[Watchtower study for the week of April 28, 2014 – w14 2/15 p. 21]
Par. 1,2 – “Jehovah, our heavenly Father, is the Giver of life…we, his human children…have the ability to maintain friendships.” Thus, deftly, we address the thorny issue of how we can be God’s children, yet not his children, and we lay the groundwork for a teaching designed to deny us even the hope for the inheritance due the children of an heir.
Par. 3 – “Abraham my friend.” We are about to instruct Christians, followers of Christ, about their relationship with God, so what example do we use? Christ? One of the apostles? No. We go back to pre-Christian times—indeed, pre-Israelite times—and focus on Abraham. Why? It would appear because he is the only one in the entire Bible referred to as God’s friend.
We read James 2:21-23 to make this point. Notice that Abraham’s faith was counted to him as righteousness and thus he came to be called God’s friend. Paul references the same scripture as James at Romans 4:2 noting in the context that Abraham was “declared righteous”. Farther on in the same letter, Paul again uses the phrase but this time in connection with Christians whom he refers to as the chosen ones.
“Who will file accusation against God’s chosen ones? God is the One who declares them righteous.” (Romans 8:33 NWT)
About these he says,
“We know that God makes all his works cooperate together for the good of those who love God, those who are the ones called according to his purpose; 29 because those whom he gave his first recognition he also foreordained to be patterned after the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 Moreover, those whom he foreordained are the ones he also called; and those whom he called are the ones he also declared to be righteous. Finally those whom he declared righteous are the ones he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30 NTW)
These “chosen ones” are the ones declared righteous, like Abraham was, but the difference is that Christ has now died, so these ones are become the brothers of Christ, hence the sons of God in the manner of the Christ. There is nothing here, or anywhere else in the Christian Scriptures to show that Christians are God’s friends, not his sons.
Par. 4 – “Abraham’s descendants who became the nation of ancient Israel originally had Jehovah as their Father and Friend.” No scriptural reference is provided to support this statement. Why? Because it is false. Jehovah was their God. He was also called the Father of the nation, but only Abraham is called God’s friend in the Hebrew Scriptures. Not even Isaac and Jacob had that honor. The idea that the nation of Israel, which seemed to spend more time rebelling against Him than serving Him faithfully, was God’s friend is absurd.
If you go to a powerful man in your community to appeal for protection when you need it, on what basis do you request his help? If he is your friend, then you appeal on the basis of that friendship. If he isn’t your friend, but was your grandfather’s friend, you appeal on that basis. When enemies were attacking Israel, did good king Jehoshaphat appeal for God’s help on the basis of God’s friendship with Israel? Here his own words:
“O Lord God of our ancestors, you are the God who lives in heaven and rules over all the kingdoms of the nations. You possess strength and power; no one can stand against you. 7Our God, you drove out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and gave it as a permanent possession to the descendants of your friend Abraham.” (2 Ch. 20:6,7 NET Bible)
At Isaiah 41:8,9, Jehovah refers to the Israelites as his chosen servant, “the offspring of Abraham my friend.” If they were also his friends and he, theirs, then why not say so? Why, instead, refer to his friendship for their long-dead ancestor.
That they should declare Jehovah as the nation’s friend is patently false and shows the lengths to which we are willing to go to shore up our failing doctrine. Unfortunately, it is only failing for a few. The many will lap this up because we’ve been well trained not to question or doubt. We have become like the Catholics and Protestants we long disdained, blindly following those who blindly lead.
Par. 5, 6 – “Then you came to realize that our loving Father is not a remote person who is not interested in us…we began to build a friendship with God.” In one sentence he is our Father, but in the next we are building a friendship with him. Imagine yourself an orphan. All your life you’ve wondered about the father you never knew. Then one day you learn he’s still alive. He finds you and you are reunited. What is now your fondest wish? Is it to come to know him as a friend? Do you think, “How wonderful, I have a new friend”? Of course not. You want the one thing you’ve never had: a father. You want to know him, yes, but as a father. It is a father/son relationship you will strive to build.
Par. 7-9 – We now use the example of Gideon to further our argument, though in fact it doesn’t. (Notice that no examples are taking from Christian times. That would raise the spectre of sonship which would be difficult to explain away.) There is much to be learned from the account of Gideon. One thing is clear. Gideon was a faithful servant of God and Jehovah loved him. A master may love his servant deeply, but that doesn’t make them friends. Abraham began as God’s servant, but was given a special status due to his faith. Not so Gideon.
Since this account doesn’t advance the article’s argument one iota, why is it here? Simply because filler is needed. With only one individual in the Bible ever called Jehovah’s friend, we quickly run out of material to discuss. Using Gideon is shrewd. I’m sure that the majority of Witnesses will return home from the meeting convinced that Gideon was also called God’s friend.
Par. 10-13 – “WHO WILL BE ‘A GUEST IN JEHOVAH’S TENT?”
Imagine you have paid your tuition to study electronics and in your first day of class, you open the text book to find that it’s all about vacuum tubes? What was cutting edge electronics back in the 1940s, has now been replaced by something better—transistors and integrated circuits the size of a thumbnail. The professor’s reasoning is that the old electronics still work, and since he had the old text books in stock, why not make us of them. I imagine that at that point you would be demanding your tuition back.
David wrote under inspiration about what he knew, because it was not the time for Jehovah to reveal something better. It was Jesus who revealed something David would never have envisioned: The opportunity for humans to become God’s sons and rule with the promised Messiah in heaven. This is the hope held out to Christians. A friend may reside as a guest in God’s tent, but for the son, it is his place of residence. He is no guest.
We use these paragraphs to extoll all the good Christian qualities we should develop and preserve so as to remain God’s friends. The fact is, we should do these things to remain his children.
“Controlling what we say about others help preserve closeness with Jehovah. Especially is this true of our attitude regarding appointed men in the congregation.” While not disagreeing with this statement, one can’t help but wonder at the increasing frequency with which we get such reminders to be obedient and submissive.
Par. 14, 15 – “HELP OTHERS TO BECOME JEHOVAH’S FRIENDS” From this subtitle, it is clear that the good news we are called upon to preach by the Organization is intended to help people to become God’s friends. Examine the Christian Scriptures for yourself. Search out “friend” in the WT Library, then do the same with “children” and “sons”. See if the good news Jesus or his disciples preached ever carried the message of “friendship with God”.
Did Jesus say, “Happy are the peacemakers, since they will be called friends of God”; or “…prove yourselves friends to your Father”; or “as for the fine seed, these are the friends of the Kingdom”; or “Those not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not loved, ‘beloved’; and in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘friends of the living God.’”? I could go on, but it gets increasing ludicrous. (Matthew 5:9, 45; 13:38; Romans 9:26)
All the evidence—all the evidence—points to the fact that the message of good news that Jesus and his disciples preached was one of reconciliation to God as part of his family; as sons. This is the good news about the Christ which we are commanded to preach. Why do we disobey? We do we dare to change it to another good news, considering the consequences. (Gal. 1:8, 9)
Par. 16, 17 – “All who are dedicated to Jehovah have the privilege of being considered both his friends and his “fellow workers. (Read 1 Corinthians 3:9)” Reading this statement with the scriptural reference, one would naturally think that verse 9 of First Corinthians would speak of being God’s friend and fellow worker. It does not. “Fellow worker”, Yes. “Friend”, No. There is no mention of God being our friend anywhere in the context, nor in the entire letter for that matter. Paul does talk about Christians being “holy ones” and “God’s temple”. He refers to the Galatians as brothers, since they and he were God’s sons. (1 Cor. 1:2; 3:1, 16) But he makes no mention of being God’s friends.
Par. 18-21 – “…how do we individually rate our personal communication with our best Friend, Jehovah? True, he is the “Hearer of prayer.” (Ps. 65:2) But how often do we take the initiative to speak to him?” And just how are we to pray to him, to our “best Friend” that is? Like this?
“Our friend in the heavens, let your name be sanctified…”
I’m sorry, Dear Reader,if that sounds a might facetious, but this teaching is so outrageous and so offensive to the whole concept of Christianity that it leaves one no choice but to engage in some constructive mocking. (There is precedent: 1 Kings 18:27)
The article closes with: “…Jehovah truly is our Father, our God, and our Friend.” This is so misleading for it isn’t really what we teach. The average witness will leave the study convinced he is both a son of God and His friend. If they believe that is what the Governing Body teaches, then they haven’t been paying attention.
(w12 7/15 p. 28 par. 7)
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.
I ask you, How can God be my Father while I am only his friend? That makes no sense. Jehovah can be my Father and my Friend, and I can be his son and his friend. But he cannot be my Father and Friend, while I remain only his friend and not his son. I feel like someone is arguing that 2 plus 2 equals a million and I’m trying to show how stupid that is, but he’s just not getting it.
There.are.2 verses where it is believed Abraham is referred to as friend of Jehovah. 1) 2Ch 20:7O our God, did you not drive away the inhabitants of this land from before your people Israel and then give it as a lasting possession to the offspring of your friend Abraham? It was not Jehovah who called Abraham his friend but he was.called Jehovah by the people. 2)sa 41:8“But you, O Israel, are my servant, You, O Jacob, whom I have chosen, The offspring of Abraham my friend, The word my friend here actually in hebree reads BELOVED. In my view that… Read more »
One correction, in ISA 41:8 the word used for Abraham can be translated as FRIEND. However, as it is related to the word BELOVED, the English meaning of Friend does not really cover for the meaning of Beloved. One can say My Beloved Friend which indicates type of relationship (intensity) whereas My Friend is far more general, less intense. Anyway, does not really change my point as it is a bit surprising that a whole study article is dedicated to become a friend of Jehovah and this is based only on one reference to Abraham being called FRIEND. One question… Read more »
Chris, no one has blocked any reply or comment you have made. I don’t know what you are referring to.
I believe that if you carefully reread my responses to your comments, you’ll see that I wasn’t defending any organized religion, ours, the LDS, or others, but rather showing the flaws in any religious denomination that follows an ecclesiastical hierarchy since that means ultimately, following men over God.
Chris,I’ve to agree with Meleti.In addition to attending J.W. meetings(cos part of my family’s there) I also attend a local Baptist church.I do enjoy listening to their talks.It’s a small church & I don’t know if they’re part of an international Baptist church movement or something.While I may not agree with all that they teach,at least I’m,so far,able to voice my beliefs,etc – even telling them that I’m of J.W. bible study background.Seems they’re more open-minded & no one has yet said anything negative about J.W.s.It seems that every other church is apostate to a J.W.The little church may not… Read more »
I love going to the LDS church. I feel guilty about it because they believe completely opposite. Most of my anger stems from thinking we have the truth but other churches may also. I don’t see Jehovah destroying a church because they didn’t believe 100% of their way. My friends go to the Church of Eleven22. It angers me that he thinks he has the truth but I see more of Christ in him. I don’t think Jehovah honors the JWs more than then.
Chris, despite the tendency that all Christian religions have to miss the mark to varying degrees, how do you reconcile the glaring contradictions between the Book of Mormon and the Bible? And how do you see it as an extension of the Bible when we are warned against this?
It’s funny how Jehovah can be our father but not be his children? Now they say we are? I think eventually we will believe we go to heaven with the track we are on. I’ve been with Jehovah’s witnesses 5 years. I’m thinking of investigating Mormonism. There’s an XJW there who said he was fed up with the whole “them and us”. He said we are all Gods children.
That’s like jumping from the frying pan into the fire, Chris. You’d be exchanging one form of organized religion for another, one ecclesiastical hierarchy for another. Mormons accept the Bible where it is translated correctly. This convenient loophole allows them to put the book of Mormon above the Bible, and explain away any contradiction between the two. Any disagreement is put do to poor translation of the Bible. Joseph Smith allegedly received his revelation from the Angel Moroni. This makes me think of Paul’s warning to the Galatians: (Galatians 1:8) . . .However, even if we or an angel out of heaven… Read more »
Trust me. I’ve researched Mormonism for so long. I try to look at it objectively like we do ours. Joseph Smith made errors like our GB has. He wasn’t perfect. I’ve read the Book of Mormon. I mean no religion has 100% truth. But when Jesus said that his his true followers would have love amongst themselves I see it with them. I see love bombing in our and little to no interest in the new convert after baptism. I see love and genuine friendships with them. I see Christ. When I see JW I’ve seen nothing but GB worship… Read more »
If you reject Jehovah’s Witnesses because some of our beliefs are false, then you must reject Mormons for the same reason. As for having love among themselves, I remember speaking with a couple of Mormon missionaries back in 1991 in the middle of the Gulf war. I asked them if there were Mormons in Iraq and they proudly assured me that there were. I asked them if Mormons fight in wars. I knew the answer of course, as they are among the more patriotic of American Christian religions. They answered Yes, stating that it is there duty to obey the… Read more »
Block a reply did you. In the WTS they hid pedophiles, and much more. Also research Rutherfords connection to why Naziis were persecuting JWs. Not so black and white as they make it seem. We also have false prophesies. And we say we shouldn’t do law enforcement but my witness friends have law enforcement jobs. If I joined then I’m sure that I wouldn’t go all patriotic. I wouldn’t start celebrating christmas. It seems to me that my little experiment about saying I’m joining the lds just proved my point. You still defend JWs. You say how false we believe… Read more »
Hi I Enjoyed your post immensely. I like the way you systematically dissect the article and laid bare it’s false reasoning. For the longest time, We had stop commenting at meetings because the WT articles are getting ridiculous and it’s generalization are getting crazier. It just show that the brothers at the writing dept never really thought too deeply on the subject. It just put the readers off and is good enough to be called spiritual junk food.
P.S. The “upgrade” could be a morale-boosting “new light”.Hope the WTBTS Writing Dept. is reading this.
I like the “new light” aspect. We should run it by them. They might jump at the chance. 🙂
Meleti,regarding your closing comment & with ref to WTBTS pub. w12 7/15 p. 28 par. 7 quoted by you.Perhaps,WTBTS could “upgrade” all of J.W.s this way : “anointed” are sons & friends while the “other sheep” are sons.Now the “other sheep(o.s.)” also have the opportunity to be upgraded at the next Memorial(assuming this year’s Memorial isn’t the last).At the very least,the “o.s.” could remain as sons & not merely friends.
Hello everyone Thank you Katrina for those great quotes. They mean so much. As I studied this piece, I struggled with the concept of daring to call myself Jehovah’s friend. To me, He is our Father. And a thought that I developed in answering the question in the first paragraph went along the lines which could expand the points that Alaskadedotter (Welcome Alaskadedotter!). A Father has many qualities and characteristics which he will surely pass onto his children, both chemically and spiritually and morally. The more we get to know our father, the more we can either follow their examples… Read more »
I really enjoyed that comparison Alskadedotter Expanding on it further: If I am God’s friend then it puts me in a more equal relationship with him than he has with his children. If God is John and John is an adult and I am John’s friend then I inhabit a direct adult relationship with John. And as an adult I have a measure of dominion over his children. John’s children do not direct me or counsel me because I am an adult, yet as Johns friend I can tell his children how to behave or reprimand them if they act… Read more »
This psalm 15 gets me to qoute that in the watchtower who will be a guest in jehovahs tent .the one speaking the truth .he has not slandered with his tongue .to his companion he has done nothing bad . No reproach has he taken up against his Intimate acquaintance . His money he has not given out on interest.seems so clear to me .Totally agree with the sons and friendship issue as well .that message is all the way through the chrstian scriptures.Its obvious to me that the R and F are just not reading the NT kev
alskadedotter…welcome! I appreciate your comment about the difference between a friend and a father. I hadn’t thought of it in that manner either. Erick, I agree, all this down grading to friend status seems rather counter-productive, (though my reasoning is different from yours), considering the GB is getting ready to ask/take all money from KH savings accounts and a regular monthly “pledge”/donation. They’d best be careful, friends may not be nearly so financially supportive as children of God would be. I can’t believe they have already gone through the BILLION dollars they got from the sale of the New York… Read more »
John 15:13″Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14″You are My friends if you do what I command you.…
Unless one thinks Christ is God….
Good point Katrina . We can develop a friendship with Christ ( I don’t see how we ever could as a JW…but i digress) however there is no invitation from Jehovah to develop a friendship with him.
2Cor 6 :17″Therefore, come o,” says the Lord. “come out of their midst and do not though was is unclean ; And I will welcome you. 18″And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty. Romans 8:14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Romans 8:19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. Romans 8:14-17,29 For as many… Read more »
I particularly appreciated this comment:
“It was Jesus who revealed something David would never have envisioned: The opportunity for humans to become God’s sons and rule with the promised Messiah in heaven. ”
It well captures in just a couple of sentences the significance of what Jesus opened the door to. Even with the whole bible at my fingertips I cannot comprehend how amazing it is!
Don’t ask why I’m angered by the subliminal message of paragraph 6: ‘Am I making progress in my friendship with God? Is my trust in him strong, and is my love for my beloved Friend, Jehovah, growing each day?’ Maybe it’s words like ‘progress,’ ‘trust,’ and ‘beloved,’ the very things we should have within ourselves. Without them which we are guilty of failing in our friendship—but hey! Trust the Faithful and Discreet Slave because they are ‘big brother’ watching over Jehovah’s and Jesus’ interests and they want us to succeed! In what? Imbedding within each of us orphan status? Are… Read more »
Its the same old story meleti the scriptures have to fit what we see in the religion Rather than the religion being fashioned by the scriptures . Who really will be a guest in gods tent Psalm 15 v 2 the one speaking the truth in his heart enough said kev
I enjoyed your analysis of the Watchtower. It could be asked as well, how can we be brothers and sisters if God is only our friend and not our Father? If two men have the same father they are brothers. If they have the same friend it means absolutely nothing. This teaching that the “other sheep” are only God’s friend is not only counter intuitive and ridiculous it has a darker motive. It upholds the Watchtower’s teaching that Christians are in a two tier system. The elite (the true anointed, not any unbalanced new partakers) and the regular joes. Can… Read more »
Enjoyed your post immensely. For the longest time, I like many others I presume, never really thought too deeply on the subject. I just went along with whatever the WT article was about and underlined answers. One thing came to mind for me reading this article comparing Father and friend…with regard to a Friend — you do not have guidelines in order to have a friend — you do not have commandments and rules that you must obey with a friend — a friend does not have authority over you A Father does….. With a friend you can have completely… Read more »
Welcome Alskadedotter and thank you for that thoughtful comment. I hadn’t considered that aspect of the relationship between friends, but you are right. Having God only as my friend doesn’t put any requirements on me. A friend doesn’t have the right to tell me how to live my life. He can only advise. A father, on the other hand, has special authority. Additionally, we naturally want to please our father and have him be proud of us. Really, the Governing Body is undermining the power of our relationship with God by teaching this downgraded status to us.