|“Come to Jehovah’s organization for salvation” – Watchtower 1981 Nov 15 p.212|
The most important concept behind being a Jehovah’s Witness is that you need to follow the Watchtower organization for salvation. This article shows that there is no legitimate basis for such a concept.
Early Christians were organized into congregations, as are Christian religions today. For the spread of Christianity it may be necessary to create organizations as religious groups often need to establish legal entities or organizations in order to purchase halls to meet in and for the publication of literature.
The Watchtower Society goes a step further by saying that being part of their particular Organization is an essential requirement of salvation. The leaders of the Watchtower Society (the Governing Body) are said to be appointed by Christ and the only means by which he directs his true followers today.
“Consider, too, the fact that Jehovahs organization alone, in all the earth, is directed by Gods holy spirit or active force. (Zech. 4:6) Only this organization functions for Jehovahs purpose and to his praise. To it alone God’s Sacred Word, the Bible, is not a sealed book.” Watchtower 1973 Jul 1 p.402
This is the most significant concept behind being a Jehovah’s Witness. Believing in God is not what makes a Witness unique, a large portion of people believe in God. Trusting in the Bible is not the key factor to being a Witness, as billions of people believe they follow the Bible. It is belonging to the “Organization” that distinguishes a Witness and makes them feel solely worthy of salvation.
The necessity of belonging to an organization it a concept common amongst high control groups, and is important in building a member’s high degree of conviction. The word organization appears 16,789 times on the 2006 Watchtower Library CD and yet the word organization never appears in the Bible.
This raises the following questions;
- Is membership of an organization essential for salvation?
- Has Jehovah always operated through an organization?
- Did Jesus institute a Governing Body?
Requirement of Salvation
The Watchtower has stated in the past that salvation is not contingent on church membership.
“Ask yourself now, Did Christ Jesus, who set our example and told us to follow his example to gain life, join any church organization in his day? No, God does not require us to do that; but he requires us to worship him… We have the Bible to show us the right way. Certainly it is not necessary for a person to become a member of a church to gain everlasting life.” Watchtower 1953 Mar 1 p.143
Contradicting this, the Watchtower claims that belonging to their organization is essential for salvation.
“To receive everlasting life in the earthly Paradise we must identify that organization and serve God as part of it.” Watchtower 1983 Feb 15 p.12
“But Jehovah God has also provided his visible organization, his “faithful and discreet slave”, made up of spirit-anointed ones, to help Christians in all nations to understand and apply properly the Bible in their lives. Unless we are in touch with this channel of communication that God is using, we will not progress along the road to life, no matter how much Bible reading we do.” Watchtower 1981 Nov 15 p.27
Yet the word “organization” never appears in the Bible, nor is it ever stated in either the Old or New Testaments that membership of an organization is a requirement of salvation. The Scriptures repeatedly state that it is faith in Jesus and the Father that results in everlasting life.
2 Timothy 2:10 “…obtain the salvation that is in union with Christ Jesus along with everlasting glory.”
John 3:16, 36 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life. He that exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life.”
John 5:40 “And yet YOU do not want to come to me that YOU may have life.”
John 10:9 “I am the door; whoever enters through me will be saved, and he will go in and out and find pasturage.”
John 17:3 “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 3:21 “Hence let no one be boasting in men; for all things belong to YOU, whether Paul or A•pol’los or Ce’phas or the world or life or death or things now here or things to come, all things belong to YOU; in turn YOU belong to Christ; Christ, in turn, belongs to God.”
The Watchtower 1975 Sep 1 p.531 asks “Where could we turn if we would leave God’s organization today? There is nowhere else! (John 6:66-69).” This quote refers to John 6:66-69 for support that there is no where other than the Organization. However, John makes a very different point:
John 6:68 “Simon Peter answered him: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life.””
One can not help but wonder how Jesus feels having the Watchtower Society applying this Scripture to themselves, rather than to him.
Does God require an Organization?
As the word “organization” does not appear in the Bible, the Watchtower uses 1 Corinthians 14:33, “God is a God, not of disorder, but of peace”, to indicate that the Organization is necessary. However, the existence of an organization does not guarantee order, nor is an organization a prerequisite for orderliness. This does not mean that organization is not necessary. People need to be organised for efficient operation of congregations and preaching. Rather, it is unquestioning allegiance to the leaders of an Organization that is not supported Scripturally.
In an attempt to enforce the authority of the Watchtower Society, articles claim God has always operated though a single organization.
“The Bible shows that Jehovah has always guided his servants in an organized way The nation of Israel was called “Jehovah’s congregation.” (Numbers 20:4; 1 Chronicles 28:8) If you were a true worshiper of Jehovah back then, you had to be part of that congregation of worshipers, not separate from it. Did Jehovah ever use more than one organization during any period of time?
In Noah’s day only Noah and those with him inside the ark had God’s protection and survived the floodwaters. (1 Peter 3:20) Also, in the first century there were not two or more Christian organizations. God dealt with just the one. There was just the “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” (Ephesians 4:5) Likewise in our day Jesus Christ foretold that there would be only one source of spiritual instruction for God’s people.” You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth p.192
Bible history proves that this is not the case. For the majority of history God has not used any organization. He predominantly has operated through individuals, and has regularly dealt with more than one group at a time.
Originally God dealt directly with Adam and Eve. He continued to deal directly with Abel, and also directly with the unrighteous man Cain. (Gen 4:15) For the next 2000 years there is no mention of any organization or intervention by God, except for when God deal with two individuals; Enoch and Noah.
After the flood Jehovah continued to deal with individuals rather than with an organization. He concurrently dealt separately with individuals such as Lot and Abraham.
There is only one period of time during which it can be claimed that God dealt with an organization. This was not until 2,500 years after the creation of mankind, with the formation of the Nation of Israel under Moses. Yet even whilst he dealt through this group, he continued to deal with individuals and other groups. What cannot be overlooked is that from the first leader and for most of its history, Israel were apostate rejecters of Jehovah.
During the time of the nation of Israel, Jehovah dealt with individuals not associated with the Israelites. For example, it was during this time that Jehovah was involved directly with Job, a man “blameless and upright, and fearing God and turning aside from bad the greatest of all the Orientals. (Job 1:1-3)
After many decades, Jehovah instituted a King in Israel. This was not will, but because of their insistence on requiring a visible king. This desire for a human leader was considered a rejection of Jehovah, who stated:
1 Samuel 8:7 “it is I whom they have rejected from being king over them.”
During the history of Israel, God did not deal only with the King. In fact Saul, the very first king, attempted to kill David and so David fled to live in the apostate land of Philistia with Achish the king of Gath, all the time protected by Jehovah. Jehovah also operated through Levites, the Priests and a variety of Bible writers of diverse stations. He regularly rose up independent prophets to chastise his erring kingly representative. Generally these individual prophets were sent by Jehovah to condemn the Israelites, which rejected them.
At the death of only the third king Jehovah foretold “Here I am ripping the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and I shall certainly give you ten tribes. And the one tribe is what will continue his for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city that I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel.” (1 Kings 11:31-32) After Solomon’s death God proceeded to split the Israelites into two separate nations, each with their own priestly class. Until the destruction of Israel, Jehovah dealt with the Northern kingdom separately from the Southern kingdom.
For a short time after the fall of Jerusalem, God continued to deal directly with individuals, such as Daniel. After the release from Babylon, God was with Ezra and Nehemiah and was involved with the rebuilding of the temple. Then a period of 500 years ensued with no record of any intervention from God until the time of Jesus, no evidence that God actively dealt through this visible organization.
When Jesus arrived the temple was still in existence, the priesthood was still God’s representative. The Jews were considered God’s Nation until 70 A.D. However Jesus and his disciples publicly condemned the Priests, in effect setting up a second rival organization to the one still representing God.
While this second group was following Jesus, the Bible shows that there were individuals unattached to Jesus followers whose worship was also considered acceptable.
Mark 9:38-42 “John said to him: “Teacher, we saw a certain man expelling demons by the use of your name and we tried to prevent him, because he was not accompanying us.” But Jesus said: “Do not try to prevent him, for there is no one that will do a powerful work on the basis of my name that will quickly be able to revile me; for he that is not against us is for us. For whoever gives YOU a cup of water to drink on the ground that YOU belong to Christ, I truly tell YOU, he will by no means lose his reward. But whoever stumbles one of these little ones that believe, it would be finer for him if a millstone such as is turned by an ass were put around his neck and he were actually pitched into the sea.”
Here Jesus shows that a person could belong to him without following the group of apostles. Belonging to an organization was not as important as it was to “belong to Christ”.
After Jesus death, his disciples actively went against the nation of Israel and the high priest, even whilst they were still considered God’s earthly representative. Acts 5:27-29 describes such an occasion;
“And the high priest questioned them and said: “We positively ordered YOU not to keep teaching upon the basis of this name, and yet, look! YOU have filled Jerusalem with YOUR teaching, and YOU are determined to bring the blood of this man upon us.” In answer Peter and the [other] apostles said: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”
|“But in reply he said: I tell YOU, If these remained silent, the stones would cry out.” – Luke 19:40|
Presuming that God needs an earthly organization shows lack of faith in his ability to operate through individuals. Early Christians were not directed by an organization but by the words of Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
John 16:12-13 “I have many things yet to say to YOU, but YOU are not able to bear them at present. However, when that one arrives, the spirit of the truth, he will guide YOU into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own impulse, but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to YOU the things coming.”
Jesus promised that he would direct his followers no matter how few were gathered together.
Matthew 18:20 “Where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst!”
It was under the guidance of Holy Spirit that followers of Jesus accomplished their work.
Romans 15:19 “with the power of signs and portents, with the power of holy spirit; so that from Jerusalem and in a circuit as far as Illyricum I have thoroughly preached the good news about the Christ.”
Acts 2:1-4 describes the Holy Spirit speaking truth through 120 disciples and Acts 4:31 says;
“they were one and all filled with the holy spirit and were speaking the word of God with boldness.”
Christian congregations met in houses with like minded people worshipping Christ. Paul explained this was for “upbuilding” each other (1 Corinthians 14:5). Holy Spirit appointed mature older men to overseer (Acts 20) whilst the older women were teachers of good (Titus 2:3, 4).
There was freedom within congregations to discuss different points of view without fear of retribution, as shown by open discussion on circumcision. Even when guidelines were given at Acts 15 regarding circumcision, these were not binding, as Paul explained at 1 Corinthians 8 they were not regulation but only to be followed if they would cause stumbling.
The formation of congregations indicates order but does not imply an elite group of specially directed leaders in a position to demand unquestioning obedience.
First Century Governing Body?
The Watchtower claims that a formal governing body was established in the first century, which is used as the basis for how the Governing Body of the Watchtower Society operate today.
“While all anointed Christians collectively form God’s household, there is abundant evidence that Christ chose a small number of men out of the slave class to serve as a visible governing body. The early history of the congregation shows that the 12 apostles, including Matthias, were the foundation of the first-century governing body.” Watchtower 1990 Mar 15 p.11
The term “governing body” is ‘loaded language’ as it never appears in the Scriptures and so has unique application within the pages of the Watchtower. The Watchtower justifies its Governing Body by reference to Acts chapter 15, which is the sole example of a convening of brothers to establish doctrine.
On this occasion it cannot be said that the decision was made by an established Governing Body. Acts 15:2 says:
“… they arranged for Paul and Barnabas and some others of them to go up to the apostles and older men in Jerusalem regarding this dispute.”
Rather than showing the existence of a small Governing Body, Acts describes a gathering of the apostles and older men, travelling missionaries and others. This large group combined to decide on an important issue affecting the local congregations.
The Watchtower Society describes itself as Jehovah’s “wife” and “earthly instrument”.
“However, what we see exemplified in God’s woman, his heavenly universal organization, we should look to see in his visible organization. Why? Because his higher, greater universal organization uses it as her earthly instrument. That is why we do see those motherly traits, those traits and acts of a virtuous woman, in the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead and in the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, because these profess to represent and serve God’s woman. We thank God for providing and using them. So we stand up respectfully and bless his faithful organization, his queenly “woman” in heaven which makes all these loving provisions for us as children of God.” Watchtower 1950 Oct 1 p.348
Referring to the Watchtower Society as Jehovah’s earthly organization creates an air of divine authority. Personification as a motherly woman creates fear of displeasing “her”. In reality, the Watchtower Society is a standard company with a Charter incorporated in America. It is a worldly corporation run by progression of men. Like any company, its foremost concern is ultimately growth and financial viability, achieved through book sales and donations.
In The Myth of Certainty: The Reflective Christian & the Risk of Commitment (InteVarsity Press, 1986, 1992) pp.29-30 Professor Daniel Taylor warns:
“The primary goal of all institutions and subcultures is self-preservation. Preserving the faith is central to God’s plan for human history; preserving particular religious institutions is not. Do not expect those who run the institutions to be sensitive to the difference. God needs no particular person, church, denomination, creed or organization to accomplish his purpose.”
The concept of Jehovah having one single organization that he directs by means of a Governing Body is used to support the concept that being a Jehovah’s Witness is essential for salvation. Though the Bible consistently says it is faith in Jesus that is important, the Watchtower shifts attention to the Organization with statements such as “we must uphold the truth of that organization.” (Watchtower 1961 May 1 p.276) The Governing Body uses this principle to set itself as a spiritual authority above the Bible, such as when stating:
“Thus the Bible is an organizational book and belongs to the Christian congregation as an organization, not to individuals, regardless of how sincerely they may believe that they can interpret the Bible. For this reason the Bible cannot be properly understood without Jehovah’s visible organization in mind.” Watchtower 1967 Oct 1 p.587
Though an organization is never mentioned by Jesus, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that all other Christian religions will be destroyed by God because they do not follow Watchtower defined truth. Jesus said “He that believes has everlasting life”(John 6:47) and “I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14). When a Jehovah’s Witness reads passages like these they are trained to understand, “whoever believes what the Watchtower says about Jesus may have everlasting life”, and “the sheep know me, only by means of the Watchtower Society“. This is not unique; it is common that “the cult and its beliefs become the only true path to salvation.” (Combating Cult Mind Control, Hassan, p.202).
It is apparent that for most of the history of the Bible, Jehovah did not have a visible organization. Even during the short period that he used the Nation of Israel he regularly dealt with individuals in preference to the leaders of that organization, as was also the case during early Christian times. With both the Jews and early Christians, within just a few decades they were plagued with corruption and apostasy.