Christ Actively Leads His Congregation
1. How might some members of Christendom’s churches answer the question, ‘Who is your leader?’ but how do Jehovah’s Witnesses answer?
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES recognize no man as their leader. Their organizational structure has no equivalent of the pope of the Roman Catholic Church, the patriarchs of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, or the leaders of other churches and sects of Christendom. Their allegiance is to Jesus Christ, the Head of the Christian congregation, who stated: “Your Leader is one, the Christ.”—Matthew 23:10.
2. Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize Christ as the Head of the Christian congregation, but what questions might be asked?
2 At Pentecost the apostle Peter testified: “David did not ascend to the heavens, but he himself says, ‘Jehovah said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.”’ Therefore let all the house of Israel know for a certainty that God made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you impaled.” (Acts 2:34-36) But while recognizing that in 33 C.E. Jesus was made Lord and Head of the congregation, are we inclined to think of him as having passively sat at Jehovah’s right hand, awaiting his enthronement in 1914? Are we fully aware that right from the start Christ actively led his congregation?
Divine Means for Actively Governing
3. What did Jesus promise to send to his disciples, and how do we know that he was not speaking of a person?
3 The evening before his death, Jesus said to his faithful apostles: “It is for your benefit I am going away. For if I do not go away, the helper will by no means come to you; but if I do go my way, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7) He was going to send not a person but an active force. He made this explicit just before ascending to heaven, saying to his assembled disciples: “I am sending forth upon you that which is promised by my Father. You, though, abide in the city until you become clothed with power from on high.”—Luke 24:49.
4. How was the holy spirit used from Pentecost on?
4 Jesus’ faithful disciples stayed in the Jerusalem area until Pentecost. That day they “became filled with holy spirit,” as promised. Peter testified: “Because he [Jesus] was exalted to the right hand of God and received the promised holy spirit from the Father, he has poured out this which you see and hear.” (Acts 2:4, 33) By this means Jehovah begot these early Christians as his spiritual sons. (Galatians 4:6) Also, Jesus received the spirit from his Father as a means of actively governing his congregation on earth from his heavenly position at God’s right hand.
5, 6. (a) What is another means given to Christ to enable him to govern his congregation on earth? (b) Give specific examples of how Jesus used this means in behalf of his disciples and in support of the preaching work.
5 Furthermore, the apostle Peter wrote concerning Jesus: “He is at God’s right hand, for he went his way to heaven; and angels and authorities and powers were made subject to him.” (1 Peter 3:22) Angels are, therefore, another means that Jehovah put at Christ’s disposal of actively leading the Christian congregation.
6 Consequently, when we read in the book of Acts that “Jehovah’s angel” or “an angel of God” acted in support of the Christian preaching work or intervened in behalf of members of the Christian congregation, there is every reason to believe that such angels acted under the supervision of Christ Jesus. (Acts 5:19; 8:26; 10:3-7, 22; 12:7-11; 27:23, 24) As “Michael the archangel,” Christ has angels at his command, and he used them in actively leading the Christian congregation in the first century C.E.—Jude 9; 1 Thessalonians 4:16.
A Visible Governing Body
7. What other means did Christ use to give direction to his congregation, and what scriptures speak of this “office of oversight”?
7 The Scriptures also indicate that Jesus Christ used a group of men as a governing body to give direction to his congregation on earth. To start with, this governing body appears to have been made up of just the 11 apostles. When seeking Jehovah’s will in the replacement of Judas Iscariot, Peter quoted Psalm 109:8, which states: “His office of oversight let someone else take.” Then, in their prayer to Jehovah, Peter and his companions asked God to designate the man “to take the place of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas deviated.” Matthias was appointed to serve “along with the eleven apostles.”—Acts 1:20, 24-26.
8. What two early examples show how Christ used members of the visible governing body?
8 The first recorded instance of the 12 apostles’ performing in this “office of oversight” as a governing body was when they appointed spiritually qualified men to serve their brothers within the early congregation. (Acts 6:1-6) The second case was when Philip began to preach Christ to the Samaritans. As a result of this, “the apostles in Jerusalem . . . dispatched Peter and John to them.” Only after these representative members of the governing body had laid their hands upon the Samaritans did they ‘begin to receive holy spirit.’—Acts 8:5, 14-17.
Christ’s Personal Leadership
9. Did Christ always act through angels or the governing body? Give an example.
9 Thus, right from the beginning of the Christian congregation, Christ had the holy spirit, angels, and a visible governing body at his disposal to enable him actively to lead his disciples on earth. On occasion he even acted personally. For example, Christ personally converted Saul of Tarsus. (Acts 9:3-6) Three days later Jesus spoke directly to “a certain disciple” named Ananias. Revealing to him the threefold mission he had in mind for Saul, Jesus stated: “This man is a chosen vessel to me to bear my name to the nations as well as to kings and the sons of Israel.” (Acts 9:10-15) Christ called Saul for a particular work. Saul thus became an apostle, or one sent forth, better known as the apostle Paul.
10. How did Christ personally supervise the preaching work?
10 Christ personally supervised the preaching work. By means of the holy spirit received from his Father Jehovah, he initiated Paul’s missionary journeys and took a personal interest in them. We read: “The holy spirit said: ‘Of all persons set Barnabas and Saul apart for me for the work to which I have called them.’ . . . Accordingly these men, sent out by the holy spirit, went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed away” on the first missionary trip. (Acts 13:2-4) Of course, the holy spirit, Jehovah’s active force, could neither ‘say’ something nor ‘send out’ someone of itself. The one using the spirit to direct matters was obviously Christ, the Head of the congregation.
11. What happened during Paul’s second missionary journey, and how does this clearly show that Jesus used the spirit in directing the preaching work?
11 This use of the spirit by Jesus as he actively led the early Christians is plainly shown in the account of Paul’s second missionary journey. After having revisited congregations in Lycaonia (a region of Asia Minor) that had been founded during the first missionary tour, Paul and his traveling companions apparently intended to head west through the Roman province of Asia. Why did they not go through with their plan? “Because they were forbidden by the holy spirit to speak the word in the district of Asia.” (Acts 15:36, 40, 41; 16:1-6) But who was using Jehovah’s holy spirit to guide them? The following verse answers. It shows that when they headed north, intending to preach in Bithynia, “the spirit of Jesus did not permit them.” (Acts 16:7) Yes, Jesus Christ was using the spirit he had received from his Father to direct the preaching work actively. He and his Father Jehovah wanted the good news to spread into Europe, so Paul received a vision to that effect.—Acts 16:9, 10.
Christ Backed Up Members of the Governing Body
12, 13. At the time of Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem as a Christian, what occurred that showed how Christ backed up decisions made by the responsible brothers in that city?
12 At the time of the apostle Paul’s first contact with the disciples in Jerusalem, they were understandably reluctant to meet him. “So Barnabas came to his aid and led him to the apostles.” (Acts 9:26, 27) Paul spent 15 days with the apostle Peter. He also met Jesus’ half brother James, by then one of the elders of the Jerusalem congregation. (Galatians 1:18, 19) Subsequent passages in Acts show that the Jerusalem elders became a part of the governing body of the early Christian congregation, along with the 12 apostles.—Acts 15:2; 21:18.
13 During his two-week stay in Jerusalem, Paul witnessed to Greek-speaking Jews, but “these made attempts to do away with him.” Luke adds that “when the brothers detected this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.” (Acts 9:28-30) But who was behind this wise decision? Years later, when relating the same episode in his life, Paul stated that Jesus had appeared to him and instructed him to leave Jerusalem quickly. When Paul objected, Jesus added: “Get on your way, because I shall send you out to nations far off.” (Acts 22:17-21) Christ was closely following matters from on high and acted both by means of the responsible brothers in Jerusalem and directly by speaking to Paul.
14. What comparison between the accounts in Acts and Galatians shows that Christ was directing matters with regard to the meeting of the governing body dealing with circumcision?
14 Similarly, an attentive reading of the Scriptures shows clearly that Christ was behind the important meeting of the governing body held to settle the question as to whether Gentile Christians should submit to circumcision and the Law of Moses or not. The book of Acts states that when the issue arose, “they [no doubt the responsible members, or elders, of the Antioch congregation] arranged for Paul and Barnabas and some others of them to go up to the apostles and older men in Jerusalem regarding this dispute.” (Acts 15:1, 2) But when Paul relates the circumstances that led to his going to Jerusalem to have the circumcision issue settled, he states: “I went up as a result of a revelation.” (Galatians 2:1-3; compare 1:12.) As the active Head of the congregation, Christ wanted this important doctrinal matter to be settled by the entire visible governing body. By means of the holy spirit, he guided the minds of these devoted men in making their decision.—Acts 15:28, 29.
An Unusual Decision
15, 16. (a) What did the governing body require Paul to do after he returned from his third missionary journey? (b) Why might this instruction seem unusual, and why did Paul comply with it? (c) What question arises?
15 Another interesting example of Christ’s active direction of things from heaven is what took place after Paul’s third missionary journey. Luke relates that upon returning to Jerusalem, Paul made a full report to the members of the governing body on hand. Luke wrote: “Paul went in with us to James; and all the older men were present. And he greeted them and began giving in detail an account of the things God did among the nations through his ministry.” (Acts 21:17-19) After hearing Paul, the assembled body gave him clear-cut instruction, stating: “Do this which we tell you.” They ordered him to go to the temple and publicly demonstrate that he was not “teaching all the Jews among the nations an apostasy from Moses, telling them neither to circumcise their children nor to walk in the solemn customs.”—Acts 21:20-24.
16 One might question the wisdom of this instruction. As we have already seen, years earlier James, and perhaps other elders present on both occasions, had sent Paul away from Jerusalem because his life was threatened by “Greek-speaking Jews.” (Acts 9:29) In spite of this, Paul complied with the order, in line with what he had already said at 1 Corinthians 9:20. But like causes produce like effects. “Jews from [the Roman province of] Asia” caused a riot and tried to kill Paul. Only quick action by Roman soldiers saved him from being lynched. (Acts 21:26-32) Since Christ is the active Head of the congregation, why did he cause the governing body to require Paul to go into the temple?
17. How did this unusual decision turn out to be providential, and what does this indicate?
17 The answer becomes apparent in what occurred the second night after Paul’s arrest. He had given a fine witness to the mob that sought to kill him and, the following day, to the Sanhedrin. (Acts 22:1-21; 23:1-6) For the second time he was nearly lynched. But that night, Jesus appeared to him and said: “Be of good courage! For as you have been giving a thorough witness on the things about me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.” (Acts 23:11) Remember the threefold mission Christ had foretold for Paul. (Acts 9:15) Paul had borne Christ’s name to “the nations” and to “the sons of Israel,” but the time had now come for him to witness “to kings.” Because of that decision by the governing body, Paul was able to witness to Roman procurators Felix and Festus, to King Herod Agrippa II, and, finally, to Roman Emperor Nero. (Acts, chapters 24–26; Acts 27:24) Who can doubt that Christ was behind all of this?
Christ Still Actively Leads His Congregation
18. What did Jesus Christ state before ascending to heaven?
18 Before leaving his disciples and ascending to his Father’s right hand, Jesus Christ stated: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth. Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.”—Matthew 28:18-20.
19. How did Christ wield his God-given authority in the first century, and what will be considered in the next article?
19 The book of Acts, relating the history of the early years of Christianity, shows beyond doubt that Christ used his authority by actively leading his congregation on earth. He did this by means of the holy spirit, the angels, and the governing body made up of the 12 apostles and the elders of the Jerusalem congregation. Jesus stated that he would be with his disciples right up to the conclusion of the system of things, where we now are. In the following article, we will see how he is still the active Head of the Christian congregation and how he is leading his “sheep” today.
Points to Remember
◻ Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses not recognize any man as their leader?
◻ How did Christ use the holy spirit to lead the early Christian congregation?
◻ How did Christ use angels in leading first-century Christians?
◻ How did Christ use a visible governing body in directing his congregation on earth?
◻ How did Christ personally direct matters at times?
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Paul’s Second Missionary Journey
BITHYNIA AND PONTUS
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Christ also led his congregation by means of a visible governing body