Telling of the Good News Bearing Fruit World Wide
1. What was the hair-raising event of the first century C.E., and, before it became known world wide, what had been preached world wide?
IN THE first century with which our Common Era began, the most hair-raising event was, not the burning of the city of Rome in 64 C.E., but the siege and destruction of the city of Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E. For his ou[t]standing victory over that mightily fortified city, the Roman General Titus was rewarded with a victory procession on his return to Rome in 71 C.E., a triumphal arch being erected in his honor. However, the sanguinary war with the rebellious Jews did not end until the capture of their last Judean stronghold, the fortress of Masada that overlooks the Dead Sea, in the year 73 C.E. This brought great shame, reproach and religious frustration to the Jews world wide, with tens of thousands of them being sold into slavery. However, years before this bad news for those circumcised Jews became known world wide, the good news of an everlasting joy had been spread throughout the then known world. It was the good news of the Messianic kingdom of God, a kingdom that is not dependent upon earthly Jerusalem.
2. (a) Who were the bearers of that good news in that first century C.E.? (b) How wide a spread did Christianity have from east to west, before the burning of Rome?
2 Who were the bearers of that good news in that first century C.E.? Not the natural circumcised Jews who looked to Jerusalem as their religious center. Rather, it was those who were falsely accused by Emperor Nero for the burning of Rome, namely, the peaceful, harmless followers of Jesus Christ who had been called “Christians” first in the Syrian city of Antioch. (Acts 11:26) Back there those Christian disciples included thousands of Jewish believers, like the Christian apostles Simon Peter and Paul. Before the burning of Rome the apostle Peter found himself in Babylon, Mesopotamia, from which he wrote to the Christians throughout Asia Minor. The apostle Paul found himself, for at least the first two years of his stay in Rome, Italy, under house arrest and booked for having his appeal in behalf of Christianity heard before Emperor Nero. (1 Pet. 5:13; Acts 28:30, 31) From Babylon, near the eastern limit of the Roman Empire, to Rome itself was a distance of about two thousand miles. Quite a spread for Christianity!
3, 4. (a) Before his letter to the Colossians, how had the truth penetrated deep into Africa as well as elsewhere? (b) According to Paul’s letter, how extensively was the “good news” bearing fruit?
3 Through the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch of Queen Candace by the evangelizer Philip, Christianity had also penetrated far south, all the way down into Ethiopia south of Egypt. (Acts 8:26-39) Thus the good news of God’s Messianic kingdom was penetrating deep into Africa and Asia and Europe. Among the Christians to whom the apostle Peter wrote in his first general letter, in five provinces in Asia Minor, were the Christians in Colossae, Laodicea and Hierapolis in the Roman province of Asia. (1 Pet. 1:1) About the time of Peter’s general letter, the apostle Paul wrote directly to the Christian congregation in Colossae and mentioned to them his letter to the congregation in Laodicea. (Col. 4:16) It was to these Colossian Christians that Paul spoke of the “telling of the truth of that good news” world wide, this being years before the end came upon earthly Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E. Along with such good news there went a hope for those accepting the good news, and with reference to this Paul writes, saying:
4 “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.”—Col. 1:4-6.
5. In Colossians 1:23, how did Paul emphasize the preaching of the good news world wide?
5 That the hope of God’s heavenly kingdom had been spread world wide is emphasized by Paul when his letter continues on to say to the Colossians: “Provided, of course, that you continue in the faith, established on the foundation and steadfast and 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.
6. (a) Who were ministers of the good news, besides Paul? (b) How did those ministers share jointly the hope of the good news with others?
6 The apostle Paul was not the only minister of the good news back there. All the faithful Christians of that first century were, including the disciple Epaphras of Colossae, who visited Paul during his house arrest in Rome. (Col. 1:7, 8; 4:12, 13) All these ministers of the good news joined in sharing their hope with others, not particularly by copying by hand the inspired Gospel accounts of Christ’s life and the letters written by his inspired disciples, but especially by word of mouth, by preaching to all hearers and by giving oral teaching to all interested ones. The amount of work connected with this we can only imagine for workers under those first-century circumstances. Those Christian ministers had the only good news to tell to the first-century world. They were not silent about the Kingdom, but were very vocal about it.
7. (a) Because the “seed” of the good news was not sown on unproductive soil, what occurred in the congregation of Colossians and others? (b) Because the “good news,” as truthfully told, was “bearing fruit,” what was accomplished within thirty years from when Jesus started preaching?
7 The “seed” of the “word of the kingdom” that was spoken to them did not fall upon unproductive soil. But up from the fine soil of good and honest hearts there sprang a growth bearing seed like that sown. There came forth the multiplying of the seed of the good news of God’s Messianic kingdom by the telling of it to all others within reach or hearing distance. Thus, just as the apostle Paul remarked to the Colossian Christians, “the telling of the truth of that good news . . . is bearing fruit and increasing in all the world just as it is doing also among you.” (Col. 1:5, 6) The “telling of the truth of that good news” was bearing fruit and increasing not only among the congregation in Colossae but also in all other congregations in Europe, Asia and Africa. The “seed” that they brought forth was used in sowing the Kingdom message in the hearts of others. What wonder, then, that within a matter of thirty years from the time that Jesus Christ began sowing the seed by his preaching of the kingdom of God such a witness to the Kingdom was brought about in “all the inhabited earth”!—Matt. 4:12-17; 24:14.
ANY MODERN SIMILAR FEAT?
8. How great is the power of growth of a seed rightly sown, and has the seed of the “word of God” lost such power of growth in this twentieth century?
8 The power of growth in a seed that is planted in fertile soil is astonishingly great. The “seed” of the “word of the kingdom” amazed the world with its power back there nineteen hundred years ago. Has that seed of the “word of God” lost its power in this twentieth century? That should not be the case, and it is not the case! What was written to the Christianized Hebrews nineteen centuries ago remains true today: “The word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword.”—Heb. 4:12.
9. (a) Has old age decreased the grow power of the “seed” of God’s Word? (b) Why do we here consider the growth of Christendom’s membership?
9 Age has not decreased its grow power. What do we have to show for this fact? Shall we say that it is the religious realm known as Christendom? According to the published estimates of the church membership of Christendom, after reaching a peak in the 1960’s she suffered a temporary slump in membership by the tens of millions. But now the latest estimate gives Christendom a new peak of 985,363,400 members.—See The 1973 World Almanac and Book of Facts, page 343, under the heading “Religious Population of the World.”
10, 11. (a) What question about growth arises as to Christendom, and does numerical growth prove she is not in her “time of the end”? (b) What conditions foretold by Paul for the “last days” may be the reason for Christendom’s religious difficulties?
10 Let it be admitted that Christendom is not declining in its claimed membership. Yet, may it also be that the quality of her members is increasing in spirituality, to produce more genuine Christians? Let us compare them with the brand of Christians at Colossae, to whom Paul was strongly moved to write spontaneously. Those Colossian Christians were far different from what most people who claimed to serve God would be much later on, “in the last days.” The fact that Christendom, after more than sixteen centuries of existence, is increasing does not disprove that she is in her “last days.” That she is in “critical times hard to deal with” cannot be questioned. What did the apostle Paul foretell would be the reason for this, and is this the reason for Christendom’s religious difficulties? Paul said:
11 “But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. [Why?] For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power.”—2 Tim. 3:1-5.
12, 13. (a) How, then, does Christendom compare spiritually with the ancient Colossian congregation? (b) How does Christendom explain that the Lord’s Prayer will be fulfilled regarding the heavenly Father’s kingdom?
12 Who is there that can deny that this prophetic description explains the reason for Christendom’s difficulties today, after sixteen centuries of numerical growth. In having this inspired prophecy fulfilled upon her, Christendom proves herself to be diametrically opposite from what the Colossian congregation was. For all these centuries Christendom has regularly prayed what she calls the Lord’s Prayer. This model prayer as offered by the Lord Jesus Christ in his Sermon on the Mount begins by saying: “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:9, 10, Authorized Version) Christendom today explains this coming of the heavenly Father’s kingdom to be by the establishing of the Kingdom in the hearts of the believers. As Dr. Adam Clarke said in commenting on Matthew 6:10:
13 “When the kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy, in the Holy Spirit, is established in the heart, there is then an ample provision made for the fulfillment of the Divine will.”—Commentary, Vol. 5, page 86, col. 1.
14. (a) Since Christendom’s growth lags behind that of the world population, how do her clergy explain the Kingdom’s coming? (b) how do two world wars inside of thirty-two years raise a question about the Kingdom’s coming as regards Christendom?
14 For a long time it was thought that God’s kingdom would come by the converting of all mankind to be church members of Christendom. But now that Christendom is lagging behind the world’s population growth, the religious clergy say the Kingdom’s coming is only into the hearts of as many as believe. There is no teaching that God’s Messianic kingdom will come against this present worldly system of things and destroy it and then rule as an actual government over all the inhabitants of the earth and fill the whole earth with righteousness and peace and happiness forevermore. (Dan. 2:44; 7:13, 14) Jesus Christ said: “A good man brings forth good out of the good treasure of his heart.” And: “Where your treasure is, there your hearts will be also.” (Luke 6:45; 12:34) But where is the evidence that God’s kingdom has been established in even the hearts of the church members of Christendom and that their hearts are with God’s kingdom as their treasure? Are two world wars inside of thirty-two years of this twentieth century the evidence that God’s “kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy, in the Holy Spirit” was established in the hearts of the hundreds of millions of church members of Christendom?
15. (a) Between the two world wars, what organization was Christendom’s “treasure”? (b) What is the League’s successor doing about the arms race?
15 During the twenty years between the two world wars the League of Nations for world peace and security was the treasure of Christendom, for her churches said: The League of Nations is “the political expression of the Kingdom of God on earth.” But where is the League of Nations today? And what is its successor, the United Nations, accomplishing in halting the international arms race for military superiority in a third world war that threatens the existence of all mankind? The making of more deadly weapons answers.
16. Is God’s kingdom truly coming in spite of Christendom’s condition, and how are all mankind being told about this today?
16 All these things prove that the kingdom of God has not been established in the hearts of the clergy and church members of Christendom and that it has not come into their hearts. The kingdom of God cannot be expected to come in that way, and it will not come in that way. Yet the kingdom of God by Christ is coming in answer to the Lord’s Prayer, and that theocratic government is now actually at the doors. This is what all mankind are today being told in the “good news of the kingdom” that Jesus Christ prophesied would be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations before the end came. (Matt. 24:14) This good news, “the word of the kingdom,” is being sown like seed in all the earth, in 208 countries and island groups, and it is bearing fruit the same as in the days of the apostle Paul. And as he said to the Christian congregation in Colossae, “it is bearing fruit and increasing in all the world just as it is doing also among you.” (Col. 1:6) Inside and outside of Christendom this seed of the good news is being sown.
17. (a) If not the Kingdom, what is it that is established in the hearts of humanity, and how? (b) So, as in Paul’s day, how has the “bearing fruit and increasing” of the good news come about, despite Christendom?
17 And as regards the relationship between God’s kingdom and the human heart, it is not the Kingdom, but the seed of the good news of God’s Messianic kingdom that comes into the heart. This “seed” is established there by taking root and bearing fruit. This seed is sown by the preaching of the good news to all those who will listen to it and receive it. This seed of the good news bears fruit by causing the mouth to speak, out of the abundance of the heart of those in whose hearts the seed has been planted. Thus the implanting of the “seed” makes everyone in whose favorable heart the seed has been sown become a new proclaimer of the good news. That is the way the seed of the good news is increasing through the proclaiming of the good news by more and more preachers of the Kingdom. And whereas Christendom tries to prevent the sowing of the seed of the Kingdom in human hearts, the Christian witnesses of Jehovah keep on scattering the seed of the good news world wide. Likewise, just as in the apostle Paul’s days, the bearing fruit and increasing have taken place—world wide, Christendom notwithstanding.
THE ATTENDANT FRUITAGE
18. What has the sowing of the “seed” produced besides more Kingdom proclaimers, and so what qualities mark Jehovah’s Christian witnesses today?
18 This sowing of the seed of the Kingdom good news has abundantly borne fruit and increased in more than merely producing more Kingdom proclaimers. It has had an attendant fruitage in the hearts of those in whom the seed has been sown and who proclaim the Kingdom. It has produced the contrary of what the apostle Paul foretold for Christendom in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 regarding her. It has produced the same things that it did in the hearts and lives of the Christian congregation in Colossae to whom Paul wrote his letter. It has produced the Christian qualities that Paul mentions in his letter, namely, love, hope and faith. Miraculous powers and abilities marking the true Christian congregation might pass away after the death of the Christian apostles, but, said Paul, “now, however, there remain faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13) These are the things that remain, not with war-plagued Christendom, but with Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. Faith, hope, love mark them.
19. (a) What did Paul have to write about the faith, love and hope of the Colossian congregation? (b) What kind of love is it that moves Jehovah’s Christian witnesses to open their mouths in preaching?
19 Said Paul to the Colossians: “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 . . . Epaphras our beloved fellow slave . . . also disclosed to us your love in a spiritual way.” (Col. 1:4, 5, 7, 8) Not the sexy, passionate, fleshly love that characterized the pagan Greek-speaking world in the apostle Paul’s day, but “love in a spiritual way”—this is what has been produced by the sowing of the good news in the hearts of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses of today. This true Christian love is part of the fruitage of God’s spirit, according to Paul’s words in Galatians 5:22. It is this spiritual love in the heart that moves them to open their mouths in preaching.
20. What, as foretold, is happening to the quality of love in Christendom today, and so what prayer of Paul must they cooperate with him in fulfilling, and how?
20 Jesus’ prophecy respecting the conclusion of this worldly system of things is being fulfilled in Christendom today, namely, “Because of the increasing of lawlessness the love of the greater number will cool off.” (Matt. 24:12) But the prayer that the apostle Paul expressed when writing to the Colossians is being fulfilled toward Jehovah’s Christian witnesses today: “that their hearts may be comforted, that they may be harmoniously joined together in love.” (Col. 2:1, 2) But they must cooperate with the apostle’s prayer for them by doing what the apostle wrote to the Colossians: “Clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.”—Col. 3:14.
21. How does such love affect Jehovah’s witnesses who are of such different backgrounds in their relations with one another?
21 It is not surprising, therefore, that, although Jehovah’s Christian witnesses of today come from “all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues,” they do not recognize any racial, national, tribal or skin-color barriers among themselves. Not only do they not fight among themselves in their congregations and general assemblies, but they refuse to engage in any untheocratic international wars. Such wars would oblige Christian witnesses of one country to kill fellow Christians of another country.—Rev. 7:9.
22. For them to take such a course in this world requires faith in what facts, and how must they be like the Colossians as respects their faith?
22 It requires great faith to take this course in a war-plagued world. But, like the congregation in Colossae, our twentieth-century witnesses of Jehovah have full faith in the rightness of the laws and rules of conduct set forth in the Holy Bible. They have faith that the Bible has God as its Author and that it is a theocratic Book, to which they must unquestioningly adhere. They have faith that Jesus Christ is God’s Son and is their Lord whose words and examples they must follow unswervingly. That they may be “open to no accusation before him,” they do like the Colossians: they “continue in the faith, established on the foundation and steadfast.” The apostle Paul told the Colossian Christians that he rejoiced at “the firmness of your faith toward Christ.” (Col. 1:22, 23; 2:5) For a like reason we can rejoice over Jehovah’s witnesses of today.
23. (a) During this time of political lords, in whom do they put faith as their Lord? (b) What strengthens them to endure even to a violent death under persecution?
23 There are many political lords on earth at present, but Jehovah’s Christian witnesses abstain from worldly politics. Why? Because they have “accepted Christ Jesus the Lord.” Quite appropriately, then, they obey the apostle Paul’s admonition to the Colossians: “Go on walking in union with him [Christ], rooted and being built up in him and being stabilized in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with faith in thanksgiving.” (Col. 2:6, 7; 1 Cor. 8:5, 6) There are thousands of examples in twentieth-century history to prove that the Christian worshipers of Jehovah as God will hold to this faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord down to the very death, even a violent death at the hands of persecutors. Their belief in the resurrection of the dead strengthens them to do this. They have the faith of the Colossian Christians, which, the apostle Paul said, is the “faith in the operation of God, who raised him [Christ] up from the dead.”—Col. 2:12.
24. (a) What other factor strengthened the Colossians to keep acceptable to God, and what did they have to do about this? (b) Why did they live in a wonderful time as to forming a faith, and so why did they feel highly favored?
24 Nineteen centuries ago, O what a “hope” those Colossians had! It was a vital factor in helping them to keep acceptable to God through Christ; and for that potent reason the apostle Paul reminded those Colossian Christians about “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.” (Col. 1:22, 23) The Colossian Christians, many of whom were doubtless converted from pagan nations, lived in a most wonderful time when secret features of God’s purposes were first made manifest, this making it possible for God-fearing believers to take advantage of such manifestation. Most certainly those Colossian believers must have felt highly favored in this regard when the apostle Paul wrote them and said that he was made a minister “to preach the word of God fully, the sacred secret that was hidden from the past systems of things and from the past generations. But now it has been made manifest to his holy ones, to whom God has been pleased to make known what are the glorious riches of this sacred secret among the nations. It is Christ in union with you, the hope of his glory.”—Col. 1:25-27.
25. What did that statement by Paul mean with respect to believers back there, and what Christian qualities did that hope promote in the Colossians?
25 This meant that for the first time such a sacred arrangement existed as “Christ in union with” not only the Jewish believers but also believers from all the non-Jewish or pagan Gentile nations. Christ’s being now in union with all these furnished the basis for a remarkable hope, “the hope of his glory.” This hope was therefore that of their sharing with Christ the Messiah in his heavenly kingdom for the everlasting blessing of all mankind. Ah, then, what excellent Christian qualities such a hope produces! The apostle Paul said that the love and faith of the Colossians were “because of the hope that is being reserved for you in the heavens.” (Col. 1:4, 5) Such a marvelous hope lives today!
26. At this time, what is the hope of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses as to rulership, and for what purpose?
26 What then, is the hope of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses of this time of world upheaval and political confusion? Is it the hope of becoming the king or queen of England? Is it to become the president of the French Republic? Is it to become the prime minister of West Germany? Is it to become the chairman of the Communist Party of Soviet Russia? Is it to become the governor of the State of New York or of any other state in the United States of America? Not for a moment! The hope of the Christian witnesses is not to fill such political offices in any of the world governments of this doomed system of things. Let the office-seeking politicians of Christendom and pagandom fill those worldly positions on earth down to the end. Those of Jehovah’s witnesses who have the upward call like that of the first-century Colossians hope for a governmental position reserved for them in the heavens, in union with Jesus Christ the “King of kings and Lord of lords.” In that heavenly kingdom they will serve God and help to bless all mankind.
27. As for those Witnesses who desire to live in the paradise earth, what are their hopes about rulership, and how will they be among those whom God preserves into his new order?
27 As for those Christian witnesses of Jehovah who desire to live in an unpolluted, peaceful Paradise earth, their hope is not to live forever under the “Stars and Stripes Forever,” nor under the Hammer and Sickle to all time to come, nor under the emblem of any other nation of this present system of things. Their hope is to live forever on earth under the heavenly kingdom of Jehovah God the Sovereign of all the universe. In that theocratic government Jesus Christ and his glorified congregation will reign as kings and priests for the endless welfare of all mankind, the living and the dead. To this Government alone these hopers in an earthly Paradise look for deliverance from all the misrule over mankind by Satan the Devil and all his agents, demon and human. Because of such a grand, all-excelling hope they have no desire and ambition for any political offices of earthly nations. They want no share in the community responsibility for the sins and corruption of politics. They know that the ones who keep clean from such worldly defilements will be the ones whom God will preserve into His new order.
28. To whom go the thanks for such “good news,” and what Christian qualities has it produced to motivate preachers onward to the end?
28 All thanks to Jehovah God through Jesus Christ for such matchless “good news.” This is the good news that is being preached today to all creation under heaven. The telling of this good news is bearing fruit and increasing, through the victorious power of Almighty God. Those who are receiving the seed of this good news are, as a consequence, cultivating within themselves faith, hope and love, in spite of being in a war-plagued world. Only the true “good news” could bring forth such Christlike qualities. Motivated by these qualities, the Christian witnesses of Jehovah will continue to preach the good news of God’s Messianic kingdom in all creation that is under heaven, clear down to the end of this fruitful seed-sowing season.