Jehovah’s Word Is Alive
Highlights From the Letters to Titus, to Philemon, and to the Hebrews
SOME time after being released from his first imprisonment in Rome in 61 C.E., the apostle Paul visits the island of Crete. Noting the spiritual condition of the congregations there, he leaves Titus behind to strengthen them. Later, likely from Macedonia, Paul writes a letter to Titus to guide him in his duties and to give apostolic backing to his work.
Earlier, shortly before his release from prison in 61 C.E., Paul wrote a letter to Philemon, a Christian brother living in Colossae. It is a personal plea to a friend.
In about 61 C.E., Paul also wrote a letter to the Hebrew believers in Judea, which shows the superiority of Christianity over the Jewish system. All three letters contain valuable counsel for us.—Heb. 4:12.
REMAIN SPIRITUALLY HEALTHY
After providing guidance for the making of “appointments of older men in city after city,” Paul counsels Titus to “keep on reproving [the unruly] with severity, that they may be healthy in the faith.” He admonishes all in the congregations in Crete “to repudiate ungodliness . . . and to live with soundness of mind.”—Titus 1:5, 10-13; 2:12.
Paul gives further counsel to help the brothers in Crete to remain spiritually healthy. He instructs Titus to “shun foolish questionings . . . and fights over the Law.”—Titus 3:9.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
1:15—How can “all things” be “clean to clean persons,” but unclean “to persons defiled and faithless”? The answer lies in understanding what Paul meant by “all things.” He was speaking, not of things directly condemned in God’s written Word, but of matters in which the Scriptures allow varying responses from believers. To a person whose thinking is in harmony with God’s standards, such things are clean. It is the opposite with someone whose thinking is distorted and whose conscience is defiled.a
3:5—How are anointed Christians ‘saved through a bath’ and ‘made new by holy spirit’? They are ‘saved through a bath’ in that God has bathed, or cleansed, them with the blood of Jesus on the merit of the ransom sacrifice. They are ‘made new by holy spirit’ because they have become “a new creation” as spirit-begotten sons of God.—2 Cor. 5:17.
Lessons for Us:
1:10-13; 2:15. Christian overseers must display courage in correcting what is defective in the congregation.
2:3-5. As in the first century, mature Christian sisters today need to “be reverent in behavior, not slanderous, neither enslaved to a lot of wine, teachers of what is good.” In that way, they can be effective in privately instructing “the young women” in the congregation.
3:8, 14. Keeping our “minds on maintaining fine works” is “fine and beneficial” because it helps us to be fruitful in God’s service and keeps us separate from the wicked world.
EXHORT “ON THE BASIS OF LOVE”
Philemon is commended for being an example in “love and faith.” His being a source of refreshment to fellow Christians has given Paul “much joy and comfort.”—Philem. 4, 5, 7.
Setting an example for all overseers, Paul handles the sensitive matter about Onesimus by giving, not an order, but exhortation “on the basis of love.” He tells Philemon: “Trusting in your compliance, I am writing you, knowing you will even do more than the things I say.”—Philem. 8, 9, 21.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
10, 11, 18—How did formerly “useless” Onesimus become “useful”? Onesimus was an unwilling slave who escaped from the household of Philemon in Colossae and fled to Rome. Likely, Onesimus also stole from his master to finance this 900-mile [1,400 km] journey. Indeed, he was useless to Philemon. In Rome, though, Onesimus was helped by Paul to become a Christian. Now a spiritual brother, this formerly “useless” slave became “useful.”
15, 16—Why did Paul not ask Philemon to grant freedom to Onesimus? Paul desired to stick strictly to his commission to ‘preach the kingdom of God and teach the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Therefore, he chose to stay away from involvement in social issues, such as those concerning slavery.—Acts 28:31.
Lessons for Us:
2. Philemon made his home available for Christian meetings. It is a privilege to have a meeting for field service in our home.—Rom. 16:5; Col. 4:15.
4-7. We should take the initiative to commend fellow believers who are exemplary in faith and love.
15, 16. Unfavorable developments in life should not be allowed to cause us undue anxiety. The results can turn out to be beneficial, as in the case of Onesimus.
21. Paul expected Philemon to forgive Onesimus. We are likewise expected to be forgiving toward a brother who may have offended us.—Matt. 6:14.
“PRESS ON TO MATURITY”
To prove that faith in Jesus’ sacrifice is superior to works of Law, Paul highlights the excellency of Christianity’s Founder, his priesthood, his sacrifice, and the new covenant. (Heb. 3:1-3; 7:1-3, 22; 8:6; 9:11-14, 25, 26) This knowledge certainly must have helped Hebrew Christians to deal with the persecution that they suffered at the hands of the Jews. Paul urges his Hebrew fellow believers to “press on to maturity.”—Heb. 6:1.
How important is faith under the Christian arrangement? “Without faith it is impossible to please [God] well,” writes Paul. He encourages the Hebrews: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” doing so in faith.—Heb. 11:6; 12:1.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
2:14, 15—Does Satan’s “having the means to cause death” indicate that he can cause the premature death of anyone he chooses? No, it does not. However, from the start of Satan’s course of wickedness in Eden, his lies have caused death because Adam sinned and passed sin and death on to the human family. (Rom. 5:12) Furthermore, Satan’s earthly agents have persecuted servants of God to the point of death, even as they did Jesus. But that does not mean that Satan has limitless power to kill anyone he wants. If that were so, he would no doubt have wiped out Jehovah’s worshippers long ago. Jehovah protects his people as a group and does not allow Satan to exterminate them. Even if God permits some of us to die under Satan’s attacks, we can be confident that God will undo whatever harm is brought upon us.
4:9-11—How do we “enter into [God’s] rest”? At the end of the six days of creation, God rested from his creative works, confident that his purpose regarding the earth and mankind would be fulfilled. (Gen. 1:28; 2:2, 3) We “enter into that rest” by desisting from doing works of self-justification and by accepting God’s provision for our salvation. When we exercise faith in Jehovah and obediently follow his Son rather than pursue selfish interests, we enjoy refreshing and restful blessings every day.—Matt. 11:28-30.
9:16—Who is “the human covenanter” of the new covenant? Jehovah is the Maker of the new covenant, while Jesus is “the human covenanter.” Jesus is the Mediator of that covenant, and by his death, he provided the sacrifice needed to validate it.—Luke 22:20; Heb. 9:15.
11:10, 13-16—What “city” was Abraham awaiting? This was not a literal city but a symbolic one. Abraham was awaiting “heavenly Jerusalem,” composed of Christ Jesus and his 144,000 corulers. These corulers in their heavenly glory are also spoken of as “the holy city, New Jerusalem.” (Heb. 12:22; Rev. 14:1; 21:2) Abraham was looking forward to life under the rule of God’s Kingdom.
12:2—What was “the joy that was set before [Jesus]” for which “he endured a torture stake”? It was the joy of seeing what his ministry would accomplish—including the sanctification of Jehovah’s name, the vindication of God’s sovereignty, and the ransoming of the human family from death. Jesus also looked ahead to the reward of ruling as King and serving as High Priest to the benefit of mankind.
13:20—Why is the new covenant spoken of as being “everlasting”? For three reasons: (1) It will never be replaced, (2) its results are permanent, and (3) the “other sheep” will continue to benefit from the new covenant arrangement after Armageddon.—John 10:16.
Lessons for Us:
5:14. We should be diligent students of God’s Word, the Bible, and apply what we learn from it. There is no other way to have our “perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.”—1 Cor. 2:10.
6:17-19. Having our hope solidly based on God’s promise and his oath will help us not to deviate from walking in the way of the truth.
12:3, 4. Rather than ‘getting tired and giving out in our souls’ because of minor trials or opposition that we may encounter, we should make progress toward maturity and improve our ability to endure trials. We should be determined to resist “as far as blood,” that is, to the point of dying.—Heb. 10:36-39.
12:13-15. We should not allow a “poisonous root,” or any in the congregation who find fault with the way things are done, to prevent us from ‘making straight paths for our feet.’
12:26-28. The “things that have been made” by hands other than God’s—the entire present system of things, even the wicked “heaven”—are to be shaken out of existence. When that happens, only “the things not being shaken,” that is, the Kingdom and its supporters, will remain. How vital that we zealously proclaim the Kingdom and live by its principles!
13:7, 17. Keeping in focus this admonition to be obedient and submissive to the overseers in the congregations will help us to manifest a cooperative spirit.