“Your Leader Is One, the Christ”
“Do not . . . be called ‘leaders,’ for your Leader is one, the Christ.”—MATT. 23:9, 10.
1. Whom do Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize as Leader, and why?
CHRISTENDOM’S churches have human leaders, such as the pope of Rome, the patriarchs and metropolitans of the Eastern Orthodox churches, and the heads of other religions. Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize no human as their leader. They are not disciples or followers of any man. This is in line with Jehovah’s prophetic utterance concerning his Son: “Look! As a witness to the national groups I have given him, as a leader and commander to the national groups.” (Isa. 55:4) The international congregation of anointed Christians and their “other sheep” companions want no leader other than the one Jehovah has given them. (John 10:16) They subscribe to Jesus’ statement: “Your Leader is one, the Christ.”—Matt. 23:10.
Spiritual Prince of Israel
2, 3. What active role did God’s Son play in Israel?
2 Centuries before the founding of the Christian congregation, Jehovah had an angelic leader over his people Israel. After bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, Jehovah told them: “Here I am sending an angel ahead of you to keep you on the road and to bring you into the place that I have prepared. Watch yourself because of him and obey his voice. Do not behave rebelliously against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; because my name is within him.” (Ex. 23:20, 21) It is reasonable to believe that this angel, who had ‘Jehovah’s name within him,’ was God’s firstborn Son.
3 Prior to his birth as a human, God’s Son apparently had the name Michael. In the book of Daniel, Michael is called “the prince of [Daniel’s] people,” Israel. (Dan. 10:21) The disciple Jude indicates that Michael was involved in the affairs of Israel long before Daniel’s day. After Moses’ death, Satan apparently intended to use the corpse to further his own interests in some way, possibly by inciting Israel to commit idolatry. Michael stepped in to prevent this. Jude relates: “When Michael the archangel had a difference with the Devil and was disputing about Moses’ body, he did not dare to bring a judgment against him in abusive terms, but said: ‘May Jehovah rebuke you.’” (Jude 9) A little later, before the siege of Jericho, it was doubtless Michael, the “prince of the army of Jehovah,” who appeared to Joshua to reassure him of divine backing. (Read Joshua 5:13-15.) When a demon prince tried to prevent an angel from delivering an important message to the prophet Daniel, the archangel Michael came to that angel’s assistance.—Dan. 10:5-7, 12-14.
The Foretold Leader Comes
4. What prophecy was given concerning the coming of the Messiah?
4 Previous to this incident, Jehovah had sent his angel Gabriel to the prophet Daniel to convey to him a prophecy concerning the coming of “Messiah the Leader.” (Dan. 9:21-25) * Exactly on time, in the fall of 29 C.E., Jesus was baptized by John. Holy spirit was poured out upon Jesus, making him the Anointed One—Christ, the Messiah. (Matt. 3:13-17; John 1:29-34; Gal. 4:4) As such, he was to become an incomparable Leader.
5. How did Christ act as Leader during his earthly ministry?
5 From the beginning of his ministry on earth, Jesus proved himself to be “Messiah the Leader.” Within a few days, he began gathering disciples, and he performed his first miracle. (John 1:35–2:11) His disciples followed him as he traveled the length and breadth of the land, preaching the good news of the Kingdom. (Luke 8:1) He trained them in the preaching work and took the lead in preaching and teaching, setting a fine example. (Luke 9:1-6) Christian elders today do well to imitate him in this respect.
6. In what way did Christ prove to be a Shepherd and Leader?
6 Jesus pointed to another aspect of his leadership by comparing himself to a loving shepherd. Oriental shepherds literally lead their flocks. In The Land and the Book, W. M. Thomson wrote: “The shepherd goes before, not merely to point out the way, but to see that it is practicable and safe. . . . With [his] staff he rules and guides the flock to their green pastures, and defends them from their enemies.” Showing that he is a true Shepherd and Leader, Jesus declared: “I am the fine shepherd; the fine shepherd surrenders his soul in behalf of the sheep. My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:11, 27) True to his word, Jesus died a sacrificial death in behalf of his sheep, but Jehovah “raised him up to be leader and Saviour.”—Acts 5:31, New Jerusalem Bible; Heb. 13:20.
Overseer of the Christian Congregation
7. By means of what does Jesus oversee the Christian congregation?
7 Shortly before ascending to heaven, the resurrected Jesus told his disciples: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” (Matt. 28:18) Jehovah had Jesus pass on holy spirit to strengthen his disciples in Christian truth. (John 15:26) Jesus poured out this spirit upon the early Christians at Pentecost 33 C.E. (Acts 2:33) That outpouring of the holy spirit marked the founding of the Christian congregation. Jehovah invested his Son with the heavenly leadership of the congregation on earth. (Read Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:13, 18.) Jesus guides the Christian congregation by means of Jehovah’s holy spirit, and he has at his service angels who were “made subject to him.”—1 Pet. 3:22.
8. What earthly instrument did Christ use in the first century to lead his disciples, and whom is he using today?
8 Also by means of holy spirit, Christ gave “gifts in men,” some “as shepherds and teachers” in the congregation. (Eph. 4:8, 11) The apostle Paul urged Christian overseers: “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) When the Christian congregation began, all these overseers were spirit-anointed men. The apostles and the elders of the Jerusalem congregation acted as a governing body. Christ used this instrument to lead the entire group of his anointed “brothers” on earth. (Heb. 2:11; Acts 16:4, 5) In this time of the end, Christ has committed “all his belongings”—all the earthly interests of the Kingdom—to his “faithful and discreet slave” and its representative Governing Body, a group of anointed Christian men. (Matt. 24:45-47) The anointed and their other sheep companions recognize that by following the lead of the modern-day Governing Body, they are in fact following their Leader, Christ.
Christ Initiates the Preaching Work
9, 10. How did Christ direct matters with regard to spreading the good news of the Kingdom?
9 Right from the start, Jesus personally directed the worldwide preaching and teaching activity. He established the order in which the good news of the Kingdom was to be transmitted to the inhabitants of the earth. During his ministry, he instructed his apostles: “Do not go off into the road of the nations, and do not enter into a Samaritan city; but, instead, go continually to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” (Matt. 10:5-7) They did this zealously among Jews and proselytes, especially after Pentecost 33 C.E.—Acts 2:4, 5, 10, 11; 5:42; 6:7.
10 Later, by means of holy spirit, Jesus extended the Kingdom-preaching work to the Samaritans and then to other non-Jews. (Acts 8:5, 6, 14-17; 10:19-22, 44, 45) With a view to promoting the spread of the good news among the nations, Jesus acted personally to move Saul of Tarsus to become a Christian. Jesus instructed his disciple Ananias: “Rise, go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man named Saul, from Tarsus. . . . Be on your way, because this man is a chosen vessel to me to bear my name to the nations as well as to kings and the sons of Israel.” (Acts 9:3-6, 10, 11, 15) “This man” became the apostle Paul.—1 Tim. 2:7.
11. How did Christ by means of holy spirit expand the preaching work?
11 When the time came to expand the work of Kingdom preaching among the non-Jewish nations, heaven directed Paul on missionary journeys in Asia Minor and on into Europe. Luke’s account in Acts states: “As they [Christian prophets and teachers in the congregation in Syrian Antioch] were publicly ministering to Jehovah and fasting, the holy spirit said: ‘Of all persons set Barnabas and Saul apart for me for the work to which I have called them.’ Then they fasted and prayed and laid their hands upon them and let them go.” (Acts 13:2, 3) Jesus had personally called Saul of Tarsus to be His “chosen vessel” to bear His name to the nations; hence, this new impetus to the witnessing work came from Christ, the Leader of the congregation. Jesus’ use of the holy spirit to direct the work became unmistakably clear during Paul’s second missionary trip. The account states that “the spirit of Jesus,” that is, Jesus by means of holy spirit, guided Paul and his traveling companions in the choice of their itinerary, and a vision led them to move on into Europe.—Read Acts 16:6-10.
Jesus’ Leadership Over His Congregation
12, 13. How does the book of Revelation show that Christ follows closely what goes on in each congregation?
12 Jesus followed closely what was going on within the congregations of his anointed followers in the first century C.E. He had intimate knowledge of the spiritual condition of each congregation. This becomes apparent when we read Revelation chapters 2 and 3. He names seven congregations, all located in Asia Minor. (Rev. 1:11) We have every reason to believe that he was just as familiar with the spiritual condition of the other congregations of his followers on earth at that time.—Read Revelation 2:23.
13 Jesus commended some of the congregations for their endurance, faithfulness under trial, loyalty to his word, and rejection of apostates. (Rev. 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:8) On the other hand, he gave firm counsel to several congregations because their love for him had cooled off, they countenanced idolatry and fornication, and they tolerated sectarianism. (Rev. 2:4, 14, 15, 20; 3:15, 16) As a loving spiritual overseer—even to those to whom he gave strong admonition—Jesus stated: “All those for whom I have affection I reprove and discipline. Therefore be zealous and repent.” (Rev. 3:19) Although in heaven, Jesus was leading the congregations of his disciples on earth by means of holy spirit. At the end of the messages to those congregations, he declared: “Let the one who has an ear hear what the spirit says to the congregations.”—Rev. 3:22.
14-16. (a) How has Jesus proved to be a courageous Leader of Jehovah’s people on earth? (b) What has resulted from Jesus’ being “with” his disciples “all the days until the conclusion of the system of things”? (c) What will we consider in the following article?
14 We have seen that Michael (Jesus) proved to be a valiant angelic Leader of Israel. Later, Jesus was a courageous Leader and a loving Shepherd of his early disciples. During his earthly ministry, he took the lead in the preaching work. And after his resurrection, he exercised close oversight of the spreading of the Kingdom good news.
15 By means of holy spirit, Jesus would eventually extend the witnessing work to the ends of the earth. Before ascending to heaven, Jesus told his disciples: “You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8; read 1 Peter 1:12.) Under Christ’s direction, a tremendous witness was given in the first century.—Col. 1:23.
16 But Jesus himself indicated that this work would continue into the time of the end. After commissioning his followers to preach and to make disciples among all the nations, Jesus promised them: “I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) Since being invested with kingly power in 1914, Christ is more than ever “with” his disciples and active as their Leader. His intense activity since 1914 will be examined in the following article.
^ par. 4 For a discussion of this prophecy, see chapter 21 of What Does the Bible Really Teach.
By Way of Review
• How did God’s Son prove to be an active Leader in Israel?
• By what means does Christ lead his congregation on earth?
• How has Christ directed the spread of the good news?
• What shows that Christ follows closely the spiritual condition of each congregation?
[Picture on page 21]
“I am sending an angel ahead of you”
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As in the past, Christ uses “gifts in men” to shepherd his flock