“If God Is for Us, Who Will Be Against Us?”
“What, then, shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who will be against us?”—ROMANS 8:31.
1. Who left Egypt with the Israelites, and what led them to do so?
WHEN the Israelites headed for freedom after spending 215 years in Egypt, much of that time in slavery, “a vast mixed company also went up with them.” (Exodus 12:38) These non-Israelites had experienced ten awesome plagues that wrought havoc upon Egypt and made a laughingstock of its false gods. At the same time, they had observed—especially from the fourth plague onward—Jehovah’s ability to protect his people. (Exodus 8:23, 24) Although limited in their knowledge of Jehovah’s purposes, they were sure of one thing: The gods of Egypt had failed to protect the Egyptians, whereas Jehovah had proved himself strong in behalf of the Israelites.
2. Why did Rahab support the Israelite spies, and why was her confidence in their God not misplaced?
2 Forty years later, just before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, Moses’ successor, Joshua, sent two men to spy out the land. There they met Rahab, an inhabitant of Jericho. From what she had heard about Jehovah’s powerful acts to protect the Israelites during the 40 years since their leaving Egypt, she knew that if she wanted God’s blessing, she must support his people. Because of her wise decision, she and her household were spared destruction when the Israelites later captured the city. The miraculous way in which they were saved was in itself unmistakable evidence that God was with them. Thus, Rahab’s confidence in the God of the Israelites was not misplaced.—Joshua 2:1, 9-13; 6:15-17, 25.
3. (a) What miracle did Jesus perform near the rebuilt city of Jericho, and how did the Jewish clergy react? (b) What did some Jews, and later many non-Jews, come to realize?
3 Fifteen centuries later, Jesus Christ healed a blind beggar near the rebuilt city of Jericho. (Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43) This man begged Jesus to show him mercy, indicating that he recognized that Jesus had God’s backing. The Jewish religious leaders and their followers, on the other hand, generally refused to accept the miracles Jesus performed as proof that he was doing God’s work. Instead, they found fault with him. (Mark 2:15, 16; 3:1-6; Luke 7:31-35) Even when confronted with the fact that Jesus was resurrected after they had put him to death, they were unwilling to admit that this was of God’s doing. Rather, they took the lead in persecuting Jesus’ followers, trying to hinder their work of “declaring the good news of the Lord Jesus.” But some Jews, and later many non-Jews, took note of these events and evaluated them correctly. To them it was obvious that God had rejected the self-righteous Jewish leaders and was backing the humble followers of Jesus Christ.—Acts 11:19-21.
Who Today Have God’s Backing?
4, 5. (a) How do some people feel about choosing a religion? (b) When identifying the true religion, what is the pivotal question?
4 On the question of true religion, one clergyman said in a recent TV interview: “I would insist a religion is true if it makes a person a better person when he or she lives by it.” Granted, true religion does make people better. But does the fact that a religion produces better people in itself prove that it has God’s backing? Is that the sole criterion for determining if a religion is true?
5 Everyone appreciates being able to make personal choices, including the choice of religious affiliation. But having the freedom to choose does not guarantee that a person will make the right choice. Some people, for example, choose a religion on the basis of its size, wealth, ceremonial pageantry, or their family ties. None of these things are in any way decisive in determining whether a religion is the true one or not. The pivotal question in this matter is: Which religion urges its followers to do God’s will and gives solid evidence of divine backing, so that its adherents can say with confidence, “God is for us”?
6. What words of Jesus shed light on the matter of true and false religion?
6 Jesus laid down the rule for distinguishing true worship from false when he said: “Be on the watch for the false prophets that come to you in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:15, 16; Malachi 3:18) Let us review some of the “fruits,” or identifying marks, of true religion so that we in all honesty can determine who today has divine backing.
Identifying Marks of Those Having God’s Backing
7. What does it mean to teach only what is based on the Bible?
7 They base their teachings on the Bible. Jesus said: “What I teach is not mine, but belongs to him that sent me. If anyone desires to do His will, he will know concerning the teaching whether it is from God or I speak of my own originality.” And also: “He that is from God listens to the sayings of God.” (John 7:16, 17; 8:47) Logically, to enjoy God’s backing, one must teach only what God reveals in his Word and reject teachings based on human wisdom or tradition.—Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:3-9; Colossians 2:8.
8. Why is it important to use God’s name in worship?
8 They use and publicize God’s name, Jehovah. Isaiah foretold: “In that day you will certainly say: ‘Give thanks to Jehovah, you people! Call upon his name. Make known among the peoples his dealings. Make mention that his name is put on high. Make melody to Jehovah, for he has done surpassingly. This is made known in all the earth.’” (Isaiah 12:4, 5) Jesus taught his followers to pray: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.” (Matthew 6:9) Therefore, whether Jew or non-Jew, Christians were to serve as “a people for [God’s] name.” (Acts 15:14) God is obviously pleased to back those who are proud to be “a people for his name.”
9. (a) Why does joy characterize members of the true religion? (b) How does Isaiah contrast true religion with false?
9 They reflect God’s joyful personality. As author of “good news,” Jehovah is “the happy God.” (1 Timothy 1:11) So how could his worshipers be unhappy or persistently pessimistic? Despite world distress and personal problems, true Christians maintain a joyful spirit because they regularly feast on rich spiritual food. Isaiah contrasts them with those practicing false religion: “This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said: ‘Look! My own servants will eat, but you yourselves will go hungry. Look! My own servants will drink, but you yourselves will go thirsty. Look! My own servants will rejoice, but you yourselves will suffer shame. Look! My own servants will cry out joyfully because of the good condition of the heart, but you yourselves will make outcries because of the pain of heart and you will howl because of sheer breakdown of spirit.’”—Isaiah 65:13, 14.
10. How do those having the true religion avoid having to learn by trial and error?
10 They base their conduct and their decisions on Bible principles. “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding,” the writer of Proverbs advises us, “in all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5, 6) God backs those who look to him for direction rather than to the contradictory theories of humans who ignore godly wisdom. To the extent that a person is willing to pattern his life after God’s Word, he will avoid having to learn by trial and error.—Psalm 119:33; 1 Corinthians 1:19-21.
11. (a) Why can members of the true religion not be divided into a clergy and a laity class? (b) What example are those taking the lead among God’s people to set for the flock?
11 They are organized in the manner of the first-century Christian congregation. Jesus set out the principle: “Do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One. Neither be called ‘leaders,’ for your Leader is one, the Christ. But the greatest one among you must be your minister.” (Matthew 23:8-11) A congregation of brothers precludes having a proud clergy class that honors itself with high-sounding titles and elevates itself above a laity. (Job 32:21, 22) Those shepherding the flock of God are told to do so “not under compulsion, but willingly; neither for love of dishonest gain, but eagerly; neither as lording it over those who are God’s inheritance, but becoming examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2, 3) Genuine Christian shepherds refrain from trying to make themselves masters over the faith of others. As fellow workers in God’s service, they simply strive to set a fine example.—2 Corinthians 1:24.
12. What balanced position regarding human governments does God require of those desiring to have his backing?
12 They are submissive to human governments and yet remain neutral. He who fails to be “in subjection to the superior authorities” cannot expect to have God’s backing. Why? Because “the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God. Therefore he who opposes the authority has taken a stand against the arrangement of God.” (Romans 13:1, 2) However, Jesus recognized the possibility of a conflict of interests when he said: “Pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Mark 12:17) Those desiring to have God’s backing must “keep on . . . seeking first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness,” while at the same time obeying the laws of the land that are compatible with their higher responsibilities to God. (Matthew 6:33; Acts 5:29) Jesus stressed neutrality when he said of his disciples: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” He later added: “My kingdom is no part of this world.”—John 17:16; 18:36.
13. What part does love play in identifying God’s people?
13 They are impartial in working “what is good toward all.” (Galatians 6:10) Christian love knows no partiality, accepting all people regardless of their skin color, economic or educational status, nationality, or language. The working of what is good toward all and especially toward those related to them in the faith helps to identify those having God’s backing. Jesus said: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.”—John 13:35; Acts 10:34, 35.
14. Do people having God’s approval necessarily find universal acceptance? Explain.
14 They are willing to suffer persecution for doing God’s will. Jesus forewarned his followers: “If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also; if they have observed my word, they will observe yours also.” (John 15:20; Matthew 5:11, 12; 2 Timothy 3:12) Those having God’s backing have always been unpopular, as was Noah, who condemned the world through his faith. (Hebrews 11:7) Today, those desiring God’s backing dare not water down God’s word or compromise godly principles so as to avoid persecution. As long as they faithfully serve God, they know that people will be “puzzled and go on speaking abusively” of them.—1 Peter 2:12; 3:16; 4:4.
Time to Evaluate the Facts
15, 16. (a) What questions will help us identify the religious group that enjoys God’s backing? (b) What conclusion have millions of people reached, and why?
15 Ask yourself, ‘What religious group is noted for sticking closely to God’s Word, even when its teachings differ from the beliefs of most people? Who stress the importance of God’s personal name, even using it to identify themselves? Who optimistically point to God’s Kingdom as the only solution to all human problems? Who uphold Bible standards of conduct, at the risk of being considered old-fashioned? What group is noted for having no paid clergy, all of its members being preachers? Who are praised for being law-abiding citizens, even though they refrain from taking part in politics? Who lovingly spend time and money in helping others to learn about God and his purposes? And despite all of these positive things, who are still looked down on, ridiculed, and persecuted?’
16 Millions of people throughout the world have evaluated the facts and have become convinced that Jehovah’s Witnesses alone are practicing the true religion. They have reached this conclusion on the basis of what Jehovah’s Witnesses teach and how they conduct themselves, as well as on the basis of the benefits their religion has brought. (Isaiah 48:17) Millions are, in effect, saying, as foretold at Zechariah 8:23: “We will go with you people, for we have heard that God is with you people.”
17. Why is it not presumptuous of Jehovah’s Witnesses to point out that they have the true religion?
17 Is it presumptuous of Jehovah’s Witnesses to point out that they alone have God’s backing? Actually, no more so than when the Israelites in Egypt claimed to have God’s backing in spite of the Egyptians’ belief, or when first-century Christians claimed to have God’s backing to the exclusion of Jewish religionists. The facts speak for themselves. In 235 lands Jehovah’s Witnesses are doing the work Jesus foretold that his true followers would be doing in the time of the end: “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.
18, 19. (a) Why is there no reason for Jehovah’s Witnesses to desist from doing their preaching work, even though they are opposed? (b) How does Psalm 41:11 support the fact that the Witnesses have God’s backing?
18 Jehovah’s Witnesses will continue to carry out this commission, never allowing persecution or opposition to impede their activity. Jehovah’s work must and will be done. Every attempt others have made during the past century to hinder the Witnesses from accomplishing God’s work has ended in ultimate failure, for Jehovah promised: “Any weapon whatever that will be formed against you will have no success, and any tongue at all that will rise up against you in the judgment you will condemn. This is the hereditary possession of the servants of Jehovah, and their righteousness is from me.”—Isaiah 54:17.
19 That Jehovah’s Witnesses are stronger and more active now than ever before—and this in the face of worldwide opposition—is proof that Jehovah finds pleasure in what they are doing. King David said: “By this I do know that you have found delight in me, because my enemy does not shout in triumph over me.” (Psalm 41:11; 56:9, 11) Never will God’s enemies be able to shout in triumph over Jehovah’s people, for their Leader, Jesus Christ, is moving ahead to final victory!
Can You Answer?
• What are some ancient examples of people having God’s backing?
• What are some identifying marks of the true religion?
• Why are you personally convinced that Jehovah’s Witnesses have God’s backing?
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Those desirous of having God’s backing must base their teachings solely on his Word
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Christian elders serve as examples for the flock