[A Review of the November 15, 2014 Watchtower article on page 13]
“Become holy yourselves in all your conduct.”— 1 Pet. 1:15
The article starts off with this subtle piece of misdirection:
Jehovah, expects anointed ones and the “other sheep” to do their utmost to become holy in all their conduct—not just some of their conduct.— John 10:16 (Par. 1)
John 10:16 does not make a distinction between “anointed ones” and “other sheep”. It makes a distinction between “this fold” and “other sheep”. The “fold” that Jesus was referring to at that moment could not have been anointed Christians because he uses a qualifier – “this”– and there were no anointed present at that point in time since the Holy Spirit had not yet been poured out. The only “fold” present then were the Jews listening to him who constituted the sheepfold of God. (Jer. 23:2) Christians were drawn from the sheepfold of Israel for the first 3 ½ years following Jesus’ death. Then the first other (Gentile) sheep were brought into the fold.
If we are to please Jehovah, we must hold firmly to his laws and principles, never adopting an unholy, compromising attitude toward them. – (Par.3)
This is a key point. We do well to remember it and focus on it as we continue our study. “To please Jehovah we must hold firmly to his laws and principles….”
Paragraph 5 speaks of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, whom Jehovah consumed in flame.[A] Passing beyond that we get into another misapplication of Scripture. It is true that Aaron was expressly forbidden from mourning the death of his Sons (referred to as his relatives in the paragraph). However, there is no basis for putting that on a par with the situation of disfellowshipped ones. These two sons were judged by God and condemned by God. His judgment is always righteous. Disfellowshipping involves a secret meeting where three men who are not accountable to the congregation make a determination which history shows is very often biased, rife with personal feelings, and rarely reflects a real understanding of the spirit behind the Scriptures. We can only imagine how many times the little one has been stumbled when he/she could have been saved.
Under the guise of a call to holiness, the agenda here is to beg support and compliance for the disfellowshipping arrangement. Without it, the Organization loses its most powerful weapon to enforce obedience and conformity. (See A Weapon of Darkness)
A Principle Becomes a Rule
In paragraph 6 we have an excellent example of how our organization manages to turn a principle into a rule.
We may not face as severe a test as that experienced by Aaron and his family. But what if we were invited to attend and participate in a church wedding of a non-Witness relative? No explicit Scriptural command forbids us to attend, but are there Bible principles involved in making such a decision? – (Par.6)
While there is no explicit command against attending, the opening sentence of the next paragraph shows there is an implicit one.
“Our determination to prove ourselves holy to Jehovah under the circumstances just mentioned may puzzle our non-Witness relatives.”
By saying this, the Governing Body nullifies the principles involved, removes the role of conscience and again sets itself up as an authority between Jehovah and His servants.
Focus on God’s Sovereignty?
Next, let’s consider the wording of paragraph 8:
Likewise, we should always do what our Sovereign, Jehovah, wants us to do. In this regard, we have the support of God’s organization…. If we are focused on God’s sovereignty and we trust in him, nobody can cause us to compromise and be ensnared by cowardly fear. – (Par.8)
So where does our support come from? Jesus Christ? The holy spirit? Neither. It seems our Organization fills that role. This helps explain the odd wording about ‘focusing on God’s sovereignty.” It would be more natural to say, ‘if we are focused on obeying God’, would it not? The word “sovereignty” doesn’t appear even once in the Bible. There is no call in the Bible to focus on God’s sovereignty. Jesus doesn’t say we should pray, “Let your name be sanctified and your sovereignty vindicated…” (Mt. 6:9) He never once instructed us to uphold God’s sovereignty.
So why do we use this wording? To support the authority structure of the Organization.
Obeying God means just that, obeying God. However, upholding, or supporting, or focusing on his sovereignty means submitting to the expression of that sovereignty. It is a subtle line of reasoning, but one that has been consistent since the days of Rutherford. Consider:
Over 70 years have passed since those Cedar Point conventions—nearly 80 years since Jehovah began to express his sovereignty through the Messianic rule of his Son. (w94 5/1 p. 17 par. 10)
According to the JW framework of belief, it is now 100+ years since God expressed his sovereignty by setting up the invisible presence of Christ as the Messianic King. How does Jesus rule? How does he tell us what to do? He is part of God’s heavenly organization, often depicted in our publications as a celestial chariot.[B] The Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses is the earthly part; therefore, the earthly expression of God’s sovereignty. Thus we can say:
By being obedient and loyal to the direction received from the earthly part of God’s organization, you show that you are keeping pace with Jehovah’s celestial chariot and are working in harmony with his holy spirit. (w10 4/15 p. 10 par. 12)
So if we are obedient to the Organization, “nobody can cause us to compromise and be ensnared by cowardly fear.” (Par. 9)
What bitter irony this statement holds. In a lifetime of preaching, how many of us have ever known fear? Ever been pressured to compromise by any superior authority? Until now. Now that we know the truth about many Bible doctrines we live in fear of exposure and of the difficulty that would come were we to be cut off from loved ones and friends. When the test comes, may we be like the apostles before the religious leaders of their day, who stood firm and said, “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
As followers of Christ and Witnesses of Jehovah, we are persecuted in nations around the world. (Par. 9)
It is important that we feel special; that we believe we alone are persecuted. We are taught that Christendom[C] long ago compromised, getting into bed with the rulers of the world. (Re 17:2) So they are not persecuted, but only true Christians are—i.e. “us”. This is important to our belief system since persecution is one identifying mark of true Christianity, as the paragraph shows by quoting Mt. 24:9. Unfortunately for our theology, it is simply not the case that only JWs are persecuted. (See World Watch List)
In the face of such hatred, however, we endure in the Kingdom-preaching work and continue to prove ourselves holy before Jehovah. Although we are honest, clean-living, and law-abiding citizens, why are we so hated? (Par. 9)
What a picture this paints! One can’t help but envision masses of courageous Jehovah’s Witnesses marching in the face of death-dealing hatred and opposition, fearlessly and uncompromisingly loyal to their God. As Witnesses, we want to believe this to be true. It makes us special. By this wish, we ignore the hard evidence. (2 Peter 3:5) The undeniable fact is that the great majority of us have never known any form of real persecution in our lifetime. We rarely get a door slammed in our face though that would hardly constitute the persecution to which Jesus is referring. Often we hear words of encouragement. True, people don’t like being disturbed in their homes by our frequent visits, but the same can be said for peoples’ reactions to Mormon visitations. However, this is hardly the manifestation of hatred we are referring to in paragraph 9.
Evidence of this can be found for the discerning reader in the very next paragraph of the study. Whenever persecution is used as an indication that we are the one true faith, we return to the same well of Nazi persecution upon faithful anointed Christians.[D] These ones are certainly shining examples of integrity for all of us to follow. But all of this occurred a lifetime ago. Where are the current examples of such faith under test? Why are we no more persecuted now than any other Christian group? In fact, it could be argued that we are less persecuted. Going back to the World Watch List and comparing it with the latest world report in the 2015 yearbook, it can be seen that in many of the lands where Christians are being persecuted, there are no Jehovah’s Witnesses at all.
In Paragraphs 11 and 12 an attempt is made to equate the “sacrifice of praise” that Paul refers to in Hebrews 13:15 with the sacrifices for sin of the mosaic law. The two simply do not equate beyond the fact they are both called “sacrifices”. The sacrifices listed in paragraph 11 were all done away with by the unique sacrifice Jesus made for our redemption. The sacrifice of praise that Paul refers to has nothing to do with redemption from sin. We usually use this Scripture to promote the idea of the door-to-door preaching work as the one means by which we praise God. However, we rarely reference the very next verse which says:
“Moreover, do not forget to do good and to share what you have with others, for God is well-pleased with such sacrifices.” (He 13:16)
Since Paul makes no mention whatsoever of door-to-door preaching, but does explicitly mention sacrifices involving doing good and sharing with others, it is evident that our very lopsided application of this verse reveals our true agenda.
Should We Report Our Time?
The question for paragraph 13 is, “Why should we report our field service activity?” The answer is, “…we have been asked to report our activity in the ministry. So, what attitude should we have toward this arrangement? The report we submit each month is connected with our godly devotion. (2 Pet. 1:7)”
Nothing in 2 Peter 1:7 NWT connects godly devotion with reporting time. The only connection it has with this paragraph is the use of the term “godly devotion”. It is unlikely that the writer is trying to justify the use of the term. A more likely scenario is that the hand he’s been dealt requires him to justify an organizational requirement that has no basis in Scripture and actually appears, from experience, to go against the spirit of a selfless sacrifice of praise. By putting in an unrelated Scripture, it may be that the writer hopes the average reader will just assume the Scripture offers proof and not bother to look it up. If so, that is likely valid assumption. The fact is most JWs don’t look up the reference Scriptures because they simply trust the Governing Body not to deceive them.
The word at Hebrews 13:15 that we like to render “public declaration” because it makes us think of the door-to-door preaching work is homologeó. Strong’s concordance gives the following short definition: “I confess, profess, acknowledge, praise”.
There is nothing in Scripture to tie this “sacrifice of praise” to the element of time. There is nothing to indicate that Jehovah measures how many minutes and hours we spend praising him as some measure of the value of the sacrifice.
Allegedly, our individual field service reports help “the organization to plan ahead for future kingdom-preaching activity.” If this were true…if this were the only reason for the reports, then they could be handed in anonymously. There would be no reason to attach a name. Long experience has shown that there are other reasons why we continue to be pressured to turn in monthly field service reports. In fact, so important is this unscriptural requirement that if one fails to report time, one is no longer considered a member of the congregation. Since membership in the congregation is a requirement for salvation, not filling in a service report means one cannot be saved. (w93 9/15 p. 22 par. 4; w85 3/1 p. 22 par 21)
For a more detailed analysis of the requirement for reporting time, see “Membership Has Its Privileges”.
Our Study Habits and Sacrifices of Praise
Paragraphs 15 and 16 exhort us to not remain in the milk of the word but to engage in deeper Bible study. “However, “solid food” is needed to promote spiritual growth toward Christian maturity.” (Par.15)
Based on an analysis of all the Watchtower articles studied during the year of 2014, the milk of the word referred to at Hebrews 5:13-6:2 was pretty much all we were fed.
Obeying God or Man
Paragraph 18 opens with this truth: “To be holy, we must weigh the Scriptures carefully and do what God asks of us.” The key phrase here is “what God asks of us”. This harkens back to the opening exhortation to always comply with Jehovah’s laws and principles. Let’s apply this to the rest of paragraph 18.
Note what God then told Aaron. (Read Leviticus 10:8-11) Does that passage mean that we must not drink anything alcoholic before going to a Christian meeting? Think about these points: We are not under the Law. (Rom. 10:4) In some lands, our fellow believers use alcoholic beverages in moderation at meals before attending meetings. Four cups of wine were used at the Passover. When instituting the Memorial, Jesus had his apostles drink wine that represented his blood. (Par. 18)
So God is asking us to be reasonable and make up our own mind. It is clear that drinking a glass of wine before the meeting does not break God’s law. So it would be wrong for us to impose our conscience on another and tell him not to have any alcoholic beverages prior to a meeting, service, or other spiritual activity.
Yet, 10 years ago this was not the message carried by the Watchtower.
Jehovah commanded those performing priestly duties at the tabernacle: “Do not drink wine or intoxicating liquor . . . when you come into the tent of meeting, that you may not die.” (Leviticus 10:8, 9) Therefore, avoid drinking alcoholic beverages just before attending Christian meetings, when sharing in the ministry, and when caring for other spiritual responsibilities. (w04 12/1 p. 21 par. 15 Maintain a Balanced View of the Use of Alcohol)
Do you notice that the very same Scripture from Leviticus is quoted to support both opposing positions?
Since we view everything through the lens of the organization, a phrase like “do what God asks of us” takes on the meaning of “follow the direction of the organization.” If that is how you understand it, then 10 years ago God told us not to drink before meetings and now God is telling us it’s okay. This puts us in the position of claiming that God changed his mind. Such a viewpoint is laughable, and much worse, disrespectful of our Father. Jehovah.
Some might argue that the 2004 Watchtower was merely giving us a suggestion, leaving the decision in our hands. This was simply not the case. I know personally of a instance where an elder was taken aside by two others to be counseled for having a single glass of wine with his evening meal prior to a meeting. So the message may be “do what God asks you to”, but he subtext is, “as long as it doesn’t disagree with what the Organization tells you to do.”
The closing paragraph contains much fine counsel. Unfortunately, it makes no mention of Jesus. As the one through whom all the knowledge of God is made manifest to mankind, this is a serious omission. This merely highlights the underlying message of the past two study articles. We can only be holy by obeying the Organization and we come to know God through the Organization.
[A] On a side note, this shows the silly situations we can get ourselves into by promoting man-made types and anti-types. You may recall that last week we were told that Aaron’s four sons represented the anointed. What portion of the anointed do these two profaning sons now represent?
[B] The Bible doesn’t introduce the term nor concept of God riding a celestial chariot. This idea is of pagan origin. See Origins of the Celestial Chariot for details.
[C] Among Jehovah’s Witnesses, this term is used pejoratively to refer to all other Christian denominations as part of “false religion”.
[D] The call to exclude a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses that came to be known as the other sheep only occurred in 1935. From that point onward the small group grew gradually until it now represents more than 99% of all Jehovah’s Witnesses according to JW theology. Therefore, when this persecution began all witnesses were partakers.