“Welcome One Another”
“Welcome one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”—Rom. 15:7, Revised Standard Version; The Living Bible.
1. (a) How many have been welcomed as members into the United Nations organization? (b) What has it failed to produce, and so what is constantly feared?
WELCOME into the United Nations organization has been given to 154 nations till now. Its member nations do not all have the same political ideology. They even have hostile attitudes, but in the U.N. they try to be “friendly enemies.” They seem to grasp the truth of what an American journalist-poet said: “United—we stand. Divided—we fall.” The U.N. claims to be an organization for world peace and security. Still, after all these years since World War II ended in 1945, it has not produced what American politician Wendell Wilkie said, “One world, one government.” So the outbreak of World War III with nuclear weapons is feared more and more.
2. Even within a nation, what things may militate against one citizen as to being welcomed by fellow citizens?
2 Even in a nation belonging to the U.N., its citizens may not welcome all other fellow citizens into their social group. Prejudices control matters. The rich do not welcome the poor. Members of one religion do not welcome persons of another religion. Adherents of one political party refuse to welcome those of an opposing political party. Highly educated persons consider those of little or no education as beneath their notice. A person’s own skin color may militate against him in the case of those of another skin color. Racial extractions may make a difference. There is no general, uniform acceptance of an individual on the basis of his being a fellow member of one big human family. Hence, personal dislikes and hostilities determine where a person can gain admission.
3. (a) How has Christendom not been any exception to the above things? (b) Has the U.N. proved to be any better than the League of Nations in being an expression of God’s kingdom by Christ?
3 Christendom is no exception to all of that, even though it is supposed to be a society of Christian nations. Because they are Christian in name only, they have repeatedly violated what is prophesied in Isaiah 2:4: “They will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.” In Christendom persons who are Christian in name only will patriotically fight for their own national attachments even to their own death or that of their opponents. They find no solid reason for rejoicing in the United Nations organization, even though back in December of 1918 the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America called the then proposed League of Nations “the political expression of the kingdom of God on earth.” Certainly the United Nations organization has not proved to be an expression of God’s kingdom by means of Christ.
4. What did Paul, as one who quoted from Isaiah’s prophecies, say about ‘the things written aforetime’?
4 However, the above-quoted words about nations not lifting up sword against one another and not learning war anymore are being fulfilled in those who are true imitators of Jesus Christ. This peaceful Son of God quoted many times from the prophecies of Isaiah that were written long aforetime. He did so for the instruction of his followers. One of such followers, the apostle Paul, wrote to the disciples of Christ in Rome in the first century and reminded them: “For all the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.”—Rom. 15:4.
5. With regard to endurance, who furnished the finest example for Paul and fellow Christians?
5 In fulfillment of things written aforetime in the Holy Scriptures, Jesus Christ endured reproach and persecution even to a disgraceful death on a stake like a political criminal. In his endurance to that extreme he became a perfect example for his disciples that would strengthen them to endure faithfully to the end.
6. (a) What shows that, on the stake, Jesus held on to his hope, and how was he strengthened to endure? (b) As in Jesus’ case, what is true of his followers as to hope and endurance?
6 Because of his steadfastly enduring to the finish of his earthly course Jesus held on to his God-given hope. Hence, he could say to the sympathetic thief who was impaled alongside him: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) During those grueling hours on the torture stake, Jesus experienced much comfort by calling to mind the things “written aforetime” that referred to him, and he was thus strengthened mightily. No less so, his devoted followers who suffer the reproaches heaped upon Jehovah God and Jesus Christ keep a firm grip on their Scripturally inspired hope for the future. They too are tremendously comforted by the Scriptures “written aforetime.” Their hope, based on the most reliable Scriptures, “does not lead to disappointment.”—Rom. 5:5.
7. Whose mental attitude should the whole congregation have, and how does this affect their glorifying God?
7 The thing for us to do is to have the frame of mind that Jesus Christ had during all his sufferings in an enemy world. In line with this the apostle Paul framed this prayer: “Now may the God who supplies endurance and comfort grant you to have among yourselves the same mental attitude that Christ Jesus had, that with one accord you may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 15:5, 6) By building up such a mental attitude in imitation of our Exemplar, Jesus Christ, we will keep in unity as a congregation of his disciples. The same mental attitude in a group leads to similar expressions. Thus it seems as if “one mouth” were speaking for the entire congregation with greater force and impressiveness. This is most fitting. Never can too much stress be laid upon glorifying the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ unitedly. There should be a blending of our voices with regard to the One who is to be glorified. Otherwise the hearer would become confused as to the message to be conveyed.
A WELCOME THAT IS CHRISTLIKE
8. What might have tended to affect the unity of the congregation in Rome to which Paul wrote his letter?
8 In many organizations or societies of this system of things a disposition may exist on the part of many not to welcome newcomers because of national or racial prejudices. Differences as to the amount of education may play their part, or there may be religious differences. Back in ancient Rome of the first century C.E. there might have been natural reasons for such divisive things.
9. Of whom was the Roman congregation then composed, and what might have produced differences in individual preferences of associations?
9 The apostle Paul had not yet reached Rome, that cosmopolitan imperial city, but in hope of getting there shortly he wrote his inspired letter to the congregation there. After calling attention to the approachableness of Jesus Christ as the perfect example, Paul went on to say: “Therefore welcome one another, just as the Christ also welcomed us, with glory to God in view.” (Rom. 15:7) For one thing, “all those who are in Rome as God’s beloved ones, called to be holy ones,” included natural circumcised Jews and uncircumcised Gentiles or non-Jews, freemen and slaves. (Rom. 1:7; 3:1-6; Phil. 4:22) So among those Roman Christians there were differences of religious background and social standing, all of this producing varieties of viewpoints and conscientious feelings. This could have resulted also in preferences of one’s associations.
10. How did Jesus set the pattern as to the way in which we should welcome one another, and what did his doing so have in view?
10 Brushing all of that aside, Paul exhorted them all to “welcome one another,” doing so warmly, cordially, sincerely, in genuine appreciation of a fellow Christian, a fellow believer. There was a perfect pattern to be followed in that regard, for Paul says to do so “just as the Christ also welcomed us.” When he was on earth, did not Jesus say: “The one that comes to me I will by no means drive away”? (John 6:37) Yes! As a perfect man, he could have held us at a distance because of our imperfections and sinfulness. But he did not do so. Why not? Paul states the reason, by adding the words: “With glory to God in view.” Welcoming all believers in him, Christ brought glory to God, for it magnified God’s largeheartedness and his desire for all humans to be saved through the ransom sacrifice of his Son Jesus Christ. It was just as Jesus himself said: “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.
11. Why does such a warm welcome to newcomers lead to the glorifying of God, and so what did the risen Jesus tell his disciples in Galilee to do?
11 Likewise, when we, as imitators of Jesus Christ, welcome all seekers into the congregation despite race, color, former religious membership, social standing or secular education, this works for God’s glory. It gives all those thus welcomed a right viewpoint toward Jehovah God. Showing his willingness to receive all true believers into the congregation of which he was the spiritual Head, the resurrected Jesus told his disciples in “Galilee of the nations” what to do, saying: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.”—Isa. 9:1; Matt. 28:16-20.
12. (a) Having God’s glory in view when we welcome others serves as what to us? (b) How does our going from door to door counteract any accusing of God of bloodguilt?
12 When we welcome all comers without distinction, it is quite a stimulus to us to remember that we are doing so “with glory to God in view.” It moves the welcomed ones to appreciate the warmhearted generosity of God and to glorify him themselves. When we go outside the walls of our meeting places and go from door to door to proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom to all whom we meet, we demonstrate that we “welcome one another, just as the Christ also welcomed us, with glory to God in view.” This course results in glory to the God of whom we are witnesses regardless of whether those upon whom we call appreciate the Kingdom message or not. Those who welcome the Kingdom message will finally join in glorifying the God who sent his Kingdom messengers to them. Those who do not welcome our God-given message of salvation will at some future time realize that Jehovah God had thought of them and had sent his faithful witnesses to them, leaving them no reason to find fault with God. (Ezek. 33:33) God thus stays free of accusation with respect to their blood.
FROM CARPENTER TO “MINISTER”
13. Why can God not be accused of partiality for giving the first opportunities to a people less populous than the rest of the world?
13 Who, though, had the first opportunity to benefit from God’s provision? It was the people through whom we got the Holy Bible. They were the natural Jews. Well, then, was not God showing partiality, especially when we remember that the non-Jews far outnumbered the circumcised Jews even 1,900 years ago? On the surface of things it might seem so. But God had to make a start somewhere, and he made a start with those to whom he had made special promises through their forefathers, namely, the circumcised Jews. However, the final benefits of God’s pursuit of this course were not to be confined strictly to the natural Jews or Hebrews. So is there just basis for complaining about that? None at all!
14. Hence, the Son of God from heaven was obliged to become a man of what sort, and what welcome was he given by those of his own sort?
14 Let us never forget that God had made unbreakable promises to deserving men with regard to their natural descendants, the Jews. Accordingly the Son of God had to come down from heaven in order to carry out those promises of his heavenly Father. This obliged him to be born as a member of an internationally hated race, the people with whom God made a national covenant. Yet, even as a Jew, the Son of God was not made welcome by the majority of fellow Jews, just as a writer of the earthly history of the Son of God says: “He came to his own home, but his own people did not take him in.”—John 1:11.
15. What kind of work did Jesus do at Nazareth, and in doing this was he serving as a “minister of those who are circumcised”?
15 So to the Christian congregation in Rome, not all of whom were natural Jews, the Jewish apostle Paul wrote: “For I say that Christ actually became a minister of those who are circumcised in behalf of God’s truthfulness, so as to verify the promises He made to their forefathers, and that the nations might glorify God for his mercy.” (Rom. 15:8, 9a) At Nazareth in Galilee, in the home of his adoptive father, the circumcised Jew Joseph, the growing Jesus learned to become a carpenter. By birth into the tribe of Judah Jesus did not belong to the priestly family or to the tribe of temple Levites. Naturally he could not enter the ranks of the temple servants at Jerusalem. But did Jesus the Son of God come to earth merely to serve and die as a carpenter? No! So in his becoming a “minister of those who are circumcised” much more is meant than his becoming a carpenter like his foster father Joseph.
16. In order to serve more than the townspeople of Nazareth as a carpenter, what did Jesus proceed to do?
16 Had Jesus gone no farther in life than his carpenter work in Nazareth, he certainly would not have carried out his foretold ministry. So his heavenly Father, Jehovah God, started him off in something different, that he might be a “minister of those who are circumcised,” not just of the townspeople of Nazareth, but of the whole nation. Accordingly, at the age of 30 he gave up the carpenter’s trade for good.
17. How are we to compare the work of Jesus after he was baptized and anointed with the service of the Jewish high priest at the temple?
17 What kind of work did Jesus undertake after getting baptized by John the Baptizer, a Levite, and being baptized with God’s holy spirit? Was it a service inferior to that of the temple priests and Levites, who were real “ministers” of God at Jerusalem? Certainly everyone acquainted with the facts will admit that he took up an official service, a “ministry,” and not merely a religious profession. Just as the English Revised Version of the Bible words it: “Christ hath been made a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, that he might confirm the promises given unto the fathers.” (Rom. 15:8; also the Authorized or King James Version) He was undeniably performing a national service, occupying a ministerial office, not by man’s appointment but by that of God, the Universal Sovereign. What Jesus did after his change of occupation on earth was vastly more important than the religious service of the Jewish high priest at Jerusalem.
18. Though not recognized as a “minister” by any earthly nation, why was it “of those who are circumcised” that Jesus became a “minister”?
18 Just as Jesus Christ could not perform any religious service in the temple at Jerusalem and thus compete with the priests and the Levites there, he could not, and, of course, would not, perform religious services in any temple of the non-Jewish nations, in Rome, Athens, or elsewhere. Yet he was obliged to become a “minister of those who are circumcised” for the sake of God’s truthfulness. How so? Because he had to “verify the promises [God] made to their forefathers,” Hebrews, not Gentiles. For example, their ‘forefather’ Abraham had many sons by three women, but God chose Abraham’s only son by his first wife, Sarah, to receive the Abrahamic promise, namely, Isaac. In turn, Isaac had twin sons, but God chose the younger twin, Jacob, who was later called Israel, to transmit the Abrahamic promise concerning the “seed” by means of whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. In time the 12 sons of Jacob produced the 12 tribes of Israel, with whom, as a nation, God made his national covenant through the prophet Moses as the mediator.
19. Why was Jesus not born into the tribe of Levi, and who welcomed him into the earth, and where?
19 Later, after the nation of Israel chose to have a human king as the visible representative of Jehovah, He made His royal promise to King David of the tribe of Judah. Hence, the promised Messiah, or Christ, had to come in David’s family. This accounts for it that Jesus was born in David’s hometown of Bethlehem, as David’s heir through birth from the Judean virgin, Mary. Heavenly angels welcomed him into the earth. Thus the Son of God from heaven could not escape being born a Jew. The unbreakable promises of God his Father had to be confirmed or vindicated. God was not letting himself be proved a liar.
20. Though Jesus became one of “those who are circumcised,” what awaited people of the non-Jewish nations, and why?
20 Jesus was very glad to cooperate with his heavenly Father. Hence, he “actually became a minister of those who are circumcised.” He was circumcised like one of them. For three and a half years after Jesus’ death and resurrection special favor was shown to the circumcised Jews. Yet a welcome into Jehovah’s theocratic organization awaited uncircumcised Gentiles, or non-Jews. This was to be in confirmation of Jehovah’s inviolable promises to men.