Judges and Counselors of a New Order Society
“I will bring back again judges for you as at the first, and counselors for you as at the start. After this you will be called City of Righteousness, Faithful Town.”—Isa. 1:26.
1. What was the situation in Israel during Isaiah’s time, and to what did it lead? When were their judges restored?
WHEN God spoke the above words through the prophet Isaiah to the nation of Israel in the eighth century B.C.E. they were a nation living under his law, but it was hard for anyone to get justice, and unrighteousness was allowed to run rampant in the land. (Isa. 1:23) This finally resulted in a breakdown so great that God let the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel go into captivity to the Assyrians. Later on, the southern kingdom of Judah and Benjamin was taken into exile by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. God restored his people in 537 B.C.E., after the decree of Cyrus the king of Persia and conqueror of Babylon, liberating the Jews. But again the nation deteriorated, its judges becoming corrupt.—Matt. 23:23; Luke 20:47.
2. How did God restore righteous judges in a fuller and more important sense?
2 In a fuller and more important sense God fulfilled his promise to restore righteous judges and to bring about real adherence to his righteous laws with the establishment of the Christian congregation. In the first century C.E., during the lives of the twelve apostles, God’s law was made to stand out in its full clarity and purity. Those appointed as overseers of the Christian congregation were righteous men, directed by God’s holy spirit. Jesus Christ himself appointed all the primary judges among them, namely, the faithful apostles. (Mark 3:14; Acts 9:15) These judges and counselors directed the congregation in a prosperous and successful way. For instance, in Acts 16:4, 5, we read: “Now as they 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.”
“GIFTS IN MEN”
3. What did the “gifts in men” do for the congregation?
3 God also selected additional men as “gifts” to the congregation and gave them special abilities so that the young organization could be firmly established. To this effect it is written in Ephesians 4:8, 11, 12: “Wherefore he says: ‘When he ascended on high he carried away captives; he gave gifts in men.’ And he gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ.” Christ’s apostles, under the direction of holy spirit, appointed other men, such as Timothy and Titus, men of zeal and loyalty, who would be judges and counselors to see that righteousness was maintained inside the congregation. (1 Tim. 1:3, 4; 1Ti chap. 5; Titus 1:5-13) Furthermore, the apostles and other mature men gave much counsel in writing. With these writings added to the Hebrew Scriptures, it can be said that “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. 3:16, 17.
BULWARK AGAINST APOSTASY
4. How long did the congregation enjoy righteous judges and counselors?
4 As long as the apostles lived, and to some extent during the lives of the faithful appointed ones who may have outlived the apostles, the congregation followed in the way of serving God faithfully. Attempts were made by some to bring in unrighteousness and injustice, but the strong authority of the apostles held them back. (2 Thess. 2:7, 8) For examples, we can point to the apostles’ action in quickly judging and correcting matters.
5-7. Give some examples of the action of the righteous judges and counselors in keeping the congregation clean before God.
5 When Ananias and Sapphira conspired in their hearts to lie to God, bringing hypocrisy into the congregation, Peter, directed by God’s spirit, saw through their hypocrisy and expressed judgment, which really was God’s own judgment against them.—Acts 5:1-11; Matt. 18:18.
6 Again, an attempt was made to defile the congregation by bringing gross immorality into it. This took place in the congregation at Corinth. Those in charge of the Corinthian congregation were apathetic toward this insidious infiltration, but the apostle Paul acted to clear out the vicious, cancerous thing from among them. In 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, 13, Paul wrote: “Actually fornication is reported among you, and such fornication as is not even among the nations, that a wife a certain man has of his father. And are you puffed up, and did you not rather mourn, in order that the man that committed this deed should be taken away from your midst? I for one, although absent in body but present in spirit, have certainly judged already, as if I were present, the man who has worked in such a way as this, that in the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are gathered together, also my spirit with the power of our Lord Jesus, you hand such a man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, in order that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. . . . ‘Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.’” Efforts were put forth by others to bring false doctrine and a wrong spirit into the same congregation, such men claiming to be apostles. They began to rule haughtily over their Christian brothers and to promote sects through the adulation and following of men.—1 Cor. 1:10-13; 4:8; 2 Cor. 11:19, 20.
7 There were other injustices and deviations from Christ’s law in that congregation, but apparently Paul’s letters corrected the greater portion of these. This is inferred in his second letter to them. He commended them for the godly sorrow that they expressed because of the immorality that had existed, and for their repentance and energetic action in cleaning it out. He spoke well of their improved spirit and then gave further counsel concerning the false apostles. (2 Cor. 7:9-11; 11:12-15) Powerful letters such as these by the apostles had the effect of protecting the congregations and bringing them back in line with the law of the Christ. Pointing to this, Paul wrote, in 2 Corinthians 10:5, 6: “For we are overturning reasonings and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God; and we are bringing every thought into captivity to make it obedient to the Christ; and we are holding ourselves in readiness to inflict punishment for every disobedience, as soon as your own obedience has been fully carried out.”
8, 9. What were some of the violations of God’s law that Paul, Jude, James and Jesus corrected to prevent the Devil from overthrowing the Christian congregation?
8 Further violations of the law and the spirit of Christ that the apostles had to correct were: misunderstandings about the resurrection, some teaching that it was already past, a sort of “spiritual resurrection” of those who were alive instead of an actual resurrection of the dead. (2 Tim. 2:18) Others were flatly saying that there was no resurrection. Just as Paul wrote, in 1 Corinthians 15:12, 35, 36: “Now if Christ is being preached that he has been raised up from the dead, how is it some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? Nevertheless, someone will say: ‘How are the dead to be raised up? Yes, with what sort of body are they coming?’ You unreasonable person! What you sow is not made alive unless first it dies.” Certain Judaizers, calling themselves Christians, were trying to bring the Christians back into bondage to sin by trusting in works of the Mosaic law. This was not because they loved God and his people, but because they feared persecution from the Jews. Paul’s letter to the Galatians acted in correction of this false teaching.—Gal. 5:2-4; 6:12, 13.
9 The letter of Jude, who was not an apostle but a half brother of Jesus Christ, powerfully reproved immorality, with which some who were trying to slip into the congregation were seeking to corrupt it. In Jude 4 we read: “My reason is that certain men have slipped in who have long ago been appointed by the Scriptures to this judgment, ungodly men, turning the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for loose conduct and proving false to our only Owner and Lord, Jesus Christ.” James, another half brother of Jesus, wrote in condemnation of favoritism, saying: “You have class distinctions among yourselves and you have become judges rendering wicked decisions.” (Jas. 2:1-4) Years later, shortly before the death of the apostle John, these bad things were raising their heads in the congregation; Jesus’ message to the seven congregations was strong reproof, as recorded in Revelation 2:6, 14, 15, 20. The Devil fought hard to overthrow the early congregation at its start. As long as the apostles lived as judges and counselors, the congregation was kept clean and the apostasy could not assert itself. But after the death of the apostles it took place. (2 Thess. 2:6-8) As Paul said in Acts 20:29, 30: “I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.”
JUDGES AND COUNSELORS TODAY
10. How can it be said that the final fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy has come?
10 And now the final and grand fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy has come! Jehovah’s organization is again established on a fully theocratic basis, for more than 25,000 congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses all over the world are at complete unity and follow the same law in every congregation. This law is with us in the instruction and counsel of Jesus and his apostles and disciples. The organization is apostolic, that is, operating as it did under the immediate supervision of the apostles. Mature, faithful men are appointed as overseers and ministerial servants to direct the congregation and to handle violations of God’s law.
11. How does the congregation of God’s people today constitute a stronghold for true worship, and what does it provide for those who see this world’s failure?
11 Today the Christian congregation can be kept clean, maintaining God’s favor and preserving unity in accomplishing the work. The earth-wide congregation of God’s people today constitutes a stronghold for true worship. (1 Tim. 3:15) All who see the failure of this world and recognize its injustices may thus come to a place where justice is practiced and may look forward to the time near at hand when God’s law will be enforced throughout the entire earth, dispensing justice and righteousness toward all, never again allowing rebellion to bring about a downfall. Foretelling this, Isaiah 60:17, 18 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. No more will violence be heard in your land, despoiling or breakdown within your boundaries. And you will certainly call your own walls Salvation and your gates Praise.”
12. How are the congregations of God’s people governed today?
12 In these “last days,” when the Christian congregation has reached full maturity, the earthly Kingdom interests have been committed to the “faithful and discreet slave,” God’s “servant” class, made up of the remaining members of the spirit-begotten brothers of Christ on earth. (Matt. 24:45-47) Abiding by the law of Christ as set forth in the Bible, they direct the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses throughout the earth. Through them the holy spirit has appointed men in the congregations according to Bible requirements to take care of matters that may arise in which God’s law is violated. Hence Paul said in Acts 20:28: “Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own Son.”
13. What is the arrangement for taking care of serious violations of God’s law?
13 There are three mature men that usually sit on such a case, namely, the congregation servant or overseer, the assistant congregation servant and the Bible study servant. These must be men who have proved to be faithful and who love justice and mercy. (1 Tim. 3:1-10) Cases of serious wrongdoing that affect the congregation and its standing with God as well as those things that bring reproach on the congregation are handled by these three appointed men known as the “congregation service committee.” These men act in safeguarding the doctrinal and moral purity of the congregation.—1 Tim. 4:11-16; 5:19-21; 6:3-5, 13, 14, 20; Titus 3:9-11.
14. (a) What was the arrangement for handling disputes in the early Christian congregation? (b) Why should not Christians bring lawsuits against one another in worldly courts?
14 In the early Christian congregation there was no privileged class. (Matt. 23:8; Rom. 12:10) Each one had the same opportunity and the same rights before the spiritually appointed overseers. (Prov. 28:21; 1 Tim. 5:21) If there was any difficulty between members of the congregation, they could take the dispute before these men and get a righteous judgment based on God’s law. The apostle Paul counseled that there was no need for Christians to take one another to courts of the world; that they should bring their disputes before the congregation. This was reasonable, because in God’s due time, those whom he had chosen to be joint heirs with Christ in the heavens were going to judge the world, yes, even angels. Therefore, it was actually ignoring the theocratic arrangement and bringing a defeat to themselves as a Christian congregation to institute lawsuits against one another in worldly courts. It was a reproach, a defeat for them. How could they claim to represent God the Judge of all, and his Son Jesus Christ, yes, how could they encourage others to forsake the world and join them if they themselves could not handle their own differences?—1 Cor. 6:1-8.
A CASE FOR ILLUSTRATION
15. (a) What are the two primary purposes of the committee in handling cases of wrongdoing? (b) In the case for illustration, what is the setting?
15 To illustrate how the congregation today expresses judgment against wrongdoing, let us give an abbreviated report of an imaginary case that has come up in a certain congregation. You will notice that the procedure is simple, uncomplicated and informal. The purposes are: (1) To keep the congregation clean in Jehovah’s eyes and free from reproach; (2) to help the offender if possible. All involved are always treated with kindness. The situation involves a dedicated teen-age boy whose parents are Jehovah’s witnesses. He has gone contrary to the counsel of his parents and has fallen into the bad company of some neighborhood boys, leading eventually to stealing. The parents, on discovering this, know that it affects the reputation of the congregation in the community, because not only are the parents Jehovah’s witnesses, but also the son is a dedicated member of the congregation. They bring the matter to the attention of the responsible members of the congregation for correction, so that reproach can be erased from the congregation.
16. (a) What is the attitude of the boy before the committee? (b) How does the committee handle the hearing?
16 The boy, whose stealing was discovered by his parents, had tried to cover up the matter. But before the congregation committee he sees the seriousness of the wrong he has done and confesses it, giving evidence of the spirit of repentance and of his desire to do that which is right. All the evidence, the circumstances and factors in the case are clearly brought into the open. The expressions of the parents, the injured party, and particularly of the boy are heard. It is one of the members of the congregation from whose home he stole some money, in order to go with his worldly friends to a bar and dance hall. The one from whom he stole is willing to forgive the boy because of evident repentance. Then the committee withdraws and discusses the application of God’s law to the facts of the case and speaks again to the family. We hear the congregation overseer, Brother Christian, addressing the boy, whom we will call John Waywardson. (Scriptures are cited to show the principles involved.)
17. How does the congregation servant, Brother Christian, lay a foundation for expressing the committee’s decision?
17 Christian: “John, the committee has considered the evidence in this case and all of the circumstances and factors in connection with it. Now, as you well know, the practice of the thing of which you are guilty could prevent you from entering into the kingdom of God. It’s that serious. [1 Cor. 6:9, 10] It is mandatory for the Christian congregation to keep itself clean from such things, so as to maintain the spirit of Jehovah upon the congregation. [Deut. 23:14] You were in bad company, John, in complete disregard of your parents’ counsel [Eph. 6:1] and even contrary to our warning [Prov. 10:17; 12:1] and thereby you were led into this sin against Jehovah.”
18. (a) How does John seem to express true repentance? (b) What principles does Brother Christian express with regard to John’s action in keeping the matter covered, and as to John’s repentance?
18 The mother and father then talk to the boy about the seriousness of his failure to listen to their counsel and the bad effects of the crowd with whom he has been running. The conversation then runs as follows:
John: “I’m sorry, Dad and Mother. I was altogether in the wrong. I looked for my associations in the wrong place and I admit it now and confess that I have sinned against Jehovah and the congregation. I want to continue serving God as a member of the congregation. I am willing to do whatever the committee says and to take any discipline that is coming to me that will help me to get back into good standing with the congregation, and into the right spiritual state before Jehovah.”
Christian: “All right, John; you have been rebellious; you have sought association among the wrong people. You are nineteen years old now—certainly old enough to take a right course on your own. But you did wrong and tried to keep it covered, and you had to be brought to us by your parents. [Job 31:33] However, it is good that, when you saw how bad your position was before Jehovah, you confessed [Jas. 5:16], and we believe that now you show sadness in a godly way—real repentance. [Prov. 28:13; 2 Cor. 7:9, 10] We believe, too, that you see how bad your actions were and you want to straighten out matters before Jehovah.”
John: “I realize that I didn’t use good sense; I don’t know what got into me to get so far off the track. I realize now that I was really unhappy with what I was doing. And, brothers, I really do want to stay with Jehovah’s organization if I may. As I said before, I am taking steps to pay back what I stole. I’m willing to cooperate with anything that you feel that God’s law requires of me.”
19. (a) How does Brother Christian point out the disobedience to God’s law that was at the root of John’s trouble? (b) On what basis was the committee able to avoid disfellowshiping John?
19 Christian: “Well, John, it’s just as the Bible says: ‘Bad associations spoil useful habits’—it’s as simple as that. [1 Cor. 15:33] This should be a lesson to you. Even though you got into all this trouble you do show that you have a repentant attitude now, and you want to serve with Jehovah’s organization. Therefore, mercy can be extended to you on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice, to cover your sins. [1 John 2:1, 2] So the committee’s decision is not to disfellowship you from the congregation, John. [Jas. 2:13] But we are arranging for a probationary period for you.”
John: “Brother Christian, I appreciate the opportunity to stay with God’s organization, and I’ll do anything you say to try to straighten things out to the extent possible. I know that I could have been disfellowshiped for what I did.”
Christian: “Yes, but now you have come to your senses; you have confessed what you stole and the amount, and you have taken the first step toward doing what is right by agreeing to restore fully what you stole.”
Father: “I’ll see that he does, Brother Christian.”
20. (a) On what basis could the congregation demand that John pay back what he stole, with interest? (b) How could the parents help John, and why does he need to report regularly to a member of the committee? (c) How had John actually become a slave?
20 Christian: “Very fine, Brother Waywardson. You should see that he works, either for you or for someone else, so that he himself earns enough to repay fully, with interest, what he stole. [Ex. 22:3, 7] . . . Now, John, according to God’s law your parents are responsible for you; therefore we are allowing them to supervise this matter and assist you to come back to a healthy spiritual condition. Your parents will need to restrict you on the matter of running with the gang of boys. [Prov. 22:15] They will also help to restore you by seeing that you attend the meetings of the congregation [Heb. 10:24, 25], and will assist you in other ways to make recovery. You will be required to report to me or to one of the other members of the committee once a month. This reporting is not altogether for the purpose of checking up on you, John. It is also that the committee can help you as well as to find what progress you are making [1 Thess. 5:14], in order that the congregation may not come under Jehovah’s disfavor for allowing wrongdoing to go on unchecked among its members. [1 Cor. 5:5, 6] You see, John, instead of being a slave of Jehovah, obeying his law, you actually became a slave to this bad crowd of boys that you were running with. [Rom. 6:16] You thought it was smart to do what they did, and didn’t realize the slavery you were actually in.”
21. (a) What grave danger had John placed himself in by running with the crowd of worldly boys? (b) What will now make John as well as the congregation happy?
21 Father: “Yes, and just think, the way those boys drive their cars! Why, you could have been with them when someone got killed. You could actually have become bloodguilty before Jehovah!”—Num. 35:11, 25, 34.
Christian: “That’s right, John. Well, Brother and Sister Waywardson, if John does what he says he has resolved to do, and if you give him very close attention and help, he should get along well, and how much happier all of us will be!”—Luke 15:7; Jas. 5:19, 20.
22. (a) Is the application of God’s law a complicated matter? (b) What should the committee always try to do if possible, and on what basis is it done?
22 This illustrates the simplicity with which such a case is handled. God’s law, so plain and simple, is adhered to. Wrongdoing cannot be condoned; yet mercy is to be extended if there is found a basis for it when the person’s attitude and the circumstances are taken into consideration. This is where the merit of Christ’s sacrifice comes in.
23. By the extension of mercy to John, what prospects are before him, and why must he not lapse back?
23 If the boy recovers, he will be restored in time to full standing with the congregation. If he lapses back into his bad course of action and is a nonrepentant sinner, a thief or evildoer, or if he persists in consorting with others in wrongdoing, he will be disfellowshiped, that is, expelled from the Christian congregation.—1 Cor. 5:11-13.
24. What has been the result to Jehovah’s witnesses from their care to follow God’s law in keeping the congregation clean?
24 Christians are happy that Jehovah has kindly given to the congregation “gifts in men” in the person of mature ones who understand God’s law and adhere to it as judges and counselors. Jehovah’s witnesses proceed according to the Scriptural outline. They take scrupulous care to see that the organization is kept clean. Jehovah has shown that he is with them by giving them a fine standing before him, and a fine report from people of the world as to their clean morals and law-abiding principles. (1 Tim. 3:7; 1 Pet. 4:15, 16) God is bringing greater and greater spiritual prosperity and increase, tens of thousands joining their ranks each year, dedicating their lives to Jehovah, with life in view in a new order without lawlessness. As it is written in Isaiah 60:22: “The little one himself will become a thousand, and the small one a mighty nation. I myself, Jehovah, shall speed it up in its own time.”
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Letters from the apostles helped early Christians to stay in line with the law of Christ
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Spiritually mature men serve as judges and counselors in the modern-day organization of Jehovah’s witnesses