Finding Freedom with Jehovah’s Visible Organization
“I will raise up over them shepherds who will actually shepherd them; and they will be afraid no more.”—Jer. 23:4.
1, 2. What is Jehovah’s purpose for man on earth?
OF HOW much benefit to you would be the gift of an around-the-world trip if you were bedridden? How much could you enjoy the latest model color television set if you had lost your eyesight? Of how much value to you, then, would be God’s gift of everlasting life on earth if the present unhappy, fearful state of this world were to continue?
2 God’s purpose to free man for everlasting life on earth is clearly stated in the Psalms: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” (Ps. 37:29) The prophet Isaiah verified this promise as being of God by referring to Jehovah as “the true God, the Former of the earth and the Maker of it, He the One who firmly established it, who did not create it simply for nothing, who formed it even to be inhabited.” (Isa. 45:18) Does it surprise you that God has purposed for man to inhabit the earth forever? It should not if you are familiar with the “Lord’s prayer,” because that is what you are requesting repeatedly when you pray: “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”—Matt. 6:10, AV.
3. How will Jehovah make life more endurable?
3 But what of the unhappy, fearful conditions on the earth that would make endless life so much of a problem? You are praying for freedom from these things too when you say, “Thy kingdom come.” How so? Because, as the prophet Daniel foretold, “in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.” (Dan. 2:44) The grand King of that everlasting kingdom long ago revealed to his apostle John what will happen afterward: “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be any more. The former things have passed away.”—Rev. 21:3, 4.
ORGANIZATION IS THE ORDER OF THE UNIVERSE
4 Do not these promises of God give concrete reality to his kingdom? They mean that God will make his kingdom under Christ just as real in governmental functions as the governments of men now ruling. God’s promises mean, too, that provision must be made to administer that kingdom and see that its laws are properly enforced. The prophet Jeremiah foretold this as the purpose of Jehovah, who says: “I will raise up over them shepherds who will actually shepherd them; and they will be afraid no more.” (Jer. 23:4) Isaiah testified as to the benefits of this arrangement: “Look! A king will reign for righteousness itself; and as respects princes, they will rule as princes for justice itself.” (Isa. 32:1) But this prophecy of Isaiah reveals something further, namely, that this administration of God’s righteousness will begin even before God removes the governments of this system of things. For the prophecy continues: “And each one must prove to be like a hiding place from the wind and a place of concealment from the rainstorm, like streams of water in a waterless country, like the shadow of a heavy crag in an exhausted land.” (Isa. 32:2) All this emphasizes a well-ordered arrangement of persons, a concerted, united effort to accomplish a purpose. That means organization.
5. Why do some object to organization, but in what way is such reasoning shortsighted?
5 To some persons, though, one’s conforming to the rules or regulations of an organization is stifling to one’s individuality. Others, reasoning similarly, say that God is dealing with them personally, directing each one in an understanding of the Bible. However, the spiritual laws of God are just as necessary to our well-being as natural laws; and who among the individualists would refuse to conform to God’s law of eating and drinking, for example, for fear of losing his individuality? Men can go on hunger strikes in protest against social or political evils, but they do not escape the need for food. Furthermore, these physical needs and the laws that govern them are common to all men. We are not free to pick and choose according to our individual whims.
6. Why is theocratic organization of men needed, and what emphasizes this fact?
6 Why, then, is it reasonable to believe that spiritual laws do not apply with the same uniformity to all? In fact, it is more important for God’s living, intelligent Creatures to have law, order and organization than it is for the inanimate, nonsoulical or soulless bodies of nature. Plants grow and stars move in orbit with no free will choice. God’s laws of nature control them and they cannot resist. As a result, the universe of such bodies is orderly and harmonious throughout. But man is a freewill agent and can, if he so desires, exercise his choice of action in an indiscriminate way. If all men were to do so, however, only a state of anarchy would result. So, to say that we do not need organization or that God directs each individual independently is to deny the interdependent order of the universe and the common provision that Jehovah has made for the sustenance of our physical needs. In fact, our very possession of free will should emphasize to us the need for organization, theocratic organization, that is, ruled by God from the top down.
THE BIBLE IS AN ORGANIZATIONAL BOOK
7. What shows that Jehovah was dealing with the nation of Israel as a theocratic organization?
7 The Bible itself is an organizational book. The first words written by God’s own finger, the Ten Commandments, were designed to form the basis for the theocratic administration of a national government with the descendants of Jacob or Israel as a chosen people and with Moses as mediator. (Ex. 19:3-8; 31:18) The children of Israel had been slaves in Egypt. Moses bad already freed himself from Egypt’s yoke by fleeing to Midian, where he had lived for forty years. But Jehovah directed him to return to Egypt to represent the Israelites as one united body of people. Jehovah then made a common provision for them all, and any who expected to benefit from it had to act upon it in the same identical manner. All must conform in the selection of an animal, a male sheep or goat one year old, and sprinkle its blood on the doorposts of their houses. Then, by families, they must roast and eat its flesh and leave Egypt en masse about midnight as an orderly body, obeying common instructions and receiving a common deliverance. (Ex. 12:1-13, 21-39) When Jehovah brought them all to Mount Sinai in the wilderness, he gave them his Law organizing them as a theocratic nation.
8. How did the Hebrew Scriptures become a book of instructions for Christians?
8 All the Law or Torah that Jehovah inspired Moses to write was for this theocratic organization of Israel. So were all the other books that now comprise the Hebrew Scriptures, or the “Old Testament” as some persons refer to them. But over fifteen centuries later, Paul, himself an Israelite and an apostle of Jesus Christ, wrote concerning these books that make up three-quarters of our Bible: “For all the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4) By this, Paul meant that the Bible, as an instruction book for the theocratic organization of Israel, had now become a book of instructions for the organization of the Christian congregation.
9. How can it be said that the Bible is an organizational book for the Christian congregation?
9 As the canon of books of God’s Word was expanded and the Christian Greek Scriptures were added to complete the Bible, each book was written directly to the Christian congregation or to a member of the Christian congregation in its behalf. Thus the Bible is an organizational book and belongs to the Christian congregation as an organization, not to individuals, regardless of how sincerely they may believe that they can interpret the Bible. For this reason the Bible cannot be properly understood without Jehovah’s visible organization in mind.
THE CHRISTIAN CONGREGATION AS AN ORGANIZATION
10. When and how did the Christian congregation have a beginning?
10 Jesus did not begin the Christian congregation while he was still on earth. He did, however, select twelve apostles at that time, although Judas, who betrayed him, was replaced by another follower after Jesus’ ascension to his Father in heaven. These “apostles of the Lamb” began to serve as foundation stones and pillars of the congregation after it was organized. (Rev. 21:14) This came on the day of Pentecost, 33 C.E., when the first Christian congregation was organized at Jerusalem. One hundred and twenty of Jesus’ disciples were assembled together with one mind and purpose when Jehovah’s spirit was poured out upon them, and the Christian congregation never lost this unity of thought as long as the apostles remained alive.—Acts 1:12-15; 2:1-4.
11, 12. (a) What wrong view do some persons take of the Christian congregation? (b) How do Paul and Peter show that the congregation must be one body?
11 Though separated in person and groups assembling as Christian congregations, those composing the Christian congregation are still one united body, just as Israel was one typical theocratic nation. Paul said: “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. 4:3-6; Gal. 6:16; see also 2 Peter 2:5.) It is impossible, however, to harmonize this description with the picture by some of Christ’s church being composed of individual members scattered throughout all the contradictory sects of Christendom, all interpreting the Bible according to their own way of thinking. How could they, in such an unrelated condition, fulfill any kind of unified “purpose of a holy priesthood”?
12 Furthermore, in harmony with the prophecy of Isaiah 32:1, 2, quoted above, how could these members of the congregation serve as a “hiding place from the wind” and protect those whom they teach from winds of false doctrine if they are not united themselves as to God’s truth? Paul was opposed to such an unrelated, disunited course, because he counseled the Corinthian congregation: “Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ 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. For the disclosure was made to me about you, my brothers, by those of the house of Chloe, that dissensions exist among you. What I mean is this, that each one of you says: ‘I belong to Paul,’ ‘But I to Apollos,’ ‘But I to Cephas,’ ‘But I to Christ.’ Does the Christ exist divided?”—1 Cor. 1:10-13.
13. What is the condition of Christendom, and whom will Jehovah hold responsible?
13 But what is the situation today? During the nineteen intervening centuries since the first-century visible theocratic organization, the Christian congregation has undergone serious changes and split-ups. The flock of God has been scattered and hundreds of sects, just like those that Paul warned the Corinthian congregation against, now exist throughout Christendom. Has this advanced the theocratic order and the brotherhood of the Christian congregation? On the contrary, Christendom’s religious disorganization has resulted in violent religious wars and persecution. As an example and prophetic pattern of these reprehensible leaders of Christendom, the apostate priests of Israel were addressed by Jeremiah, at Jehovah’s direction: “‘Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasturage!’ is the utterance of Jehovah. Therefore this is what Jehovah the God of Israel has said against the shepherds who are shepherding my people: ‘You yourselves have scattered my sheep; and you kept dispersing them, and you have not turned your attention to them.’” (Jer. 23:1, 2, 11, 12) Jehovah will not allow such false shepherds to go unpunished.
THEOCRATIC ORDER RESTORED
14, 15. (a) How has theocratic order been restored to the Christian congregation? (b) In what has this restoration resulted? (c) What question should all professing Christians seriously ask themselves?
14 But what of the scattered sheep? If theocratic order is to be restored to the Christian congregation, there must he a return to apostolic instruction. What Jeremiah’s prophecy continues on to say must be accomplished: “‘And I myself shall collect together the remnant of my sheep out of all the lands to which I had dispersed them, and I will bring them back to their pasture ground, and they will certainly be fruitful and become many. And I will raise up over them shepherds who will actually shepherd them; and they will be afraid no more, neither will they be struck with any terror, and none will be missing,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.” (Jer. 23:3, 4) Thanks to Jehovah and his purpose this has been accomplished, not through a Roman Catholic Ecumenical Council or a religious program of interfaith, but by slashing through the traditions of men and by a complete withdrawal of people from the corrupting influence of sectarianism. It has meant a drawing together of people following apostolic methods and instruction.
15 Today, Jehovah’s visible theocratic organization has been restored. “‘Look! There are days Coming,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and I will raise up to David a righteous sprout. And a king will certainly reign and act with discretion and execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel itself will reside in security.’” (Jer. 23:5, 6) Under the direction of Christ Jesus, Jehovah’s enthroned heavenly King, the Christian congregation on earth has again become apostolic in arrangements and methods of activity, adjusted to the needs of our modern day. This has made for unity, harmony, peace and working effectiveness within the ranks of true Christians. Does the organization you look to for spiritual guidance follow this theocratic pattern? Consider seriously these questions.
16, 17. By what practices in the apostolic congregation can Jehovah’s visible organization be identified today?
16 Do those taking the lead in your organization accept the Bible as God’s Word, inspired by him as a revelation of his purpose and a book of instructions to direct us in the right way? Jesus did so, and taught his disciples to do likewise. (John 8:31, 32; 17:17; Ps. 119:105) Does the organization you look to provide regular assemblies for study of God’s Word? First-century Christians were so assisted. (Heb. 10:25; Matt. 18:20; Rom. 16:5) Does it insist upon complete unity of doctrine and thought within the congregation? Jesus’ early disciples did. (1 Cor. 1:10-13; Jas. 3:16, 17) Is a theocratic procedure followed in making appointments to service positions? It was in the early congregation. (Acts 6:1-6; 14:23; 20:28) Do all associated with your organization put Kingdom interests first in their lives? Jesus taught his disciples to do so. (Matt. 6:33) Do they recognize their privilege and responsibility to preach from house to house? Those of the early apostolic congregation did. (Matt. 28:19, 20; Acts 5:42; 20:20; 1 Cor. 9:16) Do they preach the good news of God’s kingdom? Jesus said they would. (Matt. 24:14) When faced with opposition, do they refuse to compromise the message of the Kingdom? The early congregation did. (Acts 4:19, 20; 5:29-32) Do all receive and accept counsel through the governing body? It is a stabilizing responsibility that the first Christians recognized. (Acts 2:42; 16:4, 5; Heb. 13:17) Do those charged with the responsibility of the organization work diligently to maintain it in a clean condition? The apostles of Jesus never lagged in this regard. (1 Cor. 5:1-5, 13; 1 Tim. 5:19-21) Is there a genuine love manifested among those in your congregation? Jesus said it would be a mark of the true congregation.—John 13:35.
17 Viewing the organization from a different position now, does the one you support make a distinction between “clergy” and “laity”? Such distinctions were unheard of among early Christians. (Matt. 23:8-12; 20:25-28; 1 Pet. 5:2, 3) Is financial support of your organization handled on a strictly voluntary basis? The early congregation never solicited funds. (Acts 11:29, 30; 2 Cor. 9:5-7) Is your organization active in world affairs? Jesus and his apostles refused to become a part of this world. (John 17:16, 17; Jas. 4:4) Do those associated with your organization seek political positions or reforms? Those in the early congregation had a more permanent hope centered in God’s kingdom. (2 Pet. 3:13, 14) Do national or racial barriers exist within your organization? There were none in first-century congregations. (Gal. 3:28; Rev. 7:9) Is discrimination practiced? Early Christians abided by the principle that “there is no partiality with God” but his “will is that all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.”—Rom. 2:11; 1 Tim. 2:4; Jas. 2:1-4.
IDENTIFYING THE THEOCRATIC ORGANIZATION
18. What mark of the true visible organization did Jesus identify, and what reward did he say he would give?
18 Those in the apostolic organization did not fulfill these requirements for the Christian congregation in just a token way. They viewed their position in Jehovah’s chosen visible channel as sacred and would allow nothing to jeopardize their standing with God. They had no fear of this world. (Matt. 10:26-28) Their only concern was to provide for the safety and well-being of the flock of God. Jesus pointed to this mark of the true visible organization in connection with a detailed prophecy relating to this time of the end He said: “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.
19. What must those who recognize Jehovah’s visible organization accept?
19 Evidences are now conclusive that Jesus Christ was enthroned in heaven in 1914 C.E. and that he accompanied Jehovah to his temple in 1918 C.E., when judgment began with the house of God.a (1 Pet. 4:17) After cleansing those belonging to this house who were alive on earth, Jehovah poured out his spirit upon them and assigned them the responsibility of serving as his sole visible channel, through whom alone spiritual instruction was to come. Those who recognize Jehovah’s visible theocratic organization, therefore, must recognize and accept this appointment of the “faithful and discreet slave” and be submissive to it.
20, 21. Who today are charged with the responsibility of representing Jehovah’s King, and what record provides their recommendation?
20 Today those thus charged with this grand privilege and responsibility are called Jehovah’s witnesses, and have been since 1931. As a group they have been separated more and more from the sectarianism of Christendom from the 1870’s onward. Since 1879 the Watch Tower magazine has been used by this collective group to dispense spiritual food regularly to those of this “little flock” of true Christians. (Luke 12:32) In 1884 they formed a legal servant, a corporation, called Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society, now known as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. By 1919, having survived the fiery trials of World War I, this “faithful and discreet slave” class was no novice organization. True, the apostles were no longer in its midst, but they had left behind written instructions as part of Jehovah’s great Record Book. Additionally, the modern-day members of this 1900-year-old Christian congregation had received from the days of the apostles onward a rich heritage of Christian loyalty and integrity, long and patient suffering of persecution, abiding faith in Jehovah’s precious promises, confidence in the leadership of its invisible Lord and King, Jesus Christ, and obedience to its centuries-old commission to be witnesses in all the earth.—Acts 1:6-8.
21 In this spiritually mature condition they well qualify as those “who will actually shepherd them; and they will be afraid no more, neither will they be struck with any terror, and none will be missing,” because “a king will certainly reign and act with discretion and execute justice and righteousness in the land.” Find freedom and security in their midst. Read the article that follows to learn how.
a See the book You May Survive Armageddon into God’s New World, chapter 6, entitled “A·do·nay’ comes to His Temple.” Published by the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society in 1955.