“Rightly Disposed” Ones Are Responding
“All those who were rightly disposed for everlasting life became believers.”—ACTS 13:48.
1, 2. How did early Christians respond to Jesus’ prophecy that the good news would be preached in all the inhabited earth?
THE Bible book of Acts preserves the exciting account of how the early Christians responded to Jesus’ prophecy that the good news of the Kingdom would be preached throughout the inhabited earth. (Matt. 24:14) Zealous preachers blazed the trail, so to speak, for all those who would follow them. As a result of the fervent witnessing of Jesus’ disciples in Jerusalem, thousands of people, including “a great crowd of priests,” flocked to the first-century congregation.—Acts 2:41; 4:4; 6:7.
2 Early missionaries helped many more to embrace Christianity. Philip, for one, went to Samaria, where crowds paid attention to his words. (Acts 8:5-8) Paul traveled widely with various companions, preaching the Christian message in Cyprus, parts of Asia Minor, Macedonia, Greece, and Italy. In cities where he preached, multitudes of both Jews and Greeks became believers. (Acts 14:1; 16:5; 17:4) Titus carried on a ministry in Crete. (Titus 1:5) Peter was busy in Babylon, and by the time he wrote his first letter, about 62-64 C.E., the activity of the Christians was well-known in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. (1 Pet. 1:1; 5:13) What exciting times those were! So zealous were those first-century Christian preachers that their enemies claimed that they had “overturned the inhabited earth.”—Acts 17:6; 28:22.
3. What results are being obtained today by Kingdom proclaimers in their preaching activities, and how does that make you feel?
3 In modern times too, the Christian congregation has been blessed with remarkable growth. Are you not encouraged when you read the annual report of Jehovah’s Witnesses and see the results that are being obtained worldwide? Does it not warm your heart to know that Kingdom proclaimers conducted more than six million Bible studies during the 2007 service year? Moreover, the attendance at the Memorial of Jesus Christ’s death last year indicates that some ten million people who are not Witnesses of Jehovah were sufficiently interested in the good news to attend this important commemoration. This indicates that there is still much work to do.
4. Who are responding to the Kingdom message?
4 Today, as in the first century, “all those who [are] rightly disposed for everlasting life” are responding to the message of truth. (Acts 13:48) Jehovah is drawing such people into his organization. (Read Haggai 2:7.) What attitude toward the Christian ministry do we need to maintain in order to cooperate fully with this ingathering work?
5. What kind of people have Jehovah’s favor?
5 The first-century Christians understood that “God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34, 35) Whether a person has a good relationship with Jehovah or not depends on his exercising faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. (John 3:16, 36) And it is Jehovah’s will that “all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.”—1 Tim. 2:3, 4.
6. Against what must Kingdom preachers guard, and why?
6 It would be wrong for proclaimers of the good news to prejudge people on the basis of their race, social status, appearance, religious background, or any other characteristic. Consider for a moment: Are you not grateful that the person who first spoke to you about Scriptural truths was free of prejudices toward you? So why hold back from offering a potentially lifesaving message to anyone who might listen to it?—Read Matthew 7:12.
7. Why must we refrain from judging those to whom we preach?
7 Jehovah has appointed Jesus as Judge; hence, we do not have the right to judge anybody. That is fitting, since—unlike Jesus—we can judge only by the “mere appearance to [our] eyes” or “the thing heard by [our] ears,” whereas Jesus can read the intimate thoughts and reasonings of the heart.—Isa. 11:1-5; 2 Tim. 4:1.
8, 9. (a) What kind of person was Saul before he became a Christian? (b) What should the apostle Paul’s experience teach us?
8 People from virtually every background have become servants of Jehovah. One outstanding example is that of Saul of Tarsus, who came to be known as the apostle Paul. Saul, a Pharisee, was a bitter opposer of Christians. His sincere conviction that they were wrong led him to persecute the Christian congregation. (Gal. 1:13) From a human standpoint, he must have seemed to be one of the least likely people to become a Christian. Yet, Jesus saw something good in Saul’s heart and chose him to fulfill a special commission. As a result, Saul became one of the most active and zealous members of the first-century Christian congregation.
9 What does the experience of the apostle Paul teach us? In our territory, perhaps there are groups of people who seem hostile to the message we bear. Though it may appear doubtful that any of them will ever become true Christians, we should not stop trying to reason with them. Sometimes even the most unlikely individuals prove to be receptive. Our commission is to keep on preaching to all “without letup.”—Read Acts 5:42.
Blessings Await Those Who Preach “Without Letup”
10. Why should we not hold back from preaching to people who may seem intimidating? Relate local experiences.
10 Appearances can be deceptive. Ignacio, * for example, began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses while he was in prison in a South American country. He was feared because of his violent nature. Consequently, inmates who made and sold items to fellow prisoners used Ignacio to collect debts from those who were slow to pay. However, as Ignacio made spiritual progress and applied what he was learning, this once violent bully became a kind person. No one uses him to collect debts anymore, yet Ignacio is content that Bible truths and God’s spirit have transformed his personality. He is also grateful for the open-mindedness of the Kingdom publishers who made the effort to study with him.
11. Why do we keep returning to visit people?
11 One of the reasons why we keep returning to visit people with whom we have already spoken about the good news is that their circumstances and attitudes can and do change. Since our last visit, some may have been affected by serious illness, loss of a job, or the death of a loved one. (Read Ecclesiastes 9:11.) World events may motivate people to think seriously about their future. Such developments can cause a person who was previously apathetic—or even opposed—to respond favorably. Hence, we should not hold back from sharing the good news with others on every suitable occasion.
12. How should we view the people to whom we preach, and why?
12 Classifying and judging other people appears to be a human tendency. Yet, Jehovah sees people as individuals. He sees the potential of each one. (Read 1 Samuel 16:7.) In our ministry, we should strive to do the same. Many experiences show the good that results from having a positive view of all to whom we preach.
13, 14. (a) Why did a pioneer react negatively to a woman she met in the ministry? (b) What can we learn from this experience?
13 Sandra, a pioneer sister, was engaged in the house-to-house ministry on an island in the Caribbean when she met Ruth, who was deeply involved in carnival celebrations. Ruth had twice been crowned national carnival queen. She showed an unusual interest in what Sandra was saying, so a Bible study was arranged. Sandra recalls: “As I walked into her living room, I was greeted by a large photo of Ruth in full carnival regalia, as well as trophies that she had won. I wrongly assumed that someone who was so popular and so involved in carnival festivities could not have an interest in the truth. So I stopped calling on her.”
14 Some time later, Ruth appeared at the Kingdom Hall, and when the meeting was over, she asked Sandra, “Why have you stopped coming to study with me?” Sandra apologized and arranged to resume the study. Ruth made rapid progress, took down her carnival pictures, began engaging in all congregation activities, and dedicated her life to Jehovah. Of course, Sandra came to recognize that her initial reaction was wrong.
15, 16. (a) What resulted from one publisher’s witnessing to a relative? (b) Why should a relative’s background not discourage us from witnessing to him or her?
15 Positive results have also come to many who have witnessed to unbelieving family members, even when it seemed unlikely that these would respond favorably. Take, for example, the case of Joyce, a Christian sister in the United States. Her brother-in-law had been in and out of jail ever since he was a teenager. “People said that his life amounted to nothing,” relates Joyce, “because he dealt in drugs, was a thief, and did a host of other bad things. Even so, against all odds, I kept on sharing Bible truths with him for 37 years.” Her patient efforts to help her relative were richly rewarded when he finally began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and made drastic changes in his life. Recently, at the age of 50, Joyce’s brother-in-law was baptized at a district convention in California, U.S.A. Joyce says: “I cried for joy. I am so happy that I never gave up on him!”
16 You might hesitate to speak to certain relatives about Bible truths because of their strong religious convictions. Yet, no such reluctance prevented Joyce from speaking to her brother-in-law. After all, how can one know what is in another person’s heart? That person may be searching in all sincerity for religious truth. Hence, do not hold back from giving him or her the opportunity to find it.—Read Proverbs 3:27.
An Effective Bible Study Aid
17, 18. (a) What do reports from around the world indicate about the value of What Does the Bible Really Teach? (b) What positive experiences have you had using this book?
17 Reports from countries around the world show that many honesthearted individuals are responding well to the Bible study aid What Does the Bible Really Teach? Penni, a pioneer sister in the United States, started several studies using this publication. Two of them were with older people who were devout members of their churches. Penni was not sure how they would react to Scriptural truths presented in the Bible Teach book. Nevertheless, she writes, “Because of the clear, logical, and concise way in which the information is presented, they readily accepted what they were learning as the truth, without argument or emotional turmoil.”
18 Pat, a publisher in Britain, began to study the Bible with a woman who was a refugee from an Asian country. The woman was forced to flee her country after her husband and sons had been taken away by rebel soldiers, never to be seen again. Her life had been threatened, her home had been burned down, and she had been gang-raped. All of this made her feel that she had nothing to live for, and she considered suicide on a number of occasions. The Bible study, however, gave her hope. “The simplicity of the explanations and illustrations in the Bible Teach book had a dramatic effect on her,” writes Pat. The student made rapid progress, qualified to become an unbaptized publisher, and expressed her desire to be baptized at the next assembly. What a joy it is to help sincere people understand and appreciate the hope offered by the Scriptures!
“Let Us Not Give Up in Doing What Is Fine”
19. Why is the preaching work so urgent?
19 With each passing day, the urgency of our commission to preach and make disciples becomes more pressing. Thousands of rightly disposed ones respond to our preaching every year. Yet, “the great day of Jehovah is near,” meaning that those who remain in spiritual darkness are “staggering to the slaughter.”—Zeph. 1:14; Prov. 24:11.
20. What should each of us be determined to do?
20 We can still help such people. But for us to do so, it is vital that we imitate the first-century Christians, who “continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.” (Acts 5:42) Follow their example by persevering despite adversity, by paying attention to your “art of teaching,” and by preaching to all without partiality! “Let us not give up in doing what is fine,” for if we persevere, we shall reap the bounteous blessings of divine approval.—2 Tim. 4:2; read Galatians 6:9.
^ par. 10 Some of the names have been changed.
How Would You Answer?
• Who are responding to the good news?
• Why should we avoid prejudging those to whom we preach?
• What results are being obtained with the publication What Does the Bible Really Teach?
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Thousands of honesthearted individuals are responding
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What can we learn from the changes made by the apostle Paul?
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Proclaimers of the good news do not prejudge people