[From ws4/18 p. 8 — June 11-17]
“Where the spirit of Jehovah is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17
Let us just briefly remind ourselves of last week’s theme scripture. It was “If the Son sets you free, you will be truly free. (John 8:36)”
So we need to ask the question, why the sudden change of emphasis from Jesus to Jehovah with regard to freedom? One of the reasons seems to be the wholesale replacement in the New Testament in the NWT of “Lord” by “Jehovah”, normally without any regard for context. If you read the whole of 2 Corinthians 3 you will see Paul is here discussing the Christ and the Spirit. In fact, 2 Corinthians 3:14-15 says “But their mental powers were dulled. For to this present day the same veil remains unlifted at the reading of the old covenant, because it is done away with by means of Christ. In fact, down till today whenever Moses is read, a veil lies upon their hearts.”
So when verses 16 to 18 say—“But when there is a turning to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the spirit of The Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, while we with unveiled faces reflect like mirrors the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, exactly as done by the Lord’s Spirit.”—it makes sense and agrees with the context of the earlier verses as well as John 8:38. That is how 25 out of 26 translations render these passages as read on Biblehub.com (the exception being the Aramaic Version in Living English). Looking in your NWT however and as per this week’s theme scripture you will find “Jehovah” instead of “Lord” which does not make sense in the context nor agree with John 8.
The organization offers reasons why they replace “Lord” with “Jehovah” and although in some places it does make the text clearer, the fact remains that they are changing the Bible text. Additionally, because of their taking a pretty much blanket approach to replacing “Lord” with “Jehovah”, the number of places in which they end up actually changing the meaning of the text, greatly outnumbers those few verses that might seem clearer for the insertion.
This means that before quoting 2 Corinthians 3:17, when the article claims in paragraph 2 that, “Paul directed his fellow believers to the Source of true freedom” and then goes on to indicate that “source of true freedom” is Jehovah, it is confusing its readers, especially considering that the theme scripture from the previous week’s study article clearly showed Jesus as the source of true freedom.
At this point some may argue we are being pedantic. After all, Jehovah is Almighty God, so ultimately he is the source of true freedom. That is true, but by the same token without Jesus freely giving his life as a ransom sacrifice there would be no hope of being free from the effects of sin, imperfection and death. The focus of the vast majority of the New Testament is about Jesus life, teachings and how to benefit from his ransom sacrifice. So by focusing on Jehovah, the organization is again taking the focus away from Jesus who is the very one Jehovah wants us to focus on!
Please consider the following scriptures in addition to refreshing your memory on those in Romans 8:1-21 and John 8:31-36 discussed last week:
- Galatians 5:1 “For such freedom Christ set us free.” (Paul was here discussing being freed from the Mosaic Law which emphasised the sinful nature of mankind and its need for redemption.)
- Galatians 2:4 “false brothers … who sneaked in to spy upon our freedom which we have in union with Christ Jesus” (the context of this chapter discusses being declared righteous through faith in Christ Jesus rather than being bound (slaves) to works of the Mosaic Law)
- Romans 3:23,24 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and it is as a free gift that they are being declared righteous by his undeserved kindness through the release by the ransom paid by Christ Jesus.” (the ransom of Jesus enabled them to be declared righteous)
However, despite a considerable search of the Scriptures, it proved impossible to find another scripture supporting the organization’s idea that Jehovah is the source of freedom talked about in 2 Corinthians 3.[i]
The article then says “But, Paul explained, ‘when one turns to Jehovah, the veil is taken away.’ (2 Corinthians 3:16) What do Paul’s words mean?” (par. 3)
Reading 2 Corinthians 3:7-15 (the context) is very helpful in understanding ‘what Paul’s words mean’. You will notice that 2 Corinthians 3:7,13,14 indicate that Moses put the veil on because the Israelites could not cope with the glory of the Mosaic Law Covenant as reflected in Moses’s glowing face (because of his receiving it from God), which highlighted how imperfect they were (Exodus 34:29-35, 2 Corinthians 3:9). They were also unable to comprehend what the Law covenant pointed to. That a perfect ransom sacrifice would be required to free them from the Mosaic Law and the imperfection of man that it highlighted. As 2 Corinthians 3:14 confirms the Jews were still figuratively having a veil between them and the Law covenant. Why? It was because, by having it read in the synagogue, they showed they did not understand it had been done away with by the Christ, by his fulfilling the law through his ransom sacrifice (See 2 Corinthians 3:7, 11, 13, 14). As verse 2 Corinthians 3:15 indicates, Paul was not referring to the veil as a literal one, but a mental one. The veil was one of a lack of mental comprehension. It is in this context that Paul goes on in verse 16 to say “but when there is a turning to Christ the veil is taken away.” The Jews already served Jehovah, at least in theory, and among them were many sincere, godly Jews (Luke 2:25-35, Luke 2:36-38). These godly Jews had no need to turn to Jehovah as they were already serving him. However, they needed to turn to and accept Jesus as their Messiah, saviour and ransomer (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 18-19) without which they could not hope to gain everlasting life (John 3:16).
So what does the article suggest that Paul was saying? It says “in the presence of Jehovah and where ‘the spirit of Jehovah’ is, there is freedom. To enjoy and benefit from that freedom, however, we must ‘turn to Jehovah’, that is, come into a personal relationship with him.” (par. 4) Firstly, there is a big difference between turning to Jehovah—which could be for worship, for help, or in prayer—to having a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe. The Greek word translated “turning to” carries the meaning of ‘to turn oneself’, and as Paul showed in verse 15 that would be a mental change on the part of the individual. Additionally as we have just discussed, the scriptures show belief in Jesus’ ransom was the important thing.
The article continues “the spirit of Jehovah brings liberation from enslavement to sin and death, as well as from slavery to false worship and it’s practices” (par. 5) and cites Romans 6:23 and Romans 8:2 in support. However Romans 6:23 says “the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord”. So without Jesus there is no freedom from sin and death according to this scripture. Similarly Romans 8:2 says “for the law of the spirit that gives life in union with Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” So neither cited scripture supports the article’s conclusion.
Valuing Our God-given Freedom
The problem with this mistranslation of 2 Corinthians 3:15-18 is that it leads to a misunderstanding of the scriptures. This means that when the article says “The apostle Paul urged all Christians not to take for granted the freedom that Jehovah has kindly given us through his Son, Jesus Christ. (Read 2 Corinthians 6:1)” (par. 7), it doesn’t have the impact it should because the waters have been muddied, so to speak. It then becomes so easy for the brothers and sisters to miss the purpose of God’s grace.
Having laid a dodgy foundation, the article goes on to exacerbate the problem by starting to apply the principles to one of its pet subjects, that of further education. The article says in paragraph 9 “The counsel by Peter also applies to more serious aspects of life, such as a person’s choice of education, employment, or career. For example, young people in school today are under much pressure to qualify for enrollment in elite institutions of higher education.”
Did you notice while we were discussing and reading 2 Corinthians 3, 5 & 6 and Romans 6 & 8, that having faith in and appreciating Jesus ransom sacrifice affected our choice of education, employment or career? No? Nor did I. Therefore, is making a choice in these areas something sinful? No, not unless we choose a career or employment that is directly against God’s laws. Even non-witnesses would rarely choose to be a criminal or assassin or prostitute, and those careers are rarely taught thorough higher education!
So why are we treated to the next statement “While it is true that we have the freedom to make personal choices regarding our education and career, we need to remember that our freedom is relative and that all decisions we make have consequences” (par. 10)? This statement is of the blindingly obvious. So why even bother to make it? It would appear that the only reason is to put a negative slant on choosing higher education outside of the Governing Body’s narrow parameters. So much for freedom.
Wisely Using our Freedom to Serve God
Paragraph 12 goes on to say: “The best way to protect ourselves from misusing our freedom and thus becoming enslaved again by worldly ambitions and desires is to be fully absorbed in spiritual pursuits. (Galatians 5:16)”.
So what are the spiritual pursuits referred to in Galatians 5:16 and its context in verses Galatians 5:13-26? Galatians 3:13 reminds us not to use our newfound freedom as “an inducement for the flesh”. Yet, as Paul reminded the early Christians, although “the entire Law stands fulfilled in one saying, namely: “You must love your neighbor as yourself….YOU keep on biting and devouring one another”. So some were using their freedom to treat their fellow Christians badly. What did Paul talk about next? Did he say, ‘it’s all because you went for higher education and got a career working for an employer who was a bad example.’? The answer is recorded in verses 21-23 where he said “Keep walking by spirit and YOU will carry out no fleshly desire at all”. So walking by spirit was the key, and he expanded on what he meant in the following verses “Now the works of the flesh are manifest … On the other hand, the fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
So it is clear from Galatians 5:16-26 that Paul viewed working on and displaying the fruitage of the spirit (in its many facets) as the spiritual pursuit we should be practicing.
Keeping this scriptural view in mind, let us compare it with the article’s view. Discussing Noah and his family, it says “They chose to keep busy in all that Jehovah had assigned them to do—build the ark, store up food for themselves and the animals, and sound the warning to others. “Noah did according to all that God had commanded him. He did just so.” (Genesis 6:22)” (par. 12). Did you spot the usual alternative truth mentioned in connection with Noah? Read the whole chapters of Genesis 6 & 7 and try as you may, you will not find Jehovah assigning Noah and his family to sound the warning. Neither will you find a record of him doing “just so” in sounding the warning. Why? It is because he did not receive that assignment or command in the first place. We was command to build an ark, and “he did just so.”
What else does the article suggest? “What has Jehovah commanded us to do today? As disciples of Jesus, we are well-acquainted with our God-given commission. (Read Luke 4:18, 19)” (par. 13). Er, no, Luke is telling us all about Jesus’ special commission, not about “our God-given commission.” There he quotes Isaiah’s prophecy as to what the Messiah would do. But Matthew 28:19-20 is our commission, handed to us by our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. However, when viewed through the lens of the Organization, it reads like this:
“Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit [and in association with God’s spirit-directed organization,] teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded YOU. And, look! I am with YOU all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.”
Since the mid-1980s, the baptism questions have been altered to include the Organization as part of this process of disciple making. This is yet another example of changes to the Good News we received, despite the dire warning in Galatians 1:6-9 against making any changes to the true Gospel.
Next, we are told: “The question that each of us should consider is, ‘Can I use my freedom to give greater support to the Kingdom work?” (par. 13) and “It is most encouraging to see that many have sensed the urgency of our times and have simplified their lives so as to share in the full-time ministry” (par. 14).
So, have you spotted any encouragement to work on or manifest the fruitage of the spirit as given by Paul in Galatians yet? No? But you cannot help but notice that the only spiritual pursuit mentioned is that of preaching in accordance with Organizational standards not found in Scripture. People from all religions preach. We seem them on TV. Missionaries from all religions preach around the Globe. Who hasn’t had a Mormon knock on one’s door. Does that indicate they are spiritual people, developing the qualities Paul speaks of to the Galatians?
Also, try as you may, you will find no definition of “the Kingdom work” in the Scriptures that match the artificial construct of “full-time servant” created by the Organization. The only related phrase associated with the Kingdom is “the good news of the Kingdom”.
I nearly omitted the only other ‘spiritual pursuit’ the article discusses, that “Nonetheless, many seize the opportunity to volunteer in theocratic construction projects around the world” (par. 16). Now this particular pursuit is not only not mentioned in Galatians, it’s not even mentioned in the entire New Testament. Furthermore, are the projects ruled or controlled by Jehovah God. They would need to be if they are to warrant the title: “theocratic construction project”.
So when the article concludes with “May we show by the choices we make that we treasure that freedom. Instead of squandering or misusing it, let us use our freedom and the opportunities it brings to serve Jehovah to the fullest extent possible” (par. 17), it carries the meaning of ‘get busy in organizational pursuits’. It is therefore best to answer with a scripture as before. What better than to read 2 Corinthians 7:1-2 (the context of 2 Corinthians 3 & 5 discussed earlier in this article) which says “Therefore, since we have these promises, beloved ones, let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in God’s fear. Allow room for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one.”
Let us imitate Jesus Christ even as the Apostle Paul exhorted and use “the glorious freedom of the children of God” to follow the true spiritual pursuits, the practicing of “the fruitage of the spirit.” (Romans 8:21, Galatians 5:22)
[i] If a reader knows of such a scripture feel free to notify me via a comment so that I may examine it.