2 Corinthians, chapters 1-3

“We are not peddlers of the word of God as many men are, but we speak in all sincerity as sent from God.”
~2 Corinthians 2:17

Jesus said, “You received free, give free.” (Matt. 10:8)
He made it clear that the congregation was not for commercial purposes. (Matt. 21:12,13)
While the congregation did accept and redistribute monetary aid, no one should feel obligated to donate or be put on the spot for it. (2 Cor. 9:7)
It is inevitable to notice that some religious pastors who charge tithes have luxurious homes/lifestyles while members of their flock have to take in boarders to pay the rent and cannot afford to finish school.
The Christian congregation can be identified by love of neighbor, so true Christian ministers sacrifice their own assets for the spiritual wellbeing of others, instead of expecting the community to provide for them. (2 Thess. 3:8-10)

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.)

Acts, chapters 17 & 18

“[Apollos] was acquainted only with the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, and when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him into their company and explained the way of God more accurately to him.”
~Acts 18:25,26

Apollos was an eloquent Jew of the well-educated city of Alexandria. (Acts 18:24)
He evidently learned of Jesus at least nineteen years prior to this account, before Pentecost and the pouring of holy spirit.
Despite being well-versed and a skilled speaker, he humbly allowed the Christian couple to spiritually enlighten him.
In time, he came to be a respected missionary working under the congregation’s arrangements. (Titus 3:13)
In our ministry, we sometimes encounter spiritual people who are somewhat familiar with the Scriptures and who profess faith in Jesus.
If we patiently help them develop a more accurate knowledge, we may be surprised at their willingness to learn the truth and serve God alongside us. (1 Cor. 3:6,9; 1 Tim. 2:3,4)

John, chapters 9 & 10

“At that time the Festival of Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was wintertime, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the colonnade of Solomon.”
~John 10:22,23

Should Christians celebrate Hanukkah?
Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the temple by Judas Maccabaeus after it had been desecrated and dedicated to Zeus three years earlier.
Unlike the previous two temple dedications, (Solomon’s and Zerubbabel’s), the Jews established a law which required everyone to celebrate the anniversary of this event.
They were not required to travel to Jerusalem, but in this particular case, Jesus did go to the temple for the celebration.
The temple had to be fully functional in Jehovah’s service in order for Bible prophecies to be fulfilled in Jesus. (Da. 9:27; Ps. 69:9; John 2:16,17)
But the Bible does not clarify whether those who had fought to reclaim the temple for Jehovah had accomplished this through divine intervention.
Either way, the temple sacrifices carried out in Jesus’ day served their purpose of being archetypes of Jesus’ sacrifice. (Gal. 3:23-25; Col. 2:13,14,17)
While early Christians were not to judge their brothers and sisters in matters of Jewish tradition, the Greek Scriptures far from encourage the continued observance of traditions relating to Jewish worship. (Col. 2:16; Gal. 4:10,11; Heb. 8:6)
Jesus had foretold the temple’s destruction and the end of traditional Jewish religion as they practiced it.
His prophecy was fulfilled 37 years after his death. (Luke 21:20-24; John 4:21-24; Awake. December 8, 1990. “Hanukkah—Is It a ‘Jewish Christmas'”?)

Zechariah, chapters 9-14

“He must pass through the sea with distress;
And in the sea he will strike down the waves;
All the depths of the Nile will dry up.
The pride of Assyria will be brought down,
And the scepter of Egypt will depart.”
~Zechariah 10:11

When this prophecy was written, many centuries had passed since Jehovah had liberated the Israelites from Egypt or since Assyria as an empire posed a threat to his people.
In the past, God’s people had sometimes relied on alliances with those nations and placed their faith on their false gods instead of relying 100% on Jehovah.
Jehovah is telling his people that he will bring them back to true worship and free them from the false practices of neighboring nations.
Today, God’s people have also been freed from the practices of false religion and have found a safe way out of Satan’s world. (Is. 11:16)

Haggai, chapters 1 & 2

“[…] That is how all the work of their hands is; whatever they present there is unclean.”
~Haggai 2:14

God doesn’t care so much about the sacrifice we are giving him as he does about what motivates us to give it. (Hag. 1:5)
We should not undermine our privilege of knowing and serving the true God by letting our worship become mechanical and superficial in nature.
Those who try to serve God hypocritically lose his blessing and his friendship.
On the other hand, if we ‘set our heart in our ways’ by trying to find joy in his service, we can experience more blessings than we could have imagined. (Hag. 2:7; Mal. 3:10)

Jonah, chapters 1-4

“And I said, ‘I have been driven away from your sight!
How will I gaze again upon your holy temple?’”

~Jonah 2:4

As Jonah sank to the depths of the ocean within the belly of the fish, his main concern was not the loss of his own life, his reputation nor material things.
He was not overcome by anxiety to the point of losing his mind or his priorities.
Jonah was deeply grieved because he would no longer be able to gaze upon Jehovah’s temple, the center for true worship.
When we are under great emotional stress, do we value our spiritual privileges above all else? (Ps. 84:10)
We may wonder if our presence before God makes any difference in the vast sea of humanity, but Jonah’s story demonstrates God cares about every one of us at the individual level. (Jon. 4:11)
No one can take any other person’s place before God to render another’s worship. (Matt. 22:37)
In that sense, we are each valuable and irreplaceable. (Jon. 2:9)