“A true friend shows love at all times.” – Proverbs 17:17
[From ws 11/19 p.8 Study Article 45: January 6 – January 12, 2020]
A brief scan of this study article reveals it contains many assumptions. Therefore, before we begin our review it would be good initially to get some background as to when and how Holy Spirit was given to servants of God and followers of Jesus directly from the scriptures. This will give us a scriptural background with which to review the Watchtower Study article and to be able to ascertain if the article has a strong Organizational bias or is truly beneficial.
To assist you in gaining this background the following articles were prepared:
- Holy Spirit in action – In Pre-Christian Times
- Holy Spirit in action – In the 1st Century Christian Times
We hope these articles will assist readers in seeing the contrast between the scriptural record and the message the Organization portrays.
Paragraph 1 “Looking back, you feel that you were able to go on from day to day only because Jehovah’s holy spirit provided you with “power beyond what is normal.”—2 Cor. 4:7-9”.
Was the operation of Holy Spirit in pre-Christian and first century Christian times left to personal feelings?
Or rather was the operation of Holy Spirit instead clearly manifested to others and the individual?
Paragraph 2 “We also rely on holy spirit to deal with the influence of this wicked world. (1 John 5:19)”
Is there even one scripture, which describes Christians, or any others of God’s servant being given Holy Spirit to counter the World’s influence?
Should we not personally resist the influence of the world to show God that we desire to do his will?
Paragraph 2 “In addition, we have to struggle against “wicked spirit forces.” (Ephesians 6:12)”
The passage following this verse identifies truth, righteousness, sharing good news, faith, hope of salvation, God’s word, prayer, and supplication. But interestingly in this scripture the Holy Spirit is not mentioned, only alluded to in connection with God’s word.
Paragraph 3 “Holy spirit gave Paul the power both to work secularly and to accomplish his ministry.”
Claiming that Holy Spirit gave Paul power to work secularly is pure conjecture. It may have done, but the Bible record appears to be silent on the matter, with the possible exception of Philippians 4:13. In fact, 1 Corinthians 12:9 perhaps would imply it did not.
Paragraph 5 “with God’s help, Paul was able to maintain his joy and inner peace! —Philippians 4:4-7”
This at least is accurate, and while Holy Spirit is not mentioned specifically, it would appear reasonable to conclude that Holy Spirit is the mechanism by which this peace is given.
Paragraph 10 claims “holy spirit is still exerting power on God’s people”
This claim may or may not be true. The more important question is: Who are God’s people today? Does he have an identifiable group of people today, or just individuals?
The Organization would claim that yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses are that people. The issue is that the Organization’s claim is all based on a foundation that has crumbled away. That foundation being the claim that Jesus became an invisible King in the heavens in 1914 according to Bible Prophecy, and chose the early Bible Students in 1919, who later became Jehovah’s Witnesses, as his people in this modern era.
As all readers of God’s word will know, Jesus warned us not to believe people who said that he had come but was hidden in the inner room where no one could see him (Matthew 24:24-27). Added to this, is that there is no Biblical indication that Nebuchadnezzar’s punishment of 7 times (seasons or years) was intended to have any greater future fulfillment. Finally, the Bible record itself, is not compatible with the Organization’s teaching that the start date of this supposed 7 times was 607 BCE for many reasons.[i]
Paragraph 13 at least has the most important thing accurately described as follows:
“First, study God’s Word. (Read 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.) The Greek word translated “inspired of God” literally means “God-breathed.” God used his spirit to “breathe” his thoughts into the minds of Bible writers. When we read the Bible and meditate on what we read, God’s instructions enter our mind and heart. Those inspired thoughts move us to bring our life in line with God’s will. (Hebrews 4:12) But to benefit fully from holy spirit, we must set aside time to study the Bible regularly and to think deeply about what we read. Then God’s Word will influence all that we say and do.”
Yes, it is “the word of God [that] is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword, …. and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). (Only cited in the article)
Paragraph 14 states that we should “worship God together” using Psalm 22:22 as justification.
It is true that Jesus stated in Matthew 18:20 “where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst”. But he also said in John 4:24 that as “God is a Spirit”, that “those worshipping him must worship with spirit and truth”. This is not in a location, such as a Temple or a Kingdom Hall, but on a personal level. In fact, there are very few verses in the Bible that mention God and worship in the same sentence, and none hint at a requirement to worship God together. Worship is done on an individual basis, not a collective basis. The following statement that “we pray for holy spirit, we sing Kingdom songs based on God’s Word, and we listen to Bible-based instruction presented by brothers who have been appointed by holy spirit”, does not mean that God will give us his spirit (Matthew 7:21-23).
Paragraph 15 claims that “To benefit fully from God’s spirit, though, you must have a regular share in the preaching work and use the Bible whenever possible”
Nowhere do the scriptures link the preaching work with regularity. To suggest that one would not fully benefit from a small amount of preaching or while preaching irregularly is tantamount to suggesting that the Holy Spirit would be half hearted. Coming from God it either benefits one completely for that time period or would not be given as God does things perfectly. That is aside from the question as to whether he would bless the preaching of falsehood, such as a separate anointed class or 1874, 1914, 1925, 1975, or “the last of the last days”, and so forth.
As to using the Bible whenever possible, given that most of us have spent much time offering the Organization’s literature, using the Bible only to point attention to the contents of the literature, rather than trying to get Bibles into people’s hands, the suggestion is good, but most Witnesses would struggle to do so in a meaningful way.
Paragraphs 16-17 discuss Luke 11:5-13. This is the illustration of asking persistently in prayer and being thereby rewarded with Holy Spirit. According to the paragraph “what is the lesson for us? To receive the help of holy spirit, we must pray for it with persistence”.
However, to just leave the understanding of this scripture here is to trivialize the whole illustration. Paragraph 18 reminds us that “Jesus’ illustration also helps us to see why Jehovah will give us holy spirit. The man in the illustration wanted to be a good host”. But then it goes on to totally miss the point by stating “What was Jesus’ point? If an imperfect human is willing to help a persistent neighbor, how much more so will our kind heavenly Father help those who persistently ask him for holy spirit! Therefore, we can pray with confidence that Jehovah will respond to our urgent request for Holy Spirit”.
Is this really the point Jesus was making? In our examination of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the past, it was clear that there is always a beneficial purpose to Holy Spirit being given. Surely, Jehovah will not be giving us Holy Spirit just because we keep on asking and irritating him, for no particular purpose beneficial to his will. True, frequent asking was clearly required, but that serves to show the desire one has to do the good deed, to fulfill a beneficial purpose. Just as that neighbor’s desire was to help a tired, hungry traveler, so to any request we make needs to be beneficial to God’s purpose.
Asking for Holy Spirit to build a Kingdom Hall, or preach the Organization’s flawed good news, or fill other Organizational requirements is not necessarily part of God’s purpose and of no benefit to him, only to the Organization.
A misleading Watchtower study article. Clearly, those involved in writing the study article not only failed to follow their own advice and ask, ask, ask, for Holy Spirit to help them write an accurate article; they also failed to provide a accurate one as a result. The inevitable conclusion one might draw from this is that Holy Spirit cannot be guiding them as they claim.
For a true picture of how and whether Holy Spirit can help us, it would be far more beneficial to review what the scriptures say about it directly for ourselves.
Does Holy Spirit help appoint Elders in the Congregations?
After reviewing how Shepherds were appointed in the first century Christian congregation (in the Holy Spirit in action – In the 1st Century Christian Times article) the reviewer drew the following conclusions:
The explanation given by the Organization as to how elders and ministerial servants are appointed in the congregations today, bears little resemblance to what actually occurred in the first century Christian Congregation. In this present day, there is certainly no laying on of hands by the Apostles directly appointed by Jesus, or perhaps by particular ones they appear to have directly delegated this responsibility to, of whom Timothy appears to have been one.
According to the Organization’s publications, men are appointed by Holy Spirit, only in the sense that the elders review the candidate’s qualities against the Bibles requirements.
November 2014 Watchtower Study Edition, article”Questions from Readers” says in part “First, holy spirit moved the Bible writers to record the qualifications for elders and ministerial servants. Sixteen different requirements of elders are listed at 1 Timothy 3:1-7. Further qualifications are found in such scriptures as Titus 1:5-9 and James 3:17, 18. Qualifications for ministerial servants are outlined at 1 Timothy 3:8-10, 12, 13. Second, those recommending and making such appointments specifically pray for Jehovah’s spirit to direct them as they review whether a brother meets the Scriptural requirements to a reasonable degree. Third, the individual being recommended needs to display the fruitage of God’s holy spirit in his own life. (Gal. 5:22, 23) So God’s spirit is involved in all aspects of the appointment process”.
The truthful of the last statement is debatable. Point 2 depends on two important premises being true; (1) that the elders pray for Holy Spirit and are prepared to allow themselves to be guided by it. In reality, the strongest willed elder(s) usually ensure they have their own way; (2) Does Jehovah give bodies of elders Holy Spirit to make appointments? Given that there are instances where men appointed have been secretly practicing paedophilia, or married men being immoral having with a mistress, or government spies (such as in Israel, communist and non-communist Russia, Nazi Germany among others), it could be construed as blaspheming the Holy Spirit, to claim that it was involved in the appointment of such ones. There is also no evidence of direct notification or indication by the Holy Spirit in any way in such appointments, unlike in the first century.
The Organization’s actual view is not, however, how many brothers and sisters understand it. This is due in part to how the phrase “elders are appointed by holy spirit” is used in the publications. As a result many believe God’s Spirit has directly appointed Elders in particular and as such appointees, they can do no wrong and cannot be questioned.
However, as the Organization adds its own requirements on top, there is a clear pharisaic addition. In the experience of most brothers who are awakened, it is the Organization’s requirements of a certain way and quantity of field service, along with favouritism that usually holds sway over any Biblically desired traits. For example, however abundant a man’s Christian qualities are, if he for example was only able to spend 1 hour a month in field service, the chance of appointment as an elder would be very slim to none.