Bible Study – Chapter 2 Par. 35-40
If I were to tell you that I am the “faithful and discreet slave” spoken of at Matthew 24:45-47, what would be the first words out of your mouth? Perhaps, “In a pig’s eye!” Or perhaps the more sardonic double positive: “Yeah, right!” On the other hand, you might prefer to give me the benefit of the doubt by simply demanding that I back up my assertion with some proof.
Not only do you have the right to demand proof, you have an obligation to do so.
While acknowledging that in the first century there were prophets, Bible writers do not give them carte blanche. Instead they told the congregations to put them to the test.
“Do not treat prophesyings with contempt. 21 Make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine.” (1Th 5:20, 21)
“Beloved ones, do not believe every inspired expression, but test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God, because many false prophets have gone forth into the world.” (1Jo 4:1)
Congregations were not to cynically dismiss all prophecies and inspired expressions, but they were to test them. You will notice that both Paul and John use the imperative verb tense. Hence, this is not a suggestion, but a command from God. We must ‘make sure of all things’ we are taught. We must ‘test every inspired expression to see if it originates from God.’
What if a man claims his expressions are not inspired, but still expects us to follow his teachings and obey his direction? Does he then get a free pass from this testing process? If we are commanded to test an expression which a man claims is inspired from God, how much more caution should we exercise when the man does not claim inspiration, yet expects us to accept his words as if he were channeling the Almighty?
To claim one is not speaking under inspiration, while simultaneously claiming one is God’s channel of communication is to speak a contradiction. The word “inspiration” translates the Greek word, theopneustos, which literally means “God-breathed”. How can I claim to be the channel God is using to communicate to humans if the words I use are not breathed by God? How then is he communicating with me so that I can relay his words to the world?
If I claim to be Christ’s faithful and discreet slave—if I claim to be God’s channel of communication—would you have the right to demand proof? I might claim that you do not, because 1 Thessalonians 5:20, 21 and 1 John 4:1 only refer to prophets and I do not claim to be a prophet. We’ve just seen that such reasoning doesn’t hold water but to add to the argument, consider these words of our Lord Jesus:
“…the one whom people put in charge of much, they will demand more than usual of him.” (Lu 12:48)
It seems the people have the right to demand much of those in charge.
In fact, this principle does not apply only to those who presume to command a large group. Even the individual Christian should expect to be called to defend his position as a teacher.
“But sanctify the Christ as Lord in YOUR hearts, always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of YOU a reason for the hope in YOU, but doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect.” (1Pe 3:15)
We don’t have the right to say, “This is the way it is because I say so.” In fact, we are commanded by our Lord and King to provide proof for our hope and to do so with a mild temper and deep respect.
Therefore, we do not threaten anyone who questions our hope; nor do we persecute those who rightfully challenge our assertions. Doing so would not evince a mild temper nor demonstrate deep respect, would it? To threaten and persecute would be to disobey our Lord.
People have a right to demand proof from us, even on an individual basis, for when we preach the good news to them, we are providing them with life changing information should they choose to accept what we teach as truth. They need to know the basis for this truth, the evidence upon which it is founded.
Would any person with a sound mind disagree with this line of reasoning?
If not, then consider this assertion from this week’s Bible Study taken from the God’s Kingdom Rules book.
At that time , Christ evidently fulfilled a key feature of the sign of the last days. He appointed “the faithful and discreet slave,” a small group of anointed men who would take the lead among his people by dispensing spiritual food at the proper time.—Matt. 24:45-47 – chap. 2, par. 35
You will notice the code word “evidently”. This word makes it appearance in the publications when a statement is made for which there is no evidence. (Unfortunately, the irony will escape most of my JW brethren.)
For most of the twentieth century, Jehovah’s Witnesses believed that all anointed Christians comprised a composite slave—the faithful and discreet slave of Matthew 24:45-47. However, three years ago that changed and now the Governing Body claims they alone (and former prominent ones like them such as J. F. Rutherford and associates) were appointed in 1919 as Christ’s slave to feed the flock.[i]
So what you have here is the equivalent to the scenario I put to you at the start. Someone is claiming to be the faithful and discreet slave Jesus appoints, but is not providing any proof. You have a right to demand proof. You have a Scriptural obligation to demand proof. Yet, you will find none in this week’s Congregation Bible Study.
Their claim to be the faithful and discreet slave leads to another claim, one for which there is no Scriptural support whatsoever. They claim to be God’s appointed channel of communication.[ii]
“The organization’s handbook for members, Organized to Do Jehovah’s Will, teaches with reference to the ‘faithful and discreet slave’ (and thus, the Governing Body) for instance, that the congregation hopes to ‘draw ever closer to Jehovah by manifesting complete trust in the channel that he is using to direct his people today.’” Submissions of Senior Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission, p. 11, par. 15
“By word or action, may we never challenge the channel of communication that Jehovah is using today.” (w09 11/15 p. 14 par. 5 Treasure Your Place in the Congregation)
“Jehovah gives us sound counsel through his Word and through his organization, using the publications provided by “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45; 2 Timothy 3:16) How foolish to reject good advice and insist on our own way! We “must be swift about hearing” when Jehovah, “the One teaching men knowledge,” counsels us through his channel of communication.” (w03 3/15 p. 27 ‘The Lips of Truth Will Endure Forever’)
“That faithful slave is the channel through which Jesus is feeding his true followers in this time of the end.” (w13 7/15 p. 20 par. 2 “Who Really Is the Faithful and Discreet Slave?”)
Theocratic appointments come from Jehovah through his Son and God’s visible earthly channel, “the faithful and discreet slave” and its Governing Body.” (w01 1/15 p. 16 par. 19 Overseers and Ministerial Servants Theocratically Appointed)
So now the slave whom Jesus refers to in Matthew 24:45-47 and Luke 12:41-48 has a new role: God’s channel of communication! Yet, they admit they are not inspired. God does not breathe his words to them. They merely interpret what everyone else can read for themselves. They admit to making mistakes; they abandon former teachings as false and adopt “new truths.” This is due merely to human imperfection, they claim. Yet, they still claim to be the sole channel Jehovah uses to teach us truth.
Proof please! Is it really too much to ask of someone who is instructed by the Lord to respond with a “mild temper and deep respect”?
The Jewish religious leaders were the body that governed the nation of Israel at the time the apostles of Jesus began their ministry. Those leaders considered themselves to be both faithful to God and the wisest (most discreet) of men. They taught others that they were the sole means by which God communicated with the nation.
When Peter and John cured a 40-year-old cripple by the power of Jesus, the religious leaders or governing body of the Jews put them in jail, then the next day they threatened them and told them not to speak on the basis of Jesus’ name anymore. Yet these apostles had done no wrong, committed no crime. Rather, they did a good deed—a noteworthy one that could not be denied. The apostles replied that they could not obey the command of the governing body to stop preaching the good news of the Christ. (Acts 3:1-10; Acts 4:1-4; Acts 17-20)
Shortly thereafter, Jewish governing body again threw the apostles in jail, but an angel of the Lord freed them. (Acts 4:17-20) So the governing body of the nation dispatched soldiers to round them up and bring them before the Sanhedrin—the chief court of the nation. They told the apostles to stop speaking upon the name of Jesus, but the apostles replied:
“In answer Peter and the other apostles said: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Ac 5:29)
At this point, they wanted to kill them, but one of their own persuaded them not to, so they settled on flogging the apostles and ordering them to be silent. All this was only the beginning of persecution originating from the governing body of the Jews.
Was the governing body of the Jews acting in mild temper? Did they demonstrate deep respect? Did they feel obliged to defend their teaching and their position by providing evidence to those who had a right to demand it? Did they even acknowledge that others had the right to demand it? No! Their only recourse in defending their authority was to resort to threats, intimidation, illegal imprisonment and flogging, and outright persecution.
How does this translate to our day? Admittedly, the world of Jehovah’s Witnesses is a microcosm within the much larger world of Christendom, and what happens within the Organization is hardly without precedent in the Christian world. Nevertheless, I will only speak of what I know firsthand.
Remember this point: The apostles hadn’t broken any law. The problem the governing body of the Jews had with them was that they threatened their authority over the people. For that reason, they were persecuted and killed.
I’m going to relate one element of my personal story, not because it’s unique, but because it is not. Many others have experienced variations on this theme.
Having spoken to one trusted elder friend about the misgivings I had about one of our teachings, I suddenly found myself before the entire body with the circuit overseer chairing the meeting. None of the things I’d spoken of were brought up however. (Perhaps because there was only one witness to the discussion.) I was not challenged on my understanding of any doctrine. The whole issue was whether or not I recognized the authority of the Governing Body. I asked the brothers whether, in all the years they had known me, I had ever failed to implement any direction from the branch or the Governing Body. None could accuse me of resisting the direction of the Governing Body, yet my years of service seemed to count for nothing. They wanted to know if I would continue to obey the Governing Body. I replied—in my naiveté of the time—that I would continue to obey them, but with the proviso that I would always obey God as ruler rather than men. I felt it was safe to quote Acts 5:29 in that context (It is a Scriptural principle after all.) but it was if I’d pulled the pin from a grenade and dropped it on the conference table. They were aghast that I would say such a thing. Apparently, in their minds, the Governing Body was exempt from the words of Acts 5:29.
The long and the short of it was that I was removed. This secretly pleased me for I had been looking for a way to resign, and they handed me one on a plate. They were surprised when I did not appeal the decision.
Here’s the point I’m trying to make. I wasn’t removed for misconduct or disobedience to the direction of the Governing Body. I was removed for an unwillingness to obey the Governing Body should their direction conflict with God’s word. My case, as I’ve already said, is hardly unique. Many others have experienced a similar situation and the issue always comes down to submission to the will of men. A brother can have a spotless record before God and men, but if he isn’t willing to unquestioningly submit to the direction given him by the Governing Body and those appointed by them, he experiences a modern-day version of what the apostles went through. Threats and intimidation are possible. Flogging is not in most society’s today, but the metaphorical equivalent is. Slander, gossip, accusations of apostasy, threats of disfellowshipping, are all tools used in an attempt to secure the authority of the Organization over the individual.
So when you read the unsupported and unproven statement in paragraph 35 of this week’s study, ask yourself, why is no proof given? And what would happen to you if you asked for it; no, if you demanded it as is your right? (Lu 12:48; 1Pe 3:15) Would you get a reply given with a mild temper and deep respect? Would you get the proof you asked for? Or would you be intimidated, threatened and persecuted?
Who are these men imitating when they act this way? The Christ or the governing body of the Jews?
More than ever before, the failure to provide even a modicum of proof for grandiose claims seems to be endemic to the modern Organization. Take as yet another example what is said in paragraph 37:
The preaching work continued to refine Christ’s servants, for the proud and arrogant among them had no stomach for such humble work. Those who would not get in step with the work parted company with the faithful ones. In the years following 1919, some disloyal ones were embittered and resorted to slander and libel, even siding with the persecutors of Jehovah’s faithful servants. – par. 37
I’ve read such statements from time to time in the publications over the years, but have come to realize that I’ve never seen proof to back them up. Did thousands leave Rutherford because they didn’t want to preach? Or was it that they didn’t want to preach Rutherford’s brand of Christianity? Was it pride and arrogance that typified those who would not follow him, or were they put off by his pride and arrogance? If he were truly the key representative of Christ’s faithful and discreet slave, then when this alleged slander and libel assaulted him, he would have responded with proof of his position, doing so with a mild temper and deep respect as commanded by the Lord.
Rather than make baseless assertions as the book we are studying does, let us look as some historical evidence.
In the Golden Age of May 5, 1937 on page 498 there is an article attacking Walter F. Salter, a former Canada branch servant (what we would now call the Branch Coordinator) who wrote a public letter to Rutherford in 1937 claiming that Rutherford enjoyed “exclusive use of “luxurioius” and “expensive” residences (in Brooklyn, Staten Island, Germany, and San Diego), as well as two Cadillacs” and that he drank in excess. He was not alone in making such claims. Another prominent brother, Olin Moyle concurred.[iii] Perhaps these are the claims of pride, arrogance, slander and libel that this portion of God’s Kingdom Rules is referring to. How did the 20-year-old faithful and discreet slave respond to this alleged slander and libel?
Here are some choice excerpts from that aforementioned article about Salter:
“If you are a “goat”, just go right ahead and make all the goat noises and goat odors that you wish.” (p. 500, par. 3)
“The man needs to be pruned. He should submit himself to the specialists and let them excavate his gall bladder and remove his inordinate self-esteem.” (p. 502, par. 6)
“a man who…is not thinker, not Christian and no real man.” (p. 503, par. 9)
As for Moyle’s open letter, the Watchtower of October 15, 1939 claimed that “every paragraph of that letter is false, filled with lies, and is a wicked slander and a libel.” He was publicly compared to Judas Iscariot.
For four years past the writer of that letter has been entrusted with the confidential matters of the Society. It now appears that the writer of that letter, without excuse, libels the family of God at Bethel, and identifies himself as one who speaks evil against the Lord’s organization, and who is a murmurer and complainer, even as the scriptures have foretold. (Jude 4-16; 1Cor. 4:3; Rom 14:4) The members of the board of directors hereby resent the unjust criticism appearing in that letter, disapprove of the writer and his actions, and recommend the president of the Society immediately terminate the relationship of O. R. Moyle to the Society as legal counsel and as a member of the Bethel family.— Joseph F. Rutherford, The Watchtower, 1939-10-15
The Organization claims Moyle committed libel. Therefore, one would expect they could win their case at law. Would not Jehovah give them the victory? What case could Moyle have against them unless they were the ones guilty of libel? Moyle did sue and was awarded $30,000 in damages, an amount that was reduced on appeal in 1944 to $15,000. (See December 20, 1944 Consolation, p. 21)
The point of all this is not to hurl mud at the Organization but to unmask a history that they seem intent on misrepresenting. They are the ones accusing others of libeling them and of acting with prideful arrogance. They claim to be the victims of unjust attacks. Yet they provide no evidence to support these claims they often make. On the other hand, where there is evidence that they were acting pridefully and engaging in slander and libel, such facts are hidden from the millions of Witnesses who put their trust in these men. The candor of Bible writers in revealing their own sins is one of the features we use to show the Bible is inspired of God. Men who do not have the spirit of God tend to hide their errors, cover up their wrongdoing, and shift any blame to others. But such hidden sins cannot remain hidden forever.
“Watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 But there is nothing carefully concealed that will not be revealed, and secret that will not become known. 3 Wherefore what things YOU say in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what YOU whisper in private rooms will be preached from the housetops.” (Lu 12:1-3)
[i] “In recent decades, that slave has been closely identified with the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” (w7/13 p. 22 par. 10) “he [Jesus] will find that the faithful slave has been loyally dispensing timely spiritual food to the domestics. Jesus will then delight in making the second appointment—over all his belongings.” (w7/13 p. 22 par. 18)
[ii] For more information on the idea of the Governing Body being God’s channel of communication, see Geoffrey Jackson Speaks before the Royal Commission and Qualifications to Become God’s Channel of Communication.