Requirements for the Ministry
“By giving these advices to the brothers you will be a right kind of minister of Christ Jesus.”—1 Tim. 4:6, NW.
1, 2. What are some means Jehovah uses to accomplish his purposes?
JEHOVAH, the living God, being infinite in wisdom, uses many forces and creatures for carrying out his eternal purposes and for accomplishing any specific task at a given time. In ages past he has used raging flames of fire, storm-tossed seas, great fish, beasts of the field, fowls of the air, insects, humans, angels and even the archangel Michael. All these in their turn have worked well in doing the will of their great Creator.
2 The archangel, also identified in the Bible as the Word, was the first and only direct creation of Jehovah. He it was that Jehovah used as the “master workman” in creating all other things. (Prov. 8:30, AS; Rev. 3:14) “All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence.” (John 1:3, NW) He had the requirements necessary for the ministry assigned to him and he always obeyed and pleased his heavenly Father, delighting to do his will. Just how all the other faithful angels minister for the help of those on earth who are heirs of salvation we do not fully know, but that they are Jehovah’s servants who possess the necessary requirements to accomplish their ministry we definitely are assured: Jehovah “‘makes his angels spirits, and his public servants a flame of fire.’ . . . Are they not all spirits for public service, sent forth to minister for those who are going to inherit salvation?”—Heb. 1:7-14, NW; Ps. 104:1-4, AS.
3. How did Abel and Enoch distinguish themselves as Jehovah’s ministers?
3 In olden times men and women served Jehovah well because they had the requirements for the ministry assigned to them. Sixteen of such are honorably named in the sacred Record at Hebrews 11. Abel, the first one, was a faithful witness for Jehovah whose voice was not silenced even when his jealous brother Cain murdered him. Speaking to Cain Jehovah said: “Listen! Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground.” (Gen. 4:10, NW) “By faith Abel offered God a sacrifice of greater worth than Cain, through which faith he had witness borne to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness respecting his gifts, and through it he, although he died, yet speaks.” (Heb. 11:4, NW) Enoch, too, is on that list, having possessed the necessary requirements for his assigned ministry. “Yes, the seventh man in line from Adam, Enoch, prophesied . . . when he said: ‘Look! Jehovah came with his holy myriads, to execute judgment against all and to convict all the ungodly concerning all their ungodly deeds that they did in an ungodly way and concerning all the shocking things that ungodly sinners spoke against him.’”—Jude 14, 15, NW.
4. What activities of Noah prove that he met the requirements as Jehovah’s minister?
4 About sixteen centuries after Adam and Eve were driven out of their paradise home because of rebellion and disobedience, their children became so deeply steeped in moral obliquity that their every thought and imagination was only evil continually. So Jehovah determined to send upon earth a mighty flood of waters to destroy that wicked system and all who supported it. To save alive any righteous people on earth and certain animals Jehovah ordered the building of a shelter. It was a unique structure. Call it a boat if you will. To Noah, though not a boatbuilder, Jehovah assigned this task. Being a man of great faith in Jehovah and in Jehovah’s perfect ability to carry out his purposes, Noah proceeded with his work and finished it on time. Besides building, Noah orally preached about Jehovah’s purpose. (2 Pet. 2:5) He too had the requirements necessary for the ministry.
5. During his long life how did Abraham fulfill the requirements of an approved minister?
5 Later, after the Flood, Jehovah assigned a task to another man who had the faith necessary to accomplish it. Because of this man’s faithful service and unwavering obedience Jehovah made a wonderful promise to him. This promise became a covenant and contained the hope for all believing mankind. “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.’” (Gal. 3:8, NW) Upon Abraham came the most severe test when Jehovah required him to offer his beloved son Isaac as a sacrifice on an altar at Mount Moriah. This, for the sacred record, served to picture Jehovah God offering his beloved Son Jesus as a sacrifice for the redemption of believing humans. Out of faith Abraham obeyed and the needed picture was made. By Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, however, Isaac was saved alive and given back to his faithful father Abraham.—Gen. 22:1-18.
6, 7. What requirements for a good minister are highlighted in Moses’ career?
6 In time Moses also served as an example of a man equipped for the ministry, though at first he did not think he possessed the necessary requirements. Myriads of Israelites were in Egyptian bondage when Moses was born of Hebrew parents. From the time of his birth to the very day he died faith played an all-important part in his life. Under an edict of the king of Egypt Moses, along with all other male babes of the Israelites, was supposed to be killed at birth. By faith his parents refused to kill their lovely child. Directed by Jehovah, the child came to be adopted by the daughter of Pharaoh and reared in the royal court. There he became learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. Yet even in these unusual surroundings Moses did not forsake the pure worship of Jehovah, the God of Israel. Once when trying to help his brothers whom their Egyptian taskmasters were oppressing, Moses came into trouble with Pharaoh and was forced to flee for his life to the land of Midian. There he remained for forty years serving as a shepherd for Jethro, whose daughter he later married. At eighty Moses was well matured in the way of righteousness and was equipped with what he required to perform the ministry Jehovah now assigned to him, saying: “Unquestionably I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their outcry as a result of those who drive them to work, because I well know the pains they suffer. . . . And now come and let me send you to Pharaoh and you bring my people the sons of Israel out of Egypt.” (Ex. 3:7-10, NW) On hearing this message from Jehovah Moses should have rejoiced, but instead he was afraid to undertake the task because he knew the spirit of the Egyptians and their king. He said he was not qualified or equipped for the mission. This displeased Jehovah, because he knew more about Moses’ abilities than Moses himself. So Jehovah told him he would be with him. With this assurance as his strength Moses went ahead to accomplish his mission.
7 Moses had the requirements necessary for this assignment. He was richly blessed for carrying it out. Here is a good lesson for all of us. When given an assignment by Jehovah through his organization we should not make excuses or complain that we cannot do it. Jehovah cannot accept excuses. Were he to do so, it would mean that Jehovah does not know the limitations of his servants. Such a lack on his part is impossible for the God of infinite wisdom. Obedience on our part is better than excuses. Obedience leads to life; excuses can lead to endless death.
8. In what respects does Jeremiah’s performance as a faithful minister help us?
8 After leaving Egypt and entering the land of promise the nation of Israel prospered, becoming very numerous and wealthy. Soon, however, they turned away from the true worship of Jehovah and practiced the foolish worship of demons of the heathen nations round about them. This greatly displeased Jehovah. His prophet Jeremiah, another man well equipped for the ministry, Jehovah now sent to Jerusalem to warn the faithless priests and the false prophets and also the kings of Judah that he would use the king of Babylon to destroy the city and their magnificent temple. Further, that he would allow the people to be taken as slaves to Babylon where they would serve other gods for seventy years. (Jer. 25:8-13; Dan. 9:1, 2) These priests and false prophets persecuted Jeremiah, but he carried out his commission and fully proved he had the requirements necessary for the ministry. On one occasion they brought Jeremiah to the princes, accusing him of sedition and saying he was worthy of death. Why? He was telling the people to surrender the city to the king of Babylon. What did Jeremiah do? Was he prepared to handle the matter? To his persecutors he said: ‘I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth Jehovah sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.’ Now the tables were turned on the false priests and persecutors, for upon hearing this the people said: ‘This man does not deserve the sentence of death, for he has spoken to us in the name of Jehovah our God.’ (Jer. 26:14-16, RS; AS) This also illustrates how Jehovah’s witnesses were persecuted in olden times at the suggestion and instigation of priests and false prophets. It is even so today! Satan has no new tricks; he just dresses the old ones up in new clothes. His devices we know, as Paul said: “We may not be overreached by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his designs.” (2 Cor. 2:11, NW) Contrastingly, Paul reminds us: “Oh the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments are and past tracing out his ways are!”—Rom. 11:33, NW.
INTRODUCING THE GREATEST MINISTER
9. What unique privileges as a minister were properly used by John the Baptist?
9 In his due time Jehovah purposed for Messiah to come and be introduced also first to Israel. Jehovah did not choose one of the learned scribes or Pharisees to perform this precious ministry of introducing the Messiah. No! He chose a man from the back country, one not indoctrinated with the traditions and errors of the religious rulers of Jerusalem. To prepare the way for the Messiah John the Baptist was chosen by Jehovah, and John introduced him to the people when he arrived. Before his birth John was dedicated to the service of Jehovah. He was reared and trained in childhood by devoted parents and spent his life in early years in the solitude of the wilderness. There he could read and meditate upon what was written in the Hebrew Scriptures and prepare himself for the work ahead of him. Thus he came by the requirements necessary for the ministry. By reading the account of John’s preaching activity you will find he was a fearless man, holding nothing back. Many times in his audience were to be found scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, but he did not honor them by giving them prominent places. Instead, to them he said: “You offspring of vipers, who has shown you how to flee from the coming wrath?”—Matt. 3:7, NW.
10. What right practices of a good minister are specially noteworthy in Jesus’ short term of service on earth?
10 Six months after John began his ministry Jesus came to him to be baptized. John hesitated, saying: “I am the one needing to be baptized by you, and are you coming to me?” Jesus replied: “Let it be, this time, for in that way it is suitable for us to carry out all that is righteous.” (Matt. 3:14, 15, NW) Very little information appears in the Bible as to the early life of Jesus, aside from the fact that he was begotten by the spirit of Jehovah and was born at Bethlehem. He was born to the virgin Mary of the family of David. Today in libraries at Rome and Constantinople there are records that say that as a young man Jesus did not take any interest in the politics of the times or in the questions and issues of the people. He made no effort to free the people from bondage to the galling yoke of the Romans. He spent his time studying the Hebrew Scriptures and talking to the people about the kingdom of the heavens. Also in those records it is said that no one taught him how to read, yet he knew the Bible from memory, which surprised and irked the learned rabbis of the time. His mother, too, was perplexed because Jesus did not take any interest in the problems of the nation of Israel, she remembering the angel Gabriel’s telling her that her son would inherit the throne of his father David and that of his kingdom there would be no end. On one occasion she spoke to him about this, but Jesus replied: “Woman, you do not know who I am.” But these records are no part of the Bible. According to the Bible Jesus knew who he was and what mission he was destined to accomplish. This he accomplished.
11. In their ministerial activity what obstacles were met by both John the Baptist and Jesus?
11 John the Baptist and Jesus had many difficulties and obstacles to overcome as they went about preaching: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand! Therefore repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.” The Jews expected that their awaited Messiah would set up a kingdom on earth, one such as David and Solomon had ruled over; but John and Jesus were talking about a heavenly, spiritual kingdom. The Jews were looking for a ruler and prophet greater than Moses who would come and deliver them from the oppressing Gentile nations and make Israel the greatest nation on earth, so that to it all peoples would seek. They recalled that their own prophet Isaiah recorded: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the root of Jesse, that standeth for an ensign of the peoples, unto him shall the nations seek; and his resting-place shall be glorious.” (Isa. 11:10, AS) And still another teaching perplexed many of the Jews. John preached the forgiveness of sins through repentance. At this they wondered, because for over fifteen centuries the Jews had observed an elaborate system of services and sacrifices in the tabernacle and later in the temple. The purpose of such services and sacrifices was to have the sins of the people set aside, so they would be continually kept in harmony with Jehovah under the law-covenant arrangement introduced through Moses. Now, to teach that sins could be forgiven through repentance symbolized by baptism in water was more than the religious leaders could take. Many of the common people, however, accepted John as a prophet and gladly came to him to be baptized.
12. What present-day condition resulting from false teaching appears as a parallel to conditions Jesus faced?
12 The Jewish religious leaders did not understand that the animal sacrifices offered year after year by the high priests did not and could not take away the sins of the people. A perfect human sacrifice was necessary to meet the claims of Jehovah’s law against humanity. A perfect human life had to be sacrificed to buy back what was lost through Adam’s sin in Eden. Even the disciples could not understand why it was necessary for Jesus to die before his kingdom could be set up and blessings poured out on all obedient ones. They wanted to make him a king immediately and restore again the earthly glory of Israel. Here, incidentally, we see a condition opposite to that of today, for false religion for a long time has taught that the only persons to be saved are those destined to go to heaven and that God’s kingdom refers only to blessings in heaven. However, God’s message today for the people of earth is of a heavenly kingdom that will shower blessings upon the earth, filling it with the glory of Jehovah, making it a paradise of pleasure where obedient men and women will live endlessly in happiness, praising and joyfully serving Jehovah.
13. How did Jesus on earth fulfill other essential requirements of a right minister, and with what results?
13 So we appreciate that Jesus also was thoroughly equipped for his ministry. He very carefully studied the Word of God, remembered what he read and followed the instructions written for him. He also gathered about him many disciples and trained them for the ministry. To the public he spoke with illustrations, but to his disciples he clearly explained sound doctrines. In training his disciples for their work Jesus was very practical. He took them with him from city to city and village to village and from house to house, showing them how and what to teach the people. Later, after such training, he sent them out by twos so that they too might gain valuable practical information by personal experience. The men he trained became competent ministers with the necessary requirements for their service.
14. How does Peter’s true understanding and practice of symbolic baptism illustrate another ministerial essential?
14 Look at Peter, for example. On the day of Pentecost Peter preached to a large public gathering, no doubt the largest he had addressed up to that time. As a result of that preaching three thousand persons were converted and later baptized. (Acts 2:14-41) Believers in sprinkling instead of baptism by immersing in water teach that Peter must have sprinkled that large group, since there was no way to immerse so many in Jerusalem. But such teachers are mistaken, for there then were many pools in and around Jerusalem where multitudes could easily be baptized. Pools that Solomon built to water his gardens he describes: “I planted vineyards for myself; I made myself gardens and parks, and I planted therein all sorts of fruit trees. I made myself pools of water with which to irrigate a young forest.” (Eccl. 2:4-6, AT) Today three of those pools can still be seen in Jerusalem. They were connected together with terra cotta pipe, and are about 50 feet long, 20 feet wide and about 12 feet deep, with stone steps at each end. In addition to these pools there was also the pool of Siloam, where mass immersions could easily have been performed. So Peter did not sprinkle those thousands; they were undoubtedly immersed in water. That faithful apostle was indeed well trained for the ministry and, aided by the spirit of Jehovah, Peter used the first of the “keys of the kingdom” to open Kingdom privileges to the Jews.—Matt. 16:19.
THE MINISTRY OF PAUL
15, 16. (a) When and how did Jesus select the last of his twelve apostles? (b) What practices of Paul identify him as a true minister?
15 After Pentecost the message of the Kingdom spread rapidly, much to the chagrin of Jesus’ enemies. Some prominent men of the time accepted the Kingdom message and began to preach it to others. Among them was a brilliant young man from Tarsus called Saul. His name was later changed to Paul and he became one of Jesus’ twelve apostles.
16 Paul had a marvelous experience which brought about his conversion to the truth. While on the road to Damascus to persecute Christians he was given a miraculous glimpse of the glorified Christ, who told Paul he was a chosen vessel to carry the Kingdom message to many people. With great zeal Paul entered the ministry. After a period of careful study to learn the requirements for the ministry he gave himself fully to the service of Jehovah God. He traveled to distant lands, preaching and teaching the good news everywhere he went. On one occasion Paul visited the city of Athens in Greece, where he was expecting to meet his companions in the ministry. There in the synagogue he endeavored to interest the Greek-speaking Jews in the message of the Messiah, but none would listen to him. Later, in the market place, he had opportunity to discuss the Scriptures with certain philosophers, coming in contact also with the Epicureans and the Stoics. Epicureans did not think their many gods took much interest in the affairs of man. Their main object of life was to gratify the senses. Stoics believed all of life’s interests were controlled and directed by fate.
17. At Athens, what attitudes of certain curious listeners did not dim or kill Paul’s sense of responsibility as Jehovah’s minister?
17 Both of these groups, seemingly plagued by Paul’s persistence, finally became disgusted with him, some calling him a chatterer, and others began to wonder just what he was up to. (Acts 17:18, NW) This term “chatterer” they used in contempt, meaning that Paul was like a crow that gathered bits of food along the way, in that he had been picking up bits of knowledge here and there and was now trying to pass it off as his own. Ah, but these philosophers were not able to answer Paul’s questions or refute his arguments about Jesus and the resurrection. So, becoming desperate, they “laid hold of him and led him to the Areopʹagus, saying: ‘Can we get to know what this new teaching is?’” At the time a Roman law provided that ‘no person shall have any separate gods, or new ones; nor shall he privately worship any strange gods unless they be publicly allowed.’ This law Paul first encountered at Philippi where the magistrates were told by his accusers: “These men are disturbing our city very much, they being Jews, and they are publishing customs which it is not lawful for us to take up or practice, seeing we are Romans.”—Acts 17:19; 16:19-40, NW.
18. How do Athens and Jerusalem here appear in contrast?
18 Now Paul was in the place that then and for many centuries before prided itself as being the center of culture and education, an independent or free city, a model democracy. Its great philosophers, propounding their so-called wisdom, had attracted the attention of educated people of the whole world. Athenians had been a proud and wealthy people. But now Athens, too, was subject to the sixth world power, Rome. Paul, on the other hand, was from Jerusalem, the city upon which Jehovah had been pleased to put his name and where Jesus had taught the people and launched the true religion. More than that, Paul was an active citizen of the truly free “Jerusalem above,” Jehovah’s organization. (Gal. 4:26, NW) What would result from this invitation for a display of the wisdom from above to the advocates of the wisdom of this world? Let us see:
19-21. (a) Who comprised Paul’s audience on Mars Hill, and how was he equipped to minister to them? (b) How did Paul proceed for enlightening his hearers?
19 The centuries-old Areopʹagus, or Mars Hill, once the open-air meeting place of the famed city’s supreme court, now was hardly more than a public forum. There now were seating themselves in the better seats the proud, well-dressed, well-fed Epicureans. Filing in behind them come the serious-faced Stoics, followed by their pupils from far and near. Dionysius, a judge, also comes, taking a seat where he could hear all that Paul might say. Finally a lady named Damaris is seen taking a seat. (Paul’s speech on this occasion converted her to become a follower of Christ.) What an audience!—representatives of the judiciary, the intelligentsia and the society of this decadent metropolis of learning and culture.
20 Now let us look at the invited speaker, the apostle Paul, servant of Jehovah. He is a small man, not much to look at and not richly dressed. Already he had spent some time in jail before coming to Athens, and due to his travels his clothes probably lacked freshness. Here, all alone, he stood without human aid or comfort. Was he discouraged and beaten? Hardly, for he was armed with the “sword of the spirit,” which is sharper than any carnal sword, and he knew how to wield it because he possessed the necessary requirements for the ministry. With the spirit of Jehovah guiding him, Paul speaks:
21 “Men of Athens, I behold that in all things you seem to be more given to the fear of the deities than others are. For instance, while passing along and carefully observing your objects of devotion I also found an altar on which had been inscribed ‘To an Unknown God’. Therefore what you are unknowingly giving godly devotion to, this I am publishing to you.” (Acts 17:22, 23, NW) What an introduction! What a way to address this gathering of philosophers! These words coming from a “chatterer” had an electrifying effect on his curious, austere listeners. They surely did not expect anything at all like this. Why, in one short statement Paul had turned the tables. Now the learned philosophers had become the ‘chatterers’ who looked foolish and ignorant, while the small and insignificant man from Jerusalem had become the learned instructor. These proud Athenians publicly admitted that they ignorantly worshiped a god they knew nothing about, while Paul knew much about him and happily proceeded to inform them. He could not talk like this to these men in the market place, where they regularly assembled to instruct others, but here Paul was their invited speaker, free to say what he chose.
22, 23. How did Paul tactfully identify the living God?
22 Can you imagine those uncomfortable philosophers saying to one another: ‘Whose idea was it to bring this man here to embarrass us so?’ Ah, but wait! Paul has only begun his expose of the ignorance of these men. He continues: “The God that made the world and all the things in it, being, as this One is, Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in handmade temples, neither is he attended to by human hands as if he needed anything, because he himself gives to all persons life and breath and all things. And he made out of one man every nation of men, to dwell upon the entire surface of the earth, and he decreed the appointed seasons and the set limits of the dwelling of men, for them to seek God, . . . although, in fact, he is not far off from each one of us. For by him we have life and move and exist, even as certain ones of the poets among you have said, ‘For we are also his progeny.’” What words coming from the little “chatterer” from Jerusalem; yes, words of life!—Acts 17:24-28, NW.
23 Paul then quoted, as some claim, from a poem by Aratus of Cilicia and also Cleanthes: “Let us begin with God. Let every mortal raise his voice to tune God’s endless praise. God fills the heaven, the earth, the sea, the air; we feel his spirit moving here and everywhere, and we his offspring are.” So the speaker backed up his amazing argument, not from the Hebrew prophets, whom his audience would not accept as authority, but by reminding them from a writing of one of their own kind. Listen as he continues: “Seeing, therefore, that we are the progeny of God, we ought not to imagine that the Divine Being is like gold or silver or stone, like something sculptured by the art and contrivance of man.” Now, how the ego of each of those proud philosophers was shrinking, and how uncomfortable they were becoming! How they longed for him to stop speaking and how glad they would have been to get out of the auditorium without being seen!—Acts 17:29, NW.
24, 25. (a) Continuing, what requirement of Jehovah did Paul emphasize? (b) Telling his hearers of what sound doctrine resulted in what climactic developments in the unusual public assembly?
24 But be patient, gentlemen, Paul has more to tell you. Using theocratic tact his next remarks are kindly; and were these ill-informed so-called “wise” ones willing to heed them they might gain life. He adds: “True, God has overlooked the times of such ignorance, yet now he is telling mankind that they should all everywhere repent. Because he has set a day in which he purposes to judge the inhabited earth in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and he has furnished a guarantee to all men in that he has resurrected him from the dead.”—Acts 17:30, 31, NW.
25 Resurrection of the dead? Astounding, yes; but to the Athenian philosophers that instantly became for them the way out. “Some began to mock, while others said: ‘We will hear you about this even another time.’” Thus abruptly and with crude ceremony the democratic majority, by voice vote, declared the session ended. They, as “wise” ones, thought that no one of any importance in Athens believed in the resurrection. But, as usual, they were badly mistaken. As “Paul left their midst . . . some men joined themselves to him and became believers.” Among such were Judge Dionysius and a woman named Damaris. (Acts 17:32-34, NW) An Athens congregation was organized and, by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, even today many of Jehovah’s witnesses continue to preach in that city. By free and fearless use of God’s Word, all the “wisdom” generated by those Athenian philosophers was shown by Paul to be foolishness, not worthy of serious consideration, while the Word of Jehovah was shown to contain the way to life. It alone will endure forever. By this experience of Paul we are reminded that he had the requirements necessary for the ministry assigned to him. In this forceful, clear, though interrupted, address he tactfully uncovered the sophistries of worldlywise curious ones and also established the faith of a few who were conscious of their spiritual need.