Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Meaning of Bible Names (Facebook Embed)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Genesis 32 - Jacob's Prevailing Prayer

"I won't let you go, unless you bless me." Genesis 32:26, World English Version.
(1) FLEEING from his father's home, Jacob traveled a distance of nearly five hundred miles to Chaldea, the original home of his grandfather Abraham, where his uncle Laban still lived. His esteem for the promise of God had made him a pilgrim and a stranger, a wanderer from home, just as Abraham's faithfulness to the call had taken him from home in the opposite direction. In the promise Yahweh makes to Jacob, he reiterates the promise as give to Abraham, that by his seed all families of the earth will be blessed. (Genesis 28:14) As we learn in the NT, the seed of promise consists of Jesus and the spirit-begotten sons of God. (Galatians 3:16,25,29) In order to prove Jacob's worthiness of the blessings -- in order to test his faith in God's promises, he was permitted to pass through various trying experiences and disappointments. One of these was a love affair with Rachel, his cousin, for whom he served his uncle in all fourteen years, seven before he got her as a wife, and seven years afterward; his uncle taking a dishonest advantage of him in the arrangement. (Genesis 29:10-28) Nevertheless, we see Jacob's patience and persistency, and note with pleasure that he never for a moment seems to have doubted the promises of God that he should be blessed as the inheritor of the Abrahamic promise.
(2) "Not lagging in diligence; fervent in spirit; serving" Yahweh; (Romans 12:11) would seem to apply well to Jacob's career. So energetic was he in Laban's service, so successful in all that he undertook, so persevering, that his uncle soon considered his service indispensable, and was glad to make favorable terms with him to have him remain and take chief charge of his property. Shrewdly Jacob bargained for an interest in the increase of the flocks and herds, etc., as his salary, and practically became a partner. There was nothing dishonest in his making a bargain with Laban that all the brown sheep and streaked and speckled goats should be his; nor was there anything wrong in his scientifically increasing the proportionate numbers of these colored and speckled animals. (Genesis 30:26-43) Laban became aware, before long, that he had a very capable and shrewd son-in-law, and, moreover, that Yahweh's blessing was with him. (Genesis 24:50; 30:27) Laban heard the words of his sons, and became displeased with Jacob. Through a message from angel, Jacob was told to return to the land of his birth. (Genesis 31) He surmised, however, not without good cause, that his uncle would use force to restrain him from leaving, or to take from him some of the cattle, etc., which were properly his under the contract, and hence he chose an opportunity for leaving when Laban was absent.
(3) Laban was evidently a powerful sheik, having many servants, and indeed Jacob had become so by this time, as the narrative shows that he was able, shortly after, to give away as a present to his brother Esau, 220 goats, 220 sheep, 30 camels, 50 head of cattle and 20 donkeys. (Genesis 32:13-15) But when Laban pursued, with the full intention of bringing back Jacob, his family and servants and flocks and herds, God interfered, warning Laban in a dream, saying, "Take heed to thyself from speaking with Jacob from good unto evil." (Genesis 31:29, Young's Literal Translation, see also KJV margin). In consequence of this dream, and Jacob's subsequent fair statement of his side of the case, showing clearly that he had not wronged Laban, but that Laban had repeatedly dealt badly with him, he was let go on his way in peace.
(4) The scriptures reveal the peaceable disposition of Abraham, and also of Isaac, and now we note that Jacob not only left home and abandoned his share in the father's house, and family property belonging to the birthright he had purchased, rather than quarrel with his brother, but that similarly in dealing with his uncle he refused to quarrel; he submitted himself; he trusted Yahweh to bring out the results rather than to his own strength for a conflict, either mental or physical. Yahweh apparently would have the spiritual Israelites learn this lesson: "Seek peace and pursue it;" (Psalm 34:14; 1 Peter 3:11) "Wait for Yahweh, and he will save you." (Proverbs 20:22) It is not of God's arrangement that the spiritual Israelites should contend with weapons of the flesh (2 Corinthians 10:4); but rather that they should submit themselves to the powers that be (Romans 13:1), learning the lessons which accompany such submission (Romans 5:3); and have developed in them the faith, the trust, the hope in God, necessary to a maintenance of their relationship to him, and growth in his grace. -- 1 Peter 3:18.
(5) The journey of Jacob back to the land of his nativity and to the presence of a presumably hostile brother, now wealthy and powerful, and from whose face he had fled for his life some forty years previous (Genesis 27:41-28:5), was another evidence of his faith in God and of his respect for, and valuation of, the promises of God, whose fulfilment could be expected only in a far distant future. Like Abraham, he looked for a city whose builder and maker is God -- the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God on earth. He knew that Abraham had died in faith not having realized the promises, and he was willing to likewise patiently wait. -- Hebrews 11:10.
Genesis 32:1,2: Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. When he saw them, Jacob said, "This is God's host." He called the name of that place Mahanaim"
(6) Jacob refers to the angels (messengers) who met him as "God's host," or, host of ELOHIM. How the angels met Jacob and appeared to him is not stated in the scriptures. Regardless, the point is that their appearance did give Jacob encouragement in his journey back to Canaan, and Jacob acknowledges these angels as the host of God.
(7) The word Mahanaim means "two camps", or "double camp". It is possible that by using this term Jacob referred to two camps: one visible, that is, Jacob and his hosts, and another invisible, that is, God's angels who were being made visible to Jacob in some manner. Regardless, the thought appears to be that Jacob recognized that the mighty host of angels were with him, which gave him courage.
(8) Genesis 32:3,4: Jacob sent messengers in front of him to Esau, his brother, to the land of Seir, the field of Edom. He commanded them, saying, "This is what you shall tell my lord, Esau: 'This is what your servant, Jacob, says. I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now.'"
(9) By this statement, Jacob shows that this return from Padan-aram to the land of Canaan, the land of promise, can by no means be considered the fulfilment of the promise of possession of the land, the whole land of Canaan, for himself and his posterity for an everlasting possession, as some teach. To such a claim the Apostle Paul gives most emphatic denial, and shows that this promise never was fulfilled to them; nor has it even yet been fulfilled to their posterity, though it most assuredly will be, both to them, and to their posterity, at the time appointed. Paul says "By faith, Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out to the place which he was to receive for an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he went. By faith, he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a land not his own, dwelling in tents [temporary, movable dwellings], with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked for the city [an established kingdom] which has the foundations [permanence], whose builder and maker is God... These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and embraced them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth [upon the land (Greek, Ge, Strong's #1093) they were dwelling in]. -- Hebrews 11:9,10,13; see also Genesis 23:4; 47:9; Psalm 119:19.
(10) After forty years' absence from home, Jacob was ready at Yahweh's command (Genesis 28:15,20,21; 32:9) to return. Experience had taught him confidence in God and lack of confidence in his uncle Laban. Jacob was now ninety-seven years old, and rich in flocks and herds; and with his wives and twelve sons he started on the then long journey of four hundred and fifty miles, humanly fearful of the consequences, yet, notwithstanding his fears, boldly walking out on the promises of God.
(11) Genesis 32:9-11: Jacob said, "God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, Yahweh, who said to me, 'Return to your country, and to your relatives, and I will do you good.' I am not worthy of the least of all the lovingkindnesses, and of all the truth, which you have shown to your servant; for with just my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I have become two companies. Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he come and strike me, and the mothers with the children.
(12) This is acclaimed as the first recorded prayer in the Bible (at least, it is the first recorded as what we might refer to as a "formal" prayer), and it is beautifully humble, simple and trustful, and was acceptable to God. Verse 9 is a reverent and trustful address to Yahweh, the God of his fathers Abraham and Isaac, recalling the divine command and promise of protection. (Genesis 31:3,11-13) Verse 10 disclaims any personal worthiness of this divine favor, not only of present protection and care, but also of "the truth," the precious promises granted unto him. Then he thankfully acknowledges the blessings already received. While with his staff only he had passed over the Jordan, now he had become two bands. This much is fulfilment of the promise of a numerous posterity -- " as the sand which is on the seashore." -- Genesis 22:17.
(13) In verses 11,12 Jacob tells Yahweh of his fears of his brother, and asks for the promised protection. Thus with childlike simplicity he comes to God as to a loving father.
(14) Genesis 32:24-28: Jacob was left alone, and wrestled with a "man" there until the breaking of the day. When he saw that he didn't prevail against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh, and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was strained, as he wrestled. The man said, "Let me go, for the day breaks." Jacob said, "I won't let you go, unless you bless me." He said to him, "What is your name?" He said, "Jacob." He said, "Your name will no longer be called 'Jacob,' but, 'Israel,' for you have fought with God and with men, and have prevailed."
(15) In answer to Jacob's fervent, trustful prayer God sent an angel, evidently to comfort and direct him. [The angel is referred to as a "man", not because he was actually a man, but because he made his appearance as such. We know that this "man" was actually angel because of what we read in Hosea 12:4.] But Jacob was anxious for more than comfort and direction in mere temporal things, and all night therefore he pleaded with the angel for some special evidence of divine favor beyond temporal things. The angel, too, had a blessing in store for him, but delayed its bestowal until the break of day, that Jacob might have a chance of proving the strength of his desire and appreciation of the divine favor. Thus God would have all his children "strive to enter in" to the blessings promised, and to "fight the good fight of faith," and so lay hold on eternal life. (Luke 13:24; 1 Timothy 6:12) We may not listlessly drift into the divine favor. We must greatly appreciate and earnestly seek for it. (Proverbs 8:17; Luke 15:8; Hebrews 11:6) As another test of Jacob's faith and earnestness, instead of the desired blessing came a severe affliction -- probably what is now known as sciatica, a very painful affliction of the sciatic nerve. But even this affliction did not in the least dissuade Jacob from his desire and determination to have, if possible, some special evidence of divine favor. Still he plead with the angel of Yahweh.
(16) The man said, "Let me go, for the day breaks." Jacob said, "I won't let you go, unless you bless me." Then came the blessing, a blessing worthy of the night's striving, and one which doubtless made his affliction seem comparatively light. (Genesis 32:26) Like Paul's thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7), the affliction became but a reminder of the promise and favor of God, and served doubtless to keep him from being unduly elated.
He said to him, "What is your name?" He said, "Jacob." He said, "Your name will no longer be called 'Jacob,' but, 'Israel,' for you have fought with God and with men, and have prevailed." -- Genesis 32:27,28.
(17) The angel tells Jacob that his name is being changed to Israel, which means "a prince with God". In these words was couched the future glory and exaltation of Jacob as a prince in the earthly, visible phase of the Kingdom of God. "You [will] see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God." (Luke 13:28; Matthew 8:11. See also Psalm 45:16) Jacob then asks for the name of this angel of Yahweh, that he might hold him in lasting and grateful remembrance.
(18) Some trinitarians point to verse 27 and say that Jacob actually fought with God Almighty who supposedly was the second person of the trinity (Jesus) who appeared to Jacob here. It is then assumed that Jacob actually wrestled here with God Almighty, since the trinity holds that Jesus is God Almighty. Young's Literal Translation of Genesis 22:28 reads: "And he saith, `Thy name is no more called Jacob, but Israel; for thou hast been a prince with God and with men, and dost prevail.'" We are not to think that Jacob had power of himself to prevail against God Almighty, as it might seem from some translations. The proper thought is that Jacob obtained power from God to prevail against the angel. While Matthew Henry seems to think that Jacob actually wrestled with God Almighty, he does state: "It was not in his own strength that he wrestled, nor by his own strength that he prevailed, but in and by strength derived from Heaven. That of Job illustrates this (Job 23:6), Will he plead against me with his great power? No (had the angel done so, Jacob had been crushed), but he will put strength in me; and by that strength Jacob had power over the angel, Hosea 12:4."* ========== *Henry, Matthew. "Commentary on Genesis 32". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.
(19) "Jacob asked him, 'Please tell me your name.' He said, 'Why is it that you ask what my name is?' He blessed him there." (Genesis 32:29) The angel of Yahweh wished Jacob to understand that the blessing was from Yahweh God, whose messenger he was, and therefore he did not tell his name. The case is parallel to that of Manoah and the angel that visited him: "And Manoah said unto the angel of the Lord, What is thy name, that when thy sayings come to pass I may do thee honor? And the angel of [Yahweh] said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?" (Judges 13:17,18, King James Version) Thus the true messengers of God always seek to give the highest honor to God, and decline it for themselves. -- See Revelation 19:10; John 14:28; Acts 3:12.
Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for, he said, "I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." - Genesis 32:30.
(20) How did Jacob "see" God face to face? We are not think that Yahweh actually has a face as a man, and Jacob literally looked upon the face of God Almighty, for Yahweh says: "Man may not see me and live." (Exodus 33:20) "No one [amongst mankind] has seen God at any time." (John 1:18) Therefore we reason that Jacob did not actually see the form of God face to face. What he did see was God as represented in the angel of God. "And Jacob said unto Joseph, God almighty appeared unto me at Luz." (Genesis 48:3, KJV) Hosea 12:4 tells the means by which he "appeared": "He [Jacob] had power over the angel, and prevailed; He wept, and made supplication to him." Thus the one with whom Jacob actually dealt with was an angel of Yahweh, not Yahweh himself.
(21) The word translated God in verse 30 is the Hebrew "elohim", which has as a basic meaning, "power, strength, might", and used here it would mean a superior might, power. This word is applied to angels in Psalm 8:5; Hebrews 2:7. Thus it is also possble that by using the word "elohim", Jacob was referring to the angel, one of superior might, whom he thought surely had more power than him, thus we wonders that he is still alive. And as we have pointed out, Hosea 12:4 agrees that it was angel.
(22) Many of our trinitarian neighbors like to "see" in this verse trinity, claiming that the "angel of Yahweh" is actually Yahweh, that is, Jesus, whom they suppose is actually Yahweh himself. Actually, anything about a trinity has to be read into the verse, for there is certainly nothing there about three persons in one God. See our study: "The Angel of Yahweh".
(23) Thus Jacob was blessed again as at Bethel. The darkest seasons of his life were the special occasions for the manifestation of divine favor. And so the children of God ever find it when in their fears and perplexities they come to God for rest and consolation.
"E'en sorrow, touched by heaven, grows bright With more than rapture's ray, As darkness shows us worlds of light We never saw by day."

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Psalm 118:8 - Trusting Jehovah and Trusting Our Brothers

Psalms 118:8 - It is better to trust in Jehovah than to trust in man. -- Green's Literal.

We have been asked to comment regarding a youtube video entitled:

We are not with the Jehovah's Witnesses, but the video does show what is in reality a contradiction many times stated by the Jehovah's witnesses. We know that from the JWs' perspective, putting their trust in "Jehovah's Organization" does not mean the men in Brooklyn who are running the "Jehovah's Witnesses" organization, since they really believe that this alleged "Jehovah's visible organization on earth" is being run by Jehovah Himself through God's spirit; thus, in effect in the way they think, they (subconsciously, if not consciously) equate their organizational leadership with Jehovah's spirit. They will speak of anything said in the Watchtower as having come from Jehovah himself. We believe this is delusional, and blinds them to the effect that a self-proclaimed go-between is actually taking the place of Jesus as the only way to God. - John 14:6.

Furthermore, the proclamation that one has to come to their organization for salvation, in effect, places that organization as a mediator needed beyond Jesus. -- Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5,6.

Additionally, while we believe we are to have a relative trust in our Christian brothers (regardless of any sectarian affiliation), such trust does not mean that we have to believe that all the opinions of our Christian brothers regarding the Bible are to be accepted without question, as the JWs accept of their "governing body" "brothers". We certainly cannot trust our salvation to any men, nor to any self-proclaimed "Jehovah's visible organization", but rather to God through Jesus.

We are providing links to the Bible Study Tools site for what the Bible says about trust from several different translations:

CLICK HERE for a list of references from Bible Study Tools.

1 Corinthians 14 and "Speaking in Foreign Languages"

Evidently there were those in the Corinthian church that were asking for the miraculous gift of speaking in foreign languages. We cannot be sure "why" they were asking for this particular gift. It is possible that there were some in the congregation that did not speak the language common to them, and thus some may have been seeking the gift so that they could speak to them in their own language. However, from the way Paul handles this, it is possible that some were seeking this gift for the purpose drawing attention to themselves, that is, for selfish, carnal purposes.

1 Corinthians 14 is often greatly misunderstood and misapplied. Let us look at the verses, using the World English Bible version:
1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow after love, and earnestly desire spiritual gifts [pneumatika, spiritual things], but especially that you may prophesy.
Here the apostle tells us that we should desire spiritual abilities, especially that we may prophesy. The word "prophesy" is not used here as referring to one who receives direct messages from God about the future, but rather in the sense of the ability of speaking publicly, as before a group. Nor is the spiritual ability to prophesy necessarily obtained by a miracle of the Holy Spirit, for one could develop or acquire the ability of public speaking along more natural lines, and if he does so for the purpose of glorifying God, it is God's Holy Spirit that would lead that one do develop such a "gift" or ability.
1 Corinthians 14:2 For he who speaks in another language speaks not to men, but to God; for no one understands; but in the spirit he speaks mysteries.
Many have imagined that Paul is speaking above of one who has received a miraculous gift of speaking in an "unknown tongue", that the one having received such a miraculous gift does not speak to men but to God, etc. Actually, if one lays aside such a preconceiption, we can see that Paul was saying that one who speaks a language that is foreign to the congregation, though he may not be understood by men, he is still is understood by God. In other words, if a speaker of English goes into a congregation where no one understands English, and begins to speak to that congregation in English, no one is going to understand what is being said, thus the speaker would only be speaking to God. The Greek word for spirit is pneuma, which can refer to "spirit" in many different ways. One of the meanings of pnuema is breath, and since Paul is in the context here referring to words that are spoken, that should be understood as the meaning of "spirit" in these verses. In the spirit, therefore, refers by means of the breath, the force coming forth from the mouth of the speaker. If a speaker speaks with the breath in a language that is not understood by the hearers, what that speaker is speaking by means of that breath is to the hearers a mystery, since they do not know what is being said.
1 Corinthians 14:3 But he who prophesies speaks to men for their edification, exhortation, and consolation.
In other words, the purpose of speaking to the congregations is to edify, exhort and console those who hear, not to speak words that cannot be understood.
1 Corinthians 14:4 He who speaks in another language edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the assembly.
If one speaking to a congregation that does not understand the language of one speaking, the speaker is only edifying himself when he speaks. If a speaker is speaking to the congregation in words that are understood, then that person's words do edify the congregation.
1 Corinthians 14:5 Now I desire to have you all speak with other languages, but rather that you would prophesy. For he is greater who prophesies than he who speaks with other languages, unless he interprets, that the assembly may be built up.
Is Paul contradicting himself, saying on the one hand that he wishes for all to speak foreign languages, and at the same that he would rather that they not speak in foreign languages, but prophesy?
1 Corinthians 14:5 thelw de pantas humas lalein glwssais mallon I AM WILLING BUT ALL YOU TO BE SPEAKING TO TONGUES, RATHER 2309 1161 3956 4771_7 2980 1100 3123 de hina propheeteueete meizwn de ho BUT IN ORDER THAT YOU MAY BE PROPHESYING; GREATER BUT THE (ONE) 1161 2443 4395 3187 1161 3588 propheeteuwn ee ho lalwn glwssais ektos ei PROPHESYING THAN THE (ONE) SPEAKING TO TONGUES, OUTSIDE IF 4395 2228 3588 2980 1100 1623 1487 1487_1 mee diermeeneuee hina hee ekkleesia NOT HE MAY BE TRANSLATING, IN ORDER THAT THE ECCLESIA 3361 1329 2443 3588 1577 oikodomeen labee UPBUILDING MIGHT RECEIVE. 3619 2983 Westcott & Hort Interlinear
We believe that what Paul is saying here is that he is willing for those who speak languages foreign to congregation to speak to the congregation, only if what he is saying is translated into the language commonly spoken by the congregation, so that the one speaking can prophesy -- speak publicly -- so as to be understood by the congregation. We certainly are not given any reason to think he was saying that he wished for everyone in the Corinthian congregation to speak in foreign languages. And he was definitely not speaking of the common practice today of "speaking in unknown tongues", which does not at all appear to be for the purpose of understanding.
What we believe Paul was saying is: While I am willing for one to speak before the congregation who is speaking a foreign languages, but only if what is spoken is translated, so that what is spoken may be understood [by the congregation].
1 Corinthians 14:6 But now, brothers, if I come to you speaking with other languages, what would I profit you, unless I speak to you either by way of revelation, or of knowledge, or of prophesying, or of teaching?
If Paul came into a congregation that only spoke Greek, and he began speaking before them in Aramaic, Latin, or another foreign language, what would be the benefit to his hearers, except that he spoke to them in some way that could be understood, with something that is revealed to them, imparting some knowledge to them, presented publicly to them, or in some way teaching them, that they might understand and be edified? In other words, if he came to them speaking in a language they could not understand, it would not be of any profit to the congregation, since what he said would not contain any revealing, comprehensible, to them; if he spoke to them in language unknown to them, his words would not contain any knowledge, or any words of understanding, and the congregation would not be taught anything by the words they did not understand.
1 Corinthians 14:7 Even things without life, giving a voice, whether pipe or harp, if they didn't give a distinction in the sounds, how would it be known what is piped or harped? 1 Corinthians 14:8 For if the trumpet gave an uncertain voice, who would prepare himself for war? 1 Corinthians 14:9 So also you, unless you uttered by the tongue words easy to understand, how would it be known what is spoken? For you would be speaking into the air. 1 Corinthians 14:10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without meaning. 1 Corinthians 14:10 11 If then I don't know the meaning of the voice, I would be to him who speaks a foreigner, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me.
Paul here further illustrates the need for speaking so as to be understood by the congregation, for those who would speak in a language that is not understood would be like a foreigner.
1 Corinthians 14:12 So also you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts [spiritual things], seek that you may abound to the building up of the assembly. 1 Corinthians 14:13 Therefore let him who speaks in another language pray that he may interpret.
Example: If one who only speaks English were go into a congregation that only speaks Spanish, that person should pray that he may be able to interpet what is being said by the Spanish brothers, so that he also might be edified by what is being said. This is not necessarily saying that the person should pray for a miraculous gift of interpreting another language, however.
1 Corinthians 14:14 For if I pray in another language, my spirit [breath] prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.
1 Corinthians 14:14 ean gar proseuchwmai glwssee to pneuma mou IF EVER FOR I AM PRAYING TO TONGUE, THE SPIRIT OF ME 1437 1063 4336 1100 3588 4151 1473_2 proseuchetai ho de nous mou akarpos estin IS PRAYING, THE BUT MIND OF ME UNFRUITFUL IS. 4336 3588 1161 3563 1473_2 0175 1510_2 Westcott & Hort Interlinear
If a person prays in a language that is foreign to congregation, he may be praying with his breath, but what is on his mind when he speaks those words is not communicated to those who hear his prayer, and thus it is unfruitful.
1 Corinthians 14:15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit [breath], and I will pray with the understanding also. I will sing with the spirit [breath], and I will sing with the understanding also.
Paul concludes that one should be not only praying with the breath without giving any understanding to the hearers of the prayer, as would be the case if he prayed in a language that the congregation did not understand, but that he should pray also for the purpose of being understood.
1 Corinthians 14:16 Else if you bless with the spirit, how will he who fills the place of the unlearned say the "Amen" at your giving of thanks, seeing he doesn't know what you say?
If you pray in a language that the congregation does not understand, asking a blessing upon the congregation, those in the congregation, unlearned in that language, cannot meaningfully say "Amen" to your prayer, since they don't know what you have said. In many churches, especially those that practice the modern-day "speaking in unknown tongues,"  you might see the  the people routinely repeating with great emotion their "Amen!" whether the prayer was said in their language or a language they do not understand. Such mindless shouting and yelling of "Amen!" is meaningless, and falls short of the reason for saying "Amen." It should be obvious that for one to really mean "Amen" he has to understand what is being said in order to express such an agreement.
1 Corinthians 14:17 For you most assuredly give thanks well, but the other person is not built up.
No matter how well we may offer thanks, those who do not speak our language are not edified by it if we offer such thanks in a language that the congregation does not understand.
1 Corinthians 14:18 I thank my God, I speak with other languages more than you all. 1 Corinthians 14:19 However in the assembly I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I might instruct others also, than ten thousand words in another language. 1 Corinthians 14:20 Brothers, don't be children in mind, yet in malice be babies, but in mind be men.
Again, Paul emphasizes the need to speak in the congregation in a language that is understood by the hearers, that the hearers may receive instruction.
1 Corinthians 14:21 In the law it is written, "By men of strange languages and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people. Not even thus will they hear me, says the Lord." 1 Corinthians 14:22 Therefore other languages are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to the unbelieving; but prophesying is for a sign, not to the unbelieving, but to those who believe.
Those who seek the gift of speaking in foreign languages as a sign of God's approval/presence, or for the personal emotional excitement, often misinterpreted as God's presence, seek such a gift for the wrong purpose. The purpose of the gift was so that the Word of God could be spread to unbelievers who do not speak the language of the disciple. Thus, God gave to some, not all, a special gift of the holy spirit that enabled the disciples to speak to unbelievers in a language that was foreign to the disciple. There is no evidence in the Bible, however, that when a disciple spoke to an unbeliever in the unbeliever's own language that the disciple did not know or understand what he was saying.
Usually, today, there is little need, if any, for such a gift, as there are ample provisions available to most of the disciples of Jesus so that one can learn a foreign language without having such a gift. The gift, however, in the first century was given as a sign for unbelievers, so that they could understand the good news, not something to be held up in the congregation as a "sign" of God's approval/presence, etc. Nor was such a gift meant to be an emotional outburst of words that no one understands.
1 Corinthians 14:23 If therefore the whole assembly is assembled together and all speak with other languages, and unlearned or unbelieving people come in, won't they say that you are crazy?
Again, an emphasis on speaking in language that is understood.
1 Corinthians 14:24 But if all prophesy, and someone unbelieving or unlearned comes in, he is reproved by all, and he is judged by all. 1 Corinthians 14:25 And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed. So he will fall down on his face and worship God, declaring that God is among you indeed. 1 Corinthians 14:26 What is it then, brothers? When you come together, each one of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has another language, has an interpretation. Let all things be done to build each other up. 1 Corinthians 14:27 If any man speaks in another language, let it be two, or at the most three, and in turn; and let one interpret.
Again, Paul emphasizes that if one who does not speak the language that is spoken by congregation wishes to speak, they may be allowed to speak, but only with an interpreter, so that the congregation may receive understanding.
1 Corinthians 14:28 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silence in the assembly, and let him speak to himself, and to God.
If one does not speak the common language of the congregation, and there is no one to interpret, then that one should not be permitted to speak to the congregation, but he can still speak silently to himself, and to God.
1 Corinthians 14:29 Let the prophets speak, two or three, and let the others discern. 1 Corinthians 14:30 But if a revelation is made to another sitting by, let the first keep silence. 1 Corinthians 14:31 For you all can prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be exhorted. 1 Corinthians 14:32 The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets, 1 Corinthians 14:33 for God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. As in all the assemblies of the saints,
Here Paul emphasizes again the need for a speaker to speak so as to be understood, and thus states that each should be permitted to speak, but one at a time. This is the very opposite of what one might find in many meetings where one finds alleged "speaking in tongues," since everyone is shouting, yelling, yelping, hollering and carrying on, and most cannot understand anything that is being said by anyone. Indeed, many are speaking, shouting and yelling sounds and utterances that even themselves do not understand.
1 Corinthians 14:34 let your women keep silence in the assemblies, for it is not permitted for them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as the law also says. 1 Corinthians 14:35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is shameful for a woman to chatter in the assembly.
The speaking is in reference to speaking as a "prophet", one who publicly expounds God's Word, as in giving a Bible lecture (sermon) or discourse. Many do not wish to obey this command of Jesus through his apostle Paul, and wish to explain it away, and yet, there it is.
1 Corinthians 14:36 What? Was it from you that the word of God went forth? Or did it come to you alone? 1 Coirnthians 14:37 If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him recognize the things which I write to you, that they are the commandment of the Lord.
Paul emphasizes that what he is saying is not just his advice, but rather they are the commandment of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 14:38 But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant. 1 Corinthians 14:39 Therefore, brothers, desire earnestly to prophesy, and don't forbid speaking with other languages.
Paul shows that the brothers should have a desire to prophesy -- to become public speakers, and the those who speak other languages should also be allowed to prophesy, to speak publicly before the congregation. It should be understood, however, that such speakers would need an interpreter to translate what they were saying, else they are not be at speaking to the congregation, since the congregation would not understand what they were saying.
1 Corinthians 14:40 Let all things be done decently and in order.
Again, many today do not wish to obey this commandment of the Lord through the apostle. They would like their meetings full of emotional outbursts, without order, everyone shouting and many speaking in alleged "unknown" tongues they themselves do not understand, and surely the congregation does not understand, and all of this going on by each individual in the congregation all at the same time. Practically all are shouting, yelling and carrying on all at the same time. With everyone shouting in such pandemonium, how can anyone understand anything anyone is saying? It appears that such meetings may satisfy the flesh for emotional excitement (which emotional excitement is often mistaken for God's holy spirit) of the flesh, but it does not meet the edification that Paul speaks of.

This writer has been to some meetings as described above. Rather than the order that Paul describes, and rather than the understanding that Paul was talking about, there were a lot of shouts of "Amen" and yet who knows what anyone was saying "Amen" to? We highly doubt that the ones shouting Amen knew what they were saying Amen to, and even those speaking in their "unknown tongues" did not know what they were saying.

We would like to relate the following experience:
Back in the 1980s, I attended at a Baptist Church, which was being led by a female "pastor," who was speaking in what she called an "unknown tongue." I asked her after the meeting if she knew what she was saying, and she said that she didn't know, that the "holy ghost" knew, and she misapplied Romans 8:26 as an alleged scriptural support for her answer. During a part of the meeting, she went through the group, saying prayers for this one and that one, and she would be speaking in an "unknown tongue," and almost everyone was shouting "Amen," and yet, I am sure that no one knew at all what they were saying "Amen" to. As she went around the small group, saying prayers in an "unknown tongue" for each person, she also got to me, and began to say a prayer for me in an "unknown tongue," which, of course, I could not say "Amen" to, so I prayed silently, ignoring what she was doing.
Related Written by Others We do not necessarily agree with all conclusions presented.
  Glossolalia: Speaking in Tongues
So You Want to Speak in Tongues
Speaking in Tongues (pdf)
Tongues and Other Gifts of the Spirit
Glossolalia (Tongues-Speaking): What Are Its Implications? 
Should Christians be Speaking in Tongues?
Should Christians Speak in Tongues?
The Speaking in Tongues Controversy
Tongues of Fire Profitless and Profitable Service
Speaking-With-Tongues Delusion
Restiturion, Faith Healing, Prayer Cures and The Gift of Healing
Decently and In Order
The Spirit of a Sound Mind
Characteristics of a Sound Mind
The Teacher and the Lesson

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Are We Really Bible Students?

While I am in general agreement with what is stated, I do not agree with some of the ways that Brother Carnegie presented the matter. Much of what the brother presents is along the same line of thoughts I have had. I do agree that if something is not specifically presented in the Bible, we should not make a fellowship issue over such; this, however, does not mean that conclusions given that are NOT specifically stated in the Bible are not true, it only, as Brother Russell once stated, means that we should leave room for others to disagree.

One of the greatest authoritarian sectarianism that is found in "Christendom" is that of the self-appointed "orthodoxy" who are united in adding to, and reading into the Bible a doctrine not found in the Bible, but additionally proclaim that this added-on doctrine is the central doctrine of their alleged "Christianity" sect. I am speaking of the trinity doctrine. These self-proclaimed orthodox leaders demand that one has to bow before and accept as a means of salvation their added-on trinitarian dogma, and proclaim that any who do not do so are not Christian, and are not saved, which, in general would mean that any who accepts Christ apart from accepting the added-on dogma will spend eternity in some place of eternal conscious suffering, which represents another doctrine that is not found in the Bible. True Bible Students will be careful that they do not begin to promote such a similar idea.

See my study regarding: Sectarianism.

I agree that one should not make dogma out of assumed types that are not definitely presented in the Bible, and demand that one accept such speculations in order to be recognized as consecrated, or of the body of Christ, etc. See my studies related to: Covenants

As far as the Jubilee cycles, chronology and time prophecies are concerned, I believe that it is fine to accept these, but not do so dogmatically. Indeed, this is what Brother Russell himself stated. Once we cross the line and begin to view chronology, time prophecies and cycles as being dogma, then we have set such as idol that we are demanding that others must accept.

Many promote Brother Charles Taze Russell as being the "faithful and wise servant" of Matthew 24:45 and Luke 12:42; some -- based on this teaching -- often attribute authority to Brother Russell that Brother Russell himself disowned, which is somewhat self-contradictory.

Regarding the Faithful and Wise Servant see:

A point that is often overlooked is that when Jesus spoke of not knowing the day and hour, he was speaking, not of the beginning of the parousia, but rather pf the time when the present heavens and earth pass away. Christ returns sometime before the passing away of Adam's crooked generation. However, this is not a matter of dogmatism, but rather a conclusion that I myself believe to be in harmony with the Bible. See my studies: 

I do agree that many have used time prophecies to say that the work is over, that there are not many "crowns" left, and thus such an attitude has lead many to a laxity in obeying Jesus' command to make disciples of peoples of all nations. The narrowness of accepting as dogma that no one can be called in this time except that another has lost his crown often leads to such such laxity.
See my studies: 

Brother speaks of 1914 as having been alleged to "end everything". I am not sure what he is speaking of; there was a general expectation that the church would be completed and changed into spirit beings when the time of trouble was to begin, if that is what is meant by expecting the end of everything. Of course, the change of the remainder of the saints to spirit beings would NOT actually "end everything". I believe that the choice of words "end everything" is highly misleading. I know many believe that Brother Russell was proclaiming that the end of the world was to come in 1914; however, Brother Russell himself denied this. Brother Russell did not believe that 1914 was to "end everything". One could say, at least from his statements before 1904, that Brother Russell believed that 1914 would be the end of Gentile rulership, but the beginning of the blessing of the earth, but this would hardly mean the end of everything. He was not expecting the "end of everything" but rather at that time he thought peace would come to the world in 1914. Nevertheless, from 1904 onward, Charles Taze Russell was not expecting 1914 to be the end even of Gentile rulership, but rather that it was to beginning of the time of trouble, thus, from 1904 and afterwards, Russell was no longer expecting the end of Gentile kingdoms, nor was he expecting peace to come to the world in 1914.

Was Jesus telling his disciples 'not to be time calculators?' Absolutely not! This idea would be one of the very speculations that the brother is speaking of, which is not actually stated in the scriptures, but is often assumed by what is stated. Such an idea would mean that all the prophecies of the Bible pertaining to time should be disregarded. Such would not be in harmony with Jesus' command to watch, for the command to watch certainly would include study of those time prophecies. We should always give heed to the sure word of prophecy, including those prophecies dealing with time and events. (2 Peter 1:19) Nevertheless, in studying those time prophecies, one should also realize that no prophecy designates the day and hour in which the present heavens and earth will pass away. Being watchful as regards the study of time prophecies, however, does help one realize the possibility that the present heavens and earth could pass away at any time, and thus one should always be prepared for such to happen. Additionally, one should also realize, as did Brother Russell, that one's understanding of time prophecies could be in error, and thus not be dogmatic related to conclusions derived from time prophecies. Certainly, none should set themselves or anyone else as being an "authority" that all others should submit to; such an attitude often ends up in judging others along the lines of the assumptions presented, which would actually judging according to the flesh.

I agree with most of what Brother Carnegie states about the vision of Habakkuk 2:1-4. These verses have often been taken out of context and misapplied to Brother Russell's chart of the ages. The tablets or "tables" of Habakkuk 2:2 is not referring to a chart, but rather to whatever a table of wood or perhaps stone, upon which Habakkuk was to write his prophecy. The tablets or tables spoken of there was a never intended to be a command to Brother Russell to write a chart of the ages.

Brother Russell himself warned against placing his writings on par with the Bible. Judge Rutherford and his associates ignored that warning, and proclaimed Russell to have been a prophet, which presented a self-contradiction, since Brother Russell himself many times denied being a prophet. Rutherford and his associates, however, in the "Seventh Volume" (which was not written by Russell), claimed that their alleged prophet was guiding the work of the WTS from beyond the vail, which, in effect, meant that it was being claimed that Rutherford and his associates had that authority of a prophet that they were falsely claiming for Brother Russell. As best as I can tell, however, the majority of the Bible Students eventually rejected "The Finished Mystery".

See my study: 

I also agree that there is nothing in the Bible about a "Harvest Message" as such. Nor does the Bible speak of a "Harvest Messenger". Nevertheless, the message to be proclaimed by the saints on the earth remains the same even during the harvest as before the harvest. -- Matthew 24:14; 28:19.

Regarding the Harvest:

Monday, March 6, 2017

Preaching the Gospel a Necessity

"Woe is me if I do not preach the Good News!" 1 Corinthians 9:16
(1) Woe is a word that is not used so often today as it was centuries ago. It was a common word in the old English; but there is a meaning attached to it at present, we think, that was not in the original word. Nearly all who read the parable where the Master speaks of "weeping and gnashing of teeth" seem to have the thought of eternal torment. Woe, when used in the King James Version of the Bible, means the same or similar in some minds. So these construe our text to mean: "I will be eternally lost if I do not preach the Good News." This is because of the traditions and doctrines that have been adopted by various religious groups and organizations.
(2) We understand the apostle to mean here: "I would be very unhappy if I could not preach the Good News; it would be a cause of great distress to me. In view of my former course of persecution, and Yahweh's great mercy to me, it would mean a loss of his favor and blessing should I refrain from proclaiming his message." We also notice that The New English Bible Paul's words are rendered: "It would be misery to me if I did not preach." The context seems to bear out this thought. So it would be great distress to those whom Yahweh has granted the illumination of his truth, if the opportunity of preaching this glorious Good News were taken from them.
(3) From one standpoint, the apostle's words would apply only to his public ministry of the Word. From another standpoint, any one of Yahweh's dedicated people is a minister, ordained to preach; for ordination means commission, right, authorization. The commission to preach the Good News is mentioned by the Prophet Isaiah. (Isaiah 61:1-3) There the called-out ones are brought to our attention through their Head, Jesus Christ, who is represented, primarily, as the speaker. We read: "The spirit of Yahweh is upon me, because Yahweh has anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound, to preach the acceptable year of Yahweh, and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all that mourn, to appoint to them that mourn in Zion -- to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness -- that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Yahweh, that he might be glorified."
Many Ways of Preaching the Good News
(4) Here the commission of the holy spirit to Christ was prophetically announced, long in advance. Those who belong to the Christ, who have received the same anointing through him, have also received this commission to preach the Good News. (1 Corinthians 1:21; Acts 8:4) If the disciple of Christ properly appreciates the privilege of being a messenger of God, an ambassador for God, it would be woe, a sadness indeed to him if he could not proclaim the message, to the extent of his ability and opportunity. -- 2 Corinthians 5:17-19.
(5) There are some who have the thought that there is no way to preach except by a public discourse from the platform. But the Bible does not give this thought as the even the preferred method of preaching. Jesus talked to the people by the seaside, and along the road. (Mark 2:13; Matthew 21:19-21) At one time he sat on the edge of a well and preached the message of the Kingdom. (John 4:6-30) He preached to his disciples up in the mountain. (Matthew 5:1,2) He taught the people while standing on a ship. (Luke 5:1-4) He told his disciples to preach in the streets. (Luke 10:10) The apostle Paul said he preached in the homes. (Acts 5:42; 20:20) Even after being arrested the early Christians were "daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as Christ." (Acts 5:42) And so with us. Whatever way or time we may have for preaching the Good News we should use.
(6) We are to tell the "glad tidings of great joy." This may done in the daily walk of our life, as we meet the butcher, the baker and grocery man, or our neighbors and friends, as well as preaching the message from house-to-house. It may be done by literature sent through the mails, or by offering literature to passersby on the sidewalks, or by preaching from the platform. All of these methods are preaching the Good News, making known the Good Tidings, for preaching means merely to make known, and does not relate to the manner in which the knowledge is imparted. The question is, if you are a dedicated disciple of Christ, are you using your opportunities, even making opportunities to preach the Good News?
Basis and Superstructure of the Good News
(7) There is much preaching being done today. Most, however, do not fully preach the Good News. Many preach bad tidings of great misery. Usually, evangelistic tracts follow this trend. Some tell of billions spending an eternity in indescribable suffering. Others tell of millions of men, women and children being eternally destroyed because of their being under Satan's blindness. These kinds of tracts we do not wish to circulate. The more we spread of such tidings the less preaching of the Good News we would do. We are to remember that our Lord Jesus especially identified the Good News with the kingdom. This has been God's method for gathering the church, and will be the witness to the world. (Matthew 24:14) We still have opportunity for making known this good message of the kingdom. The basis of this Good News is the death of our Lord Jesus, as a sacrifice for sinners, his resurrection and his ascension to the right hand of the Father, Yahweh. Its superstructure is the salvation of the church, "those who have ears to hear," (Matthew 11:5; 13:9,43; Mark 4:9,23; 7:16; Luke 14:35) and the world in the next age -- "whosoever will." (Revelation 22:17) The blessings of God are all through Christ. ========== See our studies: What Does the Bible Actually Say About Hell? Will Billions Be Eternally Destroyed in the Battle of Armageddon?
(8) Some Bible literature preaches a certain individual, group or organization as specially chosen by God. In effect they end up giving their organization, or its leaders, the position held by Jesus. The Watchtower of March 1, 1979 displayed on its front cover: "Put Faith in a Victorious Organization"! This attitude only reflects many statements that have gone before and after from Watchtower publications in the last few decades. For instance, in The Watchtower of October 1, 1967 we find this statement: "Make haste to identify the visible organization of God that represents his king, Jesus Christ. It is essential for life. Doing so, be complete in accepting its every aspect. We cannot claim to love God, yet deny his Word and channel of communication." But notice what Jesus himself said: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) Thus the Watchtower leaders make themselves take the position of Yahweh's son! That this is true can be further seen by the statement made in The Watchtower of February 15, 1981 (page 19): "The record that the `faithful and discreet slave' organization has made for the past more than 100 years forces us to the conclusion that Peter expressed when Jesus asked if his apostles also wanted to leave him, namely, `Whom shall we go away to?' (John 6:66-69) No question about it. We all need help to understand the Bible, and we cannot find the Scriptural guidance we need outside the `faithful and discreet slave' organization." Thus the Watchtower leaders are put on par with Jesus. The rest of Peter's answer tells us to whom we should go: "You [that is, Jesus] have the sayings of everlasting life."
(9) How grateful we can be that the rich blessing of Yahweh for both the church and the world are to follow the second coming of Jesus. (See our study: The Restoration of All Things) Then the church will be glorified and exalted; and the world will be raised from the dead to enter into the era of blessing God has promised will come as a result of His kingdom. It is this happy message that we find so wonderful that we feel great sadness if we do not preach it!
(10) Whoever, therefore, understands this real Good News, or Gospel, and appreciates his own ordination to preach it, must necessarily feel unhappy if he should be hindered from preaching it. Some can preach in several ways. Others can preach in nearly every way. Some can preach in very few ways. All can preach in some way. The more we do, the more happy we should be. So we thank God that we have so many helps in our day: Bible literature, Bible concordances and reference works, etc. We greatly appreciate all these and are seeking to make good use of them to the blessing of others as well as for our own up building.
(11) As has already been noted, every member of the Church (whose names are "enrolled in heaven" -- Hebrews 12:23) in the early times was a preacher. We know this not only because it is recorded that they "went around preaching the word" (Acts 8:4), but because we know that no one then or now who is being led of the Spirit of Christ could help being a preacher of the glad tidings. If the anointing of the spirit led Jesus to preach; if the same spirit in Paul led him to feel "woe is me if I do not preach the Good News" (1 Corinthians 9:16), wherever the same mind or spirit of Christ may be, it will have the same general effect, it will make a preacher of the one controlled by it as surely as it did of those referred to above. Of the Church whose names are written in heaven -- every member is a preacher. Are you one? Are you faithful to your ministry?
(12) The Greek word rendered "preach" in the above citations is Strong's #2097, Euaggelizo. It signifies --"to bring good news, to announce glad tidings."* One definition of our English word preach is, "To give religious or moral instruction." ( The English word "preach" is derived the Late Latin word praedicre, meaing, to proclaim. Scripturally, it we can see that to confine the use of the word preach to a public discourse, as it usually is, is an error, begotten no doubt of the custom of having a special class (often referred to as the "clergy") do all the expounding of what is considered the glad tidings, while others (often called the "laity") feel themselves relieved from it while they sit in the pews or audience and are "served" the tidings being delivered. ========== Thayer and Smith. "Greek Lexicon entry for Euaggelizo". "The KJV New Testament Greek Lexicon".

Monday, January 23, 2017


Bible Students should note the apostle Paul spoke of the sectarianism that was taking place in his day, for we often see the same carnal reasoning taking place today, as many would wish to bind and restrict the Christian fellowship beyond what is written. (1 Corinthians 3:3,4; 4:6) Yet we admonish our brothers in Christ, the same as the apostle admonished the Corinthian brothers: “Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14) “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Be perfected, be comforted, be of the same mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” — 2 Corinthians 11:26.
Paul elsewhere set the foundation for what a Christian is to believe in his words recorded at 1 Corinthians 15:3,4. Of course, the Christian should grow beyond this so as to add a fuller knowledge of God and Jesus, but the scripture sets forth is what is required.
Some have claimed that they need to force a doctrinal unity based on 1 Corinthians 1:10. Therefore, there seems to always be a tendency to set forth a man, or a body of men, whose teachings are thought to establish such unity, and then demand that all accept whatever is decreed by this man, or that man, or this body of men, etc.
Paul does not say, as some seem to have added to what he said, "You must agree with me regarding every detail of doctrine, or else I will not have any association with you."
Nor was he authorizing a governing body or a man to be set up who was to take upon themselves the authority to judge the brothers so as to decide that everyone must agree with whatever they say, even if what they say goes beyond what is written. Often sectarian leaders will claim that their authority has been given to them by their own application of some prophecy, or statement, in the Bible, which they have interpreted to be referring to themselves. Nevertheless, anyone who sets himself/themselves up or sets any man or body of men (other than Jesus and his apostles) as such an authority has/have gone beyond what is written, and have actually produced the very kind of sectarianism that Paul condemned.
Nor was the apostle Paul giving a prophecy that Christians would become totally outwardly at unity in every aspect of doctrine, at least not in this age. The harvest results will not be known physically until the saints "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." (Matthew 13:43) This signifies the same time spoken of by Paul in Romans 8:19, where he stated: "the creation waits with eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed." At that time the Satan will have been abyssed so that he will not be able to deceive the nations. (Revelation 20:1-3) At that time, the whole creation will no longer be groaning and travailing in pain as it now is, for the creation will have been delivered from its present bondage. (Romans 8:20-22) Since the world has not yet been so delivered, we know also that the revealing of the sons of God has not yet taken place.
See the study:
The first century Christians never had an outward unity, not until later when there was a general apostasy from the faith once delivered, and professed Christians began to set up men over themselves men who then decided what was supposed to be accepted as true doctrine and what was not to be accepted. Paul was simply stating what should be, but even in this, he was not appealing to them to agree on every detail of every scripture, but that they all be of the same mind in agreement with Christ [not a governing body, or other alleged central authority in the flesh, claiming to represent Christ], and not be following others into various divisions.
The agreement in Christ is that "if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." -- 1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2; Romans 10:9.
Surely we are not to think that that every Christian is not to have any thought at all that is different from another Christian. What most who set themselves up to judge others on this matter usually claim is that everyone has to agree with them on practically every point of doctrine, or else "we" will not fellowship with "you". Paul did not say that. Indeed, he did not disfellowship himself from the brothers in Corinth who disagreed with him, but he did continue to encourage them in Christ.
In those groups that boast of unity in doctrine, most often which include a lot human speculation, we find that such unity is achieved by a submission to a man, or to a group of men, who make the decisions for the group as to what is to be believed or not believed. In actuality, this is the kind of division that Paul was speaking against. In other words, Paul is saying that we have Christ, and it is he who is our great Pastor, and we should not be following any man, so as become sectarian followers of Paul, of Apollos, etc, thereby bringing a division amongst the flock. He does tell us to mark those who cause division, so as not to follow others away from Christ.
Paul's able and pointed reasoning upon this subject is partially obscured by the common translations, as they seem to use stronger words and phrases than the Greek suggests. Paul exhorts that those teachers who favor divisions in the flock of Christ, be "watched" and turned away from; because they are not following Yahweh's will, but their own. And he adds, "by kind and complimentary words they mislead the unsuspicious." (Romans 16:17) Thus, he reproved the Corinthian church because of a tendency toward such sectarianism among them. (1 Corinthians 1:10-13; and 3:3-6) As he showed, they were dividing into Paulites, Apollosites, and Peterites, while a few rightly clung to the name of Christ.
Yahweh alone must be regarded as the leader of His people, and that through the one whom he has appointed as our Pastor (Shepherd -- Ezekiel 34:23; Hebrews 13:20); and we must be guided by His Word and constrained by divine love, rather than by bulls, encyclicals, mandates, anathemas, excommunications, epithets, threatening, cajolings or railings that may come from popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, ministers, synods, presbyteries, conferences, societies, governing bodies, committees, boards or presidents, which seek to whatever extent to substitute their own authority in the Church for that of Christ’s, and to teach that disobedience to their orders, decisions, etc., is tantamount to disobedience to God. We believe that everyone who is genuinely consecrated to Yahweh, and who acknowledges Jesus as his head, is united to him in holy service, whether he might be associated with any sect or denomination or not; and that all such are divinely ordained to preach His gospel, whether they serve individually or collectively, in America or in Europe or in the wilds of Africa, and regardless of whether some particular group of brothers in one part of the world has commissioned them, or knows about them or not. Among those who do thus recognize only Jesus as their head there is no division of spirit - despite any outwardly carnal divisions, etc., that may be prevalent as promoted by the leaders of whatever group he might be associated with.
Those who preach the gospel should do so in a manner that will glorify Yahweh and his Son, not to the glorification of a certain man, an organization, a group, a movement, etc., by accepting Yahweh's Word as the repository of all truth. Paul says that to serve with any other design than this is "carnal." In the context of 1 Corinthians 1:10, Paul was speaking of some in his day who were saying, "I am of Paul; others, I am of Apollos; and still others, I am of Cephas." Today some say, "I am of the Watchtower Society; and unless you are of the Society I will regard you as dead." Other say, "I am of this or that orthodoxy, and unless you accept what this or that council of men has decreed as 'orthodox,' you are not my brother in Christ." The argument of many in favor of such a position today is that such "should know where they got the truth" - but it was this very argument that Paul designated "carnality." For this very reason Paul thanked God that he had not been the instrument that had baptized very many of the Corinthian brothers in Christ, so that they could not claim him as being their channel. The Roman alleged "successors" of Peter, however, built a great organization on the claim that they are the repository of all truth -- even as the Society now claims for itself -- and they ask all others: "When did truth and authority become transferred from us to you?"
And so the apostle Paul asked: "Who is Paul? who is Apollos? and who is Cephas?" And if Paul were here today he would most certainly say, "Who is the Society?" "Who is the Dawn?" Who is the the PBI? etc. Who, in fact, is anyone who merely serves the truth to another? While all true servants in the Church are important, even as Paul points out -- some being privileged to sow and others to water -- yet it is God alone who gives the increase.
In view of this plain statement to the effect that only the Lord Jesus, who is the truth (John 14:16), is responsible for our being "in the truth", it is sad that some seem to be not able to see beyond a human organization, counsel, governing body or leader, etc., and are not sufficiently strong in Yahweh to depend wholly on His Word; being willing rather to listlessly trust their eternal destiny to imperfect human leadership rather than to individually assume the divinely imposed responsibility of proving all things by the Word and of holding fast only to that which they have personally proven to be the truth. It is indeed true that all should know where they got the truth -- from the Lord Jesus (John 6:68; 17:8) -- and they should see to it that this pure message shall not become clouded by the muddy waters of human speculation and sophistry.
Does this means that there will be no divisions amongst God's people in this age? The Bible never says that. Paul did not say that. Yes, he did entreat the Corinthian brothers to a unity, but he did not say that they would be united in every viewpoint related to what God has revealed. Indeed, later on, he says just the opposite: "For there must be also factions among you, that those who are approved may be revealed among you." -- 1 Corinthians 11:19.
Did the apostle Paul approve of such factions, divisions? No, but yet he knew that such divisions were necessary for the proving of disciples of Christ. The vast majority of Christians seem to only be able to worship along carnal lines; this does not mean that they are not Christians, for it was to saints, dedicated ones (1 Corinthians 1:2), that Paul said: "Brothers, I couldn't speak to you as to spiritual, but as to fleshly, as to babes in Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:1) Paul does not say to them, "You are not my brothers, because you are divided." Rather, he addresses them as "brothers" in Christ, who are yet "babes" in Christ.
Most of the saints, the dedicated ones who belong to Christ, remain as babes all of their present life. They cannot get beyond worship along carnal lines, seeking man's approval, or on the side, seeking to control others into obedience to themselves. The parable of the four servants gives a good illustration of this.
Although those who remain babes may not lose their standing as sons of God, yet unless they grow in grace, knowledge, etc., they will fail to become joint-heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:17) Only those who grow in their spiritual walk, developing the fruit of the spirit in this age to the point that Paul refers to as "perfect", will become joint-heirs with Christ. This is the goal that is set before them, and yet, Paul realizes that most will not reach that goal, and the divisions serve as a means of revealing, even developing, those who reach the perfect mark of the prize of their high calling. (Philippians 3:12-14) It is for the purpose of edifying the sons of God to to the obtaining of that mark that the entire New Testament was written. Thus, Paul writes: "Let us press on to perfection." (Hebrews 6:1) Once that perfection is obtained, then the mark of the prize of our high calling has been reached, and the prize is assured, since such a person has proven himself incorruptible, and the second death can no longer harm him. -- Revelation 2:11; 1 Corinthians 15:54.
They will be approved by improving themselves, by forgiving, by apologizing, and by showing love, all of which is done to the perfecting of faith. (1 Thessalonians 3:10) It is our faith that is on trial, as we read in the King James Version of the "trial of your faith." The World English translation calls it "the proof of your faith." More correctly it is the proving of our faith. So divisions among us are allowed (although not approved as such) by Yahweh to see who will properly react to this proving, or trial, who will have the right heart attitude, who will grow and manifest the fruits of the spirit, especially that of faith, since it is our faith that is being proved.
Please note that it is the heart that is being judged, not whether one is physically associated with this or that organization, movement, church, etc. With this in mind, we need to note that one may be associated with the Bible Students movement, and yet, in his heart, he may still supporting a form of Babylonism, if he is still effecting a form of sectarianism based on the teachings of a certain man, or of a body of men, etc.
"Christians may not see eye to eye, but they can still walk arm in arm." -- (Originator of this statement is unknown.) ===========   Related: Charles Taze Russell Regarding Sectarianism What did Charles Taze Russell teach about sectarianism? Charles Taze Russell and Authority -- Did Charles Taze Russell teach authoritarianism as if found today in the JW organization? Related Books: Crisis of Conscience In Search of Christian Freedom ========== Edited and Republished August 28, 2014. Originally published sometime before October 2012.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Church's Divinely-Appointed Mission

Therefore seeing we have this ministry, even as we obtained mercy, we don't faint. -- 2 Corinthians 4:1
WHAT is the mission of the Church? -- What ministry or service has Jehovah appointed to his consecrated people? This question is one that should be prominent and clear before the mind of every consecrated child of God. It is of the utmost importance that the servant know what is expected of him before proceeding far in rendering service; otherwise he will be more than likely to waste his energies in wrong directions -- leaving undone those things which ought to be done, and giving attention to matters which would better be attended to otherwise according to the plan and arrangement of the great Supervisor of the plan of salvation -- Jehovah.
(2) The answers to this question throughout Christendom would probably divide themselves into three groups -- two of them quite unscriptural, and the third, although scriptural, by reason of other errors generally associated with it, is made unreasonable, and held in its purity and consistently by but few. We will examine these as follows:
(3) <1> THE ROMAN CATHOLIC VIEW of the Church's mission is that she is the ruler of the world, appointed to be such by the Almighty, and duly empowered and authorized to rule over kings and nations, to order all the affairs of earth, moral, political, financial, social and ecclesiastical, -- the pope and his hierarchy constituting this spiritual kingdom. This spiritual kingdom, it claims, reigned gloriously in the past, -- during the period which the remainder of mankind denominate "the Dark Ages." They claim that now this kingdom is suffering a reverse at the hands of infidelity, Protestantism, etc., and is deprived of its proper, God-given and God-intended rights, as the supreme government of the earth. It claims that very shortly there will be a grand change in earth's affairs, which will put back again, into its possession and under its control absolutely, all peoples, nations, kindreds and tongues, so that again, as of yore, the pope must be the recognized head of the world, all other religions be overthrown and effectually stamped out, and that thus the world will be blessed -- by a return to medieval conditions.
(4) We dispute this theory, and hold that the scriptures teach to the contrary: that the reign of the Church as the Kingdom of God to rule and bless the world is declared to be not during this "present evil age" (Galatians 1:4), but in one to follow this, the "age to come," (Mark 10:30; Hebrews 6:5) to be inaugurated by our Lord Jesus with power from on high, at his second advent. (Revelation 21:1-5) The Scriptures point out, in harmony with sound reason, that the sufferings of the Church are not coincident with her reign, but precede it. The sufferings of this present time, they assure us, are not worthy to be compared with the glories which will be (in the future) revealed in us. (Romans 8:18.) These sufferings, though they are to be until death, are to be esteemed light afflictions and to be rejoiced in, because of the divine assurance that they are working out for us (preparing us for) a far more exceeding and an eternal weight of glory, as yet unseen. -- 2 Corinthians 4:17
(5) <2> THE COMMON VIEW AMONG PROTESTANTS respecting the mission of the Church resembles the foregoing considerably, except that the pope and his associates are rejected as respects their claims to special divine authority to rule the world. The claim of the Protestants, however, is that their denominational churches should undertake to rule the world, and to place its representatives in power amongst the nations; and that higher and better forms of religious sentiment should be cultivated, the religion of the world growing with its politics and its social conditions, and thus leading the world onward and lifting the degraded masses up to good citizenship in the present age. In other words, this claim, growingly prevalent amongst Protestants, is what may be termed the worldly idea of the Church's mission; that is, to engage in merciful, philanthropic, educational, moral and benevolent works, in the interest of mankind. In other words, this view recognizes the Church as the moral influence which God has placed in the world for the world's uplift and regeneration. In short, it is an attempt to make the present evil age (Galatians 1:4), of which Satan is the god (2 Corinthians 4:4 [Young's]; Revelation 12:9), to be better place to live in.
(6) We hold that this view is wrong, wholly unscriptural; that it is a mistake to suppose that the Church is placed in the world as a reformatory institution. But if we are asked, Should Christians not take a deep interest in all reforms -- in drug reform, for instance, in social purity, in political reform, in good citizenship, in anti-smoking crusades, in socialistic developments, in financial reforms, etc.? we answer, Yes, indeed; no one could be a true Christian and yet be without sympathy as respects all these and every other possible effort for the mental, moral and physical uplift of our race. And yet you say that this is not the mission of the Church? Yes, we answer; although our sympathies are with every good work, we are at the same time to inquire of Jehovah respecting how, where, what, we may do in his service, if we would be co-laborers together with him: "Jehovah, what would you have me do?" Our query should not be addressed to fellow-men, nor should we accept the burdens and duties and obligations which their judgments and consciences would lay upon us. Rather we are to hearken to the voice of Jehovah (as revealed in the Scriptures), and are to follow his directions, regardless of our own and other people's conjectures as to what would be most expedient.
(7) Nowhere in the Scriptures are God's people directed to spend their time in efforts at morally reforming the Satan's world. Our Lord did not engage in this work, neither did the apostles, nor did they offer any suggestion to the effect that the work of the Church should ever differ from the work which they performed and directed us to continue. On the contrary, they declare that we have the apostles for examples of how we ought to walk. (1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Peter 5:3) They declare that our Lord's course was in full, perfect harmony with the divine will and plan, and that the apostles faithfully followed his example: and we are exhorted to simply become co-workers together with God in his work (2 Corinthians 6:1), already instituted, -- not to alter or attempt to improve on them. There were moralists and moral reformers in our Lord's day; some along the line of total abstinence, some along the line of asceticism, inculcating rigid self-denials in food, clothing, etc., as essential to a moral uplift of the people. There were also political reformers, who sought the establishment of republican institutions, in his day; and social reformers, who sought to establish forms of communism. There were also dress reformers at that time, who advocated certain peculiar styles of clothing, beneficial to health, morals and religious sanctity. Do we find that our Lord or his apostles ever associated with any of these works, or that they ever in any word or act gave sanction or encouragement to any of these theories or reforms? No, not once.
(8) It may, indeed, be claimed that a kind of Christian communal arrangement at the beginning went without rebuke, even if it were not commended by the apostles. We answer that the short-lived communal arrangement of the early Church was to some extent the result of the new doctrines promulgated by Christ, the central feature of which was love to God and love to fellow-men, as opposed to the selfish sentiments of fallen man: so that without divine instruction there was a disposition on the part of believers to have "all things in common." (Acts 2:44; 4:32) But if the holy spirit sanctioned and permitted this, in the beginning, it was evidently only as a lesson, as an experience to the Church, to show that union and communion of this kind is not practicable under present conditions, while all are troubled by imperfections of the flesh -- their own and that of other men. At all events we do know that Jehovah did not permit that communism to last long, but, as we are told, permitted instead a great persecution to arise against the Church, which scattered the would-be "communists" everywhere to preach the Gospel.
(9) Nor did the apostles ever recommend such procedure, or attempt such an arrangement amongst the Christians elsewhere. If, then, the teaching and example of our Lord and his apostles are our criterion of the will of Jehovah, the Church's commission is not to morally reform the world. But perhaps someone will say, Times are changed from what they were, and the Church's work should change accordingly. We answer, that the apostle Paul declares in so many words, " I didn't shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God." (Acts 20:27) And Jude tells us that the Christians should "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." (Jude 1:3) Whatsoever, therefore, is additional to that which was stated by the apostles and which was recorded for us in the Bible is not the counsel of God. And any counsel from any other quarter is not to be received by Christians, and is sure to be misleading. Again, the apostle says to Timothy, respecting the Word of God, "Every writing inspired by God is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction which is in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16,17) Were the writings of Paul considered as part of those inspired writings -- scriptures? Peter believed they were, for he wrote he includes Paul's writings with "other Scriptures." (2 Peter 3:15,16) If, therefore, it was God's design that the Church's mission should change at some future time we should be able to find in the Scriptures some intimation of this kind, and some authority for the change. And if we find no authority for a change in her mission, we should make no change.
(10) But some one inquires, Did not our Lord especially go after the tax collectors and sinners, and especially welcome them; and was not this an indication to us that the Church's work is to be largely amongst the lower, depraved classes of mankind? It is true that Jesus said his ministry was call "sinners to repentance." (Mark 2:17) However, neither the tax collector or harlots were made the subjects of special missionary efforts on the part of our Lord and his apostles; it was when these classes came in contact with his ministry, to his preaching, and manifested interest therein and signs of repentance and reformation, that he received them cordially; he did not refuse to recognize them, as did the Pharisees. The record is not that he carried on slumming missions designed for the tax collectors and harlots, but, he "receives [tax collectors and] sinners," and that many of these lower classes heard him gladly. (Luke 15:2; Mark 12:37) Furthermore, be it noticed, these tax collectors and sinners were members of the Jewish Church -- for that entire nation was accepted of God as his people, and they were all included under the typical sacrifices for sin, on the Day of Atonement; and they were all reckoned as under the Law Covenant -- Covenanters. These lower classes had slipped away from the typical observance of the Jewish law, but our Lord testified that many of them were in far better condition of heart to receive his message than were many of the outwardly pious Pharisees.
(11) <3> THE CORRECT VIEW OF THE CHURCH'S MISSION: The question then arises, If the Church is not to rule the world in this present age, and if she is not to be the world's instructor, uplifter, by moral reforms, what is her mission -- what other mission can she have? And this brings us to the third view, which quite a number hold in a more or less confused way -- their commingled errors beclouding and vitiating the truth.
(12) <(a)> Her chief mission is toward herself. She is to lift up the light in the world, the True Light, the Good News of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14) -- not with the expectation of enlightening the world, not with the thought that her feeble lamp will scatter earth's night of sin and darkness of superstition; for that can be accomplished only by the coming of the morning, the Millennial morning, when the Sun of Righteousness will arise with healing in his beams (Malachi 4:2), and after Satan has been abyssed so that the heathen will no longer be deceived. (Revelation 20:3) Only then will the present darkness (Isaiah 60:2) be removed. (Isaiah 25:7) The church -- in the present evil age -- holds up the light of the truth, the light of the Kingdom Good News, during this night, to attract some-- "a peculiar people" (Titus 2:14, King James Version) -- not to attract and gather all, but as many as Jehovah our God will call. (Acts 2:39) Her message respecting the love of God and the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, as it rings out into the world, is not expected to awaken the world and to lead the world to Jehovah. No, she is merely bearing "witness" -- a witness which will have to do also with a future knowledge and opportunity to be granted to the world during the Millennium. -- See our publication: The Restoration of All Things
(13) She is instructed by the Word of Jehovah not to expect that any but a comparatively small number will appreciate her light or her message: as the prophet foretold, so she has found it, "Who has believed our report? and to whom is the arm of Jehovah revealed?" (Isaiah 53:1; see also John 12:38) As the scriptures declare, so she finds it, that the vast majority of mankind are blind, so that they cannot see the light: some are stone blind, so as to see nothing: while others are partially blind and can get a little glimmer of it by which they can discern some things indistinctly. In hearing, likewise, the world's ears are dull of hearing -- "deaf," say the scriptures. Some hear nothing, others hear very imperfectly, few hear the message of divine love and mercy clearly and distinctly. The Church is to realize that her mission is not to these, the blind and deaf, but to him "who has an ear [to hear], let him hear." -- Revelation 2:7; 3:6,13,22; see also Matthew 11:15; 13:9,43; Mark 4:9,23; 7:16; Luke 8:8; 14:35.
(14) Our Lord remarked this condition to his followers, when present with them in the world, saying, "Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear," and he declared that his parables and teachings were not uttered with the intention of making the blind see and the deaf hear, but purposely so that the deaf might not hear, and so that the blind might not see. When the disciples inquired respecting the interpretation of a parable, he said, "To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest in parables; that 'seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.'" (Luke 8:10.) They had indeed the natural sight, and the natural hearing, but they lacked the mental sight and hearing. And the message that our dear Master preached, and that he commissioned his apostles and his Church to preach throughout this age, is the same -- not for the blind, not for the deaf, but for those "blessed," favored ones who have eyes and ears. -- See our study: Understanding Kingdom Mysteries.
(15) As our Lord did not expect many to respond to his preaching, and particularly implied that only a small number would be able to do so, saying, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44), so his Church throughout this age is to realize that when she lifts up the light and lifts up her voice no man will come in response except as the Father draws him. (John 6:44) And as the Father drew only a comparatively small remnant of the Jewish nation to our Lord, so the Church should not be surprised that he has drawn only a comparatively small proportion of Gentiles throughout this age.
(16) Following our text the apostle points out why this is the case: why the majority of mankind are not in a condition of heart to see and appreciate the light, to hear and to rejoice in the Gospel [Good News], not in the condition to be drawn by the Father. He declares that it is because 'the god of this age [Satan] has blinded their minds' (2 Corinthians 4:3,4), and thus hindered the light of divine truth from shining unto them. He points out that all such are in a lost condition, without God and without hope in the world. (Ephesians 2:12) Not, however, that they are any more lost now than they have been all along for six thousand years; for whoever is not in Christ, whoever is out of relationship to God, is a member of that large class, servants of sin, still under condemnation, still strangers from God, still lost in the wilderness of sin. (Romans 5:18; Ephesians 2:2; 5:6) They have not yet been found by the great Shepherd who promises that in due time all the true sheep will be found; -- that all the Satan and prejudice-blinded eyes will be opened to see the light of divine goodness and truth; and all the deaf ears will be unstopped to hear the message of the grace of God. -- Isaiah 35:5
(17) <(b)> It is another part of the mission of the Church to care for those who do see the light which she holds up, and who are attracted by that light, and who come unto Jehovah through Jesus. She is to teach and instruct such, and to introduce them to the full fellowship of the spirit by making clear to them, in obedience to the Master, "what is the hope of our calling," present and future -- now to suffer with Christ for righteousness' sake, to cultivate his spirit, his disposition, to bear much fruit of the spirit in our own hearts and lives, and thus, under divine supervision, to be fitted, polished and prepared for a place in the glorious Temple of the future, for a share in the glorious work of the incoming age, -- the blessing of the world. -- Philippians 2:1; 1 Corinthians 1:26; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Thessalonians 1:11.
(18) The Church is supplied by her glorious Head, Christ Jesus, with certain gifts in men, amongst her members; and these co-working together in their various roles are to strengthen, establish, upbuild, develop, one another, growing in grace and in the knowledge and spirit of the Head, until the whole Church will eventually be brought to the stature of the fulness of perfection as the Body of Christ, under the Lord Jesus as the Head. (Ephesians 4:13) But she is not to expect that all, even of those who see her light, and who hear her proclamation, and who draw near in harmony with her message, will eventually come into membership in this glorious Body of Christ in this present evil age. On the contrary, she is assured of the Lord in advance that, while only a few, comparatively, will hear her message, the call, a still smaller number will accept the call -- for many are called, proportionately, to the few who are chosen -- who make their calling and election sure by faithfulness to the conditions imposed. -- 2 Peter 1:10.
(19) <(c)> The conditions imposed upon the Church are designed by Jehovah to be crucial tests of her loyalty to him, and to the covenant under which she was received by him. Trials, difficulties, persecutions, are useful in proving whether or not her covenant of consecration is from the heart: those who have merely made a lip covenant will be sifted out, manifested, separated from the true ones whom the Lord designates his jewels, and his sons. It is for this reason that this call and election or selection of the Church takes place during this present age, while evil is still permitted to reign in the world, and while the majority of mankind are under the blinding influences of the great Adversary, not yet bound. -- Revelation 12:9; 20:1-3.
(20) As our Lord explained, the darkness of sin and error is in direct antagonism with the light of truth, and consequently when his people lift up the light, -- let their light so shine as to glorify the Father in heaven who has called them out of darkness into his marvelous light, -- the effect upon the darkened world will be to awaken opposition, antagonism; because the effect of the light is to make manifest the evils of darkness which would not otherwise appear; and thus to disturb and make uncomfortable those in sympathy with darkness. Consequently those who love darkness, those who love evil, those who love sin, in its varied forms, hate the light, neither come to the light; but either publicly or secretly oppose the children of the light, the enlightened ones, the light-bearers. And even those who have gotten out of the extreme darkness of moral pollution into a kind of twilight of civilized reformation and moral reform cannot endure the clear, searching light of the true Gospel; they much prefer a measure of darkness. -- John 3:20.
(21) It is in consequence of this conflict between light and darkness that our Lord suffered at the hands of those who professed to be children of the light, children of God, and who had at least a little light. Our Lord was not maltreated by the Roman governor and the Roman soldiers of their own volition, for they were so totally blind as not to appreciate anything of the light which he displayed. His persecutors were those who had some light but who hated the brilliancy of the great light which shone upon them. Similarly, all the way down through this Gospel age those who have been burning and shining lights in the world have been hated and persecuted, largely, we might say chiefly, almost exclusively, by those who had some light, but whose light was darkness in comparison to the great light of the holy spirit shining in and through Jehovah's fully consecrated ones. Thus was fulfilled our Lord's testimony, "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you." (John 15:18) "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." (2 Timothy 3:12) The Lord's followers in the present time are called upon to suffer persecution for righteousness' sake, not because it is either reasonable or proper, but because Jehovah, wishing to test, prove and polish his people, is willing to permit the evil, opposing influences to prosper, and persecute and oppose his "members," and thus to serve his cause in the preparation of his elect for a future work of service. Thus the persecutors of the "body," like the persecutors of the Head, are cooperating to fulfil the divine plan in a manner they little suspect. -- John 15:18; 1 John 3:13; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:14,15; 2 Thessalonians 3:4; John 16:2; Acts 14:22.
(22) We might multiply the Scriptural declarations that this is the call of the Church in the present time -- to let the light shine and thus to attract persecution, and to endure the persecution for righteousness' sake, and to be rightly exercised by it in patience, brotherly-kindness, pity and love -- toward the persecutors and toward all men.
(23) As it was the mission of our Lord not to rule the world, nor to judge the world, at his first advent, but to lay down his life for the world, so it is the mission of the Church, the Body of Christ, not to rule the world, nor to judge the world now, but to "lay down our lives for the brothers." (1 John 3:16) Our Lord declares, "I came not to judge the world, but to save the world." (John 12:47.) The Son of Man came to lay down his life for the world. (John 6:51; 10:15.) "My Kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:36) And so the Apostle assures us that we are not to reign now, but on the contrary to suffer with Christ, if we would reign with him by and by: that we are not to judge the world now, but on the contrary to judge nothing before the time; but he assures us that in God's due time the saints will judge the world, and the prophecies show that this will be to the world's blessing. (1 Corinthians 6:2; Genesis 22:18; Isaiah 2:2-4; 25:6-8; 32:1) He assures us that it was his mission " fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, for his body's sake, which is the assembly." (Colossians 1:24) He tells us, along the same line, that while we are to do good unto all men as we have opportunity, our service is to be specially to the household of faith. Our efforts that will go toward the world of mankind in general are to be only the side-glances, as it were, the overflow of our efforts expended chiefly and directly upon the members of the body of Christ, the consecrated Church, -- expended in building one another up in the most holy faith. -- Romans 8:18; 1 Corinthians 4:5,6; 6:2; Galatians 6:10.
(24) <(d)> Quite a goodly number of Protestant Christians theoretically take more or less of the position which we have herein stated, especially our Presbyterian and Baptist friends. But when we come to consider God's object in thus specially dealing with the Church we find that very few indeed even of these have any comprehension of it. The general thought is that God merely wishes to elect the Church, and that he is thoroughly indifferent as respects the poor world, that for six thousand years has lain in a lost condition under the blinding influence of Satan, and deaf to the Gospel call. Here we must differ, for we find the Scriptures to teach a much more wonderful, much more just, much more benevolent, much more grand plan of God than that.
(25) We find it to teach that this Church, now being selected or elected, is merely a first-fruit unto God of his creatures, and that a great work is to be done for the world of mankind, through this Church, after she will have been glorified and associated with her Lord in the Kingdom. (Romans 8:23; James 1:18) The same Scriptures which tell us that now the world is blind and deaf, and that Satan, "the prince of this world," "the god of this age," has directly and indirectly had much to do with this blindness, tell us also that the time is to come when all the blind eyes will be opened, and all the deaf ears will be unstopped, and when Satan, the great deceiver, will be bound, restrained, permitted no longer to deceive humanity. (2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:9; 20:1-3; Isaiah 29:18,24; John 14:30; 16:11) These Scriptures assure us that the Church now being selected and proved, and thus made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, is to be God's channel of blessing to mankind; and that Head and Body, Jesus and his Church, will constitute in the full sense the promised "Seed of Abraham," or Spiritual Israel, through which all mankind will be blessed with a knowledge of God's true character, and with an opportunity for gaining eternal life in the Millennial judgment day which God has appointed. -- Gal. 3:16,29; Genesis 12:3; 22:18. -- See our study: Mankind's Course to the Day of Judgment.
(26) One of the particular trials with many of Jehovah's people is that they are frequently upbraided by less consecrated, worldly-wise professors, with the suggestion that they are selfish, and neglectful of the true work of the Church, because they do not join with others in the various political, social, financial and moral reforms of the world; or in "revival" efforts to drive and scare the worldly, whom God has not "called" by the truth along Scriptural lines. The result of such teaching is that the church houses have become filled with false Christians, called in the KJV as tares, weeds. (Matthew 13:25-40) Furthermore, many of the Master's true servants are proving themselves less that fully faithful. (Luke 12:42-48) If we are obliged to endure something on this score for Christ's sake, it is only a part of "the sufferings of Christ" in which we should rejoice; realizing that Jehovah knows our faithfulness to him and to his Word. We may realize, also, that in due time others will see the divine plan actually fulfilling, as we are now permitted to see it by the eye of faith; and they will then see that the "wise virgins" were wise in that they hearkened to and obeyed the Master's word, and made themselves ready for the future work of service for the world. -- Revelation 19:7; Ephesians 4:12.
(27) We can sympathize with those who see nothing; we can sympathize also with those who see a little, and who strive toward moral and other reforms, and in various ways for the sectarian prosperity rather than for the upbuilding of the saints, the Church of the living God, whose names are written in heaven. We should have patience, particularly with those who give evidence that they are laboring in harmony with their convictions. If they are engaging in good works of any kind they deserve our sympathy, and undoubtedly will obtain a blessing as a result. The true Church is laboring not merely for a blessing for the repair of Satan's world, but for the adoption as sons of God, the seed of Abraham that will bring blessings to all the families of the earth. (Genesis 12:3; 22:16-18: 28:14: Galatians 3:8,16,29) Let all, then, who see the reward, and who see the light of God's glory shining in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord, be faithful to the Father's terms, conditions, calling, service. Let all such give attention to this ministry (service) which we have received, and faint not; be not discouraged, whether men hear or whether they forbear, whether they think ill of us or whether they speak ill of us; let us remember that our report at the end of the trial is to be rendered to Jehovah himself, when he is making up his jewels. (Malachi 3:17) Let us remember that the first condition of acceptance with him is loyal obedience to his Word, the evidence of love for him and faith in him through the Lord Jesus. (2 Corinthians 10:5,6; Deuteronomy 30:6; Matthew 22:37; 1 John 3:23; 5:3) Let us remember, also, that the second qualification he will look for in us is love for the brothers, readiness to be, to do and to suffer, to die on behalf of those who are consecrated children of God, those seeking to walk in his ways. (1 John 3:23; 5:2) However, not only are we love the brothers, but our love has extend beyond this to include even those who hate us. -- Matthew 5:44-47; 22:37; Luke 6:27-35. It is this quality of love that is emphasized throughout the Bible, but especially in the New Testament.
(28) All thus following in the ministry (the service) which we have received of God, find themselves today walking in the footsteps of Jesus and the apostles, and find the various predictions made respecting the entire Church applicable to its living members also, as, for instance, following our text, the Apostle declares of his ministry: --
2 Corinthians 4:5  For we don't preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants [servants toward the church, not toward the world] for Jesus' sake. 2 Corinthians 4:6  Seeing it is God who said, "Light will shine out of darkness," who shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:7  But we have this treasure in clay vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4:8  We are pressed on every side, yet not crushed; perplexed, yet not to despair; 2 Corinthians 4:9  pursued, yet not forsaken; struck down, yet not destroyed; 2 Corinthians 4:10  always carrying in the body the putting to death of the Lord Jesus [through our afflictions we are always representing the death of Christ], that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:11  For we who live [as new creatures in Christ Jesus] are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus may be revealed in our mortal flesh. 2 Corinthians 4:12  So then death works in us, but life in you [as a result of our sacrificial labor on your behalf].
Thus we have this example before us all, that by our sacrificial work we may be in constant face of death, so that our brothers may have life in Christ Jesus.
(30) In other words, the truly consecrated Church of Christ, all "whose names are written in heaven," are his representative members upon the earth, throughout this Gospel age. The Head suffered eighteen hundred years ago, the members of the Body have since been suffering with him, and have been learning the same lessons of obedience to the divine will, and trust and confidence in the divine wisdom, and love for the brothers; and by and by seed of Abraham will be completed, and they will be judges in the kingdom of glory, so after the selection of the Church will begin God's great work for the world, for which all his dealings with the Church are but the divine preparation. In the Church Jehovah will give to the world Kings and Princes, to rule in righteousness, -- in love, instead of in selfishness and pride; but the Church will also be Priests, to bless with the knowledge of the truth, and with help out of the mire of sin, back to full harmony with God, all who desire to return to him. It will then be true: "you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth." -- Revelation 5:10, New Revised Standard Version.

Paragraphs are numbered for reference and use in group and individual study.