“Engaging in the Holy Work of the Good News”
“The undeserved kindness [was] given to me from God for me to be a public servant of Christ Jesus to the nations, engaging in the holy work of the good news.”—Rom. 15:15, 16.
1, 2. Why are speech and conduct important?
A PERSON gets a reputation based on his activities and speech. Others often draw conclusions about him and his principles based on what they see him do and hear him say. King Solomon wrote: “Even by his actions a youth maketh himself known, whether his work be pure or upright.”—Prov. 20:11, Young’s Literal Translation; Matt. 7:16-20.
2 What does that mean for you if you are a Christian? Should not others be able to notice from our conduct and speech that we are serving the true God, Jehovah? The Bible assures us that God is holy and pure, that his principles are righteous and produce good. (Isa. 6:3; Job 34:10; Deut. 32:4) If we are truly absorbing the spirit of what God is, that ought to be clear from our lives.—Eph. 5:1.
3, 4. (a) What effect was produced by Israel’s worship and history? (b) How should others be affected by observing Christianity?
3 As true worship is manifested in human lives, other persons can be affected beneficially. For example, for a time Jehovah dealt primarily with Israel. He told them: “You should prove yourselves holy, because I Jehovah your God am holy.” (Lev. 19:2; compare Exodus 19:5, 6.) The dietary, sanitary and moral laws that God gave to the Israelites helped to safeguard them from many of the defiling practices common in surrounding nations. Many foreigners could see how successful the way of true worship was and how God was leading and protecting Israel. This impressed them, and moved many to worship Jehovah themselves.—1 Ki. 8:41, 42; 10:1; Ruth 1:16.
4 The same good effect comes when true Christians live their lives in harmony with God’s directions. The transformed lives and “fine conduct” of Christians will move some eyewitnesses to “glorify God.” (1 Pet. 2:12, 15; 3:1, 2; Titus 2:7, 8; 1 Thess. 4:11, 12) But the Bible makes it clear that the focus of Christianity is not merely on living a clean moral life and developing a fine personality that reflects the “fruitage of the spirit.” (Gal. 5:22, 23; Eph. 4:22-24) Important as these features of Christianity are, there is yet a unique work to do if one is to be a true follower of Jesus.
“THE HOLY WORK OF THE GOOD NEWS”
5. (a) Jesus’ example shows that what else is important for us? (b) Why is this activity important?
5 As a young boy and later as a perfect man, Jesus honored his heavenly Father. His way of life and personality set a fine example for others, moving many observers to glorify God. (Luke 2:49, 52) As soon as he was baptized Jesus “commenced his work,” exerting himself as he went around “preaching the good news of the kingdom.” (Luke 3:23; Matt. 4:17, 23) He even trained others to share in this work, sending them out to teach people. (Luke 10:1, 8, 9) At first this teaching and disciple-making work was done only among the Jews. But later it was to expand, for, as the apostle Paul explained in Romans 15:8, 9, God’s will was that all peoples of the earth might be helped to glorify him.
6, 7. What “holy work” did the apostle Paul do?
6 Paul himself actively worked to that end. In Romans 15:16 he called himself “a public servant of Christ Jesus to the nations.” What did that ‘service’ entail? He added that he was “engaging in the holy work of the good news of God, in order that the offering, namely, these nations, might prove to be acceptable.” What does that mean?
7 At Romans 15:16 we have the only use in the Bible of a Greek verb (hierourgounta) that means ‘to work or engage in a sacred thing.’* Thus Paul was saying that he was actively engaged in the holy or sacred work of preaching the good news of God, the Christian message, to people of the nations. Those who accepted the message and became Christians were like an offering made to God, an offering that Jehovah approved of and blessed with his spirit.—Rom. 1:1, 16.
8. How did Paul carry out this work among Jews?
8 How did Paul and others do this “holy work of the good news of God,” preaching the Christian message? The “good news” could save lives, so they would want to reach as many persons as possible. At times Paul, himself a Jew, was able to address Jews assembled in synagogues. (Acts 13:14-42; 14:1; 18:4) But could he and other Christians reach the majority of the “nations,” the non-Jews?
9. What methods could early Christians use to aid non-Jews?
9 Christians could speak to persons in public places, such as the marketplace. (Acts 17:17-22) Yet it is unlikely that doing just that would reach virtually all persons. What about going to the homes of persons, as Jesus’ disciples did when he sent them out to preach in various cities? (Matt. 10:5-13; Luke 9:2-6) The early Christians used this method, too, as they enthusiastically ‘engaged in the holy work’ of spreading Christianity to all peoples.
10. What evidence is there that house-to-house witnessing was done to locate and help unbelievers?
10 We can see this from comments Paul made to men who had become elders in the Ephesian congregation. Speaking about his past preaching, when he had introduced Christianity to them, Paul said: “I did not neglect to preach to you about those things which were good for your souls, and I taught in the streets and from house to house, thus testifying both to the Jews and to the Arameans [or, Gentiles] about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus.” (Acts 20:20, 21, translated from Syriac by George M. Lamsa)* Clearly, Paul was here speaking of his efforts to preach to these men when they were yet unbelievers, persons needing to repent and put faith in Jesus. Paul went to the homes of such unbelievers. He had no reason to feel hesitant about such preaching to strangers, for he was doing a “holy work” that God approved of and would bless.
11. (a) How do Christians today carry out this “holy work”? (b) Why is sharing in the house-to-house preaching important?
11 In modern times, also, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been active in house-to-house witnessing as a primary way to contact persons and preach God’s truth. Of course, each Christian who feels his obligation and privilege to declare the “good news” will use every appropriate occasion to witness—to relatives, schoolmates, fellow workers, neighbors and to strangers while in informal conversation. Thus, even in lands where extreme opposition from rabid religious elements or the police state makes it impossible or indiscreet to witness publicly from house to house, Christians continue to do all they can to witness in those other ways. Nevertheless, in all places where such extremes do not prevail, Jehovah’s Witnesses systematically visit each home. This results in a ‘thorough witness’ and in their contacting many persons who might not otherwise meet true Christians and hear “the good news.”—Acts 4:19, 20; 20:21; compare Ezekiel 9:3, 4.
AN EFFECTIVE WAY TO WITNESS?
12-14. What indicates that house-to-house preaching can be effective?
12 But is this method of evangelizing still an effective way of “engaging in the holy work of the good news”? The evidence shouts, YES! In 1977 the journal Social Compass published the article “Jehovah’s Witnesses in Japan,” by British sociologist Bryan Wilson. He wrote that they are “much more single minded in the work of evangelization than any of” the ‘new religions’ in Japan. Also, he conducted a survey that revealed:
“The majority [58.3%] of those who have become Witnesses declare that they first had their interest awakened by receiving a house-call from” one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
13 Even religionists who refuse to accept the Bible-based teaching spread by Jehovah’s Witnesses acknowledge the effectiveness of the house-to-house evangelizing the Witnesses do. We read:
“Perhaps [the churches] are excessively neglectful about that which precisely constitutes the greatest preoccupation of the Witnesses—the home visit, that comes within the apostolic methodology of the primitive church. While the churches, on not a few occasions, limit themselves to . . . preaching inside their places of meeting, [the Witnesses] follow the apostolic method of going from house to house.”—“El Catholicismo,” Bogotá, Colombia, Sept. 14, 1975.
‘Catholics should follow the lead of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in evangelism, participants in the first National Congress on Evangelization were told.’—Minneapolis “Tribune,” Aug. 29, 1977.
14 House-to-house evangelizing is so distinctive of Jehovah’s Witnesses that in many lands a householder will open the door and say, “Oh, you must be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Even if nothing more was discussed from the Bible, good has been done. Attention has been drawn thus to the holy name of God, which deserves to be sanctified. And the householder has had impressed on him that God’s servants were there with His message. (Matt. 6:9; Isa. 12:4; Ezek. 33:6-9, 29) But, as the quotations above show, often much more results.
15. How has this effective work been done in some places where there are obstacles?
15 The person-to-person witnessing at homes is so useful and effective in contacting persons that great effort to share in it is put forth by the Witnesses even under difficult conditions. That was so in one African land where the authorities banned this Bible-based activity. The local Christians knew that this method of evangelizing is valuable, that they should ‘obey God as ruler rather than man’ and that they should apply Jesus’ advice to be “cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves.” (Acts 5:29; Matt. 10:16, 17) What would they do?
They could arrange things so a few of them divided up a long street or area according to house numbers. One would have all houses ending with 2 (2, 12, 22, 32, etc.) and could visit them in any order he wanted, whenever he could. Another had houses ending with 3 (3, 13, etc.) and could visit on a different day. Thus a thorough witness could be given.
Different approaches could be used, too. One Christian might have a small basket of eggs or fruits, offering these for sale to the householder, but at a price higher than in the market. Sales would be few, but many discussions would begin over high costs, difficulties of life today and then, if it seemed favorable, the fulfillment of Bible prophecy.
Or, a Christian needing to buy vegetables might use this to contact persons in his “territory.” Before going to the market he might call at homes with a garden, asking about buying the vegetables. Whether a purchase results or not, often a conversation is possible with Bible thoughts used.
In these ways local Christians avoided harassment by political hoodlums who before had troubled those preaching from house to house. Also, a thorough witness was given in the community.
16. What other adaptations might be made for the Witnesses to continue to be effective in this method of preaching?
16 A different adaptation may be needed elsewhere. In past years it may have been normal to call at homes in the mornings, when many householders were at home. But if conditions change and most are now at work then, does that mean this method of preaching is not practical? No, for how else will all—in each home and apartment—be contacted and given opportunity to benefit from the “good news”? It may be advisable to make the visits in the afternoon or early evening, when family members are at home. The goal is to reach and help persons, as many as possible.—Compare Acts 16:13.
17. With Paul’s example in mind, how might we personally make adjustments as we carry out this work?
17 The apostle Paul was willing to adapt his ways and approach to fit his audience. He said: “I do all things for the sake of the good news, that I may become a sharer of it with others.” (1 Cor. 9:19-23) Similar adaptability can help today. What, for example, if you live in an area where most persons have lost interest in religion and the Bible? Would you adjust your approach accordingly?
A Witness in Belgium relates: ‘I have the Bible open in hand but do not immediately identify it. I say, “While waiting for you to come to the door I was looking at what was written here . . . ‘Happy are the mild-tempered ones, since they will inherit the earth.’ [Matt. 5:5] Do you think there are still mild-tempered ones among us?” Invariably a conversation begins and later the Bible is more easily accepted.’
A WORK THAT GOD BLESSES
18. What reasons do we have for knowing that God is interested in the “holy work of the good news”?
18 Christians earth wide are intensely interested in “the holy work of the good news.” So is Jehovah God. Paul said that new Christians resulting from his share in this work were like an offering that was acceptable to God, who poured his spirit on them.—Rom. 15:16.
19. How can this work be effective even when most do not listen?
19 God’s acceptance and blessing continue on this preaching work, including the important house-to-house activity of locating and helping persons. As just one indication, a minister who visits congregations in a large district accepted an invitation to accompany a Christian in Maryland on a call to conduct a Bible study. He says:
“I asked the householder what motivated her to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. She said that often she would open the Bible at random, point her finger at a verse and read it. But she seldom could understand what she read.
“One day she was very depressed over serious family problems. Again she opened her Bible and picked out a verse. She could not understand it, and in her depression and disappointment began to cry. She prayed to God to send her someone to help her understand his Word. Just as she said that, the doorbell rang. Answering it she found a Witness, who began, ‘Would you like to understand the Bible?’ The householder pulled her inside and quickly a regular study was begun.”
20-23. What blessings can result from an increased share in the house-to-house preaching work?
20 Good effects can be produced even when it seems that most of those encountered reject the “good news” being brought to them.
A teenager was calling from door to door in a rural village in South Africa one Saturday afternoon. She met with little favorable response, for a religious organization in the community had generated considerable prejudice against the helpful Christian efforts of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Door after door was quickly closed in her face. It seemed futile.
But unknown to her, curious eyes were watching from a window across the street. An elderly woman observed the Witness’ endurance despite unfriendly responses. Clearly this Christian was different from other youths.
When her home was reached the elderly woman invited the Witness in. Though the girl spoke mainly English and the woman Afrikaans, they were able to communicate about an important Bible message for our time. Later an Afrikaans-speaking minister followed up the interest, and the elderly woman happily agreed to have a regular study of God’s Word.
21 Actually, God’s blessing on “the holy work of the good news” is felt in many ways. A traveling minister who visits congregations in the New Orleans, Louisiana, area wrote: “The evangelizing spirit is growing stronger. The last eight or nine congregations that we have visited have been spending much more time in the preaching activity. With this increased effort, more persons interested in the ‘good news’ are being located. And since the brothers and sisters are busier in proclaiming the ‘good news,’ a spirit of peace and joy is really becoming more evident in the congregations.”
22 Such peace and joy also increases in the personal and family lives of those Christians energetically preaching the “good news” and sensing God’s blessing. Oh, there will still be some problems and anxieties in life. We realize that these will be present as long as we are imperfect and the present wicked system of things continues. But as a Christian becomes more occupied in the God-ordained “holy work of the good news” life will become fuller, richer, happier. (Acts 20:35) This is not mere theory. It works. It did with the apostle Paul. It does with millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses today. It will with you.
23 Others, too, will be able to notice the sort of Christian you are. They will observe you sharing in the work of proclaiming the “good news.” They will see the peace and joy this and other Christian activities bring to your life. They will note the many ways in which you reflect the Christian personality and the “fruitage of the spirit.” (Eph. 4:24; Gal. 5:22, 23) Yes, you will manifest to many others that you are successfully serving a holy God.
24. How can you feel about your sharing fully in this work?
24 After Paul’s comment about “engaging in the holy work of the good news,” he added: “Therefore I have cause for exulting in Christ Jesus when it comes to things pertaining to God.” (Rom. 15:17) Let all of us as Christians work so that we, too, can thus exult in Christ Jesus.
Some translators have rendered hierourgounta “to act as a priest,” or with a similar phrase. Compare Luke 1:8 where a related verb is used in connection with Zechariah, father of John the Baptizer.
The first translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures into another language was evidently into Syriac. Professor James Murdock’s rendering from Syriac reads: “I shunned not that which was advantageous to your souls, that I might preach to you, and teach in the streets and in houses, while I testified to Jews and to Gentiles.”
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‘Greater works’ began at Pentecost
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Today ‘greater works’ are shared in by Witnesses around the globe