[From ws15/02 p. 10 for April 13-19]
“Though you never saw him, you love him. Though you do not
see him now, yet you exercise faith in him.” – 1 Peter 1:8 NWT
In this week’s study, there is a footnote for paragraph 2 that reads,
“First Peter 1:8, 9 was written to Christians with the heavenly hope. In principle, however, those words also apply to individuals who have the earthly hope.”
We readily admit that these words were written only to those with a heavenly hope.[i]
This raises the question, “Why didn’t Peter also include those with an earthly hope?” Surely he was aware of an earthly hope. Surely Jesus preached an earthly hope. In fact, he did not, and our admission that these words can only apply “in principle” demonstrates we are aware of this omission of an earthly hope from the scriptural record. True, millions—even billions—will be resurrected to earth as part of the resurrection of the unrighteous. (Acts 24:15) However, they get there without ‘exercising faith’ in Jesus. That is hardly a ‘goal of their faith’.
Having no scriptural basis to apply 1 Peter 1:8, 9 to the millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses the Governing Body has convinced to hope for imperfect life on earth, they must fall back on the latest iteration of the hackneyed “by extension” ploy.
Jesus Is Courageous/Imitate Jesus’ Courage
Under the first of these two subheadings (pars. 3 thru 6) we learn how Jesus boldly defended the truth and stood up to the religious authorities of his day who were invalidating God’s word by their traditions, lording it over the flock of God and abusing their authority. Under the second subheading (pars. 7 thru 9) we’re given examples of how we can imitate Jesus’ courage.
Young ones are encouraged to identify themselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses in school in a display of courage. All of us are encouraged to speak “with boldness by the authority of Jehovah” in our ministry in imitation of Paul and his companions in Iconium.
We should pause here to correct a mistake in paragraph 8. It wasn’t by the authority of Jehovah that Paul and his companions mustered up boldness. The original Greek reads literally, “they stayed speaking boldly for the Lord”. That the conjectural emendation used to justify the insertion of Jehovah here is misguided can be demonstrated by the context. It speaks of the signs and wonders they were granted to perform by “the word of the grace of him” [interlinear]. It was in the name of Jesus, not Jehovah, that the apostles performed signs of healing. (Acts 3:6) We can also be assured that the phrase “the authority of the Lord” refers to Jesus, not Jehovah. Jehovah gave Jesus “all authority…in heaven and on the earth.” (Mt 28:18) Paul was not about to shift the focus of authority back to God, when God himself had set the focus on the Lord. Sadly, we fail to imitate Paul in this, seeming to never miss an opportunity in our publications of late to pull the limelight off Jesus.
Paragraph 9 speaks of showing courage “in the face of suffering”. Application is made for the need to imitate Jesus’ courage when someone we love dies; when we are suffering serious illness or injury; when we are depressed; when we are persecuted.
Our brothers in Korea are suffering persecution for their courageous stand of neutrality. However, for the millions of us living elsewhere, we have rarely if ever known persecution from without. Nevertheless, a small but growing number of true Christians in the Organization are beginning to experience the same type of persecution Jesus suffered. What can be learned from Jesus’ courageous example?
Being faithful to the truth will put you at odds with the religious authority of our Organization. Speaking up to overturn strongly entrenched false doctrines using the power of God’s word will cause those who feel their authority is being undermined to attack, just as the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day did. Make no mistake, we are at war. (2Co 10:3-6; He 4:12, 13; Eph 6:10-20)
There are many in the Organization who have allowed their love of truth to be dulled by fear of man. To excuse their inaction, they fall back on faulty reasoning and scriptural misapplication, spouting clichés like, “We must wait on Jehovah” or “We mustn’t run ahead”. They overlook the clear direction found at James 4:17:
“Therefore, if someone knows how to do what is right and yet does not do it, it is a sin for him.” – James 4:17.
It is all well and good to say that we should be courageous in standing up for truth, but how should we go about doing it? The second part of The Watchtower study will, ironically, provide the answer.
Jesus Is Discerning
Paragraph 10 opens with this statement:
Discernment is good judgment—the ability to tell right from wrong and then choose the wise course. (Heb. 5:14) It has been defined as “the ability to make sound judgments in spiritual matters.”
This statement, if applied fully, clashes with our teaching that the instruction we get from the Governing Body, in its assumed capacity as “The Faithful Slave”, must be obeyed without question. However, faithful Christians are not about to surrender their ability to discern right from wrong to a group of men. Such ones will continue to imitate the Christ in discernment and in all other things—including his love of truth.
Imitate Jesus’ Discernment
Paragraph 15 gives good counsel on imitating Jesus’ discernment in our speech. Often his words were up-building, but at times he chose to tear down, such as when he had to unmask the unrighteousness of the Pharisees. Even then he built up, for he helped others to see the religious leaders of his day as they truly were, not as they projected themselves to be.
When not denouncing hypocrisy, Jesus’ words were always ‘seasoned with salt’. His desire was never to exalt himself and his own wisdom, but to win the hearts and minds of those who would listen. (Col 4:6) It seems that our greatest preaching and teaching opportunities today are with our immediate JW brethren. Here we have a people who have already come so far. They have rejected involvement in war. They refuse to become involved with the political affairs of this world. In this, they imitate their Lord. (Mt 4:8-10; John 18:36) They have rejected many of the false, god-dishonoring doctrines that the vast majority of Christians practice such as idol worship, the Trinity, hellfire, and the immortality of the human soul.
But we still fall short and lately it seems that we are going backwards. We have begun to idolize men. Additionally, though God has given us ample time (2Pe 3:9), we continue to adhere to traditions of men and teach them as doctrines of God. (Mt 15:9; 15:3, 6) Traditions stem from men and are continually observed even where there is no sound basis for them. Despite the total lack of solid Scriptural support, we continue to believe and teach 1914 as significant, because that’s what we started with back 140 years ago and it distinguishes us from all other religions. We teach that the other sheep are a secondary class of Christians denied the hope that Jesus offered to the world because, 80 years ago, our then-President offered it up as truth. Though we have recently disavowed his entire basis for this teaching (unfounded types and antitypes) we continue to practice this belief—the very definition of a tradition.
Let those of us who have been set free from the traditions of men imitate the discernment of Christ in knowing when to speak, when to remain silent, and what words to use—words ‘seasoned with salt’. Often, it is best to start with one point. Ask questions rather than make statements. Lead them to the conclusion so that they arrive there of their own accord. We can drag a horse to water, but we can’t make it drink. Likewise, we can lead a man to truth, but we can’t make him think.
If we find resistance, we’d best to act with caution. We have pearls of wisdom, but not all will appreciate them. (Mt 10:16; 7:6)
At the end of paragraph 16 we find the statement: “We are willing to listen to their opinions and when appropriate yield to their viewpoint.” If only our brothers held to this counsel when it came to scripturally-based challenges to the authority of the Governing Body.
Paragraph 18 states:
Has it not been delightful to reflect on some of Jesus’ appealing qualities? Imagine how rewarding it would be to make a study of his other qualities and learn how we can be more like him. Let us, then, be determined to follow his steps closely.
We could not agree more. How very sad that we do not do this. In magazine after magazine we focus on the organization and its accomplishments. In the monthly broadcasts on tv.jw.org, we focus on the organization and the Governing Body. Why not use these powerful teaching tools to do the very thing that paragraph 18 says would be most “delightful” and “rewarding”?
The “food at the proper time” which the Governing Body dispenses does not dwell much on Jesus Christ. But by imitating both the courage and discernment of Jesus rather than the earthly wisdom of sinful humans, we will use every opportunity given us to bear witness for him and to declare all the counsel of God, and we will not hold back. (Acts 20:25-27)
[i] I refer to the heavenly hope here in the context in which Jehovah’s Witnesses understand it. To do otherwise might derail the core theme of this post’s review of the article. However, I no longer believe that the heavenly hope means that all Jesus’ brothers fly off to heaven never to return. Exactly what it refers to and how the realization of that hope will unfold is something we can only guess at right now. They may be educated guesses, but the reality is bound to blow us away. (1Co 13:12, 13)