Dedication and Freedom of Choice
“For such freedom Christ set us free.”—GALATIANS 5:1.
1. To what do the Hebrew and Greek words translated “dedication,” “inauguration,” or “consecration” chiefly apply?
BIBLE writers used several Hebrew and Greek words to convey the idea of being separated, or set apart, to serve a sacred purpose. In English Bibles these words are translated with words like “dedication,” “inauguration,” or “consecration.” At times these terms are used in connection with structures—generally God’s temple in ancient Jerusalem and the worship carried on there. Seldom are these words used in reference to secular matters.
Dedication to “the God of Israel”
2. Why could Jehovah rightfully be called “the God of Israel”?
2 In 1513 B.C.E., God delivered the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. Shortly thereafter, he set them apart as his special people, taking them into a covenant relationship with himself. They were told: “Now if you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property out of all other peoples, because the whole earth belongs to me.” (Exodus 19:5; Psalm 135:4) Having made the Israelites his special property, Jehovah could rightfully be called “the God of Israel.”—Joshua 24:23.
3. Why was Jehovah not showing partiality by choosing Israel as his people?
3 In making the Israelites his dedicated people, Jehovah was not being partial, for he also lovingly thought of non-Israelites. He instructed his people: “In case an alien resident resides with you as an alien in your land, you must not mistreat him. The alien resident who resides as an alien with you should become to you like a native of yours; and you must love him as yourself, for you became alien residents in the land of Egypt. I am Jehovah your God.” (Leviticus 19:33, 34) Centuries later, God’s standpoint was forcefully impressed upon the apostle Peter, who acknowledged: “For a certainty I perceive that God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.”—Acts 10:34, 35.
4. What were the conditions of the relationship between God and Israel, and did the Israelites live up to them?
4 Note, too, that being God’s dedicated people was conditional. Only if they strictly obeyed God’s voice and kept his covenant would they be his “special property.” Sadly, the Israelites failed to meet these requirements. After rejecting the Messiah sent by God in the first century C.E., they lost their privileged position. Jehovah was no longer “the God of Israel.” And the natural Israelites were no longer God’s dedicated people.—Compare Matthew 23:23.
Dedication of “the Israel of God”
5, 6. (a) What did Jesus mean by his prophetic words recorded at Matthew 21:42, 43? (b) When and how did “the Israel of God” come into being?
5 Did this mean that Jehovah was now to be without a dedicated people? No. Quoting the psalmist, Jesus Christ foretold: “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone that the builders rejected is the one that has become the chief cornerstone. From Jehovah this has come to be, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? This is why I say to you, The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.”—Matthew 21:42, 43.
6 The “nation producing its fruits” proved to be the Christian congregation. During his earthly sojourn, Jesus chose its first prospective members. But on the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., it was Jehovah God himself who founded the Christian congregation by pouring out his holy spirit upon its first members, numbering about 120. (Acts 1:15; 2:1-4) As the apostle Peter later wrote, this newly formed congregation then became “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession.” Chosen for what reason? That they should “declare abroad the excellencies of the one that called [them] out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9) Christ’s followers, anointed with God’s spirit, were now a dedicated nation, “the Israel of God.”—Galatians 6:16.
7. What were members of the Israel of God to enjoy, and what were they therefore told to avoid?
7 Although members of the holy nation were “a people for special possession,” they were not to be enslaved. On the contrary, they were to enjoy greater freedom than that possessed by the dedicated nation of natural Israel. Jesus promised the prospective members of this new nation: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) The apostle Paul pointed out that Christians were set free from the requirements of the Law covenant. In this regard he admonished fellow believers in Galatia: “For such freedom Christ set us free. Therefore stand fast, and do not let yourselves be confined again in a yoke of slavery.”—Galatians 5:1.
8. In what respect does the Christian arrangement offer individuals greater freedom than that experienced under the Law covenant?
8 Unlike natural Israel of old, to this day the Israel of God has strictly obeyed the requirements of its dedication. This should not be surprising because its members freely chose to obey. Whereas members of natural Israel became dedicated by reason of birth, members of the Israel of God became such by choice. The Christian arrangement thus stood in contrast with the Jewish Law covenant, which imposed dedication upon individuals without allowing them the freedom of choice.
9, 10. (a) How did Jeremiah indicate that there would be a change with regard to dedication? (b) Why would you say that not all dedicated Christians today are members of the Israel of God?
9 The prophet Jeremiah foretold a change with regard to dedication when he wrote: “‘Look! There are days coming,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and I will conclude with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant; not one like the covenant that I concluded with their forefathers in the day of my taking hold of their hand to bring them forth out of the land of Egypt, “which covenant of mine they themselves broke, although I myself had husbandly ownership of them,” is the utterance of Jehovah.’ ‘For this is the covenant that I shall conclude with the house of Israel after those days,’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘I will put my law within them, and in their heart I shall write it. And I will become their God, and they themselves will become my people.’”—Jeremiah 31:31-33.
10 Having God’s law “within them,” written, as it were, “in their heart,” members of the Israel of God are moved to live up to their dedication. Their motivation is stronger than that of the natural Israelites, who were dedicated by birth, not by choice. Today, the strong motivation to do God’s will, as demonstrated by the Israel of God, is shared by over five million fellow worshipers throughout the world. They likewise have dedicated their lives to Jehovah God to do his will. Although these individuals do not have the hope of heavenly life as do those making up the Israel of God, they rejoice in the prospect of living forever on earth under the rule of God’s heavenly Kingdom. They show appreciation for spiritual Israel by actively supporting its few remaining members in fulfilling their assignment to “declare abroad the excellencies of the one that called [them] out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
Wisely Exercising God-Given Freedom
11. With what capacity was man created, and how should it be used?
11 God created humans to treasure freedom. He granted them the capacity of free will. The first human couple made use of their freedom of choice. However, they unwisely and unlovingly made a choice that led to disaster both for them and for their offspring. Still, this clearly demonstrates that Jehovah never forces intelligent creatures to take a course contrary to their inner motives or desires. And since “God loves a cheerful giver,” the only dedication acceptable to him is one based on love, one made willingly with cheerfulness, one founded on freedom of choice. (2 Corinthians 9:7) Any other kind is unacceptable.
12, 13. How does Timothy serve as a pattern for proper child training, and to what has his example led many young people?
12 In full recognition of this requirement, Jehovah’s Witnesses advocate the dedicating of oneself to God, but they never coerce anyone into making such a dedication, not even their own children. In contrast with many churches, the Witnesses do not baptize their offspring as infants, as if it were possible to force them into dedication without the benefit of personal choice. The Scriptural pattern to follow is the one followed by the young man Timothy. As an adult, he was told by the apostle Paul: “Continue in the things that you learned and were persuaded to believe, knowing from what persons you learned them and that from infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through the faith in connection with Christ Jesus.”—2 Timothy 3:14, 15.
13 It is noteworthy that Timothy knew the holy writings because he had been taught them from infancy. He had been persuaded—not forced—to believe Christian teachings by his mother and grandmother. (2 Timothy 1:5) As a result, Timothy saw the wisdom of becoming a follower of Christ and thus made the personal choice of Christian dedication. In modern times, tens of thousands of young men and women whose parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses have followed this example. (Psalm 110:3) Others have not. It is a matter of personal choice.
Choosing to Be a Slave of Whom?
14. What does Romans 6:16 tell us about total freedom?
14 No human is totally free. Everyone is restricted in his freedom by physical laws, such as the law of gravity, which cannot be ignored with impunity. Also in a spiritual sense, no one is totally free. Paul reasoned: “Do you not know that if you keep presenting yourselves to anyone as slaves to obey him, you are slaves of him because you obey him, either of sin with death in view or of obedience with righteousness in view?”—Romans 6:16.
15. (a) How do people feel about being slaves, but what do most end up doing? (b) What appropriate questions might we ask ourselves?
15 The idea of being someone’s slave strikes most people as unpleasant. Yet, in today’s world the reality is that people often let themselves be manipulated and influenced in so many subtle ways that they end up involuntarily doing what others want them to do. For instance, the advertising industry and the entertainment world endeavor to press people into a mold, establishing standards for them to follow. Political and religious organizations get people to support their ideas and goals, not always by means of convincing arguments, but often by appealing to a sense of solidarity or loyalty. Since Paul noted that ‘we are the slaves of those whom we obey,’ each of us does well to ask himself, ‘Of whom am I a slave? Who exercises the greatest influence on my decisions and my way of life? Do religious clergymen, political leaders, financial tycoons, or entertainment personalities? Whom do I obey—God or men?’
16. In what sense are Christians slaves of God, and what is the proper view of such slavery?
16 Christians do not view obedience to God as an unwarranted infringement upon personal freedom. They willingly exercise their freedom in the manner of their Exemplar, Jesus Christ, bringing personal desires and priorities into line with God’s will. (John 5:30; 6:38) They develop “the mind of Christ,” submitting themselves to him as Head of the congregation. (1 Corinthians 2:14-16; Colossians 1:15-18) This is much like a woman who marries and willingly cooperates with the man she loves. In fact, the body of anointed Christians is spoken of as a chaste virgin promised to the Christ in marriage.—2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:23, 24; Revelation 19:7, 8.
17. What have all of Jehovah’s Witnesses chosen to become?
17 Each of Jehovah’s Witnesses, whether he has a heavenly hope or an earthly one, has made a personal dedication to God to do his will and to obey him as Ruler. For each Witness, dedication has been a personal choice to become a slave of God in preference to remaining a slave of men. This is in harmony with the apostle Paul’s counsel: “You were bought with a price; stop becoming slaves of men.”—1 Corinthians 7:23.
Learning to Benefit Ourselves
18. When does a potential Witness qualify for baptism?
18 Before a person can qualify to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, he must meet Scriptural qualifications. Elders exercise care in determining if a potential Witness truly understands the implications of Christian dedication. Does he really want to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Is he willing to live up to what this entails? If not, he is ineligible for baptism.
19. Why is there no reason to criticize someone who decides to become a dedicated servant of God?
19 If an individual meets all the requirements, however, why should he be criticized for voluntarily making a personal decision to let himself be influenced by God and by His inspired Word? Is it less acceptable to let oneself be influenced by God than by men? Or is this of any less benefit? Jehovah’s Witnesses do not think so. They wholeheartedly agree with God’s words written down by Isaiah: “I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One causing you to tread in the way in which you should walk.”—Isaiah 48:17.
20. In what respects are people freed by Bible truth?
20 Bible truth frees people from believing false religious doctrines, such as eternal torment in a fiery hell. (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10) Instead, it fills their hearts with gratitude for the true hope for the dead—the resurrection made possible on the basis of Jesus Christ’s ransom sacrifice. (Matthew 20:28; Acts 24:15; Romans 6:23) Bible truth frees people from the frustrations of relying on political promises that consistently fall short. Instead, it causes their hearts to overflow with joy at knowing that Jehovah’s Kingdom already rules in the heavens and will shortly rule over the entire earth. Bible truth frees people from practices that, although appealing to the fallen flesh, dishonor God and exact a heavy toll in the form of failed relationships, sickness, and premature death. In short, being a slave of God is exceedingly more beneficial than being a slave of men. In fact, dedication to God promises benefits “in this period of time . . . and in the coming system of things everlasting life.”—Mark 10:29, 30.
21. How do Jehovah’s Witnesses view dedication to God, and what is their wish?
21 Jehovah’s Witnesses today did not become part of a dedicated nation by birth as did the Israelites of old. The Witnesses are part of a congregation of dedicated Christians. Each baptized Witness has become such by individually exercising freedom of choice in making a dedication. Indeed, for Jehovah’s Witnesses, dedication results in a warm personal relationship with God marked by willing service to him. This joyful relationship they wholeheartedly desire to maintain, forever holding fast to the freedom for which Jesus Christ set them free.
How Would You Answer?
□ Why was God not partial in choosing Israel to become his “special property”?
□ Why would you say that Christian dedication does not entail a loss of freedom?
□ What are the benefits of dedication to Jehovah God?
□ Why is it better to be a servant of Jehovah than a slave of men?
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In ancient Israel, dedication to God was a matter of birth
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Christian dedication is a matter of choice