(WDGR LESSON 14: “How Jehovah’s Witnesses are Organized?”)
(CONTINUED FROM A PREVIOUS DIALOGUE)
CINDY: Karen, last week in our study of the Watchtower brochure What Does God Require of Us?, we discussed Jesus’ words at Matthew 24:45-47 where he spoke of a “faithful and discreet slave” which in the last days would be appointed over Jehovah’s people, “to give them their food at the proper time.”1. We talked about the fact that just as the Watchtower book Knowledge That Leads To Everlasting Life notes, “Throughout history, Jehovah has dispensed spiritual food to his people as a group.… the Israelite priests gathered men, women, and children for group instruction of God’s Law” and “under the direction of the governing body” made up of apostles and older men, “first-century Christians organized congregations and held meetings for the instruction and encouragement of all. Jehovah’s Witnesses follow this pattern.”2. “The world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses is in New York. Located there is the Governing Body, a central group of experienced elders who oversee the worldwide congregation.” 3.
KAREN: Yes, Cindy, we talked about that last week, and we also discussed the fact that at Matthew 24 where Jesus speaks of appointing a “faithful and discreet slave” to give spiritual food to God’s people, He warns that in the last days, “false prophets will arise” and will proclaim that His Kingdom presence began when it hadn’t. While the Watchtower Society claims that its “governing body” of elders is made up of members of this “faithful and discreet slave” class, for 50 years—from 1879 to 1929—the Watchtower Society proclaimed Christ’s presence began in 1874—not in 1914 like they now teach. 4.. Since Jesus warned that in the last days, false prophets would proclaim a false date for His presence, last week I had asked, why would He appoint the “governing body” of the Watchtower organization to represent Jehovah God, when they were doing the very thing He warned His followers about at Matthew 24? How could Jehovah’s Witnesses have fulfilled the qualifications to be identified as that “faithful and discreet slave” at Christ’s presence in 1914, when they were doing exactly what Jesus warned false prophets would be doing in the last days?
CINDY: I don’t know, Karen, but if the Watchtower Society isn’t the “faithful and discreet slave,” then who do you think is? After all, how can any of the churches of Christendom be the faithful slave when they pass the offering plate at their meetings and their ministers get paid for their work. At Matthew 10:8, Jesus told his disciples, “You received free, give free.”5. In keeping with this principle, “admission” at the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses “is free, and no collections are taken.…In each congregation, there are elders, or overseers.” While “they take the lead in teaching in the congregation,…they do not dress differently from others. Neither are they paid for their work.”6.
KAREN: Cindy, do members of the Watchtower “Governing Body” get paid for their work, or do they work other jobs in order to make a living?
CINDY: Well, yes, Karen. Members the Governing Body do get paid something for their labor, but it’s not very much as it only covers basic needs.
KAREN: But, Cindy, how can Jehovah’s Witnesses point at the fact that some ministers in Christendom make a living from the ministry when members of the Watchtower “Governing Body” do the same thing? If it is wrong for ministers to be paid from the ministry, why did the apostle Paul receive gifts from the congregation at Philippi,7. and why did he say at 1 Corinthians 9 “Who plants a vineyard, and does not eat the fruit of it?…If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we should reap material things from you?…Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple?…So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.”8. Cindy, while it is true that the good news itself is not to be sold for profit, this doesn’t change the fact that at 1 Timothy 5:18, the Bible says “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”9. Since God says at 1 Corinthians 9:14 that those who proclaim the good news should receive their living from the good news, why doesn’t the Watchtower pay their full-time employees a decent wage?
CINDY: That’s a good question. I don’t know, Karen, but most ministers in Christendom are given special titles—like “Reverend” and “Father.” At Matthew 23:8-10, Jesus told his followers, “But you, do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One. Neither be called leaders, for your Leader is one, the Christ.”10. Following this example, Jehovah’s Witness elders and overseers “are not elevated above the rest of the congregation” and “they are not given special titles.”11.
KAREN: Cindy, please correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t Jehovah’s Witnesses taught to look to the “Governing Body” of the Watchtower as their “teacher” and the only channel through whom spiritual instruction is to be given?12. Since Jesus said not to call anyone “teacher,” how is the Jehovah’s Witness view of the Watchtower Society as their “teacher,” any different from individuals in Christendom who look to their pastors and priests for spiritual instruction?
CINDY: Well, Karen, at Acts 15 when the congregation at Antioch was involved in a dispute, they called upon the “Governing Body” of apostles and elders in Jerusalem to settle it. You see, Karen, “Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize that arrangement. As was true of first-century Christians, they look to the governing body of that [faithful and discreet] ‘slave’ class to resolve difficult questions,” to direct the worldwide preaching-work, and to “provide spiritual food to those making up the household of faith.”13.
KAREN: Cindy, if Jehovah God directs His people through a “faithful and discreet slave” “governing body” of elders, why did the Holy Spirit at Acts 13:2 direct the congregation at Antioch to send Paul and Barnabas out on their first missionary journey without any approval from a “governing body” in Jerusalem? And who did they report to when they returned from their missionary journey at Acts 14:26-28? Wasn’t it the congregation at Antioch? Where is the so-called “governing body” of Jerusalem in all of this?14. At Acts 15, we read of a dispute at Antioch that was caused by certain men who had come from Judea—the land of Jerusalem. Is it any wonder they went to Jerusalem to settle the dispute that had been caused by men from that area? How does this prove that there was a “governing body” of apostles and elders in Jerusalem that directed the preaching-work of first-century Christians?
CINDY: Well, Karen, the Bible reports at Acts 16:4, that as the apostles “traveled on through the cities, they would deliver” to the congregations “the decrees that had been decided upon by the apostles and older men who were in Jerusalem.”15. Doesn’t this prove that there was a “governing body” in Jerusalem that provided spiritual food for Jehovah’s people?
KAREN: Cindy, the “decrees” from Jerusalem that the apostles were sharing with the congregations during their second missionary journey at Acts 16, had to do with the dispute that had just been discussed at Acts 15, and had nothing to do with an organized distribution of spiritual food. Again I ask, where is the evidence of a “governing body” in Jerusalem which directed the first century Christian congregations? Who commissioned Philip at Acts 8:5 to preach to the city of Samaria? It wasn’t until verse 14, that the “apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God.”16. And at Acts 8 verses 26, 29, and 40, we read that the Holy Spirit is the one who directed Philip to the territories he should preach in. Since the Bible reports that Jehovah led first-century Christians individually through instruction directly from the Holy Spirit, with no accountability to a “governing body” in Jerusalem, why do Christians today need a “governing body” of elders to be their spiritual “teacher” and to provide direction for their lives?
CINDY: That’s a good question, Karen, but if Christians do not need a “governing body” of elders for spiritual instruction, why did Jesus speak of a “faithful and discreet slave” at Matthew 24 who would oversee Jehovah’s people in the last days?
KAREN: Cindy, let’s look at that passage at Matthew 24. First of all, at verses 43-44, Jesus warns that Christians should be ready at all times for his coming because He will come quickly as a “thief” in the night. Then, to illustrate this, Jesus gives a parable of a faithful and discreet slave whom his master finds attentively caring for his possessions when he arrives. Jesus says that when he comes, he will put him in charge over all of His possessions. Then he goes on to describe an “evil slave” at verses 48-51 who abuses his position as ruler over the household, and ends up being assigned a place with the hypocrites upon his master’s coming. Cindy, if we look at the hypocrites in Christendom who are abusing their power and authority for illicit gain, wouldn’t you agree that they collectively qualify as the “evil slave” spoken of in this passage?
CINDY: Oh, yes, Karen, I would agree.
KAREN: OK, Cindy, since any Christian can become part of the “evil slave” group just by being a hypocrite, why can’t any Christian become part of the “faithful and discreet slave” group by being faithfully devoted in his Christian ministry?
CINDY: That’s a good point, Karen. But Jesus says that He would put the faithful slave in charge over all of Jehovah’s possessions. If every loyal Christian qualifies to be in the “faithful and discreet slave” group, what possessions would they rule over?
KAREN: Cindy, the Bible speaks of the fact that during the millennial reign of Christ, there will be people on earth who have not made a decision for or against Jehovah God. Don’t you think these Christians will rule over them?
CINDY: Well, I suppose, Karen. But if the Watchtower organization isn’t God’s organization, where should I go? What do you have to offer?
KAREN: Cindy, what do you want most from Jehovah God? Is it eternal life? Is it His peace and joy? Is it His acceptance, favor, and approval? What do you want most from Him?
CINDY: Well, of course I want all these things, Karen, but is that what you have to offer?
KAREN: Cindy, it’s not what I or an organization has to offer you that counts, but it’s what Jesus offers that matters for eternity. At John 10:27, Jesus says “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” 17.They don’t follow an organization, Cindy. They follow Jesus, and He goes on at verse 28 to say “I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish.…”18. Cindy, Jesus gives eternal life. You’ve got to go to Jesus if you want to have eternal life. At John 6:37, Jesus says “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”19.
Friends, at John 6:68, Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have [the] sayings of everlasting life.”20. Peter recognized that Christians are not to look to anyone or anything but Jesus for everlasting life. At John 5:39-40, Jesus said, “You are searching the Scriptures, because you think that by means of them you will have everlasting life; and these are the very ones that bear witness about me. And yet you do not want to come to me that you may have life.”21. Instead of looking to an organization to lead you into everlasting life, why not look to the One who is the life. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”22.
1. New World Translation
2. Knowledge That Leads To Everlasting Life, 1995, p. 162
3. What Does God Require of Us?, 1996, p. 29:6
4. See Jehovah’s Witnesses Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, 1993, pp. 133-134; Prophecy, 1929, p. 65
5. New World Translation
6. What Does God Require of Us?, p. 28:2; 29:4
7. See Philippians 4:15-18
8. 1 Corinthians 9:7, 11, 13-14, New American Standard Bible
9. New American Standard Bible
10. New World Translation
11. What Does God Require of Us?, p. 29:4
12. See The Watchtower, October 1, 1967, p. 590
13. Reasoning from the Scriptures, 1985, 1989ed., p. 205
14. Note: At Acts 13:2; 15:35-36; 18:22-23, we read that Paul was sent on all three of his missionary journeys from the congregation in Antioch, and in none of those journeys did he report directly to a “governing body” of apostles in Jerusalem.
15. New World Translation
16. New American Standard Bible
17. New American Standard Bible
18. New American Standard Bible
19. New American Standard Bible
20. New World Translation
21. New World Translation
22. John 14:6, New World Translation