To Whom Shall We Go but Jesus Christ?
“Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life; and we have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”—John 6:68, 69.
1, 2. (a) In view of what Jesus Christ said, why is there no uncertainty about to whom Christians should go? (b) What had Jesus earlier said about gaining life, and by what two classes?
IN THIS period that calls for vital decisions to be made, there is no uncertainty in the minds of fully dedicated Christians about to whom they should go. The way has been clearly identified for them. Speaking to those who had continued with him in his trials, Jesus said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) On that same occasion, he further said: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the cultivator. . . . He that remains in union with me, and I in union with him, this one bears much fruit; because apart from me you can do nothing at all.”—John 15:1, 5.
2 How true those words of Jesus proved to be in the lives of the apostles and other early disciples! And they have proved true down to our day. Although directed toward those who were in line for a place in God’s heavenly kingdom, they state truths from which all of Christ’s true followers today can benefit. Earlier in his ministry, Jesus had declared: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) And these words apply with equal force to all the sheep that Jesus spoke about at John 10:16: “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.”
3. (a) What is one way in which Jesus has been with his followers since his ascension into heaven? (b) In what other way has he also been with them?
3 Through Jesus Christ, Jehovah God has made ample provision to lead his dedicated servants in the progressive light of truth, with everlasting life in view. Shortly before ascending to heaven, Jesus strengthened the faith of some 500 of his disciples gathered in Galilee with the words: “Look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 28:20; 1 Cor. 15:6) How has he been with them? By means of his holy spirit; but also in another way. When telling about his presence and the end of the system of things, Jesus assured his followers that he would appoint a “faithful and discreet slave” that would care for his interests and feed his followers down through the Christian epoch with food at the proper time. Proving faithful, this “slave” class would be appointed by Jesus at his second coming over all his belongings. Yes, also by means of this “faithful and discreet slave” Jesus has been with his followers.—Matt. 24:45-47.
“PILLAR AND SUPPORT OF THE TRUTH”
4. (a) Because Jesus has been true to his promise, what can be said about his congregation? (b) What encouraging prophecy finds its fulfillment in Jesus’ true followers today?
4 Because Jesus has been with his anointed followers, the Christian congregation has indeed been, as the apostle Paul terms it, “a pillar and support of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3:15) It has given evidence of possessing God’s spirit by producing its fruitage. (Gal. 5:22, 23) In these and in ever so many other respects, the Christian witnesses of Jehovah stand in bright contrast to all the many denominations that make up Christendom, nominal spiritual Israel. Because Jesus Christ is with these, the encouraging words found at Isaiah 65:13, 14 find fulfillment in them: “This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said: ‘Look! My own servants will eat, but you yourselves will go hungry. Look! My own servants will drink, but you yourselves will go thirsty. Look! My own servants will rejoice, but you yourselves will suffer shame. Look! My own servants will cry out joyfully because of the good condition of the heart, but you yourselves will make outcries because of the pain of heart and you will howl because of sheer breakdown of spirit.’”
5, 6. (a) The “slave” class early expressed its faith in what two great truths? (b) Why are those in Babylon the Great unable to appreciate the teaching of the ransom? (c) In what way was the teaching of the Bible Students regarding Jesus’ second coming unique?
5 In fact, that contrast began to be apparent from the early beginnings of the modern history of Jehovah’s people. These representatives of the “faithful and discreet slave” under the direction of Jesus Christ expressed their strong faith in the Bible, including the Genesis account of creation, as being the inspired Word of Jehovah God, even as Jesus Christ did. (Matt. 4:4-10; 19:4-6) Especially highlighted was the fundamental teaching of the ransom provided by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (1 Tim. 2:5, 6) None in Babylon the Great can appreciate this teaching because of their holding such unscriptural doctrines as the Trinity, the immortality of the soul, eternal torment, or because of denying that Jesus had a prehuman existence as the Logos and that he was born of a virgin.—Matt. 1:23; John 1:1.
6 Closely related to a clear appreciation of the teaching of the ransom is the proper understanding of the purpose and manner of Christ’s second coming and “presence.” Those earnest “Bible Students,” as the Witnesses were then known, were the only ones to discern clearly the difference between the man Jesus Christ who provided the ransom price and the glorious resurrected spirit personage who comes again invisibly to rule as King in God’s kingdom.—Matt. 24:3; 1 Pet. 3:18.
7. What scriptures and reasons show that there are two distinct destinies for those benefiting from Christ’s ransom?
7 Also early in their modern-day history those Bible Students saw that there are to be two destinies for those benefiting from Christ’s ransom, a heavenly and an earthly destiny. Under Jesus Christ’s direction they were able to harmonize the scriptures that tell of a heavenly reward for Christ’s followers and those that speak of the blessings of an earthly paradise. No other group professing to be Christian has this matter clear, and yet how plain it has been to those taught by the “faithful and discreet slave” for the past 100 years! The Bible clearly states that Abraham’s seed would bless—whom? Not themselves but all the families of humankind. (Gen. 22:17, 18; Gal. 3:16, 29) The 144,000 standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion will reign with Christ as kings and priests over whom? Not over themselves but over the rest of mankind that will live on a paradise earth.—Rev. 14:1; 20:4, 6; 21:4.
8. What did the early Bible Students learn to appreciate about Jehovah’s name and basic attributes?
8 Because Jesus Christ was using this “slave” class, their understanding of God’s Word kept getting ever clearer and more accurate. They came to appreciate that “Jehovah” was the meaningful name of the one true God and that it applied only to the Creator, the Most High. (Ps. 83:18; 100:3) It is simply impossible for any who adhere to the Athanasian Creed about the Trinity to appreciate that truth. Also gained by these was a unique appreciation of the cardinal or primary attributes of Jehovah God: wisdom, power, justice and love. Christendom’s creeds that teach purgatory, eternal torment and that God is trying to convert the world, fly in the face of recognizing a God of such magnificent attributes.—Rom. 11:33; Gen. 18:14; Deut. 32:4; 1 John 4:8.
9 With the light on God’s Word shining ever more brightly, in harmony with the principle expressed at Proverbs 4:18, Jehovah’s people got to see more clearly why Jehovah God has permitted all manner of wickedness and suffering. No others who profess to be Christians have been able to explain this. Why has Jehovah God permitted these conditions? Because of the issue as to the rightfulness, the deservedness of Jehovah’s universal sovereignty brought into question by Satan’s rebellion; also the related question as to man’s being able to keep integrity in spite of all that the Devil could do.
“NO PART OF THE WORLD”
10, 11. (a) How has John 17:16 proved true of God’s people? (b) Their neutral stand makes what words of Jesus uniquely applicable to them?
10 Further evidence that Jesus Christ has been with his “faithful and discreet slave” class all along is seen in their getting to comprehend the great difference between the organization of Jehovah and the organization of Satan the Devil. No interfaith for Jehovah’s people! They do not make common cause with false religion nor with any other part of Satan’s world. (2 Cor. 4:4; 6:14-16) To them, and to them alone apply the words of Jesus as found at John 17:16: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” Consequently their neutrality toward worldly conflicts and politics has indeed stamped Jehovah’s Witnesses as unique. Especially was this so with the beginning of World War II. Even though their neutral stand has caused and is causing many of our brothers to suffer severe persecution, imprisonment and at times even death, it has, nevertheless, time and again served them in good stead, resulting in their lives being spared, as in Northern Ireland, Lebanon, Rhodesia and other strife-torn lands.
11 This neutral stand has even served to stamp the Witnesses as true Christians. How so? In that among them and among them alone are to be found true the words of Jesus as recorded at John 13:34, 35: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” Because of having this love they ward off all demands to get them involved in strife among tribes, nations, races or political parties.
12. What principle has enabled Christians to harmonize seemingly contradictory scriptures regarding subjection to Caesar?
12 Being no part of the world, Jehovah’s people stand squarely on the principle announced by the apostles to the Jewish rulers: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) At the same time they heed the counsel found at Romans chapter 13 about being in subjection to the superior authorities. How have they been able to harmonize these seemingly opposed requirements? By applying the principle of relative subjection. Yes, these Christians obey those in authority, whether they be parents, as in the case of minors; husbands, in the case of wives; employers or government officials, so long as obedience to them does not violate any of God’s commands. And because of obeying, not just out of fear but out of conscience, as they are commanded to do at Romans 13:5, they have come to be respected world wide as peaceful, law-abiding citizens, and as scrupulous payers of their taxes. In fact, earnest, extensive and persistent efforts are made on every level to instill upright moral principles into the minds and hearts of all those associated with these Christians. Such efforts by Jehovah’s faithful witnesses are unique among groups professing to be Christians. What counts is quality, not quantity.
13. What Scriptural stand have those with the “slave” class taken as to the use of blood?
13 Further marking these Christians as no part of the world is their stand on the use of blood. Today it is only these people bearing Jehovah’s name that clearly understand and obey the Scriptural injunction to “keep abstaining from . . . blood,” a command that involves the sanctity of life. With them their spiritual well-being comes first. (Gen. 9:4-6; Acts 15:28, 29) Their stand on blood has made them unpopular with not a few, for they adhere to it even at the risk of their present lives. However, often their stand has spared them the untoward side effects that so frequently accompany blood transfusions. How explicitly and repeatedly God’s Word states the matter and yet who, apart from Jehovah’s people, wholeheartedly subscribe to it? None!
14. To what prospect has the “faithful and discreet slave” been looking forward?
14 As loyal watchmen, the “faithful and discreet slave” class have been and are looking forward to see what Jehovah God has in store. From their vantage point they have discerned the gathering evidence of the nearness of the great tribulation that will mark the end of this system of things in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophetic words found at Matthew chapters 24 and 25, Mark 13 and Luke 21. We can be certain that in the posttribulation new order grand blessings are in store for humankind. A literal earthly paradise, peopled with humankind whom Jesus Christ ransomed! What a grand prospect! Truly all lovers of truth and righteousness long for the approaching unhindered rule of the kingdom of God and keep praying for it even as Jesus taught us to pray.—Matt. 6:10; Rev. 20:6; 21:4.
15. (a) The fact that the “slave” class has never been perfect has required them to do what? (b) What has this asked of those who are associated with that “slave”?
15 Because of this hope, the “faithful and discreet slave” has alerted all of God’s people to the sign of the times indicating the nearness of God’s Kingdom rule. In this regard, however, it must be observed that this “faithful and discreet slave” was never inspired, never perfect. Those writings by certain members of the “slave” class that came to form the Christian part of God’s Word were inspired and infallible, but that is not true of other writings since. Things published were not perfect in the days of Charles Taze Russell, first president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society; nor were they perfect in the days of J. F. Rutherford, the succeeding president. The increasing light on God’s Word as well as the facts of history have repeatedly required that adjustments of one kind or another be made down to the very present time. But let us never forget that the motives of this “slave” were always pure, unselfish; at all times it has been well-meaning. Moreover, the words found at Romans 8:28 are fitting here also: “God makes all his works cooperate together for the good of those who love God, those who are the ones called according to his purpose.” Actually, any adjustments that have been made in understanding have furnished an opportunity for those being served by this “slave” to show loyalty and love, the kind of love that Jesus said would mark his followers. (John 13:34, 35; compare 1 Peter 4:8.) For those who truly love God’s law there is no stumbling block.—Ps. 119:165.
THE COURSE OF WISDOM
16. In view of all the foregoing, to what inescapable conclusion do we come?
16 The foregoing review of the history of Jehovah’s “faithful and discreet slave,” as contrasted with the history of Christendom, brings us to what conclusion? This, that Jesus Christ has been true to his promise. He has been with his Christian congregation as represented by that “slave” from the time that he ascended into heaven down to this very day. Jehovah’s spirit does indeed rest richly upon that “slave” and those associated with it, as they keep obeying the commands to preach the good news of the Kingdom and to make disciples. (Matt. 10:7; 24:14; 28:19, 20) To stay with Jesus Christ is to stay with those whom he is pleased to use. Outside the true Christian congregation, what alternative organization is there? Only Satan’s organization consisting of his political “wild beast” and his Babylonian world empire of false religion.—Rev. 13:1, 14, 15; 17:3-6.
17, 18. (a) Why was it foolish for some to abandon Jesus because of what he said about eating his flesh and drinking his blood? (b) So what is the course of wisdom for us today?
17 When Jesus told his disciples that unless they ate of his flesh and drank his blood they would have no life in themselves, no doubt all of them felt puzzled. Many of them took offense and no longer walked with Jesus. Just because of that one hard-to-understand statement by Jesus, they became so offended that they abandoned him. But how foolish! In taking that course they ignored all the wonderful truths that Jesus had uttered up to that time. And what about all the striking miracles that Jesus performed proving that he was the foretold Messiah, the Son of God?—Compare Luke 7:20-23.
18 Well could Jesus ask his apostles: “You do not want to go also, do you?” Peter had the right answer: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life; and we have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69) And so today; in view of all the foregoing the course of wisdom is indeed to keep associating with the “faithful and discreet slave.” That “slave,” on the one hand, makes the “sayings of everlasting life” understandable to us and, on the other hand, helps us as we apply those “sayings” in our lives to both our present and our eternal welfare. Should we not be grateful to Jehovah God and Jesus Christ for having that “slave” in our midst?
19. In what various ways can we show that we are grateful to Jehovah God for the services of the “faithful and discreet slave”?
19 How can we give expression to our gratitude? In more ways than one. We can show it by cooperating with the ‘faithful slave’ in preaching and in making disciples. We can show our gratitude also by eagerly feeding on the spiritual food that this “slave” provides in the form of books and magazines, as well as by attending the congregation meetings. Nor to be overlooked is our privilege of praying that Jehovah’s spirit guide and strengthen that “slave” class for the work that He has for it to do. And according to our means it is also our privilege to contribute in a material way to help to defray the expenses incurred by that ‘slave’s’ worldwide activities. Yes, in all such ways we can show that we appreciate the way that Jehovah God is using and blessing the “faithful and discreet slave,” thereby also demonstrating that we have a living, active faith that proves itself by its works.—Jas. 2:17, 26.
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KEY BIBLE TEACHINGS—Emphasized by Jehovah’s Witnesses
● Vindication of Jehovah’s name and sovereignty
● Christ’s “presence” in Kingdom power at “time of the end”
● Jesus’ ransom opens way to resurrection and everlasting life
● Separate identities of Father, Son and holy spirit; no Trinity
● Creation in contrast to evolution.
● Human soul not immortal
● Separateness from world’s politics and violence
● Respect for God’s law on blood and morality
● Christendom principal part of “Babylon the Great”
● Cultivating love and Christian personality
● The Christian’s obligation to preach and make disciples
● Baptism by total water immersion in symbol of dedication