“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)
“Now to the one who can, according to his power that is operating in us, do more than superabundantly beyond all the things we ask or conceive, to him be the glory by means of the congregation and by means of Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.”
Many people who consider themselves to be Christians seem to have an unclear understanding of Christ’s role in the divine arrangement.
The Bible clearly states that Jehovah and Jesus are two distinct beings. (Deut. 6:4; John 14:28; Acts 7:55,56; Rev. 1:1)
Jesus’ purpose is to do his father’s will. (John 4:34)
They are “one” only in the sense that they are a team. (Matt. 26:39; John 8:17,18; John 17:1-3)
But literally they are two individuals.
All the glory belongs to Jehovah by means of Christ. (Prov. 8:22-31; 1 Cor. 15:27,28; Col. 1:13-20)
If something belongs to someone by means of someone else, they cannot possibly be the same person.
By recognizing Jesus’ role of mediator, we are valuing his self-sacrifice in devoting himself to doing his father’s will and addressing all glory to Jehovah. (1 Tim. 2:5,6)
“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.
“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)
“[…] 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.)
“[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.”
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)
“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.”
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'”?)
“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.”
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)
“[…] That is how all the work of their hands is; whatever they present there is unclean.”
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)
“And I said, ‘I have been driven away from your sight!
How will I gaze again upon your holy temple?’”
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)