Let All Declare the Glory of Jehovah
“Ascribe to Jehovah glory and strength. Ascribe to Jehovah the glory belonging to his name.”—PSALM 96:7, 8.
1, 2. From what source is praise ascribed to Jehovah, and who are urged to join in?
DAVID, the son of Jesse, grew up as a shepherd lad in the vicinity of Bethlehem. How often he must have gazed up into the vastness of the starry heavens in the stillness of the night while watching over his father’s flocks in those lonely sheep pastures! No doubt, such vivid impressions sprang to his mind when, inspired by God’s holy spirit, he composed and sang the beautiful words of the 19th Psalm: “The heavens are declaring the glory of God; and of the work of his hands the expanse is telling. Into all the earth their measuring line has gone out, and to the extremity of the productive land their utterances.”—Psalm 19:1, 4.
2 Without speech, without words, without voice, Jehovah’s awesome created heavens declare his glory, day after day, night after night. Creation never ceases to declare God’s glory, and it is humbling to contemplate this silent testimony going into “all the earth” for all its inhabitants to see. However, the silent witness of creation is not enough. Faithful humans are urged to join in with audible voice. An unnamed psalmist addressed faithful worshipers with these inspired words: “Ascribe to Jehovah glory and strength. Ascribe to Jehovah the glory belonging to his name.” (Psalm 96:7, 8) Those who have a close relationship with Jehovah are thrilled to respond to that exhortation. What, though, is involved in ascribing glory to God?
3. Why do humans ascribe glory to God?
3 More is required than mere words. The Israelites of Isaiah’s day glorified God with their lips, but most lacked sincerity. Through Isaiah, Jehovah said: “This people have come near with their mouth, and they have glorified me merely with their lips, and they have removed their heart itself far away from me.” (Isaiah 29:13) Any praise uttered by such individuals was meaningless. To be meaningful, praise must spring from a heart filled with love for Jehovah and a sincere recognition of his unique glory. Jehovah alone is the Creator. He is the Almighty, the Just One, the epitome of love. He is the author of our salvation and the rightful Sovereign to whom everyone living in heaven and on earth owes subjection. (Revelation 4:11; 19:1) If we truly believe these things, let us glorify him with all our heart.
4. What instructions did Jesus give as to how to glorify God, and how can we fulfill them?
4 Jesus Christ told us how to glorify God. He said: “My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit and prove yourselves my disciples.” (John 15:8) How do we bear much fruit? First, by sharing whole-souled in preaching the “good news of the kingdom” and thus joining with all created things in “telling” about God’s “invisible qualities.” (Matthew 24:14; Romans 1:20) Moreover, in this way we all have a share—directly or indirectly—in the making of new disciples who swell the chorus of praise to Jehovah God. Second, we cultivate the fruitage produced in us by holy spirit and strive to imitate Jehovah God’s superlative qualities. (Galatians 5:22, 23; Ephesians 5:1; Colossians 3:10) As a result, our daily conduct glorifies God.
“Into All the Earth”
5. Explain how Paul stressed the responsibility of Christians to glorify God by sharing their faith with others.
5 Paul in his letter to the Romans stressed the responsibility of Christians to glorify God by sharing their faith with others. A major theme of Romans is that only those who exercise faith in Jesus Christ can be saved. In Ro chapter 10 of his letter, Paul showed that natural Israel of his day was still trying to achieve a righteous standing by following the Mosaic Law, whereas “Christ [was] the end of the Law.” Hence, Paul says: “If you publicly declare that ‘word in your own mouth,’ that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved.” From that time on, “there [has been] no distinction between Jew and Greek, for there is the same Lord over all, who is rich to all those calling upon him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.’”—Romans 10:4, 9-13.
6. How did Paul apply Psalm 19:4?
6 Then Paul logically asks: “How will they call on him in whom they have not put faith? How, in turn, will they put faith in him of whom they have not heard? How, in turn, will they hear without someone to preach?” (Romans 10:14) Of Israel, Paul says: “They did not all obey the good news.” Why did Israel not obey? Their lack of response was due to lack of faith, not lack of opportunity. Paul shows this by quoting Psalm 19:4 and applying it to the Christian preaching work rather than to the silent witness of creation. He says: “Why, in fact, ‘into all the earth their sound went out, and to the extremities of the inhabited earth their utterances.’” (Romans 10:16, 18) Yes, even as the inanimate creation glorifies Jehovah, first-century Christians preached the good news of salvation everywhere and thus praised God in “all the earth.” In his letter to the Colossians, Paul also described how widely the good news had spread. He said that the good news had been preached “in all creation that is under heaven.”—Colossians 1:23.
7. According to Jesus, what responsibility do Christians have?
7 Likely, Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians about 27 years after the death of Jesus Christ. How could the preaching work have spread as far as Colossae in such a relatively short time? It happened because first-century Christians were zealous, and Jehovah blessed their zeal. Jesus had foretold that his followers would be active preachers when he said: “In all the nations the good news has to be preached first.” (Mark 13:10) To that prophecy, Jesus added the command recorded in the final verses of Matthew’s Gospel: “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) Shortly after Jesus’ ascension to heaven, his followers began to fulfill those words.
8, 9. According to Acts, how did Christians respond to Jesus’ commands?
8 After the outpouring of holy spirit at Pentecost 33 C.E., the first thing the loyal followers of Jesus did was to go out and preach, telling the crowds in Jerusalem “about the magnificent things of God.” Their preaching was most effective, and “about three thousand souls” were baptized. The disciples continued to praise God publicly and zealously, with good results.—Acts 2:4, 11, 41, 46, 47.
9 The activities of those Christians soon came to the attention of the religious leaders. Disturbed by the outspokenness of Peter and John, they commanded the two apostles to stop preaching. The apostles responded: “We cannot stop speaking about the things we have seen and heard.” After being threatened and released, Peter and John returned to their brothers, and all joined in prayer to Jehovah. They courageously asked Jehovah: “Grant your slaves to keep speaking your word with all boldness.”—Acts 4:13, 20, 29.
10. What opposition began to manifest itself, and how did true Christians respond?
10 That prayer was in harmony with Jehovah’s will, as became evident a little later. The apostles were arrested and then miraculously released by an angel. The angel told them: “Be on your way, and, having taken a stand in the temple, keep on speaking to the people all the sayings about this life.” (Acts 5:18-20) Because the apostles obeyed, Jehovah continued to bless them. Hence, “every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.” (Acts 5:42) Clearly, determined opposition was completely unable to stop Jesus’ followers from publicly ascribing glory to God.
11. What was the attitude of the early Christians toward the preaching work?
11 Soon Stephen was arrested and stoned to death. His murder sparked bitter persecution in Jerusalem, and all the disciples except the apostles were forced to scatter abroad. Were they discouraged by the persecution? By no means. We read: “Those who had been scattered went through the land declaring the good news of the word.” (Acts 8:1, 4) That zeal for declaring God’s glory was seen again and again. In Acts chapter 9, we read that the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus, while traveling to Damascus to initiate persecution of Jesus’ disciples there, saw a vision of Jesus and was struck blind. In Damascus, Ananias miraculously healed Saul’s blindness. What was the first thing that Saul—later known as the apostle Paul—did? The record says: “Immediately in the synagogues he began to preach Jesus, that this One is the Son of God.”—Acts 9:20.
Everyone Shared in Preaching
12, 13. (a) According to historians, what was noteworthy about the early Christian congregation? (b) How do the book of Acts and the words of Paul agree with the statements of historians?
12 It is widely acknowledged that everyone in the early Christian congregation shared in the preaching work. Of Christians in those days, Philip Schaff writes: “Every congregation was a missionary society, and every Christian believer a missionary.” (History of the Christian Church) W. S. Williams states: “The general testimony is that all Christians in the primitive Church, especially those who had the charismatic gift [gifts of the spirit], preached the gospel.” (The Glorious Ministry of the Laity) He also maintains: “Preaching was never meant by Jesus Christ to be the exclusive privilege of certain ranks of the ministry.” Even Celsus, an ancient enemy of Christianity, wrote: “Wool-workers, cobblers, leather-dressers, the most illiterate and vulgar of mankind, were zealous preachers of the gospel.”
13 The accuracy of those statements is seen in the historical record of Acts. At Pentecost 33 C.E., after the outpouring of the holy spirit, all the disciples, men and women, publicly declared the magnificent things of God. After the persecution following the murder of Stephen, all Christians who were scattered abroad spread the good news far and wide. Some 28 years later, Paul was writing to all Hebrew Christians, not merely to a small clergy class, when he said: “Through him let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” (Hebrews 13:15) Describing his own view of the preaching work, Paul said: “If, now, I am declaring the good news, it is no reason for me to boast, for necessity is laid upon me. Really, woe is me if I did not declare the good news!” (1 Corinthians 9:16) Clearly, all faithful Christians in the first century felt the same way.
14. What is the relationship between faith and preaching?
14 Indeed, a genuine Christian has to share in the preaching work because it is inseparably linked to faith. Paul said: “With the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.” (Romans 10:10) Is it only a small group within the congregation—like a clergy class—that exercises faith and thus has the responsibility to preach?* Of course not! All true Christians cultivate a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and are moved to make a public declaration of that faith to others. Otherwise, their faith is dead. (James 2:26) Because all loyal Christians in the first century of our Common Era demonstrated their faith in this way, a great shout of praise to Jehovah’s name was heard.
15, 16. Give examples to show that the preaching work progressed despite problems.
15 In the first century, Jehovah blessed his people with growth despite problems inside and outside the congregation. For example, Acts chapter 6 records a disagreement between Hebrew-speaking and Greek-speaking converts. The problem was handled by the apostles. As a result, we read: “The word of God went on growing, and the number of the disciples kept multiplying in Jerusalem very much; and a great crowd of priests began to be obedient to the faith.”—Acts 6:7.
16 Later, political tensions developed between King Herod Agrippa of Judea and the people of Tyre and Sidon. The inhabitants of those cities made flattering peace overtures, and in response Herod gave a public address. The assembled crowd began to cry: “A god’s voice, and not a man’s!” Instantly, Jehovah’s angel struck Herod Agrippa, and he died “because he did not give the glory to God.” (Acts 12:20-23) What a shock to those whose hope was in human rulers! (Psalm 146:3, 4) The Christians, however, went on glorifying Jehovah. Consequently, “the word of Jehovah went on growing and spreading” despite such political instability.—Acts 12:24.
Then and Now
17. In the first century, what did increasing numbers join in doing?
17 Yes, the worldwide Christian congregation in the first century was made up of zealous, active praisers of Jehovah God. All loyal Christians shared in spreading the good news. Some met responsive ones and, as Jesus said, taught them to obey all the things he commanded. (Matthew 28:19, 20) The result was that the congregation grew, and more and more individuals joined King David of old in ascribing praise to Jehovah. All echoed the inspired words: “I laud you, O Jehovah my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify your name to time indefinite, for your loving-kindness is great toward me.”—Psalm 86:12, 13.
18. (a) What difference is noted between the first-century Christian congregation and Christendom today? (b) What will be considered in the next article?
18 In view of this, the words of theology professor Allison A. Trites are thought provoking. Comparing modern-day Christendom with first-century Christianity, he said: “Churches today grow usually by biological growth (when the children within a local church family make a personal profession of faith) or by transfer growth (when a newcomer transfers his or her membership from another local church). In Acts, however, the growth was conversion growth, for the church was just beginning its work.” Does that mean that true Christianity is no longer growing in the way that Jesus said it should? Of course not. True Christians today are every bit as zealous in publicly ascribing praise to God as were Christians in the first century. We will see this in the following article.
The English words “clergy” and “cleric” are ultimately derived from the Greek word kleʹros, which basically means “lot” or “inheritance.” At 1 Peter 5:2, 3, kleʹros is applied to all “the flock of God” as being God’s inheritance.
Can You Explain?
• In what ways do we glorify God?
• What application did Paul make of Psalm 19:4?
• What is the relationship between faith and preaching?
• What was noteworthy about the first-century Christian congregation?
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The heavens constantly testify to Jehovah’s glory
Courtesy of Anglo-Australian Observatory, photograph by David Malin
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The preaching work and prayer are closely linked