Overseers and Ministerial Servants Theocratically Appointed
“Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers.”—ACTS 20:28.
1, 2. How is Isaiah 60:22 being fulfilled?
JEHOVAH long ago foretold that something remarkable would occur in the time of the end. Through the prophet Isaiah, it was stated: “The little one himself will become a thousand, and the small one a mighty nation. I myself, Jehovah, shall speed it up in its own time.”—Isaiah 60:22.
2 Is there evidence that this prophecy is undergoing fulfillment today? Yes, indeed! During the 1870’s, one congregation of Jehovah’s people was formed in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. From such a small beginning, tens of thousands of congregations have sprung up and are flourishing worldwide. Millions of Kingdom proclaimers—a mighty nation—are now associating with more than 91,000 congregations in 235 lands around the earth. Unquestionably, this confirms that Jehovah is speeding up the ingathering of true worshipers before the outbreak of the “great tribulation,” now so near at hand.—Matthew 24:21; Revelation 7:9-14.
3. What does it mean to be baptized ‘in the name of the Father, the Son, and the holy spirit’?
3 After making a personal dedication to Jehovah, and in harmony with Jesus’ instructions, these millions were baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) Being baptized “in the name of the Father” means that these dedicated individuals recognize Jehovah as their heavenly Father and Life-Giver and submit to his sovereignty. Baptism ‘in the name of the Son’ signifies that they confess Jesus Christ as their Ransomer, Leader, and King. They also acknowledge the role of God’s holy spirit, or active force, in directing their life. This indicates that they have been baptized ‘in the name of the holy spirit.’
4. How are Christian ministers ordained?
4 At their baptism, new disciples are ordained as ministers of Jehovah God. Who ordains them? In principle, the words recorded at 2 Corinthians 3:5 apply to them: “Our being adequately qualified [as ministers] issues from God.” They could wish for no greater honor than to be ordained by Jehovah God himself! After their baptism, they will continue to grow spiritually as ministers of the “good news” as long as they accept the leadings of God’s spirit and continue to apply his Word.—Matthew 24:14; Acts 9:31.
5. Are Christian overseers and ministerial servants chosen democratically? Explain.
5 Mature oversight by qualified overseers and the able assistance of ministerial servants are required to care for the spiritual needs of the growing number of active ministers. (Philippians 1:1) How are such spiritual men appointed? Not by methods like those employed in Christendom. For instance, Christian overseers are not elected democratically, that is, by receiving the votes of the majority of the people associated with a congregation. Instead, these appointments are made theocratically. What does that mean?
6. (a) What is a true theocracy? (b) Why are the appointments of overseers and ministerial servants theocratic?
6 Simply stated, a true theocracy is rule by God. Witnesses of Jehovah voluntarily submit to his rulership and cooperate together in order to do the divine will. (Psalm 143:10; Matthew 6:9, 10) Appointments of Christian overseers, or elders, and ministerial servants are theocratic because the process of recommending and appointing such responsible men is carried out according to God’s arrangement as set out in the Holy Scriptures. And as the “head over all,” Jehovah of course has the right to determine how his visible organization will operate.—1 Chronicles 29:11; Psalm 97:9.
7. How are Jehovah’s Witnesses governed?
7 In contrast with many religious groups in Christendom, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not decide for themselves the form of spiritual government under which they operate. These sincere Christians endeavor to stick to Jehovah’s standards. Overseers among them are not put into office by some congregational, hierarchical, or presbyterian form of church government. If elements of the world seek to interfere with these appointments, Jehovah’s people refuse to compromise. Steadfastly, they maintain the position so well expressed by the apostles in the first century when they said: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) Thus, the Witnesses subject themselves to God in all things. (Hebrews 12:9; James 4:7) Following theocratic procedure brings divine approval.
8. How do democratic and theocratic procedures differ?
8 As servants of the Great Theocrat, Jehovah, we do well to bear in mind the differences between democratic and theocratic procedures. Democratic processes call for equal representation and are often characterized by campaigning for office and election by majority vote. Such procedures are not involved in theocratic appointments. These do not come from men; nor do they proceed from some legal entity. Apparently alluding to his own appointment by Jesus and Jehovah as “an apostle to the nations,” Paul told the Galatians that he had been appointed “neither from men nor through a man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him up from the dead.”—Romans 11:13; Galatians 1:1.
Appointed by Holy Spirit
9. What does Acts 20:28 say about the appointment of Christian overseers?
9 Paul reminded overseers living in Ephesus that they had been appointed by God through holy spirit. He said: “Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own Son.” (Acts 20:28) Those Christian overseers needed to continue to be led by holy spirit as they carried out their duties as shepherds of the flock of God. If a man who occupied an appointed office no longer met the divine standard, in time holy spirit would operate to remove him from his position.
10. How is it that the holy spirit plays a pivotal role in theocratic appointments?
10 How is it that the holy spirit plays a pivotal role? First of all, the record that sets out requirements for spiritual oversight was inspired by holy spirit. In his letters to Timothy and Titus, Paul outlined the standards to be met by overseers and ministerial servants. Altogether, he mentioned some 16 different requirements. For instance, overseers were to be irreprehensible, moderate in habits, sound in mind, orderly, hospitable, qualified to teach, and exemplary as family heads. They were to be balanced in the use of alcoholic beverages, were not to be lovers of money, and were to exercise self-control. Similarly, high standards were set for men reaching out for appointment as ministerial servants.—1 Timothy 3:1-10, 12, 13; Titus 1:5-9.
11. What are some of the qualifications that must be met by men reaching out for congregational responsibility?
11 A review of these qualifications shows that those who take the lead in Jehovah’s worship must be exemplary in Christian conduct. Men who reach out for congregational responsibility must give evidence that holy spirit is operating on them. (2 Timothy 1:14) It must be evident that God’s spirit is producing in these men the fruitage of “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) Such fruitage would be manifested in their dealings with fellow believers and others. Of course, some may excel in displaying certain fruits of the spirit, while others may meet other qualifications for overseers to a superior degree. In their overall pattern of life, however, all who hope to be appointed as overseers or ministerial servants should demonstrate that they are spiritual men, measuring up to the requirements of God’s Word.
12. Who may be said to be appointed by holy spirit?
12 When Paul exhorted others to become imitators of him, he could do so with freeness of speech because he himself was imitating Jesus Christ, who ‘left us a model for us to follow his steps closely.’ (1 Peter 2:21; 1 Corinthians 11:1) Those meeting the Scriptural requirements at the time of their appointment as overseers or ministerial servants may thus be said to have been appointed by holy spirit.
13. How does holy spirit help those making recommendations of men to serve in the congregation?
13 There is another factor that indicates how the holy spirit operates in the recommendation and appointment of overseers. Jesus said that ‘the Father in heaven gives holy spirit to those asking him.’ (Luke 11:13) So when the elders in the local congregation meet to recommend men for congregational responsibility, they pray for God’s spirit to guide them. They base their recommendations on what is stated in God’s inspired Word, and holy spirit enables them to discern whether an individual being considered for appointment meets the Scriptural requirements. Those making the recommendations are not to be unduly influenced by outward appearance, educational attainments, or natural abilities. Their primary focus must be on whether the person is a spiritual man, one whom members of the congregation would not hesitate to approach for spiritual counsel.
14. What do we learn from Acts 6:1-3?
14 While bodies of elders share with traveling overseers in recommending brothers to serve as elders and ministerial servants, the actual appointments are made according to the pattern set in the first century. On one occasion, a need arose for spiritually qualified men to care for an important assignment. The governing body gave the following direction: “Search out for yourselves seven certified men from among you, full of spirit and wisdom, that we may appoint them over this necessary business.” (Acts 6:1-3) While men on the scene made the recommendations, the appointments were made by responsible men there in Jerusalem. A similar pattern is followed today.
15. How is the Governing Body involved in the matter of appointing men?
15 The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses directly appoints all members of Branch Committees. When deciding who can assume such a weighty responsibility, the Governing Body has in mind Jesus’ statement: “Everyone to whom much was given, much will be demanded of him; and the one whom people put in charge of much, they will demand more than usual of him.” (Luke 12:48) In addition to appointing Branch Committee members, the Governing Body appoints Bethel elders and traveling overseers. However, they do commission responsible brothers to act for them in making certain other appointments. There is Scriptural precedent also for this.
‘Make Appointments, as I Gave You Orders’
16. Why did Paul leave Titus in Crete, and what does this indicate regarding theocratic appointments today?
16 Paul told his coworker Titus: “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might correct the things that were defective and might make appointments of older men in city after city, as I gave you orders.” (Titus 1:5) Paul then outlined the qualifications that Titus was to look for in men who would qualify for such appointments. Today, therefore, the Governing Body appoints qualified brothers at the branches to represent it in making appointments of elders and ministerial servants. Care is taken that those acting representatively on behalf of the Governing Body clearly understand and follow the Scriptural guidelines for making such appointments. Hence, it is under the direction of the Governing Body that qualified men are appointed to serve in the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide.
17. How are recommendations for appointment of overseers and ministerial servants handled by a branch office?
17 When recommendations for appointment of overseers and ministerial servants are submitted to a branch office of the Watch Tower Society, experienced men rely on God’s spirit for guidance in making the appointments. These men feel a sense of accountability, realizing that they must not lay their hands hastily upon any man, lest they share in his sins.—1 Timothy 5:22.
18, 19. (a) How are certain appointments transmitted? (b) How is the whole process of recommendation and appointment carried out?
18 Certain appointments may be transmitted by a letter bearing an official stamp from a legal entity. Such a letter may be used to appoint more than one brother in the congregation.
19 Theocratic appointments come from Jehovah through his Son and God’s visible earthly channel, “the faithful and discreet slave” and its Governing Body. (Matthew 24:45-47) The whole process of such recommendation and appointment is directed, or guided, by holy spirit. This is the case because the qualifications are set out in God’s Word, which is inspired by holy spirit, and the individual appointed gives evidence of producing the fruitage of that spirit. Therefore, the appointments are to be viewed as being made by holy spirit. Just as overseers and ministerial servants were appointed theocratically in the first century, the same is true today.
Grateful for Jehovah’s Guidance
20. Why do we share David’s sentiments recorded at Psalm 133:1?
20 In this time of spiritual prosperity and theocratic increase in the Kingdom-preaching activity, we are thankful that Jehovah is primarily responsible for the appointment of overseers and ministerial servants. This Scriptural arrangement helps to maintain God’s high standards of righteousness among us as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Moreover, the Christian spirit and earnest efforts of these men contribute greatly to our wonderful peace and unity as Jehovah’s servants. Like the psalmist David, we are therefore moved to exclaim: “Look! How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”—Psalm 133:1.
21. How is Isaiah 60:17 being fulfilled today?
21 How grateful we are for Jehovah’s direction by means of his Word and holy spirit! And meaningful, indeed, are the words recorded at Isaiah 60:17: “Instead of the copper I shall bring in gold, and instead of the iron I shall bring in silver, and instead of the wood, copper, and instead of the stones, iron; and I will appoint peace as your overseers and righteousness as your task assigners.” As theocratic procedures have progressively been more fully implemented among Jehovah’s Witnesses, we have experienced these blessed conditions throughout God’s earthly organization.
22. For what are we rightly grateful, and what should we be determined to do?
22 We are deeply grateful for the theocratic arrangements in place among us. And we greatly appreciate the hard but satisfying work done by theocratically appointed overseers and ministerial servants. We wholeheartedly extol our loving heavenly Father, who has granted us spiritual prosperity and has blessed us so richly. (Proverbs 10:22) Let us, therefore, be determined to keep in step with Jehovah’s organization. Above all, let us continue to serve together unitedly to the honor, praise, and glory of Jehovah’s great and holy name.
How Would You Answer?
• Why can we say that the appointment of overseers and ministerial servants is theocratic, not democratic?
• How are responsible Christian men appointed by holy spirit?
• How is the Governing Body involved in the appointment of overseers and ministerial servants?
• As regards theocratic appointments, why should we be grateful to Jehovah?
[Pictures on page 15]
Elders and ministerial servants are privileged to serve by theocratic appointment