God Kindly Leads His People Toward Life
1. What are some amazing facts about the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses?
TODAY on earth there is a people numbering more than one million who are in complete unity. They can do any form of work in full cooperation, without fighting for positions of leadership or without any need for grievance committees to see that certain groups among them get just treatment. All the more amazing is it that these people are located in 199 lands, are of all colors and nationalities and speak different tongues. But if any one of these should travel to the various countries, he would be immediately received and accepted like a member of the family by any of the other members of this society or brotherhood in any land. This is the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses.—Mark 10:29, 30.
2. (a) In what ways do the members of the New World society differ, and in what ways are they at unity? (b) What things specially identify them?
2 It is not because these people are either conformists or nonconformists. They have their different customs according to the lands in which they live. They have their own ideas on everyday matters of life, such as personal tastes, hobbies and recreations. Yet you will find, if you talk with them, that they speak as the apostle Paul exhorted the Christian congregation at Corinth: “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) This oneness exists among them as to their worship of God, their understanding of his Word, their standards of morality, including Bible principles of marriage, honesty and Bible doctrine. They are not identified by some peculiarity of dress or behavior, such as, for example, the “beatniks,” or the worshipful imitators of celebrities of the entertainment world, or even the garb of religious orders. They can be distinguished by their cleanness of speech and by the things they talk about, particularly the Bible. They are also identified by the works they do in preaching the good news of the Kingdom. Their love for God and his Word brings unity and close association.
3. How did the Bible indicate that God’s people would be organized in these days, and what is the difference between God’s organization and others?
3 Association necessarily leads to organization, and Jehovah’s witnesses, the New World society, are organized. Jehovah promised to gather his people together. (Isa. 43:5-7; 2:2-4; Ps. 106:47) Jesus said this would take place in the time of the end. (Matt. 24:31) Jehovah God and his Son Jesus Christ are their Leaders and the Bible is their Book of organization. To many people organization has the connotation of regimentation, undue encroachment on freedom, a coldhearted machine that moves ahead for its own aggrandizement without taking into consideration the welfare of its members. It is not so with Jehovah’s organization.
HOW JEHOVAH LEADS HIS PEOPLE
4. (a) What is Jehovah’s standard, and yet on what basis can he deal with imperfect people? (b) What is Jehovah’s manner of leading them?
4 Jehovah’s organization of his people is a moving one, a progressive one. Progress naturally means changes, adjustments, instruction. As the perfect Teacher, Jehovah instructs with loving empathy. As to Jehovah himself, his standard is that of perfection. He is spoken of as brilliant in cleanness: “Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah.” (Isa. 6:3) “You are too pure in eyes to see what is bad; and to look on trouble you are not able.” (Hab. 1:13) Jehovah cannot look upon that which is imperfect with any degree of approval; he cannot countenance it. How, then, can he exercise so much love toward people who are sinful and full of imperfection? By the highest expression of love. This was the sacrifice of his Son as a ransom to cover their inherited imperfection due to the sin of their father Adam. (1 John 2:2) On the basis of this sacrifice he can righteously and justly extend them mercy. He describes his manner of leading them: “Like a shepherd he will shepherd his own drove. With his arm he will collect together the lambs; and in his bosom he will carry them. Those giving suck he will conduct with care.” (Isa. 40:11) He does not expect them at this time to measure up to perfection, though it is his ultimate goal for them. He does not overwhelm them with his superior knowledge or set his requirements higher than they can bear; he knows that they have to be taught, trained.
5. How does Jehovah’s organization achieve united forward movement, and how does Jehovah show that there will be constantly improved conditions in the organization?
5 It is not progress on the part of just a few leading members, but on the part of all; each responds willingly with full understanding and each one fills his place. (1 Cor. 12:14-26) This promotes united forward movement. We see changes taking place in the organization to make it at all times more clean, more in conformity with His written Word and more able to represent Him. He says: “Instead of the copper I shall bring in gold, and instead of the iron I shall bring in silver, and instead of the wood, copper, and instead of the stones, iron; and I will appoint peace as your overseers and righteousness as your task assigners.” Thus he describes the constantly improved conditions he brings to his organization by leading them in peace and by righteousness and not by harshness or force.—Isa. 60:17.
6. Describe the relationship of Jehovah as a father to his organization.
6 Jehovah stands in the relationship of Father to his people, and as a father he teaches and leads them gently. He does not expect more of them than they can do. For instance, what father would sit his baby down before a big steak and tell him to eat it? The baby would not even understand what the father said. He would not have the teeth to chew the steak, and his digestive system could not assimilate it. However, as the baby grew up he could eat heavy food. He could take training and learn to do difficult tasks. If he was an obedient child he would make progress. Sometimes he would come across things he had never handled before, and might try to go ahead on unfamiliar ground and make a mistake. But, if obedient, when corrected in a loving manner, he would change and from there on proceed to do the job in the right way. It is this way with Jehovah’s people, his organization.—Heb. 5:12-14.
EXAMPLES OF JEHOVAH’S GENTLE LEADING
7. How do Jehovah’s people prove they are not “false prophets”?
7 Some have called Jehovah’s witnesses “false prophets” because, in times past, they have viewed things a certain way and, later, have made a change through their official publications. Or, there may have been practices by some members in the organization that have been permitted to continue for a time for lack of knowledge as to how to handle these things, but later they have learned from God’s Word what his will is and have gone ahead and made the necessary corrections. False prophets do not correct themselves. God’s people do. And it is noticeable even to the people on whom they call that Jehovah’s witnesses as an organization are growing to maturity, becoming ever kinder, more loving and tactful and more effective in their preaching work.
8. How do Jehovah’s witnesses copy the teaching methods of Jehovah?
8 Remembering how God helped them, Jehovah’s witnesses follow the careful, loving method of their Teachers Jehovah and Jesus Christ as they conduct home Bible studies with interested persons, those who are “conscious of their spiritual need.” (Matt. 5:3) These persons must first learn who God is, what his purposes are and what his provisions are for mankind through Christ’s ransom and the Kingdom. Then God’s requirements for those who desire to please him are studied. The student must progress and grow, bringing his life into harmony with what is acceptable to God.
9. Why do there have to be changes in understanding and organization from time to time?
9 Even when such come to the point of dedication to God they are only “babes,” spiritually. But they must not remain babies. There is more to learn—perfection to attain. All, whether new or with years of association, must adjust themselves as they become able to understand, assimilate deeper truths and apply them progressively, and they must reach higher standards of morality and clean, righteous organization. This explains why there have to be changes in thought, organizational structure and activity in God’s organization, as the members thereof strive to become more like their perfect God.—Matt. 5:48.
10. What great changes did the organization undergo in 1919?
10 A glimpse at the history of Jehovah’s witnesses will illustrate its progressive advancement. In 1918 they had gone into a state of inactivity due to an unclear understanding of their Christian position. But the next year, 1919, was a marked date. First in that year they saw that Jesus Christ had got his Kingdom power in the heavens, that now their commission was to preach fearlessly a new message, the King enthroned. They were awakened and reorganized. This did not mean that they were perfected in organization. There was much to learn. However, progress was more rapid from that time on.
11. What major adjustment in 1932 strengthened the organization?
11 In 1932 came a major adjustment. Prior to this time, they understood that the Bible term “elder” designated a position to which a person could be elected by the religious congregation. But in 1932 they learned that being an “elder” designates a condition of spiritual maturity to which one has to grow and not to which a person can be elected, any more than a baby can be said to be a man. One has to be first an elder or a mature Christian before he can be appointed by the governing body to an office of oversight. This greatly strengthened and unified the organization.
12. How could the organization be said to be put on a fully theocratic foundation in 1938?
12 By the year 1938 a fine advancement was made, putting the organization on a fully theocratic foundation. Till then, there were still service committee members in the congregations who were elected by vote of the members. A study of the apostolic government of the early Christian congregation revealed that there was at that time a governing body that made appointments of men to office according to the qualifications outlined at 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9. With this adjustment, the organization would be theocratic, not democratic, never ruled by factions in congregations in a political manner, but ruled by Jehovah God and Christ Jesus, down through a visible governing body, measuring up to the Bible’s qualifications and requirements.
13. Have there been further adjustments since 1938? Why could not all these refinements have come at once?
13 Since 1938 there have been further refinements as the theocratic organization continues to grow toward perfection. All this illustrates the fact that, though Jehovah purposes perfection for his organization, he does not try to correct all things at once. As they could endure it and as they needed it, as their hearts softened in response to his love, Jehovah brought them closer to him in his gentle, loving way.—Matt. 19:8; Mark 10:5.
14. What has happened since World War II, and why is there no danger of slipping back?
14 Before 1938 Jehovah was not bringing great increases of new members into his organization, for it was not ready to care for them in a proper way. The organization itself had to be fully established in Bible principle and procedure, so that it could handle the many problems that would arise in view of dictatorships and World War II regimentation. So it is since World War II that there has been worldwide expansion of the organization to such an extent that for a time it was called “the fastest-growing religion.” The organization has been able to maintain purity and strength along with tremendous expansion. It has grown theocratically. It is a creation of God, following the same principles of growth that apply to natural things. Just as a tree grows slowly but solidly, and can even push up concrete paving blocks in its way, so Jehovah’s organization has its life from him and grows with the irresistible power of his spirit.
15. How has God kept his people from taking a course that would be hurtful to themselves or to others?
15 Since releasing his people from bondage to Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, in 1919, and since bringing them toward greater light of understanding of him and his purposes, God has never led his people into a hurtful course of action. They have been brought safely through the trials of a devastating second world war, the hatred of nations and misrepresentation by the clergy and other enemies, and the most widespread persecution ever known. Sometimes they have made mistakes because of trying to apply their own knowledge to certain problems, but Jehovah, on the basis of their faith in Christ’s ransom, has forgiven them. He has kept them from going in a course displeasing to him. He has provided them with the knowledge they needed at any given time. (Matt. 24:45-47) He has, in fact, informed them before ever the emergency arose, so that they have been forearmed. He tells them: “The first things—here they have come, but new things I am telling out. Before they begin to spring up, I cause you people to hear them.”—Isa. 42:9.
16. (a) Give an example of how Jehovah prepares his organization for an adjustment in thought and yet prevents them from stumbling or sinning. (b) How was the understanding about the “superior authorities” timely?
16 An example of this is the matter of the position of Jehovah’s witnesses with regard to the governments of this world. In a study of the course taken by the apostles of Jesus Christ, they saw that the command of God to preach the good news of the Kingdom must be obeyed regardless of what the nations may do to try to stop the preaching. Jehovah’s witnesses followed the precedent set by the apostles, who, when commanded by the Jewish High Court to stop preaching, replied: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:27-29) However, temporarily, from 1929 to 1962, the Witnesses understood that when Paul spoke of the “superior authorities” at Romans 13:1, to whom subjection is due, he had reference to Jehovah God and Christ Jesus. But in 1962 it was convincingly set out that the superior authorities mentioned here are indeed the political rulers of this world. What effect, then, did this better understanding have on God’s people? Well, Jehovah had prepared them for this. It did not place them now in total subjection to political rulers, so as to drop the work that Jehovah through Christ had commanded them to do, but it emphasized that their subjection is relative. While they had always respected the rulers by following Jesus’ words: “Pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God [as the supreme Authority],” they now saw this principle even more clearly. It gave them better balance and an even greater respect for the rulers of this world and served as a timely admonition and safeguard in a time when there is such great disrespect for authority in the world and when revolutions and upheavals are the order of the day.—Matt. 22:21.
JESUS’ LOVING MANNER OF TEACHING
17. Show how Jesus followed Jehovah’s loving manner of teaching.
17 Jesus was the greatest Teacher that ever walked upon earth and he employed this very method of teaching. When he began to gather together his disciples he did not tell them that he was going to die after a three-and-one-half-year ministry. They were not able yet to understand nor strong enough to stand up under this crushing truth. Later on, when he did tell them, Peter first responded, saying: “Be kind to yourself, Lord; you will not have this destiny at all.” (Matt. 16:22) Jesus rebuked him. Even at this point Peter did not fully understand about Christ’s sacrifice, but Jesus knew that Peter could endure this truth and would shortly get full understanding of it. (John 16:12) At one time he said a thing that shocked some of his disciples: “Most truly I say to you, Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves.” (John 6:53) At this many turned away from him. Did Jesus declare this astounding doctrine before their minds could be conditioned to accept it? No. Those who had sincerely listened to Jesus, who had been obedient and had kept abreast of his teachings, were not offended. They stayed with him, Peter answering: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life.” (John 6:68) Jesus knew that some were mere fair-weather disciples, that their hearts were not right. It was time now for him to make this statement, to reveal their true colors. He wanted to form an organization that was made up of those who would stick with the truth, even after he was gone.—Luke 22:28.
ORGANIZATION ADVANCEMENT IN APOSTLES’ DAY
18, 19. Show that changes in thought and organization are nothing new to Jehovah’s people.
18 Later, after the outpouring of the holy spirit, Jehovah did not reveal all truth to his organization at once. About thirteen years after Peter had preached to the Gentile Cornelius and God had accepted this uncircumcised Gentile and his household, there was, nevertheless, the necessity of holding a meeting of the governing body at Jerusalem to discuss the question of circumcision. God’s Word and spirit revealed that circumcision was not required for acceptance into the Christian congregation. (Acts 15:28, 29) Later, conditions in the Christian congregation in Corinth brought questions to the fore that had to be settled by a member of the governing body, Paul. There was a misunderstanding as to how far Christian freedom went about eating meat once offered before an idol, and to what extent moral freedom was restricted by the organization, in a case of immorality in the congregation. (1 Cor. 8:1-13; 5:1-5) In fact, all the letters of the Christian Scriptures settled many such issues.
19 Also, in reading the Acts of the apostles we see that the truth was made progressively clearer. The second coming of Christ, not to an earthly throne, but as a mighty invisible spirit (1 Pet. 3:18; Phil. 2:9, 10; compare Acts 1:6); the apostasy that was to occur after the death of the apostles. (Acts 20:29, 30) It was not until about 96 C.E., with the Revelation to John, that the number called to the heavenly kingship with Christ was revealed—the revelation concerning the seed of the “woman” and the seed of Abraham.—Rev. 7:4; 14:1.
UNITY WITH VARIETY
20. How do these changes put a test upon us?
20 It is a test, then, upon us who desire righteousness. Are we willing to humble ourselves and be molded for life by the Creator Jehovah God, or do we want to maintain a spirit of self-determination and divide ourselves off as being against him and his Word? It is not regimentation to serve in Jehovah’s organization. There has to be unity, because man was not created to live alone. In no other way can there be a righteous earth.
21. Why is it necessary to have organization along with unity of purpose to get the required work done?
21 In any society it is necessary to have association, organization and unity of purpose. It requires the different talents, abilities and contributions of those associated for the organization to accomplish a work and to bring about the desired benefits for all in the organization. For this reason God does not make all exactly alike. They are alike only in their devotion to him, their love, their understanding of his Word, their service to him and his principles and truths. Not all have the same abilities. God supplies variety. Early in the history of man, it was evident that God had put within the reproductive processes of the first human pair the power to distribute talents and abilities to various ones of their offspring to accomplish the work that needed to be done. In one family we find three children, each of which was specially capable, a founder of his occupation or art: one an expert with livestock, another a master musician and the third a fine toolsmith.—Gen. 4:19-22.
22. Toward what is Jehovah leading his people, and why does this leading have to be gradual and progressive?
22 So as Jehovah provides all necessary things he leads his people to progressively higher states of happiness toward life in a new order. The early settlers of North America, as they traveled westward, saw dimly what may at first have appeared to be clouds on the horizon, but later on became the sharp outlines of mountains; as they came closer, trees, rocks and the details of the beautiful land became clear. It is so with God’s people. They know there will be a new order, a righteous system of things in which there will be no tears, sorrow or death. (Rev. 21:3, 4) As they approach, the outlines become clearer. This requires adjustments on their part, but they are happy adjustments to wider fields of knowledge, a better understanding of their great God, Jehovah, their being conformed more to his likeness. In his new system of things we shall be able to reach perfection, to enjoy fullness of life forever. Then we shall have the capacity to receive even stronger truths concerning him, our loving Shepherd and Leader, as he administers ever more abundant blessings through the kingdom of his Son, Jesus Christ.—Isa. 9:6, 7.