“Now Is the Especially Acceptable Time”
“Look! Now is the especially acceptable time. Look! Now is the day of salvation.”—2 COR. 6:2.
1. Why do we need to discern what is to be done at any given time?
“FOR everything there is an appointed time, even a time for every affair under the heavens.” (Eccl. 3:1) Solomon was writing about the importance of discerning the time that is most favorable for any worthwhile endeavor—be it farming, travel, business, or communicating with others. Nevertheless, we also need to discern what is the most important work that we must do at any given time. In other words, we must have our priorities straight.
2. How do we know that when Jesus was preaching, he was keenly aware of the time in which he was living?
2 When on earth, Jesus was keenly aware of the time in which he was living and what he needed to do. Having clearly in mind what his priorities were, he knew that the long-awaited time for many Messianic prophecies to be fulfilled was at hand. (1 Pet. 1:11; Rev. 19:10) There was work for him to do to make clear his identity as the promised Messiah. He had to bear thorough witness to Kingdom truth and to gather those who would be future joint heirs with him in the Kingdom. And he had to lay the foundation for the Christian congregation, which would carry out the preaching and disciple-making work to the ends of the earth.—Mark 1:15.
3. How did Jesus’ awareness of time affect his actions?
3 That awareness was a positive force in Jesus’ life, motivating him to be zealous in carrying out his Father’s will. He told his disciples: “The harvest, indeed, is great, but the workers are few. Therefore beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:2; Mal. 4:5, 6) Jesus selected first 12 then 70 from among his disciples, gave them specific instructions, and sent them out to preach the stirring message: “The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” As for Jesus himself, we read: “When [he] had finished giving instructions to his twelve disciples, he set out from there to teach and preach in their cities.”—Matt. 10:5-7; 11:1; Luke 10:1.
4. In what way was Paul an imitator of Jesus Christ?
4 Jesus was a perfect model of zeal and devotion for all his followers. This is what the apostle Paul pointed to when he urged his fellow believers: “Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1) In what way was Paul an imitator of Christ? Primarily in sparing no effort when it came to preaching the good news. In the letters Paul wrote to congregations, we find such expressions as “do not loiter at your business,” “slave for Jehovah,” “always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord,” and “whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah.” (Rom. 12:11; 1 Cor. 15:58; Col. 3:23) Paul never forgot his encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus and the words of Jesus that the disciple Ananias must have passed on to him: “This man is a chosen vessel to me to bear my name to the nations as well as to kings and the sons of Israel.”—Acts 9:15; Rom. 1:1, 5; Gal. 1:16.
“The Especially Acceptable Time”
5. What motivated Paul to carry out his ministry zealously?
5 Reading the book of Acts, we cannot fail to note the courage and zeal that Paul exhibited in carrying out his ministry. (Acts 13:9, 10; 17:16, 17; 18:5) Paul recognized the significance of the time in which he lived. He said: “Look! Now is the especially acceptable time. Look! Now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2) Back in 537 B.C.E., it was the acceptable time for the exiles in Babylon to return to their homeland. (Isa. 49:8, 9) But to what was Paul here referring? The context helps us to see what he had in mind.
6, 7. What great honor has been given to anointed Christians today, and who are working along with the anointed?
6 Earlier in his letter, Paul spoke about a great honor given to him and his fellow anointed Christians. (Read 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.) He explained that they were called by God for a specific purpose, to carry out “the ministry of the reconciliation,” to beg people to “become reconciled to God.” That meant restoring friendship or harmony with God.
7 Since the Edenic rebellion, all mankind has been alienated and estranged from Jehovah. (Rom. 3:10, 23) That alienation has plunged mankind in general into spiritual darkness, leading to suffering and death. “We know that all creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together until now,” wrote Paul. (Rom. 8:22) But God has taken steps to urge, actually to “beg,” people to come back, or to become reconciled, to him. That was the ministry entrusted to Paul and his fellow anointed Christians back then. That “acceptable time” could prove to be a “day of salvation” for those who put faith in Jesus. All anointed Christians and their companions, the “other sheep,” who are working along with them, continue to invite people to benefit from the “acceptable time.”—John 10:16.
8. What makes the call to reconciliation remarkable?
8 What makes the call to reconciliation all the more remarkable is that even though the breach was solely one-sided—caused by man’s rebellion in Eden—God himself took the initiative to mend the breach. (1 John 4:10, 19) What did he do? Paul answered: “God was by means of Christ reconciling a world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and he committed the word of the reconciliation to us.”—2 Cor. 5:19; Isa. 55:6.
9. What did Paul do to show his appreciation for God’s mercy?
9 By providing the ransom sacrifice, Jehovah made it possible for those who exercise faith to be forgiven of their trespasses and to be restored to friendship or harmony with him. Furthermore, he sent out his emissaries to urge people everywhere to make peace with him while they could. (Read 1 Timothy 2:3-6.) Sensing God’s will and recognizing the time in which he lived, Paul tirelessly expended himself in “the ministry of the reconciliation.” Jehovah’s will has not changed. His hand is still extended in our day. Paul’s words “now is the especially acceptable time” and “now is the day of salvation” still apply. What a merciful and compassionate God Jehovah is!—Ex. 34:6, 7.
Do Not “Miss Its Purpose”
10. What has “the day of salvation” meant for anointed Christians, past and present?
10 The first ones to benefit from this expression of undeserved kindness were those “in union with Christ.” (2 Cor. 5:17, 18) For them, “the day of salvation” began at Pentecost 33 C.E. From then on, such ones have been entrusted with the task of proclaiming “the word of the reconciliation.” Today, the remnant of anointed Christians are still carrying out “the ministry of the reconciliation.” They recognize that the four angels whom the apostle John saw in a prophetic vision are “holding tight the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow upon the earth.” Thus, it is still “the day of salvation” and “the especially acceptable time.” (Rev. 7:1-3) For this reason, since the early 20th century, the anointed remnant have been zealously applying themselves to the task of “the ministry of the reconciliation” to the far corners of the earth.
11, 12. How did anointed Christians early in the 20th century show their awareness of the time? (See picture on page 15.)
11 For example, as noted in the book Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, at the turn of the 20th century, “C. T. Russell and his associates strongly believed that they were in a time of harvest and that people needed to hear liberating truth.” What did they do about this? Realizing that they were in a time of harvest, an “especially acceptable time,” these brothers did not content themselves with simply inviting people to come to some religious service. The clergy of Christendom had long been doing just that. Rather, those anointed Christians began to explore other practical ways of spreading the good news. Among other things, they made wise use of the latest technology to advance their work.
12 To spread the Kingdom good news, that small band of zealous ministers used tracts, pamphlets, magazines, and books. They also prepared syndicated sermons and articles for thousands of newspapers. They broadcast Scriptural programs on national and international radio networks. They produced and used moving pictures with synchronized sound recordings, even before the movie industry released motion pictures for the public that incorporated sound. What was the result of such unflagging zeal? Today, there are some seven million people who have responded to and joined in proclaiming the message: “Become reconciled to God.” Truly, those early servants of Jehovah were fine examples of zeal in spite of limiting circumstances.
13. We should take to heart what purpose of God?
13 Paul’s statement “now is the especially acceptable time” is still true. We who have tasted Jehovah’s undeserved kindness are grateful that we have been given the opportunity to hear and accept the message of reconciliation. Rather than feeling complacent, we take to heart Paul’s next words: “We also entreat you not to accept the undeserved kindness of God and miss its purpose.” (2 Cor. 6:1) The purpose of God’s undeserved kindness is to ‘reconcile a world to himself’ by means of Christ.—2 Cor. 5:19.
14. What opportunities are opening up in many lands?
14 The majority of mankind, blinded by Satan, are still alienated from God and ignorant of the purpose of God’s undeserved kindness. (2 Cor. 4:3, 4; 1 John 5:19) However, worsening world conditions have caused many to respond when shown that alienation from God is at the root of human evil and suffering. Even in lands where most people have been apathetic about our preaching work, many are now accepting the good news and taking action to become reconciled to God. Do we, then, appreciate that this is the time for us to apply ourselves even more zealously to sounding out the entreaty: “Become reconciled to God”?
15. Rather than preaching a feel-good message, we want people everywhere to know what?
15 Our task is not simply to tell people that if they turn to God, he will help them with all their problems and they will feel better. Many are looking merely for that when they go to church, and the churches are eager to cater to this desire. (2 Tim. 4:3, 4) That is not the goal of our ministry. The good news we preach is that Jehovah, out of his love, is willing to forgive trespasses by means of Christ. Thus, individuals can break free from alienation and become reconciled to God. (Rom. 5:10; 8:32) “The especially acceptable time,” however, is fast coming to a close.
“Be Aglow With the Spirit”
16. What accounted for courage and zeal in Paul’s case?
16 How, then, can we develop and maintain our zeal for true worship? Some may be shy or reticent by nature and may find it difficult to be demonstrative or outgoing. However, it is good to remember that zeal is not just an outward show of emotion or excitement; nor does it depend upon one’s personality. Paul pointed out the key when he urged his fellow Christians: “Be aglow with the spirit.” (Rom. 12:11) Jehovah’s spirit played a major role in the apostle’s courage and stamina in the preaching work. From the time he was called by Jesus to his final imprisonment and martyrdom in Rome—a period of over 30 years—Paul’s zeal did not waver. He always looked to God, who through the spirit gave Paul needed strength. “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me,” he said. (Phil. 4:13) How we can benefit if we learn from his example!
17. How can we “be aglow with the spirit”?
17 The word translated “aglow” literally means “boiling.” (Kingdom Interlinear) To keep a kettle of water boiling, we need a steady supply of heat. Similarly, to “be aglow with the spirit,” we need a constant flow of God’s spirit. The way to have that is to use all the provisions that Jehovah makes to fortify us spiritually. That means taking seriously our family and congregation worship—being regular in personal and family study, in prayer, and in meeting with our fellow Christians. That will help us to have the “fire” to sustain the “boiling” that will keep us “aglow with the spirit.”—Read Acts 4:20; 18:25.
18. As dedicated Christians, on what objective should we be focused?
18 A dedicated person is one who is totally focused on an objective and is not easily distracted or discouraged from pursuing that objective. As dedicated Christians, our objective is to do whatever Jehovah wants us to do, even as Jesus did. (Heb. 10:7) Today, Jehovah’s will is that as many as possible become reconciled to him. Let us, therefore, apply ourselves zealously—in imitation of Jesus and Paul—to this most important, yes urgent, task to be done today.
Do You Recall?
• What was “the ministry of the reconciliation” entrusted to Paul and other anointed Christians?
• How have the anointed remnant made good use of “the especially acceptable time”?
• How can Christian ministers “be aglow with the spirit”?
[Picture on page 12]
Paul never forgot his encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ