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Highlights for the Reading of the Bible: Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James

Highlights for the Reading of the Bible: Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James


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TABLE OF CONTENTS

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE BOOK OF Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James


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Titus


Titus

*** si pp. 239-241 Bible Book Number 56—Titus ***

Bible Book Number 56—Titus
Writer: Paul
Place Written: Macedonia (?)
Writing Completed: c. 61–64 C.E.
“PAUL, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ . . . to Titus, a genuine child according to a faith shared in common.” (Titus 1:1, 4) So begins Paul’s letter to his coworker and longtime associate Titus, whom he had left on the island of Crete to organize the congregations better. Titus had a big task on his hands. This island, which was said to have been the ancient abode of “the father of gods and men,” was the source of the saying, “to Crete a Cretan,” meaning “to outwit a knave.” The untruthfulness of its people was proverbial, so that Paul even quoted their own prophet as saying: “Cretans are always liars, injurious wild beasts, unemployed gluttons.” (1:12) The Cretans of Paul’s day have also been described as follows: “The character of the people was unsteady, insincere, and quarrelsome; they were given to greediness, licentiousness, falsehood, and drunkenness, in no ordinary degree; and the Jews who had settled among them appear to have gone beyond the natives in immorality.” It was in just such an environment that the congregations of Crete had sprung up; and hence it was especially needful for the believers “to repudiate ungodliness and worldly desires and to live with soundness of mind and righteousness and godly devotion,” as Paul exhorted.—2:12.
2 The book of Titus itself gives very little information about the association of Paul and Titus. From the references to Titus in Paul’s other letters, however, much information can be gleaned. Titus, who was a Greek, often accompanied Paul and on at least one occasion went up to Jerusalem with him. (Gal. 2:1-5) Paul refers to him as “a sharer with me and a fellow worker.” It was Titus whom Paul had sent to Corinth after writing his first letter to the Corinthians from Ephesus. While in Corinth, Titus was connected with the collection that was being made for the brothers in Jerusalem, and subsequently he went back at Paul’s direction to complete the collection. It was on the return journey to Corinth from his meeting with Paul in Macedonia that Titus was used to carry the second letter from Paul to the Corinthians.—2 Cor. 8:16-24; 2:13; 7:5-7.
3 After his release from his first imprisonment in Rome, Paul was again associated with Timothy and Titus during the final years of his ministry. This appears to have included service in Crete, Greece, and Macedonia. Finally, Paul is spoken of as going to Nicopolis, in northwest Greece, where he was apparently arrested and taken to Rome for his final imprisonment and execution. It was during the visit to Crete that Paul had left Titus there to “correct the things that were defective and . . . make appointments of older men in city after city,” in harmony with the instructions he had given Titus. Paul’s letter appears to have been written shortly after he left Titus in Crete, most likely from Macedonia. (Titus 1:5; 3:12; 1 Tim. 1:3; 2 Tim. 4:13, 20) It seems to have served a purpose similar to that of First Timothy, namely, to encourage Paul’s colaborer and to give him authoritative backing in his duties.
4 Paul must have written the letter sometime between his first and his second imprisonment at Rome, or about 61 to 64 C.E. The weight of evidence for the authenticity of the letter to Titus is the same as for the contemporary letters to Timothy, the three Bible books often being termed Paul’s “pastoral letters.” The style of writing is similar. Irenaeus and Origen both quote from Titus, and many other ancient authorities also testify to the book’s canonicity. It is found in the Sinaitic and Alexandrine Manuscripts. In the John Rylands Library there is a papyrus fragment, P32, which is a codex leaf of about the third century C.E. containing Titus 1:11-15 and 2:3-8. There is no question that the book is an authentic part of the inspired Scriptures.

CONTENTS OF TITUS

5 Overseers to exhort by healthful teaching (1:1-16). After an affectionate greeting, Paul sets out the qualifications for overseers. It is emphasized that an overseer must be “free from accusation,” a lover of goodness, righteous, loyal, a man “holding firmly to the faithful word as respects his art of teaching, that he may be able both to exhort by the teaching that is healthful and to reprove those who contradict.” This is needful in view of the “deceivers of the mind” who are even subverting entire households for the sake of dishonest gain. So Titus must “keep on reproving them with severity, that they may be healthy in the faith, paying no attention to Jewish fables.” Defiled persons may declare publicly that they know God, but they disown him by their works of disobedience.—1:6-10, 13, 14.
6 Living with soundness of mind, righteousness, and godly devotion (2:1–3:15). The aged men and aged women should be serious and reverent. The younger women should love their husbands and their children and subject themselves to their husbands “so that the word of God may not be spoken of abusively.” The younger men should be an example of fine works and wholesome speech. Slaves in subjection should exhibit “good fidelity to the full.” God’s undeserved kindness, leading to salvation, has been manifested, encouraging soundness of mind, righteousness, and godly devotion in those whom God has cleansed through Christ Jesus to be “a people peculiarly his own, zealous for fine works.”—2:5, 10, 14.
7 Paul stresses the need for subjection and obedience to governments and for “exhibiting all mildness toward all men.” Paul and his fellow Christians were once as bad as other men. Not owing to any works of their own, but because of God’s kindness, love, and mercy, they have been saved by holy spirit and have become heirs to a hope of everlasting life. So those who believe God should “keep their minds on maintaining fine works.” They are to shun foolish questionings and strife over the Law, and as for a man that promotes a sect, they are to reject him after a first and second admonition. Paul asks Titus to come to him at Nicopolis and, after giving other missionary instructions, stresses again the need for fine works, in order not to be unfruitful.—3:2, 7, 8.

WHY BENEFICIAL

8 The Cretan Christians lived in an environment of lying, corruption, and greed. Should they just go along with the crowd? Or should they take definite steps to separate themselves completely to serve as a people sanctified to Jehovah God? In making known through Titus that the Cretans should “keep their minds on maintaining fine works,” Paul said: “These things are fine and beneficial to men.” It is “fine and beneficial” today also, in a world that has sunk into a mire of untruthfulness and dishonest practices, that real Christians “learn to maintain fine works,” being fruitful in God’s service. (3:8, 14) All of Paul’s condemnation of the immorality and wickedness that threatened the congregations in Crete stands as a warning to us now when ‘the undeserved kindness of God instructs us to repudiate ungodliness and worldly desires and to live with soundness of mind and righteousness and godly devotion amid this system of things.’ Christians should also be “ready for every good work” in showing obedience to governments, maintaining a good conscience.—2:11, 12; 3:1.
9 Titus 1:5-9 supplements 1 Timothy 3:2-7 in showing what holy spirit requires of overseers. This lays emphasis on the overseer’s “holding firmly to the faithful word” and being a teacher in the congregation. How necessary this is in bringing all along to maturity! In fact, this need for right teaching is emphasized several times in the letter to Titus. Paul admonishes Titus to “keep on speaking what things are fitting for healthful teaching.” The aged women are to be “teachers of what is good,” and slaves are ‘to adorn the teaching of their Savior, God, in all things.’ (Titus 1:9; 2:1, 3, 10) Stressing the need for Titus as an overseer to be firm and fearless in his teaching, Paul says: “Keep on speaking these things and exhorting and reproving with full authority to command.” And in the case of those who disobey, he says: “Keep on reproving them with severity, that they may be healthy in the faith.” Thus, Paul’s letter to Titus is especially “beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness.”—Titus 2:15; 1:13; 2 Tim. 3:16.
10 The letter to Titus stimulates our appreciation for the undeserved kindness of God and encourages us to turn from the ungodliness of the world ‘while we wait for the happy hope and glorious manifestation of the great God and of our Savior, Christ Jesus.’ So doing, those who have been declared righteous through Christ Jesus may become “heirs according to a hope of everlasting life” in the Kingdom of God.—Titus 2:13; 3:7.

*** it-2 pp. 1111-1112 Titus, Letter to ***

TITUS, LETTER TO

A letter written by the apostle Paul to Titus, a fellow worker whom Paul had left behind in Crete to ‘correct the things that were defective and to make appointments of older men’ in the various congregations there. (Tit 1:1, 4, 5) The letter’s authenticity is attested by all outstanding ancient catalogs of the Christian Greek Scriptures, starting with the Muratorian Fragment of the second century C.E.
Time and Place of Writing. As no record exists that Paul engaged in Christian activity on the island of Crete before his first imprisonment at Rome, he must have been there with Titus sometime between his release and his final imprisonment. Thus the time for the letter’s composition would be between about 61 and 64 C.E. Macedonia may have been the place from which the letter was sent; it was apparently there in the same general period that Paul wrote First Timothy.—1Ti 1:3.
The Letter’s Purpose. The letter evidently was to serve as a guide for Titus and gave him apostolic backing for the performance of his duties in connection with the Cretan congregations. His assignment was not an easy one, for he had to contend with rebellious persons. As Paul wrote: “There are many unruly men, profitless talkers, and deceivers of the mind, especially those men who adhere to the circumcision. It is necessary to shut the mouths of these, as these very men keep on subverting entire households by teaching things they ought not for the sake of dishonest gain.” (Tit 1:10, 11) Also, lying, gluttony, and laziness were common among the Cretans, and apparently some of the Christians reflected these bad traits. For this reason Titus had to reprove them with severity and show what was required of Christians, whether young or old, male or female, slave or free. Personally he had to be an example in fine works and show uncorruptness in teaching.—1:12–3:2.

[Box on page 1111]

HIGHLIGHTS OF TITUS

Counsel to an elder regarding the handling of situations in a most difficult assignment
Written by the apostle Paul evidently after his first imprisonment in Rome
Appointment of overseers and handling of serious problems
Titus is commissioned to correct things that are defective and to appoint overseers in various cities of Crete (1:5)
A man who is appointed to be an overseer should be free from accusation, exemplary both in his person and in his family life, hospitable, balanced, and self-controlled; he must properly represent the truth in his teaching and thus be able to exhort and to reprove those who contradict (1:6-9)
Unruly men in the congregations must be silenced, especially those adhering to the circumcision, who have subverted entire households; severe reproof must be given so that all may be healthy in the faith (1:10-16)
Foolish questionings, genealogies, and conflicts over the Law must be avoided; reject a promoter of a sect after he has been admonished twice (3:9-11)

Healthful counsel to all kinds of Christians

Aged men are encouraged to be exemplary in moderation, seriousness, soundness of mind, faith, love, and endurance (2:1, 2)
Aged women are likewise urged to be exemplary; they should be teachers of good, in order that they may help younger women to have the right view of their responsibilities as wives and mothers so as not to bring reproach on the word of God (2:3-5)
Younger men are exhorted to have a sound mind (2:6-8)
Slaves should be in subjection to their owners in a manner that will adorn the teaching of God (2:9, 10)
God’s undeserved kindness should motivate Christians to repudiate ungodliness and live with soundness of mind in this system of things, while they wait patiently for the glorious manifestation of God and of Jesus Christ (2:11-15)
Show proper submission to rulers, shun belligerency, and cultivate reasonableness and mildness (3:1, 2)
Paul and his fellow Christians, too, at one time carried on badness; but by God’s undeserved kindness they were saved and now have the sure hope of everlasting life; constantly stress these facts in order to encourage believers to keep their minds on fine works (3:3-8)

*** w91 2/15 p. 22 Stay Healthy in Faith! ***

Stay Healthy in Faith!

Highlights From Titus

THE Christian congregations on the Mediterranean island of Crete were in need of spiritual attention. Who could help them? Why, the apostle Paul’s coworker Titus! He was courageous, qualified to teach, zealous for fine works, and healthy in faith.
Paul visited Crete between his first and second imprisonments in Rome. He left Titus behind on the island to correct some things and to appoint congregation elders. Titus would also be called upon to reprove false teachers and to set a fine example. All of this is revealed in Paul’s letter to Titus, possibly sent from Macedonia between 61 and 64 C.E. Applying the apostle’s counsel can help present-day overseers and fellow believers to be courageous, zealous, and spiritually healthy.

What Is Required of Overseers?

It was necessary to appoint overseers and handle some serious problems. (1:1-16) For appointment as an overseer, a man had to be free from accusation, exemplary personally and in his family life, hospitable, balanced, and self-controlled. He had to teach what is true and to exhort and reprove those expressing contradictory views. Courage was needed because unruly men in the congregations had to be silenced. Especially was this so of those adhering to the circumcision, for they had subverted entire households. Severe reproof would be necessary if the congregations were to remain spiritually healthy. Today, Christian overseers also need the courage to give reproof and exhortation, with a view to building up the congregation.

Apply Healthful Teaching

Titus was to impart spiritually healthful teaching. (2:1-15) Aged men were to be exemplary in moderation, seriousness, soundness of mind, faith, love, and endurance. Elderly women were to be “reverent in behavior.” As “teachers of what is good,” they could help younger women to have the right view of their duties as wives and mothers. Younger men were to be sound in mind, and slaves were to be in subjection to their owners in a manner that would adorn the teaching of God. All Christians were to repudiate ungodliness and live with soundness of mind in this system of things while awaiting the glorious manifestation of God and of Jesus Christ, “who gave himself for us that he might deliver us from every sort of lawlessness and cleanse for himself a people peculiarly his own, zealous for fine works.” By applying such healthful counsel, let us also ‘adorn the teaching of God.’
Paul’s closing counsel promotes spiritual health. (3:1-15) It is necessary to show proper submission to rulers and to cultivate reasonableness. Christians have the hope of everlasting life, and Paul’s words were to be stressed to encourage them to keep their minds on fine works. Foolish questionings and fights over the Law were to be avoided, and a promoter of a sect was to be rejected after being admonished twice. As elders apply such counsel today, they and their fellow believers will stay healthy in faith.

[Box/Picture on page 22]

Not Enslaved to Wine: Though women must not teach men in the congregation, older sisters can instruct younger women privately. But to be effective in this regard, elderly women must heed Paul’s words: “Let the aged women be reverent in behavior, not slanderous, neither enslaved to a lot of wine, teachers of what is good.” (Titus 2:1-5; 1 Timothy 2:11-14) Because of concern about the effects of drinking, overseers, ministerial servants, and older women must be moderate, not giving themselves to a lot of wine. (1 Timothy 3:2, 3, 8, 11) All Christians must avoid drunkenness and need to refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages while doing “the holy work” of preaching the good news.—Romans 15:16; Proverbs 23:20, 21.

*** w08 10/15 p. 30 Highlights From the Letters to Titus, to Philemon, and to the Hebrews ***

REMAIN SPIRITUALLY HEALTHY

(Titus 1:1–3:15)
After providing guidance for the making of “appointments of older men in city after city,” Paul counsels Titus to “keep on reproving [the unruly] with severity, that they may be healthy in the faith.” He admonishes all in the congregations in Crete “to repudiate ungodliness . . . and to live with soundness of mind.”—Titus 1:5, 10-13; 2:12.
Paul gives further counsel to help the brothers in Crete to remain spiritually healthy. He instructs Titus to “shun foolish questionings . . . and fights over the Law.”—Titus 3:9.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

1:15—How can “all things” be “clean to clean persons,” but unclean “to persons defiled and faithless”? The answer lies in understanding what Paul meant by “all things.” He was speaking, not of things directly condemned in God’s written Word, but of matters in which the Scriptures allow varying responses from believers. To a person whose thinking is in harmony with God’s standards, such things are clean. It is the opposite with someone whose thinking is distorted and whose conscience is defiled.
3:5—How are anointed Christians ‘saved through a bath’ and ‘made new by holy spirit’? They are ‘saved through a bath’ in that God has bathed, or cleansed, them with the blood of Jesus on the merit of the ransom sacrifice. They are ‘made new by holy spirit’ because they have become “a new creation” as spirit-begotten sons of God.—2 Cor. 5:17.

Lessons for Us:

1:10-13; 2:15. Christian overseers must display courage in correcting what is defective in the congregation.
2:3-5. As in the first century, mature Christian sisters today need to “be reverent in behavior, not slanderous, neither enslaved to a lot of wine, teachers of what is good.” In that way, they can be effective in privately instructing “the young women” in the congregation.
3:8, 14. Keeping our “minds on maintaining fine works” is “fine and beneficial” because it helps us to be fruitful in God’s service and keeps us separate from the wicked world.


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Philemon


Philemon

*** si pp. 241-243 Bible Book Number 57—Philemon ***

Bible Book Number 57—Philemon
Writer: Paul
Place Written: Rome
Writing Completed: c. 60–61 C.E.
THIS very tactful and loving letter of Paul is of great interest to Christians today. Not only is it the shortest epistle preserved from the hand of the “apostle to the nations” but in the whole Bible only Second and Third John contain less material. Also, it is the only “private” letter of Paul, in that it was not addressed officially to a congregation or a responsible overseer but was addressed to a private person and dealt solely with the special problem Paul wanted to discuss with this Christian brother, the apparently well-to-do Philemon, who lived in the Phrygian city of Colossae, in the very heart of Asia Minor.—Rom. 11:13.
2 The purpose of the letter is clearly revealed: During his first imprisonment in Rome (59-61 C.E.), Paul had great freedom to preach the Kingdom of God. Among those who listened to his preaching was Onesimus, a runaway slave from the household of Philemon, Paul’s friend. As a result, Onesimus became a Christian, and Paul decided, with Onesimus’ consent, to send him back to Philemon. It was at this time, also, that Paul wrote letters to the congregations in Ephesus and Colossae. In both of these letters, he gave good counsel to Christian slaves and slave owners on how to conduct themselves properly in this relationship. (Eph. 6:5-9; Col. 3:22–4:1) However, over and above this, Paul composed a letter to Philemon in which he personally pleaded in behalf of Onesimus. It was a letter written with his own hand—an unusual thing for Paul. (Philem. 19) This personal touch added greatly to the weight of his plea.
3 The letter was most likely penned about 60-61 C.E., as Paul had apparently preached in Rome long enough to make converts. Also, because he expresses hope, in verse 22, of being released, we can conclude that the letter was written after some time of his imprisonment had elapsed. It appears that these three letters, one for Philemon and those for the congregations in Ephesus and Colossae, were dispatched with Tychicus and Onesimus.—Eph. 6:21, 22; Col. 4:7-9.
4 That Paul was the writer of Philemon is evident from the first verse, where he is mentioned by name. He was acknowledged as such by Origen and Tertullian. The authenticity of the book is also supported by its being listed, with others of Paul’s epistles, in the Muratorian Fragment of the second century C.E.

CONTENTS OF PHILEMON

5 Onesimus sent back to his master “as more than a slave” (Vss. 1-25). Paul sends warm greetings to Philemon, to Apphia “our sister,” to Archippus “our fellow soldier,” and to the congregation in Philemon’s house. He commends Philemon (whose name means “Loving”) for the love and faith he has toward the Lord Jesus and the holy ones. Reports of Philemon’s love have brought Paul much joy and comfort. Paul, an aged man and a prisoner, now expresses himself with great freeness of speech concerning his “child” Onesimus, to whom he became “a father” while in prison bonds. Onesimus (whose name means “Profitable”) had formerly been useless to Philemon, but now he is useful to both Philemon and Paul.—Vss. 2, 10.
6 The apostle would like to keep Onesimus to minister to him in prison, but he would not do so without Philemon’s consent. So he is sending him back, “no longer as a slave but as more than a slave, as a brother beloved.” Paul asks that Onesimus be received kindly, the same way Paul himself would be received. If Onesimus has wronged Philemon, let it be charged to Paul’s account, for, Paul tells Philemon, “You owe me even yourself.” (Vss. 16, 19) Paul hopes he may soon be released and that he may visit Philemon, and he concludes with greetings.

WHY BENEFICIAL

7 As is shown by this letter, Paul was not preaching a “social gospel,” trying to do away with the existing system of things and its institutions, such as slavery. He did not arbitrarily set even Christian slaves free, but, rather, he sent the runaway slave Onesimus on a journey taking him over 900 miles [1400 km] from Rome to Colossae, right back to his master Philemon. Thus Paul adhered to his high call as an apostle, abiding strictly by his divine commission of “preaching the kingdom of God . . . and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.”—Acts 28:31; Philem. 8, 9.
8 The letter to Philemon is revealing in that it shows the love and unity that existed among the Christians of the first century. In it we learn that the early Christians called one another “brother” and “sister.” (Philem. 2, 20) In addition, it reveals for Christians today the practical application of Christian principles among Christian brothers. On the part of Paul, we find the expression of brotherly love, respect for civil relations and for the property of another, effective tactfulness, and commendable humility. Instead of trying to compel Philemon to forgive Onesimus by the weight of the authority he possessed as a leading overseer in the Christian congregation, Paul humbly appealed to him on the basis of Christian love and his personal friendship. Overseers today can benefit from the tactful manner in which Paul approached Philemon.
9 Paul obviously expected Philemon to comply with his request, and Philemon’s doing so would be a practical application of what Jesus said at Matthew 6:14 and of what Paul said at Ephesians 4:32. Christians today can likewise be expected to be kind and forgiving toward an offending brother. If Philemon could be forgiving toward a slave that he owned and that he was legally free to mistreat as he pleased, Christians today should be able to forgive an offending brother—a far less difficult task.
10 The operation of Jehovah’s spirit is very evident in this letter to Philemon. It is manifested in the masterful way in which Paul handled a very touchy problem. It is evident in the fellow feeling, the tender affection, and the trust in a fellow Christian that are exhibited by Paul. It is seen in the fact that the letter to Philemon, like the other Scriptures, teaches Christian principles, encourages Christian unity, and magnifies the love and faith that abound among “the holy ones,” who hope in God’s Kingdom and in whose conduct is reflected the loving-kindness of Jehovah.—Vs. 5.

*** it-2 p. 627 Philemon, Letter to ***

PHILEMON, LETTER TO

A letter written by the apostle Paul with his own hand and addressed primarily to Philemon. (Phm 1, 2, 19) It must have been composed sometime after the start of Paul’s first imprisonment at Rome (probably c. 60-61 C.E.), for the apostle entertained the hope of being “set at liberty.”—Vs 22; see ONESIMUS; PHILEMON.
The apostle’s purpose in writing this letter was to encourage Philemon to accept his runaway slave Onesimus back kindly. Instead of using his apostolic authority to command him to do so, Paul appealed on the basis of love and personal friendship. (Phm 8, 9, 17) Knowing Philemon as a man of faith and love, Paul was confident that he would receive his formerly useless, but now Christian, slave back as he would the apostle himself. (Vss 10, 11, 21) This is especially noteworthy, since Philemon had the legal right to mete out severe punishment to Onesimus.
Besides providing an actual example illustrating the beauty of Christian kindness, forgiveness, and mercy, the letter tells us something about the early Christians. They assembled in private homes, called one another “brother” and “sister” (Phm 1, 2, 20), prayed for one another (vss 4, 22), and were encouraged by the faith and love manifested by fellow believers (vss 4-7).

[Box on page 627]

HIGHLIGHTS OF PHILEMON

A letter encouraging that love and mercy be shown to a runaway slave who had become a Christian
Written about 60-61 C.E. while Paul was a prisoner in Rome
Commendation of Philemon for his love and faith (vss 1-7)
Paul addresses Philemon as a beloved one and a fellow worker
Reports of Philemon’s love and faith move Paul to thank God and bring the apostle much joy and comfort
Paul sends back Onesimus as “more than a slave” (vss 8-25)
The imprisoned Paul appeals on the basis of love on behalf of the runaway slave Onesimus, who has become a Christian through his association with Paul
As Onesimus is useful in ministering to him, Paul would like to keep him; the apostle is sending him back, though, since he does not want to do anything without Philemon’s consent
Paul urges Philemon to receive Onesimus as a brother, as if he were the apostle himself, and Paul expresses confidence in Philemon’s doing even more than is being requested

*** w91 2/15 p. 23 Brotherly Love Is Active ***

Brotherly Love Is Active

Highlights From Philemon

JESUS CHRIST gave his followers the “new commandment” that they love one another just as he loved them. (John 13:34, 35) Because of that love, they would even die for one another. Yes, brotherly love is that strong and active.
The apostle Paul was sure that brotherly love would motivate Philemon, a Christian associated with the congregation at Colossae, a city in Asia Minor. Love had already prompted Philemon to open his house for use as a Christian meeting place. Philemon’s slave Onesimus had run away, possibly stealing funds to finance a voyage to Rome, where he later met Paul and embraced Christianity.
While imprisoned at Rome about 60-61 C.E., Paul wrote a letter addressed primarily to Philemon. It appealed to Philemon to receive returning Onesimus in a spirit of brotherly love. Read this letter, and you will see that it is a fine example of affection and tact—one that Jehovah’s people can well imitate.

Commendation for Love and Faith

Addressing Philemon and others, Paul first gave commendation. (Verses 1-7) The apostle kept hearing about the love Philemon had for Christ and all the holy ones and about his faith. This moved Paul to thank Jehovah and brought him much joy and comfort. Do we personally commend fellow believers who are exemplary in love and faith? We should do so.
Exhortation on the basis of love is always desirable in dealing with fellow Christians, as Paul’s words show. (Verses 8-14) After his tactful approach, the apostle said that although he could order Philemon “to do what is proper,” he chose to exhort him instead. To do what? Why, to receive the slave Onesimus back in a kind manner! Paul would have liked to retain the useful services of Onesimus but would not do this without Philemon’s consent.
Seemingly unfavorable developments often prove beneficial, as Paul next indicated. (Verses 15-21) Actually, good had resulted when Onesimus had run away. Why? Because Philemon could now have him back as a willing, honest Christian brother, not as an unwilling, possibly dishonest slave. Paul asked Philemon to welcome Onesimus back even as Paul might be welcomed. If Onesimus had wronged Philemon in any way, the apostle would make repayment. To make Philemon still more willing to comply, Paul reminded him that he himself was indebted to the apostle for becoming a Christian. Hence, Paul was sure that Philemon would do even more than he was asked to do. What a tactful, loving appeal! Surely, this is the way we should deal with fellow Christians.
Paul concluded his letter with a hope, greetings, and good wishes. (Verses 22-25) He hoped that through the prayers of others in his behalf, he would soon be freed from prison. (As Paul’s second letter to Timothy shows, those prayers were answered.) Concluding his letter, Paul sent greetings and expressed the wish that the undeserved kindness of Jesus Christ might be with the spirit shown by Philemon and his fellow worshipers of Jehovah.

[Box/Picture on page 23]

More Than a Slave: Regarding the return of Philemon’s runaway slave Onesimus, Paul said: “Perhaps . . . he broke away for an hour, that you may have him back forever, no longer as a slave but as more than a slave, as a brother beloved, especially so to me, yet how much more so to you both in fleshly relationship and in the Lord.” (Philemon 15, 16) In the Roman Empire, slavery was enforced by the imperial government, and Paul recognized such “superior authorities.” (Romans 13:1-7) He did not advocate a slave’s revolt but helped such individuals to gain spiritual freedom as Christians. In harmony with his own counsel for slaves to be in subjection to their masters, Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon. (Colossians 3:22-24; Titus 2:9, 10) Onesimus was now more than a worldly slave. He was a beloved fellow believer who would be in relative subjection to Philemon as a better slave, one governed by godly principles and displaying brotherly love.

*** w08 10/15 p. 31 Highlights From the Letters to Titus, to Philemon, and to the Hebrews ***

EXHORT “ON THE BASIS OF LOVE”

(Philem. 1-25)
Philemon is commended for being an example in “love and faith.” His being a source of refreshment to fellow Christians has given Paul “much joy and comfort.”—Philem. 4, 5, 7.
Setting an example for all overseers, Paul handles the sensitive matter about Onesimus by giving, not an order, but exhortation “on the basis of love.” He tells Philemon: “Trusting in your compliance, I am writing you, knowing you will even do more than the things I say.”—Philem. 8, 9, 21.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

10, 11, 18—How did formerly “useless” Onesimus become “useful”? Onesimus was an unwilling slave who escaped from the household of Philemon in Colossae and fled to Rome. Likely, Onesimus also stole from his master to finance this 900-mile [1,400 km] journey. Indeed, he was useless to Philemon. In Rome, though, Onesimus was helped by Paul to become a Christian. Now a spiritual brother, this formerly “useless” slave became “useful.”
15, 16—Why did Paul not ask Philemon to grant freedom to Onesimus? Paul desired to stick strictly to his commission to ‘preach the kingdom of God and teach the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Therefore, he chose to stay away from involvement in social issues, such as those concerning slavery.—Acts 28:31.

Lessons for Us:

2. Philemon made his home available for Christian meetings. It is a privilege to have a meeting for field service in our home.—Rom. 16:5; Col. 4:15.
4-7. We should take the initiative to commend fellow believers who are exemplary in faith and love.
15, 16. Unfavorable developments in life should not be allowed to cause us undue anxiety. The results can turn out to be beneficial, as in the case of Onesimus.
21. Paul expected Philemon to forgive Onesimus. We are likewise expected to be forgiving toward a brother who may have offended us.—Matt. 6:14.


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Hebrews


Hebrews

*** si pp. 243-248 Bible Book Number 58—Hebrews ***

Bible Book Number 58—Hebrews
Writer: Paul
Place Written: Rome
Writing Completed: c. 61 C.E.
PAUL is best known as the apostle “to the nations.” But was his ministry confined to the non-Jews? Not at all! Just before Paul was baptized and commissioned for his work, the Lord Jesus said to Ananias: “This man [Paul] is a chosen vessel to me to bear my name to the nations as well as to kings and the sons of Israel.” (Acts 9:15; Gal. 2:8, 9) The writing of the book of Hebrews was truly in line with Paul’s commission to bear the name of Jesus to the sons of Israel.
2 However, some critics doubt Paul’s writership of Hebrews. One objection is that Paul’s name does not appear in the letter. But this is really no obstacle, as many other canonical books fail to name the writer, who is often identified by internal evidence. Moreover, some feel that Paul may have deliberately omitted his name in writing to the Hebrew Christians in Judea, since his name had been made an object of hatred by the Jews there. (Acts 21:28) Neither is the change of style from his other epistles any real objection to Paul’s writership. Whether addressing pagans, Jews, or Christians, Paul always showed his ability to “become all things to people of all sorts.” Here his reasoning is presented to Jews as from a Jew, arguments that they could fully understand and appreciate.—1 Cor. 9:22.
3 The internal evidence of the book is all in support of Paul’s writership. The writer was in Italy and was associated with Timothy. These facts fit Paul. (Heb. 13:23, 24) Furthermore, the doctrine is typical of Paul, though the arguments are presented from a Jewish viewpoint, designed to appeal to the strictly Hebrew congregation to which the letter was addressed. On this point Clarke’s Commentary, Volume 6, page 681, says concerning Hebrews: “That it was written to Jews, naturally such, the whole structure of the epistle proves. Had it been written to the Gentiles, not one in ten thousand of them could have comprehended the argument, because unacquainted with the Jewish system; the knowledge of which the writer of this epistle everywhere supposes.” This helps to account for the difference of style when compared with Paul’s other letters.
4 The discovery in about 1930 of the Chester Beatty Papyrus No. 2 (P46) has provided further evidence of Paul’s writership. Commenting on this papyrus codex, which was written only about a century and a half after Paul’s death, the eminent British textual critic Sir Frederic Kenyon said: “It is noticeable that Hebrews is placed immediately after Romans (an almost unprecedented position), which shows that at the early date when this manuscript was written no doubt was felt as to its Pauline authorship.” On this same question, McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia states pointedly: “There is no substantial evidence, external or internal, in favor of any claimant to the authorship of this epistle except Paul.”
5 Apart from the book’s acceptance by the early Christians, the contents of Hebrews prove that it is “inspired of God.” It continually points the reader toward the Hebrew Scripture prophecies, making numerous references to the early writings, and shows how these were all fulfilled in Christ Jesus. In the first chapter alone, no less than seven quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures are used as the point is developed that the Son is now superior to the angels. It constantly magnifies Jehovah’s Word and his name, pointing to Jesus as the Chief Agent of life and to God’s Kingdom by Christ as mankind’s only hope.
6 As to the time of writing, it has already been shown that Paul wrote the letter while in Italy. In concluding the letter, he says: “Take note that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom, if he comes quite soon, I shall see you.” (13:23) This seems to indicate that Paul was expecting an early release from prison and hoped to accompany Timothy, who had also been imprisoned but who had already been released. Thus, the final year of Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome is suggested as the date of writing, namely, 61 C.E.
7 During the time of the end of the Jewish system of things, a period of crucial testing came upon the Hebrew Christians in Judea and especially on those in Jerusalem. With the growth and spread of the good news, the Jews were becoming bitter and fanatic in the extreme in their opposition to the Christians. Only a few years earlier, the mere appearance of Paul in Jerusalem had stirred up a riot, with the religious Jews screaming at the top of their voices: “Take such a man away from the earth, for he was not fit to live!” More than 40 Jews had bound themselves with a curse neither to eat nor to drink until they had done away with him, and it required a strong escort of heavily armed troops to bring him down by night to Caesarea. (Acts 22:22; 23:12-15, 23, 24) In this atmosphere of religious fanaticism and hatred of Christians, the congregation had to live, preach, and keep themselves firm in the faith. They had to have sound knowledge and understanding of how Christ fulfilled the Law that they might keep from falling back to Judaism and its observing of the Mosaic Law with the offering of animal sacrifices, all of it now nothing more than empty ritual.
8 No one was better able to understand the pressure and persecution to which the Jewish Christians were exposed than the apostle Paul. No one was better equipped to supply them with powerful arguments and refutations of Jewish tradition than Paul, the former Pharisee. Drawing on his vast knowledge of the Mosaic Law, learned at the feet of Gamaliel, he presented incontestable proof that Christ is the fulfillment of the Law, its ordinances, and its sacrifices. He showed how these had now been replaced by far more glorious realities, bringing inestimably greater benefits under a new and better covenant. His keen mind lined up proof after proof in clear and convincing array. The end of the Law covenant and the coming in of the new covenant, the superiority of Christ’s priesthood over the Aaronic priesthood, the real value of Christ’s sacrifice compared with the offerings of bulls and goats, the entry of Christ into the very presence of Jehovah in the heavens rather than into a mere earthly tent—all these strikingly new teachings, hateful in the extreme to the unbelieving Jews, were here presented to the Hebrew Christians with such abundant evidence from the Hebrew Scriptures that no reasonable Jew could fail to be convinced.
9 Armed with this letter, the Hebrew Christians had a new and powerful weapon to stop the mouths of the persecuting Jews, as well as a persuasive argument with which to convince and convert honest Jews seeking God’s truth. The letter shows Paul’s deep love for the Hebrew Christians and his burning desire to help them in a practical way in their time of great need.

CONTENTS OF HEBREWS

10 The exalted position of Christ (1:1–3:6). The opening words focus attention on Christ: “God, who long ago spoke on many occasions and in many ways to our forefathers by means of the prophets, has at the end of these days spoken to us by means of a Son.” This Son is the appointed Heir of all things and the reflection of his Father’s glory. Having made a purification for our sins, he has now “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty in lofty places.” (1:1-3) Paul quotes scripture upon scripture to prove Jesus’ superiority over the angels.
11 Paul writes that “it is necessary for us to pay more than the usual attention.” Why so? Because, argues Paul, if there was severe retribution for disobeying “the word spoken through angels, . . . how shall we escape if we have neglected a salvation of such greatness in that it began to be spoken through our Lord?” God made “the son of man” a little lower than angels, but now we behold this Jesus “crowned with glory and honor for having suffered death, that he by God’s undeserved kindness might taste death for every man.” (2:1-3, 6, 9) In bringing many sons to glory, God first made this Chief Agent of their salvation “perfect through sufferings.” He it is who brings the Devil to nothing and emancipates “all those who for fear of death were subject to slavery all through their lives.” Jesus thus becomes “a merciful and faithful high priest.” And wonderfully, since he himself suffered under test, “he is able to come to the aid of those who are being put to the test.” (2:10, 15, 17, 18) Hence, Jesus is counted worthy of more glory than Moses.
12 Entering into God’s rest by faith and obedience (3:7–4:13). Christians, of all people, should take warning from the Israelites’ example of unfaithfulness, for fear of developing “a wicked heart lacking faith by drawing away from the living God.” (Heb. 3:12; Ps. 95:7-11) Because of disobedience and lack of faith, the Israelites who left Egypt failed to enter God’s rest, or Sabbath, during which he has desisted from creative works as respects the earth. However, Paul explains: “There remains a sabbath resting for the people of God. For the man that has entered into God’s rest has also himself rested from his own works, just as God did from his own.” The pattern of disobedience shown by Israel is to be avoided. “For the word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword . . . and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.”—Heb. 4:9, 10, 12.
13 Mature view of superiority of Christ’s priesthood (4:14–7:28). Paul urges the Hebrews to hold on to confessing Jesus, the great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, that they may find mercy. The Christ did not glorify himself, but it was the Father who said: “You are a priest forever according to the manner of Melchizedek.” (Heb. 5:6; Ps. 110:4) First, Christ was made perfect for the position of high priest by learning obedience through suffering, in order to become responsible for everlasting salvation to all those obeying him. Paul has “much to say and hard to be explained,” but the Hebrews are still babes in need of milk, when, in fact, they ought to be teachers. “Solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” The apostle urges them to “press on to maturity.”—Heb. 5:11, 14; 6:1.
14 It is impossible for those who have known the word of God and who have fallen away to be revived again to repentance “because they impale the Son of God afresh for themselves and expose him to public shame.” Only through faith and patience can believers inherit the promise made to Abraham—a promise made sure and firm by two unchangeable things: God’s word and his oath. Their hope, which is as “an anchor for the soul, both sure and firm,” has been established by Jesus’ entry “within the curtain” as Forerunner and High Priest according to the manner of Melchizedek.—6:6, 19.
15 This Melchizedek was both “king of Salem” and “priest of the Most High God.” Even the family head Abraham paid tithes to him, and through him Levi, who was still in the loins of Abraham, did so. Melchizedek’s blessing of Abraham thus extended to the unborn Levi, and this showed that the Levitical priesthood was inferior to that of Melchizedek. Further, if perfection came through the Levitical priesthood of Aaron, would there be need for another priest “according to the manner of Melchizedek”? Moreover, since there is a change of priesthood, “there comes to be of necessity a change also of the law.”—7:1, 11, 12.
16 The Law, in fact, made nothing perfect but proved to be weak and ineffective. Because they kept dying, its priests were many, but Jesus by “continuing alive forever has his priesthood without any successors. Consequently he is able also to save completely those who are approaching God through him, because he is always alive to plead for them.” This High Priest, Jesus, is “loyal, guileless, undefiled, separated from the sinners,” whereas the high priests appointed by the Law are weak, having first to offer sacrifices for their own sins before they can intercede for others. So the word of God’s sworn oath “appoints a Son, who is perfected forever.”—7:24-26, 28.
17 The superiority of the new covenant (8:1–10:31). Jesus is shown to be “the mediator of a correspondingly better covenant, which has been legally established upon better promises.” (8:6) Paul quotes in full Jeremiah 31:31-34, showing that those in the new covenant have God’s laws written in their minds and hearts, that all will know Jehovah, and that Jehovah will “by no means call their sins to mind anymore.” This “new covenant” has made obsolete the former one (the Law covenant), which is “near to vanishing away.”—Heb. 8:12, 13.
18 Paul describes the yearly sacrifices at the tent of the former covenant as “legal requirements . . . imposed until the appointed time to set things straight.” However, when Christ came as High Priest, it was with his own precious blood, and not that of goats and of young bulls. Moses’ sprinkling of the blood of animals had validated the former covenant and cleansed the typical tent, but better sacrifices were necessary for the heavenly realities in connection with the new covenant. “For Christ entered, not into a holy place made with hands, which is a copy of the reality, but into heaven itself, now to appear before the person of God for us.” Christ does not have to make yearly sacrifices, as did Israel’s high priest, for “now he has manifested himself once for all time at the conclusion of the systems of things to put sin away through the sacrifice of himself.”—9:10, 24, 26.
19 In summary, Paul says that “since the Law has a shadow of the good things to come,” its repetitious sacrifices have not been able to remove the “consciousness of sins.” However, Jesus came into the world to do God’s will. “By the said ‘will,’” says Paul, “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time.” Therefore, let the Hebrews hold fast the public declaration of their faith without wavering and “consider one another to incite to love and fine works,” not forsaking the gathering of themselves together. If they continue to sin willfully after receiving the accurate knowledge of the truth, “there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left.”—10:1, 2, 10, 24, 26.
20 Faith explained and illustrated (10:32–12:3). Paul now tells the Hebrews: “Keep on remembering the former days in which, after you were enlightened, you endured a great contest under sufferings.” Let them not throw away their freeness of speech, which has a great reward, but let them endure in order to receive the fulfillment of the promise and “have faith to the preserving alive of the soul.” Faith! Yes, that is what is needed. First, Paul defines it: “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” Then, in one inspiring chapter, he paints in quick succession brief word pictures of men of old who lived, worked, fought, endured, and became heirs of righteousness through faith. “By faith” Abraham, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, awaited “the city having real foundations,” the Builder of which is God. “By faith” Moses continued steadfast, “as seeing the One who is invisible.” “What more shall I say?” asks Paul. “For the time will fail me if I go on to relate about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David as well as Samuel and the other prophets, who through faith defeated kingdoms in conflict, effected righteousness, obtained promises.” Others too were tried through mockings, scourgings, bonds, and tortures but refused release “in order that they might attain a better resurrection.” Truly, “the world was not worthy of them.” All of these had witness borne to them through their faith, but they have yet to receive the fulfillment of the promise. “So, then,” continues Paul, “because we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also put off every weight and the sin that easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, as we look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus.”—10:32, 39; 11:1, 8, 10, 27, 32, 33, 35, 38; 12:1, 2.
21 Endurance in the contest of faith (12:4-29). Paul exhorts the Hebrew Christians to endure in the contest of faith, for Jehovah is disciplining them as sons. Now is the time to strengthen enfeebled hands and knees and to keep making straight paths for their feet. They must strictly guard against the entry of any poisonous root or defilement that could cause their rejection, as in the case of Esau, who did not appreciate sacred things. At the literal mountain, Moses said: “I am fearful and trembling” because of the fearsome display of flaming fire, the cloud, and the voice. But they have approached something far more awe-inspiring—Mount Zion and a heavenly Jerusalem, myriads of angels, the congregation of the Firstborn, God the Judge of all, and Jesus the Mediator of a new and better covenant. Now there is all the more reason to listen to divine warning! In Moses’ time God’s voice shook the earth, but now He has promised to set both heaven and earth in commotion. Paul drives home the point: “Wherefore, seeing that we are to receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us . . . acceptably render God sacred service with godly fear and awe. For our God is also a consuming fire.”—12:21, 28, 29.
22 Various exhortations on matters of worship (13:1-25). Paul concludes on a note of upbuilding counsel: Let brotherly love continue, do not forget hospitality, let marriage be honorable among all, keep free from the love of money, be obedient to those taking the lead among you, and do not be carried away by strange teachings. Finally, “through him [Jesus] let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.”—13:15.

WHY BENEFICIAL

23 As a legal argument in support of Christ, the letter to the Hebrews is an unchallengeable masterpiece, perfectly constructed and freely documented with proof from the Hebrew Scriptures. It takes the various features of the Mosaic Law—the covenant, the blood, the mediator, the tent of worship, the priesthood, the offerings—and shows them to have been nothing more than a pattern made by God pointing forward to far greater things to come, all culminating in Christ Jesus and his sacrifice, the fulfillment of the Law. The Law “which is made obsolete and growing old is near to vanishing away,” said Paul. But “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, and forever.” (8:13; 13:8; 10:1) How joyful those Hebrews must have felt on reading their letter!
24 But of what value is this to us today, in our different circumstances? Since we are not under the Law, can we find anything beneficial in Paul’s argument? Most certainly, yes. Here is outlined for us the great new covenant arrangement based on the promise to Abraham that through his Seed all families of the earth would bless themselves. This is our hope for life, our only hope, the fulfillment of Jehovah’s ancient promise of blessing through Abraham’s Seed, Jesus Christ. Although not under the Law, we are born in sin as Adam’s offspring, and we need a merciful high priest, one with a valid sin offering, one who can enter right into Jehovah’s presence in heaven and there intercede for us. Here we find him, the High Priest who can lead us to life in Jehovah’s new world, who can sympathize with our weaknesses, having “been tested in all respects like ourselves,” and who invites us to “approach with freeness of speech to the throne of undeserved kindness, that we may obtain mercy and find undeserved kindness for help at the right time.”—4:15, 16.
25 Furthermore, in Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, we find heart-stirring evidence that prophecies recorded long ago in the Hebrew Scriptures were later fulfilled in a marvelous way. All of this is for our instruction and comfort today. For example, in Hebrews, Paul five times applies the words of the Kingdom prophecy at Psalm 110:1 to Jesus Christ as the Kingdom Seed, who “has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” to wait “until his enemies should be placed as a stool for his feet.” (Heb. 12:2; 10:12, 13; 1:3, 13; 8:1) Further, Paul quotes Psalm 110:4 in explaining the important office filled by the Son of God as “a priest forever according to the manner of Melchizedek.” Like Melchizedek of old, who in the Bible record is “fatherless, motherless, without genealogy, having neither a beginning of days nor an end of life,” Jesus is both King and “a priest perpetually” to administer the everlasting benefits of his ransom sacrifice to all who obediently place themselves under his rule. (Heb. 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:1-21) It is to this same King-Priest that Paul refers in quoting Psalm 45:6, 7: “God is your throne forever and ever, and the scepter of your kingdom is the scepter of uprightness. You loved righteousness, and you hated lawlessness. That is why God, your God, anointed you with the oil of exultation more than your partners.” (Heb. 1:8, 9) As Paul quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures and shows their fulfillment in Christ Jesus, we see the pieces of the divine pattern falling into place for our enlightenment.
26 As the letter to the Hebrews clearly shows, Abraham looked forward to the Kingdom, “the city having real foundations, the builder and maker of which city is God”—the city “belonging to heaven.” “By faith” he reached out for the Kingdom, and he made great sacrifices that he might attain its blessings by “a better resurrection.” What a striking example we find in Abraham and in all those other men and women of faith—the “so great a cloud of witnesses” that Paul portrays in chapter 11 of Hebrews! As we read this record, our hearts exult and leap for joy, in appreciation of the privilege and hope we have along with such faithful integrity keepers. Thus we are encouraged to “run with endurance the race that is set before us.”—11:8, 10, 16, 35; 12:1.
27 Quoting from Haggai’s prophecy, Paul calls attention to God’s promise: “Yet once more I will set in commotion not only the earth but also the heaven.” (Heb. 12:26; Hag. 2:6) However, God’s Kingdom by Christ Jesus, the Seed, will remain forever. “Wherefore, seeing that we are to receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us continue to have undeserved kindness, through which we may acceptably render God sacred service with godly fear and awe.” This stirring record assures us that Christ appears a second time “apart from sin and to those earnestly looking for him for their salvation.” Through him, then, “let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” May the great name of Jehovah God be forever sanctified through his King-Priest, Jesus Christ!—Heb. 12:28; 9:28; 13:15.

*** it-1 p. 1078 Hebrews, Letter to the ***

[Box on page 1078]

HIGHLIGHTS OF HEBREWS

A powerful treatise that fortified Hebrew Christians and enabled them to help sincere fellow countrymen during the final years of the Jewish system
Evidently written by the apostle Paul less than a decade before Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 C.E.

The superior position occupied by God’s Son (1:1–3:6)

He is the unique Son, appointed heir, exact representation of his Father’s very being, through whom all that was made is also sustained
Compared with the Son, angels are but servants. The Father calls him alone “my son,” the Firstborn to whom even angels would do obeisance; of him and not of angels can it be said that his royal rule rests upon God as his throne, his permanence surpasses that of heavens and earth made through him, and his position is at the Father’s right hand
If the Law conveyed through angels could not be disregarded without punishment, what was spoken by God through the Son, who is higher than angels, must be given extraordinary attention
Though lower than angels as a man, Jesus Christ was afterward exalted above them and granted dominion over the inhabited earth to come
Moses was an attendant in the house of God, but Jesus Christ is over the entire house

Entering God’s rest still possible (3:7–4:13)

Because of disobedience and lack of faith, the Israelites who left Egypt failed to enter God’s rest
Christians can enter God’s rest, provided they avoid Israel’s disobedience and exert themselves in a course of faithfulness
The living word promising entrance into God’s rest is sharper than a sword, dividing (by a person’s response to it) between what he may appear to be as a soul and what he really is as to his spirit

Superiority of Christ’s priesthood and the new covenant (4:14–10:31)

Because of having been tested in all respects yet remaining sinless, Jesus Christ as high priest can sympathize with sinful humans and deal compassionately with them
He is priest by God’s appointment according to the manner of Melchizedek, whose priesthood was greater than the Levitical priesthood
Unlike Levite priests in Aaron’s family, Jesus Christ possesses an indestructible life and thus requires no successors to continue his saving work; he is sinless and so does not need to present sacrifices for himself; he offered up his own body, not animals, and entered, not an earthly sanctuary, but heaven itself with the value of his outpoured blood, thereby validating the new covenant
The new covenant, with Jesus as Mediator, is superior to the Law covenant in that those in it have God’s laws in their hearts and enjoy true forgiveness of sins
Appreciation for these benefits will move Christians to make public declaration of hope and to assemble regularly

Faith essential to please God (10:32–12:29)

Jehovah is displeased with those faithlessly shrinking back from him instead of enduring so as to receive what he has promised
The exemplary faith of integrity-keepers from Abel onward serves as encouragement to endurance in the Christian race, while considering closely Jesus Christ and his flawless course under suffering
The suffering that God permits to befall faithful Christians may be viewed as a form of discipline from him, designed to produce the peaceful fruit of righteousness
Exhortations to pursue a faithful course (13:1-25)
Manifest brotherly love, be hospitable, remember believers who are suffering, maintain marriage in honor, and be content with present things, confident of Jehovah’s help
Imitate the faith of those taking the lead, and avoid succumbing to strange teachings
Be willing to bear reproach as Christ did; always offer to God sacrifice of praise through him
Be obedient to those taking the lead

*** w91 2/15 pp. 24-25 Why Christian Worship Is Superior ***

Why Christian Worship Is Superior

Highlights From the Letter to the Hebrews

JEHOVAH GOD introduced superior features of worship when he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to the earth. That was so because Jesus, the Founder of Christianity, is superior to the angels and the prophet Moses. Christ’s priesthood is of great superiority when compared to that of the Levites in ancient Israel. And Jesus’ sacrifice is far superior to that of animals offered under the Mosaic Law.
These points are made clear in the letter to the Hebrews. Apparently it was penned by the apostle Paul in Rome about 61 C.E. and sent to Hebrew believers in Judea. From early times, Greek and Asiatic Christians held that Paul was the writer, and this is supported by both the writer’s comprehensive familiarity with the Hebrew Scriptures and his use of logical development, which are typical of the apostle. He may have omitted his name because of Jewish prejudice against him and because he was known as “an apostle to the nations.” (Romans 11:13) Now let us take a closer look at the superior features of Christianity, as revealed in Paul’s letter to the Hebrews.

Christ Superior to Angels and Moses

Shown first is the superior position of God’s Son. (1:1–3:6) Angels do obeisance to him, and his kingly rule rests upon God. So we should give extraordinary attention to what was spoken by the Son. Moreover, we should remember that even though the man Jesus was lower than the angels, he was exalted above them and given dominion over the inhabited earth to come.
Jesus Christ is also superior to Moses. How so? Well, Moses was only an attendant in the Israelite house of God. However, Jehovah placed Jesus over that entire house, or congregation of God’s people.

Christians Enter God’s Rest

The apostle next points out that it is possible to enter into God’s rest. (3:7–4:13) The Israelites freed from Egyptian bondage failed to enter into it because they were disobedient and lacked faith. But we can enter into that rest if we exercise faith in God and obediently follow Christ. Then, instead of just observing a weekly Sabbath, we will daily enjoy the superior blessing of having rest from all selfish works.
Entry into God’s rest is one promise of his word, which “is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit.” It does so in that it penetrates to discern motives and attitudes, to divide between fleshly desires and mental disposition. (Compare Romans 7:25.) If our “soul,” or life as an individual, is coupled with a godly “spirit,” or disposition, we can enter into God’s rest.

Superior Priesthood and Covenant

Paul next shows the superiority of Christ’s priesthood and of the new covenant. (4:14–10:31) The sinless Jesus Christ has compassion for sinful humans because, like us, he has been tested in all respects. Moreover, God has appointed him “a priest forever according to the manner of Melchizedek.” Unlike Levitical high priests, Jesus possesses an indestructible life and thus needs no successors in his saving work. He does not have to offer up animal sacrifices, for he has offered up his greatly superior sinless body and has entered heaven with the value of his blood.
The new covenant, validated by Jesus’ blood, is superior to the Law covenant. Those in the new covenant have God’s laws in their hearts and enjoy forgiveness of sins. (Jeremiah 31:31-34) Gratitude for this moves them to make public declaration of their hope and to assemble with fellow believers. Unlike them, willful sinners no longer have any sacrifice for sins.

Faith Is Vital!

To benefit from the superior new covenant, we need faith. (10:32–12:29) Endurance is also needed if we are to receive what Jehovah has promised. As encouragement to endure, we have a ‘great cloud’ of pre-Christian witnesses surrounding us. Especially, however, should we consider closely Jesus’ flawless course under suffering. Any suffering that God allows to befall us may in a sense be viewed as discipline that can yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness. The reliability of Jehovah’s promises should increase our desire to render sacred service to him “with godly fear and awe.”
Paul concludes with exhortations. (13:1-25) Faith should move us to display brotherly love, be hospitable, remember suffering fellow believers, hold marriage in honor, and be “content with the present things.” We should imitate the faith of those taking the lead in the congregation and should obey them. Moreover, we must avoid apostasy, bear the reproach Jesus bore, “always offer to God a sacrifice of praise,” and continue to do good. Such conduct is also among the superior features of true Christianity.

[Box/Picture on page 24]

Various Baptisms: Features of worship at Israel’s tabernacle had to do “only with foods and drinks and various baptisms.” (Hebrews 9:9, 10) These baptisms were ritual washings required by the Mosaic Law. Vessels made unclean were washed, and ceremonial cleansing included washing one’s garments and bathing. (Leviticus 11:32; 14:8, 9; 15:5) Priests bathed, and things having to do with burnt offerings were rinsed in water. (Exodus 29:4; 30:17-21; Leviticus 1:13; 2 Chronicles 4:6) But the “various baptisms” did not include the ritualistic ‘baptizing of cups, pitchers, and copper vessels’ practiced by some Jews by the time the Messiah arrived; nor does Hebrews 9:10 refer to water immersion performed by John the Baptizer or to the baptism of those symbolizing their dedication to God as Christians.—Matthew 28:19, 20; Mark 7:4; Luke 3:3.

*** w08 10/15 p. 31 - p. 32 Highlights From the Letters to Titus, to Philemon, and to the Hebrews ***

“PRESS ON TO MATURITY”

(Heb. 1:1–13:25)
To prove that faith in Jesus’ sacrifice is superior to works of Law, Paul highlights the excellency of Christianity’s Founder, his priesthood, his sacrifice, and the new covenant. (Heb. 3:1-3; 7:1-3, 22; 8:6; 9:11-14, 25, 26) This knowledge certainly must have helped Hebrew Christians to deal with the persecution that they suffered at the hands of the Jews. Paul urges his Hebrew fellow believers to “press on to maturity.”—Heb. 6:1.
How important is faith under the Christian arrangement? “Without faith it is impossible to please [God] well,” writes Paul. He encourages the Hebrews: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” doing so in faith.—Heb. 11:6; 12:1.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

2:14, 15—Does Satan’s “having the means to cause death” indicate that he can cause the premature death of anyone he chooses? No, it does not. However, from the start of Satan’s course of wickedness in Eden, his lies have caused death because Adam sinned and passed sin and death on to the human family. (Rom. 5:12) Furthermore, Satan’s earthly agents have persecuted servants of God to the point of death, even as they did Jesus. But that does not mean that Satan has limitless power to kill anyone he wants. If that were so, he would no doubt have wiped out Jehovah’s worshippers long ago. Jehovah protects his people as a group and does not allow Satan to exterminate them. Even if God permits some of us to die under Satan’s attacks, we can be confident that God will undo whatever harm is brought upon us.
4:9-11—How do we “enter into [God’s] rest”? At the end of the six days of creation, God rested from his creative works, confident that his purpose regarding the earth and mankind would be fulfilled. (Gen. 1:28; 2:2, 3) We “enter into that rest” by desisting from doing works of self-justification and by accepting God’s provision for our salvation. When we exercise faith in Jehovah and obediently follow his Son rather than pursue selfish interests, we enjoy refreshing and restful blessings every day.—Matt. 11:28-30.
9:16—Who is “the human covenanter” of the new covenant? Jehovah is the Maker of the new covenant, while Jesus is “the human covenanter.” Jesus is the Mediator of that covenant, and by his death, he provided the sacrifice needed to validate it.—Luke 22:20; Heb. 9:15.
11:10, 13-16—What “city” was Abraham awaiting? This was not a literal city but a symbolic one. Abraham was awaiting “heavenly Jerusalem,” composed of Christ Jesus and his 144,000 corulers. These corulers in their heavenly glory are also spoken of as “the holy city, New Jerusalem.” (Heb. 12:22; Rev. 14:1; 21:2) Abraham was looking forward to life under the rule of God’s Kingdom.
12:2—What was “the joy that was set before [Jesus]” for which “he endured a torture stake”? It was the joy of seeing what his ministry would accomplish—including the sanctification of Jehovah’s name, the vindication of God’s sovereignty, and the ransoming of the human family from death. Jesus also looked ahead to the reward of ruling as King and serving as High Priest to the benefit of mankind.
13:20—Why is the new covenant spoken of as being “everlasting”? For three reasons: (1) It will never be replaced, (2) its results are permanent, and (3) the “other sheep” will continue to benefit from the new covenant arrangement after Armageddon.—John 10:16.

Lessons for Us:

5:14. We should be diligent students of God’s Word, the Bible, and apply what we learn from it. There is no other way to have our “perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.”—1 Cor. 2:10.
6:17-19. Having our hope solidly based on God’s promise and his oath will help us not to deviate from walking in the way of the truth.
12:3, 4. Rather than ‘getting tired and giving out in our souls’ because of minor trials or opposition that we may encounter, we should make progress toward maturity and improve our ability to endure trials. We should be determined to resist “as far as blood,” that is, to the point of dying.—Heb. 10:36-39.
12:13-15. We should not allow a “poisonous root,” or any in the congregation who find fault with the way things are done, to prevent us from ‘making straight paths for our feet.’
12:26-28. The “things that have been made” by hands other than God’s—the entire present system of things, even the wicked “heaven”—are to be shaken out of existence. When that happens, only “the things not being shaken,” that is, the Kingdom and its supporters, will remain. How vital that we zealously proclaim the Kingdom and live by its principles!
13:7, 17. Keeping in focus this admonition to be obedient and submissive to the overseers in the congregations will help us to manifest a cooperative spirit.


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James


James

*** si pp. 248-251 Bible Book Number 59—James ***

Bible Book Number 59—James
Writer: James
Place Written: Jerusalem
Writing Completed: Before 62 C.E.
“HE HAS gone out of his mind.” That is what Jesus’ relatives thought of him. During the time of his earthly ministry, “his brothers were, in fact, not exercising faith in him,” and James, along with Joseph, Simon, and Judas, was not counted as one of Jesus’ early disciples. (Mark 3:21; John 7:5; Matt. 13:55) On what grounds can it be said, then, that James the half brother of Jesus wrote the Bible book that bears the name James?
2 The record shows that the resurrected Jesus appeared to James, and this no doubt convinced him beyond question that Jesus was the Messiah. (1 Cor. 15:7) Acts 1:12-14 says that even before Pentecost, Mary and the brothers of Jesus were assembling for prayer with the apostles in an upper chamber in Jerusalem. But did not one of the apostles called James write the letter? No, for at the outset the writer identifies himself, not as an apostle, but as ‘a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Moreover, Jude’s introductory words, similar to those of James, mention Jude (or Judas) also as “a slave of Jesus Christ, but a brother of James.” (Jas. 1:1; Jude 1) From this we can safely conclude that James and Jude, the fleshly half brothers of Jesus, wrote the Bible books that bear their names.
3 James was eminently qualified to write a letter of counsel to the Christian congregation. He was greatly respected as an overseer in the Jerusalem congregation. Paul speaks of “James the brother of the Lord” as one of the “pillars” in the congregation along with Cephas and John. (Gal. 1:19; 2:9) James’ prominence is indicated by Peter’s sending immediate word to “James and the brothers” after his release from prison. And was it not James who acted as spokesman for “the apostles and the older men” when Paul and Barnabas journeyed to Jerusalem to request a decision regarding circumcision? Incidentally, this decision and the letter of James both start with the identical salutation, “Greetings!”—another indication that they had a common writer.—Acts 12:17; 15:13, 22, 23; Jas. 1:1.
4 The historian Josephus tells us it was High Priest Ananus (Ananias), a Sadducee, who was responsible for the death of James by stoning. This was after the death of the Roman governor Festus, about 62 C.E., and before his successor, Albinus, took office. But when did James write his letter? James addressed his letter from Jerusalem to “the twelve tribes that are scattered about,” literally, “the (ones) in the dispersion.” (Jas. 1:1, footnote) It would have required time for Christianity to spread out following the outpouring of holy spirit in 33 C.E., and it would have required time, also, for the alarming conditions mentioned in the letter to develop. Further, the letter indicates that the Christians were no longer small groups but that they were organized into congregations with mature “older men” who could pray for and support the weak. Additionally, sufficient time had elapsed for a measure of complacency and formalism to creep in. (2:1-4; 4:1-3; 5:14; 1:26, 27) It is most probable, therefore, that James wrote his letter at a late date, perhaps shortly before 62 C.E., if Josephus’ account about the events surrounding the death of Festus and if the sources placing Festus’ death in about 62 C.E. are correct.
5 As to the authenticity of James, it is contained in the Vatican No. 1209, the Sinaitic, and the Alexandrine manuscripts. It is included in at least ten ancient catalogs prior to the Council of Carthage 397 C.E. It was widely quoted by early ecclesiastical writers. A deep inner harmony with the rest of the inspired Scriptures is very evident in James’ writings.
6 Why did James write this letter? A careful consideration of the letter discloses that internal conditions were causing difficulties among the brothers. Christian standards were being lowered, yes, even ignored, so that some had become spiritual adulteresses as regards friendship with the world. Eager to invent supposed contradictions, some have claimed that James’ letter encouraging faith by works nullifies Paul’s writings regarding salvation by faith and not by works. However, the context reveals that James refers to faith supported by works, not just words, whereas Paul clearly means works of the Law. Actually, James supplements the arguments of Paul, going one step further by defining how faith is made manifest. James’ counsel is most practical in its coverage of the day-to-day problems of the Christian.
7 Illustrations from everyday life, including animals, boats, farmers, and vegetation, give colorful backing to James’ arguments on faith, patience, and endurance. This copying of Jesus’ successful teaching methods makes his counsel extremely forceful. This letter impresses one with James’ keen discernment of the motives prompting individuals.

CONTENTS OF JAMES

8 Patient endurance as “doers of the word” (1:1-27). James opens with words of encouragement: “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials.” Through patient endurance they will be made complete. If a person lacks wisdom, he should keep asking God for it, not in doubt, like a wind-tossed wave of the sea, but in faith. The lowly will be exalted, but the rich will fade away like the flower that perishes. Happy is the man that endures trial, for “he will receive the crown of life, which Jehovah promised to those who continue loving him.” God does not tempt man with evil things to cause his downfall. It is one’s own wrong desire that becomes fertile and gives birth to sin, and this, in turn, brings forth death.—1:2, 12, 22.
9 From where do all good gifts come? From the never-varying ‘Father of celestial lights.’ “Because he willed it,” says James, “he brought us forth by the word of truth, for us to be a certain firstfruits of his creatures.” Christians, then, should be swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath, and they should put away all filthiness and moral badness and accept the implanting of the word of salvation. “Become doers of the word, and not hearers only.” For he who peers into the mirrorlike law of freedom and persists in it “will be happy in his doing it.” The formal worship of the man that does not bridle his tongue is futile, but “the form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.”—1:17, 18, 22, 25, 27.
10 Faith perfected by right works (2:1-26). The brothers are making distinctions, preferring the rich above the poor. But is it not true that “God chose the ones who are poor respecting the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom”? Are not the rich oppressors? The brothers should practice the kingly law, “You must love your neighbor as yourself,” and should shun favoritism. Let them also practice mercy, for as regards the Law, whoever offends in one point offends in all. Faith without works is meaningless, as is telling a needy brother or sister to “keep warm and well fed” without giving practical aid. Can faith be shown apart from works? Was not Abraham’s faith perfected by his works in offering Isaac on the altar? Likewise, Rahab the harlot was “declared righteous by works.” So faith without works is dead.—2:5, 8, 16, 19, 25.
11 Controlling the tongue to teach wisdom (3:1-18). The brothers should be wary about becoming teachers, lest they receive heavier judgment. Everyone stumbles many times. As a bridle controls a horse’s body and a small rudder a large boat, so that little member, the tongue, has great power. It is like a fire that can set a great woodland on fire! Wild animals can be tamed more easily than the tongue. With it men bless Jehovah, yet curse their fellowman. This is not proper. Does a fountain produce both bitter water and sweet? Can a fig tree produce olives? a vine, figs? salt water, sweet water? James asks: “Who is wise and understanding among you?” Let him show his works with meekness and avoid contentiousness, animalistic bragging against the truth. For “the wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits, not making partial distinctions, not hypocritical.”—3:13, 17.
12 Shun sensual pleasure, friendship with the world (4:1-17). “From what source are there fights among you?” James answers his own question: “Your cravings for sensual pleasure”! The motives of some are wrong. Those who would be friends of the world are “adulteresses,” and they become God’s enemies. Therefore, he exhorts: “Oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.” Jehovah will exalt the humble. So the brothers should quit judging one another. And because no one can be sure of his life from one day to the next, they ought to say: “If Jehovah wills, we shall live and also do this or that.” Pride is wicked, and it is a sin to know what is right and not do it.—4:1, 4, 7, 8, 15.
13 Happy those who endure in righteousness! (5:1-20). ‘Weep and howl, you rich men!’ declares James. ‘The rust of your wealth will be witness against you. Jehovah of armies has heard the calls for help from the reapers that you have deprived. You have lived in luxury and sensual pleasure, and you have condemned and murdered the righteous one.’ However, in view of the nearness of the Lord’s presence, the brothers should exercise patience, like the farmer waiting for his harvest, and consider the pattern of the prophets, “who spoke in the name of Jehovah.” Happy are those who have endured! The brothers should recall the endurance of Job and the outcome Jehovah gave, “that Jehovah is very tender in affection and merciful.”—5:1-6, 10, 11.
14 Let them stop swearing oaths. Rather, let their “Yes mean Yes” and their “No, No.” They should openly confess their sins and pray for one another. As is shown by Elijah’s prayers, “a righteous man’s supplication . . . has much force.” If anyone is misled from the truth, the one who turns him back “will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”—5:12, 16, 20.

WHY BENEFICIAL

15 Though James only twice mentions the name Jesus (1:1; 2:1), he makes much practical application of the teachings of the Master, as a careful comparison of James’ letter and the Sermon on the Mount reveals. At the same time, Jehovah’s name appears 13 times (New World Translation), and his promises are emphasized as rewards for faith-keeping Christians. (4:10; 5:11) James draws repeatedly on the Hebrew Scriptures for illustrations and apt quotations in order to develop his practical counsel. He identifies the source by his expressions: “according to the scripture,” “the scripture was fulfilled,” and “the scripture says”; and he goes on to apply these scriptures to Christian living. (2:8, 23; 4:5) In making plain points of counsel and building faith in God’s Word as a harmonious whole, James makes appropriate references to Abraham’s works of faith, to Rahab’s demonstration of faith by works, to Job’s faithful endurance, and to Elijah’s reliance on prayer.—Jas. 2:21-25; 5:11, 17, 18; Gen. 22:9-12; Josh. 2:1-21; Job 1:20-22; 42:10; 1 Ki. 17:1; 18:41-45.
16 Invaluable is James’ counsel to be doers of the word and not just hearers, to keep proving faith by works of righteousness, to find joy in enduring various trials, to keep on asking God for wisdom, always to draw close to him in prayer, and to practice the kingly law, “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Jas. 1:22; 2:24; 1:2, 5; 4:8; 5:13-18; 2:8) Strong are his warnings against teaching error, injuriously using the tongue, making class distinctions in the congregation, craving sensual pleasure, and trusting in corruptible riches. (3:1, 8; 2:4; 4:3; 5:1, 5) James makes it very plain that friendship with the world amounts to spiritual adultery and enmity with God, and he gives the definition of the practical form of worship that is clean in God’s sight: “to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.” (4:4; 1:27) All this counsel, so practical and easy to understand, is just what could be expected from this ‘pillar’ of the early Christian congregation. (Gal. 2:9) Its kindly message continues as a guidepost for Christians in our turbulent times, for it is “wisdom from above,” which produces “the fruit of righteousness.”—3:17, 18.
17 James was anxious to help his brothers reach their goal of life in God’s Kingdom. So he urges them: “You too exercise patience; make your hearts firm, because the presence of the Lord has drawn close.” They are happy if they go on enduring trial because God’s approval means receiving “the crown of life, which Jehovah promised to those who continue loving him.” (5:8; 1:12) Thus God’s promise of the crown of life—either immortal life in the heavens or eternal life on earth—is emphasized as strong reason for enduring in faithful works. Surely this wonderful letter will encourage all to reach out for the goal of everlasting life either in heaven or in Jehovah’s new world ruled by the Kingdom Seed, our Lord Jesus Christ.—2:5.

*** it-1 p. 1253 James, Letter of ***

[Box on page 1253]

HIGHLIGHTS OF JAMES

A letter emphasizing that faith has to be demonstrated by works
Written before 62 C.E., more than eight years prior to Jerusalem’s destruction by the Romans
Christians enduring faithfully under trial have reason to be happy (1:1-18)
God will generously give us the wisdom needed to endure if we keep asking for it in faith
Never does God try us with evil things; but a person may be enticed into a wrong course by his own wrong desire
Everything that Jehovah provides is good
Worship that is acceptable to God requires right works to demonstrate one’s faith (1:19–2:26)
Put away all badness and accept God’s word with mildness; be a doer of the word and not merely a hearer
Learn to control the tongue, look after orphans and widows, and keep without spot from the world
Favoring the rich while disregarding the poor is a violation of “the kingly law” of love
A living faith is revealed by works, as is evident in the examples of Abraham and Rahab
Teachers have a great responsibility before Jehovah (3:1-18)
They, and all Christians, must learn to control the tongue
They can do this if they manifest wisdom from above
Worldly tendencies will affect our relationship with God (4:1–5:12)
Those guilty of fighting to attain their selfish aims or those condemning their brothers need to repent
Friendship with the world is enmity with God
Materialistic planning that ignores Jehovah’s will is arrogant
Divine judgment is in store for rich, defrauding oppressors
A spirit of impatience and sighing under adversity must be guarded against while we wait for Jesus Christ to judge
To recover from spiritual sickness resulting from sin, the suffering one should call on elders for help (5:13-20)
An open confession of sin as well as prayers on behalf of the sinner by the elders will promote spiritual healing
To recover an erring brother is to save him from spiritual death


*** w91 3/15 p. 23 Why We Need Faith and Wisdom ***

Why We Need Faith and Wisdom

Highlights From the Letter of James

JEHOVAH’S servants need endurance when under trial. They must also avoid conduct that would result in divine disapproval. Such points are emphasized in the letter of James, and doing something positive about them calls for active faith and heavenly wisdom.
The writer of this letter does not identify himself as one of Jesus’ two apostles named James but as ‘a slave of God and of Christ.’ Similarly, Jesus’ half brother Jude says he is “a slave of Jesus Christ, but a brother of James.” (James 1:1; Jude 1; Matthew 10:2, 3) Hence, Jesus’ half brother James evidently wrote the letter bearing his name.—Mark 6:3.
This letter does not mention Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E., and the historian Josephus indicates that James was martyred shortly after the death of the Roman procurator Festus in about 62 C.E. Apparently, then, the letter was written before 62 C.E. It was addressed to “the twelve tribes” of spiritual Israel, for it was directed to those holding to “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.”—James 1:1; 2:1; Galatians 6:16.
James uses illustrations that can help us to remember his counsel. For instance, he shows that a man asking God for wisdom should not doubt, “for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven by the wind and blown about.” (1:5-8) Our tongue should be controlled because it can direct our course as a rudder directs a boat. (3:1, 4) And to cope with trials, we need to display patient endurance as does a farmer when awaiting the harvest.—5:7, 8.

Faith, Trials, and Works

James first shows that we can be happy as Christians despite our trials. (1:1-18) Some of these trials, such as illnesses, are common to all humans, but Christians also suffer for being slaves of God and of Christ. Jehovah will grant us the wisdom needed to endure if we keep asking for it in faith. He never tries us with evil things, and we can rely on him to provide what is good.
To receive God’s help, we must render worship to him through works that demonstrate our faith. (1:19–2:26) This requires that we be “doers of the word,” not mere hearers. We must control the tongue, look after orphans and widows, and remain without spot from the world. If we favored the rich and disregarded the poor, we would violate “the kingly law” of love. We also need to remember that faith is shown by works, as the examples of Abraham and Rahab well illustrate. Indeed, “faith without works is dead.”

Heavenly Wisdom and Prayer

Teachers need both faith and wisdom to discharge their duties. (3:1-18) They have a very heavy responsibility as instructors. Like them, we must control the tongue—something that heavenly wisdom helps us to do.
Wisdom also enables us to realize that yielding to worldly tendencies would damage our relationship with God. (4:1–5:12) If we have fought to attain selfish aims or have condemned our brothers, we need to repent. And how important it is to avoid friendship with this world, for this is spiritual adultery! Let us never ignore God’s will by materialistic planning, and may we guard against a spirit of impatience and sighing against one another.
Anyone spiritually sick should seek the help of congregation elders. (5:13-20) If sins have been committed, their prayers and wise counsel will help to restore a repentant sinner’s spiritual health. In fact, “he who turns a sinner back from the error of his way will save [the wrongdoer’s] soul from [spiritual and eternal] death.”

[Box on page 23]

Doers of the Word: We should be “doers of the word, and not hearers only.” (James 1:22-25) A mere hearer “is like a man looking at his natural face in a mirror.” After a brief inspection, he departs “and immediately forgets what sort of man he is.” But a ‘doer of the word’ carefully looks at God’s perfect, or complete, law, embracing everything required of a Christian. He “persists in it,” continuing to scrutinize that law with a view to making corrections so as to conform to it closely. (Psalm 119:16) How does “a doer of the work” differ from a man who glances into a mirror and forgets what it reveals? Why, the doer puts Jehovah’s word to work and enjoys His favor!—Psalm 19:7-11.

*** w08 11/15 p. 20 - p. 21 Highlights From the Letters of James and of Peter ***

GOD GIVES WISDOM TO THOSE “ASKING IN FAITH”

(Jas. 1:1–5:20)
“Happy is the man that keeps on enduring trial,” writes James, “because on becoming approved he will receive the crown of life.” To those who “keep on asking in faith,” Jehovah grants wisdom needed to endure trials.—Jas. 1:5-8, 12.
Faith and wisdom are also needed by those who “become teachers” in the congregation. After identifying the tongue as “a little member” capable of ‘spotting up the whole body,’ James warns of worldly tendencies that can damage one’s relationship with God. He also outlines the steps anyone spiritually sick should take in order to recover.—Jas. 3:1, 5, 6; 5:14, 15.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

2:13—In what way does ‘mercy exult triumphantly over judgment’? When it comes to rendering an account for ourselves to God, he takes into consideration the mercy we have shown toward others and forgives us on the basis of the ransom sacrifice of his Son. (Rom. 14:12) Is this not one reason to make mercy a dominant quality in our lives?
4:5—What scripture is James quoting here? James is not quoting any specific verse. However, these divinely inspired words are possibly based on the general thought behind such scriptures as Genesis 6:5; 8:21; Proverbs 21:10; and Galatians 5:17.
5:20—“He who turns a sinner back from the error of his way” will save whose soul from death? A Christian who turns a wrongdoer back from a sinful course saves the soul of the repentant person from spiritual death and perhaps from everlasting destruction. The individual helping the sinner in this way will also “cover a multitude of [that one’s] sins.”

Lessons for Us:

1:14, 15. Sin has its beginning in improper desire. Therefore, we should not nurture wrong desires by dwelling on them. Rather, we need to “continue considering” upbuilding things and filling our minds and hearts with them.—Phil. 4:8.
2:8, 9. “Showing favoritism” is contrary to “the kingly law” of love. Hence, true Christians do not show favoritism.
2:14-26. We are “saved through faith,” “not owing to works” of the Mosaic Law or of those performed as Christians. Our faith should be more than mere professed faith. (Eph. 2:8, 9; John 3:16) It should move us to godly action.
3:13-17. “The wisdom from above” surely is superior to “the earthly, animal, demonic” wisdom! We should ‘keep searching for godly wisdom as for hid treasures.’—Prov. 2:1-5.
3:18, footnotes. The seed of the Kingdom good news is to be “sown with peace by those who are making peace.” It is important that we be peacemakers and not arrogant, quarrelsome, or riotous.

*** w08 11/15 p. 20 - p. 21 Highlights From the Letters of James and of Peter ***

GOD GIVES WISDOM TO THOSE “ASKING IN FAITH”

(Jas. 1:1–5:20)
“Happy is the man that keeps on enduring trial,” writes James, “because on becoming approved he will receive the crown of life.” To those who “keep on asking in faith,” Jehovah grants wisdom needed to endure trials.—Jas. 1:5-8, 12.
Faith and wisdom are also needed by those who “become teachers” in the congregation. After identifying the tongue as “a little member” capable of ‘spotting up the whole body,’ James warns of worldly tendencies that can damage one’s relationship with God. He also outlines the steps anyone spiritually sick should take in order to recover.—Jas. 3:1, 5, 6; 5:14, 15.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

2:13—In what way does ‘mercy exult triumphantly over judgment’? When it comes to rendering an account for ourselves to God, he takes into consideration the mercy we have shown toward others and forgives us on the basis of the ransom sacrifice of his Son. (Rom. 14:12) Is this not one reason to make mercy a dominant quality in our lives?
4:5—What scripture is James quoting here? James is not quoting any specific verse. However, these divinely inspired words are possibly based on the general thought behind such scriptures as Genesis 6:5; 8:21; Proverbs 21:10; and Galatians 5:17.
5:20—“He who turns a sinner back from the error of his way” will save whose soul from death? A Christian who turns a wrongdoer back from a sinful course saves the soul of the repentant person from spiritual death and perhaps from everlasting destruction. The individual helping the sinner in this way will also “cover a multitude of [that one’s] sins.”

Lessons for Us:

1:14, 15. Sin has its beginning in improper desire. Therefore, we should not nurture wrong desires by dwelling on them. Rather, we need to “continue considering” upbuilding things and filling our minds and hearts with them.—Phil. 4:8.
2:8, 9. “Showing favoritism” is contrary to “the kingly law” of love. Hence, true Christians do not show favoritism.
2:14-26. We are “saved through faith,” “not owing to works” of the Mosaic Law or of those performed as Christians. Our faith should be more than mere professed faith. (Eph. 2:8, 9; John 3:16) It should move us to godly action.
3:13-17. “The wisdom from above” surely is superior to “the earthly, animal, demonic” wisdom! We should ‘keep searching for godly wisdom as for hid treasures.’—Prov. 2:1-5.
3:18, footnotes. The seed of the Kingdom good news is to be “sown with peace by those who are making peace.” It is important that we be peacemakers and not arrogant, quarrelsome, or riotous.


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