‘Oneness of Spirit’ in a Rapidly Growing Flock
1. (a) At Ephesians 4:1-6, what appropriate counsel on unity did Paul write? (b) Why is that counsel also fitting in our day?
WHEN the apostle Paul wrote to Christians of the congregation in Ephesus he emphasized unity, urging them to be humble, to put up with one another in love and earnestly “observe the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-6) Paul had spent over two years in Ephesus and he knew the varied backgrounds of the brothers there. He also knew that the unifying influences that Jehovah had put into effect among his people could overcome such differences, and Paul urged them to appreciate and cooperate with these influences. It is no less important to do so in our day. Why? Because individuals “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues” are being gathered into Jehovah’s organization in great numbers.—Revelation 7:9, 10.
2. How does Jehovah safeguard the unity of his visible organization?
2 In harmony with his purpose, Jehovah has unified his servants “like a flock in the pen.” (Micah 2:12) He provides them with needed direction in order to safeguard that unity. How? He personally appointed his own Son, Jesus Christ, as head of the Christian congregation. In the Bible, Jehovah had details about his purpose recorded, and through his visible organization he directs the efforts of his servants into channels that are in harmony with that purpose. It is faith strengthening to consider evidence of this divine direction in modern times, since 1919.
Prepared to Give a Global Witness
3. What activity on behalf of the Kingdom heirs did the Bible foretell for the conclusion of the system of things?
3 In discussing the conclusion of the system of things, the Scriptures foretold a regathering of scattered “chosen ones” into organizational unity, as well as a harvesting of the final members of the Kingdom class. (Matthew 24:31; 13:37-43, 47-50) How has this been brought about?
4. (a) What tangible means did Christ and the angels use to bring about that regathering and harvesting of the remnant? (b) So what two means was Jehovah here using to unify his servants?
4 The Scriptures say that Christ would send his angels to accomplish it. No one on earth is able to see those spirit creatures at work, but the effects of their activity in Jehovah’s visible organization are clearly evident. After the harsh persecution experienced during World War I, renewed strength was infused into Jehovah’s servants by means of Watch Tower articles entitled “Blessed Are the Fearless,” published in 1919. Jehovah had more work for them to do. At their Cedar Point, Ohio, convention that year, in the discourse “Announcing the Kingdom,” notice was given of a new publication, The Golden Age (now known as Awake!), for widespread public distribution to point people to “the Golden Age of the glorious reign of the Messiah.” All the “chosen ones” were encouraged to share in this activity. In 1922, at another convention in Cedar Point, powerful exhortation was given to “Advertise, advertise, advertise, the King and his kingdom.” In 1925, understanding the significance of the postwar activity of Jehovah’s servants in the light of Revelation chapter 12 gave another powerful impetus to the work. Then in 1931, by resolution adopted at a convention in Columbus, Ohio, and at 50 extension conventions worldwide thereafter, the name Jehovah’s Witnesses was embraced, setting these Christians apart from all the sects of Christendom and emphasizing their God-given work. (Isaiah 43:10-12) Thus Jehovah was unifying his servants (1) by progressive understanding of the Scriptures and (2) by motivating them to zealous activity as his witnesses.
5. By 1935 what was thus accomplished by united action under Jehovah’s guidance?
5 Although their numbers were few, their unified action under Jehovah’s guidance caused the Kingdom message to reach to the ends of the earth. From 1921 to 1935 they placed 205,217,917 bound books and booklets in scores of languages. Hundreds of millions of tracts were also distributed and extensive use was made of the radio. As a result, thousands more dedicated themselves to Jehovah, got baptized and were anointed with holy spirit as the gathering of the Kingdom class drew to a close. However, their public ministry was not finished. Jehovah had been preparing them for what lay ahead.
Strengthened to Face Opposition
6. For what else was Jehovah then preparing his anointed servants?
6 During World War I, the anointed had been dispersed by the enemy. Further vicious efforts to crush their work were to come. But Jehovah fortified them so that they would never again become a dispersed flock. How was this done?
7. At the time of the rebuilding of the temple, how did Jehovah enable his people to move ahead unitedly in the face of opposition?
7 When opposition hindered the rebuilding of Jehovah’s temple after the exiles returned from Babylon, Jehovah strengthened his people by raising up prophets, visible spokesmen, and causing them to deliver timely messages from him. Furthermore, Jehovah’s own spirit overcame mountainlike obstacles and enabled his servants to function as a united organization.—Haggai 1:1-8; Zechariah 4:1-14.
8. In what way did Jehovah strengthen the brothers in the first century?
8 When true worshipers came under enemy fire in the first century, Jehovah caused the apostles to write letters providing direction and exhortation. In these the chief instigator of opposition was clearly identified as being Satan the Devil, whose aim is to silence the preaching of the good news, doing so by violent persecution or by disrupting the unity of the congregations through the influence of false brothers. Thus all were helped to see clearly the issues involved. (Ephesians 6:10-13; 2 Corinthians 11:12-15; 1 Peter 5:5-8) Lovingly they were encouraged to ‘stand firm in one spirit, with one soul striving side by side for the faith of the good news, in no respect being frightened by their opponents.’—Philippians 1:27, 28.
9. (a) How, in modern times, has Jehovah provided such help? (b) Give examples of this.
9 In modern times, Jehovah has continued to provide needed help for his servants, doing so through “the faithful and discreet slave,” the remnant on earth today, of which Jesus is the appointed head, and this help comes at just the right time. (Matthew 24:45-47) Thus in 1925 the “slave” class, by means of The Watch Tower, helped its readers to appreciate that God’s Kingdom had been in operation in the heavens since 1914 and that, in reality, there are just two organizations—Jehovah’s and Satan’s. In 1929 the Christian obligation always to obey God’s law as superior to man’s was strongly emphasized. Progressively, organizational adjustments were made until, in 1938, all appointing of overseers in the congregations was done theocratically, instead of by congregational voting. All of this unified and strengthened Jehovah’s servants, and how timely it proved to be!
10. (a) How did that help prove to be most timely? (b) As the persecution developed, what further help did Jehovah give them?
10 During the 1930’s and right on through World War II, Jehovah’s Witnesses in many lands came under severe persecution. Thousands were taken to court. In scores of lands their work came under government ban. Many were detained for years in totalitarian concentration camps. As this persecution began to rear its head, Jehovah further fortified his servants. In Watch Tower studies in 1931, they discussed how the Jews in the days of Queen Esther not only fought for their lives but took the offensive against their enemies, and consideration was given to how this applies today in spiritual warfare. Articles on “The Crucible,” in 1934, used the account of the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace to infuse Jehovah’s Witnesses with determination to stand firm with full confidence in Jehovah. (Daniel 3:17, 18, 28) Jehovah yet had a great work to be done, and satanic opposition was not going to be permitted to thwart it.
Gathering of a “Great Crowd” for Survival
11. (a) For what even more extensive preaching work had Jehovah been preparing his servants? (b) Outline some of the steps in this divinely maneuvered program of preparation.
11 As the gathering of the “little flock” of Kingdom heirs neared completion, Jehovah directed attention to an even larger work, the educating of a “great crowd” who would survive the “great tribulation” to live on earth in a restored Paradise. Thus in 1918 the president of the Watch Tower Society delivered a talk in Los Angeles, California, on a subject later to be repeated by hundreds more speakers, under the title “The World Has Ended, Millions Now Living May Never Die.” Then in 1923, The Watch Tower pointed out that the “other sheep” of John 10:16 are the same as the “sheep” of Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats, and that they were already beginning to show themselves. In 1931 these were shown to be foreshadowed at Ezekiel 9:1-11 as ones marked in their foreheads for survival. In 1932 it was revealed that this same class was prefigured by Jonadab, who recognized how vital it is that exclusive devotion be given to Jehovah. This divinely maneuvered program of preparation was climaxed in 1935 when, at a convention in Washington, D.C., the “great multitude,” or “great crowd,” of Revelation 7:9-17 was also shown to be that earthly class, and hundreds in the audience identified themselves as belonging to that group. Under the direction of Jehovah’s spirit, the gathering of this group now moved ahead rapidly.
12. (a) Why has the gathering of persons with an earthly hope into association with those having a heavenly hope not resulted in disunity? (b) What, with Jehovah’s blessing, has been the result to date of their united efforts?
12 Has this gathering of an earthly class into association with those having a heavenly hope resulted in disunity in the organization? Certainly not. As Jesus foretold, they have become “one flock” with him as their “one shepherd.” (John 10:16) They realize that their having either hope is evidence of Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, that they all have the privilege and responsibility to be witnesses to Jehovah’s name and Kingdom, and that the same Christian standard of faithfulness applies to all of them. They are truly a united people. Together they have applied themselves to the giving of the Kingdom witness in all the inhabited earth, this resulting in a great ingathering. After World War I there were just a few thousand who shared in publicly announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom. Not until 1941 did upwards of 100,000 participate in this work worldwide. Today those who are united as public proclaimers of the Kingdom message total 2,652,323. It has proved to be as Jehovah foretold by means of the prophet Isaiah: “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.”—Isaiah 60:22.
United Efforts to Provide Needed Facilities
13. What effect has this growth had on the printing operations of the Watch Tower Society, and how has the need been met?
13 This vast increase in the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses has required expanded facilities. During the 1920’s most of the printing of Bible literature used by the Witnesses was done in Brooklyn, New York. Now such printing is also being done in some 30 other countries. Voluntary contributions provide the needed funds, and where there has been a lack in one land this has been offset by generous help from others.—Compare 2 Corinthians 8:14.
14. Since 1935 how have the required new Kingdom Halls been provided?
14 In the same year that the “great crowd” was properly identified as an earthly class, J. F. Rutherford, then president of the Watch Tower Society, gave the name Kingdom Hall to a meeting place of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Hawaii. From that time on, this name has regularly been used by Jehovah’s Witnesses for their meeting halls. From 1940 to the present, the number of congregations has grown from 5,118 to well over 46,000. To care for the worldwide increase, thousands of new Kingdom Halls as well as larger assembly halls have been built. This has required united effort, both with respect to financing and with respect to the construction work itself. Jehovah’s united people have given their wholehearted support!
15. Why is it important for us to have adequate facilities in which to meet?
15 Today the number of persons flocking to the Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses is greater than ever before and is rapidly growing. We welcome all who truly want to be instructed about Jehovah’s ways so they can walk in his paths. (Isaiah 2:2, 3; Hebrews 10:23-25) We also want to be sure that there are adequate facilities to care for those who are showing appreciation for this provision made by Jehovah. How can this be done?
16. (a) If a new Kingdom Hall is needed for our growing congregation, how should we feel about the work and expense involved, whether we personally will use the new hall or not? (b) When there is good increase in areas where property costs are very high, how might new Kingdom Halls be provided?
16 Although we meet in many local congregations, we are just “one flock,” one united people. Interest in the expansion of pure worship and love for our brothers will move us to assist in any way we are able, regardless of where the need may be. Does the increase in number of congregations using a certain Kingdom Hall require that a new one be built? How fine it would be for those who continue to use the older facilities to provide whatever help is possible toward the building of a hall for the congregation that needs to be relocated! In some areas, brothers have made themselves available to help with the construction of other Kingdom Halls whenever these are needed. With careful planning and united effort, many fine new Kingdom Halls have been built in two days or less. In certain countries, however, the skyrocketing cost of property in urban areas has made it impossible for individual congregations to finance needed facilities. But what cannot be accomplished by one congregation can be achieved by united effort. When we are informed of opportunities to assist, how will we respond?
17. What Bible principles are appropriate for meeting this need?
17 When the Israelites were given opportunity to contribute toward construction of Jehovah’s sacred tabernacle, willing hearts impelled them to provide more than enough. (Exodus 35:5-9; 36:5-7) Large contributions to support true worship are not the only ones that are valued. Jesus commended the generosity represented by the very small contribution of a widow of little means. (Luke 21:1-4) Regarding provisions to help fellow servants of God in material ways, the apostle Paul wrote: “If the readiness is there first, it is especially acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what a person does not have. . . . By means of an equalizing your surplus just now might offset their deficiency . . . Just as it is written: ‘The person with much did not have too much, and the person with little did not have too little.’” (2 Corinthians 8:12-15) That principle can well guide us in cooperating to provide new or enlarged Kingdom Halls wherever they may be needed, whether we personally live in the area or not.
18. (a) What motivated our Declaration of Unity at the recent district conventions? (b) What is the meaning of the first point in that Declaration? (c) the second? (d) the third? (e) With what prayer did that Declaration fittingly conclude?
18 ‘Oneness of spirit’ characterizes Jehovah’s organization, and we personally have the privilege of giving living expression to it. At our recent conventions worldwide, we made a timely declaration regarding this. It is reproduced on page 23. We encourage you to review that Declaration now, thus giving yourself opportunity to consider again ways in which you personally can apply it in the days to come.
What Is Your Answer?
□ How does Jehovah safeguard the unity of his servants?
□ How did Jehovah direct matters so that the harvesting of the Kingdom class would be completed?
□ How were Jehovah’s Witnesses fortified for intense persecution occurring before and during World War II?
□ In what way did God prepare his Witnesses for the ingathering that began in 1935?
□ What share can we have in providing urgently needed Kingdom Halls?
[Box on page 23]
DECLARATION OF UNITY
We, Jehovah’s Witnesses, assembled at our “Kingdom Unity” District Convention, wish to express our deep appreciation for all that Jehovah has done for us. We are truly grateful for the sacrifice of his beloved Son and for his selection of us as a people for his Name.
Therefore, WE DECLARE our determination, first, to maintain the grand unity into which Jehovah has gathered us like a flock in his pen, trusting implicitly in his direction and in the guidance of his holy spirit; secondly, to seek at all times to maintain our conduct fine among the nations while we zealously proclaim the Kingdom hope to all who will listen; and, thirdly, to guard against any deflection from Jehovah’s cause regardless of who may seek to influence us in a wrong way.
And WE PRAY that we may continue worthy of the love that Jehovah has expressed toward us, always appreciating the privilege we have of bearing his Name and of publishing the good news of his Kingdom under Christ.
[Picture on page 25]
Providing enough Kingdom Halls requires united effort, both with respect to financing and construction work