I’m going to show you the cover from the May 22, 1994 Awake! Magazine. It depicts over 20 children who refused blood transfusions as part of the treatment for their conditions. Some survived without blood according to the article, but others died.
In 1994, I was a true believer in the religious Bible interpretation of the Watch Tower Society concerning blood and was proud of the conscientious stand these children took to maintain their faith. I believed their loyalty to God would be rewarded. I still do, because God is love and he knows these children were misinformed. He knows that their decision to refuse a blood transfusion was the result of their belief that it would make God happy.
They believed this because their parents believed it. And their parents believed it because they had put their trust in men to interpret the Bible for them. As an example of this, the Watchtower article, “Parents, Protect Your Precious Inheritance” states:
“Your child needs to understand that depending on how he behaves, he can make Jehovah either sad or happy. (Proverbs 27:11) This and many other vital lessons can be taught to children by using the book Learn From the Great Teacher.” (w05 4/1 p. 16 par. 13)
In promoting that book as a teaching aid for parents to instruct their children, the article continues:
Another chapter deals with the Bible account of the three Hebrew youths Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who refused to bow to an image representing the Babylonian State. (w05 4/1 p. 18 par. 18)
Witnesses are taught that obeying God by refusing a blood transfusion is the same as obeying God by refusing to bow down to an image or salute the flag. All these are presented as tests of integrity. The Table of Contents of the May 22, 1994 Awake! makes it clear that is what the Society believes:
Youths Who Put God First 3-15
In former times thousands of youths died for putting God first. They are still doing it, only today the drama is played out in hospitals and courtrooms, with blood transfusions the issue.
There were no blood transfusions in former times. Back then, Christians died for refusing to worship false gods. Here, the Governing Body is making a false comparison, implying that refusing a blood transfusion is equivalent to being forced to worship an idol, or renounce your faith.
Such simplistic reasoning is easy to accept because it is so black or white. You don’t really have to think about it. You just have to do what you’re told. After all, don’t these instructions come from men you’ve been taught to trust because they have the knowledge of God as his—wait for it—”channel of communication.”
Hmm, “knowledge of God”. Relating to that, there’s a phrase in Ephesians that used to puzzle me: “the love of the Christ surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19).
As Witnesses, we were taught that we had “accurate knowledge of the truth.” That meant we knew exactly how to please God, right? For example, refusing a blood transfusion in all circumstances would please God, because we were being obedient. So what does love have to do with that? And yet, we know that the love of the Christ surpasses knowledge according to Ephesians. So, without love we can’t be sure our obedience to any law is done according to what God expects, unless our obedience is always going to be guided by love. I know that may sound confusing at first, so let’s have a closer look.
When Jesus walked the earth, he was constantly challenged by the Jewish religious authorities who ruled Israel. They followed a Rabbinical system of strict adherence to the letter of the law, going beyond what the Mosaic law code required. That is very much like the way Jehovah’s Witnesses practice their laws.
This Jewish legal system was first developed while the Jews were in captivity in Babylon. You’ll recall that God punished Israel for centuries of unfaithfulness, for worshipping false pagan gods, for desolating their land and sending them into slavery. Having finally learned their lesson, they went too far in the opposite direction by eventually enforcing an ultrastrict adherence to their interpretation of the Mosaic law code.
Before the captivity, they even sacrificed their children to the Canaanite god, Molech, and after, under the legal system established in Babylon that put power into the hands of the rabbis—scribes and Pharisees—they sacrificed Jehovah’s only begotten child.
The irony does not escape us.
What were they missing that caused them to sin so excessively?
The Pharisees in particular thought they had the most accurate knowledge of the Mosaic law, but they did not. Their problem was that they had not built their knowledge on the law’s true foundation.
On one occasion, seeking to trap Jesus, the Pharisees asked him a question that gave him an opportunity to show them what the law’s true foundation really was.
“After the Pharisees heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they came together in one group. And one of them, versed in the Law, asked, testing him: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” He said to him: “‘You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. The second, like it, is this, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments the whole Law hangs, and the Prophets.”” (Matthew 22:34-40)
How can the entirety of the Mosaic law hang on love? I mean, take the Sabbath law, for instance. What does love have to do with it? Either you did not work for a strict 24-hour period or you would be stoned.
To get an answer to that, let’s look at this account involving Jesus and his disciples.
“At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples got hungry and started to pluck heads of grain and to eat. At seeing this, the Pharisees said to him: “Look! Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them: “Have you not read what David did when he and the men with him were hungry? How he entered into the house of God and they ate the loaves of presentation, something that it was not lawful for him or those with him to eat, but for the priests only? Or have you not read in the Law that on the Sabbaths the priests in the temple violate the Sabbath and continue guiltless? But I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. However, if you had understood what this means, ‘I want mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless ones.” (Matthew 12:1-7 NWT)
Like Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Pharisees prided themselves on their strict interpretation of the word of God. To the Pharisees, Jesus’ disciples were violating one of the ten commandments, a violation that called for the death sentence under the law, but the Romans wouldn’t allow them to execute a sinner, just like the governments of today won’t allow Jehovah’s Witnesses to execute a disfellowshipped brother. So, all the Pharisees could do was to shun the law breaker and throw him out of the synagogue. They couldn’t factor into their judgment any extenuating circumstances, because they did not base their judgment on mercy, which is love in action.
Too bad for them, because James tells us that “the one who does not practice mercy will have his judgment without mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13)
That is why Jesus rebuked the Pharisees by quoting the prophets Hosea and Micah (Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8) to remind them that Jehovah “wants mercy and not sacrifice”. The account continues showing that they didn’t get the point because later that day, they again try to find a means to trap Jesus using the sabbath law.
“After departing from that place he went into their synagogue; and, look! a man with a withered hand! So they asked him, “Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?” that they might get an accusation against him. He said to them: “Who will be the man among YOU that has one sheep and, if this falls into a pit on the sabbath, will not get hold of it and lift it out? All considered, of how much more worth is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do a fine thing on the sabbath.” Then he said to the man: “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored sound like the other hand. But the Pharisees went out and took counsel against him that they might destroy him.” (Matthew 12:1-7, 9-14 NWT 1984)
After exposing their hypocrisy and their greed for money—they weren’t saving the sheep because they loved animals—Jesus declares that despite the letter of the law about Sabbath keeping, it was actually “lawful to do a fine thing on the sabbath.”
Could his miracle have waited until after the sabbath? Sure! The man with the withered hand could have suffered one more day, but would that have been loving? Remember, the entire Mosaic law was founded or based on just two fundamental principles: Love God with all we are and love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
The problem was that applying love to guide them on how to obey the law took authority out of the hands of the legislative body, in this case, the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders making up the governing body of Israel. In our day, the same can be said for all religious leaders, including the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Did the Pharisees finally learn how to apply love to the law, and understand how to practice mercy instead of sacrifice? Judge for yourself. What did they do after hearing that reminder from Jesus quoting from their own law, and after witnessing a miracle that proved Jesus was being backed by the power of God? Matthew writes: “The Pharisees went out and took counsel against [Jesus] that they might destroy him. (Matthew 12:14)
Would the Governing Body have reacted differently had they been present? What if the issue was not the Sabbath law, but blood transfusions?
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not keep the sabbath, but they treat their prohibition against blood transfusions with the same vigor and rigor that the Pharisees exhibited toward sabbath keeping. Pharisees were all about keeping the law which is epitomized by Jesus in his reference to making sacrifices. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t make animal sacrifices, but they are all about worship that God finds worthy based on a different kind of sacrifice.
I’d like you to perform a little test using the Watch Tower Library program. Enter “self-scrific*” into the search field spelled this way using the wildcard character to include all variations of the term. You’ll see this result:
The result is over a thousand hits in the publications of the Watch Tower Society. The two hits attributed to “Bibles” in the program occur only in the study notes of the New World Translation (Study Edition). The term “self-sacrifice” does not occur in the actual Bible itself. Why are they pushing self-sacrifice when it is not part of the Bible message? Again, we see a parallel between the teachings of the Organization and those of the Pharisees who continually opposed the work of Christ Jesus.
Jesus told the crowds and his disciples that the scribes and Pharisees “bind up heavy loads and put them on the shoulders of men, but they themselves are not willing to budge them with their finger.” (Matthew 23:4 NWT)
According to the Governing Body, to please Jehovah, you must sacrifice much. You must preach from door-to-door and promote their publications and their videos. You need to put in 10 to 12 hours a month doing this, but if you can, you should do this full time as a pioneer. You need to also give them money to support their work, and contribute your time and resources to build up their real estate holdings. (They own tens of thousands of properties around the world.)
But more than that, you have to support their interpretation of God’s laws. If you don’t, you will be shunned. For example, if your child needs a blood transfusion to alleviate his or her suffering or even to possibly safe their life, you must withhold it from them. Remember, their model is self-sacrifice, not mercy.
Think about that in light of what we’ve just read. The sabbath law was one of the ten commandments and disobeying it resulted in the death penalty according to the law code of Moses, yet Jesus showed that there were circumstances when absolute adherence to that law was not called for, because an act of mercy superseded the letter of the law.
Under the law code of Moses, eating blood was also a death penalty offence, yet there were circumstances where it was permissible to eat meat that had not been bled. Love, not legalism, was the foundation of the Mosaic law. You can read this for yourself in Leviticus 17:15, 16. To sum up that passage, it made a provision for a starving hunter to eat a dead animal he came across even though it had not been bled according to the law code of Israel. (For a full explanation, use the link at the end of this video for a full discussion on the issue of blood transfusions.) That video presents scriptural evidence that the Governing Body’s interpretation of Acts 15:20—the injunction to “abstain from blood”—is wrong as it applies to blood transfusions.
But here’s the point. Even if it were not wrong, even if the prohibition on blood extended to blood transfusions, it would not override the law of love. Is it lawful to do a fine thing, like heal a withered hand or save a life, on the sabbath? According to our lawgiver, Jesus Christ, it is! So, how is the law on blood any different? As we saw above in Leviticus 17:15, 16 it isn’t, because in dire circumstances, it was allowable for a hunter to eat un-bled meat.
Why is the Governing Body so interested in self-sacrifice that they can’t see this? Why are they willing to sacrifice children on the altar of obedience to their interpretation of God’s law, when Jesus tells these modern-day Pharisees, if you had understood what this means, ‘I want mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless ones.” (Matthew 12:7 NWT)
The reason is that they do not understand what the love of Christ really means, nor how to acquire knowledge of it.
But we are not to be that way. We do not want to fall prey to legalism. We want to understand how to love so that we can obey God’s law based not a rigid application of rules and regulations, but as they were meant to be obeyed, based on love. So the question is, how do we achieve that? Clearly not by studying the publications of the Watch Tower Corporations.
The key to understanding love—the love of God—is nicely expressed in the letter to the Ephesians.
“And he gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work, to build up the body of the Christ, until we all attain to the oneness of the faith and of the accurate knowledge [epignósis ] of the Son of God, to being a full-grown man, attaining the measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ. So we should no longer be children, tossed about as by waves and carried here and there by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in deceptive schemes.” (Ephesians 4:11-14)
The New World Translation renders the Greek word epignósis as “accurate knowledge.” It’s the only Bible I’ve found that adds the word “accurate”. Almost all the versions on Biblehub.com simply render this as “knowledge”. A few use “understanding” here, and a few others, “recognition”.
The Greek word epignósis isn’t about head knowledge. It’s not about the accumulation of raw data. HELPS Word-studies explains epignósis as “knowledge gained through first-hand relationship…contact-knowledge that is appropriate…to first-hand, experiential knowing.”
This is one example of how Bible translations can fail us. How do you translate a word in Greek that has no one-to-one equivalence in the language to which you are translating.
You’ll recall that at the start of this video, I referred to Ephesians 3:19 where it speaks of “…the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge…” (Ephesians 3:19 NWT)
The word rendered “knowledge” in this verse (3:19) is gnosis which Strong’s Concordance defines as “a knowing, knowledge; usage: knowledge, doctrine, wisdom.”
Here you have two distinct Greek words rendered by a single English word. The New World Translation gets dumped on a lot, but I think of all the translations I’ve scanned, it comes closest to the right meaning, though personally, I think “intimate knowledge” might be better. Unfortunately, the term “accurate knowledge” has degenerated in Watchtower publications to become synonymous with “the truth” (in quote) which is then synonymous with the Organization. To be “in the truth” is to belong to the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. For instance,
“There are billions of people on the earth. Thus, it is a real blessing to be among those whom Jehovah has kindly drawn to himself and to whom he has revealed Bible truth. (John 6:44, 45) Only about 1 in every 1,000 people alive today has an accurate knowledge of the truth, and you are one of them.” (w14 12/15 p. 30 par. 15 Do You Appreciate What You Have Received?)
The accurate knowledge this Watchtower article refers to is not the knowledge (epignósis) referred to at Ephesians 4:11-14. That intimate knowledge is of the Christ. We must know him as a person. We must come to think like him, reason like him, act like him. Only by fully knowing the character and person of Jesus can we rise in stature to the measure of a full-grown human, a spiritual adult, no longer a child easily fooled by men, or as the New Living Translation puts it, “influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.” (Ephesians 4:14 NLT)
In knowing Jesus intimately, we come to understand love perfectly. Paul writes, again to the Ephesians:
“I ask that out of the riches of His glory He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. Then you, being rooted and grounded in love, will have power, together with all the saints, to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19 BSB)
The devil tempted Jesus with all the kingdoms of the world if he would do only one act of worship to him. Jesus would not do so, because he loved his father and so viewed worshipping anyone else as a violation of that love, an act of betrayal. Even if his life had been threatened, he would not violate his love for his Father. This is the first law upon which the Mosaic law is based.
Yet, when confronted with helping a man, curing the sick, raising the dead, Jesus was unconcerned for the sabbath law. He did not view doing those things as a violation of that law, because love for one’s neighbor was the overriding principle upon which that law was based.
The Pharisees would have understood that if they had understood that the Father wants mercy and not sacrifice, or loving acts to end the suffering of a fellow human rather than strict, self-sacrificing obedience to a law.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, like their pharisaical counterparts, have put their obsession with self-sacrificing obedience above any love for their fellow man when it comes to blood transfusions. They have given no consideration to the cost in life to those they’ve convinced to obey their interpretation. Nor are they concerned for the suffering of surviving parents who have sacrificed their beloved children on the altar of JW theology. What a reproach they have brought on God’s holy name, a God who wants mercy and not sacrifice.
In summary, as Christians we have come to learn that we are under the law of Christ, the law of love. However, we might think that the Israelites were not under the law of love, since the Mosaic law appears to be all about rules, regulations and stipulations. But how could that be, since the law was given to Moses by Jehovah God and 1 John 4:8 tells us that “God is love”. Jesus has explained that the Mosaic law code was based on love.
What he meant and what we learn from this is that the history of humanity as revealed in the Bible demonstrates a progression of love. Eden started as a loving family, but Adam and Eve wanted to go it alone. They rejected the oversight of a loving Father.
Jehovah gave them up to their own desires. They ruled themselves for about 1,700 years until the violence got so bad that God put an end to it. After the flood, men again started to give in to unloving, violent depravity. But this time, God stepped in. He confused the languages at Babel; he set a limit on how much he would tolerate by destroying the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah; and then he introduced the law code as part of a covenant with the descendants of Jacob. Then after another 1,500 years, he introduced his Son, and with him the ultimate law, modeled after Jesus.
At each step, our heavenly Father brought us closer to understanding love, the love of God, which is the basis for life as a member of the family of God.
We can learn or we can refuse to learn. Will we be like the Pharisees, or Jesus’ disciples?
“Jesus then said: “For this judgment I came into this world, that those not seeing might see and those seeing might become blind.” Those of the Pharisees who were with him heard these things, and they said to him: “We are not blind also, are we?” Jesus said to them: “If you were blind, you would have no sin. But now you say, ‘We see.’ Your sin remains.”” (John 9:39-41)
The Pharisees were not like the gentiles at that time. The gentiles were largely in ignorance of the salvation hope Jesus presented, but the Jews, in particular the Pharisees, knew the law and had been waiting for the Messiah to come.
Today, we’re not talking about people who are ignorant of the Bible’s message. We’re talking about people who claim to know God, who call themselves Christians, but who practice their Christianity, their worship of God on rules of men, not on the love of God as revealed in Scripture.
The apostle John, who writes more about love than any other writer, makes the following comparison:
“The children of God and the children of the Devil are evident by this fact: Everyone who does not carry on righteousness does not originate with God, neither does he who does not love his brother. For this is the message which YOU have heard from [the] beginning, that we should have love for one another; not like Cain, who originated with the wicked one and slaughtered his brother. And for the sake of what did he slaughter him? Because his own works were wicked, but those of his brother [were] righteous.” (1 John 3:10-12)
The Pharisees had a golden opportunity to become children of God by the adoption that Jesus made possible through the ransom, the only real sacrifice that matters. But instead, Jesus called them children of the devil.
What about us, you and me? Today, there are many in the world who are truly blind to the truth. Their turn will come to know God once His administration under Jesus is fully established as the new heavens ruling over the new earth. But we are not ignorant of the hope being presented to us. Will we learn to become like Jesus, who did everything based on the love he learned from His Father in heaven?
To paraphrase what we just read in Ephesians (Ephesians 4:11-14 NLT) I was once spiritually immature, like a child, and so I was influenced when the leaders of the Organization tricked me “with lies so clever that they sounded like the truth”. But Jesus gave me—has given us—gifts in the form of the writings of the apostles and prophets, as well as teachers today. And by this means, I—no, we, all of us—have been given the means to become united in our faith and we have come to intimately know God’s Son, so that we can become spiritual adults, men and women, rising to the full and complete stature of the Christ. As we know him better and better through our study of Scripture, we grow in love.
Let’s conclude with these words from the beloved apostle:
“But we belong to God, and those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception.
Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:6-8)
Thank you for watching and thank you for the support you continue to give us that we may continue doing this work.