“Put On the Weapons of the Light”
“The night is well along; the day has drawn near. Let us therefore put off the works belonging to darkness and let us put on the weapons of the light.”—ROMANS 13:12.
1, 2. How did most first-century Jews respond to “the true light,” and this despite what advantages?
JESUS CHRIST is “the true light that gives light to every sort of man.” (John 1:9) When he came as Messiah in 29 C.E., he came to a nation that had been chosen by God to be His witnesses and that was, nominally at least, dedicated to Jehovah. (Isaiah 43:10) Many of the Israelites had been waiting for the Messiah, and a number knew some of the prophecies that would identify him. Moreover, Jesus preached in all parts of Palestine, performing signs in full view of the multitudes. Crowds flocked to hear him and were impressed by what they saw and heard.—Matthew 4:23-25; 7:28, 29; 9:32-36; John 7:31.
2 In the end, though, the majority of the Jews rejected Jesus. John’s Gospel says: “He came to his own home, but his own people did not take him in.” (John 1:11) Why was this? The answer to that question will help us to avoid repeating their mistake. It will help us to “put off the works belonging to darkness and . . . put on the weapons of the light,” thus avoiding an unfavorable judgment like that suffered by first-century Israel.—Romans 13:12; Luke 19:43, 44.
Opposition From Religious Authorities
3. In what way did the Jewish religious leaders prove to be “blind guides”?
3 In Israel the religious leaders were foremost in rejecting the light. Despite being teachers “versed in the Law,” they had imposed on the people a legalistic system of rules that often contradicted God’s Law. (Luke 11:45, 46) Thus, they ‘made the word of God invalid by the tradition which they handed down.’ (Mark 7:13; Matthew 23:16, 23, 24) They were “blind guides,” hindering the light from shining through.—Matthew 15:14.
4, 5. (a) How did the Pharisees react when a number of Jews began wondering whether Jesus was the Messiah? (b) What bad heart attitude did the Pharisees betray?
4 On one occasion when many Israelites were wondering whether Jesus was perhaps the Christ, the alarmed Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. The officers came back empty-handed, saying: “Never has another man spoken like this.” Unmoved, the Pharisees asked the officers: “You have not been misled also, have you? Not one of the rulers or of the Pharisees has put faith in him, has he? But this crowd that does not know the Law are accursed people.” Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, protested that it was unlawful to judge a man before hearing him. Spitefully, the Pharisees turned on him and said: “You are not also out of Galilee, are you? Search and see that no prophet is to be raised up out of Galilee.”—John 7:46-52.
5 Why did religious leaders in a nation dedicated to God act in such a way? Because they had developed a bad condition of heart. (Matthew 12:34) Their disdainful view of the common people betrayed their arrogance. Their claim that “not one of the rulers or of the Pharisees has put faith in him” made the prideful assumption that the Messiah could be genuine only if they approved of him. Moreover, they were dishonest, trying to discredit Jesus because he came from Galilee, when a simple investigation would have revealed that he was actually born in Bethlehem, the prophesied birthplace of the Messiah.—Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1.
6, 7. (a) How did the religious leaders react to the resurrection of Lazarus? (b) What did Jesus say to expose the religious leaders’ love of the darkness?
6 The implacable opposition of these religious leaders to the light was convincingly shown when Jesus resurrected Lazarus. To a God-fearing person, such an act would have been proof that Jesus had Jehovah’s backing. The religious leaders, however, could only see a possible threat to their privileged position. They said: “What are we to do, because this man performs many signs? If we let him alone this way, they will all put faith in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (John 11:44, 47, 48) So they took counsel to kill both Jesus and Lazarus, perhaps hoping in this way to extinguish the light.—John 11:53, 54; 12:9, 10.
7 Hence, those religious leaders of God’s nation were driven away from the light by arrogance, pride, intellectual dishonesty, and an overpowering self-interest. Toward the end of his ministry, Jesus exposed their guilt, saying: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut up the kingdom of the heavens before men; for you yourselves do not go in, neither do you permit those on their way in to go in.”—Matthew 23:13.
Selfishness and Pride
8. What events in Nazareth exposed the bad heart condition of some people there?
8 In general, the Jewish people of the first century mirrored their religious leaders in rejecting the light because of bad heart attitudes. For example, on one occasion Jesus was invited to speak in a synagogue in Nazareth. He read and explained a passage from Isaiah, and at first, the congregation listened to him. But when he drew historical comparisons that exposed their selfishness and lack of faith, they were infuriated and tried to kill him. (Luke 4:16-30) Pride, among other bad traits, hindered them from responding properly to the light.
9. How were the wrong motives of a large group of Galileans exposed?
9 On another occasion, Jesus miraculously fed a large crowd beside the Sea of Galilee. Witnesses of this miracle said: “This is for a certainty the prophet that was to come into the world.” (John 6:10-14) When Jesus went to another location by boat, the crowd followed him. Jesus knew, however, that the motive of many was not a love of the light. He told them: “You are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate from the loaves and were satisfied.” (John 6:26) He was soon proved correct when a number that had been following him turned back to the world. (John 6:66) A selfish, “what’s in it for me?” attitude blocked out the light.
10. How did the majority of Gentiles react to the light?
10 After Jesus’ death and resurrection, believing Jews continued to carry the light to others of Jewry, but few responded. Therefore, the apostle Paul and others, serving as “a light of nations,” spread the good news to other lands. (Acts 13:44-47) Many non-Jews responded, but the general reaction came to be as Paul described: “We preach Christ impaled, . . . [a message that is] to the nations foolishness.” (1 Corinthians 1:22, 23) Most non-Jews rejected the light because they were blinded by pagan superstitions or by worldly philosophies.—Acts 14:8-13; 17:32; 19:23-28.
‘Called Out Of Darkness’
11, 12. Who responded to the light in the first century, and who respond today?
11 In the first century, despite the general lack of response, many righthearted ones were ‘called out of darkness into God’s wonderful light.’ (1 Peter 2:9) Of these the apostle John writes: “As many as did receive [Christ], to them he gave authority to become God’s children, because they were exercising faith in his name.” (John 1:12) Starting from Pentecost 33 C.E., these lovers of the light were baptized with holy spirit and became sons of God with the hope of reigning with Jesus in his heavenly Kingdom.
12 In our day the final ones of those anointed sons of God have been gathered, and fulfilling Daniel’s prophecy, they “shine like the brightness of the expanse . . . , bringing the many to righteousness.” (Daniel 12:3) They have let their light shine to such an extent that more than four million “other sheep” have been attracted to the truth and enjoy a righteous standing before God. (John 10:16) These, in turn, reflect the light around the world, so that now that light is shining as never before. In our day, as in the first century, “the darkness has not overpowered [the light].”—John 1:5.
‘There Is No Darkness With God’
13. What warning did the apostle John give us?
13 We should, however, never forget the warning of the apostle John: “God is light and there is no darkness at all in union with him. If we make the statement: ‘We are having a sharing with him,’ and yet we go on walking in the darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth.” (1 John 1:5, 6) Clearly, it is possible for Christians to fall into the same trap as the Jews and, while being nominal witnesses for God, to produce works of darkness.
14, 15. What works of darkness manifested themselves in the first-century Christian congregation, and what do we learn from this?
14 Indeed, this happened in the first century. We read of serious divisions in Corinth. (1 Corinthians 1:10-17) The apostle John had to warn anointed Christians not to hate one another, and James had to counsel some not to favor the rich above the poor. (James 2:2-4; 1 John 2:9, 10; 3 John 11, 12) In addition, when Jesus inspected the seven congregations of Asia Minor, as related in the book of Revelation, he reported the intrusion of works of darkness, including apostasy, idolatry, immorality, and materialism. (Revelation 2:4, 14, 15, 20-23; 3:1, 15-17) In those early days of the Christian congregation, a number had thus abandoned the light, some being disfellowshipped and others just drifting away to “the darkness outside.”—Matthew 25:30; Philippians 3:18; Hebrews 2:1; 2 John 8-11.
15 All these reports from the first century show different ways that the darkness of Satan’s world can infiltrate the thinking of individual Christians or even whole congregations. We should be on guard that such a thing never happens to us. How can we do that?
The New Personality
16. What sound counsel did Paul give to the Ephesians?
16 Paul urged the Ephesians to be no longer “in darkness mentally, and alienated from the life that belongs to God.” In order not to slip back into that darkness, they had to cultivate heart attitudes that belong to the light. Paul said: “You should put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct and which is being corrupted according to his deceptive desires; but . . . you should be made new in the force actuating your mind, and should put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.”—Ephesians 4:18, 22-24.
17. How can we today avoid slipping back into the darkness?
17 Paul here counsels, as it were, radical surgery—cutting out what was formerly a part of us, our old personality, and allowing the development of a whole new spirit to ‘actuate our minds.’ And he was speaking not to newly interested ones but to baptized Christians. The changing of our personality does not stop at baptism. It is a continuing process. If we stop cultivating the new personality, the old one is likely to resurface, with its pride, arrogance, and selfishness. (Genesis 8:21; Romans 7:21-25) This could lead to a return to works of darkness.
“By Light From You We Can See Light”
18, 19. How did Jesus and Paul describe the way to recognize the “children of light”?
18 Remember that our attaining eternal life depends on our receiving a favorable judgment from God, which judgment is based on how much we love the light. After alluding to this latter fact, Jesus said: “He that practices vile things hates the light and does not come to the light, in order that his works may not be reproved. But he that does what is true comes to the light, in order that his works may be made manifest as having been worked in harmony with God.”—John 3:19-21.
19 Paul supported this thought when he wrote to the Ephesians: “Go on walking as children of light, for the fruitage of the light consists of every sort of goodness and righteousness and truth.” (Ephesians 5:8, 9) So our works show whether we are children of the light or of the darkness. But right works can only spring from a good heart. This is why we have to watch our heart, be conscious of the need to keep renewing our personality, be careful about the spirit actuating our mind.—Proverbs 4:23.
20, 21. (a) What special challenge faces children born into Christian families? (b) What challenge faces all children of Christian parents?
20 In some cases, this has proved to be a special challenge for children born to dedicated Witnesses of Jehovah. Why? Well, on the one hand, such children enjoy a wonderful blessing. Knowing the truth from earliest childhood means, in effect, that a person never needs to experience firsthand being in the darkness of Satan’s world. (2 Timothy 3:14, 15) On the other hand, some children in this situation take the truth for granted and never learn truly to love the light. This was the situation of most Jews of the first century. They grew up in a nation dedicated to Jehovah, and to some extent they had a knowledge of the truth. But it was not in their hearts.—Matthew 15:8, 9.
21 Christian parents are responsible before God to raise their children in the light. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Ephesians 6:4) In the end, though, the child himself has to come to love the light more than the darkness. He has to make the light of truth his own. As he grows up, some features of Satan’s world may seem attractive. The carefree or irresponsible life-styles of his peers may seem exciting. The skepticism taught in the classroom may be seductive. But he should never forget that outside the light, ‘darkness covers the earth.’ (Isaiah 60:2) In the long run, this bedarkened world has nothing good to offer.—1 John 2:15-17.
22. How does Jehovah now bless those who come to the light, and how will he bless them in the future?
22 King David wrote: “With you [Jehovah] is the source of life; by light from you we can see light. Continue your loving-kindness to those knowing you.” (Psalm 36:9, 10) Those who love the light come to know Jehovah, and this can mean life for them. (John 17:3) In his loving-kindness, Jehovah supports them now, and when the great tribulation strikes, he will carry them through into a new world. This can be our experience if we now shun the darkness of Satan’s world. In the new world, mankind will be restored to perfect life in Paradise. (Revelation 21:3-5) Those who receive a favorable judgment then will have the prospect of basking in Jehovah’s light for all time to come. What a glorious prospect! And what a powerful inducement now to “put off the works belonging to darkness and . . . put on the weapons of the light”!—Romans 13:12.
Do You Remember?
◻ Why did most Jews of Jesus’ day reject the light?
◻ To what extent has the light been shining in modern times?
◻ What warnings concerning selfishness and pride do first-century examples provide?
◻ What is essential if we are going to remain in the light?
◻ What blessings are in store for lovers of the light?
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The majority of the Jews of Jesus’ day did not respond to the light
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Over the decades various methods have been used to let the light shine in making disciples
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“You should put away the old personality . . . and should put on the new personality”