Be Guided by the Living God
“Turn . . . to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all the things in them.”—ACTS 14:15.
1, 2. Why is it fitting to recognize Jehovah as “the living God”?
AFTER the apostle Paul and Barnabas healed a man, Paul assured observers in Lystra: “We also are humans having the same infirmities as you do, and are declaring the good news to you, for you to turn from these vain things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all the things in them.”—Acts 14:15.
2 How very true that Jehovah is, not a lifeless idol, but “the living God”! (Jeremiah 10:10; 1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10) Beyond living himself, Jehovah is the Source of our life. “He himself gives to all persons life and breath and all things.” (Acts 17:25) He is interested in our enjoying life, present and future. Paul added that God “did not leave himself without witness in that he did good, giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts to the full with food and good cheer.”—Acts 14:17.
3. Why can we trust the guidance that God provides?
3 God’s interest in our life gives us reason to trust his guidance. (Psalm 147:8; Matthew 5:45) Some may react otherwise if they find a Bible directive that they do not understand or that seems restrictive. Still, trusting Jehovah’s guidance has proved to be wise. To illustrate: Even if an Israelite did not understand the law against touching a dead body, he benefited by obeying it. First, his obedience would draw him closer to the living God; second, it would help him to avoid diseases.—Leviticus 5:2; 11:24.
4, 5. (a) Before the Christian era, what guidance about blood did Jehovah give? (b) How do we know that God’s guidance about blood involves Christians?
4 It is similar with God’s guidance about blood. He told Noah that humans should not consume blood. Then in the Law, God revealed that the only approved use of blood was on the altar—for forgiveness of sin. By those directives, God was laying the groundwork for the supreme use of blood—the saving of lives by means of Jesus’ ransom. (Hebrews 9:14) Yes, God’s guidance was with our life and well-being in mind. Discussing Genesis 9:4, 19th-century Bible scholar Adam Clarke wrote: “This command [to Noah] is still scrupulously obeyed by the oriental Christians . . . No blood was eaten under the law, because it pointed out the blood that was to be shed for the sin of the world; and under the Gospel it should not be eaten, because it should ever be considered as representing the blood which has been shed for the remission of sins.”
5 This scholar may have been referring to the basic gospel, or good news, bound up in Jesus. That includes God’s sending his Son to die for us, to pour out his blood so that we might have everlasting life. (Matthew 20:28; John 3:16; Romans 5:8, 9) The comment also covered the later command that Christ’s followers abstain from blood.
6. What directives about blood were given to Christians, and why?
6 You know that God gave the Israelites hundreds of regulations. Once Jesus died, his disciples were not obliged to keep all those laws. (Romans 7:4, 6; Colossians 2:13, 14, 17; Hebrews 8:6, 13) However, in time a question arose about one key obligation—male circumcision. Would non-Jews who wanted to benefit from Christ’s blood have to be circumcised, showing that they were still under the Law? In 49 C.E., the Christian governing body addressed that issue. (Acts, chapter 15) Aided by God’s spirit, the apostles and older men concluded that obligatory circumcision ended with the Law. Still, certain divine requirements remained for Christians. In a letter to the congregations, the governing body wrote: “The holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper.”—Acts 15:28, 29.
7. How important is it for Christians to ‘abstain from blood’?
7 Plainly, the governing body viewed ‘abstaining from blood’ to be as morally vital as abstaining from sexual immorality or idol worship. This proves that the prohibition about blood is serious. Christians who unrepentantly commit idolatry or sexual immorality cannot “inherit God’s kingdom”; “their portion will be . . . the second death.” (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Revelation 21:8; 22:15) Note the contrast: Disregarding God’s guidance concerning the sacredness of lifeblood can result in everlasting death. Showing respect for Jesus’ sacrifice can lead to everlasting life.
8. What indicates that the early Christians took God’s guidance about blood seriously?
8 How did the early Christians understand and act on God’s guidance about blood? Recall Clarke’s comment: “Under the Gospel it should not be eaten, because it should ever be considered as representing the blood which has been shed for the remission of sins.” History confirms that the early Christians treated the matter seriously. Tertullian wrote: “Consider those who with greedy thirst, at a show in the arena, take the fresh blood of wicked criminals . . . and carry it off to heal their epilepsy.” Whereas pagans consumed blood, Tertullian said that Christians “do not even have the blood of animals at [their] meals . . . At the trials of Christians you offer them sausages filled with blood. You are convinced, of course, that [it] is unlawful for them.” Yes, despite threats of death, Christians would not consume blood. God’s guidance was that important to them.
9. Abstaining from blood included what besides not eating blood directly?
9 Some may imagine that the governing body simply meant that Christians were not to eat or drink blood directly nor to eat unbled meat or food mixed with blood. Granted, that was the first import of God’s command to Noah. And the apostolic decree did tell Christians to ‘keep themselves from things strangled,’ meat with blood left in it. (Genesis 9:3, 4; Acts 21:25) However, the early Christians knew that more was involved. Sometimes blood was taken in for medical reasons. Tertullian noted that in an effort to cure epilepsy, some pagans consumed fresh blood. And there may have been other uses of blood to treat disease or supposedly improve health. Hence, for Christians, shunning blood included not taking it in for “medical” reasons. They maintained that stand even if it put their life at risk.
Blood as Medicine
10. What are some ways in which blood is being used medically, giving rise to what question?
10 Using blood medically is now common. Early transfusions were of whole blood—removed from a donor, stored, and given to a patient, perhaps a battle casualty. In time, researchers learned to separate blood into primary components. By using component transfusions, physicians could spread donated blood to more patients, perhaps plasma to one injured man and red cells to another. Continued research showed that a component, such as blood plasma, could be processed to extract numerous fractions, which could be given to still more patients. Steps along this line continue, and new uses of fractions are being reported. How is the Christian to respond? He has firmly resolved never to accept a blood transfusion, but his physician urges him to accept one major component, maybe packed red cells. Or the therapy may consist of one small fraction extracted from a component. How can a servant of God decide on such questions, bearing in mind that blood is sacred and that Christ’s blood is lifesaving in the greatest sense?
11. What medically accurate position regarding blood have Witnesses long held?
11 Decades ago Jehovah’s Witnesses made their stand clear. For example, they supplied an article to The Journal of the American Medical Association (November 27, 1981; reprinted in How Can Blood Save Your Life? pages 27-9).a That article quoted from Genesis, Leviticus, and Acts. It said: “While these verses are not stated in medical terms, Witnesses view them as ruling out transfusion of whole blood, packed RBCs [red blood cells], and plasma, as well as WBC [white blood cell] and platelet administration.” The 2001 textbook Emergency Care, under “Composition of the Blood,” stated: “The blood is made up of several components: plasma, red and white blood cells, and platelets.” Thus, in line with medical facts, Witnesses refuse transfusions of whole blood or of any of its four primary components.
12. (a) What position has been presented regarding fractions extracted from primary components of blood? (b) Where can additional information about this be found?
12 The medical article continued: “Witnesses’ religious understanding does not absolutely prohibit the use of [fractions] such as albumin, immune globulins, and hemophiliac preparations; each Witness must decide individually if he can accept these.” Since 1981, many fractions (breakdown elements derived from one of the four major components) have been isolated for use. Accordingly, The Watchtower of June 15, 2000, provided helpful information on the subject in the article “Questions From Readers.” For the benefit of millions of current readers, the answer is reprinted on pages 29-31 of this magazine. It provides details and reasoning, yet you will see that what it says agrees with the basics presented in 1981.
The Role of Your Conscience
13, 14. (a) What is conscience, and how does it come into play regarding blood? (b) What guidance about eating meat did God provide for Israel, but what questions might have arisen?
13 Such information brings conscience to the fore. Why? Christians agree on the need to follow God’s guidance, yet in some areas personal judgments must be made, and conscience comes into play. Conscience is the inherent ability to weigh and decide matters, often moral issues. (Romans 2:14, 15) You know, however, that consciences differ.b The Bible mentions that some have ‘consciences that are weak,’ implying that others’ consciences are strong. (1 Corinthians 8:12) Christians differ in the extent to which they have made progress in learning what God says, in being sensitive to his thinking, and in applying such to their decisions. We can illustrate this with the Jews and the eating of meat.
14 The Bible is clear that a person obedient to God would not eat unbled meat. That was so important that even in an emergency when Israelite soldiers ate unbled meat, they were guilty of a grave wrong, or sin. (Deuteronomy 12:15, 16; 1 Samuel 14:31-35) Still, questions might have arisen. When an Israelite killed a sheep, how quickly did he have to drain its blood? Did he have to slit the animal’s throat for drainage? Was it necessary to hang the sheep by its hind legs? For how long? What would he do with a large cow? Even after drainage, some blood might remain in the meat. Could he eat such meat? Who would decide?
15. How did some Jews respond regarding the eating of meat, but what did God direct?
15 Imagine a zealous Jew facing such issues. He might have thought it safest to avoid meat sold in a meat market, much as another would shun meat if there was a chance that it was once offered to an idol. Other Jews might have eaten meat only after following rituals to extract the blood.c (Matthew 23:23, 24) What do you think about such varied reactions? Furthermore, since God did not require such reactions, would it be best for Jews to send a multitude of questions to a council of rabbis to get a ruling on each one? Though that custom developed in Judaism, we can be happy that Jehovah did not direct true worshipers to pursue decisions about blood in that way. God offered basic guidance on slaughtering clean animals and draining their blood, but he did not go beyond that.—John 8:32.
16. Why might Christians have differing views about accepting an injection of a small fraction from a blood component?
16 As noted in paragraphs 11 and 12, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not accept transfusions of whole blood or of its four primary components—plasma, red cells, white cells, and platelets. What about small fractions extracted from a primary component, such as serums containing antibodies to fight a disease or to counteract snake venom? (See page 30, paragraph 4.) Some have concluded that such minute fractions are, in effect, no longer blood and hence are not covered by the command ‘to abstain from blood.’ (Acts 15:29; 21:25; page 31, paragraph 1) That is their responsibility. The conscience of others moves them to reject everything obtained from blood (animal or human), even a tiny fraction of just one primary component.d Still others may accept injections of a plasma protein to fight disease or to counteract snake venom, yet they may reject other small fractions. Moreover, some products derived from one of the four primary components may be so similar to the function of the whole component and carry on such a life-sustaining role in the body that most Christians would find them objectionable.
17. (a) How can our conscience be an aid when we are facing questions about blood fractions? (b) Why is making decisions on this matter so serious?
17 What the Bible says about conscience is helpful when we make such decisions. The first step is to learn what God’s Word says and to strive to mold your conscience by it. That will equip you to decide in line with God’s guidance rather than ask someone else to make a ruling for you. (Psalm 25:4, 5) As to taking in blood fractions, some have thought, ‘This is a matter of conscience, so it doesn’t make any difference.’ That is faulty reasoning. The fact that something is a matter of conscience does not mean that it is inconsequential. It can be very serious. One reason is that it can affect individuals whose conscience differs from ours. We see that from Paul’s advice about meat that might have been presented to an idol and was later sold in a market. A Christian ought to be concerned about not ‘wounding consciences that are weak.’ If he stumbles others, he could ‘ruin his brother for whose sake Christ died’ and be sinning against Christ. Hence, while issues about tiny blood fractions are for personal decision, those decisions should be taken very seriously.—1 Corinthians 8:8, 11-13; 10:25-31.
18. How can a Christian avoid deadening his conscience as to decisions about blood?
18 A related aspect underscores the seriousness of decisions concerning blood. This is the effect such decisions may have on you. If your taking a small blood fraction would trouble your Bible-trained conscience, you should not ignore it. Nor should you suppress your conscientious leaning just because someone tells you, “It’s all right to take this; many have.” Remember, millions of people today ignore their conscience, and that becomes deadened, allowing them to lie or do other wrong things with no remorse. Christians definitely want to avoid such a course.—2 Samuel 24:10; 1 Timothy 4:1, 2.
19. In deciding medical issues involving blood, what should we keep uppermost in mind?
19 Near its conclusion, the reprinted answer on pages 29-31 says: “Does the fact that opinions and conscientious decisions may differ mean that the issue is inconsequential? No. It is serious.” It is particularly so because your relationship with “the living God” is involved. That relationship is the only one that can lead to everlasting life, based on the saving power of Jesus’ shed blood. Cultivate a profound regard for blood because of what God is doing by means of it—saving lives. Paul aptly wrote: “You had no hope and were without God in the world. But now in union with Christ Jesus you who were once far off have come to be near by the blood of the Christ.”—Ephesians 2:12, 13.
a Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
b At one point, Paul and four other Christians went to the temple to cleanse themselves ceremonially. The Law was no longer valid, yet Paul acted on the advice of the older men in Jerusalem. (Acts 21:23-25) Still, some Christians may have felt that they would not go into the temple or go through such a procedure. Consciences differed back then, and they do today.
c The Encyclopaedia Judaica outlines “complex and minute” rules about “koshering” meat. It covers how many minutes meat must stand in water, how to drain it on a board, the texture of salt to rub on it, and then how many times to wash it in cold water.
d Increasingly, the main or active ingredient in some injections is a recombinant product that is not from blood. But in some cases a small amount of a blood fraction, such as albumin, may be included.—See “Questions From Readers” in The Watchtower of October 1, 1994.
Can You Recall?
• God provided what guidance about blood to Noah, to the Israelites, and to Christians?
• Regarding blood, what do Jehovah’s Witnesses absolutely refuse?
• In what sense is receiving small fractions from a primary component of blood up to one’s conscience, but what does that not mean?
• In making decisions, why should we keep our relationship with God foremost in mind?
[Chart on page 22]
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
BASIC STAND ON BLOOD
CHRISTIAN TO DECIDE
Fractions from red cells
Fractions from white cells
Fractions from platelets
Fractions from plasma
[Picture on page 20]
The governing body concluded that Christians must ‘abstain from blood’
[Picture on page 23]
Do not ignore your conscience if you are faced with a decision about a blood fraction