Serve Jehovah with fear And be joyful with trembling.
Kiss the son, that He may not become incensed
And YOU may not perish [from] the way,
For his anger flares up easily.
Happy are all those taking refuge in him.
(Psalm 2:11, 12)
One disobeys God at one’s peril. Jesus, as Jehovah’s appointed king, is loving and understanding, but he does not tolerate willful disobedience. Obedience to him is truly a matter of life and death—eternal life or eternal death. Still, obedience to him is pleasurable; in part, because he doesn’t burden us with endless rules and regulations.
Nevertheless, when he does command, we must obey.
There are three commandments in particular which are of interest to us here. Why? Because there is a connection between all three. In each case, Christians were told by their human leaders that a) they could disregard a commandment of Jesus with impunity, and b) if they went ahead and obeyed Jesus anyway, they would be punished.
A remarkable situation, wouldn’t you say?
”I am giving YOU a new commandment, that YOU love one another; just as I have loved YOU, that YOU also love one another.” (John 13:34)
There is no condition attached to this commandment. No exceptions to the rule are given by Jesus. All Christians must love one another in the same way that they have been loved by Jesus.
Yet, there came a time when the leaders of the Christian congregation taught that it was alright to hate one’s brother. During times of war, a Christian could hate and kill his brother because he was of another tribe, or nation, or sect. So Catholic killed Catholic, Protestant killed Protestant, Baptist killed Baptist. It wasn’t simply a matter of being exempted from obeying. It goes much further than that. Obedience to Jesus in this matter would bring down upon the Christian the full wrath of both church and secular authorities? Christians taking a conscientious stand against killing their fellow man as part of the war machine were persecuted, even killed—often with the full endorsement of the Church leadership.
Do you see the pattern? Invalidate a commandment of God, then add to it by making obedience to God a punishable offense.
“Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded YOU” (Matthew 28:19, 20)
Another clearly stated commandment. Can we ignore it without repercussions? We are told that if we do not confess union with Jesus before men, he will disown us. (Mt. 18:32) A matter of life and death, is it not? And yet, here again, Church leaders have stepped in saying that the laity doesn’t have to obey the Lord in this instance. This commandment only applies to a subset of Christians, a clergy class, they say. The average Christian does not have to make disciples and baptize them. In fact, they again go beyond excusing disobedience to a scriptural commandment, and add to it by making it punishable in some way: Censure, excommunication, imprisonment, torture, even being burned at the stake; all have been tools used by church leaders to keep the average Christian from proselytizing.
The pattern repeats itself.
“This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood. Keep doing this, as often as YOU drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:25)
Another simple, straightforward commandment, isn’t it? Does he say that only a particular type of Christian needs to obey this command? No. Is the statement so convoluted that the average Christian would have no hope of understanding it and therefore obeying without the help of some scholar; someone to decipher all the relevant texts and decode the hidden meaning behind Jesus’ words? Again, No. it’s a simple, straightforward commandment from our king.
Why does he give us this commandment? What is its purpose?
(1 Corinthians 11:26) . . .For as often as YOU eat this loaf and drink this cup, YOU keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he arrives.
This is part of our preaching work. We are proclaiming the death of the Lord—which means the salvation of mankind—by means of this annual commemoration.
Yet again, we have an instance where the leadership of the congregation has told us that, except for a tiny minority of Christians, we don’t have to obey this commandment. (w12 4/15 p. 18; w08 1/15 p. 26 par. 6) In fact, we are told that if we go ahead and obey anyway, we are actually sinning against God. (w96 4/1 pp. 7-8 Celebrate the Memorial Worthily) However, it doesn’t stop with imputing sin to an act of obedience. Added to that is the considerable peer pressure we will face should we partake. We will likely be viewed as presumptuous, or perhaps emotionally unstable. It can get even worse, for we must be careful not to reveal the reason we have chosen to obey our king. We have to keep silent and say only that it is a deeply personal decision. For if you explain that we are partaking simply because Jesus commands all Christians to do so; that there was no unexplained, mysterious calling in our heart to tell us we had been selected by God, well, be prepared for a judicial hearing at the very least. I am not being facetious. I wish I were.
We won’t get into the Scriptural basis for concluding that this teaching of our leadership is wrong. We’ve already gone into that in depth in a previous post. What we want to discuss here is the reason that we seem to be repeating this pattern of Christendom by urging our rank and file to disobey a clearly stated commandment of our Lord and King.
It appears, regrettably, that Mt. 15:3,6 applies to us in this instance.
(Matthew 15:3, 6) “Why is it YOU also overstep the commandment of God because of YOUR tradition?… And so YOU have made the word of God invalid because of YOUR tradition.
We are invalidating God’s word due to our tradition. “Surely not”, you say. But what is a tradition if not a way of doing things that is justified by its own existence. Or to put it another way: With a tradition, we don’t need a reason for what we do—the tradition is its own reason. We do it that way simply because we’ve always done it that way. If you don’t agree, bear with me for a moment and allow me to explain.
In 1935, Judge Rutherford was facing a dilemma. Memorial attendance was growing again after the decline caused by the failure of his prediction that the righteous men of old would be resurrected in 1925. (From 1925 to 1928, memorial attendance fell from 90,000 to 17,000) There were tens of thousands of partakers. Counting the tens of thousands from the first century and allowing for our belief in an unbroken chain of anointed ones throughout the previous 19 centuries, it was getting difficult to explain how a literal number of 144,000 hadn’t already been filled. He could have reinterpreted Rev. 7:4 to show that the number was symbolic, but instead he came up with a whole new doctrine. Or the holy spirit revealed a hidden truth. Let’s see which it was.
Now before going further, it behooves us to recognize that in 1935 Judge Rutherford was the sole author and editor of all that went into The Watchtower magazine. He had disbanded the editorial committee that was set up under Russell’s will because they were blocking him from publishing some of his ideas. (We have the sworn testimony of Fred Franz in the Olin Moyle libel trial to assure us of that fact.) So Judge Rutherford is viewed by us as being God’s appointed channel of communication at that time. Yet, by his own admission, he did not write under inspiration. This would mean he was God’s uninspired channel of communication, if you can wrap your mind around that contradictory concept. So how do we explain the revelation of, to use the old term, new truth? We believe that these truths were always in God’s word, but have been carefully hidden awaiting the proper time for their revelation. The holy spirit revealed to Judge Rutherford a new understanding in 1934 which he revealed to us through the article, “His Kindness”, in the August 15, 1934 issue of The Watchtower , p. 244. Using the ancient cities of refuge and the Mosaic law arrangement surrounding them, he showed that Christianity would now have two classes of Christian. The new class, the other sheep, would not be in the New Covenant, would not be children of God, would not be anointed with holy spirit, and would not go to heaven.
Then Rutherford dies and we quietly back away from any prophetic parallel involving the cities of refuge. The holy spirit would not direct a man to reveal a falsehood, so the cities of refuge as the basis for the two-tier system of salvation we now have must have come from a man. Still, that doesn’t mean his conclusion is wrong. Perhaps it was now time for the holy spirit to reveal the true scriptural basis for this new doctrine.
Alas, no. If you care to prove this for yourself, simply perform a search using the Watchtower Library on CDROM and you’ll see that in the last 60 years of publications no new basis has been advanced. Imagine a house built on a foundation. Now remove the foundation. Would you expect the house to remain in place, floating in midair? Of course not. Yet whenever this doctrine is taught, no real scriptural support is given to base it on. We believe it because we’ve always believed it. Isn’t that the very definition of a tradition?
There is nothing wrong with a tradition per se as long as it doesn’t invalidate the word of God, but that is exactly what this tradition does.
I don’t know if everyone who partakes of the emblems is destined to rule in heaven or if some will rule on earth or if some will simply live on earth under the rulership of the heavenly kings and priests under Christ Jesus. That doesn’t matter for purposes of this discussion. What we are concerned with here is obedience to a direct commandment of our Lord Jesus.
The question each of us must ask himself or herself is will our worship be in vain because we “teach commands of men as doctrines.” (Mt. 15:9) Or will we submit to the king?
Will you kiss the Son?