‘The Faithful Slave’ and Its Governing Body
“Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time?”—MATTHEW 24:45.
1. Why is Jehovah willing to delegate authority, and to whom primarily has he done so?
JEHOVAH is a God of order. He is also the Source of all legitimate authority. Confident in the loyalty of his faithful creatures, Jehovah is willing to delegate authority. The one to whom he has delegated the most authority is his Son, Jesus Christ. Indeed, God “subjected all things under his feet, and made him head over all things to the congregation.”—Ephesians 1:22.
2. What does Paul call the Christian congregation, and to whom has Christ delegated authority?
2 The apostle Paul calls the Christian congregation “God’s household” and says that Jehovah’s faithful Son, Jesus Christ, was placed over this household. (1 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 3:6) In turn, Christ delegates authority to the members of God’s household. We can see this from Jesus’ words recorded at Matthew 24:45-47. He said: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.”
The First-Century House Manager
3. Who make up “the faithful and discreet slave,” and what term is applied to them as individuals?
3 From our careful study of the Scriptures, we know that the spirit-anointed members of God’s household at any given time collectively make up “the faithful and discreet slave,” “steward,” or “house manager.” Individually, the members of Jehovah’s household are termed “domestics” or “body of attendants.”—Matthew 24:45; Luke 12:42; Reference Bible, footnote.
4. Shortly before his death, what question did Jesus raise, and to whom did he liken himself?
4 Some months before his death, Jesus raised this question, recorded at Luke 12:42: “Who really is the faithful steward, the discreet one, whom his master will appoint over his body of attendants to keep giving them their measure of food supplies at the proper time?” Then, a few days before he died, Jesus likened himself to a man about to travel abroad, who summoned his slaves and committed his belongings to them.—Matthew 25:14.
5. (a) When did Jesus assign others to look after his belongings? (b) What extended assignment did Christ give to those who would become part of his composite house manager?
5 When did Jesus assign others to look after his belongings? This occurred after his resurrection. In his familiar words found at Matthew 28:19, 20, Christ first gave those who would become part of his composite house manager an extended assignment to teach and make disciples. By individually witnessing “to the most distant part of the earth,” the attendants would expand the missionary field that Jesus had begun to cultivate during his earthly ministry. (Acts 1:8) This involved their acting as “ambassadors substituting for Christ.” As “stewards of sacred secrets of God,” they would make disciples and would dispense spiritual food to them.—2 Corinthians 5:20; 1 Corinthians 4:1, 2.
The Household’s Governing Body
6. What was the first-century steward class divinely inspired to provide?
6 Collectively, spirit-anointed Christians were to be the master’s steward, or house manager, assigned to dispense timely spiritual food to the individual members of the household of God. Between the years 41 C.E. and 98 C.E., members of the first-century steward class were divinely inspired to write 5 historical accounts, 21 letters, and the book of Revelation for the benefit of their brothers. These inspired writings contain fine spiritual food for the domestics, that is, individual anointed ones of God’s household.
7. For what purpose did Christ choose a small number of men out of the slave class?
7 While all anointed Christians collectively form God’s household, there is abundant evidence that Christ chose a small number of men out of the slave class to serve as a visible governing body. The early history of the congregation shows that the 12 apostles, including Matthias, were the foundation of the first-century governing body. Acts 1:20-26 provides us with an indication of this. In connection with a replacement for Judas Iscariot, reference is there made to “his office of oversight” and to “this ministry and apostleship.”
8. What did the responsibilities of the first-century governing body include?
8 Such office of oversight included the responsibility of the apostles to appoint suitable men to positions of service and to organize the ministry. But it meant more. It also involved teaching and clarifying points of doctrine. Fulfilling Jesus’ promise recorded at John 16:13, “the spirit of the truth” was to guide the Christian congregation progressively into all the truth. Right from the start, those who embraced the word and became baptized, anointed Christians continued devoting themselves to “the teaching of the apostles.” In fact, the reason why seven recommended men were appointed to the necessary business of distributing material food was so that “the twelve” could remain free to ‘devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’—Acts 2:42; 6:1-6.
9. How was the early governing body reduced to 11 members, but why apparently was the number not immediately brought back to 12?
9 It seems that at first the governing body was composed exclusively of Jesus’ apostles. But would it remain that way? About the year 44 C.E., the apostle James, the brother of John, was executed by Herod Agrippa I. (Acts 12:1, 2) Apparently no effort was made to replace him as an apostle, as was done in the case of Judas. Why not? No doubt this was because James died faithful, the first of the 12 apostles to die. On the other hand, Judas was a wicked defector and had to be replaced in order to bring back to 12 the number of the foundation stones of spiritual Israel.—Ephesians 2:20; Revelation 21:14.
10. When and how was the first-century governing body expanded, and how did Christ use it to guide God’s household?
10 The original members of the first-century governing body were apostles, men who had walked with Jesus and had been witnesses of his death and resurrection. (Acts 1:21, 22) But this situation was to change. As the years went by, other Christian men gained spiritual stature and were appointed as elders in the Jerusalem congregation. By the year 49 C.E. at the latest, the governing body had been expanded to include not only the remaining apostles but also a number of other older men in Jerusalem. (Acts 15:2) So the makeup of the governing body was not rigidly fixed, but God evidently guided things so that it changed to fit the circumstances of his people. Christ, the active Head of the congregation, used this enlarged governing body to settle the important doctrinal matter of non-Jewish Christians’ being circumcised and submitting to the Law of Moses. The governing body wrote a letter explaining its decision and issued decrees for observance.—Acts 15:23-29.
A Time of Accounting for the House Manager
11. Was the firm lead set by the governing body appreciated by the brothers, and what shows that Jehovah blessed this arrangement?
11 Individually and as congregations, the early Christians appreciated this strong lead given by the governing body. After the congregation in Syrian Antioch read the letter from the governing body, they rejoiced over the encouragement. As other congregations received the information and observed the decrees, they “continued to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number from day to day.” (Acts 16:5) Manifestly, God blessed this arrangement.—Acts 15:30, 31.
12, 13. What events did Jesus foretell in his parables of the minas and the talents?
12 But let us look at another aspect of this significant matter. In his illustration of the minas, Jesus likened himself to a man of noble birth who traveled to a distant land to secure kingly power for himself and then returned. (Luke 19:11, 12) As a result of his resurrection in 33 C.E., Jesus Christ was exalted to the right hand of God, where he was to sit until his enemies would be placed as a stool for his feet.—Acts 2:33-35.
13 In a parallel illustration, the parable of the talents, Jesus stated that after a long time, the master came to settle accounts with his slaves. To the slaves who proved faithful, the master said: “You were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.” But regarding the unfaithful slave, he declared: “Even what he has will be taken away from him. And throw the good-for-nothing slave out into the darkness outside.”—Matthew 25:21-23, 29, 30.
14. What did Jesus expect of his spirit-anointed slaves?
14 After a long time—nearly 19 centuries—Christ was vested with kingly power in 1914, at the end of “the appointed times of the nations.” (Luke 21:24) Shortly thereafter, he “came and settled accounts” with his slaves, spirit-anointed Christians. (Matthew 25:19) What did Jesus expect of them individually and collectively? The steward’s assignment continued as it had been since the first century. Christ had entrusted talents to individuals—“to each one according to his own ability.” Hence, Jesus expected proportionate results. (Matthew 25:15) Applicable here is the rule at 1 Corinthians 4:2, which states: “What is looked for in stewards is for a man to be found faithful.” Putting the talents to work meant faithfully acting as ambassadors of God, making disciples and dispensing spiritual truths to them.—2 Corinthians 5:20.
The “Slave” and Its Governing Body as the Time of the End Drew Near
15. (a) What did Christ expect of his collective house manager? (b) What indicates that Christ expected the slave class to be doing this before he arrived to inspect his household?
15 Jesus expected anointed Christians collectively to be acting as a faithful steward, giving his body of attendants “their measure of food supplies at the proper time.” (Luke 12:42) According to Luke 12:43, Christ said: “Happy is that slave, if his master on arriving finds him doing so!” This indicates that for some time before Christ arrived to settle accounts with his spirit-anointed slaves, they would have been dispensing spiritual food to members of the Christian congregation, God’s household. Whom did Christ find doing so when he returned with kingly power in 1914 and proceeded to inspect the house of God in 1918?—Malachi 3:1-4; Luke 19:12; 1 Peter 4:17.
16. When Christ arrived to inspect the house of God in 1918, why did he not find Christendom’s churches supplying spiritual food at the proper time?
16 As the long period of Jesus’ waiting at Jehovah’s right hand drew to a close, it gradually became apparent who was giving spiritual food supplies to Christ’s domestics even in the time prior to 1914. Do you think it was Christendom’s churches? Certainly not, for they were deeply involved in politics. They had been willing tools of colonial expansion and had tried to outdo one another to prove their patriotism, thus encouraging nationalism. This soon brought heavy bloodguilt upon them, that is, when they gave their active support to political governments involved in the first world war. Spiritually, their faith had been weakened by Modernism. A spiritual crisis was brought about because many of their clergy became easy prey to higher criticism and evolution. No spiritual nourishment could be expected from Christendom’s clergy!
17. Why did Christ reject some anointed Christians, and with what consequence for them?
17 Similarly, no nourishing spiritual food was forthcoming from those anointed Christians who were more concerned with their personal salvation than with putting the Master’s talent to work. They turned out to be “sluggish,” unfit to take care of the Master’s belongings. Hence, they were thrown “into the darkness outside,” where the churches of Christendom still are.—Matthew 25:24-30.
18. Whom did the Master find supplying his body of attendants with spiritual food at the proper time, and what proves this?
18 On arriving to inspect his slaves in 1918, therefore, whom did the Master, Jesus Christ, find giving to his body of attendants their measure of food supplies at the proper time? Well, by then, who had given sincere truth-seekers the correct understanding of the ransom sacrifice, the divine name, the invisibility of Christ’s presence, and the significance of 1914? Who had exposed the falsehood of the Trinity, immortality of the human soul, and hellfire? And who had warned of the dangers of evolution and spiritism? The facts show that it was the group of anointed Christians associated with the publishers of the magazine Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, now called The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom.
19. How had a faithful slave class manifested itself before 1918, by what means had it distributed spiritual food supplies, and since when?
19 In its issue of November 1, 1944, The Watchtower stated: “In 1878, forty years before the Lord’s coming to the temple in 1918, there was a class of sincere consecrated Christians that had broken away from the hierarchic and clergy organizations and who sought to practice Christianity . . . The following year, namely, in July, 1879, that the truths which God through Christ provided as ‘food in due season’ might be regularly distributed to all his household of consecrated children, this magazine, The Watchtower, began to be published.”
20. (a) How did a modern-day Governing Body appear on the scene? (b) What were the members of the Governing Body doing, and under whose guidance?
20 Supplying information on the development of the modern-day Governing Body, the December 15, 1971, issue of The Watchtower explained: “Five years later [in 1884] Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society was incorporated and served as an ‘agency’ to minister spiritual food to thousands of sincere persons seeking to know God and to understand his Word . . . Dedicated, baptized, anointed Christians became associated with that Society at headquarters in Pennsylvania. Whether on the Board of Directors or not, they rendered themselves available for special work of the ‘faithful and discreet slave’ class. They aided in the feeding and directing of the slave class, and thus a governing body made its appearance. This was evidently under the guidance of Jehovah’s invisible active force or holy spirit. Also, under the direction of the Head of the Christian congregation, Jesus Christ.”
21. (a) Whom did Christ find distributing spiritual food, and how did he reward them? (b) What awaited the faithful slave and its Governing Body?
21 In 1918, when Jesus Christ inspected those claiming to be his slaves, he found an international group of Christians publishing Bible truths for use both inside the congregation and outside in the preaching work. In 1919 it truly turned out to be as Christ had foretold: “Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.” (Matthew 24:46, 47) These true Christians entered into the joy of their Master. Having shown themselves “faithful over a few things,” they were appointed by the Master to be “over many things.” (Matthew 25:21) The faithful slave and its Governing Body were in place, ready for a widened assignment. How glad we should be that this was so, for loyal Christians are richly benefiting from the devoted work of the faithful slave and its Governing Body!
Main Points to Remember
◻ Who is the Head of God’s household, and to whom has this One delegated authority?
◻ What collective assignment did Christ give to the slave class?
◻ What other collective body existed within the slave class, and what were its particular duties?
◻ When Christ arrived to inspect God’s household, who was providing spiritual food to its members?
◻ How did a modern-day Governing Body appear?
[Picture on page 10]
The first-century “slave” had a governing body made up of the apostles and the elders of the Jerusalem congregation