Following Faithful Shepherds with Life in View
1. How and why must faith be proved to receive the gift of life?
JEHOVAH’S purpose to provide freedom and everlasting life on earth for obedient mankind is already well under way. It is reaching a crucial stage of development in our generation with impending destruction of this present system of things and with the beginning of Christ’s thousand-year reign of peace that will immediately follow. But none of us will receive life without putting forth some effort. Not that salvation comes by works alone. James, in writing to the first-century Christian congregation, said: “Faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself. Indeed, as the body without breath is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (Jas. 2:17, 26) This means we must prove our faith by our course of action, by the things we do. It means that righteous requirements of the King Jesus Christ must be met.
2. What campaign is now in progress, and to what does its effectiveness testify?
2 Even now, through his visible theocratic organization on earth, Jehovah is providing a campaign of spiritual instruction that is searching out those of our generation of honest heart toward God and changing over their lives to bring them into conformity with his reign of righteousness under his King. The effectiveness of this campaign in growing numbers and spiritual advancement is an evidence that present unhappy, fearful conditions will terminate with this old system and the righteousness of Christ’s reign will cover the earth. What will your position be when that time comes?
3. What consistent course must we follow to be complete in accepting Jehovah’s visible organization?
3 Make haste to identify the visible theocratic organization of God that represents his king, Jesus Christ. It is essential for life. Doing so, be complete in accepting its every aspect. We cannot claim to love God, yet deny his Word and channel of communication. We cannot accept apostolic teaching, yet reject our commission to teach others. We cannot accept the house-to-house ministry, yet ignore God’s moral requirements in everyday living. We cannot live an exemplary life, yet remain apathetic to the issue soon to be settled. We cannot preach the end of this system of things, yet seek to acquire all that this world has to offer in security or material benefits. Jehovah’s visible organization is based firmly on the twelvefold foundation of the “apostles of the Lamb,” with Jesus Christ himself being the foundation cornerstone. (Rev. 21:14, 19, 20; Eph. 2:20-22) Therefore, in submitting to Jehovah’s visible theocratic organization, we must be in full and complete agreement with every feature of its apostolic procedure and requirements.
UNITY MAINTAINED BY SUBMISSION
4. Why need one not fear losing his identity or freedom by submitting to the direction of Jehovah’s organization?
4 Do not fear that you might lose your identity or freedom by submission. Members of the first-century Christian congregation willingly submitted themselves to the direction of the organization through its governing body. Even the apostles Peter and Paul did so. When matters of dispute arose, they were referred for settlement to the entire body of the twelve apostles and the older men of influence who served in the Jerusalem congregation. One such instance occurred about 49 C.E. Paul and Barnabas, on a missionary assignment in the Roman provinces of Asia Minor, had been baptizing uncircumcised Gentiles as Christians. When this became known in their home congregation in Antioch of Syria, certain men from Judea objected, saying: “Unless you get circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1) Considerable discussion failed to settle the matter, so Paul, instead of demanding any rights as an apostle, took the problem to the governing body in Jerusalem. There, after due consideration under the direction of God’s holy spirit, the issue was settled and notice of the decision was sent to the Antioch congregation by a letter and a delegation representing the governing body. As a result, the, congregation was freed from doubts and dissension.—Acts 15:2-31.
5. (a) What resulted to the early congregation by so doing? (b) How is oneness maintained in the organization today?
5 This prompt action by Paul and the governing body had a unifying, preserving effect and was productive of increase. Later, as Paul and his party “traveled on through the cities they would deliver to those there for observance the decrees that had been decided upon by the apostles and older men who were in Jerusalem. Therefore, indeed, the congregations continued to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number from day to day.” (Acts 16:4, 5) In this way today too the governing body of the Christian congregation serves the entire organization. Solutions to problems arising in one locality are widely circulated so that the unity and oneness of the entire organization might be maintained.
6. What assistance does the governing body have in administering its responsibilities, and how do they serve?
6 However, the governing body is not alone in administering Jehovah’s spiritual provisions for your blessing and for the protection and unity of the congregations. As foretold by Isaiah: “And as respects princes, they will rule as princes for justice itself.” (Isa. 32:1) Here prince is not to be understood in a political sense, for those called “princes” (or sarím, Hebrew) have no part in this present wicked system of things, soon to be destroyed. According to the sense of the word in Hebrew, those of Isaiah’s prophecy are to serve in the theocratic organization as principal men in charge of groups of a thousand or a hundred or of fifty or of even ten. Thus, the King Jesus Christ has placed men of the “faithful and discreet slave” class, and even men from among the “great crowd,” whose hope it is to live on earth, in charge of congregations and groups of them, even of service groups of ten, giving them proportionate responsibilities. In this way they have become “shepherds” in the sense of Jeremiah 23:4.—Rev. 7:9-12.
IMITATORS OF FAITH, NOT MEN
7. (a) Why are such “shepherds” called “servants”? (b) What liability do they have to Jehovah, and what responsibility does this place upon the “sheep”?
7 Those thus appointed are not called “princes,” “shepherds” or “pastors,” however, but are commonly called “servants.” This emphasizes their relationship to the organization and their responsibility toward those in their charge. Jesus made this position quite clear to his apostles. “Jesus, calling them to him, said: ‘You know that the rule’s of the nations lord it over them and the great men wield authority over them. This is not the way among you; but whoever wants to become great among you must be your minister, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.’” (Matt. 20:25-27) Since a slave or servant is one who ministers to the needs of a master or employer, those in positions of responsibility Who are called “servants” are not ministered to but minister willingly to those in need in the congregation. In this they follow the example of Jesus, who said: “Just as the Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” Matt. 20:28) Not only are such servants responsible to those in their charge but they are also liable to Jehovah God for the welfare of these “sheep.” It is only reasonable, then, that Jehovah would require the “sheep” to be willingly submissive to the shepherds. “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.
8. In what respect do the “sheep” follow the “shepherds”?
8 In submitting yourself to Jehovah’s visible organization as administered by such servants, you are still not required or expected to follow men. On the contrary, Paul counseled: “Remember those who are taking the lead among you, who have spoken the word of God to you, and as you contemplate how their conduct turns out imitate their faith.” (Heb. 13:7) It is the faith of these men that is to be imitated and their course of conduct that is to be observed.
9. To whom and how must the “shepherds” themselves be submissive?
9 These men too, though occupying responsible positions of oversight themselves, recognize and submit to the superior appointment of the “faithful and discreet slave.” In doing so, they are quick to heed the admonition of Peter, one of the earlier members of that body. He said: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” (1 Pet. 5:6) Acting for the “faithful and discreet slave,” they realize the grave responsibility entrusted to them as representatives of the heavenly Kingdom government and constantly seek Jehovah’s direction and spirit to enable them to discharge their assignment “for justice itself” in harmony with the righteousness of Jesus Christ’s reign, not deviating at any time for the sake of expediency or self-aggrandizement. (Acts 8:4-17) Does the record of the modern “faithful and discreet slave” reveal that this has been the concern for Jehovah’s “sheep” in these last days? A brief review of some facts might be reassuring.
THE MODERN ELIJAH PREPARES THE WAY
10. (a) Who was Elijah? (b) What did Malachi foretell concerning Elijah, and of whom was Elijah a type?
10 Great strides in theocratic procedure have been made since 1919 C.E. This is graphically portrayed in the prophetic drama of the ministries of the prophets Elijah and Elisha in ancient Israel. As foretold by Malachi: “Look! I am sending to you people Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah. And he must turn the heart of fathers back toward sons, and the heart of sons back toward fathers; in order that I may not come and actually strike the earth with a devoting of it to destruction.” (Mal. 4:5, 6) The original Elijah was a prominent witness of Jehovah in the tenth century B.C.E., five centuries before Malachi uttered his prophecy. This Elijah that was to come had a small-scale fulfillment in John the Baptist, but the Elijah of Malachi’s prophecy was scheduled to appear in our own fateful day, just before and during the time of the end of this present system of things. True to the prophecy, in modern times the “faithful and discreet slave” has appeared to perform the foretold work of Elijah.
11. What change in organizational administration took place in the Christian congregation when Jesus was enthroned, and what parallel did this have in ancient Israel?
11 “This began a period of making Jehovah’s requirements in righteousness stronger within the modern congregation that might be likened to Israel in its earlier days in the Promised Land. At first, even though the nation was united under theocratic law and judges ruled, “what was right in his own eyes was what each one was accustomed to do.” Why did this loose organization exist? The account says: “In those days there was no king in Israel.” (Judg. 21:25) So it was in the earlier days of the modern theocratic organization. Jehovah’s administration of righteousness took a pronounced forward step with the return of the Christian congregation to apostolic teachings. But before the King, Jesus Christ, was enthroned in 1914 C.E. the organization was loosely administered. Each “ecclesia” or congregation was self-governed by elected “elders” and “deacons.” But in 1914 Jehovah enthroned his King Jesus Christ, and from 1919 onward the time became due for Jeremiah’s prophecy to be fulfilled: “‘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.
12. (a) By what progressive steps was theocratic order restored during the Elijah work? (b) What did this ensure for the “sheep”?
12 This benefit of theocratic administration did not come all at once. In 1932 the “elective elders” were replaced in the congregation by an appointed “service director,” who was assisted by a group of mature members of the congregation democratically elected to their positions. But not until 1938 did the final change to strictly theocratic order take place. In that year, through the columns of The Watchtower, it was revealed from the Scriptures that the power of appointment of servants in congregations rightfully rests with the governing body of the “faithful and discreet slave” as directed by Jesus Christ from Jehovah’s temple.a This important step in the restoration of theocratic order assured Jehovah’s “sheep” that they would not again be separated into independent “flocks” by unscrupulous “shepherds.” The shepherds that Jehovah promised through Jeremiah would be those fully in agreement with Jesus’ words that “they will become one flock, one shepherd.”—John 10:16.
EXPANSION AND HEALING DURING ELISHA PERIOD
13. Why was the restoration of theocratic order timely?
13 Thus came a strengthening of the Christian congregation and a safeguarding against the strenuous days ahead. These theocratically appointed shepherds whom Jehovah was raising up within the congregation were “to be like a hiding place from the wind and a place of concealment from the rainstorm.” Not only was the visible organization of God due to experience a severe time of trial by persecution, but it was also due to “be fruitful and become many” as a result of the intense program of education ahead.
14. When and with what activity did the Elisha work begin?
14 In 1942 the change came. In the throes of World War II, with the change in administrations of the second and third presidents of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, the Elijah work passed away, having realized its purpose to Jehovah’s praise. It had been actively directed toward beginning the work of “dividing the waters” of the symbolic Jordan River, that is, dividing the symbolic waters of the peoples, gathering the “other sheep” or “great crowd” to the right hand of the reigning King Jesus Christ. (2 Ki. 2:8; Matt. 25:31-46) As the Elisha class vigorously took up the “mantle of Elijah” or the divine commission Elijah had so actively fulfilled, the time for unparalleled expansion had begun. The years since 1942 have told their tale regarding the exploits of the anointed Elisha class, accompanied by an ever-increasing number of the “great crowd.”—Rev. 7:9-17.
15, 16. What far-reaching advancements in theocratic activity have been made by the Elisha class as pictured by the miracles of Elisha?
15 To parallel the many miracles performed by the original Elisha, sixteen as compared with Elijah’s eight, the modern Elisha class at once began arrangements for producing better preachers of the Kingdom good news in furtherance of the prophecy of Matthew 24:14. On February 1, 1943, the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead was set up for training missionaries and special representatives of the Watch Tower Society to serve in all parts of the earth. That same year, 1943, a new training program, the Theocratic Ministry School, began in the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses. At first only male students were enrolled in these schools, but in 1958 provision was made for the women of the congregations to enroll and participate.
16 As the work expanded, new congregations were formed, this requiring more servants to supervise the Kingdom preaching of the good news. To improve their service, a new feature was introduced in 1959, a Kingdom Ministry School with a four-week course of study, free to all overseers invited to be students. By the following year the school was established in the various lands, this resulting in better supervision of the congregations world wide.—1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9.
17. How has the Elisha work resulted in a great spiritual healing?
17 Just as Elisha of old raised from the dead the son of the Shunammite woman who befriended him, so the modern Elisha work has meant spiritual life from the dead for countless numbers. (2 Ki. 4:17-37) Hundreds of thousands who Were lying in a death state in their sins and under divine condemnation have been raised to a happy life in Jehovah’s service, with the bright prospect of everlasting life under the Kingdom after this present system is destroyed at Armageddon. This gathering work has been intensified since 1942. During that crucial year of World War II incomplete reports showed upward of 106,000 persons proclaiming the good news. Due to the loving administration of the reigning King and the untiring efforts of his “faithful and discreet slave,” and the “great crowd” and the appointed “shepherds,” the increase has been continual until, in this year, just 25 years later, 1,150,000 were actively engaged in publishing the Kingdom message.
MAINTAINING CHRISTIAN STANDARDS OF CONDUCT
18, 19. How have the requirements in Christian conduct been strengthened?
18 This strengthening of theocratic structure has brought a closer supervision of the organization as to Scriptural requirements in conduct of those associated. Christian standards have always been recognized by the modern “faithful and discreet slave” and have always been held up before the congregation as requirements in Christian living. Even as early as 1904, the first president of the Watch Tower Society, in his book The New Creation, outlined a Scriptural procedure for dealing with violators, even to the point of withdrawing from them the congregation’s “fellowship and any and all signs or manifestations of brotherhood.”b But this extreme measure of excommunication or disfellowshiping was not widely practiced among the congregations and was not made a requirement on congregations until 1952.c No longer could Christian conduct be viewed simply as a matter affecting only the individual or individuals involved. Paul wrote the Corinthian congregation in connection with a disfellowshiping case in the first-century congregation: “Do you not know that a little leaven ferments the whole lump?” (1 Cor. 5:1-6) No longer could those following the practices of the nations be allowed admittance to the congregation nor could those falling away to such practices be allowed to remain.
19 Thus it can be seen that the modern theocratic organization of shepherds of God’s flock has only the interests of the Kingdom and of God’s “sheep” at heart. As those “keeping watch over your souls,” they know they “will render an account.” It is vital to their discharge of Kingdom responsibilities that “none will be missing.” To make certain of this, you must be taught: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and [God’s] righteousness.”—Matt. 6:33.
20, 21. How can we show proper submission under trying circumstances?
20 Such a theocratic view of matters will enable you always to keep pace with the organization, neither running ahead nor lagging dangerously behind. You will encounter trying circumstances. Do not be overcome by them. Wait on Jehovah and put your hope in him. (Ps. 37:34; 27:14) It might even be that reproof will be necessary on occasion. Do not become offended. If you do, you are undoubtedly taking yourself too seriously, failing to see the point of the reproof. Nor should you persuade yourself that you are of no use to the organization and quit simply because some mistake may be drawn to your attention. Rather, “my son, do not belittle the discipline from Jehovah, neither give out when you are corrected by him; for whom Jehovah loves he disciplines; in fact, he scourges every one whom he receives as a son.”—Heb. 12:5, 6.
21 On the other hand, it may be that your advancement will be rapid. Guard against an attitude of super-faithfulness. It might ensnare you. Do not feel that others in the congregation are slow and backward. You might even become impatient with the organization. Consider instead the example of Moses, who pleaded with Jehovah to spare his typical theocratic nation when some faithless ones in the organization sinned against Jehovah and brought his anger down upon the entire congregation. (Ex. 32:1-14) Neither should you wait constantly to be directed as to the theocratic activity assigned. Eagerly assume individual responsibility and seek ways of advancing the Kingdom interests in harmony with the program currently outlined by the “faithful and discreet slave.”
22. Why, then, should we stick loyally to Jehovah’s visible organization?
22 The Bible sets forth every inducement and encouragement to place the theocratic organization ahead of oneself, to accept it in all its features and stick to it loyally. The theocratic pace of activity is still increasing. What Jehovah will yet require of his faithful servants on earth before Armageddon he will reveal in due time. Staying close to his visible theocratic organization is the only way to find out. Having identified that organization and God’s righteous requirements expressed through his channel, never let it go. Follow Jehovah’s faithful shepherds so that, “just as sin ruled as king with death, likewise also undeserved kindness might rule as king through righteousness with everlasting life in view through Jesus Christ our Lord.”—Rom. 5:21.
a See The Watchtower as of May 15, 1938, pages 147 to 156; June 1, 1938, pages 163 to 171; June 15, 1938, pages 179 to 188.
b See study VI, “Order and Discipline in the New Creation,” pages 273 to 347.
c See The Watchtower, as of March 1, 1952, pages 131-148.