[From ws17/8 p. 22 – October 16-22]
“Clothe yourselves with the new personality.”—Col 3:10
(Occurrences: Jehovah=14; Jesus=6)
Last week we saw how the Organization left Jesus out of consideration when discussing stripping off the old personality, even though the verses that were under discussion were all about him. Let’s review what Paul said to the Ephesians to refresh our memory:
But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Eph 4:20-24 NAS)
This week’s continuation of the discussion opens with a parallel thought expressed by Paul, this time to the Colossians. However, again we find the emphasis on Jehovah not Jesus, which would be fine if that were in accordance with Scripture; in other words, if that were Jehovah’s message to us—but it is not!
The passage under consideration is Colossians 3:10. Confining ourselves to that single verse, we will find it easy to think it is all about Jehovah.
“and clothe yourselves with the new personality, which through accurate knowledge is being made new according to the image of the One who created it,” (Col 3:10 NWT)
Rather then confine ourselves to just one verse, let us go for the richer experience that derives from reading the context. Paul opens by saying:
If, however, you were raised up with the Christ, go on seeking the things above, where the Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Keep your minds fixed on the things above, not on the things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life has been hidden with the Christ in union with God. 4 When the Christ, our life, is made manifest, then you also will be made manifest with him in glory. (Col 3:1-4 NWT)
What powerful words! Is he speaking to Christians with an earthly hope—friends of God who must endure an additional thousand years of sinfulness before being declared righteous? Hardly!
We are “raised up with the Christ”, so let us keep our “minds fixed on the things above”, not on fleshly desires. We have died with regard to sin (See Romans 6:1-7) and our life is now “hidden with Christ in God.” (NIV) When Jesus, our life, is made manifest then we too shall be made manifest in glory. I say again, what powerful words! What a magnificent hope! How shameful that this is not what we preach as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
With such a hope in view, there is an overwhelming motivation to want to strip off the old self and put on the new. Why would we not “put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator “? (Col 3:5-10)
Paragraph 1 makes us think that this image is that of God, as if Christ does not factor in, but we are only in God’s image if we imitate Christ. We are fashioned in the image of Jesus and thereby attain to the image of God. (2 Co 4:4; Ro 8:28, 29) That Christ’s role is vital in putting on the new personality can be seen by a further consideration of the context in the Letter to the Colossians:
“. . .Also, let the peace of the Christ rule in your hearts, for you were called to that peace in one body. And show yourselves thankful. 16 Let the word of the Christ reside in you richly in all wisdom. Keep on teaching and encouraging one another with psalms, praises to God, spiritual songs sung with gratitude, singing in your hearts to Jehovah. 17 Whatever it is that you do in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, thanking God the Father through him.” (Col 3:15-17)
We are to do “everything in the name of the Lord Jesus”. We let the “peace of Christ rule.” We “let the word of the Christ reside.” This does not speak of Jehovah but of Jesus. This clearly is not Witness jargon.
With these truths in mind, let us consider aspects of the article.
“You Are All One”
Before proceeding, let us acknowledge that the JW teaching of two classes of Christians contradicts Paul’s words that “Christ is all things and in all”. (Col 3:11) We have one group that is deemed as privileged to rule with Christ, who are declared righteous to life eternal, and are adopted as God’s children, and will inherit the Kingdom, In this group, Jesus resides by spirit. Only members of this first group may ascend to the office of Governing Body. We have another group, the Other Sheep, that is subservient to the first. This group are not children of God, but only his friends. They do not inherit the kingdom—only sons inherit—nor are they declared righteous upon their resurrection. Instead, they are no different from the rest of unrighteous humanity who must work toward perfection over the course of a thousand years—according to JW theology.
Despite the subtitle’s reassurance, Jehovah’s Witnesses are most certainly not “all one”.
Paragraph 4 tells us to treat all people of all races impartially. Never missing an opportunity to turn the focus to the Organization and its leadership, we are told that “to encourage our brothers to “widen out,” in October 2013 the Governing Body approved a special arrangement to help the brothers to get to know one another better.”
I was baptised in the early 1960s and was under the impression through even way back then we Witnesses were racially impartial. Apparently, I was wrong. What a surprise to learn that an initiative was required as late as only four years ago to get the brothers to accept those of other races. This initiative couldn’t come about independently either, but had to wait for Governing Body approval. So what have we been doing up till now?
“Tender Affections of Compassion, Kindness”
When you consider these beautiful words of Paul—tender affection, compassion, kindness—what comes to mind? What did Paul have in mind? Was it pioneering? Was he speaking about learning foreign languages to assist in the preaching work? Is that what Paul had in mind when he spoke of putting on the new personality?
Apparently so, since the article devotes about 20% of its coverage (paragraphs 7 thru 10) to develop that line of logic.
Clothe Yourselves with…Humility
Finally, in paragraph 11, Jesus is brought into the discussion, albeit briefly. Alas, as is so often the case, he is only introduced as an exemplar or model for us to follow. Still, we benefit from that consideration at least. Nevertheless, the focus quickly switches back to the Organization:
How much more difficult it is for sinful humans to avoid improper pride and haughtiness! – par. 11
We also need to pray frequently for God’s spirit to help us fight any tendency of feeling superior to others. – par. 12
Being humble will help us to promote peace and unity in the congregation. – par. 13
“Peace and unity” are code words that mean conformity with the teaching of the Governing Body. “Pride, haughtiness, and feeling superior” are what happens when one disagrees with what the Governing Body teaches or when one disagrees with a decision of the local body of elders. However, this shoe fits only one foot. By contrast, the Governing Body’s teachings cannot be questioned, nor is their position on the inviolable nature of JW doctrine seen as evidence of pride, haughtiness, or a superior attitude.
“Clothe Yourselves with…Mildness and Love”
Jehovah God is the best example of showing mildness and patience. (2 Pet. 3:9) Consider how he responded through his angelic representatives when Abraham and Lot questioned him. (Gen. 18:22-33; 19:18-21) – par. 14
Question: If responding as Jehovah did when questioned by inferiors like Abraham and Lot is an example of mildness and patience, what does it mean when men persecute those who question them? Surely, this would indicate the very opposite of mildness and patience. Can you question the Governing Body without fear of retribution? Can you question the local body of elders without experiencing any negative consequences? If you question the Circuit Overseer, will you be met with “mildness and love”?
What can we learn from Paul’s words about humility and mildness? The article advises:
Jesus was “mild-tempered.” (Matt. 11:29) He showed great patience in putting up with the weaknesses of his followers. Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus endured unjust criticism from religious opposers. Yet, he was mild and patient right up to his wrongful execution. While suffering agonizing pain on the torture stake, Jesus prayed that his Father forgive his executioners because, as he said, “they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) – par. 15
If we stop attending meetings, we meet with disdain, disapproval and even ostracism. When we share some of the marvellous truths we’ve uncovered with JW friends, we often get ridiculed. Soon gossip spreads and we are maligned behind our backs, often by gross exaggerations and outright lies. We may feel very wounded and want to lash out, to retaliate. However, if we put on the new personality fashioned after the Christ, we will react with humility and mildness, even praying for such ones who have come to act as enemies. (Mt 5:43-48)
There is much in this Watchtower study to benefit us as long as we include Jesus in the consideration and stick to the truth.