THESE words of the apostle Paul, recorded at Hebrews 13:7, can also be translated: “Remember those who are governors of you.” From Pentecost 33 C.E. onward, the faithful apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled this role as a governing body that took the lead in providing direction for the newly founded Christian congregation. (Acts 6:2-4) By about the year 49 C.E., this governing body had been enlarged to include more than Jesus’ apostles. When the circumcision issue was decided, the governing body included “the apostles and elders in Jerusalem.” (Acts 15:1, 2) It was their responsibility to consider matters affecting Christians everywhere. They sent out letters and decrees, all of which strengthened the congregations and made it possible for the disciples to remain united in thought and action. The congregations were obedient and submissive to the direction of the governing body, and as a result, they received Jehovah’s blessing and prospered.—Acts 8:1, 14, 15; 15:22-31; 16:4, 5; Heb. 13:17.
2 After the death of the apostles, the great apostasy set in. (2 Thess. 2:3-12) As Jesus foretold in his parable about the wheat and the weeds, the wheat (anointed Christians) was oversown with weeds (imitation Christians). Down through the centuries, the groups were allowed to grow side by side until the harvest, “a conclusion of a system of things.” (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43) Individual anointed Christians continued to enjoy Jesus’ favor during this time, but there was no governing body, no clear channel on earth that Jesus was using to give direction to his followers. (Matt. 28:20) However, he foretold that a change would occur during the harvest.
3 “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave?” With that question, Jesus Christ introduced a parable, or illustration, as part of “the sign” he gave regarding “the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 24:3, 42-47) Jesus indicated that this faithful slave would be busy providing God’s people with spiritual food “at the proper time.” Just as Jesus used a group of men—rather than an individual—to take the lead in the first century, the faithful slave that Jesus uses during the conclusion of the system of things is not one man.
IDENTIFYING “THE FAITHFUL AND DISCREET SLAVE”
4 Whom did Jesus appoint to feed his followers? It is only fitting that he would use anointed Christians on earth. The Bible refers to them as “a royal priesthood” who have been commissioned to “‘declare abroad the excellencies’ of the One who called [them] out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Pet. 2:9; Mal. 2:7; Rev. 12:17) Do all anointed ones on earth make up the faithful slave? No. When Jesus miraculously provided physical food to a crowd of some 5,000 men, besides women and young children, he distributed it to the disciples, the disciples in turn to the crowds. (Matt. 14:19) He fed many through the hands of a few. Today, he is providing spiritual food in a similar way.
5 So “the faithful steward, the discreet one,” is made up of a small group of anointed brothers who are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food during Christ’s presence. (Luke 12:42) Throughout the last days, the anointed brothers who constitute “the faithful and discreet slave” have served together at headquarters. Today, these anointed brothers make up the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
6 Christ uses this body to publish information about the fulfillment of Bible prophecies and to give timely direction regarding the application of Bible principles in daily life. This spiritual food is distributed through the local congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Isa. 43:10; Gal. 6:16) In Bible times, a trusted slave, or steward, was a house manager. Likewise, the faithful and discreet slave has been charged with the responsibility of managing the household of faith. So the faithful slave also oversees material assets, the preaching activity, assembly and convention programs, the appointment of overseers to serve in various capacities in the organization, and the production of Bible literature, all of which benefit the “domestics.”—Matt. 24:45.
7 Who, then, are the “domestics”? Simply put, they are those who are fed. Initially, all the domestics were anointed ones. Later, the domestics came to include the great crowd of “other sheep.” (John 10:16) Both groups feed on the spiritual food that is dispensed by the faithful slave.
8 During the great tribulation, when Jesus comes to pronounce and execute judgment on this wicked system, he will appoint the faithful slave “over all his belongings.” (Matt. 24:46, 47) Those who make up the faithful slave will receive their heavenly reward. Along with the rest of the 144,000, they will share Christ’s heavenly authority. Although there will no longer be a faithful and discreet slave on earth, Jehovah and Jesus will provide direction to the earthly subjects of the Messianic Kingdom through those appointed to serve as “princes.”—Ps. 45:16.
WHY “REMEMBER THOSE WHO ARE TAKING THE LEAD”?
9 There are many reasons for us to “remember those who are taking the lead” and to demonstrate our trust in them. Why is doing this to our advantage? The apostle Paul stated: “They are keeping watch over you as those who will render an account, so that they may do this with joy and not with sighing, for this would be damaging to you.” (Heb. 13:17) It is vital for us to be obedient and submissive to direction from those taking the lead because they keep watch over us for our spiritual protection and well-being.
10 As recorded at 1 Corinthians 16:14, Paul said: “Let everything you do be done with love.” Decisions made in behalf of God’s people are based on this superior quality of love. Regarding love, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 states: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous. It does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” Because love is the basis of all the decisions that are made for the benefit of Jehovah’s servants, we have every reason to feel secure under such direction. Moreover, this is simply a reflection of Jehovah’s love.
It is vital for us to be submissive to those who keep watch over us for our spiritual well-being
11 As was true in the first century, those whom Jehovah is using to govern his people are imperfect men. However, Jehovah has used imperfect humans in the past to accomplish his will. Noah built an ark and preached about the coming destruction of his day. (Gen. 6:13, 14, 22; 2 Pet. 2:5) Moses was appointed to lead Jehovah’s people out of Egypt. (Ex. 3:10) Imperfect men were inspired to write the Bible. (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21) Jehovah’s use of imperfect men today to direct the preaching and disciple-making work does not weaken our confidence in God’s organization. Rather, we are strengthened because we know that without Jehovah’s backing, the organization could never accomplish all that it does. Through much hardship and experience, the faithful slave has demonstrated that God’s spirit is directing matters. Abundant blessings have been poured out on the visible part of Jehovah’s organization today. Therefore, we wholeheartedly give it our full support and put our trust in it.
HOW WE DEMONSTRATE OUR TRUST
12 Those who are appointed to responsible positions in the congregation demonstrate their trust by gladly accepting and faithfully discharging the obligations of their appointments. (Acts 20:28) As Kingdom proclaimers, we zealously engage in the house-to-house work, make return visits, and conduct home Bible studies. (Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20) In order to benefit fully from the rich spiritual food being dispensed by the faithful slave, we prepare for and attend our Christian meetings, including assemblies and conventions. We greatly benefit from the interchange of encouragement that takes place when we associate with our brothers at these Christian gatherings.—Heb. 10:24, 25.
13 When we support the organization with our material contributions, we give evidence of our trust in it. (Prov. 3:9, 10) When we see that our brothers are in need materially, we respond without delay. (Gal. 6:10; 1 Tim. 6:18) We do this in a spirit of brotherly love, always on the alert for opportunities to show Jehovah and his organization that we appreciate the goodness bestowed on us.—John 13:35.
14 We also show that we put our trust in the organization by supporting its decisions. This includes humbly following the direction of those who have been placed in positions of oversight, such as circuit overseers and congregation elders. These brothers are included among “those who are taking the lead,” to whom we should be obedient and submissive. (Heb. 13:7, 17) Even if we do not fully understand the reasons behind certain decisions, we know that upholding them will be for our lasting good. As a result, Jehovah blesses us for our obedience to his Word and his organization. We thus show our subjection to the Master, Jesus Christ.
15 Yes, we have every reason to put our trust in the faithful and discreet slave. Satan, the god of this system of things, is making an all-out effort to bring reproach on Jehovah’s name and organization. (2 Cor. 4:4) Do not fall prey to Satan’s wicked tactics! (2 Cor. 2:11) He knows that he has only “a short period of time” before his abyssing, and he is determined to turn as many of Jehovah’s people away from God as possible. (Rev. 12:12) However, as Satan intensifies his efforts, may we draw ever closer to Jehovah. May we put our trust in Jehovah and in the channel that he is using to direct his people today. Our doing so results in a united brotherhood.