(Originally printed in the July/August 1996 Issue of the MCOI Journal)
I have had some very interesting discussions with Jehovah’s Witnesses* via our computer on-line service over the last few years. Many of the JWs who dialogue on-line feel it is their duty to defend the WTBTS** against “anti-JWs,” as they call us, even though the WTBTS has, in recent years, made it clear to JWs that they are not to be dialoguing with “apostates” (former JWs) or “opposers” (me, and others like me who never have been Witnesses) on the computer on-line services. They seem to feel that the average JW could possibly be led astray if they were to read the information we put on the board They are right about that, we hope.
Many of the JWs who “post” on-line are diehards, people who seem impervious to criticism of the WTBTS. You could show them that Rutherford played footsie wilh Hitler during WW2 and, indeed we have shown them that and they seem unmoved. But there are many who we call “readers” or “lurkers,” folks who do not venture into the fray, but only read what other people on both sides are posting. These are the folks whose hearts and minds we hope to reach. Sometimes they will venture on-line to ask questions, to find out who we are, and why we are there. One of these was Thomas, a JW who asked some questions of “our side,” thought-fill questions that I felt deserved an answer.
Question #1: Are not other organized religious denominations to be put under the same scrutiny that the JWs have been put under?
My answer: Thomas, have you ever read the magazine called the Watchtower? That is my facetious answer. My real answer is…
Yes. I do believe that any organized religion should be put under scrutiny: and I believe that it is my responsibility to scrutinize even the church that I attend, and speak up where I feel that things are not scripturally correct.
But I think your question may imply something more than was actually stated… in other words, what makes “us” better? Do we feel at our churches are so perfect, so good and clean that we can throw stones at the WTBTS? I have tried to identify with a JW’s feelings about our opposition. It is possible, I reason, that JWs may view the conflict here as one of a clash of organizations: and believe that we are trying to draw JWs away from the WTBTS so we can introduce them to an alternative “God’s Organization” to be found somewhere in “Christendom.” In reality, we believe that God does not have an organization at all, but wishes our devotion and loyalty to go to Him alone. Like the word “Trinity’,” the word “organization” does not appear in the Bible, but unlike the Trinity, the concept is not to be found there either.
In this, I find myself to be in perfect agreement with C.T. Russell, founder of the Society, who states in the Zion’s Watch Tower of September 1, 1893,
“There is no organization today clothed with divine authority to imperiously command mankind. There is no organization doing this today, though we are all well aware that many of them claim that they ought to be permitted to do so…”
Also, his statement in the Zion’s Watch Tower of September 15, 1895,
“Beware of ‘organization.’ It is wholly unnecessary. The Bible rules will be the only ones that you will need. Do not seek to bind others consciences, and do not permit others to bind yours. Believe and obey only so far as you can understand God’s word today, and so continue growing in grace and knowledge and love day by day.”
So, no matter who I may be talking to, whether it is a JW, or a Mormon, or a nominal Christian from one denomination or another who may believe that allegiance to some particular denomination or church group will save him, my response would be to show them from the scripture that God’s will, “Jehovah’s arrangement” if you prefer, is for them to come to Jesus for salvation (John 5:39-40). If a person were relying upon the church I attend to save them, I would tell them the same thing. So one major reason that I expose the flaws of the Watch Tower Society is because they ask for the loyalty from their people that belongs to God alone. “Come to Jehovah’s Organization for salvation.” states the November 15. 1981, Watchtower, p21. But Jesus tells us to come to Him (Matthew 11:28). The Watchtower is not good or clean or “God’s Organization;” that is what I proclaim to those who will listen. Salvation is not organizational, but personal.
One step further…Mark 10:18 states that there is none good but God alone. Since God’s standard of “goodness” is perfection, the church I attend is not perfect either. It is made up of imperfect men. What Paul states in Romans 3:9-12 about individuals can be applied to organizations made up of imperfect individuals as well. “What then?” Paul asks,
“Are we better than they? Not at all: for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks [everyone| are all under sin. As it is written: there is none righteous, not even one: there is none who understands: there are none who seek for God;All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, there is not even one.”
Uh oh…we’re all in trouble! Paul goes on to say in verse 19 that the law pronounces us all guilty so
“that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may be accountable to God.”
That is the bad, bad news. But the good news for the Christian is found in verses 21-24; that God is going to give us righteousness as a GIFT through faith in Jesus Christ, Paul says,
“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness that comes by faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Jesus Christ.”
Jesus is the only one who is good and clean and we are to go to Him through faith to gain forgiveness. No church or organization can secure this forgiveness for us.
To quote Paul once again from Romans 10:1-4. (NASB) “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them [natural Jews] is for their salvation. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
Paul is not implying here that he is a better person than anyone else, nor does he state in any of his writings that he or the Christians he taught had reached a state of perfection or “betterness” than the unbelieving Jews. As for himself, he called himself “the chief of sinners,” and he was constantly correcting flaws in the churches he wrote to. Indeed, he readily acknowledges that the unbelieving Jews have a zeal for God, and states that their problem is that they do not know that righteousness comes through faith in Christ alone, and cannot be obtained by any zealous performance for God. It was neither hatred, nor self-righteousness, but love which compelled Paul to try to convince the Jews that their own righteousness was going to come up short with regard to eternal salvation. He himself was a Pharisee. He knew that they, his brethren according to the flesh, were relying upon their Jewishness and their system of rules and works to gain God’s approval, and he cared enough about them to tell them this, even though it made them very angry and.,incidentally, it would not have made Paul a very popular guest on Oprah in today’s “truth is relative/sincerity is the only spiritual yardstick” culture.
Question 2: How do you defend the record of Christian churches who, from my point of view, often seem to have become the exact opposite of what Christ intended?
I don’t really defend the record of Christian churches at all, at least as far as attempting to disclaim any wrongdoing or imperfection on their part. I’m not surprised by human imperfection at my age. I feel that the church, meaning the Body of Christ, was established by Christ himself: but just like other good things ordained by God, such as the family and human governments, the church has been marred by the sinful nature still present even in regenerate mankind. There is no perfect family, but no one would suggest that for that reason, family must go. “Family” is good, but sin is bad. It is indeed sad that all of us are susceptible to sin, or families, governments, and churches would be perfect.
But, since I recognize the faults of Christian churches, why then do I continue to point out imperfections in the WTBTS? Very simply this… I do not condemn the WTBTS as a pseudo-Christian group based on their human imperfections, but because:
They claim to be God’s channel and then channel false prophecies continually. A false prophet is categorically different from an “imperfect” prophet!!! Moses and the boys, imperfect sinners all, did not falsely prophesy!
They hypocritically crucify other religious groups for their sins and failings, while minimizing (a gross understatement, I believe) or hiding their own errors.
They do not allow their people the freedom to think independently, or to freely investigate the Society’s checkered past.
They direct the devotion of the people to the Society, and only secondarily to God, and actually replace God as the way of salvation.
When I am asked by JWs why I “hate and attack” Jehovah’s Witnesses, I know that the implication is “Why don’t you pick someone else?” For the record, I “pick on” lots of groups, including many nominal church goers, who do not “know” God in the true sense. Yet, I do have a special love in my heart for JWs. I can’t help it. For me to dialogue more frequently with JWs on-line than with Muslims does not indicate any special “hatred” of JWs, or lack of concern for Muslims, anymore than being a missionary to Ethiopia implies a “hatred” for Ethiopians or lack of interest in the spiritual lives of the people of Australia. I simply care for all, but I am finite. So, I must let someone else “hate” the Muslims!
Question #3: Why is the Trinity one of the standard “tests” of a person’s claim to being a Christian?
It’s a group check, not a personal pass. How would we determine whether a certain group is Christian or not? There must be a “belief yardstick.” The Trinity doctrine is such a yardstick, a tool for dividing the true from the false. Are we looking at a Christian group or a pretender to the title? Having said that, however, I must stress that personal belief in the Trinity doctrine (or any other doctrine) is not a test of Christianity at all. Many millions of people on earth today believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, and even teach it, yet do not know God, and so would not be classified as true Christians at all. Knowledge of God, even correct knowledge as I believe the Trinity to be, does not save anyone. As far as true Christianity is concerned it is who you know, not what you know about who! Eternal life is to “know” God, not to “take in knowledge” of Him, as the NWT incorrectly translates John 17:3.
The Biblical test of a person’s claim to being a Christian, or “in the faith,” is to be found at 2 Corinthians 13:5.
“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith: examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is IN you, unless indeed you fail the test.”
It is the indwelling Christ that makes one a Christian. But how is it possible for a person to dwell inside of you? Nothing is impossible for God. Jesus said at Revelation 3:20,
“Behold. I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door. I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”
Please note that the sheep hear the knock of the Master Himself, which is an invisible, intangible, personal thing. No organization need apply.
Now this is interesting: Who comes in? John 14:16-17 states,
“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another helper, that He may be with you forever: that is. the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it does not behold Him or know Him. but you know Him because He abides with you and will be IN you.”
Salvation is knowing God, and we know Him because He is IN us; there is no other way!
Okay, so the Spirit dwells in us: anyone else in there? It would appear so from verse 23:
“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me. he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him “
The Son is in the Father and the Father is in the Son, and both of them are in the Spirit who dwells in the Christian! Gettin’ pretty crowded in there!
This is the true Christian unity spoken of at John 17:21; our unity as believers is based on our having the same divine person indwelling us.. .one Spirit dwells in us all. It does not mean that we are part of the godhead ourselves, but that our Christian unity is based upon the union within the Godhead. Certainly, it does not mean that we as Christians will agree on everything. Romans chapter 14 makes it clear that there will be much that Christians will not agree on!
Romans 8:9-11 states:
“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. And if Christ is IN you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you.”
Well, I best not dwell on this point any longer,..
Question #4: If there is at “Body of Christ,” how does one identify it? If it is invisible, I am going to have great difficulty, since am quite near-sighted.
Well, first of all, if I were to ask you what a Christian or a Christian group would look like, how might you answer me? Many times, in talking to JWs or Mormons or others, they will quote Matthew 7:16 where Jesus said, “by their fruit you shall know them…” By this they mean: “WE are the only true Christians; just look at the wonderful Christian works we do! WE are the only group practicing the true Christian works, such as XYZ…” (XYZ = door to door proselytizing, political neutrality, no coffee, no cigarettes, baptism for the dead, etc.) But taken in it’s context, Matthew 7 is saying the very OPPOSITE of what they are trying to make it say. Verse 15 shows us that Jesus was speaking not of Christians but of false prophets, and saying “by their fruit you will recognize them.” What fruit is necessary to “recognize” a false prophet? His false prophecies! Apple trees bring forth apples, fig trees bear figs, false prophets produce false prophecies. It’s as sure as a pimple on prom night. Why would we have to inspect their teachings and prophetic utterances’? Because they would LOOK LIKE CHRISTIANS! Think for a moment what you or I might expect Christians to look like. That image is exactly the one that the false prophets will project. How do we know that? Jesus said they would be in sheep’s clothing! They are dressed up like Christians and will appear to be Christians…Neat appearance? Check. Carrying Bible? Check. Theocratic haircut? Check. Friendly smile? Check. Jesus is saying. “Don’t be fooled…these false prophets will look, for all the world, like you will expect My true followers to look.” Hence, we know that we cannot trust our “eyes” to determine the true from the false.
Read Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds (Matthew 12:24-43). According to this parable, will the true Christians be clumped together in a single easily identifiable group? No, they are all mixed up together with the weeds. Jesus said that the evil one sowed weeds of evil among the good Christian wheat. They shall grow together until the harvest, and the harvest will be accomplished by angels under the Lord’s command. The true and the false can be easily confused by human beings. Like the wheat and the weeds of the parable, they look a lot alike while they are growing. Our human tendency is to trust our “eyes” to make this judgment … Jesus says we cannot do that.
So when you ask about the invisible nature of the true Body of Christ, I must say, “Yes. it is invisible.” Well, sort of…I do not mean that individuals within the body are physically invisible, whether alone or in a group, but rather it is the tie that binds, as the old hymn goes, that cannot be seen, For example, I am quite visible, although my hubby knows I can make those $$$ disappear! My fellow Christians are also physically visible, but our ties are not organizational, but organic; resembling a body, not a business.
This structure of the church may have some similarities to Israel of old, but it has some very important differences also, which partly where the cults get their notions of organization, as they “Declare themselves to be the “true Israel” or the “new Israel,” and use the Old Testament as their pattern. What are some of the differences? Israel was not a spiritual body, but a national one. They had a visible land mass, Israel, in a visible place with physical boundaries. They had a visible king. They had a government and a system of laws. How did a person get “in” to “God’s people” in that day? He had to be physically, visibly circumcised with physical, tangible, visible, human hands which positively identified one as being part of the people of God.
How is the Body of Christ different from that of today? We have no particular land mass to call our own, no nationality or specific ethnic group; the members of the Body of Christ are “fellow citizens with all the saints” (Ephesians 2:19). In the body, there is neither slave or free, male or female, Jew or Gentile, black or white, nerd or cool … these distinctions are out.
Historically, every time someone has confused national Israel with the Body of Christ, major problems have resulted. In the Middle Ages, for example, men thought they had a right to invade and conquer Israel, so they would have a visible kingdom in the “land of promise.” God’s “address,” so to speak, but we know that wasn’t right The Body of Christ is not the nation of Israel, and has not taken her place. For that matter, Rome is not the new Jerusalem, and neither is Brooklyn, NY or Salt Lake City.
Does the Body of Christ have a visible human king to rule over it? No. Christ is the head…Christians are all brothers. The true body is not led by men visible on the earth, but by Christ from heaven. Now I am not saying that there will not be human leaders in local churches that you might visit; but it must be kept in perspective that they are not Go, and should never receive either our devotion or our uncritical acceptance of their exegesis of scripture… their leadership is limited and conditional. Is the church a theocracy, as Israel was and will be again when Christ rules from Jerusalem? No. The Mosaic law is merely a tutor to lead us to Christ in order to be declared righteous by faith. We have been adopted as God’s sons and daughters (Galatians 3:21-4:7). We are to be led by the Spirit rather than driven by the dictates of men (Romans 8:14-17). This is, of course, an INVISIBLE leading. The Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). Can anyone “see” this” No. it is an inner mark of God on the spirits of His children
How do we get “in” to the spiritual Body of Christ? Must we go through a “book study” for 6 months, answer 80 questions, and then be dunked in water at a convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Speaking of this in 1 Corinthians 12:18 Paul says, “But now GOD has placed the members in the body.” God did it, invisibly. The whole context of 1 Corinthians 12:12-18 is speaking of the body, and Paul says in verse 13.
“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”
So we are all baptized into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. Who can “see” this baptism? No one can: it is INVISIBLE.
What about our circumcision? Paul says in Colossians 2:11 that “in Him you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands…” This circumcision, therefore, cannot VISIBLY identify you as being one of God’s people, but it is nevertheless real. When God circumcises your heart, it is a wonderful, freeing thing. You are marked by God on the inside, and you belong to Him (Romans 8.9-11)
So what is our part? We are to receive Him, for as John 1:12-13 states:
“as many as received Him, to them gave He the power to become children of God, even to those who believe on His name, who were born not of blood, [that is. naturally], nor of the will of the flesh [you can do nothing to earn it], nor by the will of men, [no “God’s organization” can bring you IN or put you OUT!], but of God.”
Well, where is Christ so we can receive Him? How can we find Him? In Romans 10:8, Paul says the word of faith is NEAR us, and that we must simply call upon the name of the Lord to be saved (Romans 10:13). We are to call upon Jesus for salvation. Just call. How do we know that the “Lord” spoken of in this passage is Jesus, since the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses have inserted the name “Jehovah” here? 1 Corinthians 1:2 and other scriptures (Acts 9:14. 9:20-21, Acts 22:16-19) teach us that it was Jesus that the early Christians called upon. There is no scriptural evidence of anyone calling upon the name of Jehovah in the New Testament. The WTBTS just inserted that so Jesus would not be correctly identified as Jehovah, as Paul obviously sought to do. You call, and you just leave the invisible part to Him. He WILL come in (Revelation 3:20). You won’t be able to “see” His entrance, but it will be very real, nonetheless. And the beauty of it is, it doesn’t matter if you arc near- or far-sighted, or even blind. You will have no difficulty, believe me. If you call upon the Lord, He will find YOU!
Love to all,
**Watchtower Bible and Tract Society