[From ws5/16 p. 13 for July 11-17]
“Keep perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.”—Eph 5:17
Let’s start this study off by correcting the theme text as rendered above from the NWT.[i] There is no sound basis for inserting “Jehovah” when all the ancient manuscripts—and there are over 5,000 of them—do not use the divine name. What Ephesians 5:17 actually says is to ‘keep perceiving what the will of the Lord is.’ Of course, our Lord Jesus does nothing of his own initiative, so his will constitutes the will of his Father, but by using Lord here, we remind the reader that Jesus is our King, and that all authority has been granted to him. (John 5:19; Mt 28:18) Thus the writer of the article does us a disservice when he takes our attention away from Jesus as he does in the first paragraph. He admits that Jesus gave us the command to preach and make disciples by saying “…Jesus Christ, gave his followers this challenging, though thrilling, command…”, then immediately takes it away from Jesus by continuing with, “…our loyal adherence to Jehovah’s commands, including the command to share in the preaching work…”
Why minimize the importance of Christ’s role? The command to preach comes in the next verse after the statement at Matthew 28:18 that ‘all authority has been given Jesus in heaven and on earth’. If all authority has been given to him not only on earth, but even in heaven over the angels, why do we not give him the honor that is his due?
Could it be that by minimizing Jesus’ role, we can enhance the role of men? First Corinthians 11:3 shows that between God and Man stands Jesus. Ephesians 1:22 shows that he is the head of the congregation. Neither Scripture provides an intermediate position to be filled by an elite body of men, such as the Governing Body, who are commissioned to interpret the will of our divinely appointed Lord.
Bait and Switch
Jesus is our Master. He will punish those of his servants who do not do his will.
“. . .Then that slave who understood the will of his master but did not get ready or do what he asked will be beaten with many strokes. 48 But the one who did not understand and yet did things deserving of strokes will be beaten with few. . . .” (Lu 12:47, 48)
It is therefore in our best interests to perceive what the will of the Lord really is. However, as fully equipped Christians, we must guard against those who would have us follow their will in the name of the Lord. (2Ti 3:17) They do this using a technique called “bait and switch”.
For instance, the bait:
“…the Scriptures do not contain detailed rules regarding what kind of clothing is appropriate attire for Christians….Individuals and family heads are therefore free to make decisions regarding these matters. – Par. 2
“For instance, to have God’s approval, we must act in harmony with his law on blood.” – Par. 4
“What should we do in situations that do not involve a direct Bible command? Under such circumstances, it is our personal responsibility to examine the details and make a choice that is guided, not by mere personal preference, but by what Jehovah will approve of and bless.” – Par. 6
“You may wonder, ‘How can we know what Jehovah approves of if his Word provides no specific command on the matter?’ Ephesians 5:17 states: “Keep perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.” In the absence of a direct Bible law, how can we perceive the will of God? By praying to him and accepting his guidance by holy spirit.” – Par 7
“To acquaint ourselves with Jehovah’s thinking, we need to make personal study a priority. When reading or studying God’s Word, we might ask ourselves, ‘What does this material reveal about Jehovah, his righteous ways, and his thinking?’” – par. 11
By this point, the audience will be more than halfway through the study and in full agreement with what has been written. Their minds are prepared to be accepting and compliant with the will of God. This is the bait. Now the switch.
“Another way to become more familiar with Jehovah’s thinking is by paying close attention to Bible-based guidance from his organization….We also benefit greatly by listening carefully at Christian meetings….Meditating on what is being taught will help us to discern more about Jehovah’s thinking and to make his thoughts our own. By making diligent use of Jehovah’s provisions for spiritual feeding, we will progressively become more familiar with his ways.” – Par. 12
Discerning Crafty Reasoning
Most Witnesses will accept this logic because they view the teachings of the Governing Body as coming from Jehovah himself. That is not the case, even in little, seemingly inconsequential things, such as personal grooming and dress.
The quotes cited above from paragraph 2 and 6 state that these matters are left up to the Christian. Yet this is not really the case in the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, is it?
In the workplace it is most common for women to wear pant suits. Yet, in the Americas, our sisters are prohibited from wearing pant suits out in the preaching work or at meetings. They will be spoken to by the elders if they do not conform to the Organization’s standard of dress. So this is not a matter of personal choice. They are not “free to make decisions regarding these matters”.
In the Americas, a brother with a beard will be considered worldly and not given “privileges” of service in the congregation. Congregation members will view him as being rebellious. One reason for this is because it has become a JW tradition not to grow a beard. From 1930 to around 1990, it was not the custom in the western world to sport a beard. That is no longer the case. Beards are now common. So why are we diverging from acceptable standards in grooming in society and enforcing standards of grooming and dress of our own, imposing them on all members?
In part it is to create an artificial separation from the world. This is not the type of separation Jesus referred to at John 17:15, 16. This goes beyond that.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are teaching one thing, but doing another. While imposing their will to control how we dress may seem minor, this technique is also used to press us into service on behalf of JW.org. Witnesses are made to feel guilty if they have a nice house and a good job, because they should be out pioneering, even though the publishers admit that “there is no Bible command that we pioneer”. (Par. 13) The entire pioneer program with its monthly hour requirement is the invention of men. Yet, we are told in this article that it is the will of God.
It is true that the will of the Lord is that we preach the Good News of the Kingdom. He also tells us that if we go beyond the good news, we will be accursed.
“As we have said before, I now say again, Whoever is declaring to you as good news something beyond what you accepted, let him be accursed. [ref. “devoted to destruction”]” (Ga 1:9)
The thing is that if you are a pioneer, you are required to preach a good news that goes beyond the good news that Jesus taught. The Organization freely admits this.
“Note, however, that the message that Jesus said would be proclaimed in our day goes beyond what his followers preached in the first century.” (be p. 279 par. 2 The Message We Must Proclaim)
You are required as a pioneer (or a publisher, for that matter) to proclaim that Christ returned in 1914 and has been reigning ever since. You are also required to preach that the heavenly hope is virtually closed and that there is a new hope, an earthly one. Both these ideas are not supported by Scripture and thus go beyond the message Jesus preached. Thus, if you do this, you are not perceiving the will of the Lord, but the will of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
You will have taken the bait and failed to notice the switch. Or perhaps you did notice it, but failed to take heed. Whether you acted in ignorance or willfully, there is still time to correct your path.
When our Lord returns, we want to be judged as the “faithful steward, the discreet one”, not the one who gets beaten with a few strokes for failing to perceive the will of the Lord, and most certainly not the one who gets beaten with many strokes for perceiving the will of the Lord, but willfully failing to do it.
[i] New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.