“The Hand of Jehovah Was With Them”
“Thus in a mighty way the word of Jehovah kept growing and prevailing.”—ACTS 19:20.
1. (a) What complaint did enemies of Christianity make in the first century C.E.? (b) What followed wherever the missionary Paul preached the good news of God’s Kingdom, and what was always with the early Christians?
MORE than 1,900 years ago, enemies of the Christian message and opposers of the missionary apostle Paul complained: “These men that have overturned the inhabited earth are present here also, . . . and [they] act in opposition to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king, Jesus.” (Acts 17:6, 7) Wherever the Christian missionary Paul made known the good news of Jehovah’s Kingdom, there was action and reaction, and often persecution. Other early Christians also suffered persecution. But always “the hand of Jehovah was with them.”—Acts 11:21.
2. Who initiated the Christian missionary activity, and how?
2 Who had initiated this vital Christian missionary activity? It was Jesus, a unique man with a stirring message and an unusual method for propagating it. Remember that Jesus, the Son of God, came to the Jewish people with a startling announcement about the Kingdom of God. But they were only interested in their own salvation by works of the Law.—Matthew 4:17; Luke 8:1; 11:45, 46.
“To All the Nations”
3. What prophecy by Jesus must have surprised his Jewish disciples, and why?
3 Thus, we can imagine the surprise of Jesus’ Jewish disciples when he told them three days before his death: “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” His disciples must have wondered how they could ever preach the good news “to all the nations.” How could such a small body of believers ever accomplish such a staggering assignment?—Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10.
4. What command did the resurrected Jesus give to his disciples?
4 Later, the resurrected Jesus added a command, saying: “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.” Thus they were commissioned to take their Master’s message to “people of all the nations.”—Matthew 28:18-20.
5, 6. (a) How did the preaching of the good news of God’s Kingdom reach the Gentiles, and with what result? (b) How did the elders in Jerusalem respond when Peter related to them his experience with the Gentile Cornelius?
5 This came to include preaching to Gentiles, which proved to be a challenge. Peter’s attitude over three years later is proof of that. By means of a vision, Peter was told to eat defiled creatures as food. When God indicated to him that things formerly considered defiled were now to be viewed as clean, Peter was perplexed. Then Peter was directed by God’s spirit to visit the house of the Gentile Cornelius, a Roman centurion. There, he perceived that it was God’s will for him to preach to Cornelius, though he had previously thought contacts with people of other races to be unlawful. As Peter was speaking, holy spirit fell upon that Gentile family, and this indicated, in effect, that the field for Christian missionary activity must now expand to include the non-Jewish world.—Acts 10:9-16, 28, 34, 35, 44.
6 When Peter explained this development to the elders in Jerusalem, “they acquiesced, and they glorified God, saying: ‘Well, then, God has granted repentance for the purpose of life to people of the nations also.’” (Acts 11:18) Now the Gentile nations could freely receive the good news of Christ and of his Kingdom!
Missionaries to the Nations
7. How did Christian missionary activity begin to spread in the lands around the Mediterranean, and how did Jehovah view this?
7 The preaching work, which had gathered momentum after the martyrdom of Stephen, now took on a different dimension. With the exception of the apostles, the congregation in Jerusalem had scattered. At first, those persecuted Jewish believers preached only to Jews in Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch. “However, . . . some men of Cyprus and Cyrene . . . began talking to the Greek-speaking people, declaring the good news of the Lord Jesus.” How did Jehovah view this missionary activity to the nations? “The hand of Jehovah was with them, and a great number that became believers turned to the Lord.” Thanks to the boldness of those early Christians, effective missionary activity was beginning to spread in the lands around the Mediterranean. But more was yet to come.—Acts 4:31; 8:1; 11:19-21.
8. How did God indicate a decisive move for the expansion of the missionary work?
8 About 47-48 C.E., God, through holy spirit, indicated a decisive move for the expansion of the missionary work. The record at Acts 13:2-4 tells us: “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 [the seaport of Syrian Antioch], and from there they sailed away to Cyprus.” How thrilling that must have been for Paul and Barnabas—sailing to their first foreign assignment! The apostle Paul was spearheading the Christian missionary activity. He was also laying a foundation for a work that would be completed in our day.
9. What did the apostle Paul accomplish by means of his missionary tours?
9 Paul went on to make three recorded missionary tours plus his journey to Rome as a prisoner. In the course of these, he opened up the work in several cities in Europe and preached the Kingdom message in countries and islands that today are known as Syria, Cyprus, Crete, Turkey, Greece, Malta, and Sicily. He may even have reached Spain. He helped establish congregations in many cities. What was the secret of his effective missionary activity?
10. Why was Paul so effective in his missionary activity?
10 Paul imitated Christ’s way of teaching. Therefore he knew how to relate to people. He knew how to teach and how to train others as teachers. He based his teaching on the Scriptures. He did not try to impress others with his own wisdom but, rather, reasoned from the Scriptures. (Acts 17:2, 3) Paul also knew how to adapt to his audience and how to use the local setting as a springboard for his message. As he said: “I have made myself the slave to all, that I may gain the most persons. And so to the Jews I became as a Jew . . . To those without law I became as without law . . . To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I have become all things to people of all sorts, that I might by all means save some.”—1 Corinthians 9:19-23; Acts 17:22, 23.
11. What indicates that Paul and his companions were effective missionaries, and how widespread was the Christian ministry?
11 Paul and his companions were effective missionaries. By perseverance and endurance, they established and strengthened Christian congregations everywhere they went. (Acts 13:14, 43, 48, 49; 14:19-28) The early Christian ministry was so widespread that Paul could eventually write about “the truth of that good news which has presented itself to you, even as it is bearing fruit and increasing in all the world . . . , and which was preached in all creation that is under heaven.” Truly, early Christian missionary activity affected people.—Colossians 1:5, 6, 23.
12. What caused the authentic Christian missionary work to cease for a time?
12 However, by the beginning of the second century C.E., apostasy was creeping into the Christian congregation, even as Jesus and the apostles had warned. (Matthew 7:15, 21-23; Acts 20:29, 30; 1 John 2:18, 19) In the centuries that followed, theology and pagan doctrine submerged the Kingdom message. Christendom sent out missionaries, not to preach the true Kingdom of God, but to impose on defenseless natives—often with the sword—the kingdom of their political masters and sponsors. Authentic Christian missionary work ceased but not forever.
13. How did a missionary campaign get started in modern times, and what was accomplished by the end of 1916?
13 Toward the close of the 19th century, Charles T. Russell, the first president of the Watch Tower Society, saw the need for missionary activity. He thus organized an extensive witnessing campaign, and he himself visited many cities in the United States, as well as traveled the world by ship to visit as many countries as possible. His Bible-based writings were published in 35 languages. It is said that he traveled more than a million miles as a public lecturer and preached more than 30,000 sermons before his death in 1916.
14. What did Joseph F. Rutherford do to further the missionary activity?
14 His successor, Joseph F. Rutherford, also recognized the vital need for missionary activity. In the early 1920’s, he sent out capable men to different countries to help get the preaching work established. Missionaries pioneered this Kingdom work in Spain, South America, and West Africa. In 1931 an appeal was made for volunteers to reinforce the work in Spain. Three young men from England responded and served there under the most difficult and arduous circumstances for four years until the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Then they had to flee for their lives.
15. What took place in the 1940’s to expand the missionary work significantly?
15 During the decade of the 1940’s, better things were to come in missionary activity. The third president of the Watch Tower Society, Nathan H. Knorr, had a team of zealous men working with him. Evidently under the direction of holy spirit, in 1942 he saw the need to open up a missionary school in preparation for the post-World War II challenge. In the midst of that world war, he took the initiative, and the Watchtower School of Gilead was inaugurated in northern New York State in February 1943. With four instructors, it gave Bible-based training for missionary service to over a hundred zealous pioneer ministers, male and female, every six months. Has their resultant activity been effective?
16. (a) How many Witnesses were preaching in 1943, and how does that compare with today? (b) What part have the missionaries had in this increase? Explain.
16 In 1943 there were only 126,329 Witnesses preaching in 54 countries. What is the situation today? Now, 45 years later, there are 28 times as many, over three and a half million active ministers in 212 countries and islands of the sea. A significant part of this increase has been due to the fine foundation laid by the more than 6,000 missionaries who have graduated from the Gilead School. These have come from 59 countries and have been sent out to 148 different lands over the course of the last five decades. With their help, instead of just over a hundred thousand Witnesses for the whole world, as there were 45 years ago, there are now ten countries that have each more than a hundred thousand ministers preaching and teaching the good news. In most of these nations, the Gilead missionaries have been in the vanguard of the evangelizing work.
17. What are three basic factors that have made both the early and the modern Christian missionary work effective?
17 Whether we refer to the early or the modern Christian missionary work, there are basic factors that have made it effective. One is the direct contact with people that results from the house-to-house ministry and informal witnessing, as well as the home Bible study arrangement. (John 4:7-26; Acts 20:20) Another factor is the direct and simple Bible-based message that highlights the Kingdom of God as the only permanent solution for mankind’s problems. (Acts 19:8; 28:16, 23, 30, 31) And many of our missionaries are serving in underdeveloped countries where the need for God’s righteous rule is very evident. A third factor is the love that Christ taught and that our modern missionaries manifest in their daily dealings with people of all kinds and origins. There is no question that, over the past 45 years, Watch Tower missionaries have made a major contribution to the global expansion of Jehovah’s organization.—Romans 1:14-17; 1 Corinthians 3:5, 6.
Pioneer Spirit Takes Hold
18. Who else have imbibed the same spirit of missionary zeal as the Gilead graduates?
18 No doubt the zealous example of the Gilead graduates stimulated others with a desire to be full-time ministers. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of other witnesses of Jehovah who have imbibed the same spirit of missionary zeal. These too are pioneers in the real sense, following in the steps of Jesus, “the Pioneer of their salvation.”—Hebrews 2:10; 12:2, Moffatt.
19. What have many Witnesses with the pioneer spirit volunteered to do, and how do they feel rewarded?
19 Since the 1960’s it has become very difficult to send missionaries into a number of countries. The Watchtower Bible School of Gilead continues to supply missionaries, to the extent possible, according to the need in foreign lands. However, there is a tremendous field worldwide for those Witnesses who have the true pioneer spirit. Many have volunteered to make their own arrangements to serve in lands where the need is greater. Are you one who could join them? Such ones often comment that hardships and sacrifices are compensated for over and over again by the great joy of feeding Kingdom truths to sheeplike ones in developing countries. They are rewarded a hundredfold in finding new “brothers and sisters and mothers and children” and in sharing with these the wonderful hope of everlasting life in “the coming system of things.”—Mark 10:28-30.
20. (a) Who are doing the greater part of the preaching in many countries? (b) How is it that Japan reports a total of more hours of field service yearly than almost any other country? (c) What question would we do well to consider?
20 Moreover, there are hundreds of thousands of Jehovah’s servants today who report sacred service each month as regular or auxiliary pioneers. Most of these work diligently in their home territories. In many countries, these do the greater part of the preaching, and they often call at the same homes week after week. Their Kingdom hope is reflected in their bright appearance and joyful attitude as they make new friends and cultivate much interest in their territories. More pioneers mean many more hours spent in praising God. For more than a decade, Japan, where the vast majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses are former Buddhists, has reported a total of more hours of field service annually than any other country outside the United States. That is because close to one half of its Kingdom publishers are pioneering. Can you too arrange your affairs to share in this grandest of privileges, the pioneer service?
21. (a) How can other Witnesses whose situation does not enable them to enroll as regular pioneers still show the pioneer spirit? (b) How can young ones show the pioneer spirit?
21 There are other Witnesses who are “zealous for fine works.” (Titus 2:14) They include older folk, those in poor health, many with family responsibilities, and youths still in school whose situation may not permit them to enroll as regular pioneers. These too can show the pioneer spirit by giving encouraging support to the pioneers, sharing with them as possible in the service, and maintaining a positive attitude toward their own witnessing opportunities. Young folk can make full-time Kingdom service their goal and, once they are baptized, share in auxiliary pioneering from time to time. Like young Timothy, they can ponder over these things in order to make spiritual advancement along with all of God’s people.—1 Timothy 4:15, 16.
22. Whatever our situation in life, what should we make our determination, and with what fine result?
22 Whatever our situation in life, may all of us be moved by Jehovah’s spirit to share fully in his service. May “the hand of Jehovah” continue to be with each one of us so that it can be said with regard to our humble efforts that “in a mighty way the word of Jehovah kept growing and prevailing.”—Acts 11:21; 19:20.
Questions for Review
◻ How did the Christian missionary work get started, and how extensive was it to become?
◻ What role did the apostle Paul have in expanding missionary work?
◻ How was missionary work revived in modern times?
◻ What factors have made missionary and pioneer service effective?
◻ How can we imbibe the pioneer spirit today?
[Chart on page 13]
Kingdom Activity in Ten Countries—1988
(All of these reported more than 100,000 publishers)
Country Peak of Average Hours of Memorial
Publishers Pioneers Preaching Attendance
U.S.A. 797,104 96,947 161,478,732 1,822,607
Mexico 248,822 32,117 58,061,457 1,004,062
Brazil 245,610 22,725 44,218,022 718,414
Italy 160,584 25,477 43,354,687 330,461
Nigeria 134,543 14,022 27,800,623 398,555
Japan 128,817 52,183 60,626,840 297,171
Germany 125,068 8,416 22,020,942 215,385
Britain 113,412 11,927 22,103,713 211,060
Philippines 107,679 21,320 26,337,621 305,087
France 103,734 9,189 21,598,308 205,256
[Picture on page 10]
Paul and Barnabas depart to pioneer missionary work