Shepherds and Sheep in a Theocracy
“Jehovah is our Judge, Jehovah is our Statute-giver, Jehovah is our King; he himself will save us.”—ISAIAH 33:22.
1. How can it be said that first-century Christians and Christians today are a theocracy?
THEOCRACY means a rule by God. It involves accepting Jehovah’s authority and following his guidelines and instructions in the large and small decisions we make in life. The first-century congregation was a genuine theocracy. Christians then could honestly say: “Jehovah is our Judge, Jehovah is our Statute-giver, Jehovah is our King.” (Isaiah 33:22) With the anointed remnant as its nucleus, Jehovah God’s organization today is similarly a real theocracy.
In What Ways Are We Theocratic Today?
2. What is one way that Jehovah’s Witnesses submit to Jehovah’s rule?
2 How can we say that Jehovah’s earthly organization is a theocracy? Because those who belong to it do indeed submit to Jehovah’s rule. And they follow the lead of Jesus Christ, the one whom Jehovah has enthroned as King. For example, in the time of the end, this direct command from the Great Theocrat is conveyed to Jesus: “Put your sickle in and reap, because the hour has come to reap, for the harvest of the earth is thoroughly ripe.” (Revelation 14:15) Jesus obeys and undertakes the harvesting of the earth. Christians support their King in this great work by zealously preaching the good news and making disciples. (Matthew 28:19; Mark 13:10; Acts 1:8) In doing so, they are also fellow workers with Jehovah, the Great Theocrat.—1 Corinthians 3:9.
3. How do Christians submit to theocracy in matters of morality?
3 In conduct, too, Christians submit to God’s rule. Jesus said: “He that does what is true comes to the light, in order that his works may be made manifest as having been worked in harmony with God.” (John 3:21) Today, there are endless debates over moral standards, but these disputes have no place among Christians. They view as immoral what Jehovah says is immoral, and they avoid it like the plague! They also care for their families, obey their parents, and remain subject to the superior authorities. (Ephesians 5:3-5, 22-33; 6:1-4; 1 Timothy 5:8; Titus 3:1) Thus, they act theocratically, in harmony with God.
4. What wrong attitudes were manifested by Adam and Eve and Saul, and how do Christians show a different attitude?
4 Adam and Eve lost Paradise because they wanted to make their own decisions as to what was right and what was wrong. Jesus wanted the exact opposite. He said: “I seek, not my own will, but the will of him that sent me.” Christians seek the same thing. (John 5:30; Luke 22:42; Romans 12:2; Hebrews 10:7) Saul, the first king of Israel, did obey Jehovah—but only partially. For this he was rejected. Samuel told him: “To obey is better than a sacrifice, to pay attention than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22) Is it theocratic to follow Jehovah’s will to a certain extent, perhaps by being regular in the preaching work or in meeting attendance, and then to compromise in matters of morality or in some other way? Of course not! We strive to ‘do the will of God whole-souled.’ (Ephesians 6:6; 1 Peter 4:1, 2) Unlike Saul, we submit totally to God’s rule.
A Modern Theocracy
5, 6. How does Jehovah deal with mankind today, and in what does cooperation with this arrangement result?
5 In the past, Jehovah ruled and revealed truths through individuals, such as prophets, kings, and apostles. Today, that is no longer the case; there are no inspired prophets or apostles. Rather, Jesus said that during his royal presence, he would identify a faithful body of followers, a “faithful and discreet slave,” and would appoint it over all his belongings. (Matthew 24:45-47; Isaiah 43:10) In 1919 that slave was identified as the remnant of anointed Christians. Since then, as represented by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it has been the center of theocracy on earth. Around the world, the Governing Body is represented by Branch Committees, traveling overseers, and congregation elders.
6 Cooperation with theocratic organization is a vital part of submitting to theocracy. Such cooperation works for unity and order worldwide in “the whole association of brothers.” (1 Peter 2:17) In turn, this pleases Jehovah, who is “a God, not of disorder, but of peace.”—1 Corinthians 14:33.
Elders in a Theocracy
7. Why can it be said that Christian elders are appointed theocratically?
7 All appointed older men, whatever their position of authority, fulfill the qualifications outlined in the Bible for the office of overseer, or older man. (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) Further, Paul’s words to the Ephesian elders apply to all elders: “Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God.” (Acts 20:28) Yes, the elders are appointed by holy spirit, which comes from Jehovah God. (John 14:26) Their appointment is theocratic. Moreover, they shepherd the flock of God. The flock belongs to Jehovah, not to the elders. It is a theocracy.
8. What are the general responsibilities of elders today?
8 In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul outlined the general responsibilities of the elders, saying: “He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11, 12) Apostles and prophets passed away with the infancy of “the body of the Christ.” (Compare 1 Corinthians 13:8.) But elders are still very busy evangelizing, shepherding, and teaching.—2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:9.
9. How should elders prepare themselves to represent God’s will in the congregation?
9 Since theocracy is God rule, effective elders are thoroughly familiar with God’s will. Joshua was commanded to read the Law daily. Elders too need to study and consult the Scriptures regularly and to be thoroughly familiar with Bible literature published by the faithful and discreet slave. (2 Timothy 3:14, 15) This includes the Watchtower and Awake! magazines and other publications that show how Bible principles apply to specific situations.* However, while it is important for an elder to know and to follow guidelines published in the Watch Tower Society’s literature, he should also be thoroughly familiar with the Scriptural principles that lie behind them. He will then be in a position to apply Scriptural guidelines with understanding and compassion.—Compare Micah 6:8.
Serving With a Christian Spirit
10. What bad attitude should elders guard against, and how?
10 About the year 55 C.E., the apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the congregation in Corinth. One of the problems he handled had to do with certain men wanting to be prominent in the congregation. Paul wrote: “You men already have your fill, do you? You are rich already, are you? You have begun ruling as kings without us, have you? And I wish indeed that you had begun ruling as kings, that we also might rule with you as kings.” (1 Corinthians 4:8) In the first century C.E., all Christians had the hope of ruling as heavenly kings and priests with Jesus. (Revelation 20:4, 6) Evidently, though, some in Corinth forgot that on earth there are no kings in the Christian theocracy. Rather than act like kings of this world, Christian shepherds cultivate humility, a quality that pleases Jehovah.—Psalm 138:6; Luke 22:25-27.
11. (a) What are some outstanding examples of humility? (b) What view of themselves should elders and all other Christians have?
11 Is humility a weakness? By no means! Jehovah himself is described as being humble. (Psalm 18:35) The kings of Israel led armies into battle and ruled the nation under Jehovah. Yet, each one had to be careful ‘that his heart did not exalt itself above his brothers.’ (Deuteronomy 17:20) The resurrected Jesus is a heavenly King. When on earth, however, he washed the feet of his disciples. What humility! And showing that he wanted his apostles to be similarly humble, he said: “If I, although Lord and Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash the feet of one another.” (John 13:14; Philippians 2:5-8) All glory and praise should go to Jehovah, not to any man. (Revelation 4:11) Whether they are elders or not, all Christians should think of themselves in the light of Jesus’ words: “We are good-for-nothing slaves. What we have done is what we ought to have done.” (Luke 17:10) Any other view is untheocratic.
12. Why is love a vital quality for Christian elders to cultivate?
12 Along with humility, Christian elders cultivate love. The apostle John showed the importance of love when he said: “He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8) Unloving individuals are not theocratic. They do not know Jehovah. Regarding the Son of God, the Bible says: “Jesus, having loved his own that were in the world, loved them to the end.” (John 13:1) Speaking to 11 men who would be part of the governing body in the Christian congregation, Jesus said: “This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) Love is the identifying mark of true Christianity. It attracts the brokenhearted, the mourning ones, and the spiritual captives who long for freedom. (Isaiah 61:1, 2; John 13:35) Elders must be exemplary in showing it.
13. Although problems today may be difficult, how can an elder be a force for good in all situations?
13 Today, elders are often asked to help handle complex problems. Marriage difficulties can be deep-rooted and persistent. Young people have problems that adults may find hard to grasp. Emotional sicknesses are often difficult to comprehend. An elder faced with such things may be unsure as to what to do. But he can be confident that if he prayerfully relies on Jehovah’s wisdom, if he does research in the Bible and in information published by the faithful and discreet slave, and if he deals humbly and lovingly with the sheep, he will be a force for good even in the most difficult situation.
14, 15. What are some expressions showing that Jehovah has blessed his people with many fine elders?
14 Jehovah has richly blessed his organization with “gifts in men.” (Ephesians 4:8) From time to time, the Watch Tower Society receives heartwarming letters testifying to the love shown by humble elders who compassionately shepherd God’s sheep. For example, a congregation elder writes: “I cannot remember a circuit overseer’s visit that affected me more or that is still being commented on in the congregation. The circuit overseer helped me see the importance of a positive attitude when dealing with the brothers, with an emphasis on commendation.”
15 A sister who had to travel to a distant clinic to receive treatment writes: “How reassuring to be able to meet with an elder that first anxious night in a hospital so far from home! He and other brothers spent much time with me. Even people in the world who were familiar with what I was going through felt that I would never have survived without the comfort, care, and prayers of those loving and devoted brothers.” Another sister writes: “I am alive today because the body of elders patiently guided me through my battle with major depression. . . . One brother and his wife did not know what to say to me. . . . But what touched me the most was that even though they did not completely understand what I was going through, they lovingly cared about me.”
16. What exhortation does Peter give to elders?
16 Yes, many elders are applying the exhortation of the apostle Peter: “Shepherd the flock of God in your care, not under compulsion, but willingly; neither for love of dishonest gain, but eagerly; neither as lording it over those who are God’s inheritance, but becoming examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:1-3) What a blessing such theocratic elders are!
Sheep in the Theocracy
17. Name some qualities that all members of the congregation should cultivate.
17 However, a theocracy is not made up merely of elders. If the shepherds must be theocratic, so must the sheep. In what ways? Well, the same principles that guide the shepherds must guide the sheep. All Christians, not only elders, must be humble if they are to receive Jehovah’s blessing. (James 4:6) All must cultivate love because without it our sacrifices to Jehovah are not pleasing to him. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) And all of us, not just the elders, should “be filled with the accurate knowledge of [Jehovah’s] will in all wisdom and spiritual comprehension.”—Colossians 1:9.
18. (a) Why is a mere surface knowledge of the truth not enough? (b) How can all of us be filled with accurate knowledge?
18 Young and old alike are constantly faced with difficult decisions as they try to remain faithful despite living in Satan’s world. The world’s trends in clothing, music, movies, and literature challenge the spirituality of some. A surface knowledge of the truth is not enough to help us keep our balance. To be sure of staying faithful, we need to be filled with accurate knowledge. We need the discernment and wisdom that only God’s Word can give us. (Proverbs 2:1-5) This means cultivating good study habits, meditating on what we learn, and putting it into practice. (Psalm 1:1-3; Revelation 1:3) Paul was writing to all Christians, not just elders, when he said: “Solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.”—Hebrews 5:14.
Shepherds and Sheep Work Together
19, 20. What exhortations are given to all to cooperate with the elders, and why?
19 Finally, it should be said that a truly theocratic spirit is shown by those who cooperate with the elders. Paul wrote to Timothy: “Let the older men who preside in a fine way be reckoned worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard in speaking and teaching.” (1 Timothy 5:17; 1 Peter 5:5, 6) Eldership is a wonderful privilege, but most elders are family men who go to their secular work every day and who have wives and children to care for. While they are happy to serve, their service is easier and more rewarding when the congregation is supportive, not overly critical and demanding.—Hebrews 13:17.
20 The apostle Paul said: “Remember those who are taking the lead among you, who have spoken the word of God to you, and as you contemplate how their conduct turns out imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7) No, Paul did not encourage the brothers to follow the elders. (1 Corinthians 1:12) Following a man is not theocratic. But it is surely wise to imitate the proven faith of a theocratic elder who is active in the evangelizing work, who is regular at meetings, and who deals humbly and lovingly with the congregation.
A Testament to Faith
21. How do Christians manifest a strong faith like that of Moses?
21 Truly, the existence of a theocratic organization in this most degenerate time of human history is a testimony to the power of the Great Theocrat. (Isaiah 2:2-5) It is also a testimony to the faith of almost five million Christian men, women, and children, who struggle with the problems of daily life but never forget that Jehovah is their Ruler. Just as faithful Moses “continued steadfast as seeing the One who is invisible,” so Christians today have similar strong faith. (Hebrews 11:27) They are privileged to live in a theocracy, and they daily thank Jehovah for it. (Psalm 100:4, 5) As they experience the saving power of Jehovah, they are happy to proclaim: “Jehovah is our Judge, Jehovah is our Statute-giver, Jehovah is our King; he himself will save us.”—Isaiah 33:22.
Among such publications is the book “Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock,” which contains Scriptural guidelines and is provided for appointed congregation overseers, or elders.
What Does the Bible Show?
□ In what way do Christians submit to theocracy?
□ How is theocracy organized today?
□ In what ways should elders prepare themselves to fulfill their responsibilities?
□ What Christian qualities is it vital for elders to cultivate and display?
□ In the theocracy, what relationship should exist between the sheep and the shepherds?
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Adam and Eve lost Paradise because they wanted to make their own decisions about right and wrong
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If an elder deals humbly and lovingly with the sheep, he will always be a force for good