Loyal to Christ and His Faithful Slave
“His master . . . will appoint him over all his belongings.”—MATTHEW 24:45-47.
“YOU must not let people call you ‘leaders’—you have only one leader, Christ!” (Matthew 23:10, The New Testament in Modern English) With these words, Jesus made it plain to his followers that no man on earth would be their leader. Their one Leader would be heavenly—Jesus Christ himself. Jesus holds this position by divine appointment. Jehovah “raised him up from the dead and . . . made him head over all things to the congregation, which is his body.”—Ephesians 1:20-23.
2 Since Christ is “head over all things” with regard to the Christian congregation, he exercises his authority over all that takes place within the congregation. Nothing that occurs within the congregation escapes his notice. He closely observes the spiritual condition of each group of Christians, or congregation. This is clearly apparent in the revelation given to the apostle John at the end of the first century C.E. To seven congregations, Jesus stated five times that he knew their deeds, their strong points, and their weaknesses, and he gave counsel and encouragement accordingly. (Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15) There is every reason to believe that Christ was equally familiar with the spiritual condition of other congregations in Asia Minor, Palestine, Syria, Babylonia, Greece, Italy, and elsewhere. (Acts 1:8) What of today?
A Faithful Slave
3 After his resurrection and shortly before his ascension to his Father in heaven, Jesus told his disciples: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” He also said: “Look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 28:18-20) He would continue to be with them as their active Head. In letters to Christians in Ephesus and Colossae, the apostle Paul likened the Christian congregation to a “body,” of which Christ is the Head. (Ephesians 1:22, 23; Colossians 1:18) The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges states that this metaphor “suggests not only vital union with the Head, but that the will of the Head is exercised through the members. They are His instruments.” Whom has Christ used as his collective instrument since being invested with Kingdom power in 1914?—Daniel 7:13, 14.
4 The prophecy of Malachi foretold that Jehovah, “the true Lord,” accompanied by his “messenger of the covenant,” his newly enthroned Son, Christ Jesus, would come in judgment to inspect His “temple,” or spiritual house of worship. “The appointed time” for the ‘judgment of the house of God’ to begin evidently arrived in 1918.* (Malachi 3:1; 1 Peter 4:17) Those claiming to represent God and his true worship on earth were duly examined. The churches of Christendom, who for centuries had taught God-dishonoring doctrines and had been heavily involved in the massacre of World War I, were rejected. A faithful remnant of spirit-anointed Christians were tested, refined as with fire, and approved, becoming to Jehovah “people presenting a gift offering in righteousness.”—Malachi 3:3.
5 In line with Malachi’s prophecy, the composite sign that Jesus gave his disciples to enable them to recognize the time of his “presence and of the conclusion of the system of things” included the identification of a collective “slave.” Jesus stated: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.” (Matthew 24:3, 45-47) “On arriving” to inspect the “slave” in 1918, Christ found a spirit-anointed remnant of faithful disciples who since 1879 had been using this journal and other Bible-based publications to provide spiritual “food at the proper time.” He acknowledged them as his collective instrument, or “slave,” and in 1919 entrusted them with the management of all his earthly belongings.
Managing Christ’s Earthly Belongings
6 A few months before Jesus gave his prophecy on the sign of his presence, including the existence of a “slave” representing him on earth, he spoke of this “slave” in slightly different terms that shed light on the slave’s responsibilities. Jesus stated: “Who really is the faithful steward, the discreet one, whom his master will appoint over his body of attendants to keep giving them their measure of food supplies at the proper time? I tell you truthfully, He will appoint him over all his belongings.”—Luke 12:42, 44.
7 Here the slave is called a steward, a word translated from a Greek term denoting “the manager of a household or estate.” The collective steward would not simply be a group of intellectuals who explain interesting points from the Bible. In addition to providing nourishing spiritual food “at the proper time,” “the faithful steward” would be appointed over the entire body of Christ’s attendants and assigned to manage all of Christ’s interests on earth, “all his belongings.” What would this entail?
8 The slave’s responsibilities include the supervision of the material facilities used by Christ’s followers to carry out their Christian activities, such as the world headquarters and branch offices of Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as their places of worship—Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls—throughout the world. More important, the slave also oversees spiritually upbuilding programs of Bible study at weekly meetings and periodic assemblies and conventions. At these gatherings, information on the fulfillment of Bible prophecies is dispensed, and timely direction on how to apply Bible principles in daily life is given.
9 The steward’s responsibilities also include the supervision of the all-important work of preaching “this good news of the kingdom” and making “disciples of people of all the nations.” This involves teaching people to observe all the things that Christ, the Head of the congregation, commands to be done during this time of the end. (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20; Revelation 12:17) The preaching and teaching work has produced “a great crowd” of loyal companions of the anointed remnant. These “desirable things of all the nations” are undoubtedly to be counted among the precious “belongings” of Christ administered by the faithful slave.—Revelation 7:9; Haggai 2:7.
A Representative Governing Body
10 The faithful slave’s heavy responsibilities would obviously involve much decision making. In the early Christian congregation, the apostles and elders in Jerusalem acted in a representative way, making decisions for the entire Christian congregation. (Acts 15:1, 2) The decisions of this first-century governing body were transmitted to the congregations by means of letters and traveling representatives. The early Christians were happy to receive this clear direction, and their willing cooperation with the governing body promoted peace and unity.—Acts 15:22-31; 16:4, 5; Philippians 2:2.
11 As in early Christian times, a small group of spirit-anointed overseers make up the Governing Body of Christ’s followers on earth today. By means of his “right hand” of applied power, Christ, the Head of the congregation, directs these faithful men as they supervise the Kingdom work. (Revelation 1:16, 20) In his life story, Albert Schroeder, a longtime member of the Governing Body who recently finished his earthly course, wrote: “The Governing Body meets every Wednesday, opening the meeting with prayer and asking for the direction of Jehovah’s spirit. A real effort is made to see that every matter that is handled and every decision that is made is in harmony with God’s Word the Bible.”* We can have confidence in such faithful anointed Christians. Regarding them in particular, we should heed the apostle Paul’s injunction: “Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over your souls.”—Hebrews 13:17.
Showing Due Respect for the Faithful Slave
12 A fundamental reason for showing proper respect for the faithful slave class is that by so doing, we are in fact showing respect for the Master, Jesus Christ. Paul wrote of the anointed ones: “He that was called when a freeman is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price.” (1 Corinthians 7:22, 23; Ephesians 6:6) Therefore, when we loyally submit to the direction of the faithful slave and its Governing Body, we are submitting to Christ, the slave’s Master. Our showing due respect for the instrument Christ is using to manage his earthly belongings is one way in which we “openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”—Philippians 2:11.
13 Another Scriptural reason for showing respect for the faithful slave is that anointed Christians on earth are figuratively spoken of as a “temple” that Jehovah inhabits “by spirit.” As such, they are “holy.” (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17; Ephesians 2:19-22) It is to this holy temple class that Jesus has entrusted his earthly belongings, which means that certain rights and responsibilities within the Christian congregation belong exclusively to this collective slave. For this reason, all in the congregation view it as their sacred duty to follow and uphold the direction coming from the faithful slave and its Governing Body. Indeed, the “other sheep” count it a real privilege to assist the slave class in caring for the Master’s interests.—John 10:16.
Giving Loyal Support
14 The humble submission of the other sheep to the anointed members of spiritual Israel was foretold in the prophecy of Isaiah: “This is what Jehovah has said: ‘The unpaid laborers of Egypt and the merchants of Ethiopia and the Sabeans, tall men, will themselves come over even to you, and yours they will become. Behind you they will walk; in fetters they will come over, and to you they will bow down. To you they will pray, saying, “Indeed God is in union with you, and there is no one else; there is no other God.”’” (Isaiah 45:14) Symbolically, the other sheep today walk behind the anointed slave class and its Governing Body, following their leadership. As “unpaid laborers,” the other sheep willingly expend their physical strength and their resources in support of the worldwide preaching work that Christ assigned to his anointed followers on earth.—Acts 1:8; Revelation 12:17.
15 The other sheep are happy and grateful to serve Jehovah under the oversight of the slave class and its Governing Body. They recognize the anointed as members of “the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:16) As figurative “strangers” and “foreigners” associated with spiritual Israel, they joyfully serve as “farmers” and “vinedressers” under the direction of the anointed, the “priests of Jehovah” and ‘ministers of God.’ (Isaiah 61:5, 6) They zealously share in preaching this good news of the Kingdom and in making disciples of people of all the nations. They give wholehearted assistance to the slave class in shepherding and nurturing newly found sheeplike ones.
16 The other sheep recognize that they have greatly benefited from the diligent efforts of the faithful slave in supplying them with timely spiritual food. They humbly acknowledge that were it not for the faithful and discreet slave, they would know little or nothing of precious Bible truths, such as Jehovah’s sovereignty, the sanctification of his name, the Kingdom, the new heavens and new earth, the soul, the condition of the dead, and the true identity of Jehovah, his Son, and the holy spirit. Out of sheer gratitude and loyalty, the other sheep lovingly support Christ’s anointed “brothers” on the earth during this time of the end.—Matthew 25:40.
17 In view of their diminishing numbers, the anointed cannot be present in all congregations to ensure the management of Christ’s belongings. Consequently, the Governing Body appoints men from among the other sheep to positions of oversight in branch offices, districts, circuits, and congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Does our attitude toward these undershepherds have a bearing on our loyalty to Christ and his faithful slave? This will be considered in the following article.
For a detailed discussion of this subject, see The Watchtower, March 1, 2004, pages 13-18, and December 1, 1992, page 13.
Published in the March 1, 1988, issue of this magazine, pages 10-17.
By Way of Review
• Who is our Leader, and what shows that he is aware of conditions within the congregations?
• At the “temple” inspection, who were found to be acting as a faithful slave, and what belongings were entrusted to them?
• What Scriptural reasons are there for loyally supporting the faithful slave?
1, 2. (a) Who do the Scriptures indicate is our Leader? (b) What shows that Christ actively leads the Christian congregation?
3. Why is it appropriate to compare Christ to a head and his congregation to a body?
4. As foretold in Malachi’s prophecy, what did Jehovah and Christ Jesus find when they came to the spiritual temple for inspection?
5. In harmony with Jesus’ prophecy regarding his “presence,” who did the faithful “slave” prove to be?
6, 7. (a) In what other terms did Jesus speak of his faithful “slave”? (b) What is implied by Jesus’ use of the word “steward”?
8, 9. What “belongings” is the slave appointed to manage?
10. What decision-making body existed in the first century, and with what effect on the congregations?
11. Who is Christ using today to direct his congregation, and how should we view this group of anointed Christians?
12, 13. What Scriptural reasons are there for showing respect for the slave class?
14. As prophesied by Isaiah, how do the other sheep walk behind the anointed slave class and serve as “unpaid laborers”?
15. How does the prophecy of Isaiah 61:5, 6 foretell the relationship existing between the other sheep and spiritual Israel?
16. What moves the other sheep to give loyal support to the faithful and discreet slave?
17. What has the Governing Body found it necessary to do, and what will be considered in the following article?
[Pictures on page 23]
The “belongings” supervised by the “steward” include material assets, spiritual programs, and the preaching activity
[Picture on page 25]
Members of the other sheep support the faithful slave class by their zealous preaching