Avoid Unprofitable Questions
HAVE you noticed how frequently the apostle Paul alerted Christians to guard against speculation and unprofitable questions? To Timothy he wrote: “For there will be a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, whereas they will be turned aside to false stories.” (2 Tim. 4:3, 4) In his letter to Titus, Paul warned: “Shun foolish questionings and genealogies and strife and fights over the Law, for they are unprofitable and futile.” (Titus 3:9) Elsewhere the apostle cautions Christians to avoid “philosophy and empty deception,” “idle talk,” “empty speeches,” “falsely called ‘knowledge,”” “false stories,” and “strange teachings.”—Col. 2:8; 1 Tim. 1:6; 6:20; 2 Tim. 4:4; Heb. 13:9.
These repeated warnings were not amiss. Already in Timothy’s day Hymenaeus and Philetus led some away from the true faith by teaching that the resurrection had already occurred. (2 Tim. 2:17, 18) In the second and third centuries Gnostics who professed Christianity boasted that they alone had sounded the depths of knowledge. By a process of speculation they claimed to have discovered “deep things” unknown to the ordinary Christian. Unwilling to limit themselves to divinely revealed truth and asserting that it was impossible to arrive at the true teachings of Christ, they proceeded to introduce Oriental and Grecian philosophies, under the label of superior knowledge. Crude, man-made doctrines resulted, and many were turned aside to false stories. The apostle John’s statement proved correct: “Everyone that pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God.”—2 John 9.
Today, in the spiritual paradise enjoyed by Jehovah’s witnesses, the divine promise has come true: “Many will rove about, and the true knowledge will become abundant.” (Dan. 12:4) The source of this true knowledge is made plain in Isaiah’s prophecy, which is also undergoing fulfillment now: “And it must occur in the final part of the days that the mountain of the house of Jehovah will become firmly established above the top of the mountains, and it will certainly be lifted up above the hills; and to it all the nations must stream. And many peoples will certainly go and say: ‘Come, you people, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion law will go forth, and the word of Jehovah out of Jerusalem.”—Isa. 2:2, 3.
Yes, from Jehovah God, his Word and organization comes the instruction that enables Christians to walk in His paths, worshiping the Father with spirit and truth. (John 4:24) “Your word is a lamp to my foot, and a light to my roadway,” wrote the psalmist. (Ps. 119:105) Under the illumination of increased Bible knowledge “the path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.”—Prov. 4:18.
The abundance of true knowledge of Jehovah available today, however, does not lessen the need to observe the inspired counsel: “Every saying of God is refined. He is a shield to those taking refuge in him. Add nothing to his words, that he may not reprove you, and that you may not have to be proved a liar.” (Prov. 30:5, 6) In God’s Word there is no dross of speculation or theory; all is pure gold. “However,” Paul warns, “the inspired utterance says definitely that in later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons.” (1 Tim. 4:1) Today, when we are on the threshold of God’s righteous new world, it is vital to “make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine.” (1 Thess. 5:21) Now, just as in Timothy’s day, each one of us must handle the word of the truth aright, shunning empty speeches.—2 Tim. 2:15, 16.
UNPROFITABLE USE OF TIME
Handling God’s Word of truth aright requires that we discern between profitable and unprofitable questions. Naturally we have questions about the past, present and future. In the Bible Jehovah has provided authentic answers to the questions that properly concern us at this time. Sometimes secular history can fill us in on details not given in the Bible. But there are other questions to which neither the Bible nor profane history provides an answer. It is not wise or safe for us to speculate about questions of that nature.
For example, in all good faith one might ask, What was Jehovah doing before he created Jesus, by whom he made all other things? If Adam and Eve had repented, would God have forgiven them? What happened to the bodies of those who perished in the Flood? Did the expensive gifts brought to the babe Jesus make Joseph and Mary rich for the rest of their lives? What did Jesus do between the ages of twelve and thirty besides his carpentering? How would Jehovah have redeemed the race if Jesus had not proved faithful? Exactly how long did Jesus’ trip to heaven take? Much time could be spent conjecturing on such matters.
Likewise it is possible to spend valuable time speculating on matters concerning the future. One might ask, In what year will Armageddon begin? Will the faithful angels eventually receive immortality? Will there be factories and machines in use after Armageddon? Will men wear beards again? What will be the medium of exchange in the new world? Will women now past the age of childbearing share in the procreation mandate? If dedicated parents and children happen to die before Armageddon, which parent will raise the resurrected children, since resurrected mates will not remarry? (Luke 20:35) These are typical questions to which Jehovah has not provided answers at this time. Do you think it wise for Christians to take time from more profitable Bible study to speculate on the answers? Consider the dangers involved.
Avoiding unprofitable questions involves more than saving time. It may save your life. By listening to the speculations of Hymenaeus and Philetus about the resurrection, some fell away from the faith. By listening to some individual’s pet theory about what happened in the past or will happen in the future, you could misunderstand Jehovah’s purpose and conclude that you no longer wanted to share in that purpose. One could find himself following man-made philosophy instead of Christ. (Col. 2:8) And these are not the only dangers associated with unprofitable questions.
A Christian who indulges in speculation from the platform or in group Bible study tends to attract undue attention to himself. Personal theories can cause division of thought and even lead to disputes about trifles. Ones newly associated with Jehovah’s congregation might be stumbled by what would appear to be a lack of love and unity. By setting up hypothetical situations and then speculating on the answers to problems posed thereby, are we not in fact adding to Jehovah’s words? In matters that involve our everlasting life it is not prudent to judge or conclude from slight indications or merely probable grounds. We cannot worship Jehovah in spirit and in truth if our worship is based on speculation. Truth and theory are not synonymous. Wisely, Paul’s inspired counsel is: “If any man teaches other doctrine and does not assent to healthful words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, nor to the teaching that accords with godly devotion, he is puffed up with pride, not understanding anything, but being mentally diseased over questionings and debates about words. From these things spring envy, strife, abusive speeches, wicked suspicions, violent disputes about trifles on the part of men corrupted in mind and despoiled of the truth.”—1 Tim. 6:3-5.
GET ACCURATE KNOWLEDGE
Exactly what is “the teaching that accords with godly devotion”? Paul identifies it in his salutation to Titus: “Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ according to the faith of God’s chosen ones and the accurate knowledge of the truth which accords with godly devotion upon the basis of a hope of the everlasting life which God, who cannot lie, promised before times long lasting.” (Titus 1:1, 2) Yes, it is the getting of accurate knowledge of Jehovah’s Word of truth and the dispensing of it to others that should be our concern in these pre-Armageddon days, in harmony with Paul’s letter to the Christians in Philippi, along with overseers and ministerial servants: “This is what I continue praying, that your love may abound yet more and more with accurate knowledge and full discernment; that you may make sure of the more important things, so that you may be flawless and not be stumbling others up to the day of Christ, and may be filled with righteous fruit, which is through Jesus Christ, to God’s glory and praise.”—Phil. 1:9-11.
Accurate knowledge and full discernment of the important matters vital to your salvation are constantly brought to your attention by Jehovah’s “faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time.” (Matt. 24:45) Each issue of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines contains rich food for your building up in faith and love. Additionally, there are the neighborhood Bible study groups sponsored by local congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses, where understanding of God’s purpose is gained by use of such study helps as the book “Let Your Name Be Sanctified.”
A profitable use of time is the daily reading of the Bible itself, with the aim of eventually reading it from cover to cover. As questions arise from such reading or other Bible study, you can check with the Watch Tower Publications Index to locate interpretative and background material in the Society’s Bible-study aids. To the rear of the Index is a section headed “Scripture Index.” By checking the sources listed after scriptures cited therein you can get helpful information. The “Subject Index” too is a key to endless hours of profitable Bible study through use of the Watch Tower publications at hand or in the library of the local Kingdom Hall.
As you keep up with the advancing light of Bible truth, remember that your purpose in studying is to learn how the Scriptures apply to you and your personal relationship to Jehovah God and his kingdom under Christ. Ask yourself during periods of study: “Have I got all that is in this scripture or paragraph? How does this verse or thought fit into the pattern of healthful teaching I have already learned? Do I understand the principles taught by this text? Have I observed its prophetic content? What Christian doctrine does it teach? Does this instruction affect my dealings with others? How?” Note any interesting background facts provided. Concentrate your attention on “digesting” as much as you can of the “solid food” necessary to your Christian maturity and victory in the fight of faith.—Heb. 5:14.
By making sure of the important things and building your faith on the accurate knowledge of God’s Word you will be able to preach and teach with authority, as Jesus did. (Matt. 7:28, 29) Your words will carry weight and conviction, enabling you to fulfill your Christian duty to build others up with truth and love. (Eph. 4:15) Your avoiding speculation and unprofitable questions will demonstrate your meekness and willingness to await Jehovah’s due time to provide further information on any matter, if it be his will. This he can easily do by further enlightening our understanding of the Bible, by bringing to pass events foretold therein, or even by resurrecting the dead with their detailed knowledge of past events. By waiting upon Him and his organization all of Jehovah’s servants will speak in agreement, being “fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought,” to his praise and our eternal welfare.—1 Cor. 1:10.
Let us make the wisest use of our time, then, avoiding unprofitable questions and always remembering Paul’s counsel: “Learn the rule: ‘Do not go beyond the things that are written.’”—1 Cor. 4:6.
Questions From Readers
● Why does the King James Version at 1 Timothy 3:1, 2, speak of “bishops” and at 1 Timothy 3:8, 10, 12, 13, of “deacons,” whereas the New World Translation terms the former “overseers” and the latter “ministerial servants”?—R. H., United States.
The religious words or titles “bishop” and “deacon” are simply words that have been more or less closely transliterated into the English language; that is, they are carried over much like the way they appear in the Greek instead of being translated. These two words are epískopos and diákonos. To illustrate: “Logos” and “Christ” are transliterated because they are titles. If not used as titles, they would be “word” and “anointed.”
In the days of the apostles there were no titles for servants among the Christian congregations and so in the letters of Paul these words should have been translated. However, at an early time the apostate church made titles out of these designations and applied them to men who held positions corresponding to the form of service or office that is described by these Greek words. This falling away was foretold by the apostle Paul at Acts 20:29, 30.
The King James Version was translated at the express command of King James of England by men who belonged to the Church of England and in which there were officers known as “bishops” and “deacons.” So instead of translating the Greek words epískopos and diákonos according to what they literally mean,