Maturity Essential to Increase
1. In what particular respects is progress toward maturity necessary?
WHEN discussing in our previous study (¶9) the various ways in which we can make progress toward maturity, you will remember we said there was “one other means yet to be mentioned”. What is that? Sacred service. To make progress in most subjects involves both theory and practice. We now wish to stress the latter, practice, and especially the need for increase in the quality of our service. In other words, increase in growth; for it is possible to make increase and yet not grow. Some aspects of our subject above apply to the organization as a whole, or each company of the Lord’s people collectively. But at all times we have in mind the application and appeal to you individually, whether you are an old and regular reader of The Watchtower or quite a new one. Yes, to you, holding and reading this magazine, we want to talk to you as a friend, face to face.
2. Under what three illustrations is the subject discussed?
2 On looking into God’s Word we find this subject is covered by three main illustrations, or figures of speech, namely: (1) a building, either city or temple, (2) the human body, and (3) the natural growth from a seed to a plant or tree, bearing fruit. We do not propose to deal with these separately in turn, but rather to see how there are certain common factors emphasized in each and to see which ones are of vital importance.
3. With what purpose in view does God build his temple and city?
3 The first of these common factors is that of purpose. Why does God cause a temple, or a city, to be built? The apostle Peter answers this question for us. After mentioning both the temple built up of living stones, and also making a quotation concerning the holy city, Zion, he goes on to identify the true believers who have ‘the precious estimation’ as to why they have been brought into God’s city and God’s temple, namely, to be “‘a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”. Do not miss out on God’s purpose respecting you. Though you may be the youngest in the family of those who have dedicated themselves to Jehovah to do his will, we want to see you as a ‘newborn infant’ “grow to salvation”, to reach maturity, completeness of growth and development. The two-sided main requirement for such growth applies to the heart and mouth and is very plainly expressed thus: “With the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.”—1 Pet. 2:2, 7, 9; Rom. 10:10, NW.
4. How is God’s purpose for his people illustrated by the vine?
4 Again, why does God cause seed to be sown, or a vine or trees to be planted? The answer is the same in each instance—to obtain fruitage to his praise. (Isa. 61:3, AS) That is the purpose. Jesus’ words are straight to the point, using the illustration of the vine: “Every branch in me not bearing fruit he takes away, and every one bearing fruit he cleans, that it may bear more fruit.” Make no mistake! The heavenly Father, as owner and cultivator, looks for and expects fruit, then more fruit; for, said Jesus, “My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit and [thus] prove yourselves my disciples.” (John 15:2, 8, NW) That is to say, continual increase as a result of mature growth. This is not an unreasonable expectation, for the Father graciously makes every provision through his Word, and through his organization, and by the aid of his spirit, for such to be accomplished. Do not get in a panic because you have only just come to a knowledge of these things. God is not impatient. He is like the farmer who “keeps waiting for the precious fruit of the earth, exercising patience over it . . . You, too, exercise patience; make your hearts firm”.—Jas. 5:7, 8, NW.
5, 6. (a) What kind of fruit does Jehovah expect and require? (b) Is there a further aspect to fruitage disclosed in Scripture?
5 But, you may ask, what kind of fruit does Jehovah expect and require? Many religious sects, both Christian and non-Christian, teach that good living and development of character, evidenced by patience, kindness, etc., are the fruitage of godly devotion. Do not be deceived. Let us see how Jesus himself answered the question. After speaking of the vine, he explained to his disciples (and to us) how he had brought them into a very close relationship as friends and had appointed them to “keep bearing fruit”. Finally he defines exactly what he means by bearing fruit: “You, in turn [after receiving the spirit], are to bear witness.” He later confirmed this when he said: “You will be witnesses of me . . . to the most distant part of the earth.” Today, that means the witness respecting the enthroned King and his kingdom, as Jesus foretold.—John 15:16, 27; Acts 1:8; Matt. 24:14, NW.
6 Additionally and inseparably linked with bearing witness is the result, namely, the increase in the number of those who respond and also become disciples. That is all part of the fruitage, the ingathering of believers into the organization, just as established believers were the fruitage of the apostle’s labors.—2 Cor. 3:1-3. Also compare Acts 1:8 and Matthew 28:19, NW.
7. How does Psalm 122 highlight the importance of unity and co-operation?
7 The second of these common factors is that of unity and co-operation under the head. This is most emphatic. Take the picture of God’s city, Zion or Jerusalem, and see what Psalm 122 has to say respecting this. It is “a city that is compact together”, “a true city all joined together as one.” (Ro) Because Jehovah’s house, the temple, is therein, it is the center of united worship. It is also the governing center for the whole nation, with its throne of judgment and of the reigning King. It is not a silent city; it resounds with praise and thanksgiving. Jehovah’s people flock to it for that very purpose. This is the strong bond that unites all true Israelites, both the “brethren” (the spiritual house) and their “companions”, their “friends” (Ro), constraining all to continually seek and pray for its peace and prosperity, knowing “they shall prosper who love thee”.
8. In what way does this Psalm 122 give guidance in personal matters in the life of the company?
8 What a grand picture Psalm 122 gives of Jehovah’s kingdom organization under its reigning king and judge and priest, Christ Jesus, and of Jehovah’s people serving under its direction! Do you see yourself in that picture? Do you have the same feelings and viewpoint of the company of Jehovah’s witnesses with whom you are associated as David did of that beloved city? Are you seeking to play your part in publicizing Jehovah’s name in the spirit of thanksgiving, never doing anything to mar the company’s peace and unity, but always seeking its prosperity and increase? Or do you, though long enough in the truth to know better, hold an undying grudge against someone in the company who, in the ancient past, did you some injury, which has never been cleared up (perhaps through wounded pride on both sides)? If, however, that person continues to be a member of the company, attending the meetings and sharing in the witness work, then, for the sake of peace and unity in that company, you should sincerely accept that person as a fellow member. Leave his judgment with the Lord. We are not asking you to make a special friend of that one, but we do say you should not adopt an attitude of perpetual disfellowship personally, unless the company as a whole does so. Are you not yourself an undeserving recipient of mercy and long-suffering? Your own prosperity and growth to maturity in Jehovah’s service and favor depend on your love for him and his organization and all keeping within its bounds.—Ps. 122:6; Heb. 12:15; 1 John 4:7, 20, 21, NW.
9. What points regarding Zion are stressed at Psalm 48:12-14?
9 Pay close attention to Zion. Note how it operates, imbibe its spirit, appreciate its strength; first, for your own benefit as an aid to maturity in quality of service, also that you may be enthused and equipped to “tell the next generation”.—Ps. 48:12-14, AT.
10. (a) How is the organization aptly illustrated at Ephesians 4:11-16? (b) In its application, what is worthy of special note?
10 Again, take the picture of the human body, the basis of Paul’s remarks at Ephesians 4:11-16 (NW). It tells of the organization started in infancy in his day and now reaching its maturity, enlarged, but with the same central core composed of those Christians anointed with God’s spirit. What a marvelous picture of unity and smooth co-operation, commented on before in these columns, but bearing repetition! Take the simple act of eating. The eye sees a choice morsel on the table. Out goes the arm, guiding the hand unerringly, the fingers delicately grasp that morsel without injuring it, up comes the forearm like a finely poised crane working from the elbow, and then, just in the nick of time, the mouth opens and it is a bull’s-eye every time! That is how the organization as a whole works. Is that how your company works? What is the secret? The apostle answers: “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, . . . makes for the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (Eph. 4:16, NW) Do not worry how other parts of the body are joined together and what directions are given them. That is the business of the head. Your responsibility is to appreciate your own position, your own assignment in the local company, or Bethel home, or missionary home. Even those physically isolated, or behind some “iron curtain”, are still part of the organization, tied in by invisible, or perhaps underground, “joints and ligaments.”—Col. 2:19, NW.
11. On what practical aspects should we question ourselves, based on this illustration?
11 Whether a small “joint” in the local “body”, such as an appointed servant or group leader (sar, chief one or “prince”), or whether having no special responsibility, nevertheless “each respective member” has its function. In the human body, every member, every cell, has its part to play toward the smooth working and growth of the body, not only to receive nutriment and direction, but to pass on and supply something for the benefit of its fellow members. How do you figure out in that respect? Are you constantly receiving, but never passing on? Always needing to be helped out into the witness work, and never progressing far enough to help show someone else how to do it? (Heb. 5:12, NW) Have you dropped into a static routine of regularly attending the meetings, but never opening your mouth, though well able to do so? Or are you a live member, seeking always to make progress yourself by doing at least something to help in the progress and steady growth of those with whom you are associated? That means walking orderly in the progressive routine prescribed for the body under direction of its head, Christ Jesus, supporting all its regular activities.
12. By what pattern and spirit does the organization grow, and how should this affect us?
12 Note, too, the spirit in which this is to be done. “Let us by love grow up in all things,” in unselfish devotion and unbreakable attachment to the organization, because it is the Lord’s. It is not a human organization. It is spiritual, ‘one body and one spirit,’ and you should view the whole arrangement and those in it accordingly. Do not view your brothers “according to the flesh”. It only leads to trouble. You will be partial, favoring and limiting your fellowship to those who appeal to you, and ignoring and ready to criticize the others. For the sake of the unity of the body, subordinate the personal viewpoint to that of the organization in the spirit of keen appreciation of the great privilege of partnership therein. So, enlarge your heart and widen out your acquaintance with your brothers, as Paul had to tell the Corinthians.—Eph. 4:3, 4, 15; 2 Cor. 5:16; 6:11-13, NW.
13. The foregoing illustrations stress what particular need?
13 Do you want to grow to maturity and make increase in the quality of your service? We are sure you do. Can you not see, then, from these two Scriptural illustrations of the city and the human body how vitally important it is to appreciate the Lord’s organization, what it means and how it works? And appreciate not only in theory, but in practice, by living up to its standards and sharing in its activities? The King and Head, Christ Jesus, supplies all the needed help for our growth to maturity in Kingdom service, but we can only tap the source of that needed help by keeping in close union with the theocratic organization built up under him.
14, 15. (a) Is there a special ministry in addition to bearing witness, and how can it be fulfilled? (b) What does this mean in practice?
14 This year much attention is being paid to the need for growing to maturity in sacred service, the “training of the holy ones for ministerial work”, in behalf of those young in the truth, also others much older in the truth who yet somehow need much help, besides the many only just beginning to show interest. It is a great privilege to share in the witness work, still more to have a part in the ministerial work of helping to train others. Take full advantage, therefore, of every arrangement made by the Society, the visible instrument used by the organization, in all the different kinds of meetings provided for, also its various publications, besides the helping hand held out by its many appointed servants to assist in a practical way in actual field service. In that way, not only will you become firmly established as a regular and zealous publisher of the Kingdom message, but, like the organization itself, you will make continual progress toward the fullness of growth that belongs to maturity.—Eph. 4:12, NW.
15 That means, in practice, not only making increase in the amount of time spent in the witness work, putting in more hours, but putting more into those hours in the way of better quality of service. It means giving a more effective, telling witness, according to the varying needs of each individual. This requires maturity of discernment on the part of the individual witness, but it is more pleasing in Jehovah’s sight and of much greater assistance to the listener, possibly one of the “other sheep”. Besides, you will find the work more interesting and fruitful, and you will “become steadfast, unmovable, always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord”.—1 Cor. 15:58, NW.
16. The fact of only one “seed”, one body, one vine, one city, drives home what vital warning?
16 “Let no man deprive you” by sidetracking your attention and devotion and service from the one organization. Paul had to sharply warn of that in his day. (1 Cor. 1:10-13, NW) As he argues at Galatians 3:16, 29 (NW), there is but the one ‘seed, who is Christ’, including those under him who “belong to Christ”, sharing in the same heavenly hope; members of which class today form the visible governing body of Jehovah’s witnesses. Yes, there is only the one spiritual “body” of the Christ, only the one true vine, only the one mount, Zion, catching and reflecting Jehovah’s glory. That means only the one “company” publishing acceptably the word given by the Lord, as foretold at Psalm 68:11. These also rejoice to see fulfilled the inspired word of Ps 68 verse 6 of that Psalm: “God brings home the desolate; he leads prisoners forth into prosperity; only the rebellious dwell in a parched land.” (AT) Exercise mature discernment, therefore, and do not be deceived by anyone who is “puffed up without proper cause by his fleshly frame of mind”. But, by glad and willing co-operation with his body of devoted people, go on “growing with the growth which God gives”, “holding fast to the head,” for “apart from me”, said Jesus, “you can do [produce] nothing at all.”—Col. 2:18, 19; John 15:5, NW.
17, 18. In what ways does Isaiah’s prophecy give prominence and encouragement respecting Zion’s increase?
17 The third and final common factor for discussion is that of increase and growth, already touched on to some extent. Increase is one of the grand themes of the Bible, from Genesis, chapter one, onward. Let us look at it for a moment from Zion’s aspect.
18 We start with Isaiah’s prophecy declaring that from the time the burden of the New World government is laid upon the shoulder of the Prince of Peace, enthroned in heavenly Zion in 1914 (A.D.), “of the increase of his government, and of peace, there will be no end”. Further, the whole nation of Jehovah’s people shares in that increase: “Thou hast multiplied the nation, thou hast increased its joy.” It also foretells that when Zion is restored to God’s favor he makes a covenant promising to supply that kingdom organization all the vital equipment needed: “My spirit which is upon you, and my words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart . . . ‘from henceforth, even forever’.” With what result? Jehovah’s glory is seen upon his organization like the early morning rays of the sun brightly reflected from that hilltop city. This attracts the attention of all lovers of righteousness and, as we are now experiencing, they come flocking in like a cloud of homing doves. Zion is told: “Lift up your eyes round about, and see! All of them gather, they come to you . . . When you see it, you shall be radiant, and your heart shall throb and swell.”—Isa. 9:3, 6, 7; 59:21; 60:1, 4, 5, 8, AT.
19, 20. What characteristics marked the increase of the early church, and how should this affect us?
19 The initial and miniature fulfillment of many of these prophecies in the days of the early church is a stirring stimulant to faith and expectation for these days of the major and final fulfillment. See the sudden jump into life and activity experienced by that little company of about 120 at Jerusalem, after receiving the vital equipment of the holy spirit on the day of Pentecost. Three thousand the first day! Shortly after, the “number of the men became about five thousand”. A little later: “Believers in the Lord kept on being added, multitudes both of men and of women.” How their hearts must have swelled with gratitude! Still better: “The word of God went on growing [increase of equipment], and the number of the disciples kept multiplying in Jerusalem very much, and [think of it!] a great crowd of priests began to be obedient to the faith.” How their hearts must have throbbed with excitement! Well, would not yours if you saw a row of priests sitting at the back of your Kingdom Hall, responding to the truth? They did not measure their growth by monthly reports, but: “The congregations continued to be made firm in the faith [growing to maturity] and to increase in number from day to day.”—Acts 2:41; 4:4; 5:14; 6:7; 16:5, NW.
20 We know, as Acts, chapter 8, shows, that persecution only served to bring in increase on a still wider scale; but this does not justify the opinion sometimes glibly expressed that violent opposition is indispensable to increase. Read for yourself the record at Acts 9:31, NW.
21. Is there a noteworthy distinction between growth and increase?
21 We have by no means exhausted the subject; but, as we near the conclusion of this series of articles, there are some final points we wish to make. As just seen, the picture outlined by prophecy concerning Zion well illustrates increase in numbers. The illustration of the human body, however, is a picture of growth to maturity, rather than numerical increase. A full-grown man has but ten fingers and ten toes, the same as an infant. They have grown, or developed; that is all. But it is this growth to maturity that we have uppermost in mind, because we feel that it is the greatest need right now as we look over the situation world-wide. In what respects? (Individual reader, are you taking note of these points to see how they apply to yourself?)
22. What particular need is seen today in regard to (1) study, (2) meetings and (3) the witness work?
22 We feel there are many, too many, who seem to be content with just being in the truth, rejoicing in the comfort and hope it brings and in the fellowship of the New World society. Yes, it is indeed like living in another world. To all such we say there is need of three things: (1) Not only to read this and others of the Society’s publications, but to get down to a diligent study of the Scriptures with their aid. After all, this is their main purpose, especially the purpose of this journal. (2) Not only to regularly attend the meetings (and reports show some do not do this, even when easily possible), but to ask yourself, What practical contribution am I making at those meetings to help both myself and others to build up in knowledge and understanding and to stir up appreciation to the point of taking action and to assist in training for ministerial work? (3) Not only to engage in the witness work just sufficiently to be recognized as a Kingdom publisher, a silent witness maybe with magazines or leaflets; but to ask yourself, am I helping myself and others to make progress in the Lord’s work? Not merely saying when results are lacking, Ah well, I’ve done my best; but asking, How can I improve in the quality of my service? Am I so strong in faith and stirred with appreciation that I am determined to stick to the work through thick and thin, and “to bear thorough witness to the good news of the undeserved kindness of God”?—Acts 20:24, NW. See also 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 and; 1 Timothy 4:16, NW.
23. Is spiritual growth in any sense automatic, or can it be forced?
23 Get this clear. Spiritual growth is not automatic. It cannot be taken for granted that increase of knowledge will lead to increase of zeal and ability in sacred service. There are too many adverse influences both within the imperfect flesh and from without. It does not compare with physical growth, which mostly takes place without conscious effort. Neither can we make you grow to maturity. You cannot even make yourself grow. It is God who ‘keeps making it grow’, and, looking at ourselves, we are forced to admit, ‘just how, we do not know.’ (1 Cor. 3:5-9; Mark 4:27, NW) It is certainly not due to any credit we can claim. This does not mean we have no part therein. We do, and a vital one at that, as we have been discussing. We need patience, determination and encouragement. And in case anyone feels that this continual urge to increase and make progress is hardly justified and indicates a restless never-satisfied attitude, let us consider our final illustration. It is based on Scripture.
“WHOSE SEED IS IN ITSELF”
24, 25. (a) In the record of creation how is increase made prominent? (b) What outstanding features mark the provision made for increase?
24 Turn to Genesis, chapter one. We read at Ge 1 verse 11 that on the third creative day God said: “Let the earth bring forth grass,” and other forms of vegetation, plant life and trees; but note the expression: “Whose seed is in itself.” Then it tells of the creation of higher forms of life, and finally the crowning act of making man in God’s image, and in these instances we read: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply [bring forth abundantly], and replenish the earth.” “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”—Gen. 1:11, 20, 22, 28, 31.
25 What a delight and pleasure it must be to really create something! (Far superior to man’s efforts in improving on some previous design, or model, and calling it a “creation”.) God could, of course, have reserved to himself the right and privilege of directly creating every living thing. But, instead, he originated that most ingenious and marvelous arrangement of dividing each species into male and female whereby the creatures themselves could have the inexpressible joy of reproducing each after their kind, in obedience to laws of operation laid down by their Creator. Laws, infinite in variety, yet conforming to general fixed principles, even down to plant life. (Surely one of the simplest, overriding arguments against the evolution theory, for how could the conception of such a device and provision be credited to other than a master mind of designing and intelligent genius.) What was the secret of the arrangement? It is found in that word: “Whose seed is in itself.” Hence the strong desire, nay, the restless urge, divinely implanted in the creature to increase and multiply. God made but the one start, the one planting, in each case, then gave the command to be fruitful and multiply and bring forth abundantly. Abundantly? “Prolifically” would seem to be the better word, looking at the provision made in almost every instance.
26. In any given area, how can it be determined of which center or community it can rightly be said: “Whose seed is in itself”?
26 See how this applies as a fitting illustration for our encouragement. The great majority of our readers are associated with some company of Jehovah’s witnesses. You have your meeting place in Kingdom Hall or missionary home or private home and, generally hanging up somewhere, a map of the area for which your company is responsible. Visualize that area, whether city territory, or rural, or mixed. It may be in a country where almost every home has a Bible, and almost certainly there will be a number of religious buildings with either the Bible or other sacred writings. But can it be said of any of them: “Whose seed is in itself”? You know perfectly well the possession of a Bible alone by no means indicates that the seed of truth, the life-giving message, has found lodgment and germinated and sprouted in that religious home or community. Facing the facts, and without any conceit, you must realize that in all that area, similar to the Genesis record, there is only the one planting of Jehovah’s organization, represented in your company of Jehovah’s witnesses, however small it may be. What an inestimable privilege to be identified with that company of whom alone in all that territory it can truthfully be said: “Whose seed is in itself”!
27. How does this illustration bring home our great and joyful responsibility?
27 Of course, God, who knows the hearts of those inclined to righteousness, could easily reserve to himself the right and privilege to directly create, or stir up, all interest of good-will persons, revealing to them a knowledge of the truth and leading them to his organization. But, instead, he has given to you, collectively and individually (yes, it is up to you, holding and reading this magazine), the responsibility and inexpressible joy of getting busy and going over that territory again and again, seeking hearts where the “seed” can be planted. Then, calling back repeatedly and doing a little watering, maybe cultivating the soil, scaring off the robber birds, helping to pull up the weeds without damaging the precious plant, and finally the delight and thrill of a newly found friend and companion really appreciating the truth and the New World society. This is no credit to ourselves, remember, and all must be done in obedience to the laws of operation laid down by the Creator of the organization.—Isa. 43:1, AS.
28, 29. (a) If the urge to keep busy in the work is lacking, what is indicated? (b) How can this be remedied, and with what result?
28 If you have a “right and good heart”, in which the seed of truth has sprung forth, then you, too, will truly experience that strong desire and constant urge to get and keep busy in all the various features of the Lord’s work open to you, striving always to improve the quality of your service so that you can be used more effectively by the “Master of the harvest”.—Luke 8:15; Matt. 9:38, NW.
29 Keep praying for Jehovah’s spirit, always seeking to honor his Word, and stick close to his organization, Zion. In each case when God issued the mandate, “Be fruitful, and multiply,” those gracious words were added: “And God blessed them.” May that be your rich and happy portion, too, as you share in the glorious increase to Jehovah’s praise. “Press on to maturity,” and he “will supply and multiply the seed for you to sow and will increase the products of your righteousness”. (2 Cor. 9:10, NW) “Jehovah bless thee out of Zion.”—Ps. 128:5, AS.
Whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; because he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh, but he who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit. So let us not give up in doing what is right, for in due season we shall reap by not giving out. Really, then, as long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.—Gal. 6:7-10, NW.