[From ws8/17 p. 17 – October 9-15]
“Strip off the old personality with its practices.”—Col 3:9
(Occurrences: Jehovah=16; Jesus=0)
When attempting to show how much better Jehovah’s Witnesses are than every other religion in the world, the Organization often goes back to the well of the Nazi persecution of the “Earnest Bible Students” (Die Ernsten Bibelforscher). It is not clear why they continued to be known by this name eight years after the International Bible Students had adopted the name “Jehovah’s Witnesses” (Jehovas Zeugen), but one thing is clear: these were, for the most part, Christians who considered themselves to be spirit anointed brothers of Christ and Sons of God.
The faith of those Christians is remarkable. However, that was then. This is now. It is 80 years since that persecution created hundreds of Christian martyrs. Do the Jehovah’s Witnesses of today have a right to claim that legacy for themselves? They would answer Yes! In fact, the Organization goes back much farther than the 1930s in claiming they are part of an approved lineage of faithful servants of God. They consider that all the loyal Christians of the first century were also “Jehovah’s Witnesses”.[i]
Are such claims valid?
Paragraph 2 relates an experience from South Africa the like of which we have seen before.
“Such comments by non-Witnesses show that our international brotherhood is truly unique. (1 Pet. 5:9, ftn.) What, though, makes us so different from any other organization?” – par. 3
There can be no denying that when meeting in large groups for annual conventions, Witnesses present a very different profile from the crowds that normally congregate at large stadiums. But are we comparing apples with apples here? Is it really honest to contrast well-dressed Christians gathering for a Bible conference against rowdy sporting fans or the fans that gather for rock concerts? Let’s be fair about this. Since we are claiming uniqueness among the religious community, how about making a comparison between large Witness gatherings and those of other religions? Are we to assume that when other Christian groups gather for large conventions there is nothing but chaos and revelry? Is there evidence to prove the claim that “our international brotherhood is truly unique”? Are we really to believe that Jehovah’s Witnesses are the only ones capable of displaying Christian qualities when under the microscope of the media?
After self-praising, the article introduces a note of caution.
“Thus, we all need to take to heart the warning: “Let the one who thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.”—1 Cor. 10:12” – par. 4
What follows is a brief examination of some unchristian practices—such as ‘sexual immorality, uncleanness, anger, abusive speech, and lying’ with an eye to ensuring that Witnesses do not fall while thinking they are standing. Many of those studying this article will review these things in their mind and come away with a clean checklist. However, we can also imagine we are standing because of our perceived righteousness. If we are not practicing any of these sins, are we really standing? Was not this the attitude of the Pharisees who maintained a façade of righteousness, yet were among those whom Jesus condemned the most?
Throughout the rest of the article we are treated to a number of personal experiences of ones who have fought against sinful traits like promiscuity, addiction, fits of anger, and the like. We are led to believe that only among Jehovah’s Witnesses is it really possible to free oneself from such things and that this is done in the power of Jehovah and the holy spirit.
Yet, there is abundant evidence that countless individuals have freed themselves from all types of harmful practices without any contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Many other religions can make similar claims citing their own series of life-transforming case histories. Additionally, non-religious entities such as Alcoholics Anonymous have a long history of success. Are these other examples of what Ephesians calls ‘putting away the old personality’, or are these counterfeits?
It cannot be denied that helping people to strip off old, harmful practices can be achieved through community support and by establishing strong routines in life. The more rigid the routine and the stronger the community support, the better the result.
Jehovah’s Witnesses offer a strong and busy routine to keep one occupied along with constant community support and verbal reinforcement to help the individual to stay the course. Is this why they have success or is it all about God’s spirit?
Before answering too quickly, let us remember that Ephesians speaks of a two-step process: First, we strip away the old personality, then we don the new one. Next week’s article addresses the second part of these verses. However, before going there, let us take one last look at Ephesians 4:20-24 to see if this first article is on the right track.
“But that is not the way you learned Christ!—21assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22to put off your old self,f which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,24and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph 4:20-24 ESV)
Do you see from reading this what is missing already from the article? This new personality is derived from Christ: “But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus.” This new personality or “self” was “created in the likeness of God”. Jesus is the likeness of God. He is the very image of God; and we are to be fashioned in his image, the image of Jesus. (2 Co 4:4; Ro 8:28, 29) This new personality or self isn’t just one that people would refer to as clean and upstanding. Just because most would consider you to be a well-groomed, polite, and outwardly moral person doesn’t mean you’ve put on the new personality that is fashioned after the Christ. The new personality is “created in the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”[ii]
Therefore, we should all ask ourselves, “Am I a truly righteous person? Am I a holy person? Do I really display a Christ-like personality?”
How can this article attempt to help us to strip away the old personality and prepare us for next week’s consideration about putting on the new personality when it doesn’t even mention Jesus once? Jesus Christ is writ large over these five verses to the Ephesians, but we are to consider accomplishing the task of stripping away the old self without so much as a nod to the one who makes it all possible. Perhaps next week’s study will correct this oversight. Let us hope so, because while we can be nice people without Jesus in our lives, we are talking about something that far surpasses what the world would describe as a nice or even a good person.
[i] sg study 12 p. 58 par. 1; jv chap. 3 p. 26 “Christian Witnesses of Jehovah in the First Century”; rsg16 p. 37
“See Jehovah’s Witnesses ➤ History ➤ First Century”
[ii] The NWT renders this “true righteousness and loyalty”. However, the Greek word (hosiotés) doesn’t mean “loyalty” but “piety or holiness.” This makes particular sense in this instance, because loyalty is not a virtue in itself. The demons are loyal to their cause, but they are hardly holy. The latest version of the NWT has mistranslated Greek and Hebrew words as loyalty in several locations (e.g., Micah 6:8) possibly due to the perceived need to get Jehovah’s Witnesses to be loyal to the Governing Body.
“Such comments by non-Witnesses show that our international brotherhood is truly unique. (1 Pet 5:9, ftn.) What, though, makes us so different from any other organization?” Why do we always emphasize our sense of uniqueness, difference from the rest? Why do we always emphasize this point? Is this for purposes of reassurance for the nth time? The focus of the personal transformation to the new personality should be Christ as Meleti and the brothers here had pointed out. While the brotherhood can serve as a good influence, it is the Lord who’s the very foundation for any meaningful change. Change… Read more »
Nice comment Mailman. I have been trying very hard at the Sunday meetings to shine a light on Christ at the WT. Sometimes by reading the complete verse of scripture (not just the cherry picked part). Everyone including the conductor just gives you a deer-in-the-headlights look. The Watchtower Study is set up to have all in the audience parrot back the “answer in the paragraph”. It blows my mind to think that I had been the WT Conductor for 25 years. Being thoroughly indoctrinated, I did the same thing. Meleti has been publishing the series about what to say to… Read more »
Hi Warp, answered for par. 3 and stressed the point with Christ as the foundation. Further explained Col. 3:9, 10 with cross-reference to Col. 1:15 to show that Jesus is the image of the Invisible God where the personality change is to be anchored.
Thank you Father for letting this one possible. 🙂
Way to go Mailman. Keep up the good work. You inspired me to give it another try today. Let you know the results later….
Hi Mailman, I got the standard “deer-in-headlight” reaction today. My wife is urging me not to stick my neck out too far- lest it get chopped off by the Powers That Be in the Org. At this point, I have to agree with her. The only reason we still attend at all is because we have some family “still in”. However, if I truly thought that I could do some lasting good, I would still try. I am going to focus my efforts on a one-to-one basis with friends of long aquaintance. Nice to hear that you are putting forth… Read more »
Hello Warp, well, the conductor thanked me from the platform, no strange looks I got, hehe. What I could not tell however is if it sank in with the listening brothers or they just missed the point I was driving at. Why? Because they could be busy preparing for the answer to the next paragraph! Or perhaps they felt strange my supplementary answer was far from the question why JWs are unique as a group yet very relevant to the verse indicated in the paragraph. 😀 Kidding aside, I realized more than ever how framing and putting the materials in… Read more »
It is for those few that you comment, Mailman.
Good to hear Mailman.
Welcome to the “old boys club” Warp Speed! Cautious as serpents is how Jesus sent his disciples out to their own brotherhood. This the very thing the organization cannot deny. Though I too was WT conductor for many years, I can no longer even publicly read present day WT studies. We are an extremist group telling Christendom how much she has violated Christianity with her Pharisaical doctrines but cannot see it in ourselves. This is hypocrisy at its worst because any humility we once had to make us Christlike is being squashed by the pride we take in declaring ourselves… Read more »
Hi Smoldering Wick, Strange to be part of the “old boys club”. I wasn’t supposed to have time to have children in this system, let alone a bunch of grandkids! Too funny. So true what you said about being “cautious as serpents”. That’s obviously why I said that at the end of a previous comment to Mailman. Way too easy to cause unnecessary trouble for yourself at the meetings, (which I am scaling back to a bare minimum). Unfortunately, the Org has morphed into the very thing that it warned about early on. Indeed, the WT has proved to be… Read more »
IOHB how ironic , they weren’t even known as JWs, even more ironic , if they practised what they believed and died for back in the late thirtys they would be regarded as either spiritually weak or apostates , I wonder what Jehovah thinks about that ?
This particular article touches a nerve in me personally. Really the heading should be how to strip of the old personality and put on a JW personality, because that is what is actually been done. For sure it’s very encouraging to go to a gathering where everyone thinks and acts in ways that confirm your thoughts and actions , and this is the set up that has been sold off as “Jehovahs arrangement” , but is it true?, and more importantly is it scriptural? There is much talk of the Christ like personality, but how often is one counselled to… Read more »
So true, it’s grotesque and sickening… they won’t even bat an eye at these scriptures, will gloss right over them.
Great read @Meleti Vivlon Vivlon, I might add and connect to your thoughts… the “new personality” comes from the newly begotten mind of Christ (perception, outlook, prospects) gained when one has experienced the new birth/born again (spirit begotten of holy spirit). (NWT- Romans 15:5; 1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5)
Dare I mention SEAT SAVING? Talk about some un-Christian personalities that come out! Jesus is the Way the Truth and Life and yet no mention of him being the WAY to help us strip off the old personality. All the beautiful examples he left, to help us walk in his footsteps and no mention… NOTHING in the Gospels? Nothing about the One you will rule with someday in heaven. Sometimes you don’t want to believe that the “FDS” are doing things intentionally and deliberately and that you believed it for years. I am more and more convinced that they have… Read more »
I agree Eve. For a long time I was in denial about the state of the Org. It seems clear to me now that the GB has relegated Jesus to a secondary position to themselves in order to leverage their own authority.
So glad to have BP to have spiritual support to get back to what the Bible really teaches?
Isn’t it wonderful that we are getting some good spiritual food? Makes you think for sure. Something I think my brain had stopped doing in the ORG because so much receptiveness and no deep subjects. How many times can you hear go out in field service, meeting attendance, study with the WT publications before going brain dead? At assemblies I knew those would be the 3 things they would say. I would write it before they even said it. BORING.
Good spiritual food indeed. The FDS seems to be cutting back on theirs from what I hear about the Annual Meeting
I like the “apples to apples” comparison you use Meleti. This has always been a point of contention for me as regards the way the Org presents them. Seriously, comparing a religious gathering to a rock concert or football game? Yet, this is what the Org has done at least the past 35 years that I can remember. Actually, I have been at sporting events and even rock concerts back in the day that had better access to exits in case of fire or a similar emergency. Here’s what I mean. The last few Regional Conventions my wife and I… Read more »
“Some older brothers and sisters tried to get through to get to the restrooms and could not. I was an Attendant at these conventions and tried to clear the aisles- NOT happening. Not a sign of showing real Christ-like love.” It’s been a couple years since I’ve attended… but I very well remember all the pushing to get to the exits immediately after the program was over. People making leaps and dashes to get out of there with their small children being dragged along behind their parents, knocking into anyone who stood in their paths and pushing past or aside… Read more »
Thank you for the constant reminders of importance of Jesus role in our life and faith. A scripture that is taking on more and more meaning to me is what Jesus is recorded as saying in John’s gospel:
“For the Father judges no one at all, but he has entrusted all the judging to the Son, 23 so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” (John 5:22, 23)
I agree. Jerome quoted;
“Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” (John 5:22, 23)
Now to us (former) Witnesses, what was apparent to our householders while going door-to-door is becoming apparent to the JW’s themselves; a remarkable dis-honor is being manifested toward all Christ taught, and believed….while blind faith in the idolized ‘FDS’…. without scriptural backing …
is the REAL worship description, which the world spells; C-U-L-T.