[From ws5/17 p. 17 – July 17-23]
“Because of the increasing of lawlessness, the love of the greater number will grow cold.” – Mt 24:12
As we’ve discussed elsewhere,[i] the so-called sign of the last days that Jehovah’s Witnesses hang their hopes on to sustain the belief that the end is always “just around the corner”, is really a warning against seeking after signs. (Mt 12:39; Lu 21:8) Evidence that Witnesses are misapplying Jesus’ warning is to be found in paragraph 1 of this week’s Watchtower study.
ONE facet of the sign that Jesus gave regarding “the conclusion of the system of things” was that “the love of the greater number [would] grow cold.” – par. 1
The lawlessness Jesus refers to is not civil disobedience—outlaws and criminals—but rather the lawlessness that comes from disobedience to God which will cause many to be rejected when Jesus returns. (Mt 7:21-23) In the Christian congregation, this lawless conduct stems initially from those taking the lead, though their conduct is infectious and soon permeates the whole of the flock, save for a few wheat-like individuals. (Mt 3:12) Many Christians, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, would protest this view. They would claim that their church or organization is known for high moral standards and that they strive to obey every letter of law. But is this not the same argument that the Jewish religious leaders made to Jesus? Yet, he called them lawless hypocrites. (Mt 23:28)
Such ones forget that true love of God means observing his commandments—all of them—over the commandments of men. (1 John 5:3) History shows that this prophecy of Jesus has been undergoing fulfillment for centuries now. Lawlessness permeates the congregation of Christ throughout its myriad denominations. Thus, this cannot serve as a sign confirming the Witness 1914 version of the last days.
The Main Theme
Setting that aside, we can return to the article’s main theme which concerns not letting the love we had at the start grow cold. To avoid this, three areas are to be examined.
We will now consider three areas in which our love could be tested: (1) Love for Jehovah, (2) love for Bible truth, (3) and love for our brothers. – par. 4
There is a major component missing from this study. Where is the love of Christ? To see how vital this is, let us look at only some of the Bible verses that deal with this love.
“Who will separate us from the love of the Christ? Will tribulation or distress or persecution or hunger or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Ro 8:35)
“nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ro 8:39)
“and that through your faith you may have the Christ dwell in your hearts with love. May you be rooted and established on the foundation,” (Eph 3:17)
“and to know the love of the Christ, which surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness that God gives.” (Eph 3:19)
Jehovah’s love is expressed to us through the Christ. Our love of God must likewise be expressed through the Christ. He is now the link between us and the Father. In short, without Jesus, we cannot love God, nor does he express the fullness of his love and his grace except through our Lord. How foolish it is to ignore this fundamental truth.
Love for Jehovah
Paragraphs 5 and 6 speak of the way that materialism can affect our love for Jehovah. Jesus set the standard for putting kingdom interests above material possessions.
“But Jesus said to him: “Foxes have dens and birds of heaven have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay down his head.”” (Lu 9:58)
Speaking of John the Baptist, he said:
“What, then, did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft garments? Why, those wearing soft garments are in the houses of kings.” (Mt 11:8)
One can’t help but wonder how our Lord views the very fine house the Governing Body has built for itself in Warwick.
There is no record of first century Christians building even a modest house for worship. All the evidence points to them gathering in their own homes. Clearly, material possessions were nothing to boast of. Yet, in 2014, during a zone visit in Italy, Anthony Morris gave a talk in which (around the 16 minute mark) he referred to brothers who took their children to the local amusement park but who had never visited the branch, saying: “Explain that to Jehovah. That’s a problem.”
This focus on material things is evident also in the video Caleb and Sophia Visit Bethel. Now that New York Bethel has been sold, one wonders if a follow-up video featuring Warwick will replace it. Certainly, the Governing Body is very proud of their new resort-like accommodations and encourage all Witnesses to come to visit. How proud many feel at seeing these fine structures. They view it as a proof that Jehovah is blessing the work. They are not the first ones to be overwhelmed by magnificent structures and feel that such things are a testament to God’s approval and will never be brought down.
“As he was going out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him: “Teacher, see! what wonderful stones and buildings!” 2 However, Jesus said to him: “Do you see these great buildings? By no means will a stone be left here upon a stone and not be thrown down.”” (Mr 13:1, 2)
There is nothing wrong with having material possessions; nothing wrong with being rich, nor is there glory in being poor. Paul learned to live with much and he learned to live with little. However, he considered all things to be refuse, because attaining to the Christ does not depend on the things we own or where we live. (Phil 3:8)
Speaking of Paul, paragraph 9 says:
Like the psalmist, Paul found strength in reflecting on Jehovah’s constant support. Paul wrote: “Jehovah is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:6) That firm confidence in Jehovah’s loving care helped Paul to grapple with life’s problems. He did not allow negative circumstances to weigh him down. In fact, while he was a prisoner, Paul wrote several encouraging letters. (Eph. 4:1; Phil. 1:7; Philem. 1) – par. 9
Paul didn’t say this! He said, “The Lord is my helper.” Now some would argue that since he’s likely quoting from Ps 118:6, inserting “Jehovah” here is justifiable. Such ones overlook the fact that the divine name does not appear in any of the 5,000+ extant manuscripts. So did Paul really mean to say Jehovah, or was he supporting the new idea, the Christian idea, that Jesus was now in charge, being appointed over all things by Jehovah? (Mt. 18:28) Paul wasn’t concerned about copyright issues, but rather in accurately conveying this truth. With the establishment of Christ as King, Jehovah becomes our helper through the Christ. We ignore Jesus to our peril. While the rest of the cited text from paragraph 9 continues to focus only on Jehovah, it refers to three encouraging letters written by Paul—Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon. Take the time to peruse those letters. (Since we are talking about ways to bear up under the challenges we face from old age, and/or poor health and/or economic pressures, we can use some encouragement.) In those letters, Paul’s focus is on the Christ.
The Power of Prayer
One principal way to keep our love for Jehovah strong is stated by Paul himself. He wrote to fellow believers: “Pray constantly.” Later he wrote: “Persevere in prayer.” (1 Thess. 5:17; Rom. 12:12) – par. 10
We might feel that we have so little time to pray, or we’re so busy that we forget to do so. Perhaps this excerpt from John Phillips Commentary Series might help.
I “cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.”
His prayers are among many evidences of Paul’s love for all saints. We might wonder how he could find time to pray so consistently for such a large and growing circle of friends. His admonition to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) strikes us as a great goal, but seems to many to be quite impractical. How did Paul find time to pray?
Paul was an active missionary – ever on the move, busy planting churches, evangelizing, soulwinning, counseling, training converts, writing letters, and planning new mission enterprises. Often he would put in a full day making tents to raise the funds he needed for his support. There he would sit with the stiff material, already cut out according to pattern, spread out before him. All he had to do was ply the needle – stitch, stitch, stitch – not an occupation calling for a great deal of mental activity. So he prayed! In and out of the cloth went the tentmaker’s needle. In and out of the throne room of the universe went the great ambassador to the Gentiles.
Then, too, Paul could pray during his journeys. Driven out of Phillipi, he walked to Thessalonica, a 100-mile hike, and he prayed as he walked. Driven out of Thessalonica, he walked 40 or 50 miles to Berea. Driven out of Berea, he walked to Athens, a 250-mile hike. What precious time for prayer! Probably Paul never noticed the distances. His feet were tramping up hill and down dale, but his head was only mechanically noting the sights and sounds along the way because he was in Heaven, busy at the throne.
What an example for us! No time to pray? We could employ countless moments each day if we really cared.
Love for Bible Truth
Paragraph 11 cites Psalm 119:97-100 and requires it to be read out loud at the congregation Watchtower Study.
“How I do love your law! I ponder over it all day long. 98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, Because it is with me forever. 99 I have more insight than all my teachers, Because I ponder over your reminders. 100 I act with more understanding than older men, Because I observe your orders.” (Ps 119:97-100)
The writer of this article has unwittingly given us a great tool to use in overturning strongly entrenched Witness thinking.
Catholics use the Catechism as a way to undo Bible teaching by granting greater importance to “revealed truth”, meaning teachings revealed by prominent men. In Catholic theology the Pope as the Vicar of Christ has the final word.[ii] Mormons have the book of Mormon which supercedes the Bible. They accept the Bible, but whenever there is a discrepancy, they will claim that translation errors are to blame and go with the Book of Mormon. Jehovah’s Witnesses claim they are not like Catholics nor Mormons in this. They claim that the Bible is the final word.
However, when confronted with a Bible truth that contradicts the teachings found in the publications of JW.org, their true affiliation emerges.
Often they will counter with a defense based on one of the following four objections. The “read text” of Psalm 119:97-100 can be used to overcome each and every one of these.
- I take a wait-and-see view. (vs 97)
- Jehovah will fix it in his own time. (vs 98)
- Remember from whom you learned all the Bible truths. (vs 99)
- Do you think you know more than the Governing Body? (vs 100)
Vs 97 reads: “How I do love your law! I ponder over it all day long.”
How can one who takes a wait-and-see view demonstrate true love for God’s law? How can they love his word and “ponder over it all day long” while waiting for years, even decades, for a change to be made from falsehood to truth—a change which may never come?
Vs 98 reads: “Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, Because it is with me forever.”
Waiting for Jehovah to fix a false teaching requires Witnesses to continue to teach the false one for the interim. Since most of these teachings have been around since before I was born, that means a lifetime of promoting false teachings in our public ministry. The Bible says that God’s Word makes us wiser than our enemies and that it is with us always. Wisdom is proved righteous by its works. (Mt 11:19) So for God’s commandment to make us wiser, there must be works befitting that wisdom. Remaining silent and continuing to teach falsehood can hardly be called a work of the wise.
Vs 99 reads: “I have more insight than all my teachers, Because I ponder over your reminders.”
This pours cold water over the claim that we should accept the Organization’s teachings, because we first learned the truth from them. Our teachers may have imparted some truth to us, but God’s Word has given us “more insight than all” of them. We have surpassed them. Why? Because we continue to “ponder over God’s reminders” rather than stick in misguided loyalty to the teachings of men.
Vs 100 reads: “I act with more understanding than older men, Because I observe your orders.”
To Witnesses, the Governing Body are the foremost older men (elders) on the planet. Yet, God’s word can and does empower the individual so that he or she can “act with more understanding than older men”. Do we know more than the Governing Body? Such a question implies that Psalm 119:100 can never be true.
Paragraph 12 engages in a common and transparent piece of misdirection:
The psalmist went on to say: “How sweet your sayings are to my palate, more so than honey to my mouth!” (Ps. 119:103) Similarly, we can savor the tasty Bible-based spiritual food that we receive from God’s organization. We can allow it to linger on our figurative palate so that we can recall the “delightful words” of truth and use them to help others.—Eccl. 12:10. – par. 12
Psalm 119:103 is talking about the sweet sayings of God, not men. Ecclesiastes 12:10 is speaking about the “delightful words” of God, not men. Neither is referring to spiritual McFood being served by the Organization through its publications and at congregation meetings.
Paragraph 14 encourages us to read carefully and meditatively all the scripture citations in the publications Witnesses study each week. Unfortunately, if one reads the Bible with a preconceived idea about what is right and wrong, such careful meditation is unlikely to enhance a love for Bible truth. Only by studying without preconceptions and prejudice, but with an open mind, a humble heart and faith in God and Christ, can there be any hope of demonstrating a true love for truth. The next subtitle demonstrates this truth.
Love for Our Brothers
Can you see what is missing in the reasoning of these next two paragraphs?
On his last night on earth, Jesus said to his disciples: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples—if you have love among yourselves.”—John 13:34, 35. – par. 15
Having love for our brothers and sisters is linked to the love we have for Jehovah. In fact, we cannot have one without the other. The apostle John wrote: “The one who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20) – par. 16
The agenda of the Organization is to get Witnesses to focus on Jehovah to the virtual exclusion of Jesus as anything more than an exemplar and the mechanism by which we get saved. They even teach that Jesus is not the mediator of the Other Sheep.[iii] So they don’t want us focusing on Jesus here, even though he clearly says that if we are to have love for our brothers, we must imitate the love he showed to us. Jehovah did not descend to earth, become flesh, and die for us. A man did. Jesus did.
As the perfect reflection of the Father, he helped us see the type of love that humans should feel for one another.
“For we have as high priest, not one who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested in all respects like ourselves, but without sin.” (Heb 4:15)
If we are to love God, we must first love the Christ. The point about love which Jesus is making at John 13:34, 35 is like phase one. The point John is making at 1 John 4:20 is phase two.
Jesus tells us to start with him. Love our brothers as Jesus loved us. So we imitate Jesus to love our fellow man whom we have seen. Only then can we claim to love God whom we have not seen.
I know if you are a Jehovah’s Witness reading this for the first time, you are not likely to agree with this point. So let me relate a recent personal experience as an illustration. I sat with a couple over dinner just last week whom I’ve known for 50 years. Because of my recent hardships and losses, they were very encouraging. Over the course of three hours, they frequently referred to the many ways that Jehovah can and has helped them and me throughout our lives. They meant very well. I know this. However, in the course of those three hours they never once—not a single time—made mention of Jesus.
Now to show why this is significant, consider that in three hours you could easily read the whole of “Acts of the Apostles”. Jesus and/or Christ is mentioned almost 100 times in that book alone. Jehovah is not mentioned even once. Of course, if you allow for the arbitrary insertions made by the translation committee of JW.org, He is mentioned 78 times. But even if we accept that those assertions are valid, one would expect a Witness’ conversation to show a similar 50/50 balance; but instead we get zero mentions of Jesus. His role in helping us through tough times does not even come into the mind of the average Witness.
Why is this? What harm could it do to give Jesus the focus and attention given him in the Bible?
There is an authority structure in the Christian Congregation. It is described at 1 Corinthians 11:3.
“But I want YOU to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God.” (1Co 11:3)
Do you see any room in that structure or hierarchy for a Pope, or Archbishop, or Governing Body? You have to push someone out of their position to make room for yourself if you want to be part of the chain of command, don’t you? Catholics make room by elevating Jesus to the role of God. Since they view Jehovah and Jesus as one, there’s room for the Pope and the College of Cardinals between God (Jesus) and man. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t accept the Trinity, so they have to marginalize Jesus so that they can insert themselves into the role of God’s channel of communication. This they have done quite effectively if my dinner conversation with old friends is anything to go by.
[ii] “. . . the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the Holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.” (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 82)
[iii] See “Those for Whom Christ Is Mediator” (it-2 p. 362 Mediator)