Jehovah’s Family Enjoys Precious Unity
“Look! How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”—PSALM 133:1.
1. What is the state of many families today?
THE family is in crisis today. In many families, marriage ties are at the breaking point. Divorce is becoming increasingly common, and many children of divorced couples are experiencing great sadness. Millions of families are unhappy and disunited. Yet, there is one family that knows true joy and genuine unity. It is the universal family of Jehovah God. In it, myriads of invisible angels carry out their assigned tasks in harmony with the divine will. (Psalm 103:20, 21) But is there a family on earth that enjoys such unity?
2, 3. (a) Who are now part of God’s universal family, and to what might we liken all of Jehovah’s Witnesses today? (b) What questions will we discuss?
2 The apostle Paul wrote: “I bend my knees to the Father, to whom every family in heaven and on earth owes its name.” (Ephesians 3:14, 15) Every family line on earth owes its name to God because he is the Creator. Though there are no human families in heaven, figuratively speaking God is married to his heavenly organization, and Jesus will have a spiritual bride united with him in the heavens. (Isaiah 54:5; Luke 20:34, 35; 1 Corinthians 15:50; 2 Corinthians 11:2) Faithful anointed ones on earth are now part of God’s universal family, and Jesus’ “other sheep,” with earthly hopes, are its prospective members. (John 10:16; Romans 8:14-17; The Watchtower, January 15, 1996, page 31) However, all of Jehovah’s Witnesses today can be likened to a united worldwide family.
3 Are you part of the wonderful international family of God’s servants? If you are, you enjoy one of the greatest blessings anyone could have. Millions will attest that Jehovah’s global family—his visible organization—is an oasis of peace and unity in a worldly desert of strife and disunity. How might the unity of Jehovah’s worldwide family be described? And what factors promote such unity?
How Good and How Pleasant!
4. In your own words, how would you express what Psalm 133 says about brotherly unity?
4 The psalmist David deeply appreciated brotherly unity. He was even inspired to sing about it! Imagine him with his harp as he sang: “Look! How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the good oil upon the head, that is running down upon the beard, Aaron’s beard, that is running down to the collar of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon that is descending upon the mountains of Zion. For there Jehovah commanded the blessing to be, even life to time indefinite.”—Psalm 133:1-3.
5. On the basis of Psalm 133:1, 2, what comparison can be drawn between the Israelites and God’s present-day servants?
5 Those words applied to the brotherly unity enjoyed by God’s ancient people, the Israelites. When in Jerusalem for their three annual festivals, they did dwell together in unity. Though they came from various tribes, they were one family. Being together had a wholesome effect on them, like refreshing anointing oil with a pleasing aroma. When such oil was poured on Aaron’s head, it flowed down his beard and ran to the collar of his garment. For the Israelites, being together had a good influence that worked its way through the assembled people as a whole. Misunderstandings were cleared up, and unity was promoted. Similar unity exists in Jehovah’s global family today. Regularly associating has a wholesome spiritual effect on its members. Any misunderstandings or difficulties are removed as the counsel of God’s Word is applied. (Matthew 5:23, 24; 18:15-17) Jehovah’s people greatly appreciate the mutual encouragement that results from their brotherly unity.
6, 7. How was Israel’s unity like the dew of Mount Hermon, and where can God’s blessing be found today?
6 How was Israel’s dwelling together in unity also like the dew of Mount Hermon? Well, since this mountain’s peak is over 9,000 feet [2,800 m] above sea level, it is snowcapped nearly all year. Hermon’s snowy top causes the condensation of the night vapors and thus produces the abundant dew that preserves vegetation during the long dry season. Cold air currents from the Hermon range can carry such vapors as far south as the Jerusalem area, where they condense as dew. So the psalmist correctly spoke of ‘the dew of Hermon descending upon Mount Zion.’ What a fine reminder of the refreshing influence that promotes the unity of Jehovah’s family of worshipers!
7 Before the Christian congregation was established, Zion, or Jerusalem, was the center of true worship. Hence, it was there that God commanded the blessing to be. Since the Source of all blessings resided representatively at the sanctuary in Jerusalem, blessings would emanate from there. Because true worship is no longer dependent upon any one location, however, the blessing, love, and unity of God’s servants can be found throughout the earth today. (John 13:34, 35) What are some factors that promote this unity?
Factors That Promote Unity
8. What do we learn about unity at John 17:20, 21?
8 The unity of Jehovah’s worshipers is based on compliance with the correctly understood Word of God, including the teachings of Jesus Christ. By Jehovah’s sending his Son into the world to bear witness to the truth and to die a sacrificial death, the way was opened for the formation of the united Christian congregation. (John 3:16; 18:37) That there was to be genuine unity among its members was made clear when Jesus prayed: “I make request, not concerning these only, but also concerning those putting faith in me through their word; in order that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in union with me and I am in union with you, that they also may be in union with us, in order that the world may believe that you sent me forth.” (John 17:20, 21) Jesus’ followers did attain a unity similar to that existing between God and his Son. This happened because they complied with God’s Word and with Jesus’ teachings. The same attitude is a major factor in the unity of Jehovah’s worldwide family today.
9. What role does the holy spirit play in the unity of Jehovah’s people?
9 Another factor that unifies Jehovah’s people is that we have God’s holy spirit, or active force. It enables us to understand the revealed truth of Jehovah’s Word and thus to serve him unitedly. (John 16:12, 13) The spirit helps us to avoid such disunifying fleshly works as strife, jealousy, fits of anger, and contentions. Instead, God’s spirit brings forth in us the unifying fruitage of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, and self-control.—Galatians 5:19-23.
10. (a) What parallel can be drawn between the love existing in a united human family and the love that is evident among those devoted to Jehovah? (b) How did one member of the Governing Body express his feelings about meeting with his spiritual brothers?
10 Members of a united family love one another and are happy to be together. Comparably, those in the unified family of Jehovah’s worshipers love him, his Son, and fellow believers. (Mark 12:30; John 21:15-17; 1 John 4:21) Just as a loving natural family enjoys having meals together, those devoted to God are delighted to be present at Christian meetings, assemblies, and conventions to benefit from fine association and excellent spiritual food. (Matthew 24:45-47; Hebrews 10:24, 25) A member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses once put matters this way: “To me, meeting with the brothers is one of life’s greatest pleasures and a source of encouragement. I love to be at the Kingdom Hall among the first, and leave among the last, if possible. I feel an inward joy when talking with God’s people. When I am among them I feel at home with my family.” Is that how you feel?—Psalm 27:4.
11. In what work do Jehovah’s Witnesses especially find happiness, and what results from making God’s service the focal point of our lives?
11 A united family finds happiness in doing things together. Similarly, those in the family of Jehovah’s worshipers find joy in unitedly doing their Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work. (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) Regular participation in it draws us closer to other Witnesses of Jehovah. Making God’s service the focal point of our lives and supporting all the activities of his people also furthers the family spirit among us.
Theocratic Order Is Essential
12. What are the characteristics of a happy and united family, and what arrangement promoted unity in first-century Christian congregations?
12 A family that has strong but loving leadership and that is orderly is likely to be united and happy. (Ephesians 5:22, 33; 6:1) Jehovah is a God of peaceful order, and all those in his family regard him as “the Supreme One.” (Daniel 7:18, 22, 25, 27; 1 Corinthians 14:33) They also recognize that he has appointed his Son, Jesus Christ, the heir of all things and has delegated to him all authority in heaven and on earth. (Matthew 28:18; Hebrews 1:1, 2) With Christ as its Head, the Christian congregation is an orderly, united organization. (Ephesians 5:23) To supervise the activities of the first-century congregations, there was a governing body made up of the apostles and other spiritually mature “older men.” Individual congregations had appointed overseers, or elders, and ministerial servants. (Acts 15:6; Philippians 1:1) Obeying those taking the lead promoted unity.—Hebrews 13:17.
13. How does Jehovah draw people, and what results from this?
13 But does all this order suggest that the unity of Jehovah’s worshipers can be attributed to strong, impersonal leadership? No indeed! There is nothing unloving about God or his organization. Jehovah draws people by showing love, and each year hundreds of thousands voluntarily and joyfully become part of Jehovah’s organization by getting baptized in symbol of their wholehearted dedication to God. Their spirit is like that of Joshua, who urged fellow Israelites: “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve . . . But as for me and my household, we shall serve Jehovah.”—Joshua 24:15.
14. Why can we say that Jehovah’s organization is theocratic?
14 As part of Jehovah’s family, we are not only joyful but also secure. This is so because his organization is theocratic. God’s Kingdom is a theocracy (from Greek the·osʹ, god, and kraʹtos, a rule). It is a rule by God, ordained and established by him. Jehovah’s anointed “holy nation” is in submission to his rule and therefore is also theocratic. (1 Peter 2:9) With the Great Theocrat, Jehovah, as our Judge, Statute-Giver, and King, we have every reason to feel secure. (Isaiah 33:22) Yet, what if some dispute were to arise and threaten our joy, security, and unity?
Governing Body Takes Action
15, 16. What dispute arose in the first century, and why?
15 To preserve the unity of a family, occasionally a dispute may have to be settled. Suppose, then, that a spiritual problem had to be solved to preserve the unity of God’s family of worshipers in the first century C.E. What then? The governing body took action, making decisions on spiritual matters. We have a Scriptural record of such action.
16 In about 49 C.E., the governing body met in Jerusalem to resolve a serious problem and thereby preserve the unity of “the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19) Some 13 years earlier, the apostle Peter had preached to Cornelius, and the first Gentiles, or people of the nations, became baptized believers. (Acts, chapter 10) During Paul’s first missionary trip, many Gentiles embraced Christianity. (Acts 13:1–14:28) In fact, a congregation of Gentile Christians had been established in Antioch, Syria. Some Christian Jews felt that Gentile converts should get circumcised and keep the Mosaic Law, but others disagreed. (Acts 15:1-5) This dispute could have led to complete disunity, even to the formation of separate Jewish and Gentile congregations. The governing body therefore took prompt action to preserve Christian unity.
17. What harmonious theocratic procedure is described in Acts chapter 15?
17 According to Acts 15:6-22, “the apostles and the older men gathered together to see about this affair.” Also present were others, including a delegation from Antioch. Peter first explained that ‘through his mouth people of the nations heard the good news and believed.’ Then “the entire multitude” listened as Barnabas and Paul related “the many signs and portents that God did through them among the nations,” or Gentiles. James next suggested how the question might be resolved. After the governing body made a decision, we are told: “The apostles and the older men together with the whole congregation favored sending chosen men from among them to Antioch along with Paul and Barnabas.” Those “chosen men”—Judas and Silas—carried an encouraging letter to fellow believers.
18. The governing body made what decision involving the Mosaic Law, and how did this affect Jewish and Gentile Christians?
18 The letter announcing the governing body’s decision began with the words: “The apostles and the older men, brothers, to those brothers in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the nations: Greetings!” Others attended this historic meeting, but apparently the governing body consisted of “the apostles and the older men.” God’s spirit guided them, for the letter states: “The holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication.” (Acts 15:23-29) Christians were not required to get circumcised and keep the Mosaic Law. This decision helped Jewish and Gentile Christians to act and speak in unity. The congregations rejoiced, and precious unity continued, even as it does in God’s earth-wide family today under the spiritual guidance of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.—Acts 15:30-35.
Serve in Theocratic Unity
19. Why has unity flourished in the family of Jehovah’s worshipers?
19 Unity flourishes when members of a family cooperate with one another. The same is true in the family of Jehovah’s worshipers. Being theocratic, the elders and others in the first-century congregation served God in full cooperation with the governing body and accepted its decisions. With the help of the governing body, the elders ‘preached the word’ and members of the congregations in general ‘spoke in agreement.’ (2 Timothy 4:1, 2; 1 Corinthians 1:10) So the same Scriptural truths were presented in the ministry and at Christian meetings, whether in Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Corinth, or anywhere else. Such theocratic unity exists today.
20. To preserve our Christian unity, what must we do?
20 To preserve our unity, all of us who are part of Jehovah’s global family should work to display theocratic love. (1 John 4:16) We need to submit to God’s will and show deep respect for ‘the faithful slave’ and the Governing Body. Like our dedication to God, our obedience is, of course, voluntary and joyful. (1 John 5:3) How well the psalmist linked joy and obedience! He sang: “Praise Jah, you people! Happy is the man in fear of Jehovah, in whose commandments he has taken very much delight.”—Psalm 112:1.
21. How can we prove ourselves to be theocratic?
21 Jesus, the Head of the congregation, is fully theocratic and always does his Father’s will. (John 5:30) Let us, therefore, follow our Exemplar by theocratically and unitedly doing Jehovah’s will in full cooperation with His organization. Then with heartfelt joy and gratitude, we can echo the psalmist’s song: “Look! How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”
How Would You Answer?
□ How can our Christian unity be related to Psalm 133?
□ What are some factors that promote unity?
□ Why is theocratic order essential to the unity of God’s people?
□ How did the first-century governing body act to preserve unity?
□ What does serving in theocratic unity mean to you?
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The governing body acted to preserve unity