[From ws17/11 p. 13 – January 8-14]
A key element from this week’s Watchtower study is found in paragraph 3. It reads:
As Christians, we are not under the Law covenant. (Rom. 7:6) Yet, Jehovah preserved that Law for us in his Word, the Bible. He wants us, not to obsess over the details of the Law, but to discern and apply its “weightier matters,” the lofty principles that underpin its commandments. For example, what principles might we discern in the arrangement of cities of refuge? – par. 3
If, as it says, we are not under the law covenant, why are we basing this entire study on the arrangement of the cities of refuge established under the law given to Moses? In answer, this paragraph says that they are only using that arrangement to discern and apply lofty principles.
According to this article, one of the “lessons” we learn from the cities of refuge is that the manslayer had to present his case before the elders of the city of refuge. This is given a modern-day application wherein sinners are expected to go before the elders of the congregation to confess any serious sin. If this is a lesson for us to learn from, why do we not learn from all of it? Why do we make only a partial application. The confession was made in the city gate, in full view of the public, not in some private session with the elders hidden away from the eyes of others. By what right do we cherry-pick which lessons to apply, and which to ignore?
According to paragraph 16, the elders today have to handle judicial cases “according to Scriptural guidelines”.
Elders today must be sure to imitate Jehovah, who “loves justice.” (Ps. 37:28) First, they need to make “a thorough investigation and inquiry” to establish if wrong has been done. If it has, they will then handle the case according to Scriptural guidelines. – par. 16
What Scriptural guidelines? Since we are not under the law covenant, and since there is no anti-typical significance to the cities of refuge (see last week’s study), then we must look elsewhere for these “Scriptural guidelines”. As we look to the Christian Greek Scriptures, where do we find the ‘guidelines’ that detail the judicial procedures that Jehovah’s Witnesses are practicing? Where are the guidelines denying the accused the right to a public hearing in the sight of impartial witnesses?
Jesus Christ instituted a new arrangement under a new covenant. This is referred to in the Bible as the law of the Christ. (Gal 6:2) So again, we ask, why are we going back to the Law of Moses (and then only cherry-picking parts of it) when we have a far better law in the greater Moses, Jesus Christ?
In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus gives us the procedure to follow in dealing with sin within the Christian congregation. You will notice there is no mention made of the sinner being required to confess his sin before the older men or elders of the congregation. In the final stage of that three-stage process, it is the entire congregation that sits in judgment. There is no other direction in the Bible beyond that one regarding judicial procedures. There is no specification for three-man judicial committees. There is no requirement for judicial matters to be held in secret. There is no reinstatement process, nor any requirement to impose restrictions upon sinners who have been forgiven.
It’s all made up. It means we are going beyond the things that are written. (1 Co 4:6)
As you read through this study article, it may appear to make sense to you. If so, consider that it only makes sense because you have come to accept the premise that the older men have been named judges of the flock of God. Having unquestioningly accepted that premise, it is easy to view the counsel as sound. Indeed, for the most part it is sound, assuming that the premise is true. But since it is a flawed premise, the structure of the argument collapses.
It is easy for us to miss the flawed premise. Citing the verses that follow Matthew 18:15-17, the article draws the conclusion that elders are judges.
“You elders are Jesus’ undershepherds, and he will help you to judge as he judges. (Matt. 18:18-20)”
Look at the context. Verse 17 speaks of the congregation judging a wrongdoer. So when Jesus transitions into verses 18 thru 20, he must still be talking about the entire brotherhood.
“Truly I say to you, whatever things you may bind on earth will be things already bound in heaven, and whatever things you may loosen on earth will be things already loosened in heaven. 19 Again I tell you truly, if two of you on earth agree concerning anything of importance that they should request, it will take place for them on account of my Father in heaven. 20 For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst.” (Mt 18:18-20)
Are we to believe that it is only when two or three elders are gathered in his name that he is in their midst?
Jesus never refers to the older men or elders in the congregation as judges of judicial matters. Only the congregation as a whole is given that duty. (Matthew 18:17)
As we consider both last week’s study and this week’s, it becomes evident that the reason that the Organization is going back to the Law of Moses to try to draw lessons – really, antitypes – is that they can find no justification for their judicial procedures in the law of the Christ. So they have to try to get them from somewhere else.
There is one more item in this week’s Watchtower study worth considering.
“Unlike Jehovah, the scribes and Pharisees showed a careless disregard for life. How so? ‘You took away the key of knowledge,’ Jesus told them. ‘You yourselves did not go in, and you hinder those going in!” (Luke 11:52) They were supposed to unlock the meaning of God’s Word and help others to walk on the road to eternal life. Instead, they directed people away from ‘the Chief Agent of life,’ Jesus, leading them toward a course that could end in eternal destruction. (Acts 3:15)” – par. 10
It is true that Pharisees and scribes directed people away from the Chief Agent of life, Jesus Christ. They will be judged for doing this. One of the key reasons that Jesus came to the earth was to gather to himself those who would constitute the kingdom of God. He opened the door for all who would put faith in his name to become adopted children of God. (John 1:12) However, for the past 80 years, the Organization has attempted to convince people that the kingdom hope is not open to them. They have intentionally, methodically, and organizationally gone to great lengths to direct people away from the Chief Agent of life, teaching them that Jesus is not their mediator,[i] that they are not in the New Covenant, and that they cannot become adopted children of God and brothers of Christ. They tell Christians to reject the emblems, to say “no” to the bread and the wine that symbolize the blood and flesh of Christ given for our salvation, and without which there can be no salvation. (John 6:53-57)
They then burden Christians with a heavy, guilt-ridden routine that leaves little time for anything else in life and always leaves the individual feeling that he or she haven’t done enough to merit God’s mercy.
They take away the key of knowledge, the holy Bible, by requiring – just as the scribes and Pharisees did – that their followers accept their interpretation of Scripture without question. Any who would decline to do so are punished in the most severe way, by being shunned and denied access to all family and friends.
The parallel with the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day is astonishing.
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[i] it-2 p. 362 Mediator “Those for Whom Christ Is Mediator.”
I like how paragraphs 1-5 continue on with the covert – city of refuge antitype, trailing off at the end of paragraph 5 with the words “Jehovah is not a heartless judge who is eager to punish his servants. Rather, he is “rich in mercy”. Suddenly in paragraph 6 the Pharisees surface “unwilling to forgive the same offense more than three times.” The parallel there should have been with the Elders mistakenly not showing mercy to one who has sinned, not one on one offenses the way paragraphs 7, 8 shifts it to. All responsibility of callousness is lifted from… Read more »
“As Christians, we are not under the Law covenant. (Rom 7:6) Yet, Jehovah preserved that Law for us in his Word, the Bible. He wants us, not to obsess over the details of the Law, but to discern and apply its “weightier matters,” the lofty principles that underpin its commandments. For example, what principles might we discern in the arrangement of cities of refuge? – par. 3” What a remarkable statement. I recently asked a JW the following : The mediator of the old covenant was Moses (Ex. 20:18-19; Heb. 9:19-20) The mediator of the new covenant is Jesus Christ… Read more »
When I was attending I always felt as though it was the spirit of the congregation doing the mediating. But that was awhile back and things have changed alot since then, especially the spirit of the cong. The GB is at a crossroad at this point.They have a lot of different problems now, such as which they never have had to deal with at such a rate. It’s going to be interesting and also to me entertaining to see the not so distant future results of their masterplan. I have learned a lot being associated with the JW’s but somethings… Read more »
I’ve read many articles on this site and the archive site over the past several months and would like to say thank you to Meleti and others for their hard work and dedication to helping others who are seeking out truth. I am a Catholic christian and I started meeting with a JW for bible study a while back. This may not be the most appropriate forum for me to comment on, but I have a question about something we’ve recently discussed that’s somewhat relatable to this article. We’ve been talking about the law of Moses vs. the law of… Read more »
Hi Dan, Welcome to the site. I’m sure others would love to throw in their two-cents-worth in answering your question. Here are mine, though they are somewhat devalued not being in American currency. 🙂 The Bible is pretty clear on the drinking of literal blood but we have to bear in mind that that restriction was part of a four-part prohibition. No blood, animals sacrificed to idols, animals strangled and fornication. The first three are alimentary, so the addition of fornication seems out of place until we factor in that the Jerusalem congregation was addressing an issue peculiar to the… Read more »
Hi Dan and welcome. You make a valid point on the blood , the problem for the JW community is that many of these things such as the blood issue , have been made into rules , when really they are principles. Following rules always leads to making more rules , and more of that , the further one gets away from the Christ, that basically was the reason Paul wrote the book of Galatians . But as far as the comparison with OT blood commands and Jesus command to drink his blood , the only prescribed use for blood… Read more »
Hi Dan, and welcome. I think your point is very interesting, as indeed are the replies already given. I must admit I had never linked Meliti’s thoughts to what went on in pagan temples before. My personal thoughts are that the scriptures give priority to the sanctity of life. Throughout the law given through Moses there are examples of Jehovah making allowance for exceptional circumstances, including where this might mean eating blood. You will find excellent articles already written on this subject on this site. Another over riding principle is that the Bible must be allowed to interpret itself, which… Read more »
Thanks everyone for your replies and for welcoming me to your forum. I think I better understand now the nuanced relationships between the prohibition of blood, the memorial emblems, and even the modern application of refusing (or deciding to accept) a blood transfusion. I was familiar with the point made by Meleti about the four-part reiteration in Acts against blood, strangled animals, meat, and fornication being tied in with pagan worship. This is one of the reasons why I was confused concerning the ongoing prohibition against blood, since Paul speaks elsewhere about following one’s conscience regarding meat sacrificed to idols… Read more »
The way I think you should do it is not to take refuge in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. take refuge in Jehovah only, and let Christ will be your support factor, an element that’s missing from the Org. Leave the red tape to those who desire it. It’s a universal calling, (Rev 22:17)
Thank you Meleti for the analysis! You mentioned a number of things the Org has taught to R&F that are not the NT teachings. I’d add just one: the Org teaches them to be witnesses of God, while the NT teaches to be witnesses of Jesus, Acts 1:8; 13:31; 22:14,15,20; 26:16 … By the way, nowhere does the NT teach to be a witness of God.
The parallel is indeed astonishing ! Paragraph 15 basically says that the Pharisees were too concerned with law, with what “the sinner had done rather than what a sinner was at heart”. The parallel exists when the elders are too concerned with “keeping the congregation clean” because the law of the GB must be followed, while ignoring the “Shepherding book” could land them into trouble. That is about how it was when I was an elder, and I doubt that anything much has changed. It was nearly always about “what does the Society say” and rarely was there room to… Read more »
I know my comments will anger some, but these are just the facts as I see them and having unfortunately participated on many committee meetings during my years as an elder. The fact is the organization needs a highly confidential system with “ need to know” only Elders in order for those who have committed gross sins to actually Show up to a JC meeting and confess. ( and hopefully receive some loving counsel) Can you imagine if the org. actually followed the Mosaic Law or Matthew 18 for that matter and the entire congregation was envolved in the process.… Read more »
The whole misapplication of the city’s of refuge is a red herring to the unscriptural position elders have been put in by the GB. And if the city’s of refuge did have some application to the Christian arrangement, what about the avenger of blood ? I mean that’s why these city’s were set up? The avenger was entitled to execute the accidental manslayer? Is the avenger of blood the antitypical ones who are crying foul because of the abuses committed in the ” city’s of refuge” ? And are they entitled to take action against such? As Meleti said if… Read more »
If cities of refuge were established to protect one from the occurance of an ACCIDENTAL death, how can the writing committee associate this example with one who INTENTIONALLY committs a gross sin?
It can’t, …unless the gross sin was accidental?
Oh wait, …we’re not saying this is a type because we don’t classify types and anti-types any longer. (See box at the end of the lesson.)
What the, …
I messaged my wife yesterday during the study that I felt the analogy of the policy of the “City of Refuge” and our policies today was a bad one. The only lesson that can be learned from this ancient legal safety mechanism is that while a person who may have unintentionally taken a life had a resource to gain salvation, Christ’s death made it possible for an INTENTIONAL manslayer to also gain salvation – entry into a figurative “city of refuge.” (I.E. Saul of Tarsus) Which could have made for an interesting discussion. The idea of an ancient trial being… Read more »
As the WT has pointed out, the GB is not bound by either the Mosaic law nor law of Christ written in the hearts of Christians. They can simply dictate “new directions” according to new circumstances: https://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/watchtower-study-march-2016/jehovah-guides-his-people/ Cf. paragraphs 15-18. (I have referred to this article before, as its quite telling on how the GB can overrule anything, and nobody can say anything about it). We will be saved only by obeying (men)! Notice in paragraph 8 how cunningly the law of Christ only is described in past tense, and only applies for anointed. The rest of us are subject… Read more »
Thanks for the references, John. Everything hinges on the statement in paragraph 17 of the WT you cited, “Do you view these directions as guidance from God ?”, followed by the need to pay attention to all the directions provided through the Christian congregation. What about testing the inspired statement (1 John 4:1) ?. The article on propaganda has already been commented on many times here, and includes the deliberately under quoted quote from Lyn Gorman. We can only test guidance against God’s word. Meliti has helped us all to do this so much better. That and the internet. I… Read more »
I feel a real affinity with your statements LJ, to know real truth is an inestimable treasure, the WT has been a tutor leading to Christ , but that’s as far as it goes. And on the point of slowed growth, yes Ime sure people are checking out ,not just JWs , but all religious organisations, the public are not as “unspiritual” as we have been led to believe. The sheer amount of bible translation and commentary bears that out. I had an experience with this that opened my eyes. It was about 7 yrs ago I happened on a… Read more »
Whatever the aspects of the law were, there is not a lot in the scriptures to tell us how trials were carried out. Thus Jehovah was allowing some tolerance in method. I have been reading on line an article by Max May in volume 31 of the Journal of criminal Law and Criminology – Jewish Criminal Law and Legal Procedures. There developed three different kind of courts (1) the local courts consisting of three persons, frequently the elders of the community, decided only matters of small import. The other cases were dealt with by Sanhedrin courts, apparently dealing with capital… Read more »
Thanks for adding that research, Leonardo. That’s most informative.
Muchas gracias hermano por tu aporte.
Thanks for the review, I quite agree that the congregation should handle cases of sins.
For the sake of argument, how will the process look like?, like a secular court with hand or voice votes? Who will precise and make conclusions?
Meleti, please explain what it will likely be using the example of the Incest case of Corinth congregation.
Thanks again for all reviews and comments
Jesus doesn’t give us detailed procedures to follow, so neither will I. Corinth was a special case, because they hadn’t done what Jesus told them to do. They were tolerating the man and things had gone too far and the public knew all about it, so Paul stepped in and told them what to do in that once case. However, if stage three is reached, Jesus says to have the congregation hear the case. I would imagine that would entail sitting down at a regular meeting with the sinner present and having everyone weigh in on the case. A round-table… Read more »
Not that you need assistance with your response Meleti but recently I’ve seen a pattern of “Local Needs parts” where the Elders are almost literally telling the congregation or justifying the reason they’ve gone through with a disfellowshiping or disassociation announcement , the same with marking talks. It’s not hard to tell who it’s all being aimed at. The problem is, it’s a one sided argument in their favor. Like I stated before this is a person’s life in the hands of three imperfect men, it’s not as simple as saying “so and so is no longer one of Jehovah’s… Read more »
Once again excellent scriptural based coverage. Right before we studied the article today, in his public talk a brother firmly stressed the point that “because of our bible trained conscience Jehovah nor his apostles, or the bible has to explicitly explain every wrong doing we should avoid”. I almost raised my hand and said isn’t that what “Shepherd the Flock” is for? I find it strange that both of these WT articles have stayed away from how Nathan was used in David’s case and also how Jehovah dealt with Moses and the water/rock issue. Although David did have a deep… Read more »