What Does Jehovah Ask of Us Today?
“A voice out of the cloud [said]: ‘This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved; listen to him.’”—MATTHEW 17:5.
1. When did the Law fulfill its purpose?
JEHOVAH gave the nation of Israel the Law, with its many features. Regarding them, the apostle Paul wrote: “They were legal requirements pertaining to the flesh and were imposed until the appointed time to set things straight.” (Hebrews 9:10) When the Law led a remnant of Israelites to accept Jesus as the Messiah, or Christ, it had fulfilled its purpose. Thus, Paul declared: “Christ is the end of the Law.”—Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:19-25; 4:4, 5.
2. Who were under the Law, and when were they released from it?
2 Does this mean that the Law is not binding upon us today? Actually, the vast majority of humankind never were under the Law, as the psalmist explained: “[Jehovah] is telling his word to Jacob, his regulations and his judicial decisions to Israel. He has not done that way to any other nation; and as for his judicial decisions, they have not known them.” (Psalm 147:19, 20) When God established the new covenant on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice, even the nation of Israel was no longer under obligation to obey the Law. (Galatians 3:13; Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:13, 14, 16) If, then, the Law is no longer binding, what does Jehovah ask of those who desire to serve him today?
What Jehovah Asks
3, 4. (a) What basically does Jehovah ask of us today? (b) Why should we follow Jesus’ steps closely?
3 During the final year of Jesus’ ministry, his apostles Peter, James, and John accompanied him to a high mountain, possibly a spur of Mount Hermon. There they saw a prophetic vision of Jesus in magnificent glory and heard God’s own voice declare: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved; listen to him.” (Matthew 17:1-5) Basically, that is what Jehovah is asking of us—to listen to his Son and follow his example and teachings. (Matthew 16:24) Thus, the apostle Peter wrote: “Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely.”—1 Peter 2:21.
4 Why should we follow Jesus’ steps closely? Because by imitating him, we imitate Jehovah God. Jesus knew the Father intimately, having spent untold billions of years with him in heaven before coming to the earth. (Proverbs 8:22-31; John 8:23; 17:5; Colossians 1:15-17) While on earth, Jesus loyally represented his Father. He explained: “Just as the Father taught me I speak these things.” In fact, Jesus imitated Jehovah so exactly that he could say: “He that has seen me has seen the Father also.”—John 8:28; 14:9.
5. What law are Christians under, and when did that law come into force?
5 What is involved in listening to Jesus and imitating him? Does it mean being under a law? Paul wrote: “I myself am not under law.” He was here referring to “the old covenant,” the Law covenant made with Israel. Paul did acknowledge that he was “under law toward Christ.” (1 Corinthians 9:20, 21; 2 Corinthians 3:14) With the end of the old Law covenant, a “new covenant” came into force with its “law of the Christ” that all servants of Jehovah today are obligated to obey.—Luke 22:20; Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 8:7-13.
6. How might “the law of the Christ” be described, and how do we obey it?
6 Jehovah did not have “the law of the Christ” put down in the form of a code, organizing it into various categories, as was done with the old Law covenant. This new law for Christ’s followers does not include an extensive list of dos and don’ts. In his Word, however, Jehovah did preserve four comprehensive accounts of the life and teachings of his Son. Moreover, God inspired some of Jesus’ early followers to provide written instructions regarding personal behavior, congregational affairs, conduct within the family, and other matters. (1 Corinthians 6:18; 14:26-35; Ephesians 5:21-33; Hebrews 10:24, 25) When we conform our lives to the example and teachings of Jesus Christ and heed the counsel of inspired first-century Bible writers, we are obeying “the law of the Christ.” Jehovah asks this of his servants today.
The Importance of Love
7. How did Jesus emphasize the substance of his law during the last Passover with his apostles?
7 While love was important under the Law, it is the very heart, or essence, of the law of the Christ. This fact was stressed by Jesus when he met with his apostles to celebrate the Passover of 33 C.E. According to the apostle John’s summary of what took place that night, Jesus’ heartfelt words included 28 references to love. This emphasized to his apostles the substance, or spirit, of his law. Significantly, John introduced his coverage of the events of that momentous evening by saying: “Because he knew before the festival of the passover that his hour had come for him to move out of this world to the Father, Jesus, having loved his own that were in the world, loved them to the end.”—John 13:1.
8. (a) What indication was there of an ongoing dispute among the apostles? (b) How did Jesus teach his apostles a lesson in humility?
8 Jesus loved his apostles, even though he had tried without apparent success to help them overcome their inordinate desire for power and position. Months before their arrival in Jerusalem, ‘they had argued among themselves who was greater.’ And just before they came to the city for the Passover, the dispute over position erupted again. (Mark 9:33-37; 10:35-45) That this was an ongoing problem is indicated by what occurred shortly after the apostles entered the upper room to share what was to be their final Passover together. At that time no one seized the opportunity to render the customary, hospitable service of washing the feet of the others. To teach them a lesson in humility, Jesus himself washed their feet.—John 13:2-15; 1 Timothy 5:9, 10.
9. How did Jesus deal with the situation that occurred following the last Passover?
9 Despite that lesson, after the Passover was observed and Jesus instituted the Memorial of his approaching death, note what took place yet again. Says Luke’s Gospel account: “There also arose a heated dispute among them over which one of them seemed to be greatest.” Instead of getting angry with the apostles and berating them, Jesus kindly counseled them about the need to be different from the power-hungry rulers of the world. (Luke 22:24-27) He then provided what might be called the cornerstone of the law of the Christ, saying: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”—John 13:34.
10. What commandment did Jesus give his disciples, and what did it involve?
10 Later that evening Jesus pointed out how far Christlike love should go. He said: “This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you. No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.” (John 15:12, 13) Was Jesus saying that his followers should be willing to die in behalf of fellow believers if the occasion called for this? That was the understanding of John, an eyewitness on this occasion, for he later wrote: “By this we have come to know love, because that one [Jesus Christ] surrendered his soul for us; and we are under obligation to surrender our souls for our brothers.”—1 John 3:16.
11. (a) How do we fulfill the law of the Christ? (b) What example did Jesus provide?
11 So, then, we do not fulfill the law of the Christ simply by teaching others about him. We must also live and behave as Jesus did. True, Jesus used beautiful, well-chosen words in his discourses. Yet, he also taught by example. Even though Jesus had been a mighty spirit creature in heaven, he seized the opportunity to serve his Father’s interests on earth and to show how we should live. He was humble, kind, and considerate, helping those burdened down and oppressed. (Matthew 11:28-30; 20:28; Philippians 2:5-8; 1 John 3:8) And Jesus urged his followers to love one another, just as he loved them.
12. Why can it be said that the law of the Christ does not minimize the need to love Jehovah?
12 What place does love for Jehovah—the Law’s greatest commandment—have in the law of the Christ? (Matthew 22:37, 38; Galatians 6:2) Second place? By no means! Love for Jehovah and love for our fellow Christians are inextricably linked. One cannot truly love Jehovah without also loving his brother, for the apostle John noted: “If anyone makes the statement: ‘I love God,’ and yet is hating his brother, he is a liar. For he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot be loving God, whom he has not seen.”—1 John 4:20; compare 1 John 3:17, 18.
13. What was the effect of the disciples’ obedience to Jesus’ new commandment?
13 When Jesus gave his disciples the new commandment to love one another just as he loved them, he described the effect this would have. “By this all will know that you are my disciples,” he said, “if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) According to Tertullian, who lived more than a hundred years after Jesus’ death, the brotherly love of early Christians had that very effect. Tertullian quoted non-Christians as saying of Christ’s followers: ‘See how they love one another and how they are even ready to die for one another.’ We might ask ourselves, ‘Do I show such love for fellow Christians that it proves that I am one of Jesus’ disciples?’
How We Prove Our Love
14, 15. What may make it difficult to obey the law of the Christ, but what can help us to do so?
14 It is vital that Jehovah’s servants manifest Christlike love. But do you find it hard to love fellow Christians who display selfish traits? Well, as we have seen, even the apostles argued and tried to promote their own interests. (Matthew 20:20-24) The Galatians too bickered among themselves. After pointing out that neighbor love fulfilled the Law, Paul warned them: “If, though, you keep on biting and devouring one another, look out that you do not get annihilated by one another.” After contrasting the works of the flesh with the fruitage of God’s spirit, Paul added the admonition: “Let us not become egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another.” Then the apostle urged: “Go on carrying the burdens of one another, and thus fulfill the law of the Christ.”—Galatians 5:14–6:2.
15 By requiring obedience to the law of the Christ, is Jehovah asking too much of us? Although it may be difficult to be kind to those who have, in effect, snapped at us and torn us apart emotionally, we are obligated to “become imitators of God, as beloved children, and go on walking in love.” (Ephesians 5:1, 2) We need to continue to look at the example of God, who “recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) By taking the initiative to help others, including those who have mistreated us, we can enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that we are imitating God and are obedient to the law of the Christ.
16. How do we prove our love for God and Christ?
16 We should remember that we prove our love by what we do, not merely by what we say. Even Jesus once found an aspect of God’s will difficult to accept because of all that was involved. “Father, if you wish, remove this cup from me,” Jesus prayed. But he quickly added: “Nevertheless, let, not my will, but yours take place.” (Luke 22:42) Despite all that Jesus suffered, he did God’s will. (Hebrews 5:7, 8) Obedience is a proof of our love and shows that we recognize God’s way to be best. “This is what the love of God means,” says the Bible, “that we observe his commandments.” (1 John 5:3) And Jesus told his apostles: “If you love me, you will observe my commandments.”—John 14:15.
17. What special commandment did Jesus give his followers, and how do we know that it applies to us today?
17 Besides commanding his followers to love one another, what special commandment did Christ give them? He commanded that they do the preaching work for which he had trained them. Peter said: “He ordered us to preach to the people and to give a thorough witness.” (Acts 10:42) Jesus had specifically commanded: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 1:8) Jesus revealed that such instructions would also apply to his followers now in “the time of the end,” for he 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.” (Daniel 12:4; Matthew 24:14) Of course, it is God’s will that we preach. Yet, some may think that requiring that we do this work is too much for God to ask of us. But is it really?
Why It May Seem to Be Hard
18. What should we remember when we suffer for doing what Jehovah asks?
18 As we have seen, Jehovah has asked people to comply with various requirements throughout history. And just as what they have been asked to do has varied, so has the nature of the trials they have experienced. God’s dear Son underwent the most difficult trials, eventually being killed in the cruelest manner because of doing what God asked. But when we suffer for doing what Jehovah asks of us, we should remember that he is not responsible for our trials. (John 15:18-20; James 1:13-15) Satan’s rebellion ushered in sin, suffering, and death, and he is the one who has created the circumstances that have often made it very difficult to do what Jehovah asks of his servants.—Job 1:6-19; 2:1-8.
19. Why is it a privilege to do what God has asked of us through his Son?
19 Through his Son, Jehovah has directed that in this time of the end, His servants make an earth-wide proclamation that the only remedy for all human suffering is Kingdom rule. This government of God will eliminate all problems on earth—war, crime, poverty, old age, sickness, death. The Kingdom will also usher in a glorious earthly paradise, into which even the dead will be resurrected. (Matthew 6:9, 10; Luke 23:43; Acts 24:15; Revelation 21:3, 4) What a privilege it is to declare the good news of such things! Clearly, then, there is no problem with what Jehovah asks us to do. We encounter opposition, but Satan the Devil and his world are responsible for this.
20. How can we meet any challenge presented by the Devil?
20 How can we successfully meet any challenge presented by Satan? By bearing in mind these words: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.” (Proverbs 27:11) Jesus provided Jehovah with an answer to Satan’s taunting by leaving the security of heavenly life to do his Father’s will on earth. (Isaiah 53:12; Hebrews 10:7) As a human, Jesus endured every trial thrust upon him, even death on a torture stake. If we follow him as our Exemplar, we too can endure sufferings and do what Jehovah asks of us.—Hebrews 12:1-3.
21. How do you feel about the love shown by Jehovah and his Son?
21 What love God and his Son have shown for us! Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, obedient mankind has the prospect of living forever in Paradise. So let us allow nothing to obscure our hope. Instead, let us personally take to heart what Jesus made possible, as did Paul, who said: “The Son of God . . . loved me and handed himself over for me.” (Galatians 2:20) And may we show heartfelt gratitude to our loving God, Jehovah, who never asks too much of us.
How Would You Answer?
□ What does Jehovah ask of us today?
□ During his last evening with his apostles, how did Christ emphasize the importance of love?
□ How can we prove that we love God?
□ Why is it a privilege to do what Jehovah asks of us?
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What lesson did Jesus teach by washing the feet of his apostles?
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Despite opposition, sharing the good news is a delightful privilege