James, chapters 1 & 2

“But the one who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and continues in it has become, not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work; and he will be happy in what he does.”
~James 1:25

What is the “perfect law that belongs to freedom?”
It is the “Law of Christ,” which “encompasses everything that Jehovah requires of us.” (Gal. 6:2; Watchtower 7-15-2012, p. 8, parr. 4)
It frees us from being slaves to our fleshly desires and habits. (Rom. 8:5,6; 2 Pet. 2:19)
When we learn to act in unison with God’s holy spirit, displaying qualities such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and self-control, there is no divine law that limits those qualities. We are free to display them without limits. (2 Cor. 3:17; Gal. 5:18,22,23)
If we observe Christ’s law, under God’s kingdom, we will also be free of sin and death. (Rom. 8:20,21)
We peer into the law when we study God’s way of thinking to try to make it our own. (John 8:31,32; 1 Tim. 4:15; Jas. 2:12)

1 Corinthians, chapter 13 & 14

“[…] 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)
When?
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.)

1 Corinthians, chapters 1-3

“[…] The spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God.”
~1 Corinthians 2:10

It is impossible to know God without the guidance of his holy spirit.
This is why many historians miss truths that are otherwise obvious to Bible readers who pray prior to studying. (2 Cor. 4:1-6)
The other side to this is people who say they believe but do not take the time to diligently compare Bible prophecies with their respective fulfillment.
This is why many people have heard of God’s kingdom but cannot explain its role in the course of human events. (Dan. 2:44; Matt. 6:9,10)
Or they believe God’s sacred secret continues to be a mystery. (Rom. 16:25,26; 1 Cor. 2:7)
Most people nowadays are familiar with God’s name being Jehovah or Yahweh, but remain reluctant to use it. (Ps. 83:18)
God has carefully set truths in his Word in such a way that only those having a humble attitude can understand them. (1 Cor. 1:19, 25; 2:14; 3:18-20)
May we never underestimate the value of God’s knowledge. (Prov. 2:1-11)

Matthew, chapters 16 & 17

“Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured from that hour.”
~Matthew 17:18

Does the Bible teach that illnesses are induced by demons?
While the boy in this story did exhibit symptoms of epilepsy, his sudden convulsions were actually being controlled by a demon. (Matt. 17:15)
Jesus’ disciples had Holy Spirit to cure the ill (Matt. 10:8)
The Bible differentiates between those who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. (Matt. 4:24)
Still, Jesus’ disciples could have expelled the demon from the boy’s body had they had sufficient faith. (Matt. 17:19,20)
In Bible history, there was someone who developed a disease as a result of a direct demonic attack.
But in the case of Job, he was being specifically targeted by Satan to try to prove points against Jehovah and against humankind. (Job 2:4-7)
It is not the standard in the Bible that illnesses or diseases are direct results of demon activity. (Rom. 5:12)
But regardless of the origin, God promises to do away with all suffering under Christ’s kingdom. (Isa. 33:24; Rev. 21:3,4)

Exodus, chapters 27-29

“You will put the U′rim and the Thum′mim into the breastpiece of judgment, and they must be over Aaron’s heart when he comes in before Jehovah, and Aaron must carry the means for making judgments of the Israelites over his heart before Jehovah constantly.”
~Exodus 28:30

What were the Urim and the Thummim?
This is a question I have struggled with on a personal level throughout half my life, so I decided to once again review the articles explaining it.
According to the glossary in the Revised New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, they were “objects used by the high priest in a manner similar to the use of lots to determine the divine will when questions of national importance needed an answer from Jehovah. The Urim and Thummim were put inside the high priest’s breastpiece when he entered the tabernacle.”
The reason I struggle with their use in Biblical times is that the Bible clearly condemns the practice of divination, that is, the practice of gaining secret knowledge of events through supernatural occult powers (Deut. 18:10).
What was the difference, then, between the Urim and Thummim and the practice of divination?
While divination was a practice originating in ancient Babylon and which relied upon the guidance of spirits other than God, the Urim and Thummim were only used by the High Priest when he entered the Most Holy (Insight on the Scriptures, vol. i).
The Most Holy was the section of the Tabernacle the High Priest had to enter in order to ask Jehovah about matters of national relevance.
Before the Bible was completed, Jehovah had several means of communicating his will to humans.
These means included angelic messengers and prophecies revealed through dreams or visions to specific prophets.
Another form of interpreting God’s will was by basing decisions on principles stated by God in the past, which is the way we make decisions today.
Yet another form of interpreting God’s will back then was by casting lots, as was the case when the Promised Land was divided among the 12 tribes of Israel. (Nu. 26:55,56)
The Urim and the Thummim appear to have been sacred lots used under prayer that provided a “Yes”, “No,” or “No Answer,” reply to questions. (1 Sam. 28:6)
They were not used as a means of gambling or for trivial matters.
Since the High Priest was in charge of these sacred objects, the Kings who later came about in Israel and Judah would need to rely on consulting the High Priest before making important decisions.
This kept the king from having too much power (Insight on the Scriptures, vol. ii).
Nowadays, God’s People use the Bible to guide their steps, studying it under the prayerful direction of his Holy Spirit in order to better understand its message.
For “all Scripture is […] beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, so that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16,17)