Preaching Christ—Through Envy or Goodwill?
GOD’S servants have always met stiff opposition in their efforts to help people. Jesus Christ’s opponents used every form of ridicule and criticism, with false charges based on any trivial thing that they could find.
Because Jesus ate and drank they accused him of being a glutton and a winebibber. (Matt. 11:19) Because he went to the homes of sinners when invited and spoke the good news to them, they said he was mixing with sinners. (Mark 2:15, 16) When he actually cured people, releasing them from the grip of terrible diseases, they wanted to stop him on the ground that he broke their self-made rules concerning the Sabbath day.—Matt. 12:9-14.
These religious men preferred to let the people suffer if they could just do away with Jesus, because his preaching and course of action showed them up to be teachers of no value. (Matt. 15:14) They wanted plaudits of men rather than honor for or from God.—Matt. 23:5-7.
The apostles experienced the same opposition. When Paul was unjustly in a Roman prison, put there at the instance of religious opposers for spreading the light of the freedom-giving good news, his opponents did all they could to ruin the good effects of his preaching. Paul said about this: “True, some are preaching the Christ through envy and rivalry, but others also through goodwill. . . . The former do it out of contentiousness, not with a pure motive, for they are supposing to stir up tribulation for me in my prison bonds.”—Phil. 1:15-17.
These who were ‘stirring up tribulation’ for Paul were mainly Jews who had claimed to become Christians, but had broken away from Paul’s pure apostolic teaching. They feared to suffer reproach and persecution as Christ had suffered. (Gal. 6:12, 13) They did not have pure motives, but sought to cause doubts, strifes, divisions—in short, to tear down the apostle’s work and the spirituality of those he had worked so hard to build up. They wanted to break down the apostle’s spirit by adding to him this burden on top of the prison bonds he was suffering.
When writing to the congregation at Corinth about such opponents, Paul described the hardships that he and his companions had undergone, “through glory and dishonor, through bad report and good report; as deceivers and yet truthful.” (2 Cor. 6:8) Yes, these fighters against Paul even went so far as to say that he was a deceiver, misleading the disciples. This was to the end that the congregations might break up—that these men might cause the true Christians to break away from the congregations. It was not so much an effort to get new disciples of their own from the outside world. No, it was an attack against the Christian congregation, to “draw away the disciples” of Christ, and to keep others from listening to the message that these true disciples proclaimed.—Acts 20:30.
Therefore, it is obvious that these opponents of the early Christians were not trying to build up others, even though they themselves claimed to be Christians. They themselves were not occupied in making disciples of Christ, but they tried to tear down those who might be listening to the good news.
TRUE PREACHING BUILDS UP
What about the situation today as to the preaching of the good news of Christ’s kingdom and its coming rule over earth? Jehovah’s Witnesses as modern-day Christians are working hard to get this good news preached to every individual. They do not claim infallibility or perfection. Neither are they inspired prophets. But they are trying to live clean lives and to help people by teaching them the good news. Millions are responding.
Is such activity a building work? One only has to look at the results. When we examine this activity can we not see an outstanding example of worldwide unity of teaching, conduct and love? We find people in the hundreds of thousands each year changing their personalities so that they become law-abiding citizens, maintaining Scriptural morality, raising happy families, bringing to others the same high standards. Where else do we find people that take their own time and resources to show love for their fellowman by spending hours calling on people at their homes and teaching interested ones the truths of God’s Word? Where else do we observe such an international program eliminating racism among those taught, and where they are ‘beating their swords into plowshares, learning war no more’? (Isa. 2:4) Where else do we find a body of people concerned with supporting and defending the purity of Bible truth at all cost?—1 Tim. 3:15.
TEARING DOWN BUT NOT REBUILDING
Nevertheless, as with early Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses have opposers today. Some spring out from among their own ranks, just as it was with early Christianity. (Acts 20:30) But what is the objective of such men? It is to tear down. What they say and publish is almost wholly in the form of an attack upon Jehovah’s Witnesses. Do we see them upbuilding anyone? Are they sharing in a great ingathering of clean-living, Kingdom-preaching Christians? If they do draw away someone who is associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses, where is this person to go? Where will he be built up spiritually?
The same questions arose when Jesus was on earth. Some began to murmur and to walk away from Jesus because he said something that they could not accept. Jesus then asked his apostles: “You do not want to go also, do you?” Simon Peter answered: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life.” (John 6:67, 68) Where could they get spiritual upbuilding? Could they go to these disgruntled ones and get help? They knew they could not. They would only have to abandon what they had believed and have nothing, or go back to the bondage of Judaism, from which Christ had liberated them.—Gal. 4:8-11.
Do modern-day opponents of Jehovah’s Witnesses have a program for building people up in a knowledge of God? Do they offer the people a progressive spiritual education? No. They generally ally themselves with the religious systems of Christendom, often recommending that people join or rejoin the denomination of their choice. In cases the clergy let these disgruntled ones use their pulpits, not to preach the Gospel, but in an attempt to tear down Jehovah’s Witnesses. Furthermore, these men go back to the things that they themselves once threw down and publicly declared as false—the doctrine of the Trinity (‘God in three persons’), the immortality of the human soul, a hellfire of torment for the wicked, and other unscriptural teachings. They say that the Witnesses deceived them, sometimes for many years—the same charge that “false apostles” made against Paul. But now, they say, they have suddenly seen the light—that these doctrines that they had rejected were true all along. They repent at having doubted such doctrines and having talked against these while being associated with the Witnesses.
Does not this wavering from one position to another raise questions as to the sincerity of these opposers? Most of them were former church members who came to declare that such doctrines were false, originating in non-Christian religions. While they were associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses they offered proofs of their conviction to others as they preached to them. Are these men, when turning against Jehovah’s Witnesses, following the pattern of the apostle Paul? He once was a firm believer in Judaism, believing that he could gain righteousness by works of the Mosaic law. But he threw these things down when he became a Christian. His opposers said that Christians should return to subjection to the things of the Law, and trust in such works for salvation. Paul answered: “If the very things that I once threw down I build up again, I demonstrate myself to be a transgressor.”—Gal. 2:18.
It is a serious matter to represent God and Christ in one way, then find that our understanding of the major teachings and fundamental doctrines of the Scriptures was in error, and then after that, to go back to the very doctrines that, by years of study, we had thoroughly determined to be in error. Christians cannot be vacillating—‘wishy-washy’—about such fundamental teachings. What confidence can one put in the sincerity or judgment of such persons?
Moreover, Jesus said of his disciples: “They are no part of the world.” (John 17:16) But who can deny that the churches of Christendom are an integral part of the world? Those going back to ally themselves with these churches ignore the fact that the clergy have blessed the wars of the nations, members of the same denomination praying on both sides for the victory of their own army and the destruction of the other. Persons returning to support these denominations bring back upon themselves the bloodguilt from which they were once freed.—Compare Numbers 35:33; Revelation 18:24.
If a person has cleaned up from doctrines that dishonor God—the Trinity, the fiendish torment of souls in an eternal hell of fire, the destruction of our planet Earth, the support of blood-spilling national warfare and like beliefs that would make the Christian defiled as a part of the world—and then turns back to take up these doctrines again, he is doing what the apostle Peter described of some persons in his day. Peter wrote: “Certainly if, after having escaped from the defilements of the world by an accurate knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they get involved again with these very things and are overcome, the final conditions have become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them not to have accurately known the path of righteousness than after knowing it accurately to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them. The saying of the true proverb has happened to them: ‘The dog has returned to its own vomit, and the sow that was bathed to rolling in the mire.’”—2 Pet. 2:20-22.
MAKING SURE OF ONE’S POSITION
How, then, can a person be sure that his position is right if he has developed faith in Jehovah God and His kingdom through studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses? On this point the apostle Paul admonished Timothy, who faced men who would try to shake his faith. Paul said: “You, however, continue in the things that you learned and were persuaded to believe, knowing from what persons you learned them and that from infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through the faith in connection with Christ Jesus.”—2 Tim. 3:14, 15.
How was this advice very helpful to Timothy? Well, Timothy had been raised by a devout Jewish mother and grandmother. He knew what the Hebrew Scriptures said. He was persuaded to believe them, and to acquire faith “without any hypocrisy.” (2 Tim. 1:5) Then, when he heard the teaching of the apostle Paul, he was further persuaded (not through smooth talk, but by proving Paul’s teachings from the Scriptures) to accept Christianity. Now Paul tells Timothy to recall from what persons he learned: Were they teaching him for some selfish gain—to get money or make a slave of him, or did they, instead, truly love him? Was he made a disciple of a man, Paul, or of the Lord Jesus Christ? Knowing these things, he would be able to discern the bad motive in one who would try to turn him away.
Likewise, Jehovah’s Witnesses today, and those learning from them, can consider: What persuasive power has convinced me of the things I have come to believe? Was it smooth or clever talk by men? Was I in any way forced or put under coercion? And what about those who taught me? Were they profiting financially? Did they ask for money to pay for their time and expense of coming to my home regularly? Did they make me a disciple of themselves, and when teaching me, did they tell me what to do out of their own ‘wisdom,’ or did they appeal to the Scriptures as a guide? Did the ones calling on me show concern for me? Had other religious organizations shown such concern? Paul said concerning himself and his associates when they were in Thessalonica, “We became gentle in the midst of you, as when a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, having a tender affection for you, we were well pleased to impart to you, not only the good news of God, but also our own souls, because you became beloved to us.” (1 Thess. 2:7, 8) Were you also beloved by those who came to you, and did they put themselves out repeatedly, as ‘imparting their own souls to you’?
What a contrast, then, such Christians would find if they thought about the kind of persons the opposers showed themselves to be! As Paul wrote to the congregation at Rome: “Now I exhort you, brothers, to keep your eye on those who cause divisions and occasions for stumbling contrary to the teaching that you have learned, and avoid them. For men of that sort are slaves, not of our Lord Christ, but of their own bellies; and by smooth talk and complimentary speech they seduce the hearts of guileless ones.”—Rom. 16:17, 18.
RESULTS TO THOSE WHO FIGHT GOD’S SERVANTS
What, then, shall we say about the efforts of the few disgruntled persons who try to tear down the work and effects of the preaching done by Jehovah’s Witnesses? It turns out as the apostle wrote about those who preached in order to tear him down: “What then [shall we conclude]? Nothing, except that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being publicized, and in this I rejoice.” (Phil. 1:18) By making a contention these unwittingly awaken attention to what Jehovah’s Witnesses are saying. Paul refers back to the Egyptian magicians in Moses’ day as an example of the final outcome of such opposition efforts. He says: “Now in the way that Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so these also go on resisting the truth, men completely corrupted in mind, disapproved as regards the faith. Nevertheless, they will make no further progress, for their madness will be very plain to all, even as the madness of those two men became.”—2 Tim. 3:8, 9.
At Hebrews 6:4-8 the apostle describes the even more perilous situation of those who fall away from the truth. Then he speaks to those who have been faithfully and sincerely serving God, saying: “However, in your case, beloved ones, we are convinced of better things and things accompanied with salvation, although we are speaking in this way. For God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name, in that you have ministered to the holy ones and continue ministering. But we desire each one of you to show the same industriousness so as to have the full assurance of the hope down to the end, in order that you may not become sluggish, but be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”—Heb. 6:9-12.
Following the fine counsel of the Scriptures, let everyone who has undertaken to bear the name of Christ and of Jehovah his Father continue through faith and patience to build up his Christian brothers and his neighbors so that he may inherit the marvelous promise of everlasting life for himself and help others also to attain it.—1 Tim. 4:15, 16.