Do You Appreciate the “Gifts in Men”?
ON THE night before Jesus’ death, he told his disciples: “I shall not leave you bereaved.” He then promised to send them a helper, God’s holy spirit, which would act on their minds and hearts as a reminder and teacher and would also be a witness-bearer about Christ. (John 14:18, 26; 15:26) Christ, in heaven, would be their Head and would direct them. God gave no man or body of men this headship, but reserved it for his Son.—Col. 1:18.
Besides holy spirit, Christ also used angels to serve his congregation on earth. (Heb. 1:13, 14) But he did something else for which we can be thankful. One of his apostles wrote: “When he ascended on high he carried away captives; he gave gifts in men.” (Eph. 4:8) The writer here paraphrased Psalm 68:18 and applied it to Jesus Christ as Jehovah’s Chief Agent. Jesus ascended to heaven, having “conquered the world” by his integrity-keeping course. He also triumphed over death and over Satan the Devil by reason of God’s resurrecting him from the dead. (John 16:33; Heb. 2:10, 14; Acts 2:24) Like a conqueror Jesus took “captives” from the enemy. These “captives” were men who had been in slavery to sin and death. They were now usable to God. Christ could now offer these “captives” of his (they are also called “slaves,” as at Ephesians 6:6) to be devoted to the service of Jehovah God and his Christian congregation.
In what way are these “captives,” given by Christ as Head, “gifts in men”? They are men with abilities needed for the well-being of the congregation. These men have become servants of God, whose spirit moves them to devote themselves vigorously and wholeheartedly to Jehovah. All Christian men have this opportunity, but some exercise greater faith and zeal. Jesus Christ observes their course of “reaching out” for wider service. (1 Tim. 3:1) He wants men of such faith for use in the congregation. Through God’s holy spirit he accentuates and enhances the abilities they have to teach, to shepherd the flock of God, to help, to encourage and to take the lead, with a view to the readjustment of those in the congregation toward greater harmony with God’s will. Christ equips them to do special ministerial work, to take care of certain congregational duties. Their purpose is to help the Christian brothers and sisters to grow in spirituality, that the spirit of God may have freer operation in the congregation. These “gifts in men” work toward the unity of the congregation, until “all attain to the oneness in the faith . . . to the measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ.”—Eph. 4:11-13.
Today we find these “gifts in men” serving as elders and ministerial servants. These men realize that they are not ‘rulers’ or “masters” of the congregation, nor are they fathers, but are brothers, “fellow workers.” (1 Cor. 4:8; 2 Cor. 1:24) They are to ‘take the lead’ in doing what is right, preaching the word of God, reproving, exhorting and teaching, but not ruling or imposing their consciences on others. (Heb. 13:7; 2 Tim. 4:2) Their work is to slave for their brothers, “in order that we [in the congregation] should no longer be babes, tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in contriving error.”—Eph. 4:14; Gal. 5:13.
HARMONY AS A BODY
So the elders in the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses recognize that they, along with every other member of the congregation, are like ‘joints’ or members of a body, as the apostle says: “Let us by love grow up in all things into him who is the head, Christ. From him all the body, by being harmoniously joined together and being made to cooperate through every joint that gives what is needed, according to the functioning of each respective member in due measure, makes for the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”—Eph. 4:15, 16.
A joint or a member of the body relies also on the other joints and other members for sustenance and useful operation. Thus, all the members of the body, including elders and ministerial servants, are dependent on one another. They realize that God’s spirit, not their own ability, accomplishes God’s will, through the wholehearted spirit of the brothers. The elders’ work is to encourage that wholehearted spirit. Also, they see that it is not primarily through organizational efficiency, but “by being harmoniously joined together” in the uniting bond of love by the operation of Jehovah’s spirit, that spiritual growth, smooth functioning and increase come.—Col. 3:14.
All the brothers and sisters, as part of the congregational body, have a definite part in the body’s harmonious working. They recognize these fine “gifts in men” as those to whom obedience is due, for the good of the congregational body. (Heb. 13:17) Each shares in functioning “in due measure,” according to his or her faith, circumstances and ability, cooperating with “every joint that gives what is needed.” Thus all the congregation is happy, with no “sore” spots or places of friction.
Is it not wonderful wisdom on the part of Christ as Head of the congregation to provide these “gifts in men”? Is it not comforting to have men to help us, brothers of ours, who work alongside us and have the same problems and experiences that we have? Do we not feel warmth toward them and appreciate that they have given themselves to the influence of God’s spirit so that their natural abilities have been increased and turned in the direction of service to God and to all of us?
A gift is given to supply a need, or to make someone happy. Certainly Christ had these things in mind in giving the “gifts in men.” Elders and ministerial servants should therefore work for the joy and happiness of all the members of the congregation. They should avoid making themselves feared by the brothers. Neither should they consider themselves as “benefactors” to whom the brothers are somehow indebted, for they are not to be like the rulers of this world’s system of things. (Luke 22:25, 26) Christ is the Benefactor to whom all are indebted. He administers the affairs of the congregation for our happiness. His ‘yoke is kindly and his load is light.’—Matt. 11:30; 1 Tim. 6:15.
All in the congregation should therefore thank Jehovah God through Christ for this arrangement, so different from that of this world. Proper appreciation can help us to come to the “accurate knowledge of the Son of God,” and to recognize him fully as the Head of the congregation. This will keep us in the right relationship to Jehovah God—surely the primary goal of all true Christians!—Eph. 4:13; Jer. 9:23, 24.