[From ws 5/18 p. 27 – July 30 – August 5]
“Put on the complete suit of armor from God so that you may be able to stand firm against the crafty acts of the Devil.”—Ephesians 6:11.
The opening paragraph makes this statement:
“Young Christians in particular may appear to be vulnerable. How can they hope to win against superhuman, wicked spirit forces? The fact is, young ones can win, and they are winning! Why? Because they ‘go on acquiring power in the Lord.’”
Reading this upbeat statement one would get the impression that young Christians as a whole (young JW’s in this context) are winning in the battle against the temptations backed by the wicked spirit forces. A brief examination of demographic data that is available would indicate otherwise.[i] This data indicates, at least in the US, that the percentage of Witnesses in the 18-29 age group has dropped by a third in just 7 years between 2007 and 2014.
The rest of the article goes on to discuss the spiritual suit of armor mentioned by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:10-12. Each item of equipment has only three paragraphs devoted to it, so we will endeavour to expand a little more on each.
The Belt of Truth – Ephesians 6:14a (Par. 3-5)
Paragraph 3 describes how a Roman military belt had metal plates that protected a soldier’s waist and was designed to help relieve the weight of his upper-body armor. Some had strong clips that allowed the carrying of a sword and a dagger. This would give the soldier confidence that all was in its proper place for battle.
Paragraph 4 goes on to say, “Similarly, the truths we learn from God’s Word protect us from the spiritual harm that false teachings cause. (John 8:31, 32; 1 John 4:1)” It is particularly important to highlight 1 John 4:1 which says “Beloved ones, do not believe every inspired expression, but test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God, because many false prophets have gone forth into the world.” (bold ours).
The discussion is about young ones. Can you think how many youngsters actually did an in-depth test of what their parents had taught them before getting baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses? If you were brought up as a Witness, thinking back, did you? You likely briefly checked what your parents taught you, perhaps in Watchtower publications and Bible verses cited therein, not in Bible verses in context. What about the difficult questions you may have had—like the application of the seven plagues of Revelation to conventions between 1918 and 1922? Rather than question it, you were no doubt encouraged to leave it with Jehovah if you didn’t understand, contrary to the direction from this scripture.
Was the apostle John trying to get us to be supercritical, not believing without concrete proof? Where would faith come in if everything was absolutely rock solid? However, he was reminding us to test the ‘inspired expressions’. In a court case, we do not know if the defendant is guilty or innocent, as we were not present at the alleged crime. However, we are asked to make a judgement as to whether guilt is established beyond reasonable doubt. Likewise, we need to test claims and establish beyond reasonable doubt as to whether they originate with God or not. The reason is, according to the apostle John, “because many false prophets have gone forth into the world.” So it is incumbent upon us to ensure that what we accept is not from one of many false prophets.
Why did Jesus say in Mark 13:21-23: “If anyone says to you ‘See! Here is the Christ,’ ‘See! There he is,’ do not believe it.”? Evidently, because he also said: “They will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” We won’t need anyone to point out Jesus has come. (Mark 13:26-27). Secondly, “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will give signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible the chosen ones.” (Mark 13:22) This was the exact point repeated by the apostle John in 1 John 4:1, as discussed above.
It is true that “the more we love divine truths, the easier it is to carry our “breastplate,” that is, to live by God’s righteous standards. (Ps. 111:7, 8; 1 John 5:30)” (Par.4)
Also “when we have a clear understanding of the truths from God’s Word, we can confidently stand our ground and defend them against opposers.—1 Peter 3:15.”
Truth is truth and will always win out. If it is truth then it is therefore strange that it is so difficult to understand the teaching of the overlapping generations purporting to explain how long the generation Jesus discussed was. Even more disturbing is the fact that to question this and other teachings, such as the ‘two witness rule’ as applied to child sexual abuse cases, currently results in accusations of apostasy and threats of being disfellowshipped. Should the Governing Body not be encouraging young ones to ask such questions in line with the divine exhortation expressed at 1 John 4:1?
Perhaps the clue as to the problem is found in paragraph 5 when they correctly state “Because lies have been one of Satan’s most effective weapons. Lies damage both the one telling them and the one believing them. (John 8:44)” Yes, lies are damaging. So we should be sure that we are not telling lies to others and also that we are not believing lies told to us.
The Breastplate of Righteousness – Ephesians 6:14b (Par.6-8)
“One type of breastplate worn by a Roman soldier in the first century consisted of overlapping horizontal strips of iron. These strips were bent to fit his torso and were fastened to straps of leather by means of metal hooks and buckles. The rest of the soldier’s upper body was covered in more strips of iron fastened to leather. This type of garment restricted a soldier’s movement to some degree, and it required that he regularly check that the plates were firmly fixed in place. But his armor hindered the edge of a sword or the point of an arrow from piercing his heart or other vital organs.” (Par.6)
The word translated righteousness comes from a root and properly means ‘judicial approval’. In the context of the Christian Greek scriptures it means the approval of God. This implies therefore that it is God’s approval that figuratively protects our heart and vital body organs from death. This approval of course will only come if we stick to God’s righteous standards. God’s approval and righteous standards would never weigh us down as they are for our protection. Therefore, the some of the world’s recreational customs, such as polluting the body with recreational drugs, drunkenness and sexual immorality, should be firmly rejected. Otherwise, we are removing strips of our breastplate armour and making ourselves vulnerable. It is only the Lord’s approval that will enable us to enjoy everlasting life.
The two scriptures cited in paragraph 7 are good for reflection on this. (Proverbs 4:23, Proverbs 3:5-6).
Feet shod in readiness – Ephesians 6:15 (Par.9-11)
The NWT renders this verse:
“and having your feet shod in readiness to declare the good news of peace.” (Eph 6:15) (Boldface added)
Readiness means ‘foundation’, ‘firm footing’. A literal translation of this verse says ‘and having shod your feet with the readiness (foundation or firm footing) of the Gospel of peace’. While it cannot be taken as confirmation, nevertheless in a review of all English translations on Biblehub.com, it is interesting to note that only 3 out of 28 translations interpret this verse the same way as the NWT. The rest have the literal translation given above or close variants of. It appears the NWT committee have allowed their bias to influence their rendering by adding the verb, “to declare”.
So how can we understand this passage? The sandals worn by a Roman soldier needed to give him a good grip on dry, wet, rocky and smooth surfaces, without which he could fall and become vulnerable in a battle. Likewise a Christian needs the firm foundation of the Gospel of peace, which give him (or her) a firm grip on any conditions, having the confidence of a wonderful hope for the future. If one does not have the hope that one day there will be a resurrection, or that God and Jesus will intervene and put the earth to rights, then just like if the physical grip is weak, so the spiritual grip would be weak and unable to support our Christian soldier in his fight against Satan’s attack. Indeed the Apostle Paul warned that if Christ was not raised up all preaching and all faith is in vain (1 Corinthians 15:12-15).
It follows that the interpretation arrived at by the Organization, while possible (because the scriptures do not expand on this) is heavily biased to preaching the good news when it says “While the literal boots worn by Roman soldiers carried them into war, the symbolic footwear worn by Christians helps them deliver a message of peace”. It is true that the boots carried them into war, but so would bare feet. The scripture talks about them being shod for a reason and it stands to reason that if all other items mentioned play a part in battle, then so would the footwear, rather than just getting to battle. You could go to war on a horse without sandals or boots, but sandals or boots would be required to protect the feet and provide a firm foundation for a fully armored soldier to stand, or run and fight.
Pointing other young people to the Organization’s literature and website will not show how firmly you have secured your boots. You need secure boots to be able to fight otherwise all other equipment is compromised.
The Large Shield of Faith – Ephesians 6:16 (Par.12-14)
“The large shield” carried by a Roman legionnaire was rectangular and covered him from his shoulders to his knees. It served to protect him from the blows of weapons and the hails of arrows.” (Par.12)
“Some of the “burning arrows” that Satan might fire at you are lies about Jehovah—that He does not care about you and that you are unlovable. Nineteen-year-old Ida struggles with feelings of unworthiness. She says, “I have often felt that Jehovah isn’t close to me and that he doesn’t want to be my Friend.”” (Par.13)
If one searches the NWT with ‘friend’ you will find 22 occurrences. Of these only three are relevant to this topic. These are James 4:4 which says a friend of the world is an enemy of God, and James 2:23 along with Isaiah 41:8 discussing Abraham being called a friend of God. There is no scripture that mentions that we can be friends of God. Maybe that is why Ida did not feel close to Jehovah and didn’t feel Jehovah wanted her to be his friend. Could it be that it is the Organization she follows that is responsible for the feelings she has.
Contrast that with three scriptures containing the phrase “sons of God”.
- Matthew 5:9 – “Happy are the peaceable, since they will be called ‘sons of God’”
- Romans 8:19-21 – “For the eager expectation of the creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God, … that the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
- Galatians 3:26 – “You are all, in fact, sons of God through your faith in Christ Jesus.”
Perhaps if the publications were emphasizing the true relationship which Jehovah is offering, poor Ida would not feel so isolated from the God who wishes to call her daughter and have her think of him as Father.
If one is putting faith in the false teachings, then the shield of faith will be so small as to offer no protection at all. Jude 1:3 reminds us that we should “put up a hard fight for the faith that was once for all time delivered to the holy ones.” It was not delivered to second class citizens, mere “friends of God.” It was and continues to be delivered to the “holy ones”, the children of God.
What did Jesus teach? “You must pray this way. Our Father …” (Matthew 6:9).
Did the apostles teach we could be friends of God? No. Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, Colossians 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2 Thessalonians 2:16, and Philemon 1:3 all contain greetings worded “God our Father” along with many references to our “Lord Jesus Christ”.
The first Century Christians believed God was their Father, not their friend. This closer relationship of son or daughter of God, rather than one of friend would certainly strengthen their faith. Almost without exception, even an imperfect father loves his children, so how much more so Jehovah our eternal Father, the God of Love. (2 Corinthians 13:11) The love of a friend for another is of one sort, but the love of a father for a son or daughter is of quite another caliber.
If Jesus and the apostles taught us that Jehovah is our father, not our friend, and this is the faith that was once for all time delivered to the holy ones, then the teaching that Jehovah is our friend, not our father cannot be from the true holy ones. The armour being sold to Jehovah’s Witnesses is made of plastic, not hardened steel.
As Hebrews 11:1 reminds us: “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” We can only have assured expectation and hence faith if the things we hope for are true. If we encourage others, we know and therefore are assured that what we are doing is appreciated by God and Jesus and those we encourage. By contrast how does preparing answers for meetings of the Organization give us this assurance? Many times, one may not be able to share the answer, whether because of too many trying to answer the same question or deliberate avoidance of our hand by the Watchtower conductor. Gathering together to encourage one another is the direction in Hebrews 10, not to listen to a formal meeting with limited options to share encouragement with one another.
Faith is one of the most vital parts of our spiritual armor. Without it to shield us the rest of our armor is exposed and we are far more vulnerable to attack. As John 3:36 says, “He that exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life; he that disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.” So when Jesus says, “Keep doing this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:20) and John 6:52-58 says in part, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, (figuratively) you have no life in yourselves. He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I shall resurrect him at the last day”, how can we reject the bread and wine when we celebrate the memorial of Christ’s death?
The Helmet of Salvation –Ephesians 6:17a (Par.15-18)
“The helmet worn by the Roman infantry was designed to ward off blows directed at the head, neck, and face.” (Par.15)
What is this salvation? 1 Peter 1:3-5, 8-9 explains: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for according to his great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (Acts 24:15) to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance. It is reserved in the heavens for you, who are being safeguarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last period of time….Though you never saw him [Jesus Christ], you love him. Though you are not looking upon him at present, yet you exercise faith in him and are greatly rejoicing with an unspeakable and glorified joy, as you receive the end [product or goal] of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
According to this passage, the apostle Peter is saying that salvation is tied up with our faith in Jesus Christ and his promise of a resurrection as perfect [incorruptible and undefiled] humans, to the inheritance promised. Psalm 37:11 says “the meek ones themselves will possess the earth”, and Matthew 5:5 records Jesus as saying “Happy are the mild-tempered ones, since they will inherit the earth.” The inheritance is reserved in the heavens, safe from theft and destruction by humans as could easily happen with an earthly inheritance. The full understanding or realisation of the salvation being revealed on the last day. Our faith is fully tied up in our salvation, without exercising faith in Jesus there is no salvation. Regarding Jesus, Romans 10:11,13 says “None that rests his faith on him [Jesus] will be disappointed.” “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. However, how will they call on him in whom they have not put faith?”
The WT article however suggests that material things could induce us to remove the helmet of salvation. It is of course true that getting too distracted by material things could cause us to lose our faith and our hope for the future. However, the suggestion that because “the only hope for solving all our problems is God’s Kingdom” that we should not bother to try to reduce or eliminate financial hardships in the meantime is wrong on many levels. Yes, we should look to God’s Kingdom for the solution to problems we cannot solve, but nowhere do the scriptures suggest we should live a life of poverty. Proverbs 30:8 says “Give me neither poverty nor riches.” The following verse explains why: “Let me devour the food prescribed for me, that I may not become satisfied [with too much] and I actually deny you and say ‘Who is Jehovah’?”. Riches could cause us to trust in ourselves instead of God, but poverty could also cause problems. Proverbs 30:9 continues: “and that I may not come to poverty and I actually steal and assail the name of my God”. If we were in poverty we could be tempted to steal and as a known servant of God this could lead to attacks on his good name.
As a result, the view of Kiana who will not “try to cash in on my talents or attempt to climb the corporate ladder” is potentially making her life unnecessarily harder. It is commendable she is investing time and energy in spiritual goals, providing they truly are scripturally spiritual goals, and not the myriads of fake spiritual goals manufactured by the Organization to get the brothers and sisters to serve it, thinking that in doing so they are serving God. As the apostle Paul’s experience should remind us, he was making greater progress in Judaism than many of his own age as Jew, as he was far more zealous for the traditions of his fathers. However, he came to realise his zealousness was misguided.
How can we seek the Kingdom first? (Matthew 6:31-33)
- Matthew 4:17 & Matthew 3:2 – Repent of wrongdoing and turn around leaving it behind. “Jesus commenced preaching and saying: “REPENT you people, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.””
- Matthew 5:3 – Be conscious of our spiritual need. “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.”
- Matthew 5:11 – Expect opposition to our course of life. “Happy are YOU when people reproach YOU and persecute YOU and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against YOU for my sake.”
- Matthew 5:20 – A pharisaic attitude will not help us. “For I say to YOU that if YOUR righteousness does not abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, YOU will by no means enter into the kingdom of the heavens.”
- Matthew 7:20 – Produce fruits that people will see and say ‘There goes a true Christian’. “Really, then, by their fruits YOU will recognize those [men]. 21 “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. 22 Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ 23 And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew YOU! Get away from me, YOU workers of lawlessness”
- Matthew 10:7-8 – Tell others about the wonderful things we have learnt. “As YOU go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’ 8 Cure sick people, raise up dead persons, make lepers clean, expel demons. YOU received free, give free.”
- Matthew 13:19 – Study Gods word and pray for Holy Spirit to ensure we understand the truth of what the Bible teaches. “Where anyone hears the word of the kingdom but does not get the sense of it, the wicked one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart; this is the one sown alongside the road.”
- Matthew 13:44 – Treat the Kingdom as the most important thing in our lives. “The kingdom of the heavens is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and for the joy he has he goes and sells what things he has and buys that field.”
- Matthew 18:23-27 – It is vital to be forgiving of others, if we want to be forgiven. “Moved to pity at this, the master of that slave let him off and cancelled his debt.”
- Matthew 19:14 – Humility and meekness are essential for approval. “Jesus, however, said: “Let the young children alone, and stop hindering them from coming to me, for the kingdom of the heavens belongs to suchlike ones.”
- Matthew 19:22-23 – Riches and poverty are traps that could keep us from entering into the Kingdom. “But Jesus said to his disciples: “Truly I say to YOU that it will be a difficult thing for a rich man to get into the kingdom of the heavens.”
- Romans 14:17 – Qualities developed with the Holy Spirit are vital. “For the kingdom of God does not mean eating and drinking, but [means] righteousness and peace and joy with Holy Spirit.”
- 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – We need to put behind us the traits that the world in general has. “What! Do YOU not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom. And yet that is what some of YOU were”
- Galatians 5:19-21 – Those who persistently practice the works of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, and they are fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these. As to these things I am forewarning YOU, the same way as I did forewarn YOU, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.”
- Ephesians 5:3-5 – Let our topic of conversation always be clean and thankful. “Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness not even be mentioned among YOU, just as it befits holy people; 4 neither shameful conduct nor foolish talking nor obscene jesting, things which are not becoming, but rather the giving of thanks. 5 For YOU know this, recognizing it for yourselves, that no fornicator or unclean person or greedy person—which means being an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of the Christ and of God”
The Sword of the Spirit, God’s Word –Ephesians 6:17b (Par.19-21)
“The sword used by Roman infantrymen at the time Paul wrote his letter was about 20 inches (50 cm) long and was designed for hand-to-hand combat. One reason that Roman soldiers were so effective is that they practiced with their weapons every day.” (Par.19)
Paragraph 20 cites 2 Timothy 2:15 which encourages us to “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of truth aright.” We should not be ashamed of what we believe nor what we speak about from God’s word. But if you are still preaching as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, please ask yourself: Would you be ashamed to explain why Armageddon is imminent? Could you without shame or embarrassment explain your scriptural reasons for why you believe Jesus was enthroned in 1914 and returned invisibly? Can you accurately use the seven times of Daniel to distinguish 1914 from any other year? And could you then go on to explain the concept of the overlapping generations that would allow Armageddon to be in the imminent future from the Scriptures? I would submit that it would not be possible to do this without either shame or embarrassment. If this is the case, that you are unable to skillfully defend the core foundation of most of the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses that differentiates them from other Christian faiths, then you would not be able to be “overturning reasonings and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God” precisely because the teachings are not the true knowledge of God. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)
Yes, the key to accurately wielding the sword of the spirit is to know the accurate knowledge contained within it and how to use it. Therefore, we need to be like the Beroeans who “received the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily as to whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
In conclusion, both young and old can and should stand firm against the Devil. The key is truth as found in God’s Word, such as Jesus used to repel the temptations of the Devil. Avoid the trap of subjugating your thinking abilities to other men. Man has long dominated man to their injury. (Ecclesiastes 8:9) Do not allow yourself to be injured and miss out on entry to the Kingdom of God.