“The Lord Be with the Spirit You Show”
“The Lord be with the spirit you show. His undeserved kindness be with you people.”—2 Tim. 4:22.
1, 2. How might a person’s spirit be defined? Please illustrate this by Scriptural examples. (Philem. 25)
EVERYONE has a certain spirit. That is, he has a particular disposition, inclination or motivating force. Hence, it is not surprising that people often become well known for the motivation behind what they say and do.
2 The Holy Scriptures mention the qualities of some individuals that moved them to action. To illustrate: Jehovah God’s prophet Moses is described as “by far the meekest of all the men who were upon the surface of the ground.” (Num. 12:3) Abigail, who eventually became the wife of Israel’s King David, was “good in discretion.”—1 Sam. 25:3, 39.
3. (a) Why should Christians have a fine spirit? (b) What was Paul’s desire regarding Timothy’s spirit?
3 True Christians have put on the “new personality” and should therefore have a fine spirit. After all, they have clothed themselves with such motivating forces as love, compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness and long-suffering. They cultivate and demonstrate the fruits of God’s spirit—love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness and self-control. (Gal. 5:22, 23; Eph. 4:20-24; Col. 3:9-14) Certainly, within the Christian congregation personal attitudes are important, for the apostle Paul, in writing to his co-worker Timothy, expressed himself this way: “The Lord be with the spirit you show. His undeserved kindness be with you people.” (2 Tim. 4:22) Paul desired that God, by the Lord Jesus Christ approve the actuating force displayed by Timothy.
THE “SPIRIT” OF A CONGREGATION
4. (a) Does a congregation have a spirit? (b) In this connection, what is desirable?
4 Just as a person manifests a particular spirit, so an entire congregation of God’s people has a certain spirit. It is very likely that an observant person will notice the effects of that force at work in their minds and hearts, perhaps producing a spirit of friendliness, love, or one of tranquillity and peace, or of zeal and enthusiasm. Of course, the spirit could be one that produces negative effects. But what a blessing when that spirit is a fine one! Obviously, the apostle Paul desired that the congregations display such a spirit. To the congregation of Christians in the city of Philippi, he wrote: “The undeserved kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ be with the spirit you show.” (Phil. 4:23) The apostle expressed himself similarly when writing to Galatian Christians.—Gal. 6:18.
5. An excellent congregational spirit might have what features?
5 Are you one of Jehovah’s Witnesses? If so, what is the spirit of the congregation with which you are associating? It may be an excellent spirit. The congregation may be very responsive to counsel from the Scriptures. Moreover, it may have a loving, warm, cooperative, hospitable spirit. Those associated with the congregation may be very spiritual in their viewpoint. In that case, ‘the undeserved kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ is with the spirit you people show.’—Philem. 25.
SAVING THE CONGREGATION’S SPIRIT
6. What kind of improper condition was being tolerated in the Corinthian congregation?
6 Such a fine spirit should be maintained. The importance of preserving a congregation’s spirit was emphasized in ancient Corinth. The apostle Paul learned that among the Christians in that city sexual immorality was being tolerated, “such fornication as is not even among the nations, that a wife a certain man has of his father.”—1 Cor. 5:1.
7, 8. Why, according to Paul, was it necessary to disfellowship the immoral Corinthian?
7 Overseers of that congregation had not expelled this person, but Paul urged them to “hand such a man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.” They were to put him out of the Christian congregation into the world ruled by Satan the Devil and where destruction awaits. (1 John 5:19) Why take this action? As Paul said, “in order that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord,” Jesus Christ.—1 Cor. 5:3-5.
8 This man had to be disfellowshiped if the “spirit,” or spirituality of the congregation, based upon God’s Word, was to be saved. Otherwise, ‘a little leaven would ferment the whole lump,’ that is, a spiritually corrupting influence would permeate the congregation and Jehovah would cut off that congregation. Today it is just as vital that the congregation’s spirit, based on Jehovah’s inspired Word, be saved.—1 Cor. 5:6.
EARLY CHRISTIAN CONGREGATION—PATTERN FOR TODAY
9. The first-century congregations in general displayed what spirit?
9 True, elders of the first-century congregations had to be vigilant spiritually if the ‘spirit was to be saved.’ Admittedly, problems arose at times. Nevertheless, nothing abounds with greater warmth, love and real mutual concern than the spirit of early Christian congregations in general. Jesus Christ had declared: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) Such love was being manifested constantly. For instance, the apostle John spoke of his fellow worshiper Gaius as “the beloved, whom I truly love.”—3 John 1.
10. What kind of relationship did the apostles have with fellow believers?
10 The apostles were working with their brothers and sisters in the faith, not browbeating them. They were not issuing harsh commands. Rather, these men made appeals to the hearts of fellow believers. Fittingly, Christian associates were referred to as “brothers,” “beloved ones” and “sharers . . . in the undeserved kindness.” (Phil. 1:7; 4:8; 1 Pet. 4:12; 1 John 4:1) This loving attitude was based on deep interest in the spiritual welfare of others as fellow heirs of life.—Jas. 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:7.
HUMBLE, LOVING OVERSEERS
11. How would you describe the apostle Paul’s attitude toward his spiritual brothers and sisters? (1 Thess. 2:7)
11 The love and mutual regard permeating the first-century congregations reflected the inner qualities of the early Christians as individuals. Take the traveling overseer Paul as an example. His heart had “widened out” to encompass affectionately fellow believers in Corinth. (2 Cor. 6:11-13) Moreover, he had a heart full of love for his spiritual brothers and sisters everywhere. No wonder that daily there rushed in on him “the anxiety for all the congregations”!—2 Cor. 11:28.
12, 13. (a) With what spirit did Paul admonish Christian elders in Ephesus? (b) With what reaction did the elders of Ephesus respond when Paul bade them farewell?
12 Was Paul arrogant, domineering, thus lording it over other worshipers of Jehovah? Certainly not! For instance, he did not scold and make authoritarian demands when admonishing Christian elders in Ephesus. His appeals to them were based on love. Those overseers knew that the apostle spoke the truth when he said: “Bear in mind that for three years, night and day, I did not quit admonishing each one with tears.” (Acts 20:18, 19, 31) What a sincere and humble elder! And that is the spirit his Lord expected him to display, for Jesus Christ had said: “You know that the rulers 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.
13 Now, please think about the overseers of Ephesus themselves. Were they cool, aloof? No, indeed! That is not the picture portrayed in God’s Word. When Paul was about to bid them farewell at Miletus, we are told: “He kneeled down with all of them and prayed. Indeed, quite a bit of weeping broke out among them all, and they fell upon Paul’s neck and tenderly kissed him, because they were especially pained at the word he had spoken that they were going to behold his face no more.” (Acts 20:36-38) Only loving and humble persons would act that way. Certainly, ‘the Lord was with the spirit they showed.’
THE SPIRIT THAT OTHERS MANIFESTED
14. Lydia manifested what particular trait?
14 But what about others associated with the early Christian congregation? The fine spirit displayed by many of them, as disclosed in Scripture, furnishes an excellent example for Christians today. For instance, among the first persons to embrace Christianity in Europe were Lydia and her household, residents of Philippi. Lydia accepted the good news preached by Paul, was baptized, and immediately displayed hospitable qualities. “If you men have judged me to be faithful to Jehovah,” she said, “enter into my house and stay.” In fact, Paul’s traveling companion Luke wrote, “She just made us come.” (Acts 16:11-15) Perhaps at least partially due to Lydia’s hospitality, the apostle later told Philippian Christians: “I thank my God always upon every remembrance of you . . . because of the contribution you have made to the good news from the first day until this moment.” (Phil. 1:3-5) Yes, ‘the Lord was with the spirit shown’ by those Philippians, including faithful Lydia.
15-17. (a) Why were Aquila and Priscilla able to ‘expound the way of God more correctly’ to Apollos? (b) How can it be said that the Lord was with the spirit shown by Aquila and Priscilla?
15 The Jew Aquila and his wife Priscilla also had a fine spirit. Banished from Rome by the decree of Emperor Claudius against the Jews (in 50 C.E.), they became residents of Corinth. Some months later, the apostle Paul arrived there and was received into their home. In fact, all three worked together making tents. Undoubtedly, Aquila and Priscilla also helped the apostle to build up the new congregation in Corinth.—Acts 18:1-11.
16 When Paul sailed for Syria in 52 C.E., Aquila and Priscilla accompanied him as far as Ephesus. There this married couple opened their home as the congregation’s meeting place. In Ephesus, Aquila and Priscilla also were privileged to ‘expound the way of God more correctly’ to Apollos. (Acts 18:18-26; 1 Cor. 16:8, 19) They were able to provide such instruction because of their good mental grasp or comprehension of God’s Word and will.
17 By the time the apostle Paul wrote to Roman Christians, about 56 C.E., Aquila and Priscilla had returned to Rome. There they again opened their home as a place of Christian assembly. Paul greeted them as his “fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who have risked their own necks for my soul, to whom not only I but also all the congregations of the nations render thanks.” (Rom. 16:3-5) At some time, Aquila and Priscilla had put their lives in jeopardy for Paul. Shortly before suffering martyrdom about 65 C.E., Paul, through Timothy, sent greetings to this fine married couple, then residing in Ephesus. By that time, Aquila and Priscilla had been Christians for years and still ‘the Lord was with the spirit they showed.’—1 Tim. 1:3; 2 Tim. 4:19, 22.
18. What kind of person was the apostle John’s friend Gaius?
18 Toward the end of the first century C.E. the aged apostle John addressed his third divinely inspired letter to a fellow believer named Gaius. The apostle had love for this fine Christian man. Gaius was “walking in the truth,” and others had ‘borne witness to his love before the congregation.’ John knew Gaius to be a hospitable and loving man.—3 John 1-8.
19. Why must we say that the Lord was not with the spirit Diotrephes showed?
19 But what a contrast there was between Gaius and a certain Diotrephes! John said: “I wrote something to the congregation, but Diotrephes, who likes to have the first place among them, does not receive anything from us with respect. That is why, if I come, I will call to remembrance his works which he goes on doing, chattering about us with wicked words. Also, not being content with these things, neither does he himself receive the brothers with respect, and those who are wanting to receive them he tries to hinder and to throw out of the congregation.” (3 John 9, 10) Certainly, the Lord was not with the spirit Diotrephes showed.
20. The early Christian congregations were comprised of many persons of what kind?
20 Here and there, a person like Diotrephes might appear on the scene. But the congregations of that time were comprised of many faithful, spiritually strong Christians. Yes, there were loving, hospitable individuals like Lydia and Gaius. There were persons like Aquila and Priscilla, who had fine spiritual comprehension and were willing to open their homes for congregation meetings. Unquestionably, ‘the Lord was with the spirit such persons showed.’ What lover of God today would not want to be like them?
UPBUILDING FELLOW WORSHIPERS
21, 22. (a) Why should Christian elders of today be deeply interested in the spirit of the congregations with which they serve? (b) What questions might an overseer ask himself regarding the congregation he serves?
21 As noted earlier, the apostle Paul showed concern for the spirit of the Corinthian congregation. Moreover, he expressed the hope that ‘the Lord Jesus Christ would be with the spirit shown’ by congregations and individuals. (1 Cor. 5:1-5; Gal. 6:18; Phil. 4:23; 2 Tim. 4:22; Philem. 25) Similarly, the glorified Jesus Christ was concerned about the spirit manifested by the seven congregations addressed in Revelation. (Rev. chaps. 2, 3) Therefore, Christian elders of today should be deeply interested in the spirit shown by the congregations with which they serve.
22 As a man appointed by holy spirit to “shepherd the flock of God,” an overseer should know the appearance of that flock. (1 Pet. 5:2; Acts 20:28; compare Proverbs 27:23.) He might well ask himself: Are the brothers and sisters in the congregation truly happy? (Ps. 128:1) Do their faces indicate that they are serving Jehovah with “joy of heart”? (Deut. 28:45-47) Are they attending Christian meetings regularly? (Heb. 10:24, 25) Do they study the Bible privately at home? (Josh. 1:7, 8) Are these fellow believers really “healthy in faith”? (Titus 2:2) Do they keenly appreciate spiritual things? (Ps. 27:4) Is it evident that they cherish their relationship with Jehovah God and truly desire to praise him?—Ps. 9:1, 2.
23. If elders are to “preach the word,” what must they do?
23 A candid appraisal may reveal a need to cultivate greater spirituality in the congregation. For this the public platform often serves quite well. The overseer Timothy had to face some persons within the congregation who ‘fought about words’ and were “not favorably disposed” toward the truth. (2 Tim. 2:14, 23-25) Their presence would produce a “troublesome season” for the congregation. So Timothy was to “preach the word”—not human wisdom, but the unadulterated “word” of God. (2 Tim. 4:1, 2; compare 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.) Similarly, for the spiritual good of congregations today, elders need to “preach the word,” basing their comments on the Bible, whether from the public platform or in private conversation.
24, 25. (a) For what purpose may elders visit fellow believers in their homes? (b) Is there Scriptural reason for elders to pray in behalf of other worshipers of Jehovah?
24 Another way to upbuild fellow believers spiritually is by visiting them in their homes. Jesus Christ did this, seeking to aid people in a spiritual way. (Luke 7:36-50; 19:1-27) Similarly, the apostle John desired to visit Gaius and others in order to speak with them face to face about spiritual matters.—2 John 1, 12; 3 John 1, 13, 14.
25 Motivated by Christian love, present-day elders may visit fellow believers in their homes. This is not done to ‘check up’ on them, but to offer spiritual aid and encouragement. Moreover, overseers do well to mention their Christian brothers and sisters in prayer. Interestingly, the prophet Samuel told the Israelites: “It is unthinkable, on my part, to sin against Jehovah by ceasing to pray in your behalf.” (1 Sam. 12:20, 23) Also, the apostle Paul set a fine example for overseers by praying in behalf of fellow worshipers of Jehovah.—1 Thess. 1:1, 2; 2 Tim. 1:1-4; Philem. 4.
26. If the Lord is to be with one’s spirit, what does the individual need?
26 A fine, joyous spirit will exist in a congregation of God’s people if they pray for one another. Additionally, a good spirit will prevail if Christian overseers lovingly shepherd the “flock.” (Phil. 2:19, 20; 1 Pet. 5:1-4) Indeed, ‘the Lord can be with the spirit you show,’ but this requires something very specific on your part as an individual. You need to have a good grasp on God’s Word, in order to be fully pleasing to Jehovah.