The Unity of God’s Visible Organization
“From him all the body, by being harmoniously joined together and being made to cooperate through every joint which gives what is needed, according to the functioning of each respective member in due measure, makes for the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”—Eph. 4:16, NW.
1. What has Jehovah shown the least of humanity, and how did Paul feel about it?
JEHOVAH, the great Sovereign Ruler of the universe, has shown undeserved kindness to the least of humanity, men and women just like us. Paul was a recipient of this undeserved kindness. He appreciated it so much, he just had to express it in words as well as in works. The gratitude to Jehovah that was Paul’s he wanted all other persons to feel too. That is why he wrote so fervently to Timothy, saying: “I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who delegated power to me, because he considered me trustworthy by assigning me to a ministry, although formerly I was a blasphemer and a persecutor and an insolent man. Nevertheless, I was shown mercy, because I was ignorant and acted with a lack of faith. But the undeserved kindness of our Lord abounded exceedingly along with faith and love that is in connection with Christ Jesus. Trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance is the saying that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am foremost. Nevertheless, the reason why I was shown mercy was that by means of me as the foremost case Christ Jesus might demonstrate all his longsuffering for a sample of those who are going to rest their faith on him for everlasting life.”—1 Tim. 1:12-16, NW.
2. Over what was Paul’s abounding joy in this connection?
2 It was so fine of Paul to speak frankly to this young man Timothy, who also wanted to gain life and who could gain it, too, because of the undeserved kindness of Jehovah. Acknowledging his insolent disposition in times past, Paul tells Timothy of the undeserved kindness God showed toward him even though he was a blasphemer. He appreciated this love. The abounding joy in Paul’s expression to Timothy was over the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ had considered him trustworthy and had delegated him to be a minister. What an assignment! What a privilege! Paul certainly appreciated his ministry, and in the book of Acts the account of his life of service shows that.
3. In this regard, how did Paul express himself to the Ephesians?
3 When, on another occasion, Paul wrote to the Ephesians he also had this same thought—the ministry—in mind. He told the congregation at Ephesus that God had extended to him a kindness that was undeserved. Certainly neither Paul nor the Ephesians nor any other of the human family deserved kindness from God. But still Paul was shown such love and was given the opportunity to declare good news to the nations concerning God’s love and to make known the majesty, the power and the wonderfulness of the Creator and his Son. Paul stated it this way, when he wrote to the Ephesians: “To me, a man less than the least of all holy ones, this undeserved kindness was given, that I should declare to the nations the good news about the unfathomable riches of the Christ and should make men see how the sacred secret is administered which has from past eternity been concealed in God, who created all things.”—Eph. 3:8, 9, NW.
4. What freeness did Paul now enjoy, and how did he manifest his faith?
4 Jehovah did something for Paul, he was now a free man in line for everlasting life. He came away from the bondage of that old system of things in which he had lived, and now for the first time he had freeness of speech that comes to God’s people through knowledge of Jehovah. What Paul learned about God’s revealed purposes through Christ Jesus gave him confidence to do his work, through his faith. This faith was never shaken. He proved this by doing good works now in the role of a persecuted man, not the persecutor he had once been. His trials, tribulations and buffetings were many; still he was faithful unto death. He was a man of integrity. He knew God’s will and he was ‘resting his faith in Christ for everlasting life’. Paul must have been an inspiration and a good example for others to follow, because he himself was following in the footsteps of Christ Jesus.
5, 6. How had Jehovah’s undeserved kindness been displayed to the Gentiles as a result of the revealing of his sacred secret?
5 But what about other Christians? Were they faithfully following Christ? Did God’s undeserved kindness have the same effect on them as it did on Paul? Yes, it did. Consider the early Christians: The Jews had failed as a nation to keep their covenant with Jehovah God. They were once chosen to be God’s name-people, but now when Jehovah had revealed the sacred secret, his Son Christ Jesus as the Messiah, they would not accept him. So the call went forth to the Gentile nations in order to take out from them a people for God’s name. The sacred secret that had been concealed for generations, that is, how Jehovah God would bless all the families of the earth, was now revealed in Christ Jesus. According to it Jehovah had now shown mercy and undeserved kindness toward the Gentiles as well as the Jews. Both kinds of “nations”, or all kinds of men, could now accept the Messiah and get in line for everlasting life. Truly, Jehovah God knew from the foundation of the world how he was going to work out his purposes for the blessing of all the families of the earth and the vindication of his name, even though he had not revealed this to the fullest extent in times past.
6 For centuries Jehovah God had no dealings with the Gentiles, but now the way was open for them to become Christians, God’s chosen servants, Jehovah’s witnesses. In writing to the Romans about their being shown so much mercy and so much kindness not deserved (for they had done nothing to honor Jehovah), Paul exclaimed: “Oh the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments are and past tracing out his ways are! For ‘who has come to know Jehovah’s mind, or who has become his counselor?’” (Rom. 11:33, 34, NW) It is incomprehensible, but still Jehovah’s undeserved kindness was extended to the Gentiles; and those who dedicated themselves to the Most High and came into the congregation or visible organization became spectacles before men and angels.
7. Into what were those who received this undeserved kindness taken, and what were they to be?
7 It was about nineteen hundred years ago that this visible organization, the congregation of God’s people, was brought into existence. The recipients of this undeserved kindness were taken into a new covenant with God, not the old law covenant. The old one mediated by Moses had been abolished with the impaling of Christ Jesus. This new covenant was the law of God written in the hearts of the covenanters, not on tablets of stone. These New Covenant persons were to be “a people for his name”. These were the ones like Christ Jesus, namely, Paul and all the early faithful followers of Christ, the proclaimers of the kingdom of God.
8. What made the new organization that was started of such vital importance?
8 A new system of things, a new organization, was starting, and it was of vital importance. The selection of the bride of Christ had begun and it was to be made up of 144,000 faithful followers of the Lord Jesus. At that time this selection of the bride and the forming of this visible organization wherein each individual must be faithful unto death was a very serious matter; and so the members appreciated to the full that they must work together in unity, because in God’s undeserved kindness he had brought them together for a special purpose. Eventually the eyes of the world would be upon them and certainly the angels in heaven were watching the outworkings of God’s marvelous arrangements. Here were the announcers of Jehovah’s kingdom, which is the only hope of the world. Could anything be more vital or important than the Kingdom?
“FREENESS OF SPEECH”
9. What had God purposed for men to see, and toward what end were things now moving forward?
9 Jehovah had purposed that men should “see how the sacred secret is administered”, and hence that which had been concealed in God was now being revealed, and “this was to the end that now to the governments and the authorities in the heavenly places there might be made known through the congregation the greatly diversified wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he formed in connection with the Christ, Jesus our Lord, by means of whom we have this freeness of speech and an approach with confidence through our faith in him. Wherefore I ask you not to give up on account of these tribulations of mine in your behalf, for these mean glory for you”. (Eph. 3:10-13, NW) Yes, “the eternal purpose which he [Jehovah] formed in connection with the Christ” was now being accomplished. Things were moving ahead to the vindication of Jehovah’s name and word. The congregation of God was now his visible organization making known the good news about Christ and heralding the glad tidings of the kingdom of the heavens. A true foundation was laid with Christ Jesus, the faithful and true witness, and, come what may, whether tribulations to any individual member of the congregation or the dispersing of the companies of Jehovah’s witnesses, all would still “rest their faith on him for everlasting life” and speak with the wonderful freeness of speech Christ Jesus had given them.
10. During his ministry what did Jesus introduce and demonstrate, and why?
10 You see, during his ministry Jesus introduced a freeness of thought and speech that had vanished from the earth by his time. It was he who said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3, NW) The world’s religions had a powerful hold on the people. Millions of persons of all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues were in a definite rut. The truths Jehovah had set forth centuries before Jesus’ time were till then hidden. The Israelites were just as bad off as all the other nations, for they had forsaken Jehovah’s teachings for the traditions of men. When Christ Jesus came he demonstrated by his words and actions a freeness of speech that cheered the hearts of men.
11. What contributed to his freeness of speech?
11 His sayings were not based on any old false religious tradition. What he taught he did not learn in the schools of his day. He learned it by studying the Hebrew Scriptures, by communicating with God in prayer and by dedicating himself to doing his Father’s will. It was this anointed One, the Master, who said: “The truth will set you free.” (John 8:32, NW) Certainly Jesus was free from this old world. He was no part of it even though he was in it. He was a man free to say the things that were true and righteous and an honor to Jehovah’s name. He was free to do the things that would bring praise to his heavenly Father. He restored pure worship of the Most High God. He condemned hypocrites and false religions with their idol worship.
12. Why does Kingdom preaching mean freeness of speech?
12 Paul recognized these priceless and fearless qualities in Christ Jesus, and it was through Christ Jesus that he himself received his freeness of speech. To speak the truth concerning Jehovah and his Son and God’s kingdom was certainly speaking freely, for all nations and their rulers were and still are against Jehovah God’s kingdom and its rule by Christ Jesus.
13. How did Jesus secure for all the congregation this freeness of speech?
13 All the persons in the congregation of God must have this same freeness of thought and expression and must no longer be tied down to the oppressive thinking of the world. They must not be caged up or hemmed in; they must come forth free from this world’s prison houses. Jehovah made provision for this freedom through his Son Christ Jesus. It was Christ who said in the synagogue in Nazareth one sabbath day: “Jehovah’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor, he sent me forth to preach a release to the captives and a recovery of sight to the blind, to send the crushed ones away with a release, to preach Jehovah’s acceptable year.” (Luke 4:18, 19, NW) He was quoting from Isaiah, chapter 61, and after his anointing he went forward doing that great work of releasing the captives, or sending the crushed ones away with a release. He pointed to Jehovah’s acceptable year of freedom now from this old world. The time had now come for people to be free from the bondage of this dying old world, and Christ Jesus was showing them the way to that freedom. The congregation of God knew this!
14. How did the Jewish religious leaders try to stifle such freeness of speech?
14 Jesus had not preached this freedom message too many years before the scribes, the Pharisees and the rulers of that day had had enough of his free speech which he was talking throughout Palestine. It became the determination of these worldly mighty ones to do away with him. The record is clear as to how, time and time again, these scribes and Pharisees tried to trap Jesus and bring about some sort of false trial and a cause to silence him. Eventually they succeeded in having him impaled upon the torture stake until dead. Now he could talk no more. What relief for them! They were confident that freedom of speech had been stifled. No longer would people be trying to free themselves from the influence of the scribes and Pharisees and be listening to this man. They thought they could hold their people in their prison houses. But how wrong they were! Consider Jesus’ prayer and note his request to his heavenly Father for those he was leaving behind as free people:
15. To the disciples he left behind what did Jesus give for their freeness of speech?
15 “I have made your name manifest to the men you gave me out of the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have observed your word. They have now come to know that all the things you gave me are from you; because the sayings that you gave me I have given to them, and they have received them and have certainly come to know that I came out as your representative, and they have believed that you sent me forth. Also I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world and I am coming to you. Holy Father, watch over them out of respect for your own name which you have given me, in order that they may be one just as we are. I have given your word to them, but the world has hated them, because they are no part of the world just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:6-8, 11, 14, NW) Jesus’ disciples had the truth and they must speak it. They did.
16. What did Jesus promise to send them, and, what would it help them to remember?
16 It was shortly after the resurrection of Christ Jesus that he organized his followers so as to accomplish the great work to be done. When talking with his disciples he had told them that they would remember the things he had spoken to them and that he would send them a helper, God’s spirit, to remember these important things. “I have many things yet to say to you, but you are not able to bear them at present. However, when that one arrives, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own impulse, but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things coming. That one will glorify me, because he will receive from what is mine and will declare it to you.”—John 16:12-14, NW.
17. When did he send this, and what did they then exercise despite hard experiences?
17 The spirit was poured out upon them at Pentecost, as Jesus had said. “And while he was meeting with them he gave them the orders: ‘Do not withdraw from Jerusalem, but keep waiting for what the Father has promised, about which you heard from me; because John, indeed, baptized with water, but you will be baptized in holy spirit not many days after this.’” (Acts 1:4, 5, NW) Their minds were then filled with the truths that Jesus had taught them and they moved forward fearlessly preaching the kingdom of the heavens to all men. (John 14:25, 26) All the persecutions, trials and difficulties they endured; their being jeered by mobs of incensed people and even imprisoned never halted them. Freedom of speech they had gained through Christ Jesus, by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, and it was theirs to keep. No, they were not going to be prisoners again, for Christ Jesus had released them. The prophet Isaiah had declared: “Say to the prisoners, Go forth.” (Isa. 49:9) Jesus did just that to the prisoners. His disciples were free men now and they went forth making proper use of their freedom by preaching the truth.
18. Over what area did they exercise this, and so what took place?
18 They traveled to the lands near Palestine, Peter to the east as far as Babylon and Paul west probably as far as Spain. They practiced God-given freeness of speech. They said to those in prison, ‘Go forth! Listen to this good news! Have confidence and faith through Christ Jesus in Jehovah God the Creator of the universe. Trust in his precious promises and seek the way to eternal life.’ The gathering together of those who loved truth and righteousness began and God’s visible organization was made manifest.
19, 20. How were the Christians to walk worthily of the things to which they were called, and what would doing so do to the organization?
19 Paul, of course, was one of the outstanding missionaries and evangelists of his day. He said to those whom he met and taught the truth that they should walk worthily of the things whereunto they were called. They should no longer live in a proud, austere manner, as the peoples of the world lived. Rather, they should be humble and show lowliness of mind. They should be mild and long-suffering, “putting up with one another in love.”
20 Accomplishing this loving attitude means the making of a strong organization of brothers, and then great work can be done in the interest of God’s kingdom.
TAKEN CAPTIVE BY CHRIST
21. Whose purchased property are Christians, and what was Paul happy to be?
21 Paul was explaining the proper attitude of mind Christians must have. No longer were they under the oppressive rule of Satan’s world as subjects of that old system of things, but Christ had purchased them with his blood. They were his possession. Paul says: “What! Do you not know that the body of you people is the temple of the holy spirit within you which you have from God? Also, you do not belong to yourselves, for you were bought with a price. By all means, glorify God in the body of you people.” (1 Cor. 6:19, 20, NW) Paul was certainly happy to be such a bought one, a prisoner in the Lord, one led captive by Christ. He told the Ephesians he was a “prisoner in the Lord” and said: “Now to each one of us undeserved kindness was given according to how the Christ measured out the free gift. Wherefore he says: ‘When he ascended on high he led captive a multitude; he gave gifts in men.’” (Eph. 4:7, 8, NW) In order to free those followers of his who had been held in bondage Jesus had to capture them and take them to himself into his organization. So the thousands who heard the truths that Jesus had expressed were led to him and were made to think as he thought. They thus had the mind of Christ. They were freed from this old dying world. To all these free people “he gave gifts in men”.
22. What were those “gifts in men”? And what purpose were they meant to serve as exemplified by Paul?
22 These “gifts in men” were apostles, prophets and evangelists, men who went about from congregation to congregation serving them. They were able to speak in tongues, to interpret and to heal. They were given the gifts of the spirit, which were in effect in Paul’s day. (1 Corinthians 12, NW) These men helped the young congregation, the visible organization of the Lord, to get strong and bind themselves in unity so as to be used in his praise and worship. Paul, who was one of those “gifts in men”, appreciated that he had been freed from the old system of things, and he was grateful for this undeserved kindness on the part of God. Whether as a prisoner in chains at Rome or as one taken captive by the Lord Jesus Christ, he was glad to be made a prisoner of the Lord, as he stated in Ephesians 4:1-3 (NW): “I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, entreat you to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called, with complete lowliness of mind and mildness, with long-suffering, putting up with one another in love, earnestly endeavoring to observe the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace.” Paul the prisoner wanted the visible organization of the Lord to be at unity, at oneness with one another. The “gifts in men” had been given to the new visible organization for that very purpose.
23. How were those “gifts in men” to conduct themselves
23 The congregation of God was to be made up, not of individuals who were striving for prominent positions, but of servants. (Jas. 2:1-4, NW) Jesus was the example for the congregation and he said that he who was greatest among his brothers was to be their slave. Jesus showed his lowliness of mind by washing the feet of the disciples on the night of the last passover and at the introduction of the memorial of his death. (John 13, NW) Here he was showing how they must humble themselves and be slaves to their brothers. These apostles were the principal ones who were called to be “gifts in men”, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, and they were not to lord it over the flock, but they were to be shepherds and care for the visible organization. (1 Pet. 5:2-4, NW) These special representatives were to help all the individuals in the congregation to see their responsibility to be ministers.
24. What like responsibility did the sheep and the shepherds have?
24 Having been called to the Lord’s organization and given the freeness of speech, then every individual in the visible organization should walk worthily of the calling with which he was called. All, shepherds and flock alike, had the same responsibility. Faithfulness in service as ministers was required.
ONENESS AS A BODY
25. How must they all work, and to what end?
25 So then, the congregation must see alike and have the same positive views in mind. All must realize that the purpose for gathering together these servants of the Most High was to preach this good news of the Kingdom in all the world for a witness, to magnify Jehovah’s name, to announce the Son Christ Jesus and to make public expression concerning the sacred secrets that God has revealed through his Word. All those within the Lord’s visible organization must work together to this one end. They could not work against one another, for the members that compose the body certainly do not work against other members. That is why Paul went on to say at Ephesians 4:4-6, NW: “One body there is, and one spirit, even as you were called in the one hope to which you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all persons, who is over all and through all and in all.” Jehovah was dealing with all the body members through His Word and His visible organization, and, what is more, he is doing the same in this our day for our oneness as a body.
26. What was the composition of the congregation back there, and so to be successful as an organization what must they do?
26 Look at the situation as it existed back there in Paul’s day: Jews were coming into the truth, some of whom had been taught under the Pharisees, others under the Sadducees. Paul himself was formerly a Pharisee. There were Egyptians, people from Asia Minor, Greece, Babylon and other far-flung parts of the world—all of them mixed together in the one congregation of the Lord. At one time all had different ways of life, different religions and teachings, but now they were to live together under one God with one Bible, the Word of God, as their guide. They were to make up his visible organization, having freeness of speech and a determination to do the Lord’s will. If this organization was to be successful, then they must work together just as the members of the human body work together: the head, the arms, the organs—all must function to the best interests of the whole body.
27. Why should there be no difference in viewpoint or in work?
27 Paul was impressing upon the minds of the Ephesians that there is just one body and that governing this one body is one spirit, God’s spirit. They were all called in the one hope, the hope of being joint heirs with Christ Jesus in the heavenly kingdom and of living eternally. All had the same faith based on God’s infallible Word, the same baptism and the same Father in heaven. Therefore there should be no difference in viewpoint as far as the members of the body were concerned, but they should all be striving to accomplish the great work of carrying on the clean worship of the Most High God, sharing in the vindication of His name and Word and aiding all people of good will to get the knowledge of Jehovah’s purposes. It was done in Paul’s day; it can be done in our day, too.
28. Where do we find such a visible, working organization today, and who may be in it and how?
28 Then do Paul’s wise words that Jehovah would have an active, working visible organization find fulfillment today? Where is there an organization today like the congregation about which Paul was talking? Could there possibly be a group of people today who have one Father, the Father of all the persons in the congregation, a Father who is over all, through all and in all, a Father who is caring for his children and keeping them together in the pure way of worship? What a privilege and pleasure it is to answer Yes, yes, there is such an organization. In the apostles’ day you could find such a visible organization in the early congregation of Christ. In this year of 1952 you will find it in a group of Christian people known as Jehovah’s witnesses. They make up Jehovah’s visible organization. What is more, YOU can be in that organization if you think like Paul and have faith like his.
29. How are Jehovah’s witnesses today like the early congregation?
29 Note how Jehovah’s witnesses today are like the early congregations of Jehovah’s faithful witnesses: Jehovah’s witnesses are firm believers in God’s Word. They study it, they preach it, and they live it. They are “putting up with one another in love”, even though their customs and habits of life and the tongues they speak in their daily conversation are different in all parts of the world. They ARE fulfilling the command to preach the Kingdom in all the world for a witness. (Matt. 24:14, NW) Thus in all parts of the earth they demonstrate the unity of God’s visible organization.