“Prove Yourselves My Disciples”
“My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit and prove yourselves my disciples.”—John 15:8.
1. How can we say that Jesus was alone in his work when he began making witnesses, and how must his abilities be measured?
THE success of a worker is measured by his production, by its quality, its quantity or by both. Measured by the fruits of his work, Jesus must be said to have been an exceedingly successful worker, whose skill was shown as well in quality as in quantity. Both were startling. When he started out making over peoples’ minds to make them his followers, he was all alone, being the first of a new kind of witnesses of Jehovah, those with a heavenly calling. Of course, there was John the Baptist, who had prepared the way for Jesus, but John did not get to belong to the new nation of spirit-begotten members, and even his disciples who came to Jesus to follow him had to be made Christian witnesses of Jehovah by Jesus first. In this latter regard, at least, when Jesus began his work, he was all alone.
2. How many new witnesses did Jesus make during his three and a half years of ministry, and what prophecy did Jesus give about the work of his followers?
2 Three and a half years later, on the day of Pentecost, not long after Jesus had been killed on a torture stake, we find the apostle Peter addressing a big crowd of people. Many of these people had heard Jesus’ sermons in the past, and his message had already been deeply impressed on their minds. Some had thought that Jesus was the Messiah, but now they were uncertain, since he had so suddenly been killed as a criminal. On this occasion Peter explained to these people, under influence of God’s spirit, how the prophecies had been fulfilled by what had taken place. When they understood why Christ had to die and learned that it would be now proper for them to make a dedication to God through Jesus Christ if they wanted to be on Jehovah’s side, promptly three thousand people had themselves baptized in Jesus’ name that same day. Some days later the figure was brought up to 5,000, the record shows. All these Israelite believers were indirectly the fruits of Jesus’ work during the previous three and a half years. But there must have been thousands more, because, as the record says later, “believers in the Lord kept being added.” Furthermore, many had been baptized with John’s baptism during Jesus’ ministry; so there is basis for believing that many more than the 5,000 mentioned by number in Acts 4:4 as baptized in Jesus’ name were made witnesses indirectly because of Jesus’ preaching. As Jesus had said: “Unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains just one kernel; but if it dies, it then bears much fruit.” (John 12:24) By dying faithful, what fruitage Jesus produced! However, when speaking about his followers, Jesus said: “Most truly I say to you, He that exercises faith in me, that one also will do the works that I do, and he will do works greater than these.” How should we understand this?—John 14:12.
3. How must we understand John 14:12?
3 It is hardly to be expected that any imperfect individual should ever be able to compete with the Master and break his record in witness-making. If a witness of Jehovah were placed in a territory with no other witnesses, most likely there would not be anything near the 500 witnesses Jesus met with in Galilee after his resurrection or even the 120 who remained in Jerusalem after his ascension. (1 Cor. 15:3-6; Matt. 28:16-18; Acts 1:15) Neither would that personal increase be the fulfillment that Jesus’ words require. Rather, his words at John 14:12 are a prophecy spoken by the Great Prophet, and at the latest they must find their fulfillment now in this “time of the end” as long as the ingathering work is still going on. So the proper understanding must be that his words were spoken particularly about his followers living now, not as individuals, but as a society of people working harmoniously together to do the works he gave his followers to do. It is as such society that his followers today fulfill the prophecy.
4. What proof do we have that Jehovah’s witnesses fulfill the prophecy of Jesus at John 14:12, and how does this prophecy affect us as individuals?
4 On the occasion of the international assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses in New York city in the summer of 1953, 4,640 persons were baptized on one day. In Nuremberg and Berlin, Germany, at the assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses held in these cities simultaneously in August, 1955, 5,203 persons were baptized on two days, and at the international assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses in New York city in July, 1958, 7,136 were baptized on one day. That is considerably more than were ever baptized on any one occasion in the days of Jesus and the apostles as far as the records show. During the last ten years Jehovah’s witnesses have increased from 283,532 publishers world-wide in 1948 to 717,088 in 1958, or 211 percent, which proves that Jehovah’s witnesses of today fulfill the prophecy of Jesus. They have far greater results and are carrying through the witness-making work as he taught it on a much larger scale than ever before in history, and the end has not come yet. All this drives home one point very clearly: If Jesus was so productive, and even more productivity is expected of the congregation of true Christians today, how much productive work is then to be expected of the individual members of that congregation? It proves that the time is here when Christ Jesus expects his followers to be able to show fruits of their works individually.
5. What is the most important secret behind the growth of Jehovah’s witnesses?
5 What is the secret behind the spectacular progress of Jehovah’s witnesses that has given them the name of relatively the “fastest growing religion”? Is it because it is such an “easy” religion, which people like to join because they can do what they please and still get their consciences soothed? Is it because people are being paid to join in the work of Jehovah’s witnesses so that they have a material advantage from it? Is it because people are driven by fear to become Jehovah’s witnesses after having heard the message about the coming battle of Armageddon? These and other reasons have been suggested by people who do not understand why Jehovah’s witnesses increase so rapidly everywhere. The answer is that the work Jehovah’s witnesses do is a revival and continuation of the witness-making work Jesus started on earth about 1,930 years ago and which proved to be so successful then. It is done in obedience to divine command and as a fulfillment of prophecy, and it is thus under guidance and support of God’s holy spirit or invisible force. That is the most important secret behind the rapid increase of Jehovah’s witnesses in this generation.—Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20; Isa. 60:1-22.
6. To what other reasons can the success of the Witnesses be attributed?
6 But there is also a more tangible, technical reason, and that is the fact that the Witnesses have taken Jesus’ words “Follow me” very literally also as far as preaching methods are concerned. They have taken great care in copying as exactly as possible the method used by their Head and Master Worker, Jesus Christ, when he was on earth doing the same work. They have listened to his instructions on how to do it, as described, among other places, at Matthew chapter 10. Add to this the fact that Jehovah’s witnesses also carry the same message as Christ Jesus did, the message of God’s kingdom as a real government to exercise literal dominion over mankind and to solve its problems, and you know why the Witnesses have such wonderful results, and equally so on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
7. (a) By what viewpoints and by what acts are Jehovah’s witnesses consistent with their claim to be followers of Christ? (b) What are some of their results of following in Christ’s footsteps? (c) Who gets the honor for the fruit yielded?
7 Jehovah’s witnesses have not tried to make any short cuts in doing their work as if they would know better how to do it than the Master himself. They do not praise him as the wisest man who has ever walked on this earth and then spurn the counsel he gave. They do not think that his working methods are outdated in this age of mass production. As true Christians they have followed their Master also in the preaching work from door to door, sharing with him all the reproach, ridicule and persecution this brings, even among people calling themselves Christians. But they have also shared with him the wonderful fruits in the form of hundreds of thousands of deserving persons found over the years. Obedient to the instructions of their Great Teacher, they have stayed with such people, calling back on them repeatedly to bring them the peace with God that they wish them with all their hearts and doing so by studying God’s Word, the Bible, with them in their homes. During the year 1958, Jehovah’s witnesses were conducting such Bible studies in 508,320 different homes all over the world with one or more participants at each study for a longer or shorter period of time. The fruits of all this work, the adding of an average of 43,000 dedicated Christian witnesses to their ranks every year for the last ten years, proves that Jehovah God has approved of their working methods and has blessed the planting and watering of the seed of His Word sown in the hearts of deserving persons. Jehovah’s witnesses do not take the honor for this. The wonder-making message they bring is not their invention, and the method by which they plant it into the minds of people is not theirs either. So all honor goes to Jehovah God, who taught them through Christ Jesus and who also makes the seed grow. It is He who is building a New World society.—John 15:1.
QUANTITY VERSUS QUALITY
8. (a) To what extent should Christians be interested in increasing their number? (b) On what conditions may Jehovah’s witnesses accept others as witnesses? (c) How did Paul show that quality is more important than quantity?
8 One of the characteristics of the true congregation in the “time of the end” is that of increase. True Christians are therefore interested in quantity, but not at any price, not at the cost of the quality. In many countries Jehovah’s witnesses could show much larger numbers if they would accept and baptize all the people who want to be accepted and baptized by them; but, because of not having properly made over their minds by means of Bible study, they are not counted as Jehovah’s witnesses until they have given proof of really having adopted the way of thinking that is in harmony with God’s Word and have become active ministers. In fact, it is not known how many people believe as Jehovah’s witnesses do. All who are counted as Jehovah’s witnesses are active preachers of the good news meeting the Biblical standard of morals, since an inactive Christian or one not meeting the standard is not a Christian at all. He is not a witness for Jehovah. Of course, the same Biblical standard must be met in every country of the world. When Paul learned of a case of moral breakdown in the congregation of Corinth, he disfellowshiped the guilty Christian from the congregation and did not allow him to be accepted back again until proof of a complete change of mind and action had been given. Quantity was not of greatest concern to Paul, although he was interested in increase; quality was more important. It should never be forgotten that Christians are made by changing the minds of people and that, in turn, will invariably change their pattern of conduct.—Rev. 7:9, 14, 15; 1 Cor. 5:1-5; 2 Cor. 2:6, 7; Rom. 1:13; 12:2; Eph. 4:22-24.
9. (a) What is one obvious reason for the churches of Christendom to be interested in more members? (b) What proves that from the beginning the Roman Catholic Church was never interested in seeing to it that her adherents became truly converted to Christianity, and why was that so?
9 For various reasons the churches of Christendom are also interested in increase. Most of them believe in bringing God’s kingdom to mankind by influencing the politicians of this world, and that requires the kind of power that great numbers of voters can give, politically and financially. Especially the Catholic Church is known to use her adherents to sway the ballot the way she wants. This takes quantity and not necessarily quality; devoted church supporters, but not Bible Christians. So in making her adherents the Catholic Church was never particular about really making over the minds of people to uproot paganism and put Christian beliefs in its place. On this subject French professor Louis Réau says in Volume I, page 50, of his work Iconographie de l’Art Chrétien (Iconography in Christian Art): “In order to overcome paganism so firmly rooted in the ancient world, the Church of Christ [i.e., the Roman Catholic Church] had to choose between two methods: abolish or replace, destroy or supplant. Following her very safe political and psychological instincts, she chose the latter. It is, to be sure, very dangerous and nearly always ineffective to make a frontal attack on ancient beliefs and to root them out by force, whereas it is relatively easy to replace them by new beliefs and practices, provided they respect the ancestral customs and perpetuate them under another name. . . . This process of substitution, which did not always immediately result in the deep conversion of souls but which facilitated considerably the rapid Christianization of the pagan world, applied equally well to: beliefs . . . ; places of worship; religious holidays . . . ; and finally, iconography.”
10. How do the churches make adherents today, and with what consequences?
10 Today the various churches of Christendom still make disciples their own way. They make them by sprinkling newly born babies with water in a so-called baptism ceremony, after which they are counted as members of their churches. Or, as in the past, they recognize grown-up persons as Christians without having made over their minds first and rid them of heathen ideas so that they can serve God intelligently and please him, and without having taught them the Christian standard of morals. Consequently, millions of Roman Catholics are still believing in witchcraft and still living in open polygamy without knowing that such things are against God’s commandments and without the church’s doing anything about it.
11. (a) What methods have the clergy preferred in working among their adherents? (b) In not following Jesus in going about their work, whom do they remind us of?
11 No attempt has been made by the clergy of Christendom to make real Christians out of their church members by following the example of the one they say is their Master and Teacher. They have not visited their parishioners, calling on them home after home as Jesus instructed, teaching God’s Word to the millions who for some reason never come to a church building. The method used has been that of sounding church bells to have people come to them, thereby often reaching just a small percentage of the population. According to the records of the Lutheran World Council at Geneva, only 14 percent of the Lutherans in Britain, between 5 and 13 percent in Western Germany, 2.7 percent in Norway and 1.03 percent in Sweden go to church regularly. Norway and Sweden are almost a hundred percent Lutheran. Social work, public meetings, conferences, revivals, bazaars and advertising have been employed to try to make people interested in religion and come to the churches; everything has been engaged in but the one method Jesus taught: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and follow me continually.” (Matt. 16:24) But the clergy have not followed Jesus Christ, the Right Shepherd. Their short cuts in making disciples remind one of those who were called “thieves and plunderers” by the One who remains the Expert in making Christian disciples: “Most truly I say to you, He that does not enter into the sheepfold through the door but climbs up some other place, that one is a thief and a plunderer. But he that enters through the door is shepherd of the sheep. All those that have come instead of me are thieves and plunderers; but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the door; whoever enters through me will be saved and he will go in and out and find pasturage. The thief does not come unless it is to steal and slay and destroy. I have come that they might have life and might have it in abundance. I am the right shepherd.”—John 10:1, 2, 8-11.
AN INFERIOR PRODUCT
12. (a) How can it be claimed that the members of the churches of Christendom are a counterfeit product as Christians? (b) What proofs are there as far as the Catholics are concerned?
12 All that Christendom can show is a big number of people, and that does not impress Jehovah at all, because as Christians they are a counterfeit product. They have not been brought forth by having their minds made over; they are not a product of his spirit, his message or his working procedure, so they are bound to be a false product. Their minds are not like those of the true Christians taught by God through his Word who “attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to the measure of growth that belongs to the fullness of the Christ,” but they are like “babes, tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of craftiness in contriving error.” Their minds, untrained in Christian thinking, are left easy prey for all kinds of unscriptural philosophies so that millions have become atheistic Communists in the Catholic countries behind as well as in front of the Iron Curtain.—Eph. 4:13, 14, 20-24.
13. What shows that the Protestants are likewise a false product as Christians?
13 The Protestants put out just as false a product. When they are put to the test they also resign from their churches and abandon the Christian principles like the 20,000 people in Leipzig in the German Democratic Republic who resigned from the Lutheran Church within a period of just two years because of communistic propaganda and pressure, as reported by the Berlin paper Telegraph-Wochenspiegel of December 14, 1958. In the same part of Germany, so-called Christians subject themselves and their children to communistic atheistic ceremonies to the exclusion of the ceremonies of their own church. According to information given by Bishop Dr. Dibelius and reported by the Telegraph-Wochenspiegel of November 2, 1958, “in a city, ‘not at all far from Berlin,’ of 20,000 inhabitants, out of 200 children having finished school, only three will get confirmed this coming spring. The parents of the rest of the Evangelic children did not have the courage and the strength any more to resist the pressure with which the participation in the atheistic youth dedication is demanded.”*
14. (a) How does the principle of the law of reproduction come into play in the witness-making work? (b) How do we know that there must be witnesses on earth today similar to the ones of Bible times?
14 The method Jesus prescribed does not bring forth that kind of fruits. His working methods are in harmony with the God-given law for reproduction as we can observe it in nature and as recorded at Genesis 1:11-13, 20, 21, 24, 25. Everything, namely vegetation, beast and man, must bring forth “according to its kind.” Before knowing the actual application of that law expressed by Jehovah, Adam may have wondered what the reproduction might develop into. But he was not left wondering very long. The application manifested itself clearly: Lions got lions, dogs got dogs, monkeys got monkeys, and so forth. It was always the same. Without exception they all reproduced their own kind. In bringing forth fruit of a spiritual kind, Jehovah’s witnesses are subject to that same law and they too must reproduce ‘according to their own kind.’ When they have sown the seed of God’s Word, and they observe things develop as minds of others are made over when they study the Bible with deserving persons, they never have to wonder what is going to come out of all this. It will certainly not be a Communist, or a Catholic, or a Protestant! In due time the fruit borne will be a genuine, uncompromising witness of Jehovah, just as they are themselves. By his own wonderful method of making new witnesses to the honor of his name, Jehovah has secured the perpetuation on earth of that very first genuine kind of witnesses of his from Bible times. By this spiritual reproduction, such Bible witnesses are here on earth still today, just as sure as we are the natural children and the physical expression of our forefather Adam, or his “kind.” Of necessity, therefore, in keeping with the same law of reproduction, the leaders of false religion, past and present, must accept for themselves the words of Jesus: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you traverse sea and dry land to make one proselyte, and when he becomes one you make him a subject for Gehenna twice as much so as yourselves.”—Matt. 23:15.
15. (a) Why could Jehovah’s witnesses never adopt the working methods of the clergy? (b) What will their preaching work eventually lead to?
15 “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits,” Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees. To his followers he said: “My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit and prove yourselves my disciples.” Jehovah’s witnesses have a keen desire to be the nation that produces the fruits of the Kingdom of God, and, therefore, they could never adopt the slipshod working methods of the churches of Christendom. They must prove that they are Christ’s disciples, and they can do that only by the fruits they produce, both in quality and in quantity. So regardless of what anybody else does, they must continue to walk carefully in his footsteps, carrying on their witness-making work exactly the way he taught them, searching out deserving persons, calling back on them to study God’s Word with them, making their minds over, thereby bringing forth the same kind of Christian witnesses of Jehovah that Christ Jesus and his apostles made. As to the eventual outcome of all this, Bible prophecy leaves no doubt. The presence of so many true Christians in the world, all preaching God’s kingdom as man’s only hope, will force an issue that makes Jehovah God dispose of all the rotten fruit of false religion.—Matt. 21:43; John 15:8; Matt. 7:15-20.
In the German democratic Republic, the Communist government has instituted an antireligious ceremony by the name of “youth dedication” to substitute for the so-called Christian confirmation as carried out by many churches in Christendom, so as to draw the youth away from the churches, and this evidently not without results. Jehovah’s witnesses do not observe the un-Biblical confirmation of the churches, neither do they nor their children participate in any “youth dedication” in any country.