[From ws 15/01 p. 13 for March 9-15]
“Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” – 1 Cor. 11:24
A more appropriate title for this week’s Watchtower study would be “How We Observe the Lord’s Evening Meal.” The “why” is answered in the article’s opening paragraph. After that, the rest of the article is intended to instruct the eight million Jehovah’s Witnesses on how we observe the Memorial. This instruction can be summed up in one sentence: Jehovah’s Witnesses observe the Lord’s Evening Meal by observing the Lord’s Evening Meal.
That is not gobbledygook. The sentence makes perfect sense when you consider these two definitions for the verb “to observe” taken from the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary:
- Mark or acknowledge (a festival, anniversary, etc.) by due rites; perform (a ceremony, rite, etc.)
- Take notice of; be aware of seeing; remark, perceive, see.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are instructed not to observe (perform a ceremony or due rites; i.e., partake of the emblems) the Lord’s Evening Meal, but merely to observe (take notice, be aware of seeing, watch) it.
In a nutshell, that is all this article is about. However, is this true? Is this really what Jesus wants us to do when we gather together on April 3rd, 2015 to commemorate his death?
Why We Observe the Memorial
Let us go back to the “why” in keeping with the article’s title. The theme text is taken from 1 Corinthians 11:24. However, many verses from that chapter are referenced and quoted in the article. Here they are:
“When you come together in one place, it is not really to eat the Lord’s Evening Meal. 21 For when you eat it, each one takes his own evening meal beforehand, so that one is hungry but another is intoxicated. 22 Do you not have houses for eating and drinking? Or do you despise the congregation of God and make those who have nothing feel ashamed? What can I say to you? Should I commend you? In this I do not commend you. 23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night on which he was going to be betrayed 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 the same with the cup also, after they had the evening meal, saying: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood. Keep doing this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he comes. 27 Therefore, whoever eats the loaf or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be guilty respecting the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 First let a man approve himself after scrutiny, and only then let him eat of the loaf and drink of the cup. 29 For the one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment against himself. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and quite a few are sleeping in death. 31 But if we would discern what we ourselves are, we would not be judged. 32 However, when we are judged, we are disciplined by Jehovah, so that we may not become condemned with the world. 33 Consequently, my brothers, when you come together to eat it, wait for one another. 34 If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that when you come together it is not for judgment. But as for the remaining matters, I will put them in order when I get there.” (1Co 11:20-34)
The reason that verse 26 is greyed out is that it is the only verse not referenced even once in this entire Watchtower study. This is particularly strange because it is the one verse that answers the question posed by the article’s title.
Question: Why do we observe the Lord’s Evening Meal?
Answer: To proclaim him until he arrives.
We only focus on verse 24 which says that we observe in remembrance. You can remember without doing anything but you cannot proclaim without doing anything. Remembrance fits right in with the idea of a multitude of silent, passive observers. However, for an organization that puts preaching and proclamation on the highest of pedestals, it must seem odd to the casual observer that we’d pass on the opportunity to bring this front and center.
Nevertheless, it’s not really odd at all. Focusing on verse 26 would require us to deal with some uncomfortable questions. Even verse 24 raises questions if we read all of it and not just the phrase “keep doing this in remembrance of me.” As you can see above, that phrase occurs twice, once in verse 23 and again in 24. Each time he says it, he is passing the emblems—the bread and the wine. So his apostles were eating the bread and drinking the wine when Jesus said “keep doing this…”. Then in verse 26 the apostle Paul clarifies the purpose. The action of eating the bread, and the action of drinking the wine, amounts to a public proclamation of the Lord’s existence prior to his public manifestation upon his return.
Action! Action! Action! There is nothing here about a group that will stand off to one side, silently observing while holding themselves back from any form of participation.
So why does the article contradict this idea?
What Does the Evidence Point to?
According to the Governing Body, Christians need some sort of clear evidence that they should partake. Barring that, they are required only to attend and observe.
“Gratitude to God and his Son should move us to be present at the commemoration of Jesus’ death, thus obeying the command: ‘Keep doing this in remembrance of me.’” – Par. 5
“We would never want to show disrespect for Jesus’ sacrifice. So we do not partake of the emblems if we do not have clear evidence that we are anointed.” (Simplified Edition)
What is this evidence? Where is the instruction to Christians on what they must do if they lack this evidence?
There is an even more serious question to consider. Jesus gave his disciples a command: “Keep doing this.” He said nothing about standing as quiet observers. He was talking about partaking of the bread and wine. So if we don’t partake, we are disobeying Jesus. Disobedience to our Lord is a death sentence. So we really need a counter command to be safe, don’t we? We need something that is clearly from our Lord which directs us not to partake if we fail to meet certain criteria, or if we fall into a different category of Christian. Where do we find such a directive? It clearly isn’t good enough to say on Judgment Day, “I didn’t obey you Lord, because these guys told me not to.” The excuse that “I was just following orders” simply won’t cut it then.
So again, what “clear evidence” is the Governing Body providing to us?
Paragraph 14 states: “Those who partake of the Memorial emblems are absolutely sure that they are part of the new covenant.” Being absolutely sure of something does not constitute evidence. Millions are absolutely sure there is no God. Millions more are absolutely sure that man evolved from single celled organisms.
How Can We Know?
How did the apostles know they were members in the New Covenant? Was it because they had some mysterious revelation only they were privy to? Not at all. They knew because someone with impeccable credentials whom they trusted implicitly told them so. Jesus said, “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood.” (1Co 11:25) There was no miraculous self-awareness.
How did the Israelites know they were in the Law Covenant? Again, people they trusted taught them and their words were backed up by the holy writings. There was no miraculous self-awareness.
How did any of Jehovah’s servants know they were in any of the covenants and/or agreements God made with them? Again, they were told by sources that were unimpeachable. There was no moment of miraculous calling.
I believed I was not in the new covenant, but was one of the “other sheep” (as defined by Jehovah’s Witnesses) with an earthly hope, because my parents—two people I trusted implicitly—told me so. They in turn believed because their Bible instructors—again, people they trusted implicitly—told them so. They in turn believed because someone higher up the spiritual food chain instructed them. This trust made us let down our guard. We did not verify from the holy writings to see if these things were so. (1Jo 4:1)
It is time to stop trusting uninspired humans and to start verifying what we are told in the light of Scripture.
Paragraph 15 continues, “The anointed know that they are also part of the Kingdom covenant. (Read Luke 12:32)” How do they know? Luke 12:32 does not provide the answer unless we want to accept circular reasoning as valid proof.
The Doctrinal Linchpin
So what is our “clear evidence” that we are in, or not in, the New Covenant?
“God’s spirit ‘bears witness’ with them, so that they know without a doubt that they are his anointed sons.” – Par. 16, quoting from Romans 8:16
That’s it! This is the only Scripture ever used to support our teaching that the anointed are miraculously called out from the larger group of Christians. It is the linchpin of our teaching.
Let us be clear. The Governing Body is basing your—YOUR—hope of salvation on their interpretation of precisely how God’s spirit “bears witness”. Based on this interpretation, they are telling you that you can disobey a direct command of Jesus to partake. In fact, they are telling you that to partake shows disrespect for the Son of God, which is a sin.
Let us use some reasoning here. The Governing Body claim to be the Faithful and Discreet slave. They must therefore be the very epitome of faithfulness and discretion (wisdom). Is that reflected in their teachings. This is important, because we are basing our hope of salvation on their unique interpretation of Romans 8:16. To answer that, let us examine just one example of their track record, the minor point of whether the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah will return in the resurrection. Their position has changed a total of seven times! (w1879/7 p. 8, original WT position: Yes. Under alleged FDS: w52 6/1 p. 338, No; w65 8/1 p. 479, Yes; w88 6/1 p. 31, No; pe first edition, p. 179, Yes; pe later edition, p. 179, No; Insight II, p. 985, Yes; re p. 273, No)
Are you prepare to hang your hope of salvation on this singular human interpretation of Romans 8:16?
Does the context of Romans 8 support such a view?
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit, on the things of the spirit. 6 For setting the mind on the flesh means death, but setting the mind on the spirit means life and peace;” (Ro 8:5, 6)
Only two groups are spoken of, not three. One group dies, the other lives in peace. According to vs. 14, the second group are God’s sons.
“However, you are in harmony, not with the flesh, but with the spirit, if God’s spirit truly dwells in you. But if anyone does not have Christ’s spirit, this person does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in union with you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness.” (Ro 8:9, 10)
Either God’s spirit is in you or it is not. Either Christ’s spirit is in you and you belong to him, or it is not and you belong to the world. Again, no provision is made in Romans for a third approved group.
“For all who are led by God’s spirit are indeed God’s sons. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but you received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: “Abba, Father!” 16 The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Ro 8:14-16)
The group with the spirit are God’s sons. The group without the spirit are of the world, the flesh. There is no mention of a third group that has his spirit, but are not his sons, just his friends. If we have his spirit, we are his children. If we don’t have his spirit, we are dead.
We teach that God somehow makes certain individuals aware that they are his sons. Since we teach every child brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness and every new student we find along the way that they are not of this group, the teaching becomes self-fulfilling. Like the cult leader that says he speaks to God, we must believe, because we don’t hear God’s voice so we know God doesn’t speak to us. Still, there’s no way we can prove that the cult leader hears God either. Despite all that, if we are going to accept his rule over us, we have to accept and believe that God does speak to him.
We are expected to accept this interpretation as a matter of faith—faith in men. Jehovah’s Witnesses are listening to men, obeying men and still expecting to be blessed. There is one man we are told to listen to, one man we are told to obey. However, doing so will put us in opposition to the instruction from the Governing Body. On the bright side, obeying Jesus does result in blessings. (Ac 3:23; Mt 17:5)
What Is Not There
There is more clear evidence that the interpretation of the Governing Body is wrong. It is found in what is missing. If we accept that there is a secondary class of Christian, where is the evidence? If only 144,000 go to heaven and eight million remain on earth, then where is Jesus’ provision for the 99.9% that are not God’s children? Where does he speak of a group that are God’s friends, not his sons? Where is mention made of a group that does not enter into the new covenant? Where are we told of a group of Christians who do not have Jesus as their mediator? Where does he provide instructions on how to observe his memorial to this group so that they can rest assured that they are not showing him disrespect by withholding their participation?
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego showed up and were present when the ceremony to worship the golden image was called. They observed the ceremony. They were only thrown into the fiery furnace for refusing to participate. If an unrighteous human king views presence without participation as an affront, how much more will a righteous King calling for participation in a righteous ceremony view it so? (Da 3:1-30)
To Whom Do You Belong?
Song 62 of the new songbook start out this way:
To whom do you belong?
Which god do you now obey?
Your master is he to whom you bow.
He is your god; you serve him now.
You cannot serve two gods;
Both masters can never share
The love of your heart in its ev’ry part.
To neither you would be fair.
Jesus gave you a clear command:
“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 the same with the cup also, after they had the evening meal, saying: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood. Keep doing this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”” (1Co 11:24, 25)
The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has given you a clear command:
“No dedicated servant of Jehovah and faithful follower of his Son would want to show disrespect for Jesus’ sacrifice by partaking of the Memorial emblems if he or she actually lacks clear evidence of being an anointed Christian.” – Par 13
The question now is: To whom do YOU belong?