True Christianity Prevails!
“In a mighty way the word of Jehovah kept growing and prevailing.”—ACTS 19:20.
1. Describe the growth of Christianity during the first century.
FIRED with the power of holy spirit, the early Christians proclaimed God’s word with a zeal that could not be dampened. One historian wrote: “Christianity had spread with remarkable rapidity over the Roman world. By the year 100 probably every province that bordered the Mediterranean had a Christian community within it.”
2. How did Satan attempt to counter the good news, and how had this been foretold?
2 Satan the Devil could not silence the early Christians. Instead, he countered the impact of the good news by another means—apostasy. Jesus had foretold this development in his parable of the wheat and the weeds. (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) The apostle Peter had also warned that false teachers would arise within the congregation, bringing in destructive sects. (2 Peter 2:1-3) Similarly, the apostle Paul had specifically warned that apostasy would precede the day of Jehovah.—2 Thessalonians 2:1-3.
3. What occurred following the death of the apostles?
3 Following the death of the apostles, the good news came to be overshadowed by pagan teachings and philosophies. As foretold, false teachers distorted and polluted the pure message of truth. Gradually, true Christianity was eclipsed by a counterfeit called Christendom. A clergy class arose that tried to keep the Bible out of the hands of the common people. Though the numbers of those who called themselves Christians increased, their worship was not pure. Christendom grew geographically and became a powerful institution and a dominant force in Western culture, but it had neither God’s blessing nor his spirit.
4. Why was Satan’s scheme to thwart God’s purpose unsuccessful?
4 However, Satan’s scheme to thwart Jehovah’s purpose was doomed to failure. During even the darkest days of apostasy, true Christianity was still alive among some. Men who copied the Bible took pains to do so accurately. Thus, the Bible itself remained intact, though its message was perverted by many who professed to have the authority to teach it. Over the centuries such scholars as Jerome and Tyndale bravely translated and distributed God’s Word. Millions of people were exposed to the Bible and to a form of Christianity, counterfeit though it was.
5. What did the prophet Daniel foretell regarding “true knowledge”?
5 Eventually, as foretold in the book of Daniel, ‘the true knowledge became abundant.’ This has occurred in “the time of the end”—the time in which we are now living. (Daniel 12:4) Holy spirit has led lovers of truth worldwide to an accurate knowledge of the true God and his purpose. Even after centuries of apostate teaching, God’s word prevails! Today, the good news is being proclaimed everywhere, pointing people to the hope of a delightful new world. (Psalm 37:11) Let us now examine this modern-day growth of God’s word.
Growth of the Word Today
6. What truths did the Bible Students understand by the year 1914?
6 In the late 19th century, Bible truth galvanized a small group of Bible Students, known today as Jehovah’s Witnesses. By 1914 the Bible had come alive to them. They understood wonderful truths concerning God’s purpose. They were deeply moved by Jehovah’s love in sending his Son to the earth, thus opening the way to everlasting life. They had also come to know and appreciate God’s name and personality. Further, they realized that “the times of the Gentiles” had already ended, signaling that the time was near for God’s Kingdom government to bring about blessings for mankind. (Luke 21:24, King James Version) What glorious good news! These dynamic truths were to be shared with everyone, everywhere. Lives were at stake!
7. How has Bible truth prevailed in modern times?
7 Jehovah blessed that handful of spirit-anointed Christians. Today, the number who embrace true Christianity has surpassed six million. The word of God has also spread geographically, for Jehovah’s Witnesses are found in 235 lands. Furthermore, Bible truth has exerted power, prevailing over all obstacles, religious and otherwise. This global preaching activity adds to the irrefutable proof that Jesus is present in Kingdom power.—Matthew 24:3, 14.
8. What have some said about the growth of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
8 Just as historians remarked on the astounding growth of Christianity in the first century, many scholars have commented on the growth of Jehovah’s people in modern times. In the United States, two scholars jointly wrote: “During the past 75 years the Jehovah’s Witnesses have sustained an extraordinary rate of growth . . . and have done so on a global scale.” An East African journal refers to the Witnesses as “one of the world’s fastest growing and highly respected religions known internationally for its total adherence to biblical teachings.” And a conservative Catholic journal, published in Europe, refers to “the overwhelming growth of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” What has contributed to this growth?
Holy Spirit at Work Today
9. (a) What is a primary reason why God’s word prevails today? (b) How does Jehovah draw people to him?
9 A primary reason that God’s word prevails today is that Jehovah’s spirit is powerfully at work, just as it was in the first century. Jesus said: “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him.” (John 6:44) These words suggest that God gently attracts those who are rightly disposed, making an appeal to hearts. By means of the preaching activity of his Witnesses, Jehovah is drawing out for his service “the desirable things of all the nations”—the meek, sheeplike people of the earth.—Haggai 2:6, 7.
10. What sorts of people have responded to the word of God?
10 Not only has holy spirit empowered God’s people to carry the word of God to the most distant part of the earth; it has moved people of all sorts to respond to the good news. Truly, those who have embraced God’s word have come from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9; 7:9, 10) They are to be found among rich and poor, the highly educated and the illiterate. Some have accepted the word under conditions of war and harsh persecution, while others have done so during times of peace and prosperity. Under every type of government, in all cultures, from concentration camps to palaces, men and women have responded favorably to the good news.
11. How does holy spirit operate in the lives of God’s people, and what distinction is evident?
11 Despite the amazing diversity of God’s people, they dwell in unity with one another. (Psalm 133:1-3) This adds to the evidence that holy spirit is at work in the lives of those serving God. His spirit is a powerful force for good that enables his servants to display love, joy, peace, kindness, and other appealing qualities. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Today, we clearly discern what the prophet Malachi foretold long ago: “You people will . . . see the distinction between a righteous one and a wicked one, between one serving God and one who has not served him.”—Malachi 3:18.
God’s Word Prevails in Zealous Workers
12. How do Jehovah’s Witnesses feel about the evangelizing work, and what reaction to their preaching activity do they expect?
12 Jehovah’s Witnesses today are not passive churchgoers. They take an active part in the evangelizing work. Like the early Christians, they present themselves willingly to do God’s will, seeking to help others learn about Jehovah’s Kingdom promises. They are God’s fellow workers who, in harmony with his holy spirit, gather others to Jehovah’s service. In doing so, they reflect Jehovah’s mercy and love to unbelieving humankind. And they do so despite encountering apathy, ridicule, and persecution. Jesus prepared his followers for mixed reactions to the good news. He said: “A slave is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also; if they have observed my word, they will observe yours also.”—John 15:20.
13. What features lacking in Christendom abound among Jehovah’s Witnesses?
13 We cannot fail to be impressed by the similarity between Jehovah’s Witnesses today and those who embraced true Christianity in the first century. Equally striking is the contrast between Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christendom today. After writing about the evangelistic zeal of the early Christians, one scholar laments: “Unless there is a transformation of contemporary church life so that once again the task of evangelism is something which is seen as incumbent on every baptized Christian, and is backed up by a quality of living which outshines the best that unbelief can muster, we are unlikely to make much headway.” The very features that Christendom lacks abound among Jehovah’s Witnesses! Theirs is a living faith, a genuine faith, and a faith that is based on Bible truth that they feel impelled to share with all who will listen.—1 Timothy 2:3, 4.
14. How did Jesus regard his ministry, and what attitude do his disciples display today?
14 Jesus took his ministry very seriously, making it his primary concern. He said to Pilate: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37) God’s people feel as Jesus did. With Bible truth in their heart, they endeavor to find ways to share it with as many as possible. Some of these ways reflect remarkable ingenuity.
15. How have some shown ingenuity in preaching the good news?
15 In one South American country, the Witnesses traveled down a tributary of the Amazon River to reach people with the truth. However, when civil strife erupted in 1995, civilian traffic along the river was prohibited. Determined to keep supplying interested ones with Bible publications, the Witnesses decided to float the message downstream. They wrote letters and placed them with copies of The Watchtower and Awake! magazines inside empty plastic bottles. They then threw the bottles into the river. This continued for four and a half years until the river was again opened to civilians. All along the river, people thanked the Witnesses for the literature. One lady who had been a Bible student embraced them with tears in her eyes and said: “I thought I would never see you again. However, when I began receiving the literature in the bottles, I knew that you had not forgotten me!” Others who lived along the river said that they had read the magazines repeatedly. Many settlements had a “post office”—an eddy where floating objects collected temporarily. It was there that interested ones checked frequently for any “mail” from upstream.
16. How does making ourselves available sometimes open the way to disciple making?
16 The preaching of the good news is directed and backed by Jehovah God and his powerful angels. (Revelation 14:6) By just making ourselves available, unexpected opportunities to make disciples sometimes arise. In Nairobi, Kenya, two Christian women in field service had finished working the houses assigned to them. A young woman suddenly approached them and excitedly said: “I’ve been praying to meet someone like you.” She implored the Witnesses to come to her home immediately for a discussion, and a Bible study was started with her that very day. Why did the woman approach the two Christians with such urgency? About two weeks earlier, she had lost her baby in death. So when she saw a youngster carrying the tract “What Hope for Dead Loved Ones?” she wanted it desperately and asked the boy to give it to her. He refused, but pointed to the Witnesses who had given him the tract. Soon the woman was making fine spiritual progress and was better able to cope with the painful loss of her child.
God’s Love Must Prevail
17-19. What love has Jehovah shown to humankind by means of the ransom?
17 The growth of God’s word in all the earth is closely linked to the ransom sacrifice of Christ Jesus. Like the ransom, the preaching work is an expression of Jehovah’s love for people everywhere. The apostle John was inspired to write: “God loved the world [of mankind] so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16.
18 Think about the love Jehovah showed in providing the ransom. For aeons, God had enjoyed a close relationship with his cherished, only-begotten Son, “the beginning of the creation by God.” (Revelation 3:14) Jesus loves his Father deeply, and Jehovah loved his Son “before the founding of the world.” (John 14:31; 17:24) Jehovah allowed this beloved Son to undergo death so that humans might receive everlasting life. What an awe-inspiring expression of love for humankind!
19 John 3:17 states: “God sent forth his Son into the world, not for him to judge the world, but for the world to be saved through him.” Thus, Jehovah sent his Son on a loving mission of salvation, not one of judgment or condemnation. This harmonizes with Peter’s words: “[Jehovah] does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.”—2 Peter 3:9.
20. In what way is salvation related to the preaching of the good news?
20 Having provided the legal basis for salvation at great cost to himself, Jehovah wants as many as possible to take advantage of it. The apostle Paul wrote: “‘Everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.’ However, how will they call on him in whom they have not put faith? How, in turn, will they put faith in him of whom they have not heard? How, in turn, will they hear without someone to preach?”—Romans 10:13, 14.
21. How should we feel about the opportunity to share in the preaching work?
21 What a wonderful privilege it is to share in this global preaching and teaching work! It is not an easy work, yet how Jehovah rejoices when he observes his people faithfully living the truth and sharing the good news with others! So whatever your circumstances are, let God’s spirit and the love in your heart motivate you to share in this work. And remember that what we see being accomplished worldwide gives convincing evidence that Jehovah God will soon fulfill his promise to usher in the glorious “new heavens and a new earth” in which “righteousness is to dwell.”—2 Peter 3:13.
Do You Recall?
• Why could apostasy not silence the preachers of the good news?
• How has the word of God prevailed in our day?
• In what ways is God’s spirit at work today?
• How is the ransom linked to the preaching of the good news?
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Growth in the number of Kingdom proclaimers in the 20th century
Average Publishers (in millions)
1900 1910 1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000
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Gutenberg and Hus: From the book The Story of Liberty, 1878
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Bible Students proclaiming the good news in the 1920’s
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Around the world people are responding to the good news
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Like the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the preaching work magnifies God’s love