“This is what I continue praying, that your love may abound still more and more.” – Philippians 1:9.
[From ws 8/19 p.8 Study Article 32: Oct 7 – Oct 13, 2019]
At first sight we should be able to enjoy an upbuilding article all about displaying love.
So, to help us on our way let us briefly read the scripture in its context. Philippians 1:9 reads “And this is what I continue praying, that your love may abound still more and more with accurate knowledge and full discernment;”.
Stop. Did you notice the difference? The theme scripture quote had a full stop after the phrase “more and more”, yet the Bible verse does not, it continues on.
Therefore, we can but only conclude the Organization is not going discuss to in depth the importance of “accurate knowledge and full discernment”. However, surely these two assets are vital and indivisible from the ability to not only show love, but practice love. Why so? Paul answers this question in the very next verses.
Philippians 1:10-11 continues:” that YOU may make sure of the more important things, so that YOU may be flawless and not be stumbling others up to the day of Christ, 11 and may be filled with righteous fruit, which is through Jesus Christ, to God’s glory and praise.”.
Truly, how can we “make sure of the more important things” if we do not have an “accurate knowledge” of what the most important things are?
Indeed, how can we be “flawless” without “accurate knowledge”? Without doubt our actions would be flawed with inaccurate knowledge. If our actions are flawed we could “be stumbling others” as “full discernment” would not be possible without the full facts.
We are led to Paul’s conclusion which is that “righteous fruit…to God’s glory and praise” is only possible with all the pre-conditions present; that is, a love for God and Christ, “accurate knowledge and full discernment”.
Additionally, did you notice what was also required for “righteous fruit”. It was obtainable through Jesus Christ and would bring glory and praise to God. What were these righteous fruits?
In Matthew 7:15-16 Jesus said “Be on the watch for the false prophets that come to YOU in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves. 16 By their fruits YOU will recognize them. Never do people gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles, do they?”.
He also reminded us in John 15:4 (Berean Study Bible) to “remain in Me, and I will remain in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.” (The NWT replaces “in” with “in union with” which subverts the meaning of Jesus’ words.) “Clearly, without following the Christ it would not be possible to bear righteous fruit.
Furthermore, Galatians 5:22 says “On the other hand, the fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 mildness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.”. These are familiar words to all Bible students and are surely the “righteous fruit” we should be filled with.
Having clearly established what the Apostle Paul was talking about, let us see how it is applied in the Watchtower study article.
Paragraph 1 says “When the apostle Paul, Silas, Luke, and Timothy arrived in the Roman colony of Philippi, they found many people who were interested in the Kingdom message. These four zealous brothers helped form a congregation, and all the disciples began meeting together, likely at the home of a hospitable believer named Lydia.—Acts 16:40.”.
No mention of love yet, but there is the overt implication of preaching, and a good dose of speculation about attending meetings and where. All that Acts 16:14-15 shows is that Lydia made Paul and the others stay with her and her household.
So far the article is following a familiar pattern. Does this change with paragraph 2? Let us see.
Paragraph 2 says “Satan stirred up enemies of the truth who fiercely opposed the preaching activity of these loyal Christians”. Ah,now we have a wave of persecution thrown into the mix, and a reminder of the preaching, but still nothing about love and fruitages of the spirit. All readers who have read the previous two Watchtower articles or this site’s reviews of them will surely be familiar with their underlying theme. “Get ready for persecution”. So, here we have further subtle reinforcement of that message by the Organization.
Having set the scene in this way for the writing of the book to the Philippians, against a background of preaching, meetings and persecution, paragraph 3 then asks us to read the context of the theme scripture in Philippians 1:9-11. This is a classic approach of eisigesis. Set the agenda, then read the scripture passage, so that one is heavily influenced to interpret the passage according to the earlier suggestions, rather than reading the scriptures first.
Abound with Love (Par.4-8)
The opening sentence and 1 John 4:9-10 as a read scripture highlights that God loved us “by sending his Son to earth to die for our sins.”. As an aside, notice the subtle omission of Jesus personal name, a common ploy in the Organization’s literature to lower the recognition of Jesus and heighten focus on Jehovah God. Also, did not Jesus also show great love for mankind by wanting and willingly agreeing to come to die on earth rather than being sent without any choice in the matter?
An example of the eisigesis is found in Paragraph 4 where love is interpreted as only love for God rather than in a wider sense as indicated by the context of Philippians 1:9. The paragraph states “How much should we love God? Jesus answered that question when he told a Pharisee: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” (Matt. 22:36, 37) We do not want our love for God to be half-hearted.”. Once again, love for Jesus is not mentioned, nor is love for our fellow humans.
The article then moves swiftly and briefly on to gaining “accurate knowledge and full discernment” with a sound bite of “we view regular Bible study and meditation on God’s Word as being among the most important things in our life!”, which we would of course want to do, but most importantly without the literature of the Organization. Sadly, most Witnesses would view reading or studying the Watchtower articles as Bible Study, though it is far from it.
Paragraph 6 opens with “God’s great love for us will move us to love our brothers. (Read 1 John 4:11, 20, 21)”. That is certainly the right sentiment, but as the next few paragraphs in the article discuss, it is not always easy to develop love for our brothers.
As paragraph 7 comments: “Jehovah sees our imperfections as well as those of our brother. Yet, in spite of these imperfections, he still loves our brother and he still loves us”. However, the counsel in the paragraph is incomplete as it is all about putting up with others irritating habits, but does nothing to address the more glaring issue. The issue is that we should show love to others by working on our own irritating habits, so others have less irritation to put up with.
Paragraph 9 tells us “to make sure of the more important things.” (Phil. 1:10) These important things include the sanctification of Jehovah’s name, the fulfillment of his purposes, and the peace and unity of the congregation. (Matt. 6:9, 10; John 13:35)”. The question is are these the more important things the Apostle Paul was talking about?
Can we cause the sanctification of Jehovah’s name? Jesus in giving the model prayer suggested praying “Let your name be sanctified” or set apart. Not, I will sanctify your name. The two cross references are Ezekiel 36:23 and 38:23, both record Jehovah saying he will sanctify his own name. We can do very little to assist that.
What about “the fulfillment of his purposes”? Again, on an individual level we can do very little to assist the Almighty Creator in accomplishing his purposes.
So, what about the last suggestion “the peace and unity of the congregation”? At least this is something we can have an effect on. However, it comes with a caveat. Should we protect the peace and unity at all costs? Clearly, we should not at the expense of justice and truth. For example, It would be wrong to ignore criminal actions on the part of one or more congregation members, just to keep the peace. It would also be wrong to stay silent when as Jesus said “It is in vain that they keep worshiping me, because they teach commands of men as doctrines.”(Matthew 15:9).
As the Apostle Paul himself answered “the more important things” were to “be filled with righteous fruit, which is through Jesus Christ,” and this would lead “to God’s glory and praise.”.
Therefore, where is the assistance to work on and practice these “righteous fruits”? Glaringly missing!
Paragraph 11 is hypocritical in the way it is presented and what it does not say. In dealing with the next phrase of Philippians 1:9-10, “not stumbling others”, the paragraph suggests “We could do so by our choice of entertainment, our choice of clothing, or even our choice of employment”.
The Organization is so hypocritical in this that it’s shocking.
- Is a fellow witness going to stop believing in God and Jesus because you watch a movie that they consider wrong?
- What if you were to go to the Kingdom Hall without a tie on, and wearing a beard?
- What if you accepted work which involved renovating ancient or historical buildings and as a result did repairs on some old churches?
The old cliché , I might be stumbled, might be uttered by many a Witness, but would they give up their faith in God? Highly unlikely.
Then how about in these scenarios?
- Showing videos containing adult themes, such as showing someone being murdered, in a public place to an audience including youngsters of all ages from babies to teenagers? For an example, the video drama of Josiah at the 2019 regional conventions, where King Amon, father of Josiah is murdered by knife wielding servants.
- What about the selling of Kingdom Halls to other religions?
- What about the continued refusal to change the policy on how to handle accusations of child sexual abuse?
Which actions are more likely to stumble Witnesses and others?
If the world-wide Kingdom Hall sell-off was more widely known in detail, many Witnesses would be stumbled if they knew the full extent, as it does not sit well with the constant message being given of phenomenal increase.
As for the continued mishandling of child abuse accusations, this has already stumbled countless Witnesses, causing them not only to leave the organization, but to lose all faith in God. That is what is meant by “stumbling the little ones”.
Paragraph 13 is even more damning in light of recent events. It says “Another way we could stumble someone is to induce him to commit a sin. How could that happen? Consider this scenario. After a long, hard struggle, a Bible student is finally able to control his addiction to alcohol. He realizes that he must abstain from it completely. He makes rapid progress and gets baptized. Later, a well-meaning host of a Christian gathering urges the new brother to accept an alcoholic beverage, saying: “You are a Christian now; you have Jehovah’s spirit. One aspect of the holy spirit is self-control. If you exercise self-control, you should be able to make moderate use of alcohol.” We can only imagine what the consequences would be if the new brother were to listen to that misguided advice!”
Indeed! It therefore begs the question, what if this new brother becomes aware of the event that has been humorously dubbed “Bottlegate”? ‘While the fact a Governing Body member spends close to a $1,000 on high end Scotch might seem like his business, the optics are very damning and come across as more than a tad hypocritical in light of the aforementioned “counsel”. Perhaps if our Governing Body member acknowledged his actions as ill advised, we might be able to cut him some slack, but open recognition of error is not a GB practice.
The claims in paragraph 14 also need examination. It says “Our Christian meetings help us to apply the instructions given at Philippians 1:10 in a number of ways.”. It then gives 3 ways. Let us examine them in turn.
- “the program of rich spiritual food reminds us of what Jehovah considers to be more important”.
Based on paragraph 9 discussed above, the program is rich in junk food rather than healthy, nutritional spiritual food. The food such as it is, is based on what the Organization considers more important rather than what God’s Word the Bible considers more important.
- “Second, we learn how to apply what we learn so that we may be flawless.” There was no real attempt to show how any of the material could be applied personally, so we are not able to learn anything as to how to be flawless.
- “third, we are incited “to love and fine works.” (Heb. 10:24, 25)” Who are they trying to fool? Just who will be incited by sound bites, inaccurate statements and open hypocrisy? Even if it incited some, they would have so little support from this article.
The final suggestion of this paragraph offers advice contrary to the theme scripture. The paragraph says, “The more we are encouraged by our brothers, the more our love for our God and for our brothers will grow”. Just to reiterate, in Philippians 1, Paul states we need “accurate knowledge and full discernment”, both of which are lacking in this Watchtower study article. Also to “be filled with righteous fruit, which is through Jesus Christ”. This is also almost completely ignored in The Watchtower article.
The final three paragraphs deal with the preaching work as the only righteous fruit. Yet 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 makes it clear, without love and by extension the other fruitages of the spirit, any other works such as preaching are like clashing cymbals, i.e. a noisy waste of time.
In summary, this Watchtower study article is a wasted opportunity to address fundamental problems within the Organization and is hypocritical at the same time. Genuine spiritually minded Christians will be left starving or even poisoned once again by this diet of contaminated junk ‘spiritual’ fast-food.