“The Good News Has to Be Preached First”
“Also, in all the nations the good news has to be preached first.”—MARK 13:10.
1. What is one thing that makes Jehovah’s Witnesses different from all the religions of Christendom, and why?
OF ALL those who claim to be Christian, only Jehovah’s Witnesses take the preaching of the good news seriously. They form the only group in which every member feels a personal obligation to approach his neighbor on a regular basis in order to talk to him about God’s purposes. Why is this? Because each Witness feels that, as a Christian, he must be a footstep follower of Christ. (1 Peter 2:21) What does this imply?
2. How do many people view Jesus Christ, but what was his primary activity on earth?
2 In the minds of many, Jesus Christ was merely a man who did good deeds. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, and showed love and kindness to those in need. But Jesus did much more. He was first of all a zealous preacher of the good news of God’s Kingdom. A few months after his baptism in the river Jordan, Jesus began publicly preaching: “Repent, you people, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” (Matthew 4:17) Mark’s account states: “Jesus went into Galilee, preaching the good news of God and saying: ‘The appointed time has been fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has drawn near. Be repentant, you people, and have faith in the good news.’”—Mark 1:14, 15.
3, 4. (a) Although Jesus cured every sort of disease, what did he emphasize in his ministry? (b) Why was Jesus sent forth? (c) To what did Jesus liken his preaching work, and what did he tell his disciples to do?
3 Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow him, and we read: “Then he went around throughout the whole of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom and curing every sort of disease and every sort of infirmity among the people.” When the crowds in Galilee tried to detain him, he said: “Also to other cities I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this I was sent forth.” Then he went preaching in the synagogues of Judea.—Matthew 4:18-23; Luke 4:43, 44.
4 Returning again to Galilee, Jesus “went journeying from city to city and from village to village, preaching and declaring the good news of the kingdom of God.” (Luke 8:1) He likened his preaching work to harvesting and said: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. Therefore, beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:35-38) Even when crowds gave him no rest, “he received them kindly and began to speak to them about the kingdom of God, and he healed those needing a cure.”—Luke 9:11.
5. When Jesus sent out his apostles and other disciples in the ministry, what instructions did he give them?
5 True, Jesus healed the sick and on occasion fed the hungry. But more than all else, he was busy telling people about the Kingdom of God. And he wanted his followers to do the same. Having trained his apostles, he sent them out two by two to preach, saying: “As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” (Matthew 10:7) Luke states: “He sent them forth to preach the kingdom of God and to heal.” (Luke 9:2) To the 70 disciples, Jesus also gave the command to ‘cure the sick ones and go on telling them that the kingdom of God has come near.’—Luke 10:9.
6. Before ascending to heaven, what instructions pertaining to their ministry did Jesus give to his followers?
6 Before ascending to heaven, Jesus commissioned his followers to continue the preaching work and even to expand it. He commanded them: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) Further, he said: “You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Thus, both Jesus and his apostles gave first attention to the preaching of the good news of God’s Kingdom.
The Kingdom to Be Preached in Our Time
7. What did Jesus say about a preaching work to be done at “the conclusion of the system of things”?
7 In his prophecy about events to take place at “the conclusion of the system of things,” Jesus said: “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:3, 14) Or, as stated at Mark 13:10: “Also, in all the nations the good news has to be preached first.”—See also Revelation 14:6, 7.
8. (a) What did the good news include in the apostles’ time? (b) What does the message of the good news include today?
8 In “the last days,” the good news of the Kingdom involves more than it did when Jesus was on earth. Jesus preached that the Kingdom had drawn near, drawing attention to the fact that he was among the people as the Messiah and King. (2 Timothy 3:1; Matthew 4:17; Luke 17:21) The good news preached by the early Christians included the matter of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven, and it encouraged meek ones to put faith in the coming Kingdom. (Acts 2:22-24, 32; 3:19-21; 17:2, 3; 26:23; 28:23, 31) Now that we have reached “the conclusion of the system of things,” the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom includes the striking message that the Kingdom is established in the heavens.—Revelation 11:15-18; 12:10.
Who Will Preach the Good News?
9. (a) How may some argue that preaching the good news is not obligatory for all Christians today? (b) Whom did Jehovah use in the past to preach his word, and what does this mean for us today?
9 Who, today, should share in the preaching work? Evidently, Christendom feels it is not an obligation for everyone, and it is true that when Jesus said that the good news would be preached, he did not specify who would do the work. Whom else, though, would Jehovah use for such a work but those who have put faith in his Word and begun to apply it in their lives? When Jehovah determined in the days of Noah to warn the wicked world of mankind of a coming destruction, he used a man who “walked with the true God.” (Genesis 6:9, 13, 14; 2 Peter 2:5) When he wanted prophetic messages delivered to Israel, he sent ‘his servants, the prophets.’ (Jeremiah 7:25; Amos 3:7, 8) The dedicated nation of Israel was a nation of his witnesses. (Exodus 19:5, 6; Isaiah 43:10-12) Yes, Jehovah uses his dedicated servants as his witnesses.
10. How can it be seen from the wording of Matthew 28:19, 20 that the command to make disciples applies to all Christians?
10 Some have said that the command to make disciples, given at Matthew 28:19, 20, was given only to the apostles and therefore does not apply to Christians in general. But notice what Jesus said: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” Jesus’ followers were to teach new disciples to observe all the things Jesus commanded. And one of the things he commanded was to ‘go and make disciples.’ Surely, all new disciples would have to be taught to observe this particular command too.
11. (a) What obligation rested upon the Christian congregation in the first century? (b) What is necessary for one to get saved, and what does this include?
11 The Christian congregation of the first century was called ‘God’s people for special possession that they should declare abroad the excellencies of the one who called them out of darkness into his wonderful light.’ (1 Peter 2:9) Its members zealously bore witness to the Kingdom of God. (Acts 8:4, 12) All the “holy ones,” anointed Christians, in Rome were told that “with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation” and that “everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.” (Romans 1:7; 10:9, 10, 13) This public declaration for salvation, made at the time of one’s baptism, also includes the public preaching of the good news of Jehovah’s Kingdom.
12, 13. (a) What does “the public declaration of our hope” mentioned at Hebrews 10:23 include? (b) How does Psalm 96 show the need for a public declaration outside the congregation, and how does Revelation 7:9, 10 support this?
12 The apostle Paul wrote to the Hebrew Christians: “Let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that promised.” (Hebrews 10:23) This public declaration is not limited to meetings of the congregation. (Psalm 40:9, 10) At Psalm 96:2, 3, 10 we clearly see a prophetic command to preach outside the congregation, to the nations, in these words: “From day to day tell the good news of salvation by him. Declare among the nations his glory, among all the peoples his wonderful works. Say among the nations: ‘Jehovah himself has become king.’” Indeed, at Matthew 28:19, 20 and Acts 1:8, Jesus commanded Christians to preach to the nations.
13 This public preaching is referred to in Paul’s further words to the anointed Hebrew Christians: “Through him let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” (Hebrews 13:15) In the book of Revelation, the “great crowd,” gathered out of all nations, is also seen crying out with a loud voice: “Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9, 10) Thus, in this time of the conclusion of the system of things, the preaching of the good news is done by Jehovah’s dedicated Witnesses, the remnant of Christ’s spiritual brothers and their sheeplike companions who make up the “great crowd.” But how should they actually do this work?
“Publicly and From House to House”
14. Where did Jesus do his preaching, and what principle can we learn from this?
14 Jesus preached directly to the people. We read, for example, that he preached in the synagogues. Why? Because people assembled there on the Sabbath and listened to a reading and discussion of the Scriptures. (Matthew 4:23; Luke 4:15-21) Jesus also preached to people along the wayside, beside the sea, on a mountain slope, at a well outside a city, and in homes. Wherever there were people, Jesus preached to them.—Matthew 5:1, 2; Mark 1:29-34; 2:1-4, 13; 3:19; 4:1, 2; Luke 5:1-3; 9:57-60; John 4:4-26.
15. (a) What instructions did Jesus give his disciples when he sent them out to preach? (b) How have some Bible commentators explained this?
15 When Jesus sent out his disciples to preach, he also sent them directly to the people. This is seen in his instructions recorded at Matthew 10:1-15, 40-42. In Mt 10 verse 11 he stated: “Into whatever city or village you enter, search out who in it is deserving, and stay there until you leave.” The Jerusalem Bible renders this verse: “Ask for someone trustworthy,” as if the disciples were to ask some prominent or knowledgeable person in the village to find out who had a good reputation and was thus deserving of the message. (See also Weymouth and the King James Version.) And this is the explanation that some Bible commentators give of Mt 10 verse 11.
16. What more objective consideration of Jesus’ words at Matthew 10:11 indicates how the apostles were to search out worthy ones?
16 It should be kept in mind, however, that for the most part, the theologians of Christendom do not go from house to house, and many Bible commentators tend to interpret the Scriptures in the context of their own experience. A more objective consideration of Jesus’ instruction indicates that he was speaking about his disciples’ searching out people individually, either from house to house or publicly, and presenting to them the message of the Kingdom. (Matthew 10:7) Their response would indicate whether they were deserving or not.—Matthew 10:12-15.
17. What proves that Jesus’ disciples were not merely calling on worthy persons based on recommendation or appointment?
17 This is seen in Jesus’ words at Matthew 10:14: “Wherever anyone does not take you in or listen to your words, on going out of that house or that city shake the dust off your feet.” Jesus was speaking about his disciples’ making uninvited calls on people to preach to them. True, they would also accept lodging with one of the households that responded to the message. (Matthew 10:11) But the main thing was the preaching work. At Luke 9:6 it is stated: “Then starting out they went through the territory from village to village, declaring the good news and performing cures everywhere.” (See also Luke 10:8, 9.) Deserving ones who received the disciples into their homes as prophets, perhaps giving them “a cup of cold water” or even accommodations, would not lose their reward. They would hear the Kingdom message.—Matthew 10:40-42.
18, 19. (a) According to Acts 5:42, how did the early Christians do their preaching work? (b) How do Paul’s words at Acts 20:20, 21 show that he was speaking about a ministry to nonbelievers, not an internal shepherding work?
18 After the Christian congregation was founded, we read concerning the apostles: “And every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.” (Acts 5:42; see Reference Bible, footnote.) The expression in the Greek translated “from house to house” is kat’ oiʹkon. Here ka·taʹ is in the distributive sense. Hence, it might be said that the disciples’ preaching was distributed from house to house. They were not making mere prearranged social calls. A similar use of ka·taʹ is found at Luke 8:1 in the expression “from city to city and from village to village.”
19 The same expression in the plural, kat’ oiʹkous, is used by the apostle Paul at Acts 20:20. There he stated: “I did not hold back from . . . teaching you publicly and from house to house.” The expression “from house to house” is rendered “in your homes” in some translations. So some of Christendom’s Bible commentators say that Paul is referring here to shepherding visits in the homes of believers. But Paul’s next words show that he was speaking about a ministry to nonbelievers, for he states: “But I thoroughly bore witness both to Jews and to Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus.”—Acts 20:21.
20. (a) To what extent have Jehovah’s Witnesses preached the good news of the Kingdom in our time? (b) How may some view the matter of keeping on with the preaching?
20 This method of reaching the people should therefore be used in our time when the “good news of the kingdom” must be “preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” (Matthew 24:14) For more than 65 years, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been zealously preaching the good news of God’s established Kingdom publicly and from house to house—now in 210 lands. What a grand witness is being accomplished! And this despite the fact that most people today hear the message “without response,” some even with annoyance. (Matthew 13:15) Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses persist in preaching in locations where people refuse to listen or even oppose them? This question will be taken up in the following article.
How Would You Answer?
□ What do the Scriptures show characterized Jesus’ ministry?
□ What directions were given the apostles in their ministry?
□ What work is to be done in our time, and why?
□ Who would Jehovah use to preach the good news in our day?
□ Where and how is the preaching work to be accomplished?