Do All Things for the Good News
“I do all things for the sake of the good news, that I may become a sharer of it with others.”—1 CORINTHIANS 9:23.
1. What trait is common to all of us, but for what has God provided the basis?
THOUGH we differ from one another in various ways, all of us share a common trait. Through inheritance from Adam, we were born as sinners alienated from the Most High God, Jehovah. (Romans 5:12; Colossians 1:21) As the Christian apostle Paul wrote: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) For salvation, therefore, people of every racial group and nation need to be reconciled to God. And how grateful we can be that, with matchless love and mercy, Jehovah has provided the basis for reconciliation to him!
2. (a) What ministry was entrusted to anointed Christians? (b) From whose example can we learn, and why? (1 Corinthians 11:1)
2 Nineteen centuries ago, anointed witnesses of Jehovah were entrusted with “the ministry of the reconciliation.” Said Paul: “As substitutes for Christ we beg: ‘Become reconciled to God.’” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) With what attitude did the apostle carry out this ministry? “Though I am free from all persons,” he said, “I have made myself the slave to all, that I may gain the most persons.” (1 Corinthians 9:19) Unquestionably, Paul made conscientious effort to present his message in an effective way, for he also said: “I do all things for the sake of the good news, that I may become a sharer of it with others.” (1 Corinthians 9:23) So, what can we learn from Paul’s example?
Helping Humble Jews
3. How was Paul’s willingness to do all things for the sake of the good news shown in connection with Timothy and the Jews?
3 Paul’s Jewish background and his willingness to do all things for the sake of the good news equipped him to help humble Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah. For example, consider what the apostle did when he chose Timothy as his traveling companion. Timothy, whose father was Greek, had not been circumcised as Jewish male children were. (Leviticus 12:2, 3) Paul knew that Jews might be stumbled if an uncircumcised young man tried to help them to become reconciled to God. Therefore, so that honesthearted Jews might not be hindered from accepting Jesus, what did Paul do? He “took [Timothy] and circumcised him because of the Jews.” This was done even though circumcision was not a Christian requirement.—Acts 16:1-3.
4. According to 1 Corinthians 9:20, what was Paul’s objective?
4 So it was that Paul was doing things for the sake of the good news when he expressed loving concern for fellow Jews. He wrote: “To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to those under law I became as under law, though I myself am not under law, that I might gain those under law.” (1 Corinthians 9:20) Yes, as illustrated in the case of Timothy, Paul did what he could to gain Jews, helping them to become Christians. But did he deal similarly with Gentiles?
Seeking to Gain Gentiles
5. To whom did Paul preach in Corinth, and with what result?
5 After Paul’s arrival in the city of Corinth about the fall of 50 C.E., he delivered weekly talks in the synagogue to an audience of Jews and Greek proselytes to the Jewish faith. But his zealous preaching sparked such opposition that he told his adversaries: “Let your blood be upon your own heads. I am clean. From now on I will go to people of the nations.” Jehovah blessed this move, for “many of the Corinthians that heard began to believe and be baptized” as Christians. Indeed, in a vision, the Lord exhorted Paul to stick to that assignment, telling him: “I have many people in this city.”—Acts 18:1-10.
6. What prompted Paul’s interest in those whose background differed from his?
6 Paul’s genuine desire to gain Gentile converts to Christianity prompted him to take an interest also in people whose background was very different from his own. “To those [the Gentiles] without law I became as without law, although I am not without law toward God but under law toward Christ, that I might gain those without law.” (1 Corinthians 9:21) How did the apostle seek to gain Gentiles?
7. With regard to circumcision, why was Titus’ situation different from that of Timothy?
7 When Paul went to Jerusalem about 49 C.E. to attend the important meeting of the Christian congregation’s governing body, he was accompanied by the Greek disciple Titus. To the assembled brothers, Paul delivered a report on his preaching work among the people of the nations, and he later wrote: “Not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, although he was a Greek.” (Galatians 2:1-3) Unlike Timothy, Titus performed his ministry primarily among uncircumcised people of the nations. Hence, the issue of circumcision did not arise in his case.—2 Corinthians 8:6, 16-18, 23; 12:18; Titus 1:4, 5.
8. How did Paul give a witness in Athens?
8 Giving a witness in Athens, Paul again demonstrated that he did all things for the sake of the good news. Taking into account the thinking of inhabitants of that Grecian capital, he told them about the God unknown to them and quoted their poets Aratus and Cleanthes, who said: “For we are also his progeny.” The apostle thus sought to help his listeners to understand that they “ought not to imagine that the Divine Being is . . . like something sculptured by the art and contrivance of man.” Moreover, Paul reasoned: “God has overlooked the times of such ignorance, yet now he is telling mankind that they should all everywhere repent.” He effectively directed attention to the “Lord of heaven and earth,” Jehovah. And the result? “Some men joined themselves to him and became believers.” (Acts 17:22-34) Yes, Paul’s methods were successful!
9. How did Paul become ‘weak to the weak,’ and why?
9 “To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak,” said Paul. (1 Corinthians 9:22a) Though his speech was forceful, the apostle considered the weak consciences of certain Jews and Gentiles in the congregation. He urged Roman Christians: “Welcome the man having weaknesses in his faith, but not to make decisions on inward questionings.” Instead of being judgmental, Paul said: “Pursue the things making for peace and the things that are upbuilding to one another.” (Romans 14:1, 13, 19) He counseled: “We, though, who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those not strong, and not to be pleasing ourselves.” (Romans 15:1) Aware of his obligation to adjust his way of speaking and acting so as to help others, he wrote: “I have become all things to people of all sorts.”—1 Corinthians 9:22b; Galatians 3:28.
Improve Your Preaching Skills
10. How can we today imitate Paul?
10 Jehovah’s Witnesses today need to imitate Paul as he imitated Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1) The apostle was a skillful preacher who had the missionary spirit. The same can be true in our case, though our circumstances may not allow us to serve in a foreign field. Like Paul, we must ‘do all things for the sake of the good news so that we may share it with others.’ (1 Corinthians 9:23) But what can improve our skills as Kingdom preachers and disciple makers?—Matthew 28:19, 20.
11. As a minister, why develop your powers of observation?
11 Work to develop your powers of observation. By being observant, you can learn much that will help you to adapt your presentation of the good news to individual householders. For instance, if you witness to city dwellers, observe the locks on the door, the religious decorations, and the slogans on window stickers. These things can help you to give a witness that may touch the hearts of the people living in such homes. Paul surely was observant. In Athens he used an altar “To an Unknown God” as one feature of his fine witness regarding “the God that made the world and all the things in it.” (Acts 17:22-25) You can do similar things in your ministry.
12. What role does discernment play in our ministry?
12 Use discernment in the ministry. Do not be discouraged by a person’s initial reluctance to open the door and speak to you. Instead of letting yourself be turned away by a stern countenance, manifest kindness and use discernment. Endeavor to adapt your witness to the circumstances. With even brief prayerful thought, you may be able to say something that will strike a responsive chord in the person’s heart.—Compare Nehemiah 2:4-6.
13. How might we show consideration for those to whom we witness?
13 Be considerate. In this regard, various things can be done for the sake of the good news. For instance, consideration will prevent you from keeping elderly or sick persons standing at the door very long. You might suggest that you speak with them inside the house, where they may be more at ease. Or you may decide that under the circumstances it would be good to make your visit brief. In any case, be considerate. Show that you care!—Matthew 9:35, 36.
14. When witnessing, how can we put listeners at ease?
14 Speak in a way that puts your listeners at ease. Start your witness with a friendly greeting that is acceptable in your area. (Matthew 10:12) Take possible fears and prejudices into account. Make your remarks courteously and with genuine friendliness. This will help to assure householders that you are there to help and do not have ulterior motives.
15. Why provide adequate information about yourself and the reason you are calling at a home?
15 Householders need to know who is calling and why. Therefore, provide adequate information about yourself. In some areas, especially in Africa and Asia, people are so interested in visitors that they are eager to get answers to such questions as: Who are you? Where do you live? Are you married? Do you have a family? To contribute to the pleasantness of the occasion, custom demands that you answer these questions before explaining the purpose of your visit. Do not view such greetings as unnecessary, but use the time to observe the person and build respectful eye contact with him.
16. How may good questions be helpful in maintaining communication with a householder?
16 Use good questions to maintain communication with the householder. Though a person’s countenance may reveal something, his thoughts and feelings need to be understood. To that end, you might skillfully use questions to prompt the householder to express his views and sentiments. To illustrate: One childless lady who had given much attention to animals said this about the visit of a Witness: “What I remember about her smiling face was the peace. I was intrigued. This lady asked me what concerned me most about the conditions on the earth. I said I was worried about the way man treated animals, and she showed me Isaiah 11:6-9 about animals living in true peace. I wanted to know more.”
17. Why be alert to comments the householder may make about his or her circumstances?
17 Be alert to comments the householder may make about his or her circumstances, especially in frequently covered territory. In this way, even during a short conversation, you will probably learn something noteworthy about the person. After leaving the door, briefly note such information on the house-to-house record. But what if the householder raises a question that you cannot answer? Then do some research in the Watch Tower Society’s publications to determine the best way to share the good news with the individual the next time you call.
An Example for Missionaries
18. What can missionaries and others learn from Paul?
18 Among those doing all things for the sake of the good news are missionaries trained at the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. They can learn from Paul, who had a fine missionary spirit. For instance, he did not want to be responsible for obstacles that might prevent Jews and Gentiles from accepting the truth. Therefore, the apostle was careful about what he ate and admonished Corinthian Christians to watch that exercising their right to eat certain foods did not stumble others. (1 Corinthians 8:8, 9) In the New Century Bible, Professor F. F. Bruce stated: “In all indifferent things (such as the food which was at issue in [1 Corinthians] chapter 8), [Paul] conforms to the customs of those with whom he is at the time, so as to put no obstacle in the way of ‘winning’ them for the gospel.” (Romans 14:21) Similarly, missionaries among Jehovah’s Witnesses do not try to change the customs of people in their assignments, though new ones are given spiritual help to make adjustments needed to please God.—Romans 12:1, 2.
19. In making disciples, what adjustments may be necessary for (a) those in missionary work? (b) all Kingdom publishers?
19 Those starting out in a missionary assignment need to learn about people’s ways and customs. This is an enriching experience and can help missionaries to be more effective in their preaching work. In fact, to avoid stumbling others, they may need to make adjustments in such matters as dress and grooming. For example, when one missionary sister first arrived in West Africa, she found that the way she used cosmetics could easily identify her with women of loose morals in that region. Therefore, so that others would not question her motives, she quickly changed her way of applying makeup. Of course, all Witnesses of Jehovah should exercise good judgment in dress and grooming so as to help others spiritually. Christians, who are admonished ‘not to put a stumbling block before a brother’ and to pursue things upbuilding to one another, surely do not want to stumble anyone else.—Romans 14:13, 19.
20. (a) In summary, what will help us to “do all things for the sake of the good news”? (b) What questions remain to be answered?
20 Success as Kingdom proclaimers depends primarily on Jehovah’s blessing. (1 Corinthians 3:6, 7) Yet, we also need to put forth effort. So be observant, as Paul was in his ministry. Use discernment, be considerate, put householders at ease, and use good questions to maintain communication with them. Adapt to customs that may seem strange but are not unscriptural. Yes, let us ‘do all things for the sake of the good news, that we may become sharers of it with others.’ (1 Corinthians 9:23) But what happens when some are already part of our Christian brotherhood? How do we treat them?
How Would You Answer?
□ What did Paul do to help Jews become Christians?
□ How did Paul seek to gain Gentiles?
□ What are some ways to improve our preaching skills?
□ Paul set what example for missionaries and other Kingdom proclaimers?