“Keep Holding Men of That Sort Dear”
“Recognize men of that sort.”—1 CORINTHIANS 16:18.
1. What sort of men did the apostle Paul hold particularly dear, and what did he write about one such Christian?
THE sort of men that the apostle Paul held particularly dear were those who were willing to expend their strength unreservedly for Jehovah and their brothers. Of one such fellow worker, Paul wrote: “Give him the customary welcome in the Lord with all joy; and keep holding men of that sort dear, because on account of the Lord’s work he came quite near to death, exposing his soul to danger.”—Philippians 2:29, 30.
2. To whom do we owe special consideration, and why?
2 Today, in over 55,000 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses, there are many fine Christian men whom we should particularly appreciate because of their hard work among their brothers. Showing that we should hold such men dear, Paul stated: “We request you, brothers, to have regard for those who are working hard among you and presiding over you in the Lord and admonishing you; and to give them more than extraordinary consideration in love because of their work. Be peaceable with one another.”—1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13.
3. (a) What will help us to be peaceable with one another? (b) In what respect should elders set the example?
3 Proper appreciation for all our brothers and sisters, and particularly for hardworking elders, is undoubtedly an important factor in peaceable living within our congregations. In this, as in all areas of Christian living, the elders should be “examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2, 3) However, while elders can properly expect to be appreciated by the brothers for their hard work, they should also set the example in showing due consideration for one another.
“Showing Honor to One Another”
4, 5. (a) What shows that the apostle Paul appreciated hardworking elders? (b) What did he write to Christians in Rome, and why do his words apply particularly to elders?
4 The apostle Paul set a fine example in this regard. As we saw in the preceding article, he looked for the good things in his brothers and sisters. And not only did he encourage Christians to love and respect hardworking elders but he also showed due appreciation for these himself. He obviously held men of that sort dear.—Compare Philippians 2:19-25, 29; Colossians 4:12, 13; Titus 1:4, 5.
5 In his letter to Christians in Rome, Paul wrote: “In brotherly love have tender affection for one another. In showing honor to one another take the lead. Do not loiter at your business. Be aglow with the spirit. Slave for Jehovah.” (Romans 12:10, 11) Surely, these words apply preeminently to Christian elders. They, of all Christians, should take the lead in showing honor to one another.
6. (a) What should elders avoid doing, and why? (b) How can elders heighten the congregation’s confidence in the entire body of elders?
6 Elders should be particularly careful not to make disparaging remarks about fellow overseers. No one elder has all the Christian qualities to the supreme degree, for all are imperfect. Some excel in certain qualities, but they are weaker in others. If elders have proper brotherly love and tender affection for one another, they will play down the weaknesses of one another. In their conversations with the brothers, they will point up their fellow elders’ strong points. By thus taking the lead in showing honor to one another, they will heighten the congregation’s confidence in the body of elders as a whole.
Working Together as a Body
7. What will help elders to work together in unity, and how will they show this?
7 After speaking of the “gifts in men” that Christ made to his congregation on earth with a view to the readjustment of the brothers and for ministerial work, the apostle Paul wrote: “Let us by love grow up in all things into him who is the head, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:7-15) Recognizing that Christ is the active Head of the congregation, and that elders must submit to his right hand of authority, is a unifying factor within each body of elders. (Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:16, 20; 2:1) They will seek his direction by means of the holy spirit, Bible principles, and the lead given by the Governing Body of “the faithful and discreet slave.”—Matthew 24:45-47; Acts 15:2, 28; 16:4, 5.
8. What should all elders remember, and how will they show honor to one another?
8 Elders will recognize that Christ, by means of the holy spirit, can direct the mind of any elder on the body of elders to provide the Bible principle needed to cope with any situation or make any important decision. (Acts 15:6-15) No one elder has the monopoly of the spirit within the body. Elders will show honor to one another by carefully listening to any of their number who bring to bear on the subject under discussion a Bible principle or an instruction from the Governing Body.
9. (a) What spiritual qualities will help an overseer to avoid being overbearing with his fellow elders? (b) How will an elder show himself to be “reasonable,” and how did the first-century governing body set the example in this respect?
9 Christian modesty, meekness, and humility will prevent any elder from trying to dominate over his brothers and impose his opinion. (Proverbs 11:2; Colossians 3:12) A Christian overseer may have very strong and sincere views on a certain matter. But if he sees that his fellow elders have Scriptural and theocratic reasons for differing with him, he will ‘conduct himself as a lesser one’ and show himself “reasonable” by yielding to the majority view.* (Luke 9:48; 1 Timothy 3:3) He will follow the fine example set by the first-century governing body, who, after a Scriptural discussion, and under the lead given by Christ through the holy spirit, came to “a unanimous accord.”—Acts 15:25.
10. (a) What proves that the appointment of a body of elders in each congregation is a Bible-based arrangement? (b) How does the book Organized to Accomplish Our Ministry explain the advantages of this arrangement?
10 The appointment of a body of elders in each congregation to take the lead is based on the example set by the early Christian congregation. (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 4:14; Titus 1:5; compare the footnote to the word “elders” at Titus 1:5 in The Jerusalem Bible.) Summing up the wisdom of this arrangement, the book Organized to Accomplish Our Ministry (page 37) states: “Some elders will be more outstanding in one quality than in another, whereas others of the body will excel in those qualities in which some may be weak. The effect then is that, generally speaking, as a whole, the body will have within itself all the fine qualities that are necessary for exercising proper oversight of the congregation of God.”
Mutual Respect Among Bodies of Elders
11, 12. (a) Why can a body of elders accomplish more than its members acting individually? (b) How did Christ Jesus and the apostle Paul deal with bodies of elders as such, and what counsel was given?
11 Thus, a body of elders is a Scriptural entity of which the whole represents more than the sum of its parts. When they meet and pray for Jehovah’s direction through Christ and the holy spirit, they can make decisions that would not have been arrived at if they had been consulted individually. When the elders gather together, their various qualities go into play and produce results that reflect Christ’s direction of matters.—Compare Matthew 18:19, 20.
12 That Christ dealt with bodies of elders as such is indicated by the messages he sent to “the seven stars,” or “angels of the seven congregations” in Asia Minor. (Revelation 1:11, 20) The first of those messages was sent to the congregation in Ephesus via its ‘angel,’ or body of anointed overseers. Some 40 years earlier, the apostle Paul had the body of elders in Ephesus travel to Miletus for a special meeting with him. He reminded them to pay attention to themselves and to shepherd the congregation.—Acts 20:17, 28.
13. Why should elders pay attention to the spirit they show within their local body of elders and in their collective relationship with other bodies of elders?
13 Bodies of elders should pay particular attention to keeping a fine, positive spirit among themselves and within their congregation. (Acts 20:30) Just as an individual Christian manifests a certain spirit, likewise bodies of elders and entire congregations can develop a particular spirit. (Philippians 4:23; 2 Timothy 4:22; Philemon 25) It sometimes happens that elders who respect one another within their own congregation show a lack of accord with another body of elders. In cities where several congregations meet in the same hall, a disagreement sometimes develops between bodies of elders over meeting schedules, territory boundaries, Kingdom Hall installations, and so forth. The same principles of modesty, meekness, humility, and reasonableness that govern the elders within each body should govern the relationship between bodies of elders. The apostle Paul counseled: “Let all things take place for upbuilding.”—1 Corinthians 14:26.
Proper Respect for Traveling Overseers
14. What other category of elders deserves to be held dear, and why?
14 Another Bible-based arrangement that is in operation among the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses is their being visited regularly by itinerant elders, called circuit or district overseers. (Acts 15:36; 16:4, 5) These, outstandingly, are “older men who preside in a fine way.” No less than other elders, they should be “reckoned worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard in speaking and teaching.”—1 Timothy 5:17.
15. What counsel did the apostle John give concerning traveling evangelizers?
15 In his third letter the apostle John criticized Diotrephes because he refused to “receive the brothers with respect.” (3Jo Verse 10) These brothers were traveling Christians who went forth “in behalf of [Jehovah’s] name.” (3Jo Verse 7) They had apparently been sent forth as evangelizers to preach the good news and build up the congregations in the towns they visited. John instructed that these hardworking itinerant preachers should be ‘sent on their way in a manner worthy of God.’ (3Jo Verse 6) The apostle added: “We, therefore, are under obligation to receive such persons hospitably, that we may become fellow workers in the truth.” (3Jo Verse 8) They were to be received with respect.
16. How can all Christians today follow the example of Gaius in the “faithful work” he did for first-century evangelizers, and why is this proper?
16 Similarly today, the traveling overseers sent forth by the Governing Body to preach the good news and help the congregations should be received hospitably and with respect. These brothers and their wives (if they are married, as many of them are) have been willing to give up living in a fixed abode. They travel from place to place, often depending on the hospitality of the brothers for their food and a bed to sleep on. To Gaius, who lovingly took in traveling evangelizers in the first century C.E., John wrote: “Beloved one, you are doing a faithful work in whatever you do for the brothers, and strangers at that.” (3 John 5) Likewise today, those who travel ‘in behalf of Jehovah’s name’ deserve to be held dear and to be shown love and respect.
17. How should congregation elders show proper respect for visiting representatives of the Governing Body?
17 Elders, in particular, should show proper respect for these visiting representatives of the Governing Body. They are sent to the congregations because of their spiritual qualities and their experience, which is usually more extensive than that of many local elders. Some of these traveling overseers may be younger in years than certain elders in the congregations they visit. But that is not a valid reason to refuse them proper respect. They may feel the need to temper the local elders’ haste in recommending a brother as ministerial servant or elder, remembering Paul’s warning to Timothy. (1 Timothy 5:22) While the visiting overseer should give due consideration to the arguments put forward by the local elders, the latter should be willing to listen to him and benefit from his wide experience. Yes, they should “keep holding men of that sort dear.”—Philippians 2:29.
“Recognize Men of That Sort”
18, 19. (a) How did Paul express his appreciation for his fellow workers? (b) What example shows that Paul did not harbor resentment against his brothers?
18 In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote: “Now I exhort you, brothers: you know that the household of Stephanas is the firstfruits of Achaia and that they set themselves to minister to the holy ones. May you also keep submitting yourselves to persons of that kind and to everyone cooperating and laboring. But I rejoice over the presence of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your not being here. For they have refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore recognize men of that sort.”—1 Corinthians 16:15-18.
19 What a fine, generous attitude Paul had toward his brothers, some of whom were not widely known. But Paul loved them because they were “cooperating” and “laboring” hard in their efforts to minister to the holy ones. Paul also set a noble example of letting bygones be bygones. Although John Mark had disappointed him during his first missionary journey, Paul later warmly recommended him to the congregation in Colossae. (Acts 13:13; 15:37, 38; Colossians 4:10) When imprisoned in Rome, Paul requested Mark’s presence because, as he said, “[Mark] is useful to me for ministering.” (2 Timothy 4:11) No petty harboring of resentment there!
20. How should Christians in general, and elders in particular, show that they appreciate faithful overseers and that they “keep holding men of that sort dear”?
20 Today among God’s people, there are many devoted overseers who, like Stephanas, are ministering to their brothers. To be sure, they have their faults and failings. Nevertheless, they are “cooperating” with “the faithful and discreet slave” and its Governing Body, and “laboring” hard in the preaching work and in helping their brothers. We should ‘keep submitting ourselves to persons of that kind,’ appreciating them for their qualities, not seeking out their shortcomings. Elders should take the lead in showing due appreciation and respect for their fellow elders. Elders ought to cooperate with one another in a spirit of love and unity. All will recognize the value of such faithful brothers and “keep holding men of that sort dear.”—Philippians 2:29.
A footnote in the New World Translation Reference Bible indicates that the word “reasonable” at 1 Timothy 3:3 translates a Greek term that literally means “yielding.”
Points for Review
□ What sort of men did Paul hold particularly dear, and who deserve our special consideration today?
□ How should elders show that they honor one another?
□ Why can a body of elders accomplish more than its members acting individually?
□ In what areas will a body of elders show that they honor another body of elders?
□ What category of overseers deserves to be held particularly dear, and how can this proper respect be shown?
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Elders should show proper appreciation for one another
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Show love and respect for traveling overseers