[From ws17/11 p. 13 – January 8-14]
A key element from this week’s Watchtower study is found in paragraph 3. It reads:
As Christians, we are not under the Law covenant. (Rom. 7:6) Yet, Jehovah preserved that Law for us in his Word, the Bible. He wants us, not to obsess over the details of the Law, but to discern and apply its “weightier matters,” the lofty principles that underpin its commandments. For example, what principles might we discern in the arrangement of cities of refuge? – par. 3
If, as it says, we are not under the law covenant, why are we basing this entire study on the arrangement of the cities of refuge established under the law given to Moses? In answer, this paragraph says that they are only using that arrangement to discern and apply lofty principles.
According to this article, one of the “lessons” we learn from the cities of refuge is that the manslayer had to present his case before the elders of the city of refuge. This is given a modern-day application wherein sinners are expected to go before the elders of the congregation to confess any serious sin. If this is a lesson for us to learn from, why do we not learn from all of it? Why do we make only a partial application. The confession was made in the city gate, in full view of the public, not in some private session with the elders hidden away from the eyes of others. By what right do we cherry-pick which lessons to apply, and which to ignore?
According to paragraph 16, the elders today have to handle judicial cases “according to Scriptural guidelines”.
Elders today must be sure to imitate Jehovah, who “loves justice.” (Ps. 37:28) First, they need to make “a thorough investigation and inquiry” to establish if wrong has been done. If it has, they will then handle the case according to Scriptural guidelines. – par. 16
What Scriptural guidelines? Since we are not under the law covenant, and since there is no anti-typical significance to the cities of refuge (see last week’s study), then we must look elsewhere for these “Scriptural guidelines”. As we look to the Christian Greek Scriptures, where do we find the ‘guidelines’ that detail the judicial procedures that Jehovah’s Witnesses are practicing? Where are the guidelines denying the accused the right to a public hearing in the sight of impartial witnesses?
Jesus Christ instituted a new arrangement under a new covenant. This is referred to in the Bible as the law of the Christ. (Gal 6:2) So again, we ask, why are we going back to the Law of Moses (and then only cherry-picking parts of it) when we have a far better law in the greater Moses, Jesus Christ?
In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus gives us the procedure to follow in dealing with sin within the Christian congregation. You will notice there is no mention made of the sinner being required to confess his sin before the older men or elders of the congregation. In the final stage of that three-stage process, it is the entire congregation that sits in judgment. There is no other direction in the Bible beyond that one regarding judicial procedures. There is no specification for three-man judicial committees. There is no requirement for judicial matters to be held in secret. There is no reinstatement process, nor any requirement to impose restrictions upon sinners who have been forgiven.
It’s all made up. It means we are going beyond the things that are written. (1 Co 4:6)
As you read through this study article, it may appear to make sense to you. If so, consider that it only makes sense because you have come to accept the premise that the older men have been named judges of the flock of God. Having unquestioningly accepted that premise, it is easy to view the counsel as sound. Indeed, for the most part it is sound, assuming that the premise is true. But since it is a flawed premise, the structure of the argument collapses.
It is easy for us to miss the flawed premise. Citing the verses that follow Matthew 18:15-17, the article draws the conclusion that elders are judges.
“You elders are Jesus’ undershepherds, and he will help you to judge as he judges. (Matt. 18:18-20)”
Look at the context. Verse 17 speaks of the congregation judging a wrongdoer. So when Jesus transitions into verses 18 thru 20, he must still be talking about the entire brotherhood.
“Truly I say to you, whatever things you may bind on earth will be things already bound in heaven, and whatever things you may loosen on earth will be things already loosened in heaven. 19 Again I tell you truly, if two of you on earth agree concerning anything of importance that they should request, it will take place for them on account of my Father in heaven. 20 For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst.” (Mt 18:18-20)
Are we to believe that it is only when two or three elders are gathered in his name that he is in their midst?
Jesus never refers to the older men or elders in the congregation as judges of judicial matters. Only the congregation as a whole is given that duty. (Matthew 18:17)
As we consider both last week’s study and this week’s, it becomes evident that the reason that the Organization is going back to the Law of Moses to try to draw lessons – really, antitypes – is that they can find no justification for their judicial procedures in the law of the Christ. So they have to try to get them from somewhere else.
There is one more item in this week’s Watchtower study worth considering.
“Unlike Jehovah, the scribes and Pharisees showed a careless disregard for life. How so? ‘You took away the key of knowledge,’ Jesus told them. ‘You yourselves did not go in, and you hinder those going in!” (Luke 11:52) They were supposed to unlock the meaning of God’s Word and help others to walk on the road to eternal life. Instead, they directed people away from ‘the Chief Agent of life,’ Jesus, leading them toward a course that could end in eternal destruction. (Acts 3:15)” – par. 10
It is true that Pharisees and scribes directed people away from the Chief Agent of life, Jesus Christ. They will be judged for doing this. One of the key reasons that Jesus came to the earth was to gather to himself those who would constitute the kingdom of God. He opened the door for all who would put faith in his name to become adopted children of God. (John 1:12) However, for the past 80 years, the Organization has attempted to convince people that the kingdom hope is not open to them. They have intentionally, methodically, and organizationally gone to great lengths to direct people away from the Chief Agent of life, teaching them that Jesus is not their mediator,[i] that they are not in the New Covenant, and that they cannot become adopted children of God and brothers of Christ. They tell Christians to reject the emblems, to say “no” to the bread and the wine that symbolize the blood and flesh of Christ given for our salvation, and without which there can be no salvation. (John 6:53-57)
They then burden Christians with a heavy, guilt-ridden routine that leaves little time for anything else in life and always leaves the individual feeling that he or she haven’t done enough to merit God’s mercy.
They take away the key of knowledge, the holy Bible, by requiring – just as the scribes and Pharisees did – that their followers accept their interpretation of Scripture without question. Any who would decline to do so are punished in the most severe way, by being shunned and denied access to all family and friends.
The parallel with the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day is astonishing.
[i] it-2 p. 362 Mediator “Those for Whom Christ Is Mediator.”