“From him all the body is harmoniously joined together and made to cooperate.”—EPH. 4:16.
SONGS: 53, 16
1. From the beginning, what has characterized God’s works?
FROM the beginning of creation, unity of purpose was evident. As wisdom personified, God’s first creation said: “I was beside [Jehovah] as a master worker. I was the one he was especially fond of day by day.” (Prov. 8:30) Father and Son collaborated, and they produced the variety of life we observe today. Cooperation continued to mark God’s works. We see this quality in the building of the ark in Noah’s day; the erecting, dismantling, and moving of the tabernacle as God’s people journeyed in the wilderness; and even in the playing of music and blending of voices in harmonious praise to Jehovah at his temple. All those endeavors depended on cooperation.—Gen. 6:14-16, 22; Num. 4:4-32; 1 Chron. 25:1-8.
2. (a) What was noteworthy about the early Christian congregation? (b) What questions will we address?
2 This pattern of working together characterized the early Christian congregation under its head, Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul explained that, even though individual anointed Christians had “different gifts” and shared in “different ministries” and “different activities,” all were part of “one body.” (Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, 12.) But what of today? How can we remain harmoniously joined together in preaching the good news? And how can we cooperate in the congregation as well as in the family?
COOPERATE IN PREACHING
3. What vision did the apostle John receive?
3 Toward the end of the first century C.E., the apostle John received a vision of seven angels, each of whom sounded a trumpet blast. When the fifth angel blew his trumpet, John saw “a star” fall from heaven to earth. The “star” had a key in his hand with which he opened the shaft of an abyss. Thick smoke poured out, and from this came a plague of locusts. Rather than ravage vegetation, the symbolic locusts swarm against “those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.” (Rev. 9:1-4) John no doubt knew how devastating a locust swarm could be. Had not locusts plagued ancient Egypt in Moses’ day? (Ex. 10:12-15) The figurative locusts that John saw well illustrate anointed Christians proclaiming Jehovah’s powerful judgment messages. They are joined now by millions of companions with an earthly hope. Little wonder that our united preaching undermines the authority Satan exercises through his worldwide empire of false religion!
4. What work do God’s people have to do, and what is the only way that they can do this?
4 Jehovah’s people have the enormous task of preaching the “good news” worldwide before the end of this system. (Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20) This includes inviting “anyone thirsting” to drink “life’s water free.” (Rev. 22:17) As members of the Christian congregation, how can we succeed in doing this? Only by being “harmoniously joined together and made to cooperate.”—Eph. 4:16.
5, 6. How are we united as we preach the good news?
5 To share the message of the Kingdom good news with as many people as possible, we need to carry out our preaching work in an organized manner. Therefore, we receive directions. The guidance given through congregations around the globe prepares us for a united effort. After we meet for field service, we go forth to proclaim the Kingdom message to mankind. By word of mouth and through millions of copies of Bible-based publications, we spread the message. Do you strive to follow the direction to share in special preaching campaigns? By doing so, you are joining millions of others in unitedly heralding the message of the “angel flying in midheaven,” mentioned at Revelation 14:6.
6 What a thrill it is to read in the Yearbook the combined results of our activity! Think, too, of how we are united as we distribute invitations to regional, special, and international conventions. At these gatherings, we listen to motivating Scriptural talks and give attention to dramas and demonstrations. These parts often highlight God’s loving appeal to serve him with all our being. The commemoration of Jesus’ death also unites us. With appreciation for God’s undeserved kindness and in obedience to Jesus’ direction, we gather for that event yearly, after sundown on Nisan 14. (1 Cor. 11:23-26) And attendance is not restricted to baptized Witnesses. In the weeks before the Memorial, we cover as much of our congregation’s territory as possible, inviting others to join us for that important occasion.
7. As we work together, what are we able to do?
7 A solitary locust does not have a great impact. In a somewhat similar way, our individual efforts might seem insignificant. But by working together, we are able to direct the attention of millions of people to the one who deserves all praise and honor, Jehovah! However, this is not the only way that our cooperation contributes to the unity of God’s people.
COOPERATE IN THE CONGREGATION
8, 9. (a) What illustration did Paul use to teach Christians to stay united? (b) How can we cooperate in the congregation?
8 In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul outlined both the organization of the congregation and the need to “grow up in all things.” (Read Ephesians 4:15, 16.) What will help us individually to progress toward that goal? Using the example of the human body, Paul focused on unity under the head of the congregation, Jesus Christ. The apostle spoke of cooperating “through every joint that gives what is needed.” How can each of us, whether young or old, strong or frail, contribute to the unity and spirituality of the congregation?
9 A key is to submit ourselves to and respect those whom Jesus has designated to provide direction in the congregation, the elders. (Heb. 13:7, 17) We may not always find this easy to do. However, we can with confidence request God’s guidance. His active force can help us to support the congregation arrangements wholeheartedly. So if we on occasion do not feel inclined to follow the direction given, we should reflect on how our humbly cooperating will contribute to the unity in the congregation. Furthermore, cooperating in matters like these will likely help all of us to grow in love.
10. How do ministerial servants help the congregation to be united? (See opening picture.)
10 Ministerial servants make a much-appreciated contribution to the unity of a congregation. These brothers, whatever their age, selflessly render services that benefit all. For example, they assist the elders by making sure that we have supplies of publications for the ministry. Additionally, they often care for regular cleaning and maintenance of the Kingdom Hall, and they welcome visitors who attend our meetings. As we cooperate with these brothers, we contribute to the smooth operation of the congregation.—Compare Acts 6:3-6.
11. What may younger ones do to help their congregation be united?
11 Many mature brothers have shouldered congregation responsibilities for years. But advancing age may now limit what they can do, so adjustments become necessary. Younger brothers can be of great assistance. Though they have yet to gain experience, through training they can be helped to take on more responsibility. How fine it is when ministerial servants reach out to qualify as elders! (1 Tim. 3:1, 10) Some younger elders have progressed to the point that they qualify for circuit work, serving brothers and sisters in many congregations. Are we not grateful for the willing support that younger people provide?—Read Psalm 110:3; Ecclesiastes 12:1.
COOPERATE IN THE FAMILY
12, 13. What can help all in the family to cooperate with one another?
12 Taking our discussion of cooperation a step further, let us see how we can promote cooperation in our family. Many have found that having a productive Family Worship session each week helps to cement the bond between young and old. During these pleasant times, we focus on spiritual matters, and this contributes to the unity of the family. Practicing for the field ministry can equip the family to be better prepared to preach effectively. And it is not hard to see that when members of a family share comments about God’s Word, they are drawn closer together—all love the same God and all are interested in doing his will.
13 What can married couples do to cooperate to Jehovah’s praise? When both mates are faithful servants of Jehovah, they can rejoice in the unity that this affords them. Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Elkanah and Hannah—all expressed their love for their mate. We should make it a point to do the same. (Gen. 26:8; 1 Sam. 1:5, 8; 1 Pet. 3:5, 6) That will unite us with our mate and draw us closer to our heavenly Father.—Read Ecclesiastes 4:12.
14. If your husband or wife is not serving Jehovah, what can you do to keep your marriage strong?
14 Christians are to avoid becoming unevenly yoked with unbelievers. (2 Cor. 6:14) What of our brothers and sisters who live in religiously divided households? Some now serving God were married when they learned the truth, and their mate is not a Witness. Still, applying Bible principles can contribute to harmony in the family. That involves cooperating to the greatest extent possible without compromising. This may be challenging, but think of the possible reward. Applying Bible principles can also become challenging when a marriage mate drifts away from the congregation. This happened to a Christian sister named Mary. She and her husband, David, served Jehovah together, but then, some 25 years ago, he stopped attending congregation meetings. Mary faithfully went to meetings and conventions and strove to apply Bible principles at home, including teaching their six children. When the children became adults and left home, Mary felt very much alone. Then David began to read the magazines that she left out for him. In time, he returned to the Kingdom Hall, where his six-year-old grandson would save a seat for him. If David did not come, the boy would later say, “I missed you at the meeting today, Grandpa.” David is now happily serving Jehovah, and Mary is filled with joy that they are doing so together.
15. How can older married ones help younger ones?
15 In view of Satan’s attack on the family today, it is vital for all of God’s servants to maintain good cooperation in their marriage. No matter how long you have been married, give thought to what you personally can say or do to strengthen your marriage. Older ones can even assist younger members of the congregation in this regard. You might on occasion invite a younger couple to your home to share in family worship with you and your mate. While the younger ones are with you, they can observe that affection and harmony are important no matter how long one has been married.—Titus 2:3-7.
“LET US GO UP TO THE MOUNTAIN OF JEHOVAH”
16, 17. What do God’s united servants look forward to?
16 Picture the Israelites in Bible times praising Jehovah during a festival at his temple in Jerusalem. They would have prepared for the journey, cared for one another’s needs en route, and then been united in worship at the temple. All of this called for cooperation. (Luke 2:41-44) As we continue our journey toward the new world, we too need to be harmoniously joined together and cooperating. This takes regular, conscientious effort. Do you need to give this matter more attention?
17 Think of what blessings await us! We have already left behind the disunity and confusion marking the present system of things. We now see being fulfilled what both Isaiah and Micah foretold—God’s people are unitedly going up to “the mountain of Jehovah.” (Isa. 2:2-4; read Micah 4:2-4.) Indeed, how elevated our form of worship is in “the final part of the days.” But how great will be our happiness and joy when we live at the time when all mankind will be harmoniously joined together and cooperating!