Direct New Ones to God’s Organization
“Have love for the whole association of brothers.”—1 PETER 2:17.
1, 2. What things besides doctrine do Christian teachers impart?
A TEACHER’S job is to impart facts. But a good teacher does more than that. He conveys values, helps the student to see the importance of what he is learning and shows him how he can best use it. This is especially true of the Christian teacher. True, he has to impart “the truth of God.” (Romans 1:25) But that involves more than just a knowledge of doctrine. The Bible encourages teaching the fear of Jehovah as well as the qualities of goodness and sensibleness.—Psalm 34:11; 119:66.
2 Jesus mentioned further matters that have to be taught: “Make disciples of people of all the nations . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) ‘All the things commanded’ includes sharing in the worldwide preaching work that was prophesied for our day. (Matthew 24:14) And there is something else that we should convey to our Bible students. What is that? To find the answer, consider the ministry of the apostle Paul and notice something that figured prominently in his teaching.
Paul as an Organizer
3. How did Paul proceed when he was teaching newly interested ones in Corinth?
3 During his first visit to Corinth, the apostle Paul found many hearing ears, despite opposition from the Jewish community. However, Paul did not teach these newly interested ones merely on an individual basis. We read: “He transferred [from the Jewish synagogue] and went into the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was adjoining the synagogue.” (Acts 18:7) That house became a place for new disciples to meet and worship together. Soon Paul organized them into a congregation.—1 Corinthians 1:2.
4. What soon appeared in Ephesus after Paul had started teaching there?
4 Later Paul traveled on to Ephesus where something similar happened. He taught interested persons individually, “from house to house.” (Acts 20:20) But he also quickly made arrangements so that the new disciples could associate together. He “separated the disciples from them [the Jews], daily giving talks in the school auditorium of Tyrannus.” (Acts 19:9) Soon this group of Christians, too, was organized into a congregation with appointed elders.—Acts 20:17, 18.
5. What did early Christian teachers do with new ones as soon as possible?
5 Clearly, when new ones accepted the truth in the first century, they were not left on their own. They were gathered into congregations. These rejoiced to receive encouragement from the governing body of that time. Mature brothers, such as Paul and Barnabas, devoted much time to teaching in these newly formed congregations and to “declaring, with many others also, the good news of the word of Jehovah.” (Acts 15:30-35) Why was this? Why were new ones not left alone to depend on their newly trained consciences to guide them in doing what was right?
6. Why were the early Christians organized into congregations?
6 There are many reasons, some of which we will mention here. First, when a person became a Christian, he ceased to have much in common with the world around him. (John 17:14, 15) If he had been left isolated, on his own, that would have been a very lonely situation. However, if he had associated with fellow Christians in the local congregation, he would have been strengthened by them to maintain his separateness. Additionally, Jesus said that his followers would be “one.” (John 17:11) That oneness was especially seen in the congregations. Jesus also said: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) For Christians to show this love in such a way that it would serve as a sign to outsiders, they had to exist in communities. Those communities were the local Christian congregations, in which Christians watched over one another’s spiritual and physical welfare. (Philippians 2:4) For example, the relief for widows that Paul discussed with Timothy was clearly organized through congregations.—1 Timothy 5:3-10.
7. (a) What is the import of Paul’s words in Hebrews 10:24, 25? (b) What was the role of the first-century Christian congregations in the preaching work?
7 Hence, Paul’s words were a direct encouragement to support the local congregation when he said: “Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24, 25) Additionally, the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom that was accomplished in such an outstanding way in the first century was clearly done in an organized manner through the congregations. (Romans 10:11-15) Thus, the holy spirit guided the elders in the Antioch congregation to send Paul and Barnabas as missionaries to unassigned territories, and Paul accepted the authority of the elders in the Jerusalem congregation to give him directions as to where he should preach.—Acts 13:1-3; Galatians 2:8-10.
Local Congregations Today
8, 9. What are some reasons why we, too, should direct our interested ones to the local congregation?
8 What can we today learn from this historical background? That we, too, should direct newly interested ones to the local Christian congregation. Today, as in Paul’s day, Christianity is not a religion of isolationists. “One isolating himself will seek his own selfish longing,” warns the book of Proverbs. (Proverbs 18:1) On the other hand, “he that is walking with wise persons will become wise.” (Proverbs 13:20) New ones need the spiritual, moral and emotional support that the Christian congregation offers. They need to experience the love of fellow Christians, the ministration of the elders and the pleasant unity that makes being a Christian such a joyous and unique experience.—Psalm 133:1.
9 Today, too, the worldwide preaching of the good news of the Kingdom is being conducted in an organized way largely through local Christian congregations. (Matthew 24:14) Hence, when we teach new ones of their obligation to share in that work, we have to direct them to the local congregation and show them how to cooperate with it.
An International Brotherhood
10. Mention some scriptures that point to the international unity of the first-century Christians.
10 However, the apostle Paul introduced new ones into more than merely a local congregation. He said to the Ephesians: “One body there is, and one spirit, even as you were called in the one hope to which you were called.” (Ephesians 4:4) There was only one “body” worldwide, not a number of scattered, locally independent congregations. Jesus was also referring to the living members of this “body” on earth when he spoke of a “faithful and discreet slave,” authorized to ‘feed’ the “domestics.” (Matthew 24:45-47) Individual Christians worldwide would have to recognize the authority of this “slave” if they were to be ‘fed’ by it. This would result in an international association of Christians.
11. (a) What did Peter call this international organization of Christians? (b) What arrangement maintained the doctrinal unity of the first-century Christians? How did Paul show his recognition of this arrangement?
11 Hence, the apostle Peter spoke of all the Christians of his day as “the whole association of brothers.” (1 Peter 2:17) They were an international “association” (Greek, adelphotesʹ, “brotherhood”). New ones became part not only of the local congregation but of this whole international brotherhood. Congregations were in contact with one another. (Colossians 4:15, 16) When there were doctrinal questions, Christians did not make their own decisions. For an authoritative answer, they looked to the elders of the Jerusalem congregation who served as a world governing body in those days. (Acts 15:2, 6-22) Paul himself recognized the doctrinal authority of that body. Although he had received the truth through a special revelation from Jesus Christ he, nevertheless, traveled to Jerusalem and explained to them the good news that he was preaching, ‘for fear that somehow he was running or had run in vain.’—Galatians 1:11, 12; 2:1, 2, 7-10.
12. What further practices tied “the whole association of brothers” closer together?
12 To maintain the unity of thinking and action of “the whole association” of brothers, traveling ministers, such as Timothy, Titus and Epaphroditus, were sent to visit and upbuild them, and letters such as those of Paul, Peter, James, John and Jude were circulated among them. Because such a brotherhood existed, the wealthier Christians in other lands heard of the need of their brothers in Judea during a time of hardship there, and Paul was able—through the congregations—to organize the carrying of relief to the needy ones. (1 Corinthians 16:1-4) Individual Christians were also encouraged when they heard reports of the endurance and faith of ‘the entire association of their brothers in the world.’—1 Peter 5:9.
Introduce New Ones to “the Whole Association”
13. What are some similarities between “the whole association of brothers” worldwide in the first century and today?
13 Is there a similar “whole association of brothers” today? Indeed there is. “The faithful and discreet slave” still exists and still has responsibility for the ‘feeding’ of the “domestics.” (Matthew 24:45-47) As in Paul’s day, a Governing Body represents this “slave” and directs the worldwide work of preaching the “good news.” International unity is strengthened today, too, by letters and printed literature from this Governing Body, as well as by mature teachers who minister in the congregations. Hence, when a person learns the truth, he learns to be a part of the local congregation and also to feel that he is a part of ‘the entire association of the brothers’ worldwide. It is the responsibility of the Christian teacher to help his Bible student to do this. How can he do that?
Helping Others to Love “the Whole Association”
14. What ways have you found successful in telling Bible students about the local congregation and also the international organization of God’s people?
14 The Christian teacher can tell his student about the congregation and the international brotherhood, and then he can show it to him. How can he tell them? Here are some ways that experienced teachers have found effective: Take time before or after the Bible study to discuss the congregation and its Scriptural importance, and also “the faithful and discreet slave” and the way it serves us today. Describe the Kingdom Hall and the meetings. Talk about interesting things that you have learned during meetings. During your prayers before and after the study, mention the local congregation as well as the international brotherhood.
15. What are some excellent ways to show interested ones the local congregation and the international organization?
15 But how can he show these things? Here are some ways that have proved successful: As soon as possible, invite fellow members of the congregation to accompany you to the study so that the student starts to make new friends as quickly as possible. It is important that he realizes soon that whatever he loses in the way of friendship in the old system of things will be more than made up for in new acquaintances in ‘the entire association of brothers in the world.’ (1 Peter 5:9; Matthew 19:27-29) Make full use of the brochure Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Twentieth Century. This describes the modern international organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses and has some fine illustrations of a large convention, a typical Kingdom Hall, a meeting in progress, the preaching work, and so forth. It will give the student a visual idea of the scope of “the whole association of brothers.” Likewise, chapter 23 of the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, provides a colorfully illustrated description of God’s organization today.
16. (a) What should we do as soon as possible with our Bible students? For what Scriptural reason? (b) How can we profit from the visit of the circuit or district overseer to help our Bible students to become part of God’s people?
16 Remember, too, that Paul organized meetings in Ephesus almost as soon as he had found interest. (Acts 19:9, 10) He told the Corinthian congregation that when “any unbeliever or ordinary person” comes in to a well-arranged Christian meeting, “the secrets of his heart become manifest, so that he will fall upon his face and worship God, declaring: ‘God is really among you.’” (1 Corinthians 14:24, 25) Similarly today, the sooner a student begins to associate with the local congregation, the sooner he will recognize where the truth really lies. For this reason, Christian teachers invite their students to attend congregation meetings and larger assemblies as soon as possible. If necessary, they go out of their way to call on the interested one and escort him personally to the meetings. When their congregation is visited by a modern-day “Titus” or “Epaphroditus,” a circuit or a district overseer, they make sure that their Bible student gets to meet him and his wife, perhaps even inviting the visitors to share in the regular Bible study.
17. Hence, what is a vital part of our work of teaching and making disciples? (Matthew 28:19, 20) How does this benefit our students?
17 Jehovah’s worldwide congregation of anointed ones is “a pillar and support of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15) For newly interested ones to benefit from that “support,” they have to join the hundreds of thousands of meek ones who are flocking to associate with these anointed ones. (Zechariah 8:23) Today these meek ones make up an international brotherhood more than two and a half million strong, and accepting the truth includes associating with that international brotherhood. When newly interested ones become part of it, they enjoy all the support and protection that it offers. They delight in the brotherly love of their fellow Christians and have the opportunity to give their love in return. (Hebrews 13:1) This means, also, that they become part of a numberless international crowd that will survive through the coming great tribulation into an eternity of happy fellowship together. (Revelation 7:9-17) So while you are teaching doctrine to your Bible students, do not forget to direct them toward, and teach them to have love for, “the whole association of brothers.”—1 Peter 2:17.
Do You Remember?
□ What did Paul do with newly found interest in Ephesus and Corinth?
□ How did Paul thus benefit new ones?
□ Apart from teaching doctrines, to what should we be alert to introduce our Bible studies?
□ What are some practical ways to do this?
[Pictures on page 16, 17]
New ones are welcomed warmly to “the whole association of brothers”