Who Is Leading God’s People Today?
“Remember those who are taking the lead among you.”
1, 2. After Jesus went to heaven, what may the apostles have wondered?
JESUS’ apostles stood on the Mount of Olives and watched as their master and friend, Jesus, was lifted up toward heaven and hidden by a cloud. (Acts 1:9, 10) For about two years, Jesus had taught, encouraged, and led them. But now he was gone. What would they do?
2 Before going to heaven, Jesus told his followers: “You will be witnesses of me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) How could they possibly do that work? Jesus had promised that God’s holy spirit would help them. (Acts 1:5) But who would direct them and organize the worldwide preaching work? The apostles knew that Jehovah had used men to lead the Israelites in the past. So they may have wondered whether Jehovah would now choose a new leader.
3. (a) After Jesus went to heaven, what important decision did the faithful apostles make? (b) What questions will we answer in this article?
Acts 1:15-26) Why was this selection so important to them and to Jehovah? The disciples realized that there needed to be 12 apostles. * (See footnote.) Jesus had chosen the apostles and trained them for a very important role among God’s people. What was that role, and how did Jehovah and Jesus prepare them for it? What similar arrangement exists today? And how can we “remember those who are taking the lead” among us, especially “the faithful and discreet slave”?
JESUS LEADS THE GOVERNING BODY
4. What role did the apostles and other elders in Jerusalem have?
4 The apostles began to take the lead in the Christian congregation at Pentecost in the year 33. The Bible says that “Peter stood up with the Eleven” and taught lifesaving truths to a large crowd. (Acts 2:14, 15) Many people in that crowd became Christians. After that, those new Christians “continued devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles.” (Acts 2:42) The apostles were responsible for managing the money of the congregation. (Acts 4:34, 35) They also taught God’s people and prayed for them, saying: “We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:4) And they sent experienced Christians to preach in new territories. (Acts 8:14, 15) Later, other anointed elders joined the apostles in taking the lead in the congregation. As a governing body, they gave direction to all the congregations.
Christians in the first century knew that Jehovah was directing the governing body through Jesus
5, 6. (a) How did holy spirit empower the governing body? (See opening picture.) (b) How did the angels help the governing body? (c) How did God’s Word guide the governing body?
5 Christians in the first century knew that Jehovah was directing the governing body through Jesus. How could they be sure? First, holy spirit empowered the governing body. (John 16:13) All anointed Christians received holy spirit, but it specifically empowered the apostles and the elders in Jerusalem to carry out their role as overseers. For example, in the year 49, holy spirit guided the governing body to make a decision about circumcision. The congregations followed that direction. As a result, they “continued to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number day by day.” (Acts 16:4, 5) From the letter to the congregations about circumcision, we can see that the governing body had God’s spirit and showed qualities such as love and faith.
6 Second, angels helped the governing body. For example, an angel told Cornelius to find the apostle Peter. After Peter preached to Cornelius and his relatives, they received holy spirit, even though the men had not been circumcised. Cornelius thus became the first uncircumcised Gentile to become a Christian. When the apostles and other brothers heard about this, they accepted God’s will and welcomed uncircumcised Gentiles into the Christian congregation. (Acts 11:13-18) From this, we can see that angels actively supported the preaching work that the governing body was directing. (Acts 5:19, 20) Third, God’s Word guided the governing body. Those men used the Scriptures to help them make important decisions about Christian beliefs and to direct the congregations.
7. Why can we say that Jesus led the early Christians?
7 Even though the governing body had authority in the congregation, its members understood that Jesus Christ was their Leader. How do we know that? The apostle Paul said that it was Christ who appointed “some as apostles.” He also said that Christ was “the head,” or Leader, of the congregation. (Ephesians 4:11, 15) And instead of naming themselves after an apostle, “the disciples were by divine providence called Christians.” (Acts 11:26) Paul knew that it was important to follow the Bible-based teachings of the apostles and other men who took the lead. Even so, Paul said: “But I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ.” This statement included every member of the governing body. Then Paul added: “The head of the Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:2, 3) Clearly, Jehovah had appointed his Son, Christ Jesus, to lead the congregation.
“THIS IS NOT MAN’S WORK”
8, 9. What important role did Brother Russell have?
8 Starting in 1870, Charles Taze Russell and some of his friends began trying to worship God according to the Bible and to help others to do so. This included helping people who spoke various languages. So Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society was legally formed in 1884, and Brother Russell became the president. * (See footnote.) He studied the Bible very carefully and was not afraid to tell others that church teachings such as the Trinity and the immortality of the soul were not in the Bible. He learned that Christ’s return would be invisible and that “the appointed times of the nations” would end in 1914. (Luke 21:24) Brother Russell used his time, energy, and money to teach these truths to others. It is clear that Jehovah and Jesus used Brother Russell to take the lead at an important time in history.
9 Brother Russell did not want any special attention from people. In 1896, he wrote that he and other responsible men did not want to be honored at all. They did not want to be given any special titles, and they did not want any group to be called by their name. He later said: “This is not man’s work.”
“The faithful and discreet slave” is a small group of anointed brothers who make up the Governing Body
10. (a) When did Jesus appoint “the faithful and discreet slave”? (b) Explain how it became clear that the Governing Body was different from the Watch Tower Society.
10 In 1919, three years after Brother Russell’s death, Jesus appointed “the faithful and discreet slave.” For what purpose? To give his followers “food at the proper time.” (Matthew 24:45) Even during those early years, a small group of anointed brothers at headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, provided spiritual food to Jesus’ followers. The expression “governing body” began appearing in our publications after 1940. At that time, the governing body was closely connected with directors of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. However, in 1971, it was made clear that the Governing Body was different from the Watch Tower Society, which was responsible for legal matters only. From then on, anointed brothers could become part of the Governing Body without being Society directors. More recently, responsible brothers of the “other sheep” have served as directors of the Society and of other corporations used by God’s people. As a result, the Governing Body can focus on providing Bible instruction and direction. (John 10:16; Acts 6:4) The July 15, 2013, issue of The Watchtower explained that “the faithful and discreet slave” is a small group of anointed brothers who make up the Governing Body.
11. How does the Governing Body make decisions?
11 The Governing Body makes important decisions as a group when its members meet together each week. Meeting this way helps them to have close communication and stay united. (Proverbs 20:18) No member of the Governing Body is more important than the other members, so each year a different brother takes the lead at those meetings. (1 Peter 5:1) This is also the case in each of the six committees of the Governing Body. No member of the Governing Body feels that he is the leader of his brothers. Each of them is also one of the domestics and receives spiritual food from the faithful slave and follows its direction.
“WHO REALLY IS THE FAITHFUL AND DISCREET SLAVE?”
12. What questions will we answer next?
12 The Governing Body is neither inspired nor perfect. It can make mistakes when explaining the Bible or directing the organization. For example, the Watch Tower Publications Index includes the subject “Beliefs Clarified,” which lists adjustments to our understanding of the Bible since 1870. Jesus did not tell us that his faithful slave would produce perfect spiritual food. So how can we answer Jesus’ question: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave?” (Matthew 24:45) What evidence is there that the Governing Body is the faithful slave? Let us consider the same three things that helped the governing body in the apostles’ time.
13. How has holy spirit helped the Governing Body?
13 Holy spirit helps the Governing Body. The holy spirit has helped the Governing Body to understand Bible truths that were not understood before. For example, consider the list of beliefs clarified that was mentioned earlier. No human could have understood and explained these “deep things of God” on his own! (Read 1 Corinthians 2:10.) The Governing Body feels as did the apostle Paul, who wrote: “These things we also speak, not with words taught by human wisdom, but with those taught by the spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:13) After hundreds of years of false teachings and no clear direction, why has there been such an increase of Bible understanding since 1919? The reason can only be that God has been helping with his holy spirit!
14. According to Revelation 14:6, 7, how do angels help the Governing Body and God’s people today?
14 Angels help the Governing Body. The Governing Body has the huge responsibility of directing over eight million publishers in the worldwide preaching work. Why has that work been so successful? One reason is the support of the angels. (Read Revelation 14:6, 7.) In many cases, the angels have directed publishers to a person who had just prayed to God for help! * (See footnote.) The preaching and teaching work continues to grow even where there is intense opposition. This also is only possible with help from the angels.
15. How is the Governing Body different from Christendom’s leaders? Give an example.
15 God’s Word guides the Governing Body. (Read John 17:17.) Consider what happened in 1973. The June 1 issue of The Watchtower asked whether “persons who have not broken their addiction to tobacco qualify for baptism.” The answer it gave to that question was based on Bible principles, and it was no! The Watchtower cited several scriptures and explained why a person who will not stop smoking should be disfellowshipped. (1 Corinthians 5:7; 2 Corinthians 7:1) It said that this strict standard does not come from humans but comes “from God, who expresses himself through his written Word.” No other religious organization has been willing to rely so completely on God’s Word even when doing so may be very difficult for some of its members. A recent book on religion in the United States says: “Christian leaders have regularly revised their teachings to match the beliefs and opinions gaining support among their members and in the larger society.” The Governing Body, however, is not guided by what most people like. Instead, its members are guided by God’s Word, which proves that Jehovah is the one who is really guiding his people today.
“REMEMBER THOSE WHO ARE TAKING THE LEAD”
16. What is one way to remember the Governing Body?
16 Read Hebrews 13:7. The Bible says to “remember those who are taking the lead.” One way we can do this is by mentioning the Governing Body in our prayers. (Ephesians 6:18) They have many responsibilities, which include providing spiritual food, directing the worldwide preaching work, and caring for the donations that are made to the organization. So they really do need our regular prayers!
17, 18. (a) How do we follow the direction of the Governing Body? (b) How does our preaching support the Governing Body and Jesus?
17 We can also remember the Governing Body by following its instructions and direction. The Governing Body gives us direction through our publications, meetings, assemblies, and conventions. It also appoints circuit overseers, who then appoint elders. By carefully following the directions given to them, the circuit overseers and the elders show that they remember the Governing Body. And all of us show respect for our Leader, Jesus, by obeying the men he is using today.
18 Another way that we can remember the Governing Body is by doing our best in the preaching work. Hebrews 13:7 urges Christians to imitate the faith of those taking the lead. The Governing Body has shown great faith by zealously preaching and promoting the good news. Are we supporting those brothers in this important work? If we are, we will feel happy when we hear Jesus tell us: “To the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
19. Why are you determined to follow our Leader, Jesus?
19 When Jesus returned to heaven, he did not abandon his followers. (Matthew 28:20) He knew that the holy spirit, the angels, and God’s Word helped him to take the lead when he was on earth. He gives the faithful slave today the same help. The Governing Body continues “following the Lamb,” Jesus, “no matter where he goes.” (Revelation 14:4) So when we follow the direction of the Governing Body, we follow our Leader, Jesus. Soon, he will lead us to everlasting life. (Revelation 7:14-17) And no human leader can promise that!
^ par. 3 It seems that Jehovah wanted to have 12 apostles form the future “12 foundation stones” of New Jerusalem. (Revelation 21:14) That is why there was no need to replace any of the faithful apostles who later died.
^ par. 8 Since 1955, that corporation has been known as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.