The Watch Tower Society in God’s Purpose
The recent international convention of Jehovah’s witnesses has attracted much attention to the Watch Tower Society. What is the origin, nature and purpose of this Society?
THE magazine you are reading is the official journal of the Watch Tower Society. The policy of this Society rests on four basic premises: (1) that there is a Supreme Being, the Creator of heaven and earth, whose name is Jehovah God; (2) that the Bible is his inspired and infallible Word; (3) that God has ever had a channel or means of communicating between himself and man; (4) that today the Watch Tower Society is being used as a legal servant by God’s channel. As indicated by the title of this article, a discussion of the last two of these basic premise, follows.
That God has ever had on earth a man, society or organization to serve as a means of communication or channel the Bible clearly shows. Thus in the very beginning God informed Adam regarding his will for him, and Adam in turn instructed Eve, telling her, for instance, about God’s command not to eat of the fruit of a certain tree. Of course, after Adam rebelled God no longer used him in this capacity.—Genesis, chapters 2 and 3.
Abel doubtless informed those about him of the right way to worship God, at least by example if not also by word of mouth. After him came Enoch, who prophesied of a coming judgment, even as Jesus’ disciple Jude tells us at Jude verse 14. Then there was Noah, who not only built a huge ark or chest but also served as “a preacher of righteousness,” warning the delinquent generation of his day of the coming flood. Years later Jehovah God used Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as his mouthpieces. For many centuries the nation of Israel, and certain prophets in particular, served God’s purpose by communicating to men knowledge of God and of his will for them. As Moses told his people: “What great nation is there that has righteous regulations and judicial decisions like all this law that I am putting before you today?”—2 Pet. 2:5; Deut. 4:8.
Upon his being baptized at the Jordan Jesus, the Son of God, began to serve as his Father’s channel of communication to men. Said he: “Just as the Father taught me I speak these things.” “For this purpose I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.”—John 8:28; 18:37.
After Jesus completed his work as a human channel of communication he ascended to heaven and at Pentecost poured out God’s holy spirit upon his waiting followers. From then on his apostles and certain older men of the Christian congregation at Jerusalem served as a channel of communication, as well as a governing body, for Christ’s followers. Thus, when certain questions arose, such as regarding Gentiles being circumcised and about eating meat offered to idols, Paul and others consulted with this governing body at Jerusalem. Upon ascertaining God’s will on these matters this body informed the various congregations by means of letters carried by Paul and others. Clearly here was a body of Christians that served as a channel of communication to humankind and especially to the Christian congregations, not taking the place of God’s Word but helping them to understand and apply it.—Acts 15:1-35.
In passing let it be noted that all these in representing Jehovah God were witnesses for him, even as Paul so clearly shows at Hebrews 11:1 to 12:2. The Scriptures further show that at no time did God use more than one channel or mouthpiece (either one man or a group serving harmoniously as one) to communicate to men.—Ex. 19:5, 6; Ps. 147:20; Amos 3:2, AS; John 14:6.
WHAT ABOUT TODAY?
It is but reasonable to expect that God would also have a channel of communication today, especially since his Word shows that the time is near for settling the great universal issue between Jehovah God and Satan, Who is supreme? which issue Satan raised by his rebellion in Eden. While Jehovah God could have settled that issue at once by destroying Satan and his dupes, yet because the issue of man’s being able to keep integrity was also involved, and for the sake of his own name, He has delayed settling that issue, even as he told Pharaoh in Moses’ day. In his due time, however, Jehovah is bound to act to remove all doubt as to his being the supreme Sovereign, almighty and perfect in love. That due time will be Armageddon, “the war of the great day of God the Almighty.”—Rev. 16:14, 16; Ex. 9:16.
The purpose of Jehovah God therefore calls for a channel of communication now that will serve notice upon all his enemies that Armageddon is impending; otherwise when it strikes they will not know the reason why. This channel is also needed so as to warn all men of good will toward God so that they might take a life-preserving course, even as did Noah and his family. To such the call now goes forth: “Seek ye Jehovah, all ye meek of the earth, that have kept his ordinances; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye will be hid in the day of Jehovah’s anger.”—Zeph. 2:3, AS.
In fact, Jesus, in his great prophecy about the end of this wicked old world, indicated that God would have a channel of communication at this time, which he would use to sound this warning: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.”—Matt. 24:45-47.
Is the Watch Tower Society this “faithful and discreet slave”? No, it is merely a corporate body, a legal instrument used by this “slave.” Who, then, is this “slave”? Not just one individual, but the composite body of dedicated, anointed footstep followers of Jesus Christ, described as “the remaining ones of her seed, who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.”—Rev. 12:17.
HISTORY AND NATURE OF SOCIETY
“O Lord, I stand continually upon the watch-tower in the day-time, and am set in my ward whole nights.” (Isa. 21:8, AS) Here we have the Scriptural basis for the name of the Society. And the name is indeed well taken, for it does serve as a “watchman” upon a watchtower, announcing to all Jehovah’s purposes. (Isa. 21:11; see front cover of The Watch Tower down to issue of December 15, 1938.) Among other things, the original charter of the Society stated its purpose to be: “The dissemination of Bible truths in various languages by means of the publication of tracts, pamphlets, . . . and by the use of all other lawful means which its Board of Directors . . . shall deem expedient.”
This Society got its start back in 1872 when a mere handful of sincere Christians met in a suburb of Pittsburgh for Bible study. Wanting to be free from all man-made creeds and to have the Bible alone as their guide, they found it necessary to separate from their respective religious denominations. As they kept studying they increased in knowledge and understanding of God’s Word, and as they kept telling others about what they learned their numbers grew. In the interest of efficiency they organized a Bible society in 1881, which was incorporated in 1884. In 1909 this Society moved to Brooklyn, New York, so as to care better for its interests in other lands. Today this Society is supervising the preaching activity in 164 lands, having branches in eighty-four countries.
The 164 lands are divided into zones and, depending upon its size and number of ministers, each country having a branch is divided into districts, which, in turn, are divided into circuits. Usually some twenty congregations comprise a circuit; in turn, each congregation, depending upon its size, has a number of home Bible study groups known as service centers. Each congregation has an overseer and a number of assistants who look after the various details, including the service centers. All these are appointed by the Society, even as are those who are servants of zones, branches, districts and circuits. Circuit servants visit each congregation in their circuit twice a year to instruct and encourage its ministers, to report to the Society as to its spiritual condition and to make recommendations.
Each congregation has five weekly meetings for Bible instruction and ministerial training. Ministers also meet several times each week to engage in the field ministry. All activity is supported by voluntary contributions; no contribution plates are passed.
HOW IT IS SERVING GOD’S PURPOSE TODAY
The facts show that Jehovah God is using the Watch Tower Society to make known the facts about the vindication of his name, regarding Armageddon and concerning his established kingdom for which all Christians have been praying. Each congregation of his witnesses is given an assignment of territory for which it is responsible. Those able to do so arrange their affairs to serve full time as pioneer ministers or as foreign missionaries. For the training of such missionaries the Society has the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead.
To aid all these ministers the Society publishes Bibles, textbooks, magazines, booklets and tracts. Different from other Bible societies, however, it places the emphasis on Bible-study aids, as most persons have Bibles, and so what they most need is not another Bible but an aid to understanding the Bible they already have. One of these textbooks, “Let God Be True”, has been published and distributed to the extent of sixteen million copies in forty-eight languages. As noted on the inside of the front cover of this magazine, The Watchtower has a circulation of 3.5 million copies in fifty languages. Its companion magazine Awake! enjoys a circulation of 2.8 million copies in nineteen languages.
These Christian ministers and witnesses of Jehovah follow the example set by the apostles and go “from house to house,” looking for those who are “conscious of their spiritual need.” Finding such ones, they make return visits, endeavoring to start a weekly home Bible study. If successful, they continue this study, not only until the student dedicates himself to do God’s will, but until he no longer needs such aid. All ministers are either being trained or training others. There is no clergy-laity distinction, nor are honorary titles bestowed upon any. All keep progressing from students to ministers who can assist others.—Acts 20:20; Matt. 5:3; 23:8.
Under the direction of the Watch Tower Society these ministers also “preach the word” on busy street corners and at shopping centers. They give Bible lectures at their Kingdom Halls, in auditoriums, in parks and other public places. The Society also encourages the use of all other lawful and effective means that are available, such as the public press, radio and television. And in particular does it sponsor assemblies: circuit, district, national and international. The latest and largest of these was just held July 27 to August 3 in New York city, to which Christian ministers came from more than a hundred different lands.
In all such ways the Watch Tower Society is serving God’s purpose as an efficient legal instrument of his dedicated and anointed servants who are the true channel of communication of Jehovah God today. As a result of such activity great numbers of sheeplike men and women have taken their stand for Jehovah God and for his King and kingdom. Proof of this is seen in the 1958 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which showed that during 1957 a peak of 716,901 Christian ministers and witnesses of Jehovah had shared in preaching the good news of the Kingdom and that, all told, more than 100 million hours were devoted to such activity.
Where the Watch Tower Society is banned the witnesses of Jehovah carry on underground. Even such, however, the Society manages to provide with spiritual food and instruction in most remarkable ways. But whether above ground or underground, these Christian ministers fulfill their commission to preach. It is being done, “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith Jehovah.” With the help of that spirit they will continue until their preaching work is completed, “until cities be waste without inhabitant, and houses without man.”—Zech. 4:6; Isa. 6:11, AS.