Holy Spirit’s Role in the Outworking of Jehovah’s Purpose
“My word that goes forth from my mouth . . . will have certain success in that for which I have sent it.”—ISA. 55:11.
1. Illustrate the difference between a plan and a purpose.
IMAGINE that two men are each preparing to take a trip by car. One maps out a specific, detailed path to his destination. The other has his destination clearly in mind, but he also knows many alternate routes. He is prepared to adjust his course as necessary to deal with any contingency. In some respects, the different approaches of these two men illustrates the distinction between a plan and a purpose. A plan might be compared to mapping out a detailed path, whereas a purpose may involve having in mind a goal but not necessarily one specific manner of reaching it.
2, 3. (a) What does Jehovah’s purpose involve, and how did he meet the situation that arose when Adam and Eve sinned? (b) Why should we be attuned to the unfolding of Jehovah’s purpose?
2 When it comes to carrying out his will, Jehovah has, not a fixed plan, but an unfolding purpose. (Eph. 3:11) This purpose involves what he originally intended for mankind and the earth—that this globe be turned into a paradise home, where perfect humans can live in peace and happiness forever. (Gen. 1:28) When Adam and Eve sinned, Jehovah met that situation and made arrangements to ensure that his purpose would be accomplished. (Read Genesis 3:15.) Jehovah determined that his symbolic woman would bring forth a “seed,” or Son, who would eventually destroy the instigator, Satan, and undo all the harm he has caused.—Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8.
3 No power in heaven or on earth can prevent God’s expressed purpose from being realized. (Isa. 46:9-11) Why can we say that? Because Jehovah’s holy spirit is involved. That irresistible force guarantees that God’s purpose “will have certain success.” (Isa. 55:10, 11) We do well to keep fully attuned to the unfolding of God’s purpose. Our future life prospects depend on its fulfillment. In addition, it is faith-strengthening to see how Jehovah uses holy spirit. Let us, then, consider the spirit’s role—in the past, at present, and in the future—in the outworking of Jehovah’s purpose.
Holy Spirit’s Role in the Past
4. How has Jehovah gradually revealed his purpose?
4 In Bible times, Jehovah gradually revealed his purpose. At first, the identity of the promised Seed was “a sacred secret.” (1 Cor. 2:7) Not until some 2,000 years later did Jehovah again make reference to a seed. (Read Genesis 12:7; 22:15-18.) To Abraham, Jehovah gave an expanded promise. The words “by means of your seed” were a clear indication that the Seed would come as a human, a descendant of Abraham. We can be sure that Satan was watching with great interest as this detail was unveiled. That Adversary no doubt wanted nothing more than to destroy or corrupt Abraham’s line of descent and thus frustrate God’s purpose. But such an outcome was impossible, for God’s unseen spirit was at work. In what ways?
5, 6. How did Jehovah use his spirit to protect individuals in the line of descent leading up to the Seed?
5 Jehovah used his spirit to protect individuals in the line of descent leading up to the Seed. To Abram (Abraham), Jehovah said: “I am a shield for you.” (Gen. 15:1) Those were not empty words. Consider, for example, what happened about 1919 B.C.E. when Abraham and Sarah took up temporary residence in Gerar. Not knowing that Sarah was Abraham’s wife, Abimelech, the king of Gerar, took Sarah with the intention of making her his wife. Was Satan manipulating matters behind the scenes, trying to prevent Sarah from bearing Abraham’s seed? The Bible does not say. What it does tell us is that Jehovah intervened. In a dream, he warned Abimelech not to touch Sarah.—Gen. 20:1-18.
6 That was not just an isolated incident. Jehovah delivered Abraham and his family members on a number of occasions. (Gen. 12:14-20; 14:13-20; 26:26-29) Regarding Abraham and his descendants, the psalmist could therefore say: “He [Jehovah] did not allow any human to defraud them, but on their account he reproved kings, saying: ‘Do not you men touch my anointed ones, and to my prophets do nothing bad.’”—Ps. 105:14, 15.
7. In what ways did Jehovah protect the nation of Israel?
7 By means of his spirit, Jehovah protected the ancient nation of Israel, into which the promised Seed would be born. Through his spirit, Jehovah gave Israel his Law, which preserved true worship and protected the Jews from spiritual, moral, and physical contamination. (Ex. 31:18; 2 Cor. 3:3) In the time of the Judges, Jehovah’s spirit empowered certain men to deliver Israel from its enemies. (Judg. 3:9, 10) During the centuries leading up to the birth of Jesus, the primary part of Abraham’s seed, holy spirit must have been involved in protecting Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and the temple—all of which would play a part in the fulfillment of the prophecies about Jesus.
8. What shows that holy spirit was directly involved in the life and ministry of God’s Son?
8 Holy spirit was directly involved in the life and ministry of Jesus. Operating in the womb of the virgin Mary, holy spirit accomplished something never done before or since. It caused an imperfect woman to conceive and give birth to a perfect Son, who was not under the penalty of death. (Luke 1:26-31, 34, 35) The spirit later protected the infant Jesus from premature death. (Matt. 2:7, 8, 12, 13) When Jesus was about 30, God anointed him with holy spirit, appointing him to be the heir to David’s throne and commissioning him to preach. (Luke 1:32, 33; 4:16-21) Holy spirit empowered Jesus to perform miracles, including healing the sick, feeding the crowds, and raising the dead. Such mighty acts were foregleams of the blessings we can expect under Jesus’ kingly rule.
9, 10. (a) How was holy spirit in evidence upon Jesus’ first-century disciples? (b) What development in the outworking of Jehovah’s purpose was revealed in the first century C.E.?
9 Starting at Pentecost 33 C.E., Jehovah used his spirit to anoint the secondary part of the seed of Abraham, many of whom were not descendants of Abraham. (Rom. 8:15-17; Gal. 3:29) Holy spirit was in evidence upon Jesus’ first-century disciples, enabling them to preach with zeal and empowering them to perform powerful works. (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4; 1 Cor. 12:7-11) By means of those miraculous gifts, holy spirit revealed a striking development in the outworking of Jehovah’s purpose. Jehovah was no longer using the centuries-old arrangement for worship that centered on the temple in Jerusalem. His favor had shifted to the newly formed Christian congregation. Ever since, Jehovah has been using that anointed congregation to serve his purpose.
10 Protecting, empowering, anointing—these are just a few of the ways that Jehovah used the holy spirit in Bible times to keep his purpose moving ever forward toward its fulfillment. What, though, about our day? How is Jehovah now using his spirit in support of his purpose? We need to know, for we want to work in harmony with the spirit. Let us, then, consider four of the ways in which Jehovah is using his spirit at present.
Holy Spirit’s Role at Present
11. What shows that the holy spirit is a force for cleanness among God’s people, and how can you show that you are cooperating with the spirit?
11 First, holy spirit is a force for cleanness among God’s people. Those who play a part in Jehovah’s purpose must be morally clean. (Read 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.) Some who become true Christians formerly engaged in such immoral practices as fornication, adultery, and homosexuality. The desires that give birth to sinful acts can be deeply entrenched. (Jas. 1:14, 15) Yet, such individuals have been “washed clean,” indicating that they have made the changes in their life needed to please God. What enables a lover of God to resist successfully the impulse to act on wrong desires? “The spirit of our God,” says 1 Corinthians 6:11. By keeping morally clean, you show that you are letting that spirit be a dominant force in your life.
12. (a) According to Ezekiel’s vision, how does Jehovah lead his organization? (b) How can you show that you are working in harmony with the spirit?
12 Second, Jehovah uses his spirit to lead his organization in the direction that he wants it to go. In Ezekiel’s vision, the heavenly part of Jehovah’s organization is depicted as a celestial chariot that is irresistibly on the move to fulfill Jehovah’s purpose. What impels the chariot to move in a certain direction? Holy spirit. (Ezek. 1:20, 21) Let us remember that Jehovah’s organization is made up of two parts, one in heaven and the other on earth. If the heavenly part is directed by holy spirit, the same must be true of the earthly part. By being obedient and loyal to the direction received from the earthly part of God’s organization, you show that you are keeping pace with Jehovah’s celestial chariot and are working in harmony with his holy spirit.—Heb. 13:17.
13, 14. (a) Who make up “this generation” mentioned by Jesus? (b) Give an example showing that the holy spirit is at work in bringing Bible truths to light. (See the box “Are You Keeping Up With Increased Light?”)
13 Third, holy spirit is at work in bringing Bible truths to light. (Prov. 4:18) This magazine has long been used by “the faithful and discreet slave” as the primary channel for dispensing increased light. (Matt. 24:45) For example, consider our understanding of those who make up “this generation” mentioned by Jesus. (Read Matthew 24:32-34.) To what generation did Jesus refer? The article “Christ’s Presence—What Does It Mean to You?” explained that Jesus was referring, not to the wicked, but to his disciples, who were soon to be anointed with holy spirit. * Jesus’ anointed followers, both in the first century and in our day, would be the ones who would not only see the sign but also discern its meaning—that Jesus “is near at the doors.”
14 What does this explanation mean to us? Although we cannot measure the exact length of “this generation,” we do well to keep in mind several things about the word “generation”: It usually refers to people of varying ages whose lives overlap during a particular time period; it is not excessively long; and it has an end. (Ex. 1:6) How, then, are we to understand Jesus’ words about “this generation”? He evidently meant that the lives of the anointed who were on hand when the sign began to become evident in 1914 would overlap with the lives of other anointed ones who would see the start of the great tribulation. That generation had a beginning, and it surely will have an end. The fulfillment of the various features of the sign clearly indicates that the tribulation must be near. By maintaining your sense of urgency and keeping on the watch, you show that you are keeping up with advancing light and following the leadings of holy spirit.—Mark 13:37.
15. What shows that it is holy spirit that empowers us to declare the good news?
15 Fourth, holy spirit empowers us to declare the good news. (Acts 1:8) What else could explain how the good news has been preached earth wide? Think about it. You may be among those who, perhaps because of extreme shyness or apprehension, once thought, ‘I could never go preaching from house to house!’ Yet, you now have a zealous share in that work. * Many faithful Witnesses of Jehovah have continued preaching in the face of opposition or persecution. Only God’s holy spirit can empower us to overcome daunting obstacles and to do things that would be impossible in our own strength. (Mic. 3:8; Matt. 17:20) By having a full share in the preaching work, you show that you are cooperating with that spirit.
Holy Spirit’s Role in the Future
16. Why can we be confident that Jehovah will protect his people during the great tribulation?
16 In the future, Jehovah will employ his holy spirit in remarkable ways to accomplish the fulfillment of his purpose. Consider first the matter of protection. As we have seen, Jehovah used his spirit in the past to protect individuals as well as the nation of Israel as a whole. Hence, we have every reason to believe that he will use that same powerful spirit to protect his people during the approaching great tribulation. We need not speculate about exactly how Jehovah will care for us then. Rather, we can look to the future with confidence, knowing that lovers of Jehovah will never be hidden from his view or beyond the reach of his holy spirit.—2 Chron. 16:9; Ps. 139:7-12.
17. How will Jehovah use his holy spirit in the new world?
17 How will Jehovah use his holy spirit in the coming new world? That spirit will be the force behind the new scrolls that will be opened at that time. (Rev. 20:12) What will these contain? Evidently, Jehovah’s detailed requirements for us during the thousand years. Do you look forward to examining the contents of those scrolls? With eager anticipation, we await that new world. We cannot begin to imagine what it will be like to be living at that blessed time when Jehovah will use his holy spirit to fulfill his purpose for the earth and humankind upon it.
18. What is your firm determination?
18 Let us never forget that Jehovah’s unfolding purpose is certain to succeed, for he uses his holy spirit—the most powerful force in the universe—to carry it out. That purpose involves you. Therefore, let it be your firm determination to supplicate Jehovah for his spirit and work in harmony with its leadings. (Luke 11:13) Thus you may have the prospect of living as Jehovah purposed humans to live—forever in Paradise on earth.
^ par. 15 For an example of one who overcame extreme shyness and became zealous in the ministry, see The Watchtower, September 15, 1993, page 19.
Do You Recall?
• In what ways did Jehovah use his holy spirit in Bible times to keep his purpose moving forward?
• How is Jehovah using his spirit at present?
• How will Jehovah employ his spirit in the future to accomplish the fulfillment of his purpose?
[Box on page 10]
Are You Keeping Up With Increased Light?
Jehovah continues to shed light upon his people. What are some refinements that have been published in The Watchtower?
▪ When does the calling of Christians to a heavenly hope cease?—May 1, 2007, pages 30-31.
▪ When does the separating of the sheep and the goats take place? (Matt. 25:31-33)—October 15, 1995, pages 18-28.