Kingdom Ministers Meet the Challenge
“What, then, is Apollos? Yes, what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers.”—1 CORINTHIANS 3:5.
1. (a) Religiously, what is being questioned today, and why? (b) What empire is being threatened, and what will happen to it?
THE authority of ministers of religion is being challenged today. More and more, this is the case as the political element of this world turns against religion, including the “Christian” religion, regarding it as a profit-seeking racket. Even graduates of religious seminaries are discounted as duly authorized ministers and are put under ban in nations that are turning antireligious. Yes, the world empire of false religion is under assault and is threatened with an earth-wide attack that will spell its annihilation. The divine Author of true worship foretold this and fixed his own due time for the fulfillment of his prophecy. Creature life in the whole universe will benefit from this stupendous event!
2. As to religion, what will remain and what will not?
2 Yet, irreligion will not long remain to dominate the earth, but the vindicated Creator of the universe will remain! Yes, and the true religion of this deathless and Most High God will remain! For that matter, although earth’s billions deny the facts, right now practicers of God’s pure worship are alive and active on earth. And the following centuries-old statement is true today: “His invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they are inexcusable.”—Romans 1:20.
3, 4. (a) How can it be proved that Jehovah has ministers on earth? (b) How do we know that the religious ministers of Babylon the Great will soon be out of a job?
3 When those words were written during the first century of our Common Era, Jehovah God had his ministers on the earth. Thus the apostle Paul could write: “What, then, is Apollos? Yes, what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, even as the Lord granted each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow.”—1 Corinthians 3:5-9.
4 Jehovah must also have ministers on earth today. But he is not using the religious ministers of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. In fact, they will soon be out of a job. That will be when Babylon the Great itself is put out of existence. Foretelling this, Revelation 16:19 says: “The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell; and Babylon the Great was remembered in the sight of God, to give her the cup of the wine of the anger of his wrath.”
5. What happened in ancient Babylon in 539 B.C.E., and what about ministers and other supporters of the religions of Babylon the Great?
5 What, then, about people who remain the loyal adherents of the religious systems served by the professional ministers of Babylon the Great? Well, consider what happened on that night of 539 B.C.E. when King Belshazzar and his invited lords were praising Babylonian gods at an outstanding feast in defiance of the besieging Medes and Persians. First, notice was served on the revelers when they saw miraculous handwriting on the wall of the banquet hall and heard the interpretation given by Jehovah’s prophet Daniel. Then, with Babylon’s fall that very night, the king and apparently the other banqueters extolling false gods were slain by the invading conquerers. (Daniel, chapter 5) A similar disaster awaits ministers and those remaining loyal to the religious systems of Babylon the Great.
God’s Ministers Urgently Needed
6. (a) In this critical period, what must God have for the human family? (b) When did the Gentile Times end, and what did Jesus say about this?
6 No one can reasonably question the fact that we are now living in the most critical period of human history since the global Flood of Noah’s day. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) So it is vital that there now be genuine ministers of the God of Noah. Surely, as Jehovah gave warnings to the people of Noah’s time and to the revelers at Belshazzar’s feast, He must have had an urgent message for the human family since 1914, when the first world war broke out. Actually, on a wide public scale, for some four decades God’s servants had pointed to that year as marking the end of the Gentile Times, regarding which Jesus said: “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”—Luke 21:24, King James Version.
7. (a) Until when was earthly Jerusalem trodden down by non-Jewish nations? (b) To what was Jesus referring finally when he spoke of Jerusalem’s being “trodden down of the Gentiles”?
7 For some 53 years after 1914, or until the Six-Day War of 1967, earthly Jerusalem continued to be trodden down by non-Jewish nations. Evidently, however, Jesus was not referring finally to the Jewish Jerusalem of today but to what that city represented up until 607 B.C.E. And what did it represent? Why, the Kingdom of Jehovah God by means of his anointed King of the royal house of David!—Luke 1:32; 1 Chronicles 29:11.
8. To whom would Jehovah give the kingdom of David, and why would humans not be able to see the foretold enthronement?
8 Jesus Christ was the one to whom Jehovah God would give the kingdom of his forefather David of old. Before Pilate as judge, Jesus said that His Kingdom was not of this world, meaning that it would be heavenly. (John 18:36) Logically, then, Jesus’ future installation in the Kingdom at the end of the Gentile Times would take place in the invisible heavens. Thus his enthronement would be invisible to human eyes, and that is why neither we nor the Gentile nations literally saw him enthroned in his rightful, God-given Kingdom in 1914. Those nations certainly did not believe that this event took place, despite the fact that it had been proclaimed by Jehovah’s people since the 1870’s.
9. (a) What did the nations do without regard for the Kingdom message? (b) In view of what the nations did in 1914, what became necessary?
9 Without regard for the Kingdom message, in the autumn of 1914 the nations became engulfed in war. As foretold at Psalm 2:1-12, they proved themselves to be Jesus’ enemies, refusing to “kiss” the newly installed King as a sign of their submission and allegiance. Hence, it became necessary to carry out Psalm 110:1, 2, where we read: “The utterance of Jehovah to my Lord is: ‘Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.’ The rod of your strength Jehovah will send out of Zion, saying: ‘Go subduing in the midst of your enemies.’”
10. (a) Under what circumstances did Jesus begin ruling in 1914? (b) Who have been representing Jehovah in the 20th century?
10 Jewish opposers displayed their enmity toward Jesus’ apostles when Jesus sat down at God’s right hand to await the time to start ruling amid his enemies. (Acts 4:24-26) Correspondingly, it was among enemies that the glorified Jesus Christ began his rule at the close of the Gentile Times in 1914. Thus in this 20th century, as in the past, it has been among enemies that Jehovah has had bearers of his message, his genuine ministers of the Kingdom. They are his witnesses.—Isaiah 43:10-12.
Defending Our Qualification as Ministers
11. By whom has the authorization of Jehovah’s Witnesses as God-ordained Kingdom ministers been challenged?
11 All along, it has been necessary for genuine God-ordained Kingdom ministers to defend their authorization for the ministry. That certainly has been true of Jehovah’s Witnesses in this 20th century. Their qualification as duly ordained ministers of God has been challenged and discounted. By whom? Particularly by Christendom’s theological-seminary graduates who receive a certificate of ordination and become paid clergymen. They consider themselves duly schooled and adequately qualified to be the exclusive professional ministers of the God of the Bible.
12. The authorization of what prominent first-century Christian was challenged, and how was anyone bringing a different sort of good news to be viewed?
12 The situation was similar in the first century C.E. In the Roman province of Galatia, even the inspired writer of about half the books of the Christian Greek Scriptures met with a development that challenged his qualification as an apostle of Jesus Christ, for it put in question the correctness of what he was teaching as Christianity. So he was obliged to tell the Galatians: “I marvel that you are being so quickly removed from the One who called you with Christ’s undeserved kindness over to another sort of good news. But it is not another; only there are certain ones who are causing you trouble and wanting to pervert the good news about the Christ. However, even if we or an angel out of heaven were to declare to you as good news something beyond what we declared to you as good news, let him be accursed. As we have said above, I also now say again, Whoever it is that is declaring to you as good news something beyond what you accepted, let him be accursed.”—Galatians 1:6-9.
13. Why should the Galatians not have questioned Paul’s authority?
13 True, that writer, the apostle Paul, did not first learn Christian teachings by personal contact with Jesus Christ or His 12 apostles. Later, Paul did spend some time with the apostle Peter, or Cephas. (John 1:42; Galatians 1:18, 19) But in defense of his being a qualified minister of the good news from God by Christ, Paul could tell the unstable Galatian Christians: “Yes, when they came to know the undeserved kindness that was given me, James and Cephas and John, the ones who seemed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of sharing together, that we should go to the nations, but they to those who are circumcised.” (Galatians 2:9) So those Galatians should have asked themselves: If Jesus’ disciples James, Peter, and John recognized Paul as a bearer of the true good news, what basis do we have for challenging his message and moving away from it?
14. Why is it not strange that the ministerial status of Jehovah’s Witnesses is challenged?
14 But what about Jehovah’s people today? Well, since a person like Paul was obliged to defend his qualifications as a minister of God and Christ, why should we be surprised if we, as dedicated, baptized witnesses of Jehovah, are challenged and have to defend our standing as Kingdom ministers? Of course, as in Paul’s case, such baseless challenging of us proves nothing.
Even Jesus Was Challenged
15. Who, ranking higher than the apostles, was also challenged as to his teaching authority, and to whom did he ascribe his authority?
15 The Lord Jesus Christ himself was challenged and confronted with the unwillingness of his own people to accept him as an authorized minister of God. For instance, we read: “When by now the festival [of tabernacles] was half over, Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. Therefore the Jews fell to wondering, saying: ‘How does this man have a knowledge of letters, when he has not studied at the schools?’” Jesus met that challenge head-on, declaring: “What I teach is not mine, but belongs to him that sent me. If anyone desires to do His will, he will know concerning the teaching whether it is from God or I speak of my own originality. He that speaks of his own originality is seeking his own glory; but he that seeks the glory of him that sent him, this one is true, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”—John 7:14-18.
16. Why did the religious leaders of Judaism feel they had grounds for questioning Jesus’ teaching ability?
16 The religious leaders of Judaism looked upon Jesus Christ as a mere Galilean. Of course, they did not think that he could not read because of not having attended school, especially something like a theological seminary. After all, Jesus already had shown that he could read the text of the Hebrew Scriptures. (Luke 4:16-21) What proved unacceptable to such Jews of Judea and Jerusalem was that this former carpenter was not a theologian and could not be ranked with the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees of their nation. Why, then, should he publicly presume to know what the Hebrew Scriptures meant and how they applied, speaking with such authority as he did? This is what made those Jews too deaf spiritually to hear the ring of the divine truth. They were too proud to accept what came from a man who had not graduated from a theological school.
“Taught by Jehovah”
17. In connection with Jesus Christ, the Jewish religious leaders overlooked what Teacher, and what kind of scholar was Jesus?
17 Those worldly-wise Jews overlooked the One who really had been teaching Jesus Christ. Why, Jesus’ own skill as a teacher had come from “the greatest teacher of all,” Jehovah God! (Job 36:22, Today’s English Version) Referring to God in this capacity, Jesus said: “When once you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing of my own initiative; but just as the Father taught me I speak these things.” (John 8:28) So Jesus proved himself to be the finest pupil in the universal school of the highest Teacher in existence. This was a credit to the One who taught him. No wonder the Nazarenes said of their former townsman: “Where did this man get this wisdom and these powerful works?”—Matthew 13:54.
18. (a) What sort of teacher should we want? (b) What did Jesus say about the greatest Teacher and those taught by Him?
18 To understand the Bible, we want and need the best teacher possible. And that teacher is the Inspirer of that unsurpassable Book. Speaking to those who were members of that Teacher’s visible, earthly organization during his earthly lifetime, Jesus said: “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him; and I will resurrect him in the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by Jehovah.’ Everyone that has heard from the Father and has learned comes to me.” (John 6:44, 45) Jesus was there quoting Isaiah 54:13, which reads: “And all your sons will be persons taught by Jehovah, and the peace of your sons will be abundant.”
19. The “sons” of whom were to be taught by Jehovah?
19 However, we ask: The “sons” of whom were to be “persons taught by Jehovah”? That prophetic promise was made to a figurative “woman,” a prospective mother of certain “sons,” or children. This “woman” is the one addressed at Isaiah 54:1, where it is said: “‘Cry out joyfully, you barren woman that did not give birth! Become cheerful with a joyful outcry and cry shrilly, you that had no childbirth pains, for the sons of the desolated one are more numerous than the sons of the woman with a husbandly owner,’ Jehovah has said.”
20. In view of 2 Corinthians 13:5, what must dedicated Christians continue to do, and what bearing does this have on their qualification as Kingdom ministers?
20 Since Jehovah is the One who addresses this “woman” and is to be the Teacher of her “sons,” he must be her figurative Husband, and she must be his womanlike heavenly organization. Her “sons,” or children, are students of “the greatest teacher of all.” Of course, it is vital that those “sons,” Jesus’ anointed followers, and their companions, the “great crowd,” continually apply the instruction provided by Jehovah. (Revelation 7:9) That surely is one way to heed Paul’s admonition: “Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are.” (2 Corinthians 13:5) If dedicated, baptized Christians continue to do this and remain diligent students of the greatest Teacher, they should have the needed qualification as Kingdom ministers authorized by Jehovah. We shall next see how God’s ministers prove their qualification.
What Would You Say?
□ How can you prove that Jehovah has ministers on earth?
□ What was represented by the Jerusalem that was “trodden down of the Gentiles”?
□ Because the nations have disregarded the Kingdom, what has Jesus had to do?
□ Why is it not strange that the ministerial status of Jehovah’s Witnesses is challenged?
□ What was overlooked by the Jewish religious leaders who challenged Jesus’ teaching ability?
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As Jehovah used Daniel to serve notice on revelers at Belshazzar’s feast, so He has ministers to deliver an urgent message today
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Religious leaders were too proud to accept even Jesus Christ as a minister of God