[From ws17/6 p. 27 – August 21-27]
“You are worthy, Jehovah our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things.”
(Occurrences: Jehovah=72; Jesus=0; Slave, aka Governing Body=8)
In last week’s review, we learned that the following statement has no basis in Scripture:
“AS DISCUSSED in the preceding article, the Devil contends that Jehovah exercises his sovereignty in an unworthy way and that mankind would be better off ruling themselves.” – par. 1
This raised a few questions, such as: Is the Organization’s continued emphasis on the belief that Jehovah’s Sovereignty has yet to be vindicated the result of simple misguided interpretation, or is there a deeper motive behind all this? It is hard, and dangerous, to try to judge motive. Nevertheless, actions speak louder than words, as the saying goes, and it is by their actions that men’s intentions are revealed. In fact, Jesus tells us that we will be able to recognize a particular type of person—specifically, a false prophet—by his actions.[i]
“Be on the watch for the false prophets who come to you in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves. 16 By their fruits you will recognize them. Never do people gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles, do they? 17 Likewise, every good tree produces fine fruit, but every rotten tree produces worthless fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, nor can a rotten tree produce fine fruit. 19 Every tree not producing fine fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Really, then, by their fruits you will recognize those men.” (Mt 7:15-20)
With those words in mind, let us consider the following commandments from our Lord, Jesus Christ:
“But you, do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your Teacher, and all of you are brothers. 9 Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One. 10 Neither be called leaders, for your Leader is one, the Christ.” (Mt 23:8-10)
What do we see here? What relationship is Jesus telling us to bear in mind? We should not exalt ourselves over others, because we are all brothers. No one is to be a teacher of the rest. No one is to be a father of the rest. No one is to be a leader of the rest. As brothers, we all have one Father, the heavenly One.
Does the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses follow these commandments? Or does the emphasis placed on God’s sovereignty support another view?
Before answering, let us consider what Jesus said just a few verses farther on.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut up the Kingdom of the heavens before men; for you yourselves do not go in, neither do you permit those on their way in to go in.” (Mt 23:13)
The kingdom of the heavens refers to the upward calling that was made possible by Jesus. (Php 3:14)
The scribes and Pharisees were doing everything they could to “shut up the Kingdom of the heavens before men.” Today, we are taught that the way to the kingdom is all but shut. That the numbers are filled and that we have another hope, the hope to be subjects of that kingdom under our Sovereign, Jehovah God. Jehovah is therefore not our Father, but our friend.[ii] So when Jesus said, “all of you are brothers”, he wasn’t talking about the Other Sheep as JWs see them, because they have no heavenly Father, only a heavenly friend. The Other Sheep therefore should refer to one another as friends, but not brothers.
We can see how this false teaching seeks to invalid Jesus’ words. By telling millions that they have no calling (Hebrews 3:1) has the Governing Body imitated the scribes and Pharisees by seeking to “shut up the kingdom of the heavens before men”?
This will seems like a radical view to a died-in-the-wool JW, but what should matter to us if whether it is valid according to Scripture.
So far we’ve quoted from chapter 23 of Matthew. These words were the last ones Jesus spoke in the temple before the people prior to being arrested, falsely tried, and murdered. As such, they contain his final condemnation of the religious leaders of the day, but their influenced has reached like tentacles down through the centuries right to our day.
Chapter 23 of Matthew opens with these chilling words:
“The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the seat of Moses.” (Mt 23:2)
What did that mean back then? According to the Organization, “God’s prophet and channel of communication to the nation of Israel was Moses.” (w93 2/1 p. 15 par. 6)
And today, who sits in the seat of Moses? Peter preached that Jesus was a greater prophet than Moses, one whom Moses himself foretold would come. (Acts 3:11, 22, 23) Jesus was and is the Word of God, so he continues to be God’s prophet and channel of communication.
So based on the organization’s own criteria, anyone claiming to be God’s channel of communication, like Moses was, would be sitting in the seat of Moses and as such would be usurping the authority of the Greater Moses, Jesus Christ. Such ones would qualify for comparison with Korah who rebelled against the authority of Moses, trying to insinuate himself into that role of God’s channel of communication.
Is anyone doing that today, claiming to be both prophet and channel of communicate between God and men in the manner of Moses?
“Most appropriately, that faithful and discreet slave has also been called God’s channel of communication” (w91 9/1 p. 19 par. 15)
“Those who do not read can hear, for God has on earth today a prophetlike organization, just as he did in the days of the early Christian congregation.” Watchtower 1964 Oct 1 p.601
Today, Jehovah provides instruction by means of “the faithful steward.” Pay Attention to Yourself and to All The Flock p.13
“…commissioned to serve as the mouthpiece and active agent of Jehovah…commission to speak as a prophet in the name of Jehovah…” The Nations Shall Know that I am Jehovah” – How? pp.58, 62
“…commission to speak as a “prophet” in His name…” Watchtower 1972 Mar 15 p.189
And who now claims to be the “faithful and discreet slave”? As of 2012, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has laid claim to that title retroactively. So while the above quotes initially applied to all anointed Jehovah’s Witnesses, “new light” flashed forth in 2012 to reveal that from 1919 the faithful and discreet slave had been selected brothers at headquarters who today are known as the Governing Body. So by their own words, they’ve seated themselves in the seat of Moses just as the ancient scribes and Pharisees did. And like their ancient counterparts, they have sought to shut up the kingdom of the heavens.
Moses interceded between God and men. Jesus, the Greater Moses, is now our leader and he intercedes for us. He is the head between the Father and men. (Hebrews 11:3) However, these men seek to insert themselves into that role.
“What is our response to divinely authorized headship? By our respectful cooperation, we show our support for Jehovah’s sovereignty. Even if we do not fully understand or agree with a decision, we will still want to support theocratic order. That is quite different from the way of the world, but it is the way of life under Jehovah’s rulership.” – par. 15
What is it talking about here when it says “divinely authorized headship” and “support theocratic order”? Is it talking about the headship of the Christ over the congregation? In this entire article and the previous one, the Sovereignty of Christ is not even mentioned. They speak of the sovereignty of Jehovah, but how is that exercised? Who leads on earth as Moses did under God’s rule over Israel? Jesus? Hardly. It is the Governing Body under the mantel of the faithful and discreet slave that claims that honor. Jesus isn’t even mentioned once in this article about sovereignty and rulership, but the slave (aka, the Governing Body) is referenced eight times.
When they speak of ‘supporting theocratic order’ they refer to support for their rules, decrees, and organizational direction. This, they now claim is part of “divinely authorized headship”, even though the Bible makes it clear that the only head of men is Jesus Christ. No cabal of men is named in his place as our head. (1Co 11:3)
Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that they are not brothers of Christ and do not have Jehovah as their Father. As friends of God, they have no claim to the inheritance of children that Jesus referred to at Matthew 17:24-26:
“After they arrived in Ca·perʹna·um, the men collecting the two drachmas tax approached Peter and said: “Does your teacher not pay the two drachmas tax?” 25 He said: “Yes.” However, when he entered the house, Jesus spoke to him first and said: “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth receive duties or head tax? From their sons or from the strangers?” 26 When he said: “From the strangers,” Jesus said to him: “Really, then, the sons are tax-free.” (Mt 17:24-26)
In this account, Witnesses are the strangers or subjects who pay the tax, not the tax-free children of God. As subjects, they must be ruled or governed. So viewing God as their sovereign is all they have, since they cannot view him as their Father. Eventually, they are told, they will become God’s children, but for this privilege they must wait a thousand years.[iii]
The Governing Body has no basis to be called leaders nor teachers because, as Jesus said at Matthew 23:8-10, all Christians are brothers. However, if millions of Christian Jehovah’s Witnesses are not children of God—ergo, not brothers to one another—then there is a vast company of “friends of God”. Given that, Jesus’ words do not apply. Having created this huge crowd of “other sheep”, there appears to be a way around Jesus’ words; a way to govern or lead as a Governing Body. A way to exercise headship and demand obedience to theocratic order. By exalting themselves to the role of Faithful and Discreet Slave and by redefining that role to allow for more than feeding, but also governing, has the Governing Body ignored the warning at Matthew 23:12?
In the 2012 annual meeting, David Splane likened the Governing Body in their newly appointed role as the Faithful and Discreet Slave to humble waiters. It is a fitting analogy to the slave as portrayed by Jesus, but is that how they act? Imagine a waiter who not only brings you food, but tells you what to eat, what not to eat, when to eat it and with whom, and who punishes you for eating food he has not provided. I don’t know about your, but that restaurant would not be on my recommendation list.
Jesus’ condemnation of men who lorded it over their fellows fills the 23rd chapter of Matthew. These scribes and Pharisees had an oral law that transcended the written law code, and they imposed their view and conscience onto others. Even in little things—the tenth of the mint, dill, and cumin—they made a showy display of righteousness so as to be seen by men. But in the end, Jesus condemned them as hypocrites. (Mt 23:23, 24)
Are there similarities today?
“We can also show our support of God’s sovereignty by our personal decisions. It is not Jehovah’s way to provide a specific command for every situation. Instead, in guiding us he reveals his thinking. For example, he does not provide a detailed dress code for Christians. Rather, he reveals his desire that we select styles of dress and grooming that show modesty and that befit Christian ministers.” – par. 16
From this, we might come to believe that how we dress and groom ourselves is left up to the individual conscience of each Jehovah’s Witness, but what is said is not what is practiced. (Mt 23:3)
Let a sister try to wear an elegant pantsuit out to a field service group, and she’ll be told she can’t go out in service. Let a brother sport a beard, and he’ll be told he cannot have privileges in the congregation. We are told that this is following “Jehovah’s thinking and concerns” (par. 16) but these are not God’s thoughts and concerns, but those of men.
Constant pressure is placed on all by the Governing Body to do more and more. More field service, more pioneering, more support for the construction of Watchtower edifices, more monetary contributions. Truly, “they bind up heavy loads and put them on the shoulders of men, but they themselves are not willing to budge them with their finger.” (Mt 23:4)
Vindicating God’s Sovereignty!
The point of this and last week’s Watchtower study was to get Witnesses to support God’s sovereignty by obeying the rules and regulations of the Governing Body, the travelling overseers, and the local elders. By doing this, Witnesses are told that they are participating in the vindication of God’s sovereignty.
The sad irony is that they are. They are indeed vindicating the sovereignty of God. They vindicate it just as every other form of organized religion vindicates it. They vindicate it just as every failed political system has vindicated it since Adam first ate of the fruit. They vindicate it by showing that obeying men as rulers rather than God is sure to fail.
Man continues to dominate man to his injury. (Ec 8:9)
What can we do? Nothing. It is not our job to fix this. It is not our job to try to change the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses nor any other false religious organization or church, for that matter. Our job is to show our submission to God’s appointed king on an individual level. We bend the knee to Jesus Christ, even though this will bring persecution down upon us. (Mt 10:32-39) We can instruct by example even more powerfully than by word of mouth.
[i] The Bible word for prophet isn’t restricted to a foreteller of future events. Jesus was called a prophet by the Samaritan women though he only told her of her past and present. A prophet is one who speaks in the name of God. Therefore, should men claim to be God’s channel of communication, they are considered as prophets. (John 4:19) This is a view supported by the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
This “prophet” was not one man, but was a body of men and women. It was the small group of footstep followers of Jesus Christ, known at that time as International Bible Students. Today they are known as Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. (w72 4/1 pp.197-199)
By this token, the Governing Body can be rightfully considered as prophets, because they claim to be His channel of communication and speak for God.
“Most appropriately, that faithful and discreet slave has also been called God’s channel of communication.” (w91 9/1 p. 19 par. 15 Jehovah and Christ—Foremost Communicators)
[ii] Although Jehovah has declared his anointed ones righteous as sons and the other sheep righteous as friends on the basis of Christ’s ransom sacrifice, personal differences will arise as long as any of us are alive on earth in this system of things. (w12 7/15 p. 28 par. 7)
[iii] “As to those of us who are of the “other sheep,” it is as though Jehovah has drawn up an adoption certificate with our name on it. After we have reached perfection and have passed the final test, Jehovah will be delighted to sign the certificate, as it were, and adopt us as his beloved earthly children.”
(w17 February p. 12 par. 15 “The Ransom—A “Perfect Present” From the Father”)