There is a statement in this week’s study article that I cannot recall having ever seen before: “The other sheep should never forget that their salvation depends on their active support of Christ’s anointed “brothers” still on earth.” (w12 3/15 p. 20, par. 2) Scriptural support for this remarkable statement is given by referencing to Matt. 25:34-40 which refers to the parable of the sheep and goats.
Now the Bible teaches us that salvation depends on exercising faith in Jehovah and Jesus and producing works befitting that faith such as the preaching work.
(Revelation 7:10) . . .“Salvation [we owe] to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
(John 3:16, 17) 16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent forth his Son into the world, not for him to judge the world, but for the world to be saved through him.
(Romans 10:10) . . .For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.
However, there does not appear to be direct Scriptural support for the thought that our salvation depends on actively supporting the anointed. It follows, of course, that when one engages in the public declaration for salvation, one is supporting the anointed. But isn’t that more of a bi-product? Do we go door-to-door out of a sense of duty to support the anointed, or because Jesus tells us to? If one is thrown into solitary confinement for 20 years, is one’s salvation dependent on support for the anointed or unbreakable loyalty to Jesus and his Father?
This is not said to denigrate in the slightest the important role the anointed play while on earth. Our only question is whether this particular statement is supported in Scripture.
(1 Timothy 4:10) For to this end we are working hard and exerting ourselves, because we have rested our hope on a living God, who is a Savior of all sorts of men, especially of faithful ones.
A “Savior of all sorts of men, especially of faithful ones.” Especially, not exclusively. How can ones who are not faithful be saved?
With that question in mind, let’s take a look at the basis for the statement in this week’s study article. Matt. 25:34-40 deals with a parable, not a clearly stated and directly applied principle or law. There is a principle here to be sure, but its application is based on interpretation. For example, for it even to apply as we have suggested in the article, the ‘brothers’ mentioned would have to refer to the anointed. Can an argument be made that Jesus was referring to all Christians as his brothers, instead of just to the anointed? While it is true that the anointed are termed his brothers in Scripture, while the other sheep become his children as the Eternal Father (Isa. 9:6), there is precedence in this instance that might allow for a broader application of ‘brother’; one that might include all Christians. Consider Matt. 12:50 “For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
So he could be referring to all Christians—all who do the will of this Father—as his brothers in this instance.
If the sheep in this parable are Christians with an earthly hope, why does Jesus depict them as surprised at being rewarded for helping one of the anointed? The anointed themselves are teaching us that helping them is imperative to our salvation. Therefore, we would hardly be surprised were we to be rewarded for doing so, would we? In fact, we would expect that to be the outcome.
Additionally, the parable doesn’t depict “active support for the anointed”. What is depicted in a variety of ways is a single act of kindness, one that likely took some courage or effort to achieve. Giving Jesus a drink when he is thirsty, or clothing when he is naked, or a visit in prison. This brings to mind the text that says: “He that receives YOU receives me also, and he that receives me receives him also that sent me forth. 41 He that receives a prophet because he is a prophet will get a prophet’s reward, and he that receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will get a righteous man’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water to drink because he is a disciple, I tell YOU truly, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:40-42) There is a strong parallel in the language used in verse 42 with that Matthew employs in the aforementioned parable—Matt. 25:35. A cup of cold water, not out of kindness but our of recognition that the recipient is a disciple of the Lord.
A practical example of this might be the evildoer nailed beside Jesus. Though he initially mocked Jesus, he later recanted and courageously rebuked his companion for continuing to mock the Christ, afterwhich he humbly repented. One small act of courage and kindness, and he was granted the reward of life in paradise.
The way the parable of the sheep and goats is worded doesn’t seem to fit with a life-long course of faithful activity in support of Jesus anointed. What might possibly fit would be what happened when the Israelites left Egypt. A great crowd of unbelieving Egyptians put faith and took a stand at the last minute. They courageously stood with God’s people. When we become the pariah of the world it will take faith and courage to take a stand and help us out. Is that what the parable is pointing to, or is it pointing to a requirement to support the anointed so as to achieve salvation? If the latter, then the statement in our Watchtower this week is accurate; if not, then it would appear to be a misapplication.
In either case, only time will tell, and in the mean time, we will continue to support the anointed and all our brothers in the work Jehovah has given us to do.