Helping Others to Worship God
“If . . . any unbeliever or ordinary person comes in, . . . the secrets of his heart become manifest, so that he will fall upon his face and worship God.”—1 CORINTHIANS 14:24, 25.
1-3. How were many in Corinth helped to gain God’s approval?
ON HIS second missionary tour, the apostle Paul stayed in the city of Corinth for a year and a half. There he was “intensely occupied with the word, witnessing.” With what result? “Many of the Corinthians that heard began to believe and be baptized.” (Acts 18:5-11) They became “sanctified . . . , called to be holy ones.”—1 Corinthians 1:2.
2 Apollos later visited Corinth. Earlier, Priscilla and Aquila had helped him to understand “the way of God more correctly,” including the matter of baptism. He thus became a Christian having God’s goodwill, or approval. (Acts 18:24–19:7) Apollos, in turn, helped Corinthians who once ‘had been led away to voiceless idols.’ (1 Corinthians 12:2) These people likely were given Bible instruction in their homes; they could also learn by attending Christian meetings.—Acts 20:20; 1 Corinthians 14:22-24.
3 The result of such teaching was that many former ‘unbelievers and ordinary persons’ were drawn to true worship. How satisfying it must have been to see men and women progress toward baptism and God’s approval! This is still satisfying.
Helping ‘Unbelievers and Ordinary Persons’
4. In what ways are many today being helped as were those in Corinth?
4 Jehovah’s Witnesses today also are obeying Jesus’ command to “make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) After planting seeds of truth in receptive hearts, they return and water these. (1 Corinthians 3:5-9; Matthew 13:19, 23) The Witnesses offer free weekly home Bible studies so that persons can have their questions answered and can learn Bible truths. Such individuals are also invited to attend the local meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, even as first-century “unbelievers” attended in Corinth. But how should Jehovah’s Witnesses view persons who are studying the Bible and coming to meetings?
5. What Scriptural basis is there for caution in dealing with certain individuals?
5 We are delighted to see them approaching God. Still, we keep in mind that they are not yet baptized believers. Bear in mind also two lessons based on the previous article. (1) Israelites showed caution toward alien settlers who, though being around God’s people and obeying some laws, were not circumcised proselytes, brothers in worship. (2) Corinthian Christians dealing with ‘unbelievers and ordinary persons’ were on the alert because of Paul’s words: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have?”—2 Corinthians 6:14.
6. How can “unbelievers” be “reproved” by the meetings, and what is the nature of such reproof?
6 So while we welcome ‘unbelievers and ordinary persons,’ we are aware that they do not yet meet God’s standards. As the Bible indicates at 1 Corinthians 14:24, 25, such ones may need to be “closely examined,” even “reproved,” by what they are learning. Such reproof is not of a judicial sort; they are not called before a judicial committee of the congregation inasmuch as they are not yet baptized members of it. Rather, as a result of what they are learning, these new ones become convinced that God condemns any selfish and immoral ways.
7. What added progress will many pupils want to make and why?
7 Many unbaptized ones in time may want to go beyond merely attending meetings as interested learners. These words of Jesus show why: “A pupil is not above his teacher, but everyone that is perfectly instructed will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40) The Bible student can see that his teacher views the field ministry as vital and derives happiness from it. (Matthew 24:14) So, with growing faith, the one who has been learning Bible truths and attending meetings may take to heart the words: “How comely upon the mountains are the feet of the one bringing good news, the one publishing peace, the one bringing good news of something better, the one publishing salvation.” (Isaiah 52:7; Romans 10:13-15) Though unbaptized, he may want to become a Kingdom publisher adhering himself to the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
8, 9. (a) What should be done when a Bible student wants to share in the public ministry? (b) When two elders meet with a prospective publisher and his teacher, what will they do? (c) What responsibility is a new publisher assuming?
8 When the Witness conducting the Bible study finds that the student desires to share in the field service, he can discuss the matter with the presiding overseer, who will arrange for two elders to meet with the Bible student and his teacher. The elders are pleased when a new one wants to serve God. They will not expect him to have the degree of knowledge possessed by those who are baptized and further advanced in the truth, of whom more is required. Still, the elders will want to see that before the new one shares in the field ministry with the congregation, he has some knowledge of Bible teachings and has conformed his life to God’s principles. Thus it is for good reasons that two elders meet with the prospective publisher and the Witness conducting the study.*
9 The two elders will inform the student that when he qualifies for and shares in the field service, he may turn in a field service report and a Congregation’s Publisher Record card will be made out in his name. This will demonstrate his affiliation with the theocratic organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses and his submission to it. (This would also be true of all others turning in field service reports.) The discussion should also cover Bible counsel, such as is outlined on pages 98 and 99 of Organized to Accomplish Our Ministry.* Hence, this would be an appropriate time for the student to obtain a personal copy of that book.
10. (a) How can an unbaptized publisher continue to progress, and with what goal? (b) Why is an adjustment being made as to the term “approved associate”? (See footnote.)
10 A person who has qualified as an unbaptized publisher of the good news has moved in the direction of becoming a ‘man of goodwill.’* (Luke 2:14) Although he is not dedicated and baptized, now he can report his witnessing activity along with the millions of active ones earth wide who are “publishing the word of God.” (Acts 13:5; 17:3; 26:22, 23) An announcement that he is a new unbaptized publisher can be made to the congregation. He should continue studying the Bible, participating in the meetings, applying what he learns, and sharing it with others. Before long, he will want to take the step of Christian baptism, thus becoming approved by God and ‘marked’ for salvation.—Ezekiel 9:4-6.
Help for One Who Errs
11. How does the congregation deal with baptized wrongdoers?
11 In the previous article, we discussed the congregation’s provisions to help any baptized Christian who commits serious sin. (Hebrews 12:9-13) And we saw from the Bible that if a baptized wrongdoer is unrepentant, the congregation may need to expel him and thereafter avoid any fellowship with him. (1 Corinthians 5:11-13; 2 John 9-11; 2 Thessalonians 2:11, 12) What steps, though, can be taken if an unbaptized publisher seriously errs or sins?
12. (a) Why is merciful help also available for unbaptized publishers who sin? (b) How can the principle at Luke 12:48 relate to accountability for wrongdoing?
12 Jude urged that mercy be shown to anointed Christians who had developed doubts or had fallen into sins of the flesh, provided they were repentant. (Jude 22, 23; see also 2 Corinthians 7:10.) Would it not, then, be even more fitting that mercy be shown to an erring unbaptized person who demonstrates repentance? (Acts 3:19) Yes, for his spiritual foundation is not as solid, and his experience in Christian living is more limited. He may not have learned God’s thinking on some matters. He has not gone through the series of prebaptism Bible discussions with elders, and he has not submitted to the serious step of water immersion. Moreover, Jesus said that “everyone to whom much was given, much will be demanded of him.” (Luke 12:48) So, much is expected of baptized ones who, along with increased knowledge and blessings, have special accountability.—James 4:17; Luke 15:1-7; 1 Corinthians 13:11.
13. If an unbaptized publisher errs, what will the elders do to help?
13 Consistent with Paul’s advice, spiritually qualified brothers want to assist any unbaptized publisher who takes a false step before being aware of it. (Compare Galatians 6:1.) The elders could ask two of their number (perhaps those who earlier met with him) to try to readjust him if he wants to be helped. They would do so, not out of a desire to reprove with severity, but in a merciful way and in a spirit of mildness. (Psalm 130:3) In most cases, Scriptural exhortation and practical suggestions will suffice to produce repentance and put him on the right path.
14, 15. (a) What may be done if the wrongdoer is genuinely repentant? (b) What limited clarifying comment might be made in some cases?
14 The two elders will provide directions appropriate to the unbaptized wrongdoer’s situation. In some cases, they may arrange that for a time the erring one not be in the Theocratic Ministry School or be allowed to comment at meetings. Or they may instruct him not to share in the public ministry with the congregation until he has made more spiritual progress. Then they can tell him that he may again participate in the field ministry. If the wrongdoing did not bring notoriety and did not pose a danger to the cleanness of the flock, it is not necessary to alert the congregation by any announcement.
15 What, though, if the two elders find that the person is genuinely repentant, but the wrong is widely known? Or what if the wrongdoing becomes widely known later? In either case, they can inform the Congregation Service Committee, who will arrange for a simple announcement, as follows: “A matter involving . . . has been handled, and he [she] continues to serve as an unbaptized publisher with the congregation.” As in all such matters, the body of elders can determine whether it would be advisable at some future point to give a Scriptural talk with counsel about the sort of wrongdoing involved.
16, 17. (a) What two situations might be the basis for a different announcement? (b) What is the nature of this announcement?
16 Occasionally, an unbaptized publisher who is a wrongdoer will not respond to loving assistance. Or an unbaptized publisher may determine that he does not want to continue progressing toward baptism, and he informs the elders that he does not want to be recognized as a publisher. What is to be done? Disfellowshipping action is not taken regarding such ones who actually have not become approved by God. The arrangement of disfellowshipping unrepentant wrongdoers applies to those ‘called brothers,’ to baptized ones. (1 Corinthians 5:11) Does this mean, though, that the wrongdoing is ignored? No.
17 The elders are responsible to ‘shepherd the flock of God in their care.’ (1 Peter 5:2) If two elders offering help determine that an unbaptized wrongdoer is unrepentant and unqualified to be a publisher, they will inform the individual.* Or if some unbaptized one tells the elders that he no longer wishes to be recognized as a publisher, they will accept his decision. In either case, it is appropriate for the Congregation Service Committee to have a simple announcement made at an appropriate time, saying “ . . . is no longer a publisher of the good news.”
18. (a) After such an announcement, what will Christians bear in mind in personally deciding how to act? (b) Is it necessary completely to avoid unbaptized ones guilty of wrongdoing in the past?
18 How will Witnesses thereafter view the person? Well, at an earlier point he was an ‘unbeliever’ attending meetings. Then he both wanted to be and qualified to be a publisher of the good news. This is no longer the case, so he again is a person of the world. The Bible does not require that Witnesses avoid speaking with him, for he is not disfellowshipped.* Still, Christians will exercise caution with regard to such a person of the world who is not worshiping Jehovah, even as Israelites did regarding uncircumcised alien settlers. This caution helps to protect the congregation from any “little leaven,” or corrupting element. (1 Corinthians 5:6) If at some later time he expresses a genuine desire for a Bible study to be held with him, and this seems in order to the elders, perhaps it will help him come to appreciate again what a privilege it is to worship Jehovah with His people.—Psalm 100.
19. How can the elders privately provide further aid in some cases?
19 If the elders see that a certain person of this sort is an unusual threat to the flock, they can privately warn those endangered. For example, the former publisher may be a youth who has given in to drunkenness or immorality. Despite the announcement that he is no longer an unbaptized publisher, he might attempt to socialize with youths in the congregation. In that situation, the elders would speak privately to the parents of the endangered ones, and maybe to those youths also. (Hebrews 12:15, 16; Acts 20:28-30) In the rare case of a person who is disruptive or violently dangerous, he can be told that he is not welcome at the meetings and that any attempt to enter will be considered trespassing.
Helping Minors to Worship God
20. Christian parents provide what help for their children, and with what result?
20 The Bible gives parents the responsibility to instruct their children in the way of divine truth. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 31:12, 13) Thus, Jehovah’s Witnesses have long encouraged Christian families to have a weekly Bible study. Christian parents should encourage their little ones to progress toward dedication and baptism and so gain God’s approval. (Proverbs 4:1-7) We see in the congregations the delightful result—hundreds of thousands of exemplary young ones who love Jehovah and want to worship him forever.
21-23. (a) Primarily, how is a minor’s wrongdoing handled? (b) What role do congregation elders play in such situations?
21 Christian parents also have the primary responsibility to discipline and reprove their children, imposing whatever restrictions or loving punishments they deem necessary. (Ephesians 6:4; Hebrews 12:8, 9; Proverbs 3:11, 12; 22:15) If, though, a minor child who has been associating as an unbaptized publisher becomes involved in serious wrongdoing, it is of concern to the elders who are ‘watching over the souls’ of the flock.—Hebrews 13:17.
22 Basically, such wrongdoing should be cared for as outlined earlier in this article. Two elders can be assigned to look into the matter. They might, for example, first discuss with the parents (or parent) what has occurred, what the child’s attitude is, and what corrective steps have been taken. (Compare Deuteronomy 21:18-21.) If the Christian parents have the situation in hand, the elders can simply check with them from time to time to offer helpful counsel, suggestions, and loving encouragement.
23 Sometimes, though, the discussion with the parents shows that it would be best for the elders to meet with the wayward minor and the parents. Bearing in mind the limitations and inclinations of youths, the overseers will endeavor to instruct the young, unbaptized publisher with mildness. (2 Timothy 2:22-26) In some cases, it may be clear that he no longer qualifies to be a publisher and that an appropriate announcement should be made.
24. (a) Even if a minor has shared in serious wrongdoing, what is it appropriate for parents to do, and how may they accomplish this? (b) How would this apply to a minor who has been disfellowshipped?
24 Thereafter, what would parents do in behalf of their erring minor child? They are still responsible for their child, though he is disqualified as an unbaptized publisher or even if he is disfellowshipped because of wrongdoing after baptism. Just as they will continue to provide him with food, clothing, and shelter, they need to instruct and discipline him in line with God’s Word. (Proverbs 6:20-22; 29:17) Loving parents may thus arrange to have a home Bible study with him, even if he is disfellowshipped.* Maybe he will derive the most corrective benefit from their studying with him alone. Or they may decide that he can continue to share in the family study arrangement. Though he has gone astray, they want to see him return to Jehovah, as did the prodigal son in Jesus’ illustration.—Luke 15:11-24.
25. Why is loving interest and help directed toward “unbelievers” today?
25 The goal of our preaching and teaching is to help others to become happy worshipers of the true God. ‘Unbelievers and ordinary persons’ in Corinth were moved to ‘fall upon their face and worship God, declaring: “God is really among you.”’ (1 Corinthians 14:25) What a joy it is today to see more and more persons come to worship God! This is a glorious fulfillment of the angels’ pronouncement: “Glory in the heights above to God, and upon earth peace among men of goodwill [or, men having God’s approval].”—Luke 2:14.
One of the elders should be a member of the congregation’s Service Committee. The other might be the elder most familiar with the student or his teacher, such as the Congregation Book Study conductor.
Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 1983.
Previously, an unbaptized person who qualified to share in the field ministry was termed an “approved associate.” However, “unbaptized publisher” is a more accurate designation, especially in view of the Biblical indication that God’s approval results from a valid dedication and Christian baptism.
If the individual is dissatisfied with this conclusion, he may request (within seven days) to have the matter reviewed.
Previously, unbaptized ones who unrepentantly sinned were completely avoided. While, as adjusted above, this is not required, the counsel at 1 Corinthians 15:33 should still be observed.
Do You Remember?
□ What is the view of Christians toward “unbelievers” who attend meetings?
□ When a Bible student wants to share in the field service, what steps do the elders follow, and what responsibility does the student accept?
□ What is done if an unbaptized publisher commits serious sin?
□ How can parents and the elders help minor children living at home, even if such youths err seriously?
[Picture on page 16]
Becoming a publisher, though yet unbaptized, is an important and responsible step toward gaining God’s approval