Light Bearers—For What Purpose?
“I have appointed you as a light of nations.”—ACTS 13:47.
1. How was the apostle Paul influenced by the commandment referred to at Acts 13:47?
“JEHOVAH has laid commandment upon us in these words, ‘I have appointed you as a light of nations, for you to be a salvation to the extremity of the earth,’” said the apostle Paul. (Acts 13:47) Not only did he say that but he also recognized the seriousness of it. After becoming a Christian, Paul devoted his life to the carrying out of that commandment. (Acts 26:14-20) Has that commandment also been laid upon us? If so, why is it important in our day?
When ‘the Lights Went Out’ for Humankind
2. (a) As the world entered its time of the end, what occurred that profoundly affected its spiritual and moral climate? (b) How did a British statesman react to what he saw occurring in August 1914?
2 Before most people who are alive today were born, this world entered its time of the end. Major events occurred in rapid succession. Satan the Devil, the chief promoter of spiritual and moral darkness, was hurled down to the earth. (Ephesians 6:12; Revelation 12:7-12) Mankind had already been plunged into its first world war. Early in August 1914, when war seemed certain, Sir Edward Grey, the British secretary of state for foreign affairs, stood at his office window in London and said: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”
3. What success have world leaders had in trying to brighten the outlook for mankind?
3 In an effort to make those lights come back on, the League of Nations was put into operation in 1920. But the lights scarcely flickered. At the end of the second world war, world leaders tried again, this time with the United Nations organization. Once more, the lights did not burn brightly. In view of more recent events, however, world leaders have been talking about “a new world order.” But it can hardly be said that any “new world” of their making has provided true peace and security. On the contrary, armed conflict, ethnic strife, crime, unemployment, poverty, pollution of the environment, and illnesses all continue to mar people’s enjoyment of life.
4, 5. (a) When and how did darkness settle over the human family? (b) What is necessary in order to provide relief?
4 In reality, it was long before 1914 that the lights went out for humankind. That occurred some 6,000 years ago in Eden, when our first human parents chose to make their own decisions without regard for the expressed will of God. The grievous experiences of the human race since then are simply episodes under what the Bible refers to as “the authority of the darkness.” (Colossians 1:13) It was under the influence of Satan the Devil that the first man, Adam, plunged the world into sin; and from Adam sin and death spread to all mankind. (Genesis 3:1-6; Romans 5:12) Humankind thus lost the approval of Jehovah, the Source of light and of life.—Psalm 36:9.
5 The only way that the light could again be brought to shine for any of humankind would be if they gained the approval of Jehovah God, mankind’s Creator. Then, “the envelopment that is enveloping over all the peoples,” the condemnation because of sin, could be lifted. How would this be possible?—Isaiah 25:7.
The One Given “as a Light of the Nations”
6. What grand prospects has Jehovah made possible for us through Jesus Christ?
6 Even before Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise, Jehovah foretold a “seed” that would be the deliverer of lovers of righteousness. (Genesis 3:15) Following the human birth of that promised Seed, Jehovah caused aged Simeon, at the temple in Jerusalem, to identify that one as “a light for removing the veil from the nations.” (Luke 2:29-32) Through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus’ perfect human life, humans could be relieved of the condemnation resulting from inborn sin. (John 3:36) In harmony with Jehovah’s will, they could now look forward to eternal life in perfection as part of the heavenly Kingdom or as its subjects on a paradise earth. What a marvelous provision that is!
7. Why do both the promises at Isaiah 42:1-4 and their first-century fulfillment fill us with hope?
7 Jesus Christ is himself the guarantee of fulfillment of these grand prospects. In connection with Jesus’ healing of afflicted people, the apostle Matthew applied to him what is written at Isaiah 42:1-4. That scripture says, in part: “Look! My servant, on whom I keep fast hold! My chosen one, whom my soul has approved! I have put my spirit in him. Justice to the nations is what he will bring forth.” And is this not what people of all nations need? The prophecy continues: “He will not cry out or raise his voice, and in the street he will not let his voice be heard. No crushed reed will he break; and as for a dim flaxen wick, he will not extinguish it.” In harmony with this, Jesus did not treat harshly people who were already afflicted. He showed pity for them, taught them about Jehovah’s purposes, and healed them.—Matthew 12:15-21.
8. In what sense has Jesus been given by Jehovah “as a covenant of the people” and “as a light of the nations”?
8 The Giver of this prophecy addresses himself to his Servant, to Jesus, and says: “I myself, Jehovah, have called you in righteousness, and I proceeded to take hold of your hand. And I shall safeguard you and give you as a covenant of the people, as a light of the nations, for you to open the blind eyes, to bring forth out of the dungeon the prisoner, out of the house of detention those sitting in darkness.” (Isaiah 42:6, 7) Yes, Jehovah has given Jesus Christ as a covenant, as a solemn promissory guarantee. How encouraging that is! Jesus showed true concern for humankind when he was on earth; he even gave his life for mankind. This is the one to whom Jehovah has entrusted rulership over all nations. No wonder Jehovah referred to him as a light of the nations. Jesus himself said: “I am the light of the world.”—John 8:12.
9. Why did Jesus not devote himself to improving the then existing system of things?
9 For what purpose did Jesus serve as the light of the world? It certainly was not for any secular or materialistic purpose. He refused to try to straighten out the then existing political system and would not accept kingship either from Satan, the ruler of the world, or from the people. (Luke 4:5-8; John 6:15; 14:30) Jesus showed great compassion for those who were afflicted and brought them relief in ways that others could not. But he knew that permanent relief could not be had within the framework of a human society that was under divine condemnation because of inborn sin and that was being manipulated by unseen wicked spirit forces. With godly insight, Jesus centered his entire life on the doing of God’s will.—Hebrews 10:7.
10. In what ways and for what purpose did Jesus serve as the light of the world?
10 In what ways and for what purpose, then, did Jesus serve as the light of the world? He devoted himself to preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God. (Luke 4:43; John 18:37) By bearing witness to the truth about Jehovah’s purpose, Jesus also glorified the name of his heavenly Father. (John 17:4, 6) Additionally, as the light of the world, Jesus laid bare religious falsehoods and thus provided spiritual freedom for those held in religious bondage. He exposed Satan as the unseen manipulator of those who allow themselves to be used by him. Jesus also clearly identified works that belong to darkness. (Matthew 15:3-9; John 3:19-21; 8:44) Outstandingly, he proved to be the light of the world by laying down his perfect human life as a ransom, thus opening the way for those who exercise faith in this provision to have forgiveness of sins, an approved relationship with God, and the prospect of eternal life as part of Jehovah’s universal family. (Matthew 20:28; John 3:16) And finally, by maintaining perfect godly devotion throughout his life, Jesus upheld Jehovah’s sovereignty and proved the Devil a liar, thus making eternal benefits possible for lovers of righteousness. But was Jesus to be the only light bearer?
“You Are the Light of the World”
11. For them to be light bearers, what did Jesus’ disciples have to do?
11 At Matthew 5:14, Jesus told his disciples: “You are the light of the world.” They were to follow in his footsteps. Both by their way of life and by their preaching, they were to direct others to Jehovah as the Source of true enlightenment. In imitation of Jesus, they were to make known Jehovah’s name and to uphold His sovereignty. As Jesus did, so they were to proclaim the Kingdom of God as mankind’s only hope. They also were to expose religious falsehoods, works that belong to darkness, and the wicked one that is behind these things. Followers of Christ were to tell people everywhere about Jehovah’s loving provision for salvation through Jesus Christ. With what zeal the early Christians carried out that assignment, starting first in Jerusalem and Judea and then moving into Samaria, as Jesus had commanded!—Acts 1:8.
12. (a) How far was the spiritual light to extend? (b) What did Jehovah’s spirit enable Paul to discern about Isaiah 42:6, and how should that prophecy affect our lives?
12 However, preaching the good news was not to be limited to that field. Jesus instructed his followers to “make disciples of people of all the nations.” (Matthew 28:19) At the time of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, the Lord specifically indicated that Saul (who became the apostle Paul) was to preach not only to Jews but also to Gentiles. (Acts 9:15) With the help of holy spirit, Paul came to appreciate what that involved. Thus, he discerned that the prophecy at Isaiah 42:6, which is directly fulfilled in Jesus Christ, is also an implied command to all who exercise faith in Christ. So, at Acts 13:47, when he quoted from Isaiah, Paul said: “Jehovah has laid commandment upon us in these words, ‘I have appointed you as a light of nations, for you to be a salvation to the extremity of the earth.’” What about you? Have you taken to heart that obligation to be a light bearer? Like Jesus and Paul, do you center your life on the doing of God’s will?
Light and Truth From God to Lead Us
13. In harmony with Psalm 43:3, what is our earnest prayer, and against what does this safeguard us?
13 If by our own devices we were to try to ‘make the lights come back on,’ to brighten the future for mankind, we would seriously be missing the point of God’s inspired Word. Regardless of what the world in general does, however, genuine Christians look to Jehovah as the true Source of light. Their prayer is like that recorded at Psalm 43:3, which says: “Send out your light and your truth. May these themselves lead me. May they bring me to your holy mountain and to your grand tabernacle.”
14, 15. (a) In what ways is Jehovah now sending out his light and truth? (b) How can we show that God’s light and truth really lead us?
14 Jehovah continues to answer that prayer of his loyal servants. He sends out light by declaring his purpose, by enabling his servants to understand it, and then by bringing to fulfillment what he has declared. When we pray to God, it is not a mere formality, done simply to give an appearance of holiness. Our earnest desire is that the light that comes from Jehovah will lead us, as the psalm says. We accept the responsibility that goes with receiving the light that God provides. Like the apostle Paul, we discern that the fulfillment of Jehovah’s Word carries with it an implied command to all who exercise faith in it. We feel like debtors to other people until we have given them the good news that God entrusted to us for that purpose.—Romans 1:14, 15.
15 The light and truth that Jehovah has sent forth in our day make manifest that Jesus Christ is actively ruling from his heavenly throne. (Psalm 2:6-8; Revelation 11:15) Jesus foretold that during his royal presence, this good news of the Kingdom would be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness. (Matthew 24:3, 14) That work is being done now, and intensely so, around the globe. If we are making that work the most important thing in our life, then God’s light and truth are leading us, as the psalmist said.
The Very Glory of Jehovah Has Shone Forth
16, 17. How did Jehovah make his glory shine forth upon his womanlike organization in 1914, and what command did he give her?
16 In soul-stirring language, the Scriptures describe the manner in which divine light is being diffused to people everywhere. Isaiah 60:1-3, which is addressed to Jehovah’s “woman,” or his heavenly organization of loyal servants, says: “Arise, O woman, shed forth light, for your light has come and upon you the very glory of Jehovah has shone forth. For, look! darkness itself will cover the earth, and thick gloom the national groups; but upon you Jehovah will shine forth, and upon you his own glory will be seen. And nations will certainly go to your light, and kings to the brightness of your shining forth.”
17 The glory of Jehovah shone forth upon his heavenly womanlike organization in the year 1914 when, after a long period of waiting, she gave birth to the Messianic Kingdom, with Jesus Christ as King. (Revelation 12:1-5) Jehovah’s glorious light shines with approval upon that government as the rightful one for all the earth.
18. (a) Why does darkness cover the earth, as foretold at Isaiah 60:2? (b) How can individuals be delivered from earth’s darkness?
18 In contrast, darkness covers the earth and thick gloom the national groups. Why? Because the nations reject the government of God’s dear Son in favor of human rule. They think that by getting rid of one form of human government and adopting another, they will solve their problems. But this does not bring the relief they hope for. They fail to see who is behind the scenes maneuvering the nations from the spirit realm. (2 Corinthians 4:4) They reject the Source of true light and are therefore in darkness. (Ephesians 6:12) Regardless of what the nations do, however, individuals can be delivered from that darkness. In what way? By putting full faith in the Kingdom of God and submitting to it.
19, 20. (a) Why and how has Jehovah’s glory shone upon Jesus’ anointed followers? (b) For what reason has Jehovah made his anointed ones light bearers? (c) As foretold, how have “kings” and “nations” been drawn to God-given light?
19 Christendom has not put faith in God’s Kingdom and has not submitted to it. But the spirit-anointed followers of Jesus Christ have. As a result, Jehovah’s light of divine approval has shone upon these visible representatives of his heavenly woman, and his glory has been manifest upon them. (Isaiah 60:19-21) They enjoy spiritual light that no change in the world’s political or economic scene can take away. They have experienced Jehovah’s deliverance from Babylon the Great. (Revelation 18:4) They enjoy his smile of approval because they have accepted his discipline and have loyally upheld his sovereignty. They have bright prospects for the future, and they rejoice in the hope he has set before them.
20 But for what purpose has Jehovah dealt with them in this way? As he himself said at Isaiah 60:21, it is so that he might “be beautified,” so that his name might be honored and others might be drawn to him as the only true God—and that with lasting benefit to themselves. Consistent with this, in 1931 these worshipers of the true God adopted the name Jehovah’s Witnesses. As a result of their witnessing, were “kings” drawn to the light they reflected, as Isaiah foretold? Yes! Not the political rulers of the earth, but the remaining number of those who are in line to rule as kings with Christ in his heavenly Kingdom. (Revelation 1:5, 6; 21:24) And what about “nations”? Have they been attracted to this light? Definitely so! No individual political nation has been attracted, but a great crowd of people out of all nations have taken their stand on the side of God’s Kingdom, and they eagerly anticipate deliverance into God’s new world. It will be a truly new world in which righteousness will prevail.—2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 7:9, 10.
21. How can we show that we have not missed the purpose of Jehovah’s undeserved kindness in granting us an understanding of his will?
21 Are you one of that growing throng of light bearers? Jehovah has granted us an understanding of his will so that we, like Jesus, can be light bearers. By demonstrating zeal in the work that Jehovah has entrusted to his servants in our day, may all of us show that we have not missed the purpose of the undeserved kindness that God has extended to us. (2 Corinthians 6:1, 2) There is no work that is more important in our day. And there is no greater privilege that can be ours than to glorify Jehovah by reflecting to others the glorious light that comes from him.
How Would You Answer?
□ What are the root causes of mankind’s grievous problems?
□ In what ways are both Jesus and his followers “the light of the world”?
□ How are Jehovah’s light and truth leading us?
□ How has Jehovah caused his glory to shine upon his organization?
□ For what purpose has Jehovah made his people light bearers?
[Pictures on page 9]
An event in Eden helps us to understand mankind’s grievous problems today