How Are Christians Spiritually Fed?
HOW does God feed his people, spiritually? Is it done individually, that is, do Christians get their spiritual sustenance as isolated persons, independently, not necessarily associating with other Christians having the true faith? Can they merely study the Bible on their own and serve God on their own?
We can get an answer to these questions by considering what Jesus Christ said to his apostles just three days before his death. In speaking about things to come, he had detailed the events that would constitute the “sign” of his presence when he would return in heavenly power and glory. He warned them to be on the watch for his inspection and judgment of his disciples, whom he called “slaves.” (Matt. 24:1-44) He could use this term toward them because he would soon purchase them by his own blood.—1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23.
THE “SLAVE” AND THE “DOMESTICS”
In connection with his warning, Jesus also 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?”—Matt. 24:45.
“Domestics” are house servants or slaves. As members of God’s household, such would be fed as a group, working with one another, knowing, associating with and helping one another. We will note, as we consider Jesus’ illustrative statement, that the term “slave” (singular number) here considers all the house servants together as a body, and that the expression “domestics” (plural) views them as individuals.
This view of a group of people, yes, even of a whole nation, as a slave or servant, was not new to Jesus’ disciples. Jehovah God himself had spoken several times to the nation of Israel as his servant. He said: “You, O Israel, are my servant, you, O Jacob, whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend; you, whom I have taken hold of from the extremities of the earth, and you, whom I have called even from the remote parts of it. And so I said to you, ‘You are my servant; I have chosen you, and I have not rejected you.’” (Isa. 41:8, 9) Making clear that this composite “servant” is made up of many individuals, the Creator said to the nation of Israel: “‘You are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘even my servant whom I have chosen.’ . . . And now listen, O Jacob my servant, and you, O Israel, whom I have chosen. This is what Jehovah has said, . . . ‘Have I not from that time on caused you individually to hear and told it out? And you are my witnesses.’”—Isa. 43:10; 44:1-8; also Isa 42:19; 44:21; 48:20; 49:3; Jer. 30:10.
After God’s rejection of natural Israel as his servant because of their disobedience, who would then become his servant, his earthly instrument, his witnesses in the earth? Let us see what the apostle Paul says about this. It was about the years 50-52 C.E. that Paul wrote concerning the matter to the Christian congregations in Galatia. The new covenant, replacing the Law covenant, had been in operation since Pentecost of the year 33 C.E. The Christian congregation had therefore been functioning for about eighteen years. To the Galatian Christians, Paul said: “Neither is circumcision anything nor is uncircumcision, but a new creation is something. And all those who will walk orderly by this rule of conduct, upon them be peace and mercy, even upon the Israel of God.”—Gal. 6:15, 16.
The Christian congregation was made up of the people who walked orderly by that rule regarding a “new creation.” As a united congregation it thus was God’s “servant,” just as Israel of old had been. Therefore, the passage at Isaiah 43:10 could be directed in a spiritual way to the congregation as the “Israel of God”: “‘You are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘even my servant.’”
WHEN THE “SLAVE” CLASS BEGAN
When did this faithful “slave” come into existence? At Pentecost, 33 C.E. The first 120 persons upon whom holy spirit was poured out immediately set to work feeding the others invited to God’s spiritual feast, namely, the Jews, 3,000 of whom accepted the spiritual “food” offered and got baptized. After this the 3,000 continued to take in spiritual food until they were well strengthened. Many then went back to their homes in other lands, establishing congregations and continuing to associate together and to keep in harmony with the true teaching of the apostles.—Acts 2:1-4, 37-42.
Less than three and a half years later the feeding efforts of the “faithful and discreet slave” were extended to the Gentiles when Peter explained the good news to Cornelius and his household. As new disciples came in, they as “domestics” joined in feeding others. An arrangement was made whereby the apostles, notably Paul and the associate “domestics” traveling with him, fed many persons in other lands. They carried out Jesus’ words: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.”—Matt. 28:19, 20.
To give lasting aid in the spiritual feeding work, the apostles and other first-century disciples of Jesus Christ were inspired by God to write twenty-seven books making up the Christian Greek Scriptures. These, together with the already-existing Hebrew Scriptures, provided the spiritual food in writing for them then, and for Christians down to this day.
Jesus had said: “Look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 28:20) Jesus Christ is the Head of the congregation, his slave, and his words show that he would strengthen them to feed his “domestics” right down through the centuries. Apparently one generation of the “slave” class fed the succeeding generation thereof, as well as continuing to feed themselves.
Someone may ask, ‘How can the “slave,” who is composed of the “domestics,” feed the “domestics”? That would amount to the “slave” feeding itself.’ This might be illustrated by a family that moves to a farm. One of their first needs is provision for food. Does the father provide all the food and put it into the mouths of the rest? No. Each family member performs a different task. One may do the plowing. Others may work to dig a well. Some engage in planting. Some take care of the cattle and the dairy. Of course, all may help in certain features of the work. Likely all would engage in the harvest. Then, the women would do canning for future feeding. They would cook and serve the food to the family. Now, no one individual could have provided so well. But with family effort, all are well fed. As a family they are one body, just as the “faithful and discreet slave.” But as individuals they are workers in producing and serving food, as “domestics” in a household. A similar illustration given by the apostle Paul at 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 is that of a physical human body and its members.
THE “SLAVE” CLASS IN MODERN TIMES
About this “slave,” Jesus said: “Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so.” (Matt. 24:46) Here Jesus spoke about his returning to inspect his “slave” class as to whether they were “doing so,” that is, feeding his domestics their food at the proper time. Who would that “slave” be today?
On the basis of the rule stated by Jesus: “By its fruit the tree is known,” we can determine who that “slave” is. (Matt. 12:33) Nineteen centuries ago, when the “faithful and discreet slave” class was first formed, it declared the good news of God’s Messianic kingdom and the coming destruction of the Jewish system of things. Only this faithful class produced true Kingdom fruitage. Though persecuted, it survived the turbulent period of time that came in initial fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy at Matthew 24:4-22, Mark 13:5-20 and Luke 21:8-24.
In the year 1914 C.E. the time of the complete fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy on the “sign of [his] presence and of the conclusion of the system of things” began. The “faithful and discreet slave” should therefore be very active in this urgent time of the end preaching the Messianic kingdom of God and the conclusion of this present world system. And, like the “slave” class of the first century, they should be surviving in spite of widespread persecution. Who is doing this today? Who is producing the right Christian fruitage? The facts point to the small body of anointed members of Christ’s true congregation on earth at this time. They have vigorously provided spiritual food from God’s Word, keeping up their own spirituality.
Moreover, the modern-day “slave” has brought into association with himself about 2,000,000 other persons. He has indeed proved to be Jehovah’s “servant,” his witnesses. The associates of this “slave” have hope of living forever in a paradisaic earth. They are bountifully fed by the “faithful and discreet slave.” The spiritual food they receive is food “at the proper time,” because never were conditions so critical and the need to flee from this system of things and to trust in God’s provision for survival so urgent.
We see, then, that Jesus Christ himself called attention to this method of feeding his people—not as isolated, independent individuals, but as a close-knit body of Christians having real love and care for one another. This is true today among the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses in all lands. It must be so now, for certainly, during Christ’s thousand-year reign over earth, the people will be at unity, cooperating in the beautifying of the earth. In no other way can there be happiness and the producing of the fruitage of the spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” (Gal. 5:22, 23) Only with these qualities operating in people can there be peace and full enjoyment of living upon this earth.