“[…] I hold this against you, that you have left the love you had at first.”
If we feel our love for true worship waning, what can we do to revive it?
We can try to remember what drew us to Jehovah in the first place and what convinced us that we had found the truth.
Those reasons are probably still valid. (Ps. 119:151,152; Mal. 3:6; Jas. 1:17)
We can also meditate on what Jehovah has done for us over the years since we dedicated our lives to him.
What trials has he helped us to endure? (1 Cor. 10:13)
What blessings have we personally received as a result of obeying him? (Ps. 34:8)
We may find that the time we have available for spiritual matters has lessened due to changes in personal circumstances.
If that is the case, we can remember the struggle the Ephesians had to keep a balanced life.
Ephesus was a very wealthy city, having a long street paved in marble.
There was a temple for the Greek goddess of fertility and a stadium featuring live violent entertainment.
It was also known for its dark magical arts.
Every year, it hosted hundreds of thousands of visitors. (Ephesus; Ephesians, Letter)
The Christians who lived there towards the end of the first century were enduring despite the pressures, but what Jesus asked of them was wholehearted resolve to grow in zeal. (Rev. 2:3,5)
“The older man to the chosen lady and to her children, whom I truly love, and not only I but also all those who have come to know the truth.”
~2 John vs. 1
Why do some believe that the Apostle John was using the phrase “the chosen lady” as a metaphor to address a specific congregation?
John had spent two years exiled on Patmos for being an active Christian, but was liberated by Emperor Nerva in the year 98 C.E. (Rev. 1:9; Insight)
Emperor Nerva had ruled for less than two years and died shortly thereafter. (Nerva Rises to Power, Legacy)
He was succeeded by his adopted son, Trajan around the time John wrote his epistles.
It is possible that John used the phrase “chosen lady” as a metaphor to protect that congregation from persecutors.
John was in Ephesus at the time and the new Emperor’s stance toward Christians was unknown for the first few years of his reign.
At least thirteen years later, the governor of the nearby Bithynia wrote to the emperor about his execution of Christians who refused to bow before Ceasar and requested more instructions on the matter. (Letters between Pliny and Trajan; ancient map of Turkey).
It can be deduced, then, that even under the reign of Trajan, Christians had to remain anonymous to feel any measure of security.
It is also interesting to note that all of John’s references to love in his letter are in the Greek form “agape,” which is a love based on ethical responsibility, as opposed to the Greek words used for brotherly or romantic affection.
A couple other passages I enjoyed from last week’s reading:
“No greater joy do I have than this: that I should hear that my children go on walking in the truth.”
~3 John vs. 4
“I found it necessary to write you to urge you to put up a hard fight for the faith […].”
~Jude vs. 3
While I personally do not have children, it is an incomparable joy when I see some of my Bible students develop their love for God and benefit from applying Bible principles in their lives. Even though they may make mistakes down the line, it strengthens me to hear they are humble and continue to “put up a hard fight for the faith.”
“[…] Jehovah knows how to rescue people of godly devotion out of trial […].”
~2 Peter 2:9
Peter knew he would die the death of a martyr, but this did not weaken his faith in Jehovah. (John 21:18; 2 Pet. 1:13-15)
He put his trust in God’s undeserved kindness and the transcendence of divine justice. (2 Pet. 1:2; 3:13,18)
We may end up in a painful life situation where we know we are to endure a strenuous trial in the near future.
This might be due to health issues or other unfair circumstances.
If we are convinced of Jehovah’s love for us, we can face our trials with courage, and we will never lose hope in God’s promises. (Rom. 8:35-39; 2 Pet. 1:10,11)
“[The undeserved kindness of God] trains us to reject ungodliness and worldly desires and to live with soundness of mind and righteousness and godly devotion amid this present system of things.”
Paul mentions soundness of mind three times in his letter to Titus, as well as alluding to our use of reason. (Tit. 1:8; 2:5; 3:2)
It seems to be the underlying theme of his letter.
He says that for someone whose mind and conscience are defiled, “nothing is clean,” right before he condemns religious hypocrisy. (Tit. 1:15,16)
We can conclude, then, that in order to have a stronger sound mind, we need to continuously nurture our own moral thoughts so as to have purer motives.
A Christian with a sound mind is one who adopts Christ’s way of thinking over his or her own. (Matt. 6:33,34; Rom. 12:2; Phil. 1:9,10; 4:4-7; 1 Pet. 4:7,8)
If we feel this world is pushing us toward our tipping point, we can meditate on the transcendence of God’s promises. (Tit. 1:2)
“[…] You may have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but as more than a slave, as a brother who is beloved […].
~Philemon 15, 16
In his letter to Philemon, Paul entreats him to welcome back their fellow Christian, Onesimus, as a brother more so than as an escaped slave.
Paul did not use his authority in the congregation to promote personal opinions on civic matters.
Instead, he appealed to his friend’s love for God and others. (Phil. 9)
Even today, in such a hate-filled world in which we feel the effects of generations of injustice, we can trust that divine love is capable of eradicating the root causes of inequality. (1 John 4:21)
“[…] I desire the younger widows to marry, to bear children, to manage a household, to give no opportunity to the opposer to criticize.”
~1 Timothy 5:14
I have mixed feelings every time I read this passage.
Why did Paul’s advice differ from that given to the women in Corinth ten years earlier? (1 Cor. 7:8,9)
Why did Paul assume that a younger woman was incapable of controlling her sexual desires to the point of remaining single? (1 Tim. 5:11)
Christian women in the first century did not have less help from God’s holy spirit to exercise self-control, so it seems to me he made a rather sexist assumption. (Gal. 5:22-24)
While I can understand that some women who had originally felt hopeless and asked for the congregation’s material assistance might eventually backtrack on their choice and decide to remarry, it is a bit irritating that Paul would state that choice as a matter of fact. (1 Tim. 5:12)
It does seem that he was more concerned with protecting the congregation’s reputation than he was with advocating women’s rights.
While I struggle to see beyond my scope of modern millennial culture, the 2011 Watchtower, July Study edition, points out: “Paul’s words are directed to certain ‘younger widows,’ but the principles he mentions apply to all of us.”
The article goes on to explain that when we keep ourselves busy with good works, we are less likely to do harm to others, for example through gossip. (1 Tim. 5:13)
Paul also stressed the need for extended family members to care for each other first. (1 Tim. 5:16)
So whatever Paul’s reasons were for wording his instructions the way he did, the principles underlying his advice are timeless.
“[…] Just as you are in fact walking, we request you and appeal to you by the Lord Jesus to keep doing it more fully.”
1 Thessalonians 4:1
The members of the Christian congregation in Thessalonica were not perfect.
They had moral standards and love, but could improve on both counts. (1 Thess. 4:3,4,9,10)
That is why Paul commended them while tactfully encouraging them to “pursue what is good toward one another.” (1 Thess. 5:15)
Regardless of how long it has been since we became Christians, ‘making sure of all things’ and ‘holding fast to what is fine’ is something we have to remember to do every day. (1 Thess. 5:4,6,8,21)
We cannot afford to take our faith for granted, and as long as we are imperfect, there will be things we can improve on.
“Although those things have an appearance of wisdom in a self-imposed form of worship and a false humility, a harsh treatment of the body, they are of no value in combating the satisfying of the flesh.”
Is it wrong to fast?
Paul asked the Christian congregation at Colossae why they continued subjecting themselves to the man-made decrees: “Do not handle, nor taste, nor touch.” (Col. 2:20-22)
Although it is true that Paul himself fasted on occasion while praying, Jehovah expects his servants to serve him cheerfully and enjoy food.
(Eccl. 3:12,13; Acts 13:1-3; Acts 14:23; 1 Tim 1:11)
Furthermore, fasting itself does not help us combat other carnal desires.
And the Bible makes it clear that we cannot make up for our shortcomings through fasting. (Is. 58:3-7)
Whether a Christian chooses to fast or not is an entirely personal, private matter. (Matt. 6:16-18)
“All of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. […] You are all one in union with Christ Jesus.”
We are all equally valuable within the congregation, regardless of our gender, ethnicity, social class, or whatever we identified as before becoming Christians.
Jesus gave his life for us each as individuals.
That is why we strive to give up our old divisive attitudes and humbly learn to see all our brothers and sisters with honor and appreciation (Rom. 12:10; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:24)
“Since you are so ‘reasonable,’ you gladly put up with the unreasonable ones.”
~2 Corinthians 11:19
Was the Apostle Paul being sarcastic when he made this statement?
The context shows that the “unreasonable ones” refers to apostate Christians who were criticizing him in his absence. (2 Cor. 11:3-6,12-15).
Paul put up with a lot to carry out his ministry, including physical persecution and health problems. (2 Cor. 11:24-27;12:7).
But he was especially sensitive to the negative attitudes the Christians in Corinth had towards him.
It hurt him to have to defend his own reputation before his brothers. (2 Cor. 12:11,16)
Today we may come across negative, one-sided information about other Jehovah’s Witnesses.
It would be unwise to “put up” with apostate material that tries to weaken our faith in God’s congregation.
“[…] In a congregation I would rather speak five words with my mind, that I might also instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.”
~1 Corinthians 14:19
What was the purpose of Christians speaking in tongues and how do we know God discontinued the use of this miracle in his service?
Fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, 120 of his Jewish disciples gathered together in Jerusalem to observe the Pentecost. (Acts 2:1-4)
They received through holy spirit the ability to communicate with Jews visiting from foreign countries.
Thus, many converted to Christianity. (Acts 2:5-11; 41-43)
This was one of nine gifts of the spirit early Christians relied on to help others learn the truth about Christ.(1 Cor. 12:7-11; Heb. 2:3,4)
But Bible prophecy states those gifts would cease. (1 Cor. 13:8)
After Pentecost, Christians who continued to receive the gift of speaking in tongues were notably in the company of an apostle. (Acts 8:18; 10:44-46; 19:6)
It is to be understood then that after the last apostle’s death, these miraculous gifts would cease and the only way to identify God’s true congregation would be through its love. (John 13:35; 1 Cor. 13:13)
While modern Christians do not speak in tongues, we can still use our speech to build each other up. (1 Cor. 14:12)
(Last week there was no assigned Congregation reading corresponding to my personal study so I respectfully remind JW blog readers not to use these notes to prepare comments for this week’s meeting. Thank you.)