Who Really Are God’s Ministers?
“IN THIS decisive hour we admonish our Catholic soldiers to do their duty in obedience to the Fuehrer [Hitler].”—The Catholic bishops of Germany, as quoted in The New York Times, September 25, 1939.
“You know, padre, on our aircraft one of our crew members is a Catholic, and you bless him before we go off on bombing missions over Germany. Now, the same Catholic religion in Germany is blessing a Catholic crew member of a German aircraft that comes over and destroys our cities. So the question I ask is, ‘Whose side is God on?’” Thus spoke a British flying officer, David Walker, in a conversation with a Catholic priest during World War II.
In contrast, thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses spent years in the dreadful Nazi concentration camps for refusing to heil Hitler or to fight in his armed forces. In Allied countries, many Witnesses were imprisoned for refusing military service.
Who are God’s true ministers, and what requirements must they meet?
Belief in the Bible
A true minister of God must obviously have firm belief in the Bible. He should also know it well enough to teach it to others. But many of Christendom’s clergy do not fulfill these basic requirements. A medical doctor in South Africa stated that the ministers of the Anglican Church, to which he used to belong, made “very little use” of the Bible, and sermons seemed to be the personal opinion of the preacher. He also complained about members of the clergy, such as Archbishop Tutu of Cape Town, for getting involved in politics.
In contrast, Jehovah’s faithful servants firmly believe in the Bible and spend much of their time studying it and explaining it to others. Their interest in the Bible and their love for it are so deep that they have produced a thoroughly researched and very accurate translation called New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, based on authoritative Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Bible manuscripts. This Bible in its Reference Edition has thousands of footnotes and cross-references to help readers understand the Bible better and enable them to explain it to others. Moreover, this outstanding Bible translation has been translated, all or in part, into 10 other languages, and tens of millions of copies have been distributed worldwide.
True Ministers and Morality
The Bible strongly condemns all forms of sexual sin—including adultery, fornication, homosexuality, and bestiality. (Leviticus 20:10-15; Romans 1:26, 27; Galatians 5:19) True Christian ministers wholeheartedly uphold God’s moral standards. Yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses take God’s law very seriously. They disfellowship those who unrepentantly commit such sins, while they extend mercy to those who truly repent of immoral acts and clean up their lives.—1 Corinthians 5:11-13; 2 Corinthians 2:5-8.
In South Africa, the Anglican Dean of Cape Town is reported to have said: “Some same-sex relationships are better than their heterosexual counterparts and because of the quality of love, I am sure they make God happier.” The reverse is true. God abhors such relationships.—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10.
True Ministers Teach True Doctrines
True ministers teach doctrines that are based solidly on God’s Word. False ministers teach doctrines that have no support or foundation in the Bible. Consider, for example, the doctrine of the Trinity. As The Encyclopædia Britannica (15th Edition) states: “Neither the word Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament, nor did Jesus and his followers intend to contradict the Shema in the Old Testament: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord’ (Deut. 6:4).” The Trinity did not become official church teaching until the fourth century C.E. In fact, it was due in part to the Roman emperor Constantine’s prestige and influence that the false doctrine began to be formulated at the Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E.
The Trinity teaching has caused many church members, honest seekers of truth, to lose confidence in their ministers. This was true of a young woman in South Africa who could not believe that her religion, the Dutch Reformed Church, taught such a confusing belief as the Trinity until one of Jehovah’s Witnesses presented her with documentary proof that this is indeed the case! An elderly retired attorney, also of South Africa, resigned from his church because “various stereotyped doctrines taught in churches are completely wrong and misleading.”
Another false teaching of Christendom is that of hellfire. Although not so widely preached or believed as it used to be, it is still the official teaching of most churches. These claim that at death the body dies but the soul, being immortal, lives on, and those who have led a wicked life are tormented in a burning fire for all eternity. Do you believe that? More importantly, is it true? Not according to the Bible, which says: “The soul that is sinning—it itself will die.” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20) Moreover, the inspired apostle Paul wrote: “The wages sin pays is death”—not hellfire!—Romans 6:23.
Let us now consider what standards genuine Christian ministers must meet.
The Scriptural Requirements of True Ministers
The English word “minister” is a translation of the Greek word “di·aʹko·nos,” which is of uncertain origin. It refers to one who carries out the commands of another, in particular a master. Hence, the Bible word specifies a servant. The usage of the word in the Bible indicates one who does not let up in humbly rendering thorough service in behalf of others. Jesus emphasized the need for such humble service, as the following example shows.
One day, shortly before Jesus’ death on the torture stake, the mother of James and John approached him and said: “Give the word that these my two sons may sit down, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” The other disciples became indignant at this. Then Jesus kindly taught them an important lesson. He gathered them together and said: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your minister, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.”—Matthew 20:20, 21, 24-27.
In one of his recorded, upbuilding public talks, Jesus warned the audience about the scribes and the Pharisees. He also pointed out some of the glaring faults of these false, hypocritical ministers. He described them as very proud and demanding and always wanting prominence.—Matthew 23:1-7.
Today, many clergymen, especially priests of the Catholic Church and, in some cases, Anglicans, demand that they be addressed as “Father.” For example, one Church of England priest in Mozambique, when questioned some years ago by one of Jehovah’s Witnesses as to why he used the title “Father,” replied: “I am proud of it!” And, of course, it is well known that the pope of Rome delights in being addressed as “Holy Father”—in spite of Jesus’ instruction to his disciples to “call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven.” Jesus added this basic principle: “Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled.”—Matthew 23:9-12, The Jerusalem Bible.
Should Women Be Ordained?
In recent times, there has been an increase in the number of women being ordained as members of the clergy. But Paul instructed Timothy: “I do not permit a woman to teach, or to exercise authority over a man.” (1 Timothy 2:12) However, this does not mean that a Christian woman cannot teach her children or teach among the general public, but she should not teach in the congregation.
Should women, then, never speak at Christian meetings? Jehovah’s Witnesses study this magazine, The Watchtower, at one of their weekly meetings, using articles that are supplemented by questions on the paragraphs. The minister conducting the study, always a brother, calls for members of the congregation, including sisters, to answer these questions. But these women are not teaching. They are simply expressing in their own words the thoughts in the article. Even children are encouraged to share in giving answers, and often their comments, usually brief and simple, hit the nail right on the head—to use a popular expression.
Paul also made this statement concerning women: “If, then, they want to learn something, let them question their own husbands at home, for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in a congregation.” (1 Corinthians 14:35) This means that if sisters do not understand or are disturbed by certain statements read or made during the meetings, they should not raise points of contention before the congregation. Rather, they should ask their husbands to clarify matters when they are at home.
However, there are occasions when Christian women can preach to men. Jehovah’s Witnesses spend a lot of time preaching the good news of the Kingdom from house to house. When a woman preacher encounters a man, must she simply excuse herself and walk away? Of course not. In this case, she is not preaching to a congregation but to one person who may be an unbeliever. Likewise, a female minister can study the Bible with a non-Christian family even though the father is present.
Jesus Christ—A Shining Example
Jesus was a shining example that we do well to try to copy! He was the best teacher, the finest preacher, the most zealous worker, and the most loving counselor who ever lived on earth. To follow in his footsteps is a very great privilege. Are you trying to do that?
Millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses are doing their best to copy him, albeit imperfectly. His methods were very different from those of most clergymen today. He did not ring church bells and wait for people to come to him, although many did come of their own accord. Instead, he went to the people and taught them in their homes, in public places, on mountains, and on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. At times he addressed groups numbering thousands, as illustrated below.—Matthew 9:35; 13:36; Luke 8:1.
Helping the Poor, the Sick, and the Elderly
How many of these are there today? Hundreds of millions. And the number is fast increasing as world conditions rapidly deteriorate and the present system of things approaches its complete end at the battle of Armageddon. (Revelation 16:16) Natural disasters, famines, and epidemics add to the damage and suffering. The early Christians also had to deal with such problems. About 46 C.E., when Claudius was emperor of Rome, there was a widespread famine. So, what did the disciples do? They “determined, each of them according as anyone could afford it, to send a relief ministration to the brothers dwelling in Judea.”—Acts 11:27-30.
In modern times, Jehovah’s Witnesses have often supplied generous relief to those who are suffering or in need. Recently, when Mozambique was ravaged by civil war—with resultant terrible shortages of food, clothing, medical supplies, and other basics—Jehovah’s Witnesses in neighboring South Africa came to the aid of their brothers in distress. Large quantities of food, clothing, and other items were collected and sent to Maputo, the capital city, in huge trucks.
Fulfilling Bible Prophecy
Yes, God’s true ministers today have the marvelous privilege of participating in the fulfillment of Bible prophecies. How? On the historic occasion when the disciples asked Jesus: “When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” he replied that in a time of world wars, famines, earthquakes, and lawlessness, “this good news of the kingdom [would] be preached in all the inhabited earth.” (Matthew 24:3, 14) Paul set the example for all true ministers by preaching “from house to house.”—Acts 20:20.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are known worldwide for their zeal in this preaching work. Maybe they have at times called at your home. Have you ever given them a good hearing? If not, why not do so the next time they call? You may be agreeably surprised!
[Picture Credit Line on page 4]
Based on U.S. Army photo