The Faithful Steward and Its Governing Body
“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?”—LUKE 12:42.
1, 2. What important question did Jesus raise while giving the composite sign of the last days?
WHILE giving the composite sign of the last days, Jesus raised this question: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time?” Jesus then went on to say that this slave would be rewarded for his faithfulness by being appointed over all of the Master’s belongings.—Matt. 24:45-47.
2 Several months earlier, Jesus had asked a similar question. (Read Luke 12:42-44.) He called the slave a “steward” and referred to the “domestics” as “his body of attendants.” A steward is a house manager or administrator who is placed over servants. Yet, the steward is also a servant. Who is this slave, or steward, and how does he provide “food at the proper time”? It is vital for all of us to recognize the channel that is used to dispense spiritual food.
3. (a) How have Christendom’s commentators tried to explain Jesus’ statements about the “slave”? (b) Who is the “steward,” or “slave,” and who are the “attendants,” or “domestics”?
3 Christendom’s commentators often view these words of Jesus as referring to those who have positions of responsibility among professed Christians. But Jesus, the “master” in the illustration, did not say that there would be a multitude of slaves scattered throughout the various sects of Christendom. Instead, he clearly stated that there would be only one “steward,” or “slave,” whom he would appoint over all his belongings. So as this journal has often explained, the steward must represent the “little flock” of anointed disciples as a collective body, or group. In the context of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus had just referred to these ones. (Luke 12:32) The “body of attendants,” or “domestics,” refers to this same group but highlights their role as individuals. An intriguing question arises, Does each individual member of this slave class play a part in providing spiritual food at the proper time? The answer becomes evident when we closely examine what the Scriptures say.
Jehovah’s Servant in Times Past
4. How did Jehovah refer to the ancient nation of Israel, and what is it important to note about that nation?
4 Jehovah spoke of his people, the ancient nation of Israel, as a collective servant. “‘You [plural] are my witnesses [plural],’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘even my servant [singular] whom I have chosen.’” (Isa. 43:10) All members of the nation were included in that one servant class. However, it is important to note that only the priests together with the nonpriestly Levites were responsible for teaching the nation.—2 Chron. 35:3; Mal. 2:7.
5. According to Jesus, what major change was to occur?
5 Was the nation of Israel the slave about whom Jesus spoke? No. We know that because of what Jesus said to the Jews of his day: “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.” (Matt. 21:43) Clearly, a change was to occur. Jehovah would use a new nation. Nevertheless, when it comes to spiritual instruction, the work of the slave in Jesus’ illustration does follow a pattern similar to that of God’s “servant” in ancient Israel.
The Faithful Slave Appears
6. What new nation came into existence at Pentecost 33 C.E., and who became part of it?
6 The new nation, “the Israel of God,” is made up of spiritual Israelites. (Gal. 6:16; Rom. 2:28, 29; 9:6) It came into existence with the outpouring of God’s spirit at Pentecost 33 C.E. Thereafter, all spirit-anointed Christians became part of the nation that now served as the slave class appointed by the Master, Jesus Christ. Each member of that nation was given the commission to preach the good news and make disciples. (Matt. 28:19, 20) But was every member of that group to be involved with providing spiritual food at the proper time? Let us see how the Scriptures answer this question.
7. Initially, what was the primary work of the apostles, and how was that work later expanded?
7 When Jesus appointed his 12 apostles, their primary work involved being sent out to preach the good news to others. (Read Mark 3:13-15.) This assignment was in harmony with the basic meaning of the Greek word apostolos, which is derived from a verb meaning simply “send forth.” However, as time went on and the Christian congregation was about to be established, the role of an apostle became an “office of oversight.”—Acts 1:20-26.
8, 9. (a) What was the primary concern of the 12 apostles? (b) Who else were given extra responsibilities, as confirmed by the governing body?
8 What was the primary concern of the 12 apostles? The answer can be seen in the events following the day of Pentecost. When a dispute arose about the daily distribution of food to widows, the 12 apostles gathered the disciples and said: “It is not pleasing for us to leave the word of God to distribute food to tables.” (Read Acts 6:1-6.) The apostles then appointed other spiritually qualified brothers to care for this “necessary business” so that the apostles could devote themselves “to the ministry of the word.” This arrangement resulted in Jehovah’s blessing as “the word of God went on growing, and the number of the disciples kept multiplying in Jerusalem very much.” (Acts 6:7) So the primary responsibility for the spiritual feeding work rested with the apostles.—Acts 2:42.
9 In time, others were entrusted with weighty responsibilities. Paul and Barnabas, under the direction of holy spirit, were sent out as missionaries by the Antioch congregation. They also became known as apostles, although they were not included in the original 12. (Acts 13:1-3; 14:14; Gal. 1:19) Their appointment was confirmed by the governing body in Jerusalem. (Gal. 2:7-10) Shortly after that, Paul had a part in dispensing spiritual food. He wrote his first inspired letter.
10. In the first century, were all spirit-anointed Christians involved in preparing spiritual food? Explain.
10 However, were all spirit-anointed Christians involved in overseeing the preaching work and in preparing spiritual food? No. The apostle Paul tells us: “Not all are apostles, are they? Not all are prophets, are they? Not all are teachers, are they? Not all perform powerful works, do they?” (1 Cor. 12:29) Although all spirit-begotten Christians engaged in the preaching work, only a very limited number—just eight different men—were used to write the 27 books of the Christian Greek Scriptures.
The Faithful Slave in Modern Times
11. Over what “belongings” was the slave appointed?
11 Jesus’ words recorded at Matthew 24:45 clearly indicate that there would still be a faithful and discreet slave class living on earth during the time of the end. Revelation 12:17 refers to these ones as “the remaining ones” of the seed of the woman. As a group, this remnant has been appointed over all of Christ’s belongings here on earth. The “belongings” that the faithful steward is appointed to care for are the Master’s royal interests on earth, which include the Kingdom’s earthly subjects and the material facilities used in preaching the good news.
12, 13. How does a Christian know that he or she has the heavenly calling?
12 How does a Christian know if he or she has the heavenly hope and is included in this remnant of spiritual Israelites? The answer is found in the apostle Paul’s words to those who were sharers with him in the same heavenly hope: “All who are led by God’s spirit, these are God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but you received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: ‘Abba, Father!’ The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children. If, then, we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ, provided we suffer together that we may also be glorified together.”—Rom. 8:14-17.
13 Simply stated, these individuals are anointed by God’s holy spirit and receive a heavenly “calling,” or “invitation.” (Heb. 3:1; ftn.) This personal invitation is from God. They, in turn, respond at once without question or doubt or fear in accepting this begetting as God’s sons. (Read 1 John 2:20, 21.) So they do not select this hope for themselves, but Jehovah puts his seal, or holy spirit, upon them.—2 Cor. 1:21, 22; 1 Pet. 1:3, 4.
The Correct Viewpoint
14. How do the anointed view their calling?
14 How should these anointed ones view themselves as they await their heavenly reward? They realize that although they have received a wonderful invitation, it is only that—an invitation. They must remain faithful until death in order to obtain this prize. In humility, they echo the words of Paul: “Brothers, I do not yet consider myself as having laid hold on it; but there is one thing about it: Forgetting the things behind and stretching forward to the things ahead, I am pursuing down toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God by means of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13, 14) The anointed remnant must do their utmost to ‘walk worthily of the calling with which they were called, with complete lowliness of mind,’ doing so “with fear and trembling.”—Eph. 4:1, 2; Phil. 2:12; 1 Thess. 2:12.
15. How should Christians view those who partake of the emblems at the Memorial, and how do anointed ones view themselves?
15 On the other hand, how should other Christians view a person who claims to have received this anointing and begins to partake of the emblems at the Memorial? He or she should not be judged. The matter is between this person and Jehovah. (Rom. 14:12) However, Christians who have truly received this anointing do not demand special attention. They do not believe that their being of the anointed gives them special insights beyond what even some experienced members of the “great crowd” may have. (Rev. 7:9) They do not believe that they necessarily have more holy spirit than their companions of the “other sheep” have. (John 10:16) They do not expect special treatment; nor do they claim that their partaking of the emblems places them above the appointed elders in the congregation.
16-18. (a) Are all anointed ones involved with presenting new spiritual truths? Illustrate. (b) Why is there no need for the Governing Body to consult with all who claim to be anointed?
16 Are all these anointed ones throughout the earth part of a global network that is somehow involved in revealing new spiritual truths? No. Although as a composite body the slave class is responsible for feeding the spiritual household, not all individuals of the slave class have the same responsibilities or work assignments. (Read 1 Corinthians 12:14-18.) As noted earlier, in the first century, all were involved in the vital preaching work. But only a very limited number were used to write the books of the Bible and oversee the Christian congregation.
17 To illustrate: The Scriptures at times speak of “the congregation” as taking certain action in handling judicial matters. (Matt. 18:17) In real terms, though, it is only the elders who take this action in their capacity as representatives of the congregation. The elders do not contact all members of the congregation to ask their various opinions before they make a decision. Theocratically, they perform the role that they have been assigned; they act on behalf of the whole congregation.
18 Similarly, today a limited number of anointed men have the responsibility of representing the slave class. They make up the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. These spirit-anointed men oversee the Kingdom work and the spiritual feeding program. As in the first century, though, the Governing Body does not consult with each individual member of the slave class before making decisions. (Read Acts 16:4, 5.) However, all anointed Witnesses are deeply involved in the vital harvest work that is now taking place. As a class, “the faithful and discreet slave” is one body, but as individuals, they have various work assignments.—1 Cor. 12:19-26.
19, 20. What balanced view do the great crowd have of “the faithful and discreet slave” and its Governing Body?
19 What effect should the above facts have on the ever-increasing great crowd who hope to live forever on earth? As part of the King’s belongings, they are happy to cooperate fully with the arrangements made by the Governing Body, which represents “the faithful and discreet slave.” Members of the great crowd appreciate the spiritual food produced under the Governing Body’s direction. But at the same time, while respecting the slave as a class, members of the great crowd are careful not to elevate any individuals who claim to be part of that slave. No Christian who genuinely receives the anointing with God’s spirit would want or expect such treatment.—Acts 10:25, 26; 14:14, 15.
20 Whether we are “domestics,” who are part of the anointed remnant, or we are members of the great crowd, let it be our determination to cooperate fully with the faithful steward and its Governing Body. May each of us “keep on the watch” and prove ourselves faithful until the end.—Matt. 24:13, 42.
Do You Remember?
• Who is “the faithful and discreet slave,” and who are the domestics?
• How does a person know that he or she has the heavenly calling?
• Who has the primary responsibility for preparing new spiritual food?
• How should one of the anointed view himself?
[Picture on page 23]
Today, the Governing Body represents the faithful and discreet slave class. There was a similar arrangement in the first century