Sowing Seeds of Good News in a War-plagued World
“This hope you heard of before by the telling of the truth of that good news which has presented itself to you, even as it is bearing fruit and increasing in all the world.”—Col. 1:5, 6.
1. What two kinds of seeds are being sown world wide, and by whom?
TWO KINDS of seeds are being sown world wide today—the seed of good news of a lasting peace and the seed of war propaganda. The latter seed is being sown by the majority, the first-mentioned seed by the minority.
2. (a) What law works out regarding what is sown, not only in the field of agriculture, but also in international affairs? (b) What rule as stated by Paul holds true with regard to sowing seeds of good news?
2 The armed nations are occupied with sowing the seed of war preparedness. Both in the field of agriculture and in the field of international relations it always works out that what is sown reproduces itself, produces its own kind. This has been true ever since the first man took up farming. (Gen. 3:17-19; 4:1, 2; 1:11, 12; 9:20) This law also operates relentlessly in the lives of nations. The divine prophecy has been true of many nations, and not just of ancient Israel: “It is wind that they keep sowing, and a stormwind is what they will reap.” (Hos. 8:7) Since the majority of men are engaged in sowing the seed of war preparedness, what about the seed of peaceful good news? Can it thrive and produce fruit and increase? Yes, for time and again it has been demonstrated to be an infallible rule that “whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” (Gal. 6:7) Man’s Creator fixed it that way.
3. (a) When did this work of sowing the peaceful seed of the good news get started? (b) What decision on sowing do we have to make in this war-plagued twentieth century?
3 Today those who are sowing the seed of the good news of lasting peace are really carrying on a work that started nineteen centuries ago. They are now carrying on this work upon such a scale that it cannot help but be observed by all the world. What was experienced by the seed sowers back there in the first century of our Common Era is being experienced by the seed sowers of today in this war-plagued twentieth century. Lovers of a lasting peace on earth ought to be interested. But we all have to decide on whether we care to be sowers of war propaganda or sowers of the peaceful good news. Our decision will determine the consequences to us.
4, 5. (a) Back there in the sixties of the first century C.E., what religiously shocking disaster was in the making? (b) In view of such a disaster, what was the thing mentioned by Jesus that would bring comfort to the Jew who accepted it?
4 During the sixties of the first century C.E., the air was electric with heated feeling against the Roman Empire. This was particularly so in the Middle East in the Roman province of Judea. Rebellion was brewing against the occupancy and domination of that land by the Roman armies under a pagan Roman administrator. The violent end of the sacred city of Jerusalem was drawing near. That city as a center of Jewish worship was in its time of the end. The generation of Jews whom Jesus Christ himself addressed during his public ministry on earth was the one that he said would not pass away until Jerusalem and its gorgeous temple were destroyed. (Matt. 24:34, 1-22) History records that this terrible destruction came in the mournful year of 70 C.E. Was there anything that could keep Jews from being overwhelmingly grieved at such a religiously shocking destruction? Yes, there was! There was just one thing that could comfort a Jewish heart, provided that the Jewish heart would accept it. What was that? Jesus Christ mentioned it when giving his marvelous prophecy upon the conclusion of the Jewish system of things over there in the Middle East. This cheering, heartwarming thing he spoke of after telling of the persecutions that would come upon his faithful disciples. He said:
5 “But he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved. And 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. 24:13, 14.
6. What kind of news was it that Jesus proclaimed, and about what government did it tell?
6 The calamitous destruction of Jerusalem and her temple was heartbreaking news to the Jews around the world who still looked to that earthly city as their religious center. It was for them the worst of news. But the information that Jesus Christ proclaimed throughout his earthly ministry was GOOD NEWS, gospel, evangel! But good news of what kingdom? It was not the kingdom that Jesus Christ said would rise against kingdom at the same time that nation would rise against nation, to be accompanied by famines, pestilences and earthquakes in one place after another. It was the only kingdom that Jesus advocated and proclaimed. It was the one that he mentioned in this selfsame prophecy, calling it “the kingdom of the heavens.” (Matt. 24:7; 25:1) He foretold the signs of its nearness, saying in this very prophecy: “In this way you also, when you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near.”—Luke 21:10, 31.
7. (a) Before Jerusalem’s destruction, what was to be accomplished by Christ’s disciples? (b) Why was Jerusalem’s destruction no shock to the Christians, leaving them hopeless?
7 So, then, even before the destruction of earthly Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E., because of her rebellion against the Roman Empire, “this good news” of God’s kingdom, of the kingdom of the heavens, was to be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, nations inside and outside the Roman Empire. With what effect? Well, when the Roman legions wrecked Jerusalem and her temple, this would not shock the Christian believers in God, even the Christianized Jews. These were actually expecting that destruction. The Christianized Jews in Jerusalem and in all the rest of the province of Judea acted upon the advice given in Jesus’ prophecy; they fled from Judea and Jerusalem as quickly as they could after the temporary surrounding of Jerusalem by Roman armies in the year of Jewish revolt, 66 C.E. (Matt. 24:15-22; Luke 21:20-24; Mark 13:14-20) They knew that the desolating of Judea and Jerusalem did not mean the destruction of the “kingdom of the heavens,” “the kingdom of God.” No earthly city represented God’s kingdom to them any longer. They rested their hope in God’s heavenly kingdom that was to come, in which they were to share.
8. (a) The Christians were filled with more confidence in what government, and how was this shown down to the end of the first century? (b) For whom was a pattern of activity thus set?
8 Jerusalem’s destruction filled them with more confidence than ever in the true Messianic kingdom of God. The evidence is that they continued to proclaim the good news of that kingdom to the very end of the first century, in spite of bitter persecution by the Roman Empire. The Christian apostle John, who died about the year 100 C.E., received the Revelation (the book listed last in the Holy Bible) shortly before his death. In the opening chapter he writes: “I John, your brother and a sharer with you in the tribulation and kingdom and endurance in company with Jesus, came to be in the isle that is called Patmos for speaking about God and bearing witness to Jesus.” (Rev. 1:9) By this time the “good news of the kingdom” had been preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations to even a greater extent than such good news had been preached before Jerusalem’s end in the year 70 C.E. Thus Jesus’ prophecy concerning the worldwide preaching of the good news of God’s Messianic kingdom had not failed. This set the pattern for similar preaching of “this good news of the kingdom” in our present-time conclusion of the system of things, to which Jesus’ prophecy applies in a culminating sense.
“INCREASING IN ALL THE WORLD”
9, 10. (a) The worldwide preaching of the good news before Jerusalem’s destruction was testified to by whom, and how? (b) In his letter to the Colossians, how did Paul involve himself with the unknown congregation?
9 That the foretold preaching of the good news of the Kingdom was accomplished before Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E. was testified to even years before that Jewish calamity. Testified to by whom? By the Christian apostle Paul. About the year 60 or 61 C.E., he found himself under Roman custody in a private house in Rome and in chains. During his two years or longer of house arrest in Rome he wrote inspired letters to Christian congregations in Greece and Asia Minor. One of these letters was to the congregation in the Asia Minor city of Colossae, which lay near to the cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis, where there were Christian congregations also. Modern Turkey now holds these locations. The apostle Paul sends his letter in the names of himself and of Timothy, a fellow missionary. Paul had not founded the congregation in Colossae, and his letter indicates that he had never been there. But through a visiting fellow Christian, Paul heard about this Colossian congregation. He was so stirred by this report which came through Epaphras, that he was moved to write this letter to Christians unknown to him. He introduces himself, saying:
10 “We thank God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ always when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in connection with Christ Jesus and the love you have for all the holy ones because of the hope that is being reserved for you in the heavens. This hope you heard of before by the telling of the truth of that good news which has presented itself to you, even as it is bearing fruit and increasing in all the world just as it is doing also among you, from the day you heard and accurately knew the undeserved kindness of God in truth. That is what you have learned from Epaphras our beloved fellow slave, who is a faithful minister of the Christ on our behalf, who also disclosed to us your love in a spiritual way.”—Col. 1:3-8.
11. (a) That worldwide preaching was meant is shown how in Colossians 1:23? (b) In what sense was this true of the preaching by then?
11 At the time of writing this letter Paul, as an informed, widely traveled missionary, testified to the worldwide preaching of the good news by what he says in the above introduction of his letter. He writes of the “telling of the truth of that good news which has presented itself to you, even as it is bearing fruit and increasing in all the world.” (Col. 1:5, 6) That he means a worldwide preaching Paul confirms some sentences later, when he speaks of their “not being shifted away from the hope of that good news which you heard, and which was preached in all creation that is under heaven. Of this good news I Paul became a minister.” (Col. 1:23) This, of course, did not mean that every individual on earth under heaven was being personally reached. It meant that the preaching of the good news was being pushed to all quarters of the inhabited earth under heaven and that all human creatures, without regard for language, color, race or nationality, were being given the opportunity to hear the Kingdom message. There were no limits. In his earlier letter to the congregation in Rome (about 56 C.E.), Paul expressed his intention to carry the good news into Spain. The Americas still farther west were not then known to him.—Rom. 15:24.
12. Was that the complete fulfillment of the prophecy on preaching, or what was yet due?
12 This preaching of “this good news of the kingdom” by the then small band of disciples of Christ during the first century in Asia, Europe and Africa was in fulfillment of Bible prophecy. (Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10; Acts 1:8) But it did not complete the fulfillment of the prophecy. It was to be duplicated in a climactic way on a global scale after the discovery of the Americas by Europeans and before the destruction of the antitypical rebellious Jerusalem, modern-day Christendom, in this time of her end since 1914 C.E.
13. According to Paul, what was the effect of the spreading of the Kingdom hope, as illustrated in the case of Colossae?
13 The spiritual effect of this spreading of the Kingdom hope now should be the same as that in the days of the apostles of Jesus Christ during the first century C.E. Accordingly let us consider what the apostle Paul says of its effect with reference to the congregation there in Colossae, Asia Minor. He says that to the Colossians there had been a “telling of the truth of that good news which has presented itself to you, even as it is bearing fruit and increasing in all the world just as it is doing also among you.” (Col. 1:5, 6) So the “telling” of the spoken word “of the truth of that good news” was “bearing fruit” world wide, including Colossae.
14, 15. (a) To what did Paul thus liken the good news as truthfully told? (b) The picture here drawn corresponds with what parabolic illustration given by Jesus?
14 The apostle Paul here likens the “good news” that was truthfully told to them to seed planted in the ground. The ground or soil is good and fine, and seed takes root and sprouts and produces fruit, a fruit of its own kind. This picture corresponds with the parabolic illustration that Jesus Christ gave about the productive abilities of four types of soil. Here is what he said:
15 “Look! A sower went out to sow; and as he was sowing, some seeds fell alongside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell upon the rocky places where they did not have much soil, and at once they sprang up because of not having depth of soil. But when the sun rose they were scorched, and because of not having root they withered. Others, too, fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them. Still others fell upon the fine soil and they began to yield fruit, this one a hundredfold, that one sixty, the other thirty.
16. What explanation did Jesus himself give of this illustration?
16 “You, then, listen to the illustration of the man that sowed. Where anyone hears the word of the kingdom but does not get the sense of it, the wicked one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart; this is the one sown alongside the road. As for the one sown upon the rocky places, this is the one hearing the word and at once accepting it with joy. Yet he has no root in himself but continues for a time, and after tribulation or persecution has arisen on account of the word he is at once stumbled. As for the one sown among the thorns, this is the one hearing the word, but the anxiety of this system of things and the deceptive power of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. As for the one sown upon the fine soil, this is the one hearing the word and getting the sense of it, who really does bear fruit and produces, this one a hundredfold, that one sixty, the other thirty.”—Matt. 13:3-8, 18-23.
17. (a) The hearts of the Colossians were like what in Jesus’ illustration, and who had done the sowing of them directly? (b) In actuality, what is the “seed,” and in what situation?
17 According to what the apostle Paul had heard from his visitor, Epaphras, the members of the Christian congregation in Colossae had hearts that were like the “fine soil” described by Jesus. Hence, the “word of the kingdom” that was sown upon their hearts bore fruit and produced in varying amounts, like a hundredfold, sixtyfold, thirtyfold. The apostle Paul had not sown the Kingdom seed among the Colossian hearts, but, apparently, this Epaphras of Colossae had done so, for Paul speaks of him in the letter to the Colossians as “Epaphras, who is from among you, a slave of Christ Jesus.” Paul also says to them: “That is what you have learned from Epaphras our beloved fellow slave, who is a faithful minister of the Christ on our behalf, who also disclosed to us your love in a spiritual way.” (Col. 4:12; 1:7, 8; Philem. 23) This “minister of the Christ” was merely acting as an agent of the Great Sower of the seed, Jesus Christ. Said Jesus: “The seed is the word of God.” (Luke 8:11) It is the “word of the kingdom.” But it is not seed in a storehouse, but is seed that is “sown,” that is to say, God’s “word of the kingdom” that is preached, proclaimed, taught.
18. (a) How did Paul in his custodial house in Rome continue to sow the “seed”? (b) What does this “seed” contain within itself, and what is necessary for it to take root in human hearts?
18 Those disciples who join together under the Great Sower, Jesus Christ, in sowing, preaching, proclaiming, teaching the seed of the “word of the kingdom” are, as the apostle Paul calls them, “my fellow workers for the kingdom of God.” (Col. 4:11) Even while Paul was there in the custodial house in Rome, he did more than write letters, such as the one to the Colossians. He “would kindly receive all those who [like Epaphras] came in to him, preaching the kingdom of God to them and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with the greatest freeness of speech, without hindrance.” (Acts 28:30, 31) Since this spiritual “seed” is the “word of God,” the “word of the kingdom,” it contains in itself good news, a message of hope, a message of the grandest government for the blessing of all mankind, God’s Messianic kingdom. This message contained in the “seed” is something that the receiver of the “seed” has to understand and appreciate. He has to get the meaning of it, the sense of it, with his heart. In this way the “seed” will take root in his heart.
FAITH AND LOVE WITHIN THE HEART
19. (a) According to Paul, what effects did the telling of the good news have within the hearts of the Colossians? (b) Because of the “seed” sown, why must there be a development of faith and love in the heart?
19 What effect did the “good news” as truthfully told to them have within the hearts of the members who made up the congregation in Colossae? It had an effect that moved Paul, when he heard about it, to write them his excellent letter. The effect within their hearts was what Paul mentions: “your faith in connection with Christ Jesus and the love you have for all the holy ones,” “your love in a spiritual way.” (Col. 1:4, 8) Such faith and love had to be cultivated in their hearts for the “seed” of the “word of God” to take root downward and sprout upward and make an outward expression, thus producing new, living seed grains thirty, sixty or a hundred times as many as the original seed. There must be this development in the heart first before there is an outward expression that reproduces what was sown inside.
20. (a) Why did the Gentiles especially have to exercise faith in order to accept the “seed”? (b) Whether Jew or Gentile, they had to accept what vital facts concerning Jesus?
20 As regards Gentiles, non-Jews, such as many of the Colossian congregation were, it had taken faith on their part to accept the “seed” of the word of God. They had to abandon the many Greek and Roman gods to which they were dedicated and concentrate their belief upon the only living and true God, the Creator of heaven and earth and of all things in them, whose name is Jehovah. But whether they were uncircumcised Gentiles or were natural Jews, they also had to believe in Jesus Christ, that this Jesus the descendant of King David of Jerusalem was the promised Messiah or Christ. They had to believe that this one was the “firstborn of all creation.” They needed to believe that he was also “firstborn from the dead,” because Jehovah God has resurrected him from the dead to immortal life in the heavens. Besides, they had to believe that Jesus Christ is the “head of the body, the congregation,” to which they desired to belong. Also, that “carefully concealed in him are all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge,” so that their pagan philosophies or their man-made religious traditions must no longer be held to.—Col. 1:15-18; 2:3, 8; Acts 14:11-18.
21. (a) What did the Colossians have to do with that “word” that had been placed in their mouths, and why? (b) What quality did they have to exercise with their hearts to move them to give outward expression?
21 Those were some of the vital things that were contained in the “truth of that good news,” and in these things they had to have faith with their hearts. It was just as the apostle Paul had written years previously to the Romans: “The ‘word’ of faith, which we are preaching. For if you publicly declare [or, you confess] that ‘word in your own mouth,’ that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration [or, one confesses] for salvation.” (Rom. 10:8-10) Because the hearts of the Colossians were like “fine soil,” they did exercise faith with their hearts and accepted the “seed” of the “word of the kingdom,” the “word of God,” and they did let it take root in their heart and express itself.
22, 23. (a) Those Colossians were obliged to believe Jesus occupied what official position, and so under what rule were they? (b) Hence, like Paul the letter writer, what position with reference to that government did they hold, and what command of Jesus did they share in carrying out?
22 In conjunction with their faith that Jesus was the Messiah or Christ, they had to believe that Jehovah God had seated him at His own right hand like a King-Priest, who was foreshadowed by Melchizedek the ancient king of Salem. In consequence of this, they had come under Christ’s spiritual kingdom. Yes, they were required to believe that God “delivered us from the authority of the darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of his love.” (Col. 1:13) Not only were they under the present kingship of the Son of God’s love, but they were also “ambassadors substituting for Christ” in God’s program of “reconciling a world to himself” by means of Christ. (2 Cor. 5:19, 20) While in the prison from which Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians, he spoke of “freeness of speech to make known the sacred secret of the good news, for which I am acting as an ambassador in chains.” (Eph. 6:19, 20) So, like the apostle Paul, the Colossian congregation was a body of ambassadors for the “sacred secret of the good news.” They were obliged to take part in the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy, in Matthew 24:14:
23 “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.”
24. (a) To what nation did those Colossians now belong, and what fruits were they obliged to bring forth? (b) So what kind of fruitage was it that the “seed” sown on their hearts was bringing forth?
24 By engaging in this ambassadorial activity in behalf of the Messianic kingdom of God, those Colossians were bringing forth the fruits of the Kingdom. They proved themselves to be part of the “nation producing its fruits.” The “kingdom” that had been taken away from the nation of natural, circumcised Israel had now been given to the nation of spiritual Israel, to which nation those Colossian Christians belonged. (Matt. 21:43) The symbolic “seed” of the “word of the kingdom,” “the word of God,” had been sown on their hearts, and now that their hearts were found to be fine soil they were producing a crop of the same kind of thing that had been sown on their hearts. That is, they too were bringing forth, preaching, teaching, the “word of the kingdom” to others, those outside the Colossian congregation.—Matt. 13:19; Luke 8:11, 15.
25. In view of the example set by the Colossians, what questions do we ask as regards our war-plagued century, and for what will we thank God?
25 An excellent example worthy of imitation was set back there in the first century C.E. in connection with the Christian congregation in Colossae, Asia Minor. Is it being duplicated today in this war-plagued twentieth century? If so, then we, like the apostle Paul, will have cause to “thank God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ always” when we pray to Him regarding the religious situation.