Christian Witnesses for Divine Sovereignty
“‘You should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”—1 PETER 2:9.
1. What effective witness was given about Jehovah in pre-Christian times?
IN PRE-CHRISTIAN times, a long line of witnesses boldly testified that Jehovah is the only true God. (Hebrews 11:4–12:1) Strong in their faith, they fearlessly obeyed Jehovah’s laws and refused to compromise in matters of worship. They gave a powerful witness to Jehovah’s universal sovereignty.—Psalm 18:21-23; 47:1, 2.
2. (a) Who is Jehovah’s greatest Witness? (b) Who replaced the nation of Israel as Jehovah’s witness? How do we know?
2 The last and greatest pre-Christian witness was John the Baptist. (Matthew 11:11) He was privileged to announce the coming of the Chosen One, and he introduced Jesus as the promised Messiah. (John 1:29-34) Jesus is Jehovah’s greatest Witness, “the faithful and true witness.” (Revelation 3:14) Because fleshly Israel rejected Jesus, Jehovah rejected them and appointed a new nation, the spiritual Israel of God, to be his witness. (Isaiah 42:8-12; John 1:11, 12; Galatians 6:16) Peter quoted a prophecy about Israel and showed that it applied to “the Israel of God,” the Christian congregation, when he said: “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”—1 Peter 2:9; Exodus 19:5, 6; Isaiah 43:21; 60:2.
3. What is the primary responsibility of the Israel of God and of the “great crowd”?
3 Peter’s words show that the primary responsibility of the Israel of God is to give a public witness about Jehovah’s glory. In our day this spiritual nation has been joined by “a great crowd” of witnesses who also glorify God publicly. They cry out with a loud voice for all to hear: “Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9, 10; Isaiah 60:8-10) How can the Israel of God and its companions accomplish their witness? By their faith and obedience.
4. Why were the Jews of Jesus’ day false witnesses?
4 Faith and obedience involve living by godly principles. The importance of this is seen in what Jesus said about the Jewish religious leaders of his day. These “seated themselves in the seat of Moses” as teachers of the Law. They even sent missionaries to convert nonbelievers. Yet, Jesus said to them: “You traverse sea and dry land to make one proselyte, and when he becomes one you make him a subject for Gehenna twice as much so as yourselves.” These religionists were false witnesses—arrogant, hypocritical, and unloving. (Matthew 23:1-12, 15) On one occasion Jesus said to some Jews: “You are from your father the Devil, and you wish to do the desires of your father.” Why would he say such a thing to members of God’s chosen nation? Because they would not heed the words of Jehovah’s greatest Witness.—John 8:41, 44, 47.
5. How do we know that Christendom has given a false witness about God?
5 In a similar way, during the centuries since Jesus’ time, hundreds of millions in Christendom have claimed to be his disciples. However, they have not done God’s will and so are not acknowledged by Jesus. (Matthew 7:21-23; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3) Christendom has sent out missionaries, many of whom were doubtless sincere. Yet, they taught people to worship a Trinitarian god who burns sinners in hellfire, and most of their converts show little evidence of being Christians. For example, the African land of Rwanda has been a fertile field for Roman Catholic missionaries. Still, Rwandan Catholics joined wholeheartedly in the recent ethnic warfare in that land. The fruitage in that missionary field shows that it did not receive a genuine Christian witness from Christendom.—Matthew 7:15-20.
Living by Godly Principles
6. In what ways is right conduct a vital part of giving a witness?
6 Wrong conduct by those who claim to be Christians brings reproach on “the way of the truth.” (2 Peter 2:2) A genuine Christian lives according to godly principles. He does not steal, lie, cheat, or commit immorality. (Romans 2:22) He certainly does not murder his neighbor. Christian husbands take loving oversight of their families. Wives respectfully support that oversight. Children are trained by their parents and are thus prepared to be responsible Christian adults. (Ephesians 5:21–6:4) True, all of us are imperfect and make mistakes. But a real Christian respects Bible standards and makes a genuine effort to apply them. This is noticeable to others and gives a fine witness. On occasion, those who previously opposed the truth observed the right conduct of a Christian and were won over.—1 Peter 2:12, 15; 3:1.
7. How important is it that Christians love one another?
7 Jesus showed a vital aspect of Christian conduct when he said: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) Satan’s world is characterized by “unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, badness, being full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malicious disposition, being whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, insolent, haughty, self-assuming, inventors of injurious things, disobedient to parents.” (Romans 1:29, 30) In such an environment, a worldwide organization characterized by love would be powerful evidence of God’s spirit in action—an effective witness. Jehovah’s Witnesses make up such an organization.—1 Peter 2:17.
Witnesses Are Students of the Bible
8, 9. (a) How was the psalmist strengthened by his study of God’s Law and meditation on it? (b) In what ways will Bible study and meditation strengthen us to keep on giving a witness?
8 To succeed in giving a fine witness, a Christian must know and love Jehovah’s righteous principles and truly hate the corruptness of the world. (Psalm 97:10) The world is persuasive in promoting its own thinking, and its spirit can be difficult to resist. (Ephesians 2:1-3; 1 John 2:15, 16) What can help us maintain the proper mental attitude? Regular and meaningful study of the Bible. The writer of Psalm 119 repeated many times his love of Jehovah’s Law. He read it and meditated on it constantly, “all day long.” (Psalm 119:92, 93, 97-105) As a result, he could write: “Falsehood I have hated, and I do keep detesting it. Your law I have loved.” Moreover, his deep love impelled him to act. He says: “Seven times in the day I have praised you because of your righteous judicial decisions.”—Psalm 119:163, 164.
9 In a similar way, our regular study of God’s Word and meditation on it will touch our hearts and move us to ‘praise him’—witness about Jehovah—frequently, even “seven times in the day.” (Romans 10:10) In harmony with this, the writer of the first psalm says that one who regularly meditates on Jehovah’s words “will certainly become like a tree planted by streams of water, that gives its own fruit in its season and the foliage of which does not wither, and everything he does will succeed.” (Psalm 1:3) The apostle Paul also showed the power of God’s Word when he wrote: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.”—2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
10. What is clear about Jehovah’s people in these last days?
10 The rapid increase in the number of true worshipers in this 20th century bespeaks the blessing of Jehovah. Without any doubt, as a group, these modern-day witnesses for divine sovereignty have cultivated love of Jehovah’s law in their hearts. Like the psalmist, they are moved to obey His law and faithfully witness “day and night” about Jehovah’s glory.—Revelation 7:15.
Jehovah’s Mighty Works
11, 12. What was accomplished by the miracles performed by Jesus and his followers?
11 In the first century, holy spirit empowered faithful Christian witnesses to perform miracles, which gave strong proof that their witness was true. When John the Baptist was in prison, he sent disciples to ask Jesus: “Are you the Coming One, or are we to expect a different one?” Jesus did not answer yes or no. Rather, he said: “Go your way and report to John what you are hearing and seeing: The blind are seeing again, and the lame are walking about, the lepers are being cleansed and the deaf are hearing, and the dead are being raised up, and the poor are having the good news declared to them; and happy is he that finds no cause for stumbling in me.” (Matthew 11:3-6) These powerful works served as a witness to John that Jesus was indeed “the Coming One.”—Acts 2:22.
12 In a similar way, some of Jesus’ followers healed the sick and even raised the dead. (Acts 5:15, 16; 20:9-12) These miracles were like a witness from God himself on their behalf. (Hebrews 2:4) And such works demonstrated Jehovah’s almighty power. For example, it is true that Satan, “the ruler of the world,” has the means to cause death. (John 14:30; Hebrews 2:14) But when Peter raised the faithful woman Dorcas from the dead, he could only have done it by Jehovah’s power, since only He can restore life.—Psalm 16:10; 36:9; Acts 2:25-27; 9:36-43.
13. (a) In what way do the Bible miracles still testify to Jehovah’s power? (b) How does the fulfillment of prophecy play a key part in proving Jehovah’s Godship?
13 Today, those miraculous works no longer take place. Their purpose has been served. (1 Corinthians 13:8) Nevertheless, we still have the record of them in the Bible, testified to by many onlookers. When Christians today draw attention to these historical accounts, those works are still giving an effective witness to Jehovah’s power. (1 Corinthians 15:3-6) In addition, back in Isaiah’s day, Jehovah pointed to accurate prophecy as an outstanding proof that He is the true God. (Isaiah 46:8-11) Many divinely inspired Bible prophecies are being fulfilled today—a number of them on the Christian congregation. (Isaiah 60:8-10; Daniel 12:6-12; Malachi 3:17, 18; Matthew 24:9; Revelation 11:1-13) As well as pinpointing that we are living in “the last days,” the fulfillment of these prophecies vindicates Jehovah as the only true God.—2 Timothy 3:1.
14. In what ways is the modern-day history of Jehovah’s Witnesses a powerful witness that Jehovah is the Sovereign Lord?
14 Finally, Jehovah still does great things, wondrous things, for his people. The increasing light on Bible truth is directed by Jehovah’s spirit. (Psalm 86:10; Revelation 4:5, 6) The outstanding increases reported around the world are evidence that Jehovah ‘is speeding it up in its own time.’ (Isaiah 60:22) When bitter persecution has broken out in country after country throughout the last days, the courageous endurance of Jehovah’s people has been possible because of the strengthening support of holy spirit. (Psalm 18:1, 2, 17, 18; 2 Corinthians 1:8-10) Yes, the modern-day history of Jehovah’s Witnesses is in itself a powerful witness that Jehovah is the Sovereign Lord.—Zechariah 4:6.
The Good News to Be Preached
15. What expanded witness was to be given by the Christian congregation?
15 Jehovah appointed Israel as his witness to the nations. (Isaiah 43:10) However, only a few Israelites were divinely commanded to go and preach to non-Israelites, and this was usually in order to announce Jehovah’s judgments. (Jeremiah 1:5; Jonah 1:1, 2) Nevertheless, prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures indicate that Jehovah would one day turn his attention to the nations in a large way, and this he has done through the spiritual Israel of God. (Isaiah 2:2-4; 62:2) Before ascending to heaven, Jesus commanded his followers: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations.” (Matthew 28:19) While Jesus had concentrated on “the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” his followers were sent to “all the nations,” even “to the most distant part of the earth.” (Matthew 15:24; Acts 1:8) The Christian witness was to be heard by all mankind.
16. What commission did the first-century Christian congregation fulfill, and to what extent?
16 Paul showed that he understood this well. By the year 61 C.E., he could say that the good news was “bearing fruit and increasing in all the world.” The good news was not limited to just one nation or one sect, such as that which engaged in “worship of the angels.” Rather, it was openly “preached in all creation that is under heaven.” (Colossians 1:6, 23; 2:13, 14, 16-18) Thus, the Israel of God in the first century fulfilled its commission to “‘declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called [them] out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
17. How does Matthew 24:14 continue to be fulfilled in a large way?
17 Still, that first-century preaching work was merely a foretaste of what would be accomplished during the last days. Looking forward especially to our time, Jesus said: “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 24:14; Mark 13:10) Has this prophecy been fulfilled? Indeed, it has. From a small start in 1919, the preaching of the good news has now been extended to more than 230 countries. The witness is heard in the frozen North and in the steaming tropics. Large continents are covered, and remote islands are sought out so that their inhabitants can receive a witness. Even in the midst of great upheaval, such as the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the good news continues to be preached. As in the first century, the witness is bearing fruit “in all the world.” The good news is openly announced “in all creation that is under heaven.” The result? First, the remaining ones of the Israel of God have been gathered “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” Second, the millions of the “great crowd” began to be brought in from “all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.” (Revelation 5:9; 7:9) Matthew 24:14 continues to be fulfilled in a large way.
18. What are some things that are being accomplished by the worldwide preaching of the good news?
18 The worldwide preaching of the good news helps to prove that Jesus’ royal presence has begun. (Matthew 24:3) Further, it is the main means by which “the harvest of the earth” is being reaped, as it points people to the only true hope for mankind, Jehovah’s Kingdom. (Revelation 14:15, 16) Since only genuine Christians share in the preaching of the good news, this important work helps to distinguish the true Christians from the false. (Malachi 3:18) In this way, it works for the salvation of those who preach as well as of those who respond. (1 Timothy 4:16) Most important, preaching the good news brings praise and honor to Jehovah God, the one who commanded that it be done, who supports those who do it, and who makes it fruitful.—2 Corinthians 4:7.
19. What determination are all Christians encouraged to have as they enter the new service year?
19 No wonder the apostle Paul was moved to say: “Woe is me if I did not declare the good news!” (1 Corinthians 9:16) Christians today feel the same way. It is a grand privilege and a great responsibility to be “God’s fellow workers,” shedding the light of truth in this bedarkened world. (1 Corinthians 3:9; Isaiah 60:2, 3) The work that had a small beginning in 1919 has now reached astounding proportions. Almost five million Christians are witnessing for divine sovereignty as they spend more than a billion hours a year to bring the message of salvation to others. What a joy it is to have a part in this work of sanctifying Jehovah’s name! As we enter the 1996 service year, let us be determined not to slow down. Rather, we will more than ever heed Paul’s words to Timothy: “Preach the word, be at it urgently.” (2 Timothy 4:2) As we do so, we pray with all our hearts that Jehovah will continue to bless our efforts.
Do You Remember?
□ Who replaced Israel as Jehovah’s “witness” to the nations?
□ How does Christian conduct contribute to giving a witness?
□ Why is study of the Bible and meditation on it essential for the Christian Witness?
□ In what way does the modern-day history of Jehovah’s Witnesses serve as evidence that Jehovah is the true God?
□ What is accomplished by the preaching of the good news?
[Pictures on page 15]
Far from being restricted, the good news is now being declared “in all creation that is under heaven”