The Unity of God’s Family
“Look! How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”—Ps. 133:1.
1. Where is disunity manifest?
WE ARE living in a divided world. Its disunity can be seen everywhere. It manifests itself sharply in international relations, the world being divided into different blocs, such as the Eastern, Western and Neutralist blocs of nations. But tension and disunity exist even within these groups of nations, and within every nation itself. Disunity is also found in each state, province and community. This same tension and disunity are to be found in countless families, the basic cell of human society. They exist, not only between parents, but also between parents and children. How true Jesus’ words: “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and a father a child, and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.”—Mark 13:12.
2. Why is this time referred to as an age of disunity?
2 As never before, our age is indeed the age of disunity and lack of peace. Peace has been taken away from the earth, as the last book of the Bible, the Revelation, foretold: “And another came forth, a fiery-colored horse; and to the one seated upon it there was granted to take peace away from the earth so that they should slaughter one another; and a great sword was given him.” (Rev. 6:4) In fulfillment of this, World Wars I and II were waged in our age, the greatest wars in human history. Not enough, the nations feverishly arm for a third world war.
3. (a) Has worldly religion been able to provide a bond of unity? (b) What have the clergy had to admit?
3 This horrifying picture of disunity in the whole world certainly must destroy every illusion honest men might have that the many religions and churches might form a unifying bond strong enough to bring and hold together in unity all the peoples. Also, the so-called Christian churches have thoroughly failed in bringing about this unity. Even the ecumenical efforts, welcomed by many, which aim at the unity of the many diverging religious denominations, will not be able to bring about unity and peace. At the conclusion of the assembly of the World Council of Churches, held in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 1948, the plenary assembly published a statement clearly admitting how disunited the churches are among themselves. The statement said, in part: “We are separated from each other, not only in matters of doctrine, organization and tradition, but also due to our sinful pride: national pride, class-pride, racial pride. Therefore we are unable to bring about the unity of the church by ourselves.” (National-Zeitung, Basel, No. 425, of September 14, 1948) This is a confession by the churches themselves as to their disunity. Indeed, the so-called Christian churches not only have failed to be a unifying bond for the peoples, but have actually, through their taking part in politics and wars, proved to be a divisive force. Is this compatible with the true congregation of God? No. The apostle Paul asked the question: “Does the Christ exist divided?” (1 Cor. 1:13) It certainly is not difficult to see that all these worldly churches do not make up the true congregation of God. A church paper admitted: “The prince of this world [Satan] has succeeded in bringing the church into a voluntary captivity.”—Johannes und Markus-Gemeindeblatt, Berne, Switzerland, July 4, 1959.
4. What evidence do we have that true Christian unity is possible?
4 Seeing the world situation, one may be tempted to ask: Is true Christian unity merely an ideal beyond reach in our world, which is so divided politically and ideologically, with such contrasts socially and with centuries-old schisms and dissensions in the religious field? To many observers it may seem so. But true Christian unity is not merely an ideal, a dream, but a reality. True, it is not to be found in this world and its worldly religions and churches, but only in that group of men who, although they are in this world, are no part of it. This group is known as the New World Society of Jehovah’s witnesses. They are forming an oasis of peace and unity amidst the desertlike condition of this disunited world. How has this become possible? What has brought about this unity?
THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF CHRISTIAN UNITY
5. On what is Christian unity based?
5 The unity among true Christians is not to be credited to any man. Just as the deliverance of the ancient people of Israel from the Egyptian slavery was not because of a man, so the deliverance of the Christian witnesses of God from the world, symbolically likened to Egypt, is not because of imperfect men. (Rev. 11:8) The basis for this deliverance was laid by Jehovah God, by sending his Son Jesus Christ into this world so that he should preach the truth and die a sacrificial death, be resurrected and glorified and pour out God’s spirit upon his followers. By this the door to the formation of the Christian congregation and Christian unity was opened.—John 18:37; Matt. 20:28; John 10:7.
6. To what union did Jesus refer?
6 There was to be a real unity among the true congregation of God. This is evident by the prayer that Jesus Christ addressed to his heavenly Father shortly before his death: “I make request, not concerning these only, but also concerning those putting faith in me through their word; in order that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in union with me and I am in union with you, that they also may be in union with us, in order that the world may believe that you sent me forth. Also, I have given them the glory that you have given me, in order that they may be one just as we are one. I in union with them and you in union with me, in order that they may be perfected into one.”—John 17:20-23.
7. How does knowing the truth affect unity, and how are some hindered from coming to unity?
7 The least that we can learn from this prayer is that the true followers of Christ are to attain a unity that is compared with the unity existing between Jehovah and his Son Jesus Christ. This is no doubt God’s will for all his creatures to whom eternal life is promised, and this perfect unity between God and his only-begotten Son is the high standard of unity for them. Unity is possible only where there is agreement in thoughts and in action. The solid basis on which such unity can be built is the properly understood Word of God, the Bible. It is this truth that makes men free and unified. “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31, 32) The disciples of Jesus agreed with his teachings and his actions. They became one with him. This brought about a change in their lives and they followed their Master. On the other hand, the Pharisees disagreed with Jesus’ teachings and deeds. Their pride and the wrong interpretation of the Scriptures hindered them from coming into unity with him. So it is today.
8. In what ways does the spirit of God help a sincere Christian?
8 The revealed truth of God’s Word, however, cannot be grasped unless God’s holy spirit guides honest and truth-loving men to and into this truth. This holy spirit then brings forth in such persons the wonderful fruits of the spirit and purifies them from the works of the flesh, which fleshly works have a disintegrating effect on human relations, and which are mentioned in Galatians 5:19-21. Among such works are hatreds, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, all things that separate people and cause smaller or greater disunity. Such negative traits, however, are removed through the influence of God’s spirit. This does not happen overnight, at once, but is a process, like the growth of fruits that need time to develop and ripen. Men who are impregnated with God’s spirit or active force become lovable, friendly, peaceful, patient, good, mild and forbearing with one another. (Gal. 5:22, 23) God’s spirit is therefore an essential and forceful factor toward real Christian unity. Without God’s Word and without God’s spirit Christian unity is unthinkable.
NECESSITY OF ORDER
9. What facts do Jehovah’s people recognize as a world family of Christians?
9 But unity is also closely connected with order, as disunity is with disorder. A family lacking unity will also lack harmonious, orderly family life. Most probably the father will go his own way, the mother hers and the children theirs. The family order will be disturbed. The Christian body of Jehovah’s witnesses can be likened to a worldwide family. Since unity and order stand in mutual relation to each other, each member of this great family must recognize and respect the order governing this “household of faith.” God is a God of order. “For God is a God, not of disorder, but of peace.” (1 Cor. 14:33) He himself is the center and top of this wonderful order or arrangement. Therefore all the members of his great family bow before Him in love of God. They all recognize that Jehovah has appointed his Son Jesus Christ the heir of all things and delegated to him all authority in heaven and on earth. (Matt. 28:18; Heb. 1:2) Due to this, Jesus Christ takes second place in this divine arrangement of things and has to be recognized by all those in God’s family. Anyone who does not recognize the Son will not be recognized in God’s family and has no place in it. “He that exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life; he that disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.”—John 3:36.
10. What idea do some have concerning the true church, but how do scriptures show it is not true?
10 The order in God’s family also finds its visible expression here on earth. Order is connected with organization. Many men are of the opinion that the true church is not identical with an organized body of people, but, rather, is composed of many individuals scattered in all the denominations of the so-called Christian religion. For them this is the only logical explanation, because they have in their view the confusion and contradictory variety of the many churches. But this idea or belief is not Scriptural. Doubtless there are many sincere persons in all these different churches that are part of Babylon the Great. But the Bible shows that they are being called out of this Babylon, the world empire of false religion, and that they have to come out if they want to be accepted by God. Says the apostle Paul: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what sharing do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? Further, what harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does God’s temple have with idols? . . . ‘Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,’ says Jehovah, ‘and quit touching the unclean thing’; ‘and I will take you in.’ ‘And I shall be a father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me,’ says Jehovah the Almighty.” (2 Cor. 6:14-18) John also wrote: “Babylon the great has fallen, . . . Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and . . . receive part of her plagues.”—Rev. 18:2, 4.
11. How did early Christians show they recognized there was only one true faith?
11 If the true congregation of God were composed of persons scattered throughout all the church systems of Christendom, where would be the unity in thought and action? Where would be the unity that governed the early church and that is so emphatically described in the letter to the Ephesians, chapter 4: “One body there is, and one spirit, even as you were called in the one hope to which you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all persons, who is over all and through all and in all”? (Eph 4 Verses 4-6) In order that the early Christians might attain this unity, they all left their former religion and were united in the Christian congregation. The Jewish disciples of Jesus left Judaism and its sects, the Greek disciples turned away from the philosophic systems of their day and from idol worship and so did the Roman Christians. Regardless of the extent to which they were connected with those systems, they left them, got out of that Babylonish false religion, and came to the one visible body of the Christian congregation.
12. What orderly arrangement existed in the early congregations?
12 This visible body of people had its order or organization. There was a governing or leading part, made up of the apostles and other mature men. The local congregations had their overseers and ministerial servants. (1 Tim. 3:1-9) All congregations received their teaching and instruction on the same basis, the inspired Word of God. The congregations were admonished to recognize the local overseers as well as the governing body. One of the mainly responsible brothers, the apostle Paul, wrote them: “Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will render an account; that they may do this with joy and not with sighing, for this would be damaging to you.” (Heb. 13:17) By the congregations’ recognizing the brothers in charge of the work, locally and in general, the unity was preserved. This recognition was necessary; even though all these overseers and responsible brothers were imperfect men, subject to making mistakes. These overseers had God’s spirit.
13. What counsel did Paul give for unity?
13 The overseers were not at liberty to preach and teach the congregations anything they wanted to, or to accept only certain portions of the Word of God. The same was true concerning each member of the congregation who was told to preach. They were not free to preach just anything. They were all called to preach the truth. Logically, then, they were bound to preach the same message, whether this was in Jerusalem, Rome or Corinth. “Now I exhort you, brothers, . . . that you should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.” (1 Cor. 1:10) There was no place for contradictory movements, as is the case today, where in one and the same church there is a “positive” group and then there is the “liberal” one that does not even recognize the sacrificial death of Jesus and his resurrection. The apostle Paul wrote to an overseer, Titus, that he should ‘show uncorruptness in his teaching,’ and “wholesome speech which cannot be condemned.” (Titus 2:7, 8) This certainly was written not only for the benefit of Titus and his congregation, but for all Christian overseers of all times.
14. How should persons promoting sects be dealt with?
14 So that unity may be preserved and sects and separations may be avoided, the apostle Paul, a man of the governing body of that early time, wrote in his letter to the Thessalonians: “But if anyone is not obedient to our word through this letter, keep this one marked, stop associating with him, that he may become ashamed.” (2 Thess. 3:14) Such a person who was unwilling to accept the apostle’s inspired teaching was not safe company in the congregation. He was not allowed on the platform so that he could present his own opinions, contrary to what the apostle had written and spoken. No, he was to be ignored, so that such a person would see the unreasonableness of his attitude and through admonition could eventually be helped to obedience. By doing this the congregation maintained unity in their ranks and in their relation to the other congregations and the leading brothers.
15. What basis for unity do those leaving Babylonish religion enjoy?
15 Today we find the same order and the same principles in the restored Christian congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses. In the past few decades hundreds of thousands of men of goodwill have left their churches of Babylonish religion, into which most of them had come through birth. They have accepted the wholesome message of God’s kingdom, made a dedication to Jehovah and joined the organized congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses. Whether they were formerly Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Buddhists, Moslems, adherents of any other faith or even atheists, they now meet on the common denominator of the Biblical truth, in the big family of God under God’s kingdom. They have found a unity they had not known before.
16. What is a dictatorship, and what questions have been asked about it?
16 Some people who observe the worldwide close unity of God’s people have asked whether Jehovah’s witnesses are living under a dictatorship, seeing that all are subject to certain principles. By “dictatorship” one usually understands today the form of government that assumes absolute authority and rules by force and coercion. Millions of people today live under such a dictatorship, and usually these systems of government find good support from the churches. But how many of those living under a dictatorship are pleased with such a government and content with it? How many suffer unjustly under a dictatorship? How many long for deliverance from it? Most of the people living under such a form of government have not desired this way of life. It was imposed on them. But they have no other choice than to accept it.
17. What contrast is there between God’s rule and a dictatorship?
17 God’s kingdom, however, is not a dictatorship and the New World Society of Jehovah’s witnesses is none either. The dictator rules by compulsion; Jehovah God appeals to the free and good will of honest persons. God does not force anyone to serve him. “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve.” (Josh. 24:15) That has always been Jehovah’s principle, and it is the same today. No one is forced to accept the theocratic organization operating in God’s family today. It is a matter of free choice. Jehovah wins his subjects by showing them love. And he expects his subjects to love him unreservedly. (Matt. 22:37, 38) God’s rule is based upon love, from top to bottom. This cannot be found in any dictatorship. God’s rule is further based upon perfect justice, wisdom and power. This cannot be found either, in any dictatorial rule. Since Jehovah is the Creator of all things, he has an absolute and indisputable right to the perfect obedience and devotion of all his creatures. No dictatorship can claim such rights.
18, 19. (a) What does God desire of us? (b) What should be our attitude as a part of God’s family?
18 The love a Christian has for God and His kingdom under Christ is expressed in the obedience he shows to God’s commandments: “For this is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments.” (1 John 5:3) Our obedience toward God is not forced, but is a voluntary and joyful one. It is not a burden under which we sigh and suffer. Said the King of God’s kingdom: “My yoke is kindly and my load is light.” (Matt. 11:30) There is happiness in doing the will of God, as was expressed by the psalmist in the words: “Happy is the man in fear of Jehovah, in whose commandments he has taken very much delight.”—Ps. 112:1.
19 So there is a tremendous difference between a dictatorship and Jehovah’s organization. Countless people would escape from the dictatorial rulerships if they could do so. On the other hand, we see that tens of thousands of honest persons flee every year to God’s kingdom, because here they have the promise of everlasting life and happiness. They are taken up into the unity of God’s family. “Look! How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”—Ps. 133:1.
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‘I make request, that they may be one just as we are one.’
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The apostle Paul wrote: “Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you.”