Who do you pray to? On one occasion after Jesus had finished praying, one of his disciples said to him: "Lord, teach us how to pray, just as John also taught his disciples." (Luke 11:1) Accordingly, Jesus gave the following answer, as recorded by Matthew:
"You, however, when you pray, go into your private room and, after shutting your door, pray to your Father who is in secret; then your Father who looks on in secret will repay you. But when praying, do not say the same things over and over again, just as the people of the nations do, for they imagine they will get a hearing for their use of many words. So, do not make yourselves like them, for God YOUR Father knows what things YOU are needing before ever YOU ask him. YOU must pray, then, this way: ‘Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. . .'" (Matt. 6:6-9; 23:9)
Please note how Jesus refers to God
as "your Father." Is Jehovah God also your father? How do
him in prayer? Are you entitled to call God your
father? That is not such a stupid question as some may think, because if
Jehovah is your "Father in the heavens" then it stands to reason that you
must be either a son or daughter of his. After all, who else but his sons
and daughters can call God their Father.
For I shall declare the name
If those who Jehovah has
produced but who "have acted
ruinously on their own part," are not considered by him to be his children, then what can
be said of those who have listened to him?
"Look from heaven and see out of your
lofty abode of holiness and beauty. . . For you are our Father;
When Jehovah sent Moses to Egypt and appear before Pharaoh to demand the release of his people it is interesting to note the message Moses was to deliver. He was to tell Pharaoh, "This is what Jehovah has said: 'Israel is my son, my firstborn. And I say to you: Send my son away that he may serve me.'" Finally, after ten plagues, Moses led Israel out of Egyptian slavery and at Mount Sinai Jehovah made a covenant with them. The Watchtower, August 1, 1995, said regarding this:
Much later, during Moses’ day, Jehovah entered into a covenant relationship with the nation of Israel. As a result, that nation became his chosen people and was viewed as his “son.” God said: “Israel is my son.” (Exodus 4:22, 23; 19:3-6; Deuteronomy 14:1, 2) Based on that covenant relationship, the Israelites could say, as recorded by the prophet Isaiah: “You, O Jehovah, are our Father.” (Isaiah 63:16) Jehovah assumed his fatherly responsibility and lovingly taught his children, Israel. (Psalm 71:17; Isaiah 48:17, 18) In fact, when they became unfaithful, he mercifully pleaded with them: “Return, O you renegade sons.” —Jeremiah 3:14. (w95 8/1 pp. 9-10 Jehovah—A God Who Teaches)
Every male member of the twelve tribes of Israel could claim to be God's "son" and had individual accountability accordingly. Thus, they could bring guilt upon themselves individually for wrongdoing, or the whole nation could become guilty before Jehovah as a collective son. (Isai. 44:8; Ezek. 18:20; compare Rev. 2:23) Insight on the Scriptures, vol. 2, says:
Jehovah protected, carried, corrected, and provided for them as a father would for his son. (De 1:30, 31; 8:5-9; compare Isa 49:14, 15.) As “a son,” the nation should have served to the praise of its Father. (Isa 43:21; Mal 1:6) Otherwise Israel would belie its sonship (De 32:4-6, 18-20; Isa 1:2, 3; 30:1, 2, 9), even as some of the Israelites acted in disreputable ways and were called “sons of belial” (literal Hebrew expression rendered “good-for-nothing men” at De 13:13 and other texts; compare 2Co 6:15). They became “renegade sons.”—Jer 3:14, 22; compare 4:22. (it-2 pp. 997-998 Son(s) of God)
What a wonderful blessing and awesome responsibility it was
for any Israelite to be recognized as a son of the true God because of
his obedience and faith, being a member of the nation that God recognized
as his people, his composite "son."
"By myself I do swear,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘that by reason of the fact that you have done this thing and you have not withheld your son, your only one, I shall surely bless you and I shall surely multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens and like the grains of sand that are on the seashore; and your seed will take possession of the gate of his enemies. And by means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves due to the fact that you have listened to my voice.'" —Genesis 22:16-18.
If Jehovah recognized the nation of Israel as his son even before making the covenant with them, what can be said of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Would they not also be God's sons? Jehovah's promise to Abraham included three things: Abraham's offspring would become numerous like "the stars of the heavens," and Jehovah, as their father, would be with them as their protector; also the promised "seed," first mentioned by God immediately after Adam's rebellion in Eden, would come from Abraham's line of descent; and thirdly, by means of that seed "all nations of the earth" would receive blessings. (Gen. 3:15; Matt. 1:1-16; Ga. 3:16) It was in this last context that Jehovah referred to the children of Abraham as "my son, my firstborn," because the time would come when not only his "firstborn" son Israel would belong to Jehovah but he would also have many more sons, people of "all the nations of the earth," because of their having faith like that of Abraham, and blessing themselves by means of his seed.
"Surely YOU know that those who adhere to faith are the ones who are sons of Abraham. Now the Scripture, seeing in advance that God would declare people of the nations righteous due to faith, declared the good news beforehand to Abraham, namely: "By means of you all the nations will be blessed." Consequently those who adhere to faith are being blessed together with faithful Abraham." —Galatians 3:7-9.
Jehovah's promise of a coming seed, a Messiah who would in God's due time crush the Devil, was well known to his people Israel; yet there was another important element to that promise that he kept as a "sacred secret" until the appointed time arrived for its fulfillment. Jehovah had purposed to provide close associates to that Seed, as close as a bride, who would be rulers with his Son in his kingdom, and whom he personally would choose from among the sons of Israel. (John 3:29) The full number of these chosen ones was foreordained in the beginning but was not revealed until the end of the first century when the apostle John received the Revelation. (see Rev. 14:1-4) It would be by means of the Messiah and his anointed companions that Jehovah would establish an administration, his heavenly kingdom, by which all the damage caused by Adam's rebellion would be undone. (Dan. 7:13,14,18,27; Luke 22:28-30) The apostle Paul writes in this regard:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ, for he has blessed us with every
spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in union with Christ, just
as he chose us in union with him before the founding of the world, that we
should be holy and without blemish before him in love. For
he foreordained us to the adoption through Jesus Christ as sons to
himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, in
praise of his glorious undeserved kindness which he kindly conferred upon
us by means of [his] loved one.
Jehovah, the "God and Father" of Jesus
Christ, purposed to choose from among
his firstborn son Israel, that is, Abraham's natural descendants, those he had foreordained before
the founding of the world to be his adopted "sons." These
anointed, adopted sons, would make up the "Israel of God," the "kingdom of
priests and a holy nation," that Jehovah had promised at the time he
concluded the covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai. Of, course, as he told
them, to be recipients of those blessings would depend upon their obedience. (Exodus 19:5,6; Gal. 6:16;
1 Peter 2:9)
Even after the Jews had slain his Son, Jehovah continued to show them long-suffering for a period of three and a half more years, granting them the exclusive opportunity of being called to become a part of the spiritual seed of Abraham. (Daniel 9:27) Before and after the year 36 C.E., some Jews accepted this call, and thus, as Paul later put it, “a remnant has turned up according to a choosing due to undeserved kindness.”—Romans 11:5. (November 1, 2001, page 13, Jehovah Is a God of Long Suffering.) (Bold mine)
That exclusive time period of three and a half years ("half of the week" after Christ's sacrificial death; 33 C.E. to 36 C.E.) of being invited did not extent to any non-Jews such as proselytes and Samaritans, for it was exclusive to Abraham's natural descendants who were in the covenant with Jehovah. Insight on the Scriptures, volume 2, page 699, says regarding proselytes:
Throughout Israelite history non-Jews became proselytes, in effect saying about the Jews what Moabitess Ruth said to Naomi: "Your people will be my people, and your God my God." (Ru 1:16; Jos 6:25; Mt 1:5) (Bold mine)
These proselytes were not included in the covenant that Jehovah made with Israel:
What was the standing of such proselytes? When Jehovah made his covenant, it was only with Israel; those of the "vast mixed company," although present, were not named as participants. (Exodus 12:38; 19:3, 7, 8) Their firstborn were not taken into account when the ransom price for the firstborn of Israel was calculated. (Numbers 3:44-51) Decades later when the land of Canaan was divided between the Israelite tribes, nothing was set aside for non-Israelite believers. (Genesis 12:7; Joshua 13:1-14) Why? Because the Law covenant was not made with proselytes. But proselyte men were circumcised in obedience to the Law. They observed its regulations, and they benefited from its provisions. Proselytes as well as Israelites came under the Law covenant.—Exodus 12:48, 49; Numbers 15:14-16; Romans 3:19. (The Watchtower, February 1, 1998, page 11; Jehovah Is a God of Covenants - Proselytes in Israel) (Bold mine)
As is noted, although the covenant that Jehovah made with Israel was exclusively between him and Abraham's natural offspring, yet non-Jewish circumcised proselytes could worship Jehovah and came under the Law of that covenant. Could any proselyte become a disciple of Christ during these exclusive three and a half years? Yes, of course they could, as The Watchtower goes on to say:
So closely were proselytes associated with Israel under the Law that at Pentecost 33 C.E. when the first ‘key of the kingdom’ was used in behalf of the Jews, proselytes also benefited. As a result, "Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch," became a Christian and was among the "seven certified men" appointed to care for the needs of the Jerusalem congregation.—Matthew 16:19; Acts 2:5-10; 6:3-6; 8:26-39 (The Watchtower, February 1, 1998, page 11; Jehovah Is a God of Covenants - Proselytes in Israel)
The Watchtower states that proselytes at
Pentecost 33 C.E. benefited when the first key of the kingdom was used in
behalf of the Jews. If by "benefited" it is meant that they too had the
invitation for the heavenly calling then that is not possible. That
invitation was exclusively for the Jews. That is what exclusive means,
"not shared with others; not including." (Webster's II New Riverside
"YOU are all, in fact, sons of God through YOUR faith in Christ Jesus. For all of YOU who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for YOU are all one [person] in union with Christ Jesus. Moreover, if YOU belong to Christ, YOU are really Abraham’s seed, heirs with reference to a promise." —Galatians 3:26-29.
Paul says that "you are all, in fact, sons of
God through your faith in Christ Jesus." He does not qualify the "all"
when he says "through your faith in Christ Jesus," as if some would be
sons of God because of their faith while others, having like faith, would not be. The Jews who
had faith in Christ Jesus were already sons of God, even before his
coming, and people of the nations now had the same opportunity. Why did Paul
need to explain to the Galatians that they were all, in
fact, sons of God, and then, in connection with this, goes on to write
about them being "heirs with reference to a promise"?
The Romans gods were from a
strange mixture of influences. Before Rome became a big city, the area
around it, called Latium, was settled my superstitious villagers, the
Latins, who believed in many gods and spirits. As Rome grew into a city
and began to become more powerful it came into contact with the Greeks,
who had a complex Pantheon of their own. It seems that the Roman gods were
a mix of those two main influences; Latin and Greek.
The concept of only one true God was foreign to these
people of the nations that Paul preached to. They truly were "alienated from the life that belongs to God,"
and there was much they had to learn and unlearn. (Eph.
There was something else though that needed
to be explained: How can we, as sinful descendants of Adam, with no
inherited right to life, become "sons of God" by faith in Christ Jesus? In
other words, how does the death of one righteous man (Christ Jesus)
benefit those who were born to the one (Adam) who brought condemnation
upon them? (Rom. 5:18,19)
"Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering." —Romans 8:12-17, New Living Translation.
By being adopted by God we get bestowed upon us all the legal rights
of a natural son, the right to inherit everlasting life and also the right to call God "Abba,
Father." Jehovah makes that evident by giving us his holy spirit as a
free gift which
helps us to understand and appreciate our relationship with him, and to please him as our Father. That is true of all who will inherit
everlasting life, whether in heaven or on earth. Paul was explaining this
from his own standpoint of having been adopted with the hope of ruling
with Christ in his heavenly kingdom.
"Not only that, but we ourselves also who have the firstfruits, namely, the spirit, yes, we ourselves groan within ourselves, while we are earnestly waiting for adoption as sons, the release from our bodies by ransom." —Romans 8:23
Actually, according to that scripture, Paul was saying that as adopted sons who had the heavenly hope, they were earnestly waiting for the blessings that come with the adoption, the release from their bodies, eagerly looking forward to be united with Christ in the heavens. That is why some translations read this as follows:
"while we eagerly await our
full adoption as Sons—the
redemption of our bodies"
The full benefits of the
adoption is still future when the vast majority of God's sons and
daughters will inherit the earth and live forever upon it, while the
little flock of chosen ones will rule in Christ's heavenly kingdom for the
blessing of all God's creation. (Psalms 37:11, 29; Prov. 2:21; Rev. 20:6)
But even now we enjoy wonderful blessings as adopted sons of God. We can
approach Jehovah and render him sacred service because of our clean
consciences. (Heb. 9:14; 10:22; 1 Peter 3:21; Rev. 7:14,15) This, of course, is because our
sins have been forgiven and we endeavor to please God in everything we do.
Those with the heavenly hope have no advantage in this over those who will
live on earth. (1 John 1:8-2:1-3)
It is commonly believed that when the Scriptures speak of Abraham's seed it always applies to Christ and his 144,000. But in making the promise to Abraham Jehovah spoke firstly of a different seed, namely, "I shall surely bless you and I shall surely multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens and like the grains of sand that are on the seashore." (Gen. 22:17) This seed, of course, proved to be Abraham's natural descendants who grew numerous and mighty and who in time produced the promised seed, Christ Jesus. But there was more to that promise. According to God's covenant with Abraham, this multitudinous seed would eventually include people of all the nations by reason of their faith. That is why Paul wrote to the Ephesians in the way of explanation:
"But now in union with Christ Jesus YOU who were once far off have come to be near by the blood of the Christ. For he is our peace, he who made the two parties one and destroyed the wall in between that fenced them off. By means of his flesh he abolished the enmity, the Law of commandments consisting in decrees, that he might create the two peoples in union with himself into one new man and make peace; and that he might fully reconcile both peoples in one body to God through the torture stake, because he had killed off the enmity by means of himself. And he came and declared the good news of peace to YOU, the ones far off, and peace to those near, because through him we, both peoples, have the approach to the Father by one spirit." —Ephesians 2:13-18.
It was Jesus' sacrifice that made it possible for people of the nations (the ones far off) and the Jews (those near) to be reconciled "in one body to God," making "the two parties one." Yes, "both peoples have the approach to the Father by one spirit." After all, in the greater picture, did Jesus not die for all mankind, buying back what Adam through his rebellion had lost for all his offspring! "For just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive." (1 Cor. 15:22) In bringing blessings to all mankind Jehovah saw fit to use faithful Abraham to be the means by which he was going to accomplish this. And in this way Abraham would become "the father of us all." (Rom. 4:16,17) Paul explains further on this:
"For if by the trespass of the one [man] death ruled as king through that one, much more will those who receive the abundance of the undeserved kindness and of the free gift of righteousness rule as kings in life through the one [person], Jesus Christ. So, then, as through one trespass the result to men of all sorts was condemnation, likewise also through one act of justification the result to men of all sorts is a declaring of them righteous for life. For just as through the disobedience of the one man many were constituted sinners, likewise also through the obedience of the one [person] many will be constituted righteous." —Romans 5:17-19.
Jesus made possible for all men of faith to be "declared righteous for life," just as Abraham had also been declared righteous because of his faith and has become the father of all those having faith. (Rom. 4:912) It is interesting to note what The Watchtower (1954) says in this regard:
Still someone may ask, Was not Abraham’s faith in Jehovah “counted to him as righteousness”? Yes, but only to the extent that “he came to be called ‘Jehovah’s friend’.” Then are imperfect humans declared righteous in varying degrees and for different purposes? Yes. Abraham had faith in God’s promise regarding a seed, and because of his faith God accepted him as a friend. But Abraham did not know who that Seed would be; so he could not exercise faith in Christ Jesus and in his ransom sacrifice, without which no one can be declared righteous with the hope of everlasting life. —Jas. 2:23, (w54 9/1 p. 521 Declared Righteous by Jehovah)
Is there any scriptural support for their
claim that imperfect humans are "declared righteous in varying degrees and
for different purposes?" Their human reasoning on the matter contradicts
what Paul wrote when he said, "through one act of justification the result
to men of all sorts is a declaring of them righteous for life." The one
act of justification resulted in righteousness for life, the opposite
of the result of the one act of trespass. There is no such thing as
varying degrees of righteousness just as there are no varying degrees of
life. One person is not slightly righteous while his brother may be
enormously righteous for exactly the same faith. What nonsense! Those who have the hope of
living on earth are declared righteous in the same manner and to the same
degree as those who are called for the heavenly glory. The little flock,
as Jesus called those who will rule in his kingdom, are not chosen because
of any higher degree of righteousness imputed to them but rather because of the ransom
that Christ paid, and their faith in that. (Luke 12:32)
"But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins." —Romans 3:21-24; New Living Translation.
It is worth emphasizing: It is by God's
undeserved kindness and our faith in Christ Jesus that we are declared
righteous, and this is true for everyone, no matter who we are
("there is no distinction" - NWT). We
fall short of God's glorious standard, those who hope to rule with Christ
the same as those who hope to live on earth. Both are recipients of God's
undeserved kindness equally. (1 John 2:1-3)
James also mentions Abraham as an example to prove that faith must be backed up by godly works. After stating that Abraham was declared righteous, quoting Genesis 15:6, James adds a comment that helps us to see the scope of Abraham’s justification. He writes: “The scripture was fulfilled which says: ‘Abraham put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness,’ and he came to be called ‘Jehovah’s friend.’” (James 2:20-23) Yes, due to his faith, Abraham was declared righteous as a friend of Jehovah, not as a son with the right to perfect human life or to kingship with Christ. Interestingly, in his Synonyms of the Old Testament, Robert Girdlestone wrote concerning Abraham’s righteousness: “This righteousness was not absolute, i.e. such as would commend Abraham to God as a rightful claimant of the inheritance of sonship.” (w85 12/1 p. 15 par. 10 Declared Righteous as a Friend of God) (Bold mine)
By saying that Abraham was declared righteous only as a friend and not with the right to perfect human life they directly contradict what Jesus himself said regarding Abraham and his righteousness. In answer to the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection, Jesus said:
"But that the dead are raised up even Moses disclosed, in the account about the thornbush, when he calls Jehovah ‘the God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob.’ He is a God, not of the dead, but of the living, for they are all living to him." —Luke 20:37,38.
According to Jesus his forefather Abraham was
"living" to Jehovah, awaiting the resurrection of the righteous, as he
promised, "Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all
those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who
did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile
things to a resurrection of judgment." (John 5:28,29; Acts 24:15) Jesus
said that Abraham was alive to Jehovah although he had died. He had faith
in God's promises and "did good things" and for that reason was declared
righteous. Is he not going to receive the resurrection of life? Yes,
according to Paul and Jesus,
Abraham was "declared righteous for life." (Rom. 5:18)
"But he spoke this illustration also to some
who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and who considered the
rest as nothing: 'Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a
Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and began to
pray these things to himself, "O God, I thank you I am not as the rest of
men, extortioners, unrighteous, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.
I fast twice a week, I give the tenth of all things I acquire." But the
tax collector standing at a distance was not willing even to raise his
eyes heavenward, but kept beating his breast, saying, "O God, be gracious
to me a sinner." I tell YOU, This man went down to his home proved more
righteous than that man; because everyone that exalts himself will be
humiliated, but he that humbles himself will be exalted.'"
O Jehovah, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you
are our Potter;
Jesus promised: "I will
request the Father and he will give you another helper to be with you
forever, the spirit of the truth, which the world cannot receive." (John
14:16, 17) This "spirit of the truth," or holy spirit, is not a person but
a force—Jehovah’s own active force. It is powerful beyond measure. It is
the force that Jehovah used in creating the universe, in performing
spectacular miracles, and in providing visionary revelations of his will.
Since Jehovah is not using his spirit in those specific ways today, does
that mean that we do not need it?
5. Since Jehovah chose his first
anointed sons from among his "firstborn" son Israel they both are
obviously his sons; not just those chosen to rule with Christ.
"Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what sharing does light have with darkness? Further, what harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does God’s temple have with idols? For we are a temple of a living God; just as God said: "I shall reside among them and walk among [them], and I shall be their God, and they will be my people." "‘Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,’ says Jehovah, ‘and quit touching the unclean thing’"; "‘and I will take YOU in.’" "‘And I shall be a father to YOU, and YOU will be sons and daughters to me,’ says Jehovah the Almighty."" —2 Corinthians 6:14-18.
Abraham's seed is not restricted
to just Christ Jesus and the 144,000. The multitudinous "seed" that
Jehovah promised would come from Abraham proved to be his natural
descendants, the Jews,
and eventually would include people of all the nations who have faith
like that of Abraham. (Rev. 7:9) They are the "heirs with reference to
[the] promise" that "all nations of the earth" would bless themselves by
means of the promised seed, Christ Jesus, who is the means by which
all this is made possible.
Paul, as an apostle to the nations, wrote to explain how the Gentiles were
benefactors of God's covenant with Abraham. (Galatians 3:26-29)
"Do not give up when you are punished by God. Be willing to take it, knowing that God is teaching you as a son. Is there a father who does not punish his son sometimes? If you are not punished as all sons are, it means that you are not a true son of God. You are not a part of His family and He is not your Father. Remember that our fathers on earth punished us. We had respect for them. How much more should we obey our Father in heaven and live? For a little while our fathers on earth punished us when they thought they should. But God punishes us for our good so we will be holy as He is holy. There is no joy while we are being punished. It is hard to take, but later we can see that good came from it. And it gives us the peace of being right with God." —Hebrews 12:7-11, New Life Version.
majority of his adopted "true sons" will "inherit the earth,"
as was Adam's prospect, while a chosen
"little flock" has their inheritance reserved in the heavens. (Gen.
37:11,29; Prov. 2:21; Matt. 5:5; Luke 12:32; 1 Peter 1:3,4)