One of our forum members relates that in their memorial talk the speaker broke out that old chestnut, “If you are asking yourself if you should partake or not, it means you have not been chosen and so do not partake.”
This member came up with some excellent reasoning showing the flaw in this common statement often made by those trying to dissuade sincere Christians from obeying Jesus’ instructions on partaking. (Note: While the premise for the above statement is flawed from the get-go, it can be helpful to accept an opponent’s premise as valid, and then take it to its logical conclusion to see if it holds water.)
Moses got a direct call from God. Nothing could be clearer. He heard God’s voice directly, recognized who was calling, and got the message of his appointment. But what was his reaction? He displayed doubt. He told God about his unqualified status, his impediment. He asked God to send someone else. He asked for signs, which God gave him. When he brought up the issue of his speech defect, it seems God got a little angry, telling him he is the one who made the dumb, the speechless, the blind, then He assured Moses, “I will be with you”.
Did Moses self-doubt disqualify him?
Gideon, who served in collaboration with Judge Deborah, was sent by God. Yet, he asked for a sign. When told that he would be the one to deliver Israel, Gideon modestly spoke of his own insignificance. (Judges 6:11-22) At another occasion, to confirm God was with him, he asked for a sign and then another (the reverse) as proof. Did his doubts disqualify him?
Jeremiah, when appointed by God, replied, “I am but a boy”. Did this self-doubt disqualify him?
Samuel was called by God. He did not know who was calling him. It took Eli to discern, after three such incidents, that it was God calling to Samuel for an assignment. An unfaithful high priest helping one called by God. Did that disqualify him?
Isn’t that a nice bit of scriptural reasoning? So even if we accept the premise of a special individual calling—which I know most of us, including this contributing member, do not—we still have to acknowledge that self-doubt is not a reason not to partake.
Now to examine the premise for that Kingdom hall speaker’s line of reasoning. It comes from an eisegetical reading of Romans 8:16:
“The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.”
Rutherford came up with the “Other Sheep” doctrine in 1934[i] using the now-disavowed antitypical application of the Israelite cities of refuge.[ii] At some point, in search of scriptural support, the Organization settled on Romans 8:16. They needed a scripture that seemed to support their view that only a tiny remnant should partake, and this is the best they could come up with. Of course, reading the entire chapter is something they avoid, for fear that the Bible might interpret itself in a way contrary to the interpretation of men.
Romans chapter 8 speaks of two classes of Christian, to be sure, but not of two classes of approved Christian. (I can call myself a Christian, but that doesn’t mean Christ thinks of me as one of his own.) It does not speak of some who are anointed and approved by God and others who, while also approved by God, are not anointed with spirit. What it speaks of are Christians who are fooling themselves by thinking they are approved while living in accordance with the flesh and its desires. The flesh leads to death, while the spirit leads to life.
“For setting the mind on the flesh means death, but setting the mind on the spirit means life and peace…” (Romans 8:6)
No special midnight calling here! If we set our mind on the spirit, we have peace with God and life. If we set our mind on the flesh, we have only death in view. If we have the spirit, we are God’s children—end of story.
“For all who are led by God’s spirit are indeed God’s sons.” (Romans 8:14)
If the Bible were speaking about a personal calling at Romans 8:16, then that verse should read:
“The spirit will bear witness with your spirit that you are one of God’s children.”
Or if in the past tense:
“The spirit has borne witness with your spirit that you are one of God’s children.”
We’re talking about a single event, a unique call by God to the individual.
Paul’s words speak of another reality, a calling to be sure, but not from one approved group of Christian into another approved group.
He speaks collectively and in the present tense. He is telling all Christians who are led by God’s spirit, not the flesh, that they are already God’s children. No one reading that would understand he’s speaking to spirit-led Christians (Christians who have rejected the sinful flesh) and telling them that some of them are going to get or have already gotten a special calling from God while others have not received such a calling. He speaks in the present tense saying essentially, “If you have the spirit and are not fleshly, then you already know you are a child of God. God’s spirit, that dwells in you, makes you aware of this fact.”
It is a state of being that all Christians share.
There is nothing to indicate that those words have changed their meaning nor their application with the passage of time.
[i] See two-part article series “His Kindness” in August 1 and 15, 1934 The Watchtower.
[ii] See box “Lessons or Antitypes?” on page 10 of the November, 2017 The Watchtower – Study Edition