Lining Up With Jehovah’s Integrity Keepers
“As for me, in my integrity I shall walk. . . . Among the congregated throngs I shall bless Jehovah.”—PSALM 26:11, 12.
1, 2. (a) How have some religions in Christendom acquired a following? (b) What teaching method did Jesus use? (Matthew 11:28-30)
IN 1985 there were 189,800 persons baptized in symbol of their dedication to Jehovah as his Christian witnesses. That is an average of 520 per day. How did all these people make their decision to be baptized? Did they attend mass rallies, listen to an emotional preacher, and then make some emotional decision for Christ? That is the way some Protestant and Evangelical religions function. But is that the way that Christ acquires a following?
2 When we carefully examine Jesus’ public preaching, we do not find him manipulating emotions. For example, did he appeal to his audience with choirs and singing? Or did he use clever psychology to establish a guilt complex in his audience and then cause them to dig into their pockets? On the contrary, his method of teaching caused people to think and reason. Since most of his listeners were Jews, they already had a background in the Hebrew Scriptures. He could get them to reason on the basis of their previous knowledge so that they would recognize him as the Messiah.—Matthew, chapters 5-7; Luke 13:10-21.
3. How do we know that Paul was not merely stirring up emotions by his teaching?
3 Similarly, Paul, though regarded by some as lacking in speaking ability, appealed to the reasoning faculty. (Acts 20:7-9; 2 Corinthians 10:10; 11:6) He wrote: “I entreat you by the compassions of God, brothers, to present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason. . . . Be transformed by making your mind over [“so that your whole attitude of mind is changed,” Phillips], that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”—Romans 12:1, 2.
4. Before a person can be baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, what steps must he take?
4 Likewise today, those who get baptized are persons who have studied the Scriptures and reasoned carefully on them before taking the serious step of baptism, or total immersion in water. (Acts 17:11, 12) Theirs has not been a hasty, emotional decision. On the contrary, before being accepted for baptism, they have regularly attended Christian meetings with a view to acquiring accurate knowledge of Jehovah God and his purposes through Christ Jesus. (Hebrews 10:25) They have also participated regularly in the Christian ministry, sharing the Kingdom good news with others. (Acts 5:42; 1 Corinthians 9:16) Then, in the final weeks before their baptism, they have carefully reviewed with various congregation elders more than 120 questions about Christian teaching and conduct, as well as considered hundreds of supporting Bible texts—all of this to become approved integrity keepers prior to their baptism.—Acts 8:34-36.a
The Difference That Baptism Makes
5. With what course of conduct is a person identified by baptism?
5 What does a person accomplish by being baptized? First of all, he identifies himself with the greatest integrity keeper who ever walked the earth—Christ Jesus. He himself set the example by being baptized when he was about 30 years of age. (Luke 3:21-23) Later he commanded his followers to teach and baptize throughout the world. (Matthew 28:19, 20) But did he mean that his disciples should baptize people indiscriminately, without reference to their present conduct?
6, 7. (a) What is required of a true follower of Christ? (b) What does holiness imply?
6 The apostle Peter presents the right viewpoint when he writes: “Become holy yourselves in all your conduct, because it is written: ‘You must be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:15, 16) Now, for a dedicated Christian, what does it mean to be “holy”?
7 According to W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, the Greek word haʹgi·os (translated “holy”) “fundamentally signifies separated . . . and hence, in Scripture in its moral and spiritual significance, separated from sin and therefore consecrated to God.” Another Greek scholar says that “it is characteristically godlikeness.” This understanding imposes a high standard on those who would get baptized as true Christians. It is the standard of integrity, and integrity is ‘firm adherence to a code of moral values’—in the Christian’s case, Christ’s values.—John 17:17-19; 18:36, 37.
8. (a) What standards prevailed in the early Christian congregation regarding conduct? (b) Has Christendom followed those standards? Give examples from local events.
8 The true Christian congregation has always insisted on integrity, maintaining a clean organization. Thus Paul ordered early Christians to “quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man. . . . ‘Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.’” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 2 John 10, 11) Have the clergy of Christendom applied that high standard of integrity to their flocks? Christendom accepts—as either passive or active members—people who regularly commit every kind of gross sin and crime. Bible principles allow no room for such permissiveness.—Compare Jeremiah 8:5, 6, 10.
9. What draws many people to dedication and baptism?
9 Precisely because of this high standard among Jehovah’s Witnesses, those who love truth and integrity are drawn to dedicate themselves to the Sovereign Lord of the universe, Jehovah God. (Habakkuk 3:18, 19) They see a clear contrast between the conduct of worldly religions and that of Jehovah’s Witnesses. True, the majority of people disdain pure worship. (1 Peter 4:3, 4) Yet lovers of integrity are turning to the truth by the thousands. They are showing their love of God and his standards when they submit to water baptism.—Compare Mark 1:10; John 3:23; Acts 8:36.
Integrity Based on Love and Endurance
10. What is required for a Christian to keep his integrity?
10 Integrity has a price. Jesus made that clear when he invited people to become his followers. “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself [“leave self behind,” The New English Bible] and pick up his torture stake and follow me continually.” (Mark 8:34) The course of Christian integrity involves tests and sacrifices and for the same reason that it did for Christ—we have a common enemy, Satan. (Ephesians 6:11, 12) Thus endurance is required in order to follow Jesus “continually.” For that reason, dedication involves no light decision; it should be no passing fancy. Yet a few have abandoned the truth within a few months or years of their baptism. How can we explain that?
11. Why, perhaps, have some not continued in the course of integrity?
11 Perhaps some approached baptism in an emotional rather than a rational state of mind. Others may have looked for quick results and made a self-centered, short-term dedication. Whatever the reason may be, they lost their strong relationship with Jehovah. They did not “look intently” at their Exemplar, Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 12:1, 2) As a consequence, their love of God waned and their integrity was short-lived. And why is love such a vital factor? Because it is the only solid basis for a lasting dedication to Jehovah.—Mark 12:30, 31; 1 John 4:7, 8, 16; 5:3.
Counting the Cost of Integrity
12. What is the wise course to take before baptism?
12 Jesus did not encourage his disciples to follow him blindly without counting the cost. He counseled: “Who of you that wants to build a tower does not first sit down and calculate the expense, to see if he has enough to complete it?” Yes, a prudent person carefully weighs his future course of action. He has to be sure of his motivation before accepting the full responsibility of Christian dedication and baptism. And Jesus showed what that could mean when he concluded: “Thus, you may be sure, none of you that does not say good-bye to all his belongings can be my disciple.”—Luke 14:28-33.
13. If the essence of Jesus’ teaching is love, what did he mean when he spoke of ‘hating’ one’s family members? (Matthew 22:37-40)
13 Dedication to Jehovah calls for whole-souled integrity in doing the divine will. No person or possession can be allowed to supersede one’s love of God. That is why Jesus stated: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own soul, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) Now what did Jesus mean when he spoke of hating one’s own family members and even oneself? Since he taught his followers to love even their enemies, in what sense did he use the word hate here? (Luke 6:27, 35) Hatred here has the thought of loving less.—Compare Matthew 12:46-50.
14. How do some friends and relatives react when one becomes a witness of Jehovah? (John 15:18, 19)
14 Certainly when a person becomes a Christian witness of Jehovah, he suddenly finds out who are his true friends. Some will perhaps shun or boycott him because he has abandoned his former religion, even though they themselves do not practice any religion properly. But Jesus promised that there would be a compensation for any such loss, saying: “No one has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the good news who will not get a hundredfold now in this period of time . . . and in the coming system of things everlasting life.”—Mark 10:29, 30.
15. Why may some look down on Jehovah’s Witnesses?
15 In some cases the course of dedication and integrity may mean a loss of esteem in other people’s eyes. (1 Corinthians 4:12, 13) Why should that be? Because you now practice a religion that is not deemed “respectable.” (Compare Mark 2:15, 16.) After all, it is not respectable to ‘go pestering other people with your religion from house to house.’ It is not respectable to go to prison rather than violate one’s neutrality on matters of nationalism and patriotism. (John 18:36) It is not respectable to refuse blood transfusions because of a Bible-trained conscience—although the present AIDS plague is giving some people second thoughts on that score.—Compare Acts 15:28, 29; 17:6, 7; 24:5.
16. How are we helped to keep our integrity?
16 Even though the way of Christian integrity is narrow and testing, we do have constant help available. (Matthew 7:13, 14) Therefore Paul could say: “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.” (Philippians 4:13) And we can acquire that power through constant prayer, through a study of God’s Word, and through association with the Christian congregation. As baptized integrity keepers, we can remain faithful and loyal, thanks to the power that God supplies.—Ephesians 4:11-13; 6:18; Psalm 119:105.
Benefits of an Integrity-Keeping Course
17. To what blessings may baptism lead?
17 The step of dedication and baptism leads to many blessings. For one thing, it can mean a wider and more satisfying ministry. There is the prospect of future service as an auxiliary pioneer, which in some cases can lead to regular and special pioneer activity, missionary service, circuit and district work, and Bethel service. (See box on page 26.) For baptized brothers the way opens up to serve others in the congregation as a ministerial servant and, in time, as an elder. But for all these blessings, there is the same basic requirement—integrity.—1 Timothy 3:1-10.
18. How should our life of dedication affect others with whom we come in contact?
18 The benefits of a life of dedication and integrity spread out to affect others. As a result of closely following Christ’s example, one becomes a better husband or wife, father or mother. (1 Peter 2:21; Ephesians 5:21-33; 6:4) Youths develop an upbuilding relationship with their parents, teachers, and congregation elders. (Titus 2:6, 7) Every baptized Christian becomes a better neighbor, employer, or employee. (Matthew 22:39; Ephesians 6:5-9; Titus 2:9, 10) And like Christ, every Christian should become refreshing association for others, even as Jesus said: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls.”—Matthew 11:29.
19. What other great benefit results from taking the step of dedication?
19 A great benefit from taking the step of dedication and baptism is gaining a peaceful relationship with the Creator. This leads to peace of mind. As Paul counseled: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 4:6, 7.
20. (a) On what is “the peace of God” based? (b) What opportunity opens up to the person getting baptized?
20 “The peace of God” is based on a deep understanding of Jesus’ example and sacrifice. This knowledge of Christ is leading many to genuine repentance and an authentic change of conduct, or a ‘turning around’ from sin. (Acts 3:19, 20) As a consequence, dedicated ones are saying, as did the psalmist: “As for me, in my integrity I shall walk. . . . Among the congregated throngs I shall bless Jehovah.” (Psalm 26:11, 12) The person who gets baptized in water in symbol of his dedication to God is lining himself up with Jehovah’s integrity keepers around the world. (1 Peter 2:17) He is also getting a “hold on the real life,” everlasting life, which Jehovah has promised through Christ Jesus.—1 Timothy 6:19; Titus 1:2.
How Would You Answer?
◻ How were early Christians first attracted to the truth taught by Christ and the apostles?
◻ How does holiness relate to the individual Christian and the congregation?
◻ On what must integrity be based?
◻ What is involved in counting the cost of integrity?
◻ What are the benefits of keeping integrity?
[Box on page 26]
Privileges in the Full-Time Ministry
Auxiliary Pioneer: A baptized minister who spends a minimum of 60 hours in preaching activity during a month.
Regular Pioneer: A baptized minister who spends an average of 90 hours per month in preaching activity.
Special Pioneer: A baptized minister who spends at least 140 hours per month in the ministry and receives a small monthly allowance for basic expenses. These pioneers are usually assigned to isolated groups and small congregations.
Gilead Missionary: A baptized minister who has been trained at the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead for foreign service and also spends a minimum of 140 hours per month in the ministry.
Circuit and District Overseers: Traveling elders who visit congregations and circuits with a view to building up the brothers in their ministry and meetings. They spend many hours in field service.
Bethel Service: Performed by full-time ministers in any of the Watch Tower Society’s branch offices and printing plants around the world.
[Picture on page 24]
Baptism opens the way . . .
[Picture on page 25]
. . . to an integrity-keeping ministry