son! Truly this is “undeserved kindness upon undeserved kindness”! (John 1:14, 16, 17) No wonder that Jesus’ disciples wrote so appreciatively of the ransom! (Rom. 3:21-26; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19; 1 John 1:7; Jude 20, 21) Does not your own heart well up in thankfulness for God’s great love in providing the ransom and all that results from it?—Rom. 8:38, 39; Isa. 65:17, 18.
SHOWING OUR GRATITUDE
13, 14. (a) Appreciation of the ransom should make us abound in what? (b) What should discourage us from ever practicing sin?
13 To his fellow believers the apostle Paul wrote: “And this is what I continue praying, that your love may abound yet more and more with accurate knowledge and full discernment; that you may make sure of the more important things, so that you may be flawless and not be stumbling others up to the day of Christ, and may be filled with righteous fruit, which is through Jesus Christ, to God’s glory and praise.” (Phil. 1:9-11) If appreciation of the ransom moves us to abound more and more in love, it should also cause us to abound in hating what is bad.
14 God provides for forgiveness of sin on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice, but this does not give us a license to sin. It is true, as stated at 1 John 2:1, that if, on account of inherited imperfection, “anyone does commit a sin, we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one.” Ah, but do we receive such help if we willfully take liberties in committing sin? Can we expect the sin-atoning value of Jesus’ sacrifice to apply to us if we harden ourselves in sinful ways? First John 3:2, 6, 8 tells us: “Beloved ones, now we are children of God . . . Everyone remaining in union with him does not practice sin; no one that practices sin has either seen him or come to know him. He who carries on sin originates with the Devil, because the Devil has been sinning from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was made manifest, namely, to break up the works of the Devil.” This He does through his loving provision of the ransom. Surely no one that appreciates that marvelous provision by Christ would ever want to embark on a practice of sin!
15. Why is it unwise to indulge in sin with the idea that Jesus’ sacrifice will bring forgiveness?
15 Someone might think that ‘sailing close to the wind,’ or getting some fringe pleasure without plunging fully into sin, is not so bad. Or another might think, ‘Just once and no more, and Jesus’ sacrifice will bring me forgiveness.’ But is that sound reasoning? It is a start to cultivating a taste for works of the flesh, the reverse of cultivating the fruitage of the spirit, and the Bible clearly warns “that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.” (Gal. 5:19-24) It is so easy to fall into wrong practices! Resist enticement, out of a pure heart. (Matt. 5:8) When faced with temptation to do wrong, we should be moved to say: ‘No. I’ll have no part of it. After what God and Christ have done for us in providing the ransom, how could I ever do a thing like that that would show such lack of appreciation?’ In contemplation of the ransom, may we always say from the heart: “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, and see also Heb 10 verse 29.
16. How may we avoid ‘shrinking back’ into sin?
16 Rather than “shrink back” into sin and lack of faith, may we grow ever closer to our God. This means growing closer to our brothers, too. We should love our brothers from the heart. “Everyone who does not carry on righteousness does not originate with God, neither does he who does not love his brother. For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should have love for one another.” (1 John 3:10, 11) How do we show this love for one another? By spending time with one another—before meetings, after meetings and at other opportunities. (Ps. 133:1; Rom. 12:9, 10) Yes, by taking an interest in one another, by building one another up in love, by rejoicing to share with one another the fine spiritual blessings provided by Jehovah through the Lord Jesus Christ.—1 Thess. 5:11-13.
A POSITIVE APPRECIATION
17. (a) What positive expression of our faith may be made? (b) What does this often involve?
17 The ransom should motivate us to positive acts, works of faith that reflect our heartfelt thanks for all that Jehovah and Christ have done for us. Thus we may be assured of being among those mentioned at Psalm 11:7: “For Jehovah is righteous; he does love righteous acts. The upright are the ones that will behold his face.” Today there are more than one and a half million of Jehovah’s witnesses throughout the earth who are performing righteous acts on behalf of others of honest heart. Their ministry includes calling at others’ homes, freely teaching them the Bible and showing them the way to the everlasting life that may be gained only through accurate knowledge concerning God, Christ and the ransom provision. (John 17:3; 14:6) All this ministry is performed voluntarily and without thought of material reward. Often, too, it involves keeping integrity in the face of unkind and even cruel opposition.—Matt. 10:28-39.
18. How did a five-year-old show appreciation of Jehovah’s provision?
18 Take, for example, this five-year-old girl: Her mother taught her faithfully, so that she developed a deep love for Jehovah and his Son. But her unbelieving father sent her to a Buddhist kindergarten. Here her Christian beliefs were put to a severe test. She declined to adore the Buddha as she entered the school gate. In class, she refused to bow to Buddha’s image. Her teacher frequently scolded her. But there was worship of the right kind that she could do, even in that kindergarten. Before her midday meal, she daily bowed her little head in silent prayer to Jehovah through Christ. The teacher was angry at this, too, and tried to stop her, but in vain! Finally, when the teacher failed to have her take part in a Buddhist festival, she asked the girl, “Is this because your mother told you not to?” The tot replied, “No, it is because it would not be pleasing to Jehovah God.” Truly, a fine expression of faith that is based on the ransom!
19. (a) How does Jehovah bless those who seek him out of a pure heart? (b) How did an elderly person show appreciation of such blessing?
19 Jehovah’s ransom provision makes possible eternal life for people of all kinds. By his angels he is gathering those who show an earnest desire to learn and to do his will. (Rev. 14:6, 7) The following letter was received by a branch office of the Watch Tower Society: “I am sixty-eight years old and totally blind. I have lived for long years in a hospital, with no one to depend on. At last, in November 1970, I lost the will to live and resigned myself to die. Then, one morning, I paused by the Shinto shrine in the porch, and uttered this prayer: ‘May it be granted to me just once, before I die, that I get to meet the true God, who is not the kind of god that is in this shrine.’ Even while I was still praying I was startled to hear a voice at the door. To my surprise, the person said, ‘I am proclaiming good news as a witness of the true God, Jehovah.’ I immediately asked the person in, and eagerly listened to all that was said. From that day, I have never missed a meeting of the local Witnesses. In May 1971, I myself became a house-to-house preacher, and on December 4 of the same year, I symbolized my dedication by water baptism at a circuit assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses. From the 25th of that same month I entered the temporary pioneer ministry. In all the past sixty-eight years of my life, including twenty-eight years that I had the use of my eyes, never have my days been filled with such hope and joy.” In tangible expression of her joy, this dear Christian sister enclosed with her letter a generous donation toward the theocratic expansion building program in her country.
20. How does Jehovah “come and save” his people?
20 Truly Jehovah has fulfilled his promise to “come and save” his people. He has saved them from religious Babylon the Great and brought them into friendly relationship with him, yes, into a spiritual paradise. One’s being in this spiritual paradise means unnumbered blessings for ransomed believers. “At that time the eyes of the [spiritually] blind ones will be opened, and the very ears of the [spiritually] deaf ones will be unstopped. At that time the [spiritually] lame one will climb up just as a stag does, and the tongue of the [spiritually] speechless one will cry out in gladness.” Even in our own day the prophecy is fulfilled: “And there will certainly come to be a highway there, even a way [out of Babylon the Great]; and the Way of Holiness it will be called. The unclean one will not pass over it. And it will be for the one walking on the way, and no foolish ones will wander about on it.” Entry onto this highway is free to all who exercise true wisdom by humbly learning of Jehovah’s requirements and accepting his provision for life through Christ. “And the very ones redeemed by Jehovah [from bondage in Babylon the Great] will return and certainly come to Zion [God’s Messianic kingdom] with a joyful cry; and rejoicing to time indefinite will be upon their head. To exultation and rejoicing they will attain, and grief and sighing must flee away.”—Isa. 35:4-6, 8, 10.
21. What hope do we have, and how should it affect us?
21 Those spiritual miracles will soon be duplicated! When? Under God’s coming kingdom of a thousand years through his Son Jesus Christ. Even when on earth nineteen hundred years ago, Jesus Christ performed literal miracles of those kinds. As King he will do such things again, in the restored literal earthly paradise. (Luke 23:43) What a joyful hope! And prophecy now being fulfilled shows that we stand on the very threshold of this time of exultation. Surely now is the time of all times to exert ourselves vigorously, that we may indeed walk in friendship with the God of salvation—right on through the “great tribulation” and into the eternal blessings that lie beyond.—Luke 13:24.
a Parkhurst’s A Greek and English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 47.
b “In the Fourth Century B.C. Aristotle wrote: ‘All things are three, and thrice is all: and let us use this number in the worship of the gods; for, as the Pythagoreans say, everything and all things are bound by threes, for the end, the middle, and the beginning have this number in everything, and these compose the number of the Trinity.’”—Arthur Weigall, in his book The Paganism in Our Christianity, p. 198.
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God has provided release from sin on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ