[A Review of the September 15, 2014 Watchtower article on page 7]
“Prove to yourselves the good and acceptable
and perfect will of God.”—Rom. 12:2
Paragraph 1: “IS IT the will of God that true Christians go to war and kill people of a different nationality?”
By this opening question we set the stage for the article’s main point: We have the truth.
Unlike virtually all the major, medium, and minor Christian denominations, as an organization and especially since World War II, our record of refusing to kill our fellowman on the battlefield is exemplary. True, many non-Jehovah’s Witnesses have also applied that command from Jesus and suffered imprisonment and worse for refusing to participate in warfare. Moreover, they did so as individuals, often splitting with the official position of their church leadership. In effect, their stand was harder than ours for they took it on their own, with no support from their peers. But we, as Jehovah’s Witnesses, are not interested in individual, conscience-driven acts of faith and heroism. Our boast is that as an organization, we held fast to our principles.
Good for us!
To be sure, participation in warfare is a good litmus test for identifying false religion. If we are lining up the world’s religions to find the one true one, the sheer number would seem overwhelming. Thus, a religion’s position on participation in war provides a quick way to cull the herd of prospects. No need to waste time on debating doctrine nor reviewing good works. We can simply ask: “Do your members fight in war? Yes. Thank you. NEXT!”
Alas, as Jehovah’s Witnesses, we often forget that this is a disqualification test only. Failing it means you’re not the true religion. However, passing it doesn’t mean you are. There are still other tests to pass.
The True Litmus Test
Focusing in on our record in warfare (We love to point to our history under the Nazis.) we forget that the Jews were commanded by God to kill. They killed millions in their conquest of the Promised Land. If they had refused to obey God and kill, they would have been sinning. Indeed, they did and they were, which is why they wandered the desert for 40 years.
We are therefore faced with two diametrically opposed requirements. A faithful Jew would obey God by engaging in warfare. A faithful Christian will obey God by refusing to engage in warfare.
What is the common denominator? Obedience to God.
Therefore, if we are looking to find the one true religion, we must find those people who are willing to obey God no matter the cost.
Rerunning the Test
As regards killing in warfare, we have obeyed our Lord’s command at John 13:35.
Let’s try another command of his. Paraphrasing the article’s opening question, we can ask:
“IS IT God’s will that true Christians proclaim the death of the Lord by partaking of the wine and bread?”
“. . .For I received from the Lord that which I also handed on to YOU, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was going to be handed over took a loaf 24 and, after giving thanks, he broke it and said: “This means my body which is in YOUR behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” 25 He did likewise respecting the cup also, after he had the evening meal, saying: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood. Keep doing this, as often as YOU drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as YOU eat this loaf and drink this cup, YOU keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he arrives.” (1Co 11:23-26)
Our leadership would say, No! Partaking of the emblems is only for a select few.[i] However, the leadership of the churches of Christendom say it’s alright to kill your nation’s enemies, even if of the same faith. We condemn them saying that they should obey God rather than men. So here you have a clearly stated, unambiguous command from Jesus. It needs no third-party interpretation for you to obey it. It is up to you, the individual, to prove what God’s will is for you. If you cannot find a Scriptural means to exempt yourself from obedience, then you have to obey God. It is really that simple. This is the litmus test of true worship. If you disobey because your leadership tells you to, how are you better than the Catholic who goes to war because his church tells him it’s okay to kill?[ii]
Are We Obeying Christ’s Command to Love?
Refusing to kill one’s fellow man is a passive expression of love. Jesus called for more:
“I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also love one another. . .” (John 13:34)
Notice first that this is not a suggestion, but a command. But why did he refer to it as a new one? Under the Mosaic law code, Israelites were told to love their neighbor as themselves. Jesus was saying in effect, ‘Go beyond that. Love him as I have loved you.’ No longer are we to love our brother as we love ourselves. We are to love him as Jesus loved us. We are talking about being perfected in love. – Mt. 5:43-48
Are we obeying this new command?
If your brother comes to you and says, “I’m going to partake of the emblems at the memorial because I believe all Christians are required to do this in obedience to Christ”, what would you do? What is the “good and acceptable and perfect will of God” for you in this case? Prove him wrong from the Scriptures? Sure, go ahead. But if you can’t, what then?
Perhaps you still believe he is wrong, but you can’t prove it, so would the loving thing not be to leave him be?
“In brotherly love have tender affection for one another. In showing honor to one another, take the lead.” (Ro 12:10 NWT)
If he is wrong, time will tell. Or if he is right, then you will be the one to be corrected in your thinking. Would love motivate you to persecute him? That is the course of action usually taken in these cases. We will disfellowship brothers even when we cannot prove them wrong using the Bible. In fact, we disfellowship because we cannot prove them wrong. We view them as a danger to our carefully constructed, fragile framework of doctrine. Our official doctrine and tradition trumps God’s word.
You may not actually disfellowship an individual yourself, but if you support the decision, how are you different from Saul of Tarsus, who stood off to one side approving of and supporting the action to stone Stephen? Like him, you could become a persecutor. (Acts 8:1; 1 Timothy 1:13)
Every one of us should give serious thought to this, as our own salvation is in the mix. – Mt. 18:6
How would you say that we, as Jehovah’s Witnesses, measure up in obeying John 13:35 now? Is our love hypocritical? – Romans 12:9, 10
The Greatest Educational Work in History
It will be interesting to hear how the brothers express themselves during this study. While the study doesn’t claim that the preaching work of Jehovah’s Witnesses is the greatest educational work of all time, there can be little doubt that most will come away with that impression; ignoring the fact that the good news has been preached for the last two millennia resulting in the conversion of one-third of the earth’s population to some form of Christianity with only a token contribution to the effort by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Nevertheless, we will not discredit the sincere and zealous work of millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses who are truly trying to do their best to help their fellow humans come to an understanding of the Scriptures as they comprehend them.
Still, we need to be even-handed so as not to get a distorted view of our own importance. We may be very impressed by the 2,900 Jehovah’s Witness translators working to render our publications into the many tiny language groups in the world today; but let us remember that before we came along, others were (and still are) busy translating not only their literature, but much more important, the Holy Scriptures into these minority languages. Paragraph 9 mentions the work of our team to translate our publications into Mayan and Nepali. That’s laudable. We have yet to translate the NWT into these languages, but fear not, these people can verify our teachings by using other existing translations of the Bible into their native tongue. A simple google search will provide you with links for free on-line download of these and hundreds of other Bible translations in little used and arcane languages. Obviously, other non-JW evangelizers have been hard at work over the years.[iii]
The article chooses to ignore all that, because our purpose it to foster the belief that we are the one true Christian church on earth. All others are false. It is true that almost all the others teach falsehoods like the Trinity, hellfire and the immortality of the soul. Nevertheless, we have our own false teachings as we have shown in other posts on this site. So if teaching only true doctrine is the measuring stick, we’re as bent as the rest. It’s just that our bend goes in a different direction.
Why They Believe
Departing from our opening principle expressed in Romans 12:2 to prove God’s will from His Word, paragraphs 13-18 attempt to use personal accounts, opinions and anecdotes to prove we have the truth. How does this differ from the personal testimonials of faith one finds on any other church’s web site or TV program?
If we viewed such testimonials on some Evangelical web site or TV show, we’d discount them out of hand, probably with a supercilious smirk. Yet, here we are using them ourselves without the slightest awareness of the hypocrisy we present.
What Must We Do with the Truth?
More than any other reason for believing we are the only true Christians on earth today, Jehovah’s Witnesses will point to the preaching work we do. We believe that only we are preaching the good news worldwide.
If true, that would indeed be a defining factor.
A simple google search on “good news” or related keywords will show that every Christian religion claims to be spreading the gospel of the good news. Many preach that the good news relates to the Kingdom of God which they believe is near.
We discredit such claims, teaching that they are preaching a counterfeit kingdom.
Is this true? Let us follow the counsel from the article’s theme Scripture and prove this for ourselves from God’s word.
Paragraph 20 states: “As dedicated Witnesses of Jehovah, we are convinced that we have the truth and are aware of our privilege to teach others the good news of God’s Kingdom rule.”
We teach the good news of God’s Kingdom rule.
That phrase does not appear in the Bible. Why would we say the good news is about God’s Kingdom rule? Ask any Jehovah’s Witness what the good news is about, and he’ll answer “God’s Kingdom”. Ask him to be more specific and he’ll say that God’s Kingdom will soon begin to rule the earth and it will eliminate all pain and suffering. Good news indeed, wouldn’t you say? However, is that the good news we are supposed to be preaching? Is that the Good News Jesus imparted to us?
Since it is God’s will that Christians preach the good news, we want to make sure we’re preaching the right good news. Otherwise, we could be doing what we claim all the other religions of Christendom are doing—preaching of the “good news” in vain.
The phrase “good news” occurs 131 times in the Christian Scriptures. In only 10 of those occurrences is it linked to kingdom. However, it is referred to as the “good news about Jesus” or the “good news about the Christ” twice as often. Most frequently it is found without a qualifier, since its meaning was already clear to the reader of that time.
News is by definition something new. God’s kingdom has always existed, so while very, very good, it hardly qualifies as news. Jesus came with something both good and new. He preached the good news of an new kingdom. Eight of the ten references to it were made by him. What new kingdom was Jesus preaching about? Not God’s pre-existing universal kingdom, but the soon-to-come kingdom of his Son. (Col. 1:13; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:11)
Please try something for yourself. Using the Watchtower library program, enter (with quotes) the phrase “good news” into the search box and hit Enter. Now using the Plus key jump to each occurrence and read the immediate context. It will take some time, but it’s worth it as you are trying to prove what is “the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” for you personally.
See if you can find support for the idea that we should be preaching primarily an earthly hope and life forever in paradise on earth. Is that the hope being extended to Christians? Is that the purpose of our preaching mission? Is that the good news that Jesus was sharing?
We are not suggesting that there is no earthly hope. Not at all! The question is, what is the good news that Jesus wanted us to preach?
If it is as Jehovah’s Witnesses say, then your search of every reference to the phrase should bear that out. However, if we may be allowed to provide a hint, consider what paragraph 19 of the Watchtower study has to say:
“For if you publicly declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.” (Ro 10:9, 10)
Based on the context of Romans, what kind of salvation was Paul preaching? What kind of resurrection was Paul preaching? The Kingdom of the Christ, the Messianic Kingdom will eventually restore the earth to a paradise. That is, of course, good news. However, the offer being extended to Christians in this time before the end is of a different good news.
Restoring God’s Name
The article also makes the claim that we alone have restored God’s name to its rightful place in the Scriptures. We are also publishing his name around the earth. Wonderful! Laudable! Praiseworthy! But that isn’t the good news. It is fine that we have restored God’s name to its rightful place in the Hebrew Scriptures and it is wonderful that we are making it known, for it has been too long hidden from the minds of Christians. However, let us not get off track. To apply Jesus’ words to our case, “These things it was binding to do, yet not to disregard the other things.” – Mt. 23:23
Using God’s name does not free us from the binding obligation to preach the good news of the Christ, which means holding out the hope to serve with him in his kingdom. Using and preaching Jehovah’s name while blocking access to the kingdom puts us in danger of those who will say, “Jehovah, Jehovah, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?” – Mt. 7:22 [paraphrased for emphasis]
This is one of those feel-good, give-yourself-a-pat-on-the-back studies that comes along every once and a while to get us to view our Organization as “simply the best. Better than all the rest. Better than anyone.” – Romans 12:3
Let us listen to Jesus who through Paul tells us to ‘prove for ourselves what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.’ It is time to stop listening to the propaganda of men and listen instead to the pure waters of truth from God’s word speaking to us directly through holy spirit.
[i] See “Why We Observe the Lord’s Evening Meal”, w15 1/15 p. 13
[ii] For a detailed discussion of this topic, see “Kiss the Son”.
[iii] While not a complete list, an example of the extensive work done by other Christian denominations can be seen here: “List of Bible translations by language”.