[Watchtower study for the week of April 28, 2014 – w14 2/15 p. 21]
Par. 1,2 – “Jehovah, our heavenly Father, is the Giver of life…we, his human children…have the ability to maintain friendships.” Thus, deftly, we address the thorny issue of how we can be God’s children, yet not his children, and we lay the groundwork for a teaching designed to deny us even the hope for the inheritance due the children of an heir.
Par. 3 – “Abraham my friend.” We are about to instruct Christians, followers of Christ, about their relationship with God, so what example do we use? Christ? One of the apostles? No. We go back to pre-Christian times—indeed, pre-Israelite times—and focus on Abraham. Why? It would appear because he is the only one in the entire Bible referred to as God’s friend.
We read James 2:21-23 to make this point. Notice that Abraham’s faith was counted to him as righteousness and thus he came to be called God’s friend. Paul references the same scripture as James at Romans 4:2 noting in the context that Abraham was “declared righteous”. Farther on in the same letter, Paul again uses the phrase but this time in connection with Christians whom he refers to as the chosen ones.
“Who will file accusation against God’s chosen ones? God is the One who declares them righteous.” (Romans 8:33 NWT)
About these he says,
“We know that God makes all his works cooperate together for the good of those who love God, those who are the ones called according to his purpose; 29 because those whom he gave his first recognition he also foreordained to be patterned after the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 Moreover, those whom he foreordained are the ones he also called; and those whom he called are the ones he also declared to be righteous. Finally those whom he declared righteous are the ones he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30 NTW)
These “chosen ones” are the ones declared righteous, like Abraham was, but the difference is that Christ has now died, so these ones are become the brothers of Christ, hence the sons of God in the manner of the Christ. There is nothing here, or anywhere else in the Christian Scriptures to show that Christians are God’s friends, not his sons.
Par. 4 – “Abraham’s descendants who became the nation of ancient Israel originally had Jehovah as their Father and Friend.” No scriptural reference is provided to support this statement. Why? Because it is false. Jehovah was their God. He was also called the Father of the nation, but only Abraham is called God’s friend in the Hebrew Scriptures. Not even Isaac and Jacob had that honor. The idea that the nation of Israel, which seemed to spend more time rebelling against Him than serving Him faithfully, was God’s friend is absurd.
If you go to a powerful man in your community to appeal for protection when you need it, on what basis do you request his help? If he is your friend, then you appeal on the basis of that friendship. If he isn’t your friend, but was your grandfather’s friend, you appeal on that basis. When enemies were attacking Israel, did good king Jehoshaphat appeal for God’s help on the basis of God’s friendship with Israel? Here his own words:
“O Lord God of our ancestors, you are the God who lives in heaven and rules over all the kingdoms of the nations. You possess strength and power; no one can stand against you. 7Our God, you drove out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and gave it as a permanent possession to the descendants of your friend Abraham.” (2 Ch. 20:6,7 NET Bible)
At Isaiah 41:8,9, Jehovah refers to the Israelites as his chosen servant, “the offspring of Abraham my friend.” If they were also his friends and he, theirs, then why not say so? Why, instead, refer to his friendship for their long-dead ancestor.
That they should declare Jehovah as the nation’s friend is patently false and shows the lengths to which we are willing to go to shore up our failing doctrine. Unfortunately, it is only failing for a few. The many will lap this up because we’ve been well trained not to question or doubt. We have become like the Catholics and Protestants we long disdained, blindly following those who blindly lead.
Par. 5, 6 – “Then you came to realize that our loving Father is not a remote person who is not interested in us…we began to build a friendship with God.” In one sentence he is our Father, but in the next we are building a friendship with him. Imagine yourself an orphan. All your life you’ve wondered about the father you never knew. Then one day you learn he’s still alive. He finds you and you are reunited. What is now your fondest wish? Is it to come to know him as a friend? Do you think, “How wonderful, I have a new friend”? Of course not. You want the one thing you’ve never had: a father. You want to know him, yes, but as a father. It is a father/son relationship you will strive to build.
Par. 7-9 – We now use the example of Gideon to further our argument, though in fact it doesn’t. (Notice that no examples are taking from Christian times. That would raise the spectre of sonship which would be difficult to explain away.) There is much to be learned from the account of Gideon. One thing is clear. Gideon was a faithful servant of God and Jehovah loved him. A master may love his servant deeply, but that doesn’t make them friends. Abraham began as God’s servant, but was given a special status due to his faith. Not so Gideon.
Since this account doesn’t advance the article’s argument one iota, why is it here? Simply because filler is needed. With only one individual in the Bible ever called Jehovah’s friend, we quickly run out of material to discuss. Using Gideon is shrewd. I’m sure that the majority of Witnesses will return home from the meeting convinced that Gideon was also called God’s friend.
Par. 10-13 – “WHO WILL BE ‘A GUEST IN JEHOVAH’S TENT?”
Imagine you have paid your tuition to study electronics and in your first day of class, you open the text book to find that it’s all about vacuum tubes? What was cutting edge electronics back in the 1940s, has now been replaced by something better—transistors and integrated circuits the size of a thumbnail. The professor’s reasoning is that the old electronics still work, and since he had the old text books in stock, why not make us of them. I imagine that at that point you would be demanding your tuition back.
David wrote under inspiration about what he knew, because it was not the time for Jehovah to reveal something better. It was Jesus who revealed something David would never have envisioned: The opportunity for humans to become God’s sons and rule with the promised Messiah in heaven. This is the hope held out to Christians. A friend may reside as a guest in God’s tent, but for the son, it is his place of residence. He is no guest.
We use these paragraphs to extoll all the good Christian qualities we should develop and preserve so as to remain God’s friends. The fact is, we should do these things to remain his children.
“Controlling what we say about others help preserve closeness with Jehovah. Especially is this true of our attitude regarding appointed men in the congregation.” While not disagreeing with this statement, one can’t help but wonder at the increasing frequency with which we get such reminders to be obedient and submissive.
Par. 14, 15 – “HELP OTHERS TO BECOME JEHOVAH’S FRIENDS” From this subtitle, it is clear that the good news we are called upon to preach by the Organization is intended to help people to become God’s friends. Examine the Christian Scriptures for yourself. Search out “friend” in the WT Library, then do the same with “children” and “sons”. See if the good news Jesus or his disciples preached ever carried the message of “friendship with God”.
Did Jesus say, “Happy are the peacemakers, since they will be called friends of God”; or “…prove yourselves friends to your Father”; or “as for the fine seed, these are the friends of the Kingdom”; or “Those not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not loved, ‘beloved’; and in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘friends of the living God.’”? I could go on, but it gets increasing ludicrous. (Matthew 5:9, 45; 13:38; Romans 9:26)
All the evidence—all the evidence—points to the fact that the message of good news that Jesus and his disciples preached was one of reconciliation to God as part of his family; as sons. This is the good news about the Christ which we are commanded to preach. Why do we disobey? We do we dare to change it to another good news, considering the consequences. (Gal. 1:8, 9)
Par. 16, 17 – “All who are dedicated to Jehovah have the privilege of being considered both his friends and his “fellow workers. (Read 1 Corinthians 3:9)” Reading this statement with the scriptural reference, one would naturally think that verse 9 of First Corinthians would speak of being God’s friend and fellow worker. It does not. “Fellow worker”, Yes. “Friend”, No. There is no mention of God being our friend anywhere in the context, nor in the entire letter for that matter. Paul does talk about Christians being “holy ones” and “God’s temple”. He refers to the Galatians as brothers, since they and he were God’s sons. (1 Cor. 1:2; 3:1, 16) But he makes no mention of being God’s friends.
Par. 18-21 – “…how do we individually rate our personal communication with our best Friend, Jehovah? True, he is the “Hearer of prayer.” (Ps. 65:2) But how often do we take the initiative to speak to him?” And just how are we to pray to him, to our “best Friend” that is? Like this?
“Our friend in the heavens, let your name be sanctified…”
I’m sorry, Dear Reader,if that sounds a might facetious, but this teaching is so outrageous and so offensive to the whole concept of Christianity that it leaves one no choice but to engage in some constructive mocking. (There is precedent: 1 Kings 18:27)
The article closes with: “…Jehovah truly is our Father, our God, and our Friend.” This is so misleading for it isn’t really what we teach. The average witness will leave the study convinced he is both a son of God and His friend. If they believe that is what the Governing Body teaches, then they haven’t been paying attention.
(w12 7/15 p. 28 par. 7)
Although Jehovah has declared his anointed ones righteous as sons and the other sheep righteous as friends on the basis of Christ’s ransom sacrifice, personal differences will arise as long as any of us are alive on earth in this system of things.
I ask you, How can God be my Father while I am only his friend? That makes no sense. Jehovah can be my Father and my Friend, and I can be his son and his friend. But he cannot be my Father and Friend, while I remain only his friend and not his son. I feel like someone is arguing that 2 plus 2 equals a million and I’m trying to show how stupid that is, but he’s just not getting it.