“Take up the large shield of faith.” – Ephesians 6:16
[From ws 11/19 p.14 Study Article 46: January 13 – January 19, 2020]
Before we analyse the content of this week’s article let us consider the context of the cited theme text.
“Besides all of this, take up the large shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish all the wicked one’s burning arrows.”- Ephesians 6:16
“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” – EPH 6:16 – New International Version
The rendering of the New International Version is particularly good when it says, “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith…”. What should we take up in addition to the shield of faith?
Ephesians 6:13 says we should put on the full Armor of God. What does this Armor include?
- The Belt of truth
- Breastplate of righteousness
- Feet shod with the Good News of peace
Therefore, faith needs to be accompanied by truth, righteousness and the Good News of peace according to Paul’s words to the Ephesians. Righteousness is defined as “morally right” in actions.
Paragraph 2 states that in the Study article it will discuss how we can inspect our shield of faith and make sure that it is strong, and how we can keep hold on our shield of faith.
CAREFULLY INSPECT YOUR SHIELD
Paragraph 4 provides us with the following advice for inspecting and maintaining our shield of faith
- Pray for God’s help
- Use God’s word to help you see yourself as God sees you
- Review some of the decisions you have made recently
These suggestions are excellent, and one should endeavour to apply them in order to strengthen our faith.
PROTECT YOURSELF FROM UNDUE ANXIETY, LIES, AND DISCOURAGEMENT
The writer of the Study article starts paragraph 6 by saying that some types of anxiety are good. He mentions the concern about pleasing Jehovah and Jesus. Then he mentions that if we commit a serious sin, we are anxious to restore our friendship with Jehovah. He also mentions anxiety about pleasing marriage mates and the welfare of family and fellow believers.
Before we deal with each of the assertions above, let us see what the Bible says about being anxious.
Philippians 4:6 tells us, “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God;” [Bold ours]
Did you notice that we are not to be anxious over anything?
But we should supplicate Jehovah about everything.
Being anxious over any of the things the Watchtower writer mentions in the paragraph is not wrong of itself, indeed we should show concern for marriage mates, family and fellow believers.
Our relationship with Jehovah should be important to us. Jesus said that we are required to Love Jehovah with our whole heart, whole soul and whole mind which is the most important command relating to our relationship with Jehovah.
If we commit a serious sin, if we are repentant, Jehovah can forgive us through the ransom of his son.
Jehovah knows that we would naturally be anxious about all of these things. That is why Jehovah encourages us to pray to Him and not be anxious.
Paragraph 7 defines other ‘types’ of anxiety as undue anxiety.
What does the Watchtower writer say is undue anxiety?
- We may constantly worry about having enough food and clothing. To ease that worry, we might focus on gaining material possessions.
- We could even develop a love of money. If we allow that to happen, our faith in Jehovah will become weak and we will suffer serious spiritual harm.
- Becoming overly concerned about gaining the approval of others. We may then fear being ridiculed or persecuted by men more than we fear displeasing Jehovah.
If you type in ‘undue’ in to the JW App or JW Library search or search any other Bible Translation the word “undue” does not appear in any Bible verse.
There is no distinction scripturally of the types of anxiety where some are labelled as good anxiety whilst others are undue anxiety.
In Matthew 6:31 Jesus simply says “Do not be anxious” about what you will eat or what you will drink or wear. He did not say that anxiety over these would be undue anxiety.
This is consistent with Philippians 4:6 as well as other scriptures:
- Luke 12:25-26,29
- Mark 13: 11
We need to ask, If the scriptures do not distinguish between what we should and should not be anxious about, and furthermore the scriptures simply encourage us to rely on Jehovah and stop being anxious, then why is this writer separating anxieties, distinguishing them in such a way?
Consider the following points regarding the organization:
- A significant number of Bethel members and special full-time servants were requested to leave numerous branch offices and assignments globally, most of which solely relied on the organization for their livelihood.
- The Organization strongly discourages the pursuit of higher education despite changes in technology and in the labour market and as a result many Jehovah’s witnesses will not be suited for work in specialized and high skilled employment.
- Because the organization continues to coerce parents to encourage their children to be in ‘full-time service’ without any qualifications, they are likely to be employed in unskilled or low skilled jobs which are pay less in wages and salaries.
- org continue to encourage congregation members to be knock on doors in unproductive neighbourhoods and because of their stringent rules and teachings, and controlled conformity Jehovah’s witnesses are considered by some to be a cult.
These are just a few reasons why Jehovah’s witnesses would have more anxiety around food, money, and employment, as well as the perceptions of others, to a greater degree than other members of Christendom.
Paragraph 8 states “Satan uses those under his control to spread lies about Jehovah and our brothers and sisters. For instance, apostates publish lies and distort facts about Jehovah’s organization on websites and through television and other media.” The paragraph then says we should “avoid all contact with apostates”.
For most Jehovah’s Witnesses, an apostate is anyone who disagrees with what the Organization says irrespective of what the reason for the disagreement is, even if what such a person says may be truth.
What though is the real meaning of apostate?
An apostate is a person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle.
What this means is that a Muslim or anyone of any other religion for that matter that becomes a Jehovah’s Witness is in essence an apostate of their religion.
Before we conclude whether someone is an apostate of the Christian Faith, we should first ascertain whether there is any truth in what is being said? Does what the person is saying go against the scriptures? Are they perhaps exposing untruths told by the Organization? Otherwise, by the Organization’s definition of an Apostate, Jesus was an apostate from Judaism, yet in reality it was Judaism that had gone against their covenant with God and were rejecting Jesus who was the foretold Messiah they were looking for. Jesus was telling the truth and it was the Pharisees who were telling untruths and were the real apostates.
The way this word is increasingly be used in Watchtower literature and broadcasts to label those who no longer agree with them is like going back to the Middle Ages and the Catholic inquisition. Surely the question of one’s faith is a matter between an individual and God and Jesus. It should not be judged and be subject to mudslinging by over-righteous people. The Governing Body may be zealous and feel justified in their view, but that is going down the road of Saul of Tarsus before his conversion.
As mentioned in the beginning of this review, truth is a pivotal part of the Armor. We should not put faith in untruths.
Hence, if the Organization is itself spreading untruths, we would never want to ignore those who were bringing those lies to our attention. In particular we need to prayerfully consider Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians in which he encouraged them to keep testing whether they are in the faith.
2 Corinthians 13:5 says “Keep testing whether you are in the faith; keep proving what you yourselves are or do you not recognize that Jesus Christ is in union with you? Unless you are disapproved”.
Truth will always triumph over lies, so why is the Organization so afraid of Witnesses talking to so-called apostates. Is it because they know the lies they have told by the Organization will be found out? Otherwise what are they worried about?
For instance, one phrase frequently used at present by the Organization and its representatives is that “Jehovah is speeding up the increase”. Yet the figures given in the annual reports belie that claim. The average annual World population increase has dropped in recent years and is currently around 1.05% per annum. Even accepting the Organization’s Annual report figures in 2019 the annual increase in peak publishers (in itself not a reliable number) dropped to 1.3% from the 1.4% of the previous two years. 0.25% higher growth than the population growth rate is hardly a massive increase. If the increase is speeding up then why sell Kingdom Halls in the Western world, surely that space would soon be needed, and we all know that property prices only go up in the long term. So who is misleading who? The so-called Apostates or the Organization?
(Also, see Acts 17:11 regarding the Beroeans)
The advice on discouragement in paragraph 9 is very good. We should never allow problems to dominate our thinking. If we do feel discouraged, we should keep the scriptures below in mind.
“Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our trials so that we may be able to comfort others in any sort of trial with the comfort that we receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (Also see Psalm 34:18)
We should also take practical steps such as confide in a trusted companion. Proverbs 17:17 reads “A true friend shows love at all times. And is a brother who is born for times of distress”.
A word of warning however. Remember that most Witnesses feel oblige to ‘rat’ to the elders on any fellow witness who is having doubts, and hence in their eyes potentially becoming apostate due to the climate of fear created by their labelling such ones as ‘apostates’.
Paragraph 11 states if we have been able to avoid undue anxiety, have resisted the urge to listen to and argue with apostates, and have been able to cope with discouragement, then our faith is in a good condition. This again is an arbitrary measuring stick for the health of our faith. What if I was able to do all three of these things, but was not generous, was a slanderer and had little confidence and belief in the ransom? Would you still say my faith was in good stead? That could never be.
It appears the aim in this article is to make publishers believe that engaging with ‘apostates’ and having anxiety about material things is an indication of weak faith.
The counsel they give to avoid any discussion with those who question JW doctrine goes contrary to 1 Peter 3:15 which says: “But sanctify the Christ as Lord in your hearts, always ready to make a defence before everyone who demands of you a reason for the hope you have, but doing so with a mild temper and deep respect.”
PROTECT YOURSELF FROM MATERIALISM
The advice on materialism is good advice to follow for the most part. However, as usual there are elements of JW service-orientated doctrine which creep into paragraph 16. The paragraph says: “Could our attachment to material things cause us to act like the young man who turned down Jesus’ invitation to expand his service to God?” The paragraph then cites Mark 10:17-22 as the scriptural reference.
The paragraph is not clear what service the writer referring to. If you read the passage of the cited scripture, you will find that Jesus simply asked the man to sell all his belongings and give the money to the poor and then become his [Jesus] follower. There is nothing recorded in the Bible which indicates that Jesus wanted to give the young man any special assignment or “service”.
We must not be fooled into thinking that the alternative to materialism is serving a religious organization.
KEEP A FIRM HOLD ON YOUR SHIELD OF FAITH
In concluding the article paragraph 19 suggests the following to keep our faith intact:
- “Regularly attending Christian meetings” [only meetings of approved JW.org where JW doctrine will be taught]
- “Speaking about Jehovah’s name and his Kingdom to others.” [participate in preaching JW doctrine]
- “Prayerfully read God’s Word every day and apply its counsel and direction in all that we do” [but only read God’s word via Watchtower literature, and apply the counsel in the Watchtower literature, is the implied suggestion]
Attending Christian meetings and speaking to others are only beneficial if we are taught and teach the truth.
The Watchtower article has failed to provide meaningful and practical suggestions on how one can keep their faith intact. Perhaps the most important aspect of keeping our faith intact is found in the following verses:
“The one who exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life; the one who disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.”- John 3:36
“So, the Law became our guardian leading to Christ, so that we might be declared righteous through faith. But now that the faith has arrived, we are no longer under a guardian. You are all, in fact, sons of God through your faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Galatians 3:24-26
The more we learn about Jesus, put faith in Him and try to imitate Him; the stronger our faith will become. We no longer need self appointed “guardians of doctrine”.
“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” – John 17:3 New International Version.