[From ws 5/18 p. 17 – July 16 to July 22]
“My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit and prove yourselves my disciples.”—John 15:8.
This study article is a follow-up to last week’s study: “Jehovah Loves Those Who ‘Bear Fruit with Endurance’”. It therefore continues talking only about the preaching work as the fruit we should bear. The preaching work as a fruit, as we discussed in our review last week, is just one fruit we should bear, perhaps even a minor one at that. The first review question asks: “What scriptural reasons do we have to keep on preaching?”
So let’s examine the four “scriptural” reasons given.
1. “We glorify Jehovah” (par.3-4)
Reason 1 is given in paragraph 3 as “The foremost reason why we share in the preaching work is to glorify Jehovah and sanctify his name before mankind. (Read John 15:1, 8)”.
What does it mean to glorify someone? Google Dictionary defines “glorify” as ‘praise and worship of God.’
Praise is defined as ‘express warm approval or admiration of’. How does standing silently at a cart, or even at a door where no one is home constitute an expression (which usually means verbally) of warm approval or admiration of God?
How should we worship God according to the Scriptures? John 4:22-24 (NWT) says in part, “the true worshippers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for indeed, the Father is looking for ones like these to worship him.” So a prerequisite is with “spirit and truth”. Therefore, if one preaches untruths, such as:
- only a limited number can be God’s sons when Paul said “YOU are all, in fact, sons of God through YOUR faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-27)
- that Jesus was enthroned invisibly in 1914, when Jesus said “If anyone says to you, ‘Look! Here is the Christ’, or ‘There!’ Do not believe it” (Matthew 24:23-27)
- that Armageddon is imminent when Jesus said “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows” (Matthew 24:36)
then it stands to reason that the Organization as a whole cannot be preaching or worshiping with truth.
It follows, therefore, that most preaching done by the Organization is neither worshipping with truth, nor praising the God of truth. Thus, such preaching cannot by definition be glorifying God.
What about sanctifying his name before mankind?
- Is Jehovah incapable of sanctifying his own name without human assistance? Of course not. He can easily destroy all other ‘gods’ and set apart himself.
- Does Jehovah ask us to sanctify his name? A search of the NWT Reference Bible revealed the following results:
- 1 Peter 3:15 “But sanctify the Christ as Lord in your hearts”,
- 1 Thessalonians 5:23 “May the very God of peace sanctify you completely”
- Hebrews 13:12 “Hence Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood”
- Ephesians 5:25-26 These verses talk about the Christ loving the congregation and paying the ransom sacrifice that he might sanctify the congregation.
- John 17:17 A request by Jesus to God to sanctify his disciples by means of the truth.
- Isaiah 29:22-24 The only reference I could find to sanctifying God’s name and God, is by referring prophetically to the offspring of Jacob and Abraham as doing so, by their actions in understanding and obeying God.There is no mention of preaching in this scripture (Isaiah), nor any requirement to sanctify God’s name in the New Testament/Christian Greek Scriptures to be found.
- Matthew 6:9, Luke 11:2 The model prayer suggests we pray “Let your name be sanctified”. It does not say ‘Let us sanctify your name’. As this is followed by, “Let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, it indicates that we pray for Jehovah to bring about his purpose for the earth, and as part of that he will sanctify his name. Imperfect humans cannot bring about God’s purpose for the earth, nor do we have the power to sanctify God’s name.
- As we know ‘to sanctify’ is to set apart or declare holy. We can therefore sanctify Jehovah, through Jesus, in our own hearts, but there is no scriptural support for making the sanctifying of God’s name the “foremost reason why we share in the preaching work”.
2. We love Jehovah and his Son (par. 5-7)
Reason 2 to keep on preaching is found in paragraph 5 “Our heartfelt love for Jehovah and for Jesus”.
As proof we are asked to read John 15:9-10 which says in part “If YOU observe my commandments, YOU will remain in my love, just as I have observed the commandments of the Father and remain in his love.” We would most certainly want to observe Christ’s commandments, but are they solely what paragraph 7 claims, “by carrying out Jesus’ command to go and preach, we too show our love for God because Jesus’ commandments reflect his Father’s thinking. (Matthew 17:5; John 8:28)”. Surely there is far more to observing Christ’s commandments than preaching.
Acts 13:47 shows Paul as an individual had a commandment to take the good news to the nations. However Matthew 28:19-20, the default reference scripture for this ‘commandment’ is never referred to elsewhere in the Scriptures as a commandment. Nor does the passage itself mention it being a commandment. Jesus did request the disciples to go and preach, yet even in doing that it was to teach others to “observe all the things I have commanded YOU”, not just one thing, that of preaching. Even the quote from the paragraph admits “Jesus commandments” thereby showing the plurality of them. Indeed there are many scriptural references to Jesus’ commandments but they all refer to showing love and the like. Here follows a selection all referred to as commandments:
- Matthew 22:36-38, Mark 12:28-31 – Love Jehovah and your neighbor as yourself.
- Mark 7:8-11 – Love your parents, not use service or dedication of self and possessions to God as an excuse to avoid scriptural requirements.
- Mark 10 – commandment about divorce, implying to love your spouse
- John 15:12 – commandment to love one another
- Acts 1:2 – “until the day that he was taken up, after he had given instructions [commandment NWT] through Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he chose.”
- Romans 13:9-10 – love one another
- 1 John 2:7-11 – love one another
- 2 John 1:4-6 – love one another
The scriptures above are related to following God and Jesus’ commandments and all talk about showing love to one another and that this is what shows our love for God and Jesus. Interestingly Revelation 12:17 differentiates between Jesus commandments and the preaching work when it says “who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus”. Also Revelation 14:12 tells us “Here is where it means endurance for the holy ones, those who observe the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” The conclusion we have to draw from the weight of scriptural evidence is that while preaching may be included as a commandment, the primary commandment is that of Love. Love for God, Love for neighbour, Love for parents, Love for family including spouse, Love for fellow Christians.
Jesus’ example is recorded for us in Acts 10:38: “Jesus who was from Nazareth, how God anointed him with holy spirit and power, and he went through the land doing good and healing all those oppressed by the Devil; because God was with him.” Yes, he truly showed love even though the majority did not repent and accept the good news.
3. “We warn people” (par.8-9)
Reason 3 is “We preach to give a warning”.
Here the WT article writer calls on speculation and mistranslation to make his point. He says “His preaching work prior to the Flood evidently included a warning of coming destruction. Why can we draw that conclusion?”
Notice the word “evidently”. This is Organization code for ‘believe this speculation because we say it is true’. So what evidence do they provide for that conclusion? It is the mistranslated portion of Matthew 24:38-39 (NWT) where they put “and they took no note until the Flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.” Yet as highlighted in a previous review, out of 28 English translations, all say “they knew nothing” or the equivalent. None suggest the people of Noah’s day ignored a specific warning. The Greek text has ‘not’ which conveys ‘ruling it out as a fact’ and ‘they knew’ which conveys the thought ‘to know especially through personal experience’. Combined it could be read as ‘they had absolutely no personal knowledge about what would happen until the flood came’. So for the WT article writer to say, “Noah faithfully proclaimed the warning message that he had been given”, is pure speculation without any scriptural support.[i] The overemphasis which Witnesses place on preaching, to the exclusion of all else – education, caring for older parents, providing for the poor – is all based on the belief that those who do not respond to the message JWs preach will die eternally at Armageddon. The Organization also teaches that those killed by God in Noah’s day will not be resurrected either (more unfounded speculation) and so the contrived parallel with Noah’s day based on the idea that the man Noah preached to the world of his day is critical to their argument although without scriptural foundation.
4. “We love our neighbour” (par.10-12)
Reason 4 is: “We preach because we love our neighbour.”
This of course cannot be proved by scripture by its very nature. Only the individual and God can know one’s heart as to whether the preaching is done out of love for our neighbour or other reasons such as peer pressure. Saying, ‘we would preach if we love our neighbour’ is far more justifiable.
In conclusion, out of 4 reasons, none is properly supported by scripture in the article. In fact, probably better support for Reason 2 is unintentionally given (based on John 17:13) while attempting to prove we experience joy because of preaching.
“Gifts that help us to endure” (par.13-19)
“The gift of joy” (Par.14)
The first gift mentioned is that of Joy from John 15:11 about which the article claims “Jesus said that as Kingdom preachers, we will experience joy.” This claim, as with so many is conjecture and speculation. Jesus said in verse 11 “These things I have spoken to you, so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be made full.” This follows verse 10 where he talked about observing his commandments. He did not mention preaching in this passage of scripture. What John did mention was remaining in Jesus so as to bear fruit. Why, because “through one act of justification the result to men of all sorts is a declaring of them righteous for life.”(Romans 5:18) Therefore to remain in Jesus will ultimately mean the joy of receiving everlasting life.
The paragraph continues by saying “as long as we remain in union with Christ by closely following in his steps, we experience the same joy that he has in doing his Father’s will. (John 4:34; 17:13; 1 Peter 2:21)”
1 Peter 2:21 talks about “because even Christ suffered for YOU, leaving YOU a model for YOU to follow his steps closely”. Nothing here about joy, just about following Christ closely. In what way were they to follow Christ closely? Earlier in verse 15 Peter wrote “For it is the will of God that by doing good you may silence the ignorant talk of unreasonable men”. In verse 17 he added “Honor [men] of all sorts, have love for the whole association of brothers, be in fear of God”. Plenty of encouragement to practice the fruits of the spirit, but nothing about preaching.
John 4:34 talks about Jesus doing the will of his father, and in John 17:13 Jesus asks that his disciples have the joy that he did.
What joy did Jesus have? That of being able to heal thousands (Luke 6:19); that of knowing he had fulfilled Bible prophecy, making the hope of everlasting life available to all mankind. (John 19:28-30) In doing so he did God’s will and had the joy of knowing that right-hearted ones had repented and wanted to know how to serve God . He also knew that by obeying him, these right-hearted ones could avoid destruction with the unrepentant nation of Israel less than 40 years later. Additionally, all those that truly listened to him would have the opportunity of everlasting life, a wonderful prospect indeed. (John 3:16)
“The gift of peace. (Read John 14:27)” (Par.15)
It is true we should “experience in our heart a lasting feeling of peace that results from knowing that we have Jehovah’s and Jesus’ approval. (Psalm 149:4; Romans 5:3, 4; Colossians 3:15)”.
But how many of us ever had that feeling of peace while being active Witnesses? With the constant barrage of WT articles and talks pressuring us to do more, and ‘experiences’ of Witnesses who seemed supermen and superwomen on the basis of the stories we were given, many have developed feelings of inadequacy or guilt at not doing enough, rather than joy or peace of mind.
Surely, if we all have the confidence that we have developed true Christian qualities to the best of our ability—bearing true fruitage, that of the Holy Spirit—then that along with prayer might truly give us joy and peace of mind. If the Organization wants us to experience Joy and peace then it needs to change the diet of material it produces so as to address how we can develop genuine Christian qualities. It should stop banging on the same drum with the same monotonous tone, preach, preach, preach, preach, obey, obey, obey, donate, donate, donate. Better to emphasize the message of love, for all good flows from that attribute or fruit of the Spirit. 1 Peter 4:8 reminds us “Above all things have intense love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
“The gift of friendship” (Par.16)
“He [Jesus] explained to them the importance of showing self-sacrificing love. (John 15:11-13) Next, he said: “I have called you friends.” What a precious gift to receive—friendship with Jesus! What did the apostles have to do to remain his friends? They had to “go and keep bearing fruit.” (Read John 15:14-16.)”
So from this article quote one could easily conclude that preaching is the prime requirement to be friends of Christ. But is that what Jesus was saying? The key to understanding what Jesus really said is in what is glossed over. The context. The paragraph alludes to self-sacrificing love which the article wants you to understand as being self-sacrificing to go and preach – a concept around which whole article is built. Yet what does John 15:12 say? “This is my commandment, that YOU love one another just as I have loved YOU.” What does the next verse after the read portion of John 15:17 say? “These things I command YOU, that YOU love one another.” The command is clear, love one another, then you will be friends of Christ. It can be self-sacrificing to continue to show love in the face of provocation, or severe unjustified criticism, yet that is the Christ-like way of love.
It is important to note that only some verses later in John 15:27 Jesus says that the Holy Spirit would bear witness to them about him, that “YOU, in turn, are to bear witness, because YOU have been with me from when I began”. The very fact this witnessing is mentioned separately and that they should do it because of being eye-witnesses of what Jesus had done, would indicate that Jesus did not include the witnessing in the “bearing fruits” earlier discussed.
It is sad that when the article then claims “So on that last evening, he encouraged them to endure in the work they had started. (Matt. 24:13; Mark 3:14)” they are actually blindly ignoring the one verse in John 15, verse 27 that gives any credence to their claim, while going on and misinterpreting the rest of John 15. Whether it is true or not it gives the appearance that verse picking and adapting interpretation of scriptures to their needs is the order of the day rather than serious Bible Study and research.
“The gift of answered prayers” (Par.17)
The paragraph opens saying “Jesus stated: “No matter what you ask the Father in my name, he [will] give it to you.” (John 15:16) How strengthening this promise must have been for the apostles.” It then applies this promise solely to the preaching work by saying “Jehovah was ready to answer their prayers for any help they needed to carry out the command to preach the Kingdom message. And indeed, shortly thereafter, they experienced how Jehovah answered their prayers for help.—Acts 4:29, 31.”
The eagle-eyed reader may have spotted they did not cite Acts 4:29-31, but rather omitted verse 30. Why might that be? In full Acts 4:29-31 says “And now, Jehovah, give attention to their threats, and grant your slaves to keep speaking your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand for healing and while signs and portents occur through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had made supplication, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were one and all filled with the Holy Spirit and were speaking the word of God with boldness.”
In particular, notice the verse omitted. The Organization could claim it is not part of the subject matter and hence was omitted, but it is a very important point contextually in assisting us to understand the passage correctly.
So, there are a number of points in these verses to consider.
- A request to God to hear the threats being made against them.
- As a result of the threats they needed extra courage to speak about what they had witnessed, the resurrection of Jesus Christ
- That they might have the courage to speak while God healed others and performed signs through them as the omitted verse 30 requests.
- That they needed to make a request for Holy Spirit to enable them to perform signs and healing.
- They visibly saw undeniably they had the Holy Spirit come upon them, something we do not see today. The place shaking and one and all being filled with spirit would in itself be a powerful motivation and boost to their courage. They had undeniable proof God was backing them.
This raises a number of issues if the Organization is to apply these verses as taking place today.
- As a group, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not under death threats.
- We have not been eye witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection, therefore while we should witness about his resurrection, we will not ever be able to have the same conviction and enthusiasm that the eyewitnesses had to that wonderful event.
- God does not heal others and perform signs and portents through Jehovah’s Witnesses today.
- There has been no claimed visible or invisible manifestations of the bestowing of Holy Spirit on the whole of the brotherhood, let alone undeniable manifestations.
The conclusion we can draw from this is that it seems highly unlikely that Jehovah would answer the prayers of Jehovah’s Witnesses to back their preaching work today. That is before any discussion of as to whether they are preaching the true good news of the Kingdom. Back in the first century it was undeniably clear whom God and Jesus were backing. Today there is not even a glimmer as to which group if any, God is backing, certainly not on the basis of Acts 4:29-31.
Paragraph 19 summarises the points the article covers, so we will do the same.
|Share in the preaching work to glorify and sanctify Jehovah’s Name||No scriptural support that we can sanctify God’s name.|
|To show our love for Jehovah and his son||No scriptural support for preaching in the context discussed, rather for showing love to one another|
|To give ample warning||No scriptural support given of requirement to warn|
|To show love for our neighbour||Unprovable and without scriptural support in the article. However we should do this for other reasons.|
|Gift of Joy||No scriptural support, but rather doing good and showing love to one another brings joy to us and others.|
|Gift of Peace||Partial scriptural support in principle, but claim belies reality.|
|Gift of Friendship||No scriptural support, Friendship given for showing love to one another.|
|Gift of Answered Prayers||No scriptural support, No evidence in reality.|
In conclusion, what does come through from the Scriptures? Is the bearing of fruit to do with the preaching work of Jehovah’s Witnesses, or is it to do with showing love for one another? You must decide for yourself.
[i] Genesis does not record any command to Noah to preach a message, nor is there a record of a warning message. Only 2 Peter 2:5 mentions Noah being a preacher, or herald, proclaimer, but even here it was of righteousness, not a warning message.