“Fully Accomplish Your Ministry”
1. How should the Christian’s ministry be viewed?
GOD has never left his people with nothing to do. He has put them to work, and as this comes as a commission from him it can properly be called ministerial work because it is in the nature of service rendered to him. Such work can therefore never be treated lightly, but should be viewed as a stewardship. It is a great privilege and brings much happiness, but it also carries a great responsibility. This should not deter us, for God well knows our imperfections and frailties, and in his undeserved kindness has made ample provision on our behalf.
2. Paul’s letters to Timothy show what spirit, and pointing to what foundation for the ministry?
2 Such thoughts as these were evidently in the apostle Paul’s mind when writing to Timothy, as found in his two letters forming part of the Holy Scriptures. Every page breathes the spirit of earnest exhortation and encouragement, coupled with timely warnings. For example, he wrote: “I solemnly charge you . . . preach the word, be at it urgently in favorable season, in troublesome season, reprove, reprimand, exhort, with all long-suffering and art of teaching.” Then, after warning that many “will turn their ears away from the truth,” he concludes: “You, though, keep your senses in all things, suffer evil, do the work of an evangelizer, fully accomplish your ministry.” Note, however, that preceding these words we find a reference to that which points to the essential foundation for fulfilling such a ministry. What is that? Paul told Timothy: “From infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation.” Then he added: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.”—2 Tim. 4:1-5; 3:15-17.
3. How do Jehovah’s witnesses stand out as distinct, and does this at all imply that they are superhuman?
3 We cannot overemphasize the need to keep close to God’s Word in all our ministry, both within his organization and externally in preaching and witnessing to others. These things are what distinguish Jehovah’s witnesses from the churches of Christendom. We do not look to traditions, or creeds, or ideas of our own. In all our arrangements, in the conduct of meetings, in matters of discipline and control and finance, also in what we teach and our methods of teaching, everything has a Scriptural basis. If any alteration is made it is because of a better understanding of the scriptures related thereto. The Bible, God’s Word, is the essential foundation for a successful ministry. There must first be a proper understanding of the Scriptures, backed up by a sincere and determined effort to put these things into practice, both in our lives and in aiding others who respond to the word of truth. Do not say it is beyond you. Many thousands of Jehovah’s witnesses worldwide are meeting these requirements, and no one pretends for a moment that he is superhuman. They have learned how to use and how to rely on Jehovah’s provisions, keeping close to him in prayer and keeping close to his Word and organization, which are the main channels of his holy spirit.—Phil. 4:13.
THE INTERNAL MINISTRY
4. How was the ministry of the sanctuary class well illustrated at the time of David and Solomon?
4 When we think of the Christian congregation likened to a “holy temple for Jehovah . . . a place for God to inhabit by spirit,” and that all sheeplike people are invited to render God sacred service in close association with the remnant of that sanctuary class still on earth, we are helped to envision the seriousness and scope of the ministerial work that must be done within God’s organization. This is well illustrated in one aspect alone in what happened when David was making intensive preparations for the building of the literal temple and its services. He made detailed Levitical service assignments, including “four thousand givers of praise to Jehovah on the instruments that David said ‘I have made for giving praise.’” These were duly put into effect by David’s son, Solomon, who provided for regular temple services, including “the Levites at their posts of duty, to praise and to minister in front of the priests as a daily matter of course.” That ministerial service of praise had to be performed in close unity, both in voice and action.—Eph. 2:21, 22; 1 Chron. 23:5; 2 Chron. 8:14.
5. What further illustration did Paul develop regarding the ministry?
5 When discussing the need for a similar requirement with regard to the spiritual temple, the apostle, in his letter to the Ephesians, uses the illustration of the human body. First, he relates how Christ, after ascending on high, “gave gifts in men,” including apostles, prophets, evangelizers, shepherds and teachers, “with a view to the training of the holy ones, for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ.” To begin with, the Christian congregation and its members are said to be in their infancy, like babes, but the whole objective is to grow up and advance to maturity, both collectively and individually. How this is done, under Christ the Head, is most fittingly expressed by Paul in these words: “All the body, by being harmoniously joined together and being made to co-operate through every joint that gives what is needed, according to the functioning of each respective member in due measure, makes for the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”—Eph. 4:8-16.
6. How is the illustration of the human body seen to apply today?
6 It is clear that here the apostle has in mind the ministerial work to be performed within God’s organization, “the building up of itself.” The same principle and methods of administration apply today just as with the early church or congregation. In the human frame, the joints, large and small, comprise the main links responsible for the smooth, harmonious working of the entire body. Likewise with the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses as a whole, with its governing body, as well as with each of its congregations, the main responsibility for good cooperation rests with the appointed servants, the “gifts in men.” They are the joints.—Eph. 4:8.
7. The fact that “each respective member” plays its part serves for what encouragement?
7 But the apostle does not leave it there. As an additional factor he mentions the working or “functioning of each respective member in due measure.” (Eph. 4:16) This brings in everyone, male and female, however young and immature or however old and frail. Do not say you are of no account. That is not true. In fact, as soon as you come in contact with Jehovah’s witnesses you cannot fail to be a means of encouragement, if good progress is made by you. To find someone responding well in a home Bible study, or to see fresh faces at our meetings, not just once, but coming along regularly, is most encouraging to all the others and is an evidence of Jehovah’s blessing and spirit on our ministry. It is also very upbuilding to see those who are beset by old age and infirmity making efforts at great cost to themselves to attend the meetings and have some share, however small, in witnessing to others. As with the human body, the smallest member plays its part in due measure. We may not be conscious of it when things are going well, but let something go wrong with even one of the smallest members, say, a toe with an ingrown nail, and we at once know about it! It is good to face up to the fact that we each can have some share in due measure in the ministry to be done within God’s organization, or the local congregation to which we belong, “for the building up of itself in love.” There is much to be done and always further progress to be made. In both illustrations growth is emphasized: “The growth of the body,” and “growing into a holy temple for Jehovah.”—Eph. 4:16; 2:21.
THE EXTERNAL MINISTRY
8. How are Christians Scripturally spoken of as light bearers?
8 Closely linked with the picture of a holy temple, the Bible also speaks of the Christian congregation of 144,000 Kingdom heirs as a “holy priesthood.” The apostle Peter links them together when he writes: “You yourselves also as living stones are being built up a spiritual house for the purpose of a holy priesthood.” To what end does this priesthood serve? The apostle replies: “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, 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.” Jesus himself made prominent mention of his true followers being light bearers. He said: “You are the light of the world. A city cannot be hid when situated upon a mountain. . . . let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens.” This ties in closely with the glorious picture in Isaiah’s prophecy, fulfilled in our day, where Zion, God’s organization, like a city on a mountain, is told to “Arise, . . . shed forth light”! And with what result? “And nations will certainly go to your light, and kings to the brightness of your shining forth. Raise your eyes all around and see! They have all of them been collected together; they have come to you.” This, in turn, agrees exactly with the inspired statement concerning God’s ‘administration to gather (or collect) all things together again in the Christ.’—1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Matt. 5:14-16; Isa. 60:1-4; Eph. 1:10.
9. What argument does Paul develop regarding the new covenant and its ministry?
9 Now observe how Paul discusses our being light bearers as part of our ministry. In writing to the Corinthians he says that God “has indeed adequately qualified us to be ministers of a new covenant.” He then contrasts this new covenant, made with the Christian congregation through Christ as mediator, with the old Law covenant made with the nation of Israel through Moses as mediator. He shows that the “administering of the spirit” under the new covenant is more glorious in every respect as compared with the glory of the “code which administers death . . . engraved in letters in stones.” When Moses came down from Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony, his face shone, “so that the sons of Israel could not gaze intently at the face of Moses.” But Paul later explains that the real difficulty lay with the sons of Israel themselves. “Their mental perceptions were dulled. . . . In fact, down till today whenever Moses is read, a veil lies upon their hearts. But,” he continues, “when there is a turning to Jehovah [in wholehearted submission and devotion], the veil is taken away.” Then, referring to the ministry given to those in the new covenant, or in close association with it as is true of the “other sheep,” the apostle says that ‘all of us, with unveiled faces reflect like mirrors the glory of Jehovah.’—2 Cor. 3:6-8, 14-18; Ex. 34:29-35; Heb. 9:15.
10. In what way can we “reflect like mirrors the glory of Jehovah”?
10 You may wonder how frail, mortal creatures could possibly reflect Jehovah’s glory, when no man can see his face and live. (Ex. 33:20; compare also 1 Timothy 6:16) Well, besides Jehovah’s personal glory, there is also the magnificent glory of his purpose, centered in his kingdom under his beloved Son. This kingdom, the central truth of the Bible, and closely related truths—these comprised the “magnificent things of God” that began to be proclaimed by those on whom the holy spirit had been poured out on the day of Pentecost, thus commencing their external ministry. (Acts 2:11) In agreement with this, Paul says regarding “this ministry,” that we are not “adulterating the word of God, but by making the truth manifest [we are] recommending ourselves to every human conscience in the sight of God.”—2 Cor. 4:1, 2.
11. What can we expect as to the results and fruitage of our ministry?
11 Yes, that is our commission, to make the truth manifest. We are not discouraged when we find that Satan “the god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers,” and hence their minds and hearts are heavily veiled. But not all are unbelievers. Many, very many, are still held as unwilling captives by Satan. They are “sighing and groaning over all the detestable things that are being done” in Satan’s system of things, and it is part of our commission to “preach a release to the captives and a recovery of sight to the blind.”—2 Cor. 4:4; Ezek. 9:4; Luke 4:18.
12. How today is God causing the light to shine out of darkness?
12 What a happy commission is ours and what a tremendous responsibility, especially in this day of the Kingdom’s establishment! Said Jesus in his prophecy on the conclusion of this system of things: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:14) All of God’s promises and prophecies must and will be fulfilled without exception. Sometimes they are fulfilled literally and sometimes in a figurative or spiritual way. That is the point Paul makes when he quotes the first recorded commandment: “Let the light shine out of darkness.” That was fulfilled literally. Then he shows how the same is true in a spiritual way when he adds: “And he has shone on our hearts to illuminate them with the glorious knowledge of God by the face of Christ.”—2 Cor. 4:6.
13. Why has God commissioned imperfect creatures with such a ministry?
13 When we look at ourselves we may well feel that as mirrors we are very faulty. But, for our comfort and showing that we do not rely on human strength or wisdom in carrying out our commission, Paul explains that “we have this treasure [of the ministry] in earthen vessels, that the power beyond what is normal may be God’s and not that out of ourselves.” God has made provision whereby we can render acceptable service, though imperfectly. However, that does not excuse us from keeping ourselves as mirrors in as clean and good shape as we possibly can.—2 Cor. 4:7; see also 1 Corinthians 1:26-31.
14. What kind of unity is seen in the world, prompted by what motives?
14 In all of our ministry unity is essential. It is true that in the world a united front is often presented, either by a political party or in time of war. In the religious world, too, efforts are made in this direction, though in comparison they seem slow and cumbersome. Generally, however, is it not true that the motive prompting the united front is often that of fear, fear of a common enemy? As soon as the danger is overcome, then all too often the old factions break out again. Unity prompted by such a motive is liable to crack and break. It is not love that binds them together; but it is love, a Godlike love, that alone will bring about and lastingly preserve real, genuine unity. Let us see how this operates among all who are gathered under Christ’s administration.
15. What initial steps are required to come into unity with God?
15 Unity in any group of people must start with the individual. In this case we are concerned with Christians, or those who have become Christians. In order to become such, the first vital step is to come into unity with God. Often this is viewed as an emotional experience, a sudden conversion. But true unity requires a more solid foundation. To come into unity with God the individual must get to know the mind of God on all matters that properly concern him. That is one of the main reasons why God has given us his Word, the Bible. It expresses the mind and will of the Supreme One. As we study and get the understanding of it, our minds are influenced by the right thoughts and, in turn, we are moved to do the right works, those “which God prepared in advance for us to walk in them.”—Eph. 2:10.
16. How is the heart involved, leading to what blessed fruitage?
16 But the heart as well as the mind is involved. As we learn and grow in knowledge, so our appreciation of God, the Source of all knowledge and wisdom, should also grow. Our hearts are drawn out to him in gratitude and worship, leading us to take the step of dedication and baptism, resulting in a personal and unified relationship with Jehovah. In order to maintain that relationship and meeting of the minds, we need to continue our study of his Word. This is a constant necessity. As beautifully expressed in the Psalms: “Happy is the man . . . [whose] delight is in the law of Jehovah, and in his law he reads in an undertone day and night.” With what result? “He will certainly become like a tree planted by streams of water that gives its own fruit in its season and the foliage of which does not wither, and everything he does will succeed.” What richer blessing could you desire?—Ps. 1:1-3.
17. In view of all the suffering involved, how could Jesus say he delighted to do God’s will?
17 In confirmation of this we also recall in the Psalms the prophetic word that is applied to Jesus at the time of his baptism, when he said: “To do your will, O my God, I have delighted, and your law is within my inward parts.” (Ps. 40:8; see Hebrews 10:5-7) How could Jesus say he delighted to do God’s will, when he knew from such scriptures as Isaiah, chapter 53, that his dedicated course would entail the keenest suffering and reproach, being despised and pierced and crushed in ‘pouring out his soul to the very death’? (Isa. 53:3, 5, 12) It was because his Father’s Word and law were within his inward parts. From his perfect knowledge and memory of God’s Word he knew his Father’s mind on all these things, and this guided and sustained him throughout. He knew his death was “precious in the eyes of Jehovah,” so he could say, as foretold: “To you [Jehovah] I shall offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving . . . My vows I shall pay to Jehovah.” Jesus is the perfect example of one who is at unity with Jehovah.—Ps. 116:15-18; see also John 5:19, 30.
18. What points are particularly stressed in the counsel given to wives?
18 There is also the question of family unity to consider, for the New World society is made up of families, to a large extent. The key to this is found in the words addressed directly to the husband, the family head. This is interesting. It comes in the detailed counsel given by Paul to both wives and husbands. We mention wives first, as both Paul and Peter do so when giving detailed counsel. (Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Pet. 3:1-7) In each case they stress the need for wives to be in subjection to their husbands, even as without question the “congregation is in subjection to the Christ” in everything. This is manifested by the “incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit.” This is essential to family unity. After all, in the case of the first human couple, was it not the wife who first went wrong and aimed the initial blow at family unity by her show of independence?—Eph. 5:24; 1 Pet. 3:4.
19. What is the main responsibility laid on the husbands, leading to what results?
19 But the key to the problem was not given to the wives. Laying the responsibility primarily on the husbands, Paul says to them: “Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it.” (Eph. 5:25) To fully appreciate and to learn how to apply this Christlike love in all its genuine warmth and purity and extreme unselfishness is the work of a lifetime. It is a further reason for keeping in close touch with the Sacred Record with all its information on this subject. As the husband learns more and more how to manifest this love, so the wife, as part of her wifely subjection, learns how to respond in the same key, and there is thus built up between them a unity that is a mutual source of strength and peace and great happiness. In turn, the children are reared in the same atmosphere and on the same principles, resulting in a happy, united family that is a credit to the New World society and, above all, to Jehovah. The situation is very different, of course, in a divided household, but still the dedicated parent, either husband or wife, should aim for family unity in a way consistent with Bible principles, seeking God’s guidance and leaving the end results with him.
20. Why is it important for servants to ‘humble themselves like a young child,’ and because of what dangers?
20 Now we turn our attention to the appointed servants in the congregation, who correspond to the joints in the human frame. What is sometimes difficult for these servants to realize is that unity and humility go hand in hand. Why difficult? Because the question of position comes into the picture. The “anointed cherub” had a wonderful position “on the holy mountain of God,” having oversight “in Eden, the garden of God,” but he was not content. He schemed to go higher and, in Babylon’s time, to ‘make himself resemble the Most High.’ (Ezek. 28:13-15; Isa. 14:14) Jesus’ twelve disciples, when with him, were too ready to be concerned over the question of position, sometimes amounting to a “heated dispute,” even before being definitely given any position at all. How like human nature! Jesus told them they must ‘humble themselves like a young child.’ Sometimes a woman comes into the picture, as with the “mother of the sons of Zebedee,” who asked the Lord for special positions for her sons. Thus it would seem appropriate that servants and their wives and all others should heed Peter’s counsel: “All of you gird yourselves with lowliness of mind toward one another, because God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.”—Luke 22:24; Matt. 18:1-4; 20:20-28; 1 Pet. 5:5; see John 13:14, 15.
21. How does Paul apply the illustration of planting and watering to servants?
21 Paul, too, gave excellent counsel to the ministerial servants and the congregation at Corinth, where there were “jealousy and strife.” He reminds them that the most responsible servants who do work such as spiritual planting and watering, are simply nothing without God, who alone can really make a congregation, like a plant, grow and make increase. We cannot make anyone see and believe the truth. It is only as ‘the Lord grants each one’ to become a believer and join the Christian ranks. Stressing unity, he adds: “He that plants and he that waters are one.” Why? Because it is all one operation; “we are God’s fellow workers.” That does not relieve us of personal responsibility, however, for “each person will receive his own reward according to his own labor.”—1 Cor. 3:3-9.
22. (a) Why did Israel fail Jehovah, and what illustration did he give them? (b) How did Jehovah apply the illustration?
22 As we know from God’s Word, confirmed by fact and experience, the will and purpose of the Supreme One is bound to succeed. He promises success to the individual who stays at unity with him by keeping close to his Word. (Ps. 1:1-3) He also promises success to the whole company of believers who are gathered in union with Christ at this “full limit of the appointed times.” (Eph. 1:10) The fleshly nation of Israel preferred to take their own way in the spirit of independence, and Jehovah told them that his thoughts and ways were far higher and, in fact, quite different, from their own thoughts and ways. Israel failed Jehovah, but did that mean Jehovah’s purpose would fail? He gave the illustration of the rain and snow that descend from the heavens and do not return (as vapor) until first saturating the earth and making it produce ‘seed for the sower and bread for the eater.’ Applying the illustration, Jehovah says emphatically: “So my word that goes forth from my mouth will prove to be. It will not return to me without results, but it will certainly do that in which I have delighted, and it will have certain success in that for which I have sent it.” For what purpose had God sent forth his word, assured of “certain success”? Speaking now of spiritual Israel, the Christian congregation, together with their sheeplike companions, the prophecy continues: “For with rejoicing you people will go forth, and with peace you will be brought in.” Then follows a delightfully descriptive scene in appealing, figurative language of the restored and prosperous paradise condition, spiritually speaking, of God’s dedicated people who are gathered in unity under his administration under Christ. “It must become for Jehovah something famous, a sign to time indefinite that will not be cut off.”—Isa. 55:8-13.
23. What comfort and encouragement has Jehovah given us for today?
23 What a contrast this is as compared with the conflicting scene of this modern world at cross-purposes with itself and its kingdoms divided among themselves. Jehovah in this day has sent forth his Word and has kindly given us the understanding of it, the pure message of truth. By the riches of his undeserved kindness we will not fail him, but will fully accomplish our ministry in close unity with one another. As Jehovah foretold concerning our day: “For then I shall give to peoples the change to a pure language, in order for them all to call upon the name of Jehovah, in order to serve him shoulder to shoulder.”—Zeph. 3:9.