Cooperating Fully with God’s Appointed Ones
“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.
1. What do all lovers or righteousness yearn to see? How is this possible?
ARE you a person who loves righteousness and justice? If so, does not your heart yearn to see hatred and violence pass away, peace prevail and happiness replace gloom? All of this and more is possible through God’s kingdom, by which the affairs of this earth will be fully directed. (Isa. 11:3-5; Matt. 6:9, 10; Rev. 21:1-4) Is that not what you personally want to see, a completely new system replacing this old, dying system where selfishness and sin predominate? Can you picture in your mind anyone but Almighty God performing the mighty task of building a completely new system on the ashes of the old, and that within our generation?—Dan. 2:44; Prov. 29:2.
2. How do we know the new system is very near? Where can we go for details?
2 It is not our purpose to discuss chronology here, yet feel free to ask any of Jehovah’s witnesses to show you from the Scriptures the evidence that we are just a few short years away from the completion of six thousand years of man’s existence on earth, and ask them what they think this means in terms of real freedom and liberation from God’s viewpoint. They will be happy to share this information with you.a
“NEW SYSTEM” WILL REQUIRE COOPERATION
3. Describe some of the monumental tasks that will need to be performed in the new system.
3 Let your mind dwell for a moment, please, on some of the monumental tasks that will need to be accomplished in that new, divine system of things. For one thing, a vast educational program will be required to teach a new language to the millions of resurrected dead as they come forth from the graves. (John 5:28, 29) And, further, think of the work required in order to transform the hearts and minds of these people, many of whom have never heard of the Bible, or of God’s laws and purposes for mankind. Then, think of the program that will be inaugurated in order to transform this earth of ours into the lovely garden that God has purposed. When one thinks of how long it takes to clear just one acre of ground, cultivate the soil and plant it so that it will bring forth shrubs and trees and other plants in a manner that makes that area worthy of being called a garden park, one gets some idea of the colossal undertaking to transform the whole earth into a global paradise with sufficient food-producing areas to sustain a comfortable population on the earth.—Gen. 1:28; Ps. 72:16; 67:6; Ezek. 34:27.
4, 5. (a) For 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 to be fulfilled, what must Christ’s kingly rule successfully accomplish? (b) Describe the satisfaction that the King will surely have at that time.
4 And, just think, all of this must be done in a period of one thousand years so that the prophecy will be fulfilled: “Next, the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has brought to nothing all government and all authority and power [in opposition to God]. For he must rule as king until God has put all enemies under his feet. As the last enemy, death is to be brought to nothing. For God ‘subjected all things under his feet.’ But when he says that ‘all things have been subjected,’ it is evident that it is with the exception of the one who subjected all things to him. But when all things will have been subjected to him, then the Son himself will also subject himself to the One who subjected all things to him, that God may be all things to everyone.” (1 Cor. 15:24-28) Obviously, for this prophecy to be fulfilled, the whole earth will have to be transformed into a global paradise, even as was purposed in the beginning, and that within a period of one thousand years.—Rev. 20:2-6.
5 Think, too, of the pleasure and satisfaction it will give Jesus Christ as the director and coordinator of all these works to say to his heavenly Father, in effect: ‘Here it is, Father. The assignment you gave me has been completed. The earth has been made a paradise like Eden. The dead in Sheol have all been resurrected, trained and disciplined. Mankind has been brought to perfection. All the things you have asked me to do have now been accomplished, and all on time!’
6. What conclusions may we draw from this brief glimpse of the future?
6 Now, what does this brief foreglimpse teach us? Among other things, it emphasizes that the vast work ahead of us that needs to be accomplished will require organization, unity, skilled workers, willing hearts, fine administrators and, above all, Jehovah’s spirit and blessing to get it done on time. Is this not one of the reasons why God is providing loving oversight for us today, namely, that such oversight can prepare us for working and producing in the new system of the future that is so near?—John 15:5, 8; Col. 2:19.
BE OBEDIENT TO THOSE TAKING THE LEAD
7. What question comes up as to our attitude toward oversight and discipline now and in the future?
7 Hence, what should be the attitude of all servants of God toward direction, oversight and discipline that come through the Christian congregation today? Let us learn not only what our attitude should be, but what rewards will accrue from having the right viewpoint toward direction and discipline now and in the future.—Heb. 12:5-11.
8. (a) Although all human overseers make mistakes, why can we trust those appointed to be overseers in the Christian congregation? (b) How does Hebrews 13:17 provide us with food for thought and direction along these lines? (c) Explain “accountability” and its effects.
8 For one thing, we want to remember that we are human, and all humans make mistakes. (Ps. 51:5) Yet, dedicated Christians, especially overseers and ministerial servants, are trained to be kind, loving, helpful, and yet decisive. These qualities of loving-kindness, mercy and justice are identifying marks of mature Christians. (John 13:35; Mic. 6:8) Should not our hearts be moved to trust men like those? In fact, the apostle Paul urges us to be submissive to them, writing at Hebrews 13:17: “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.” Now, as we reason on this scripture, we notice that these overseers must make an accounting for our souls, that is, our lives. When someone realizes that he is accountable to someone higher than he is, generally that one thinks before speaking or acting. He certainly does not want to act recklessly.
9. What does 2 Chronicles 19:6, 7 teach those who have the responsibility of judging and counseling?
9 Jehovah, from ancient times, has urged humans charged with the responsibility to judge, guide and direct, to think before acting. How well this principle is enunciated at 2 Chronicles 19:6, 7: “And he went on to say to the judges: ‘See what you are doing, because it is not for man that you judge but it is for Jehovah; and he is with you in the matter of judgment. And now let the dread of Jehovah come to be upon you. Be careful and act, for with Jehovah our God there is no unrighteousness or partiality or taking of a bribe.”’ Thus the carefulness, the weighing of the facts, the judging of all the evidence always precedes the acting, that is, the deciding, the rendering of the verdict.
10. (a) Is it easy to be an overseer? Explain. (b) Why should we not be apprehensive about the oversight provided in the Christian congregation? (c) How vital is it to have such loving oversight?
10 It is not easy to be an elder, a shepherd, an overseer, or a judge. Making wise decisions for the benefit of God’s people requires discernment, knowledge, and understanding. (Prov. 2:3-5) And in many respects, because of the human element, not all persons are easy to deal with. Perhaps you are one who resists counsel, at least to some extent. Perhaps you have not been associated with Jehovah’s organization very long. Or, you may be one who is studying with Jehovah’s people, and you are somewhat apprehensive about discipline and adjustment you are asked to make in your life from the human standard to which you have been accustomed. Do not be afraid of the loving oversight exercised by Jehovah’s organization. Not only is it preparing us for life in the new system of things; it is invaluable in aiding us now to get along with one another in our imperfect state today. (Ps. 141:5) When one thinks of the pressures that come upon us in this old system, where tempers flare, where some misuse their tongues to gossip, where self-control is a word little understood and less employed, we can appreciate how vital it is to have loving oversight and direct counsel from those who are spiritually older. (Prov. 1:22, 30, 33) The skillful direction and loving help of elders result in a marvelous blend of diversified talents and personalities all combined to accomplish the most important work on earth today, namely, the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom before it is too late.—Matt. 24:14.
HOW TO RESTORE THOSE TAKING FALSE STEPS
11. (a) Why must those with responsibility as teachers use their tongues wisely? (b) Should an overseer hold back counsel when he sees error? Explain.
11 Remember, too, it is not easy to give counsel. One entrusted with responsibility, called upon to teach or counsel, must weigh what he says. (Jas. 3:1) The tongue can injure and hurt as well as heal. (Jas. 3:5-10) But overseers of God’s people must not hold back when they see error. No doubt this is why Paul wrote: “Brothers, even though a man takes some false step before he is aware of it, you who have spiritual qualifications try to readjust such a man in a spirit of mildness, as you each keep an eye on yourself, for fear you also may be tempted.”—Gal. 6:1.
12. (a) Is Galatians 6:1 directed only to overseers? Explain. (b) If we become aware of a serious sin, how could we handle the situation? (c) What cooperation can be expected from those who are truly loyal to God when they observe sinful conduct within the Christian congregation?
12 Is this scripture directed to overseers or elders alone? No, for if anyone sees one of his fellow workers taking some false step before he is aware of it, it is his responsibility to try to restore such a person in a spirit of mildness. Really, it would be loving on our part to do so. If the sin is serious, we would properly tell the wrongdoer to report this to the responsible overseers in the congregation promptly, and that if he did not do so, we ourselves would be duty-bound out of loyal attachment to Jehovah’s organization to bring the matter to the attention of the congregation’s judicial committee. (1 Cor. 5:9-13; Ps. 31:23) One who loves righteousness and is truly loyal to God will courageously step forward and expose any grossly sinful conduct of which he is a witness within the congregation and he will freely testify to the truth of the matter when called upon to do so.—Lev. 5:1; Eph. 4:24; Luke 1:74, 75.
13. Explain how love helps us in the Christian congregation.
13 Of course, when we consider the matter of getting along with one another and cooperating with those in positions of oversight, we are often reminded of the loving attitude all of us should have toward one another. In fact, love should cover a multitude of sins, and when one has a loving attitude toward his fellowman, he can forgive and forget. Love truly works wonders. (1 Pet. 4:8; 1 Cor. 13:4, 5) However, sometimes love moves dedicated Christians not to ignore a wrong but to endeavor to help the wrongdoer because the problem may be very serious. What, then, is the formula for settling serious differences between individuals?
‘LAY BARE YOUR BROTHER’S SIN’—WHEN AND HOW?
14. (a) What steps did Jesus outline for handling cases of sin against a person, which cases are too serious to be overlooked? (b) What would it mean for one to be viewed “as a man of the nations and as a tax collector”?
14 Jesus gave counsel concerning sins that might be committed against a person and that are considered as too serious in nature to be overlooked. He said: “If your brother commits a sin, go lay bare his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two more, in order that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. If he does not listen to them, speak to the congregation. If he does not listen even to the congregation, let him be to you just as a man of the nations and as a tax collector.” (Matt. 18:15-17) Jesus’ listeners, being Jewish, knew that for others of his people to look upon a Jew “as a man of the nations and as a tax collector” would mean his being viewed as cast out of the Jewish congregation.
15. How might a minor personal offense beneficially be handled, but was this the type of offense that Jesus was here discussing?
15 Since the steps that Jesus set forth could lead to such a serious consequence, he was obviously not setting out a formula for the handling of every petty offense against an individual. Of course, many times it is the proper and wise and very helpful thing to go and talk to someone where personal difficulty exists because of some minor offense, doing this with the aim of healing any breach that seems to be developing. (Matt. 6:14, 15; Prov. 12:18) Many misunderstandings are cleared up in this way. But evidently this was not what Jesus was speaking of at this time. He referred, not to mere personal differences, but to offenses serious enough to merit one’s expulsion from the congregation.
16. Before initiating the procedure outlined at Matthew 18:15-17, what caution is in order?
16 Before ever you would initiate the procedure set out at Matthew 18:15-17, then, you should have definite proof that such a serious sin was indeed committed against you. Jesus did not say, ‘If you think your brother has sinned.’ You should consider the counsel at Proverbs 25:8-10 so that you do not start something that will only bring shame and humiliation upon you yourself. Even where the proof exists, you should not spread the matter abroad, gossiping about it, but should go to the offender privately and “lay bare his fault between you and him alone.”
17. What is meant in this scripture by ‘gaining’ one’s brother?
17 If your brother “listens,” accepting your reproof, then “you have gained your brother.” Does this refer simply to effecting a personal reconciliation? No, but as the rest of Jesus’ counsel shows, it must mean ‘gaining him’ in the sense of helping him to stay within the congregation, turning him back from a course that could lead to his being expelled therefrom, with accompanying loss of God’s favor and blessing. So the ‘gaining’ of your brother would be in the sense described at James 5:19, 20, Galatians 6:1 and Jude 22, 23. This, in fact, should be your principal aim and desire—not that of getting personal relief or satisfaction for some offense.
18. What offenses were not covered by the instructions here given by Jesus, and why not?
18 Where the sinner accepts reproof and seeks forgiveness, Jesus states, there is no need to carry the matter farther. This fact shows that, although serious, the offenses here discussed were limited in nature to such as could be settled between the individuals involved. This would not include such offenses as fornication, adultery, homosexuality, blasphemy, apostasy, idolatry and similar grave sins, for under the Law covenant then in force, these sins required more than forgiveness from an offended individual.—1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Gal. 5:19-21.
19. The sins here under consideration were of what nature, and what indicates this?
19 In view of this, and in view of the illustration that Jesus subsequently gave, as recorded at Matthew 18:21-35, the sins here considered evidently were sins such as those involving financial or property matters—failing to make proper payment for something, some action involving a measure of fraud—or perhaps damaging one’s reputation by actual slander, or similar sins. In these cases, if the offender recognized his wrong, expressed willingness to right it to the extent possible, and sought forgiveness, the matter could be settled by the offended one’s granting forgiveness.—Compare Matthew 5:25, 26; Luke 12:58.
20. (a) If the wrongdoer does not respond favorably when you speak to him alone, what further step must be taken? (b) Who would be the “one or two” others that you would take along with you?
20 But what if you take this initial step and the one sinning does not respond? Due to the seriousness of the offense, you cannot simply dismiss the matter. Jesus’ counsel shows that you should seek out one or two others and return to talk to the offender. Reasonably these should be witnesses to the wrong. They do not go as mere neutral observers or mediators trying to effect a reconciliation or compromise solution. Instead, you take them with you so that because of having witnessed the wrong, they can then add their testimony to yours. They can also serve as hearers of what is then said. If the matter takes a further step and comes before “the congregation” and the offender denies or alters certain statements or admissions made, these others can give their testimony and bring out the facts. Hopefully this further step will not be necessary and the individual will respond to the combined efforts made to restore him to a course of righteousness. If so, then the matter is closed.
21. What further step may yet be necessary, with what possible outcomes?
21 If the offender still refuses to admit his guilt, then what? The matter should now be brought to the attention of the responsible members of the congregation, those of the body of elders assigned to serve in a judicial capacity. It is hoped that the individual will now listen to their official judgment and be “gained” as a person fit to remain in the congregation. If not, then he is disfellowshiped, thereafter to be treated as an outsider.—Matt. 18:17.
COOPERATION IN OTHER MATTERS
22. Name some of the kind things that individual ministers in a congregation can do on their own initiative. What will such actions do for the congregation?
22 Cooperation with God’s appointed ones takes many forms, all of which work for unity and harmony within the Christian congregation. At this point it might be good to mention some of the things individual ministers can do on their own initiative. It does not take much to see that each Christian has a responsibility toward someone who is ill, someone who needs encouragement, or perhaps someone who is in the hospital. Should we have to go to the presiding overseer to ask him if there is something we can do when such situations exist? If, for example, a Christian woman has been ill and has just recently come out of the hospital and is recuperating, is it not evident that quite likely she needs some sort of help? She may need hot meals brought to her. She may need someone to clean her home, or to read to her and encourage her, or to give her family physical or spiritual aid. How close this makes us feel toward one another, and how Christlike such actions on our part would be!—Jas. 1:27; 2:14-17.
23. Outline other services we could willingly perform, showing our love for those in the Christian congregation.
23 Then, too, think of keeping the Kingdom Hall clean and in good repair. Sometimes these responsibilities fall to a few in the congregation. Could you cooperate, helping out in this regard, perhaps even volunteering to do so? Or is there someone spiritually ill you could encourage or help? Is there someone who is missing meetings or who does not appear to have the same joy in the field ministry he once had? Are only the elders to show an interest in such ones? Certainly not. Without prying into one’s personal affairs, could you be of spiritual encouragement and help to such an individual? Sometimes just visiting such ones in their homes, without going there to find out what is wrong with them, is comforting, and in the process of the conversation often the problem is divulged, and then appropriate spiritual help can be given. How many things we can do if we are moved by love for all in the congregation!
24. (a) What should be the desire of every lover of righteousness today? (b) What benefits are there from getting accustomed to the control and loving oversight of Jehovah’s appointed ones today.
24 Without a question of doubt, we live in extraordinary times. Dedicated Christians and those studying the Bible with them realize that the “great tribulation” is coming. (Matt. 24:21, 22) That time is very near. We see God’s favor upon his congregation. Surely it should be the desire of every lover of righteousness to line up fully with the Christian congregation. But, it seems that some associated with the Christian congregation are not truly wholehearted in their service or as obedient to Jehovah as they could be. Many things distract such ones, and they appear to have “one foot in the old system,” so to speak. What about such ones in just a few short years from now? Will they be there? Then there will be no old system of things at all, but God’s kingdom will be in full control over the earth and its affairs. When we have dealings with people then, they will all be our brothers or people who are being taught to live in the new system of things. We will all be governed by Jehovah’s law of love. (Jas. 2:8) With a view to life then, it is wise to get accustomed to the shepherding and loving oversight of Jehovah’s appointed ones in the Christian congregation today. (1 Thess. 5:12, 13) This will most assuredly give us a grand head start in the new system of things, where there will be no elements of this old system of things remaining at all. Really, then, there are compelling reasons for each one of us to come under the loving oversight of the Christian congregation today, working together, transforming our hearts and minds, making whatever physical, emotional and spiritual adjustments are necessary to please Jehovah.—Rom. 12:1, 2.
25. What makes Jehovah’s people such a happy throng today?
25 Truly, Jehovah’s Christian congregation is a marvel. It is not perfect in the absolute or final sense, but it certainly is perfectly devoted to Jehovah and displays his qualities of loving-kindness, mercy and justice. The contaminated atmosphere of the old system of things is death-dealing. The pure atmosphere of the new system of things is life-giving. How happy it should make all of us, as well as all interested persons who love righteousness, to know that through the loving oversight provided by Jehovah, his King-Son Jesus Christ, and the “faithful and discreet slave” class, we are being instructed, corrected and protected as we walk along together and cooperate with one another, helping one another to gain entrance into the new system of things by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness!
a For details see chapter one, “Why Human Creation Will Yet Be Set Free,” in the book Life Everlasting—in Freedom of the Sons of God.
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Helping to clean the Kingdom Hall is one of the many ways to cooperate with the appointed overseers