The Governing Body, Ephesians 4:11-16, and “unity”

The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses are adamant in saying that all true Christians must believe everything they teach.

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We need to guard against developing a spirit of independence. By word or action, may we never challenge the channel of communication that Jehovah is using today.

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To hold to the headship of Christ, it is therefore necessary to obey the organization that he is personally directing. Doing what the organization says is to do what he says. Resisting the organization is to resist him.

One reason why the Governing Body speaks in this way is because all Christians should believe the same things.  That is, there should be no disagreements, debates, sects, denominations, etc.  What if the Governing Body teaches something you believe is unbiblical?  Should the faithful Christian speak up?  Or should he remain quiet and “wait on Jehovah” to correct the Governing Body?  Apparently, some Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Ephesians 4:11-16 teaches that unity trumps the perfection of understanding.  That is, even if you believe something is true, you should either believe the Governing Body or wait until the Governing Body changes their perspective.  The contrary would be to openly, but respectfully criticize the teachings of the Governing Body that you consider to be false.  Unfortunately, this is forbidden to the faithful JW.

With that said, let’s go through Ephesians 4:11-16 verse by verse and see if it teaches what the Watchtower claims it does.

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,” (Ephesians 4:11)

Both JW’s and non-JW’s alike are in agreement that there are no inspired Apostles around as there were in the first century.  Where we disagree is where we draw the line in our cooperation to those taking the lead, whether it be local elders or a “Governing Body.”  Before we get into this, let’s see what the Watchtower has to say about those who take the lead according to Ephesians 4:11:

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7 Our heavenly Shepherds, Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, expect us to be obedient and submissive to the undershepherds whom they have placed in positions of responsibility within the congregation. (1 Peter 5:5)

What the Watchtower claims about obedience and what the Bible claims are two different things.  See THIS POST for an excellent discussion of Hebrews 13:17 and what it means to “obey” or “submit.”  Interestingly, the Watchtower affirmed these ideas to some extent in the same article,

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Bible scholar R. T. France explains that in the original Greek, the word here translated “be obedient” is not “the normal term for obedience, but literally ‘be persuaded,’ implying a willing acceptance of their leadership.” We obey the elders not only because we are directed to do so in God’s Word but also because we are persuaded that they have Kingdom interests and our best interests at heart. We will certainly be happy if we willingly accept their leadership.

This is fine as far as it goes, but the same article describes what should happen once you are “persuaded” of the Governing Body’s leadership:

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9 What, though, if we are not convinced that in a certain case the elders’ direction is the best way of doing things? That is where submission comes into play. It is easy to obey when everything is clear and we agree, but we will show that we are truly submissive if we yield even when we do not personally understand the direction provided. Peter, who later became an apostle, showed this kind of submission.—Luke 5:4, 5.

This is both a poor Scriptural example and poor exegesis.  Is the Watchtower implying that we should accept the elder’s or Governing Body’s decision even when we aren’t convinced that they are correct?  How is Luke 5:4-5 a parallel when Jesus is the one Peter is submitting to?  Is submitting to and putting your faith in Jesus the same thing as obeying the elders or Governing Body?  Interestingly, the Watchtower has very recently implied some very strong words of the JW elders,

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Elders do not go beyond the things that are written in the Bible. And by extension, they do not go beyond the Bible-based counsel written in the publications of the faithful and discreet slave.

If elders “don’t go beyond the things that are written,” does this mean that the elders are always right?

Thus far, we are off to a poor start in going beyond anything Ephesians 4:11-16 has taught us.  All Ephesians 4:11 has articulated is who Jesus has provided to, “equip the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” (4:12) These ones are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.  Notice, it is all these ones who are involved in equipping the saints; not just a centralized handful of men with exceptional authority.

Moreover, the Watchtower has assumed a particular authority to a fictitious “Governing Body” that isn’t even mentioned in the text.  And through this assumption, the Watchtower will continue to insert their beliefs into the remainder of the passage as we will soon see.

“…for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12)

What does Ephesians 4:12 teach us?  In context with v. 11, it is all apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers who are to build up the body of Christ.  That is, Paul does not give any instructions for believers to look to the teachings of a “Governing body” and leave it to them to equip all Christians with proper teachings.  Instead, he leaves it to those who are gifted and rely on the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit to build up and encourage other believers.

“…until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13)

Instead of relying on Scripture to guide their theological view, the Governing Body uses Ephesians 4:13 to justify their demand for absolute unquestionable obedience of all Christians worldwide:

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First, since “oneness” is to be observed, a mature Christian must be in unity and full harmony with fellow believers as far as faith and knowledge are concerned. He does not advocate or insist on personal opinions or harbor private ideas when it comes to Bible understanding.

Unfortunately, the Watchtower doesn’t provide us with the full picture.  Of course, we don’t agree with Christians who have mere “personal opinions” to Bible understanding, for that would be eisegesis.  But what about Christians who exegete the Scriptures properly and prayerfully seek the Holy Spirit for guidance?  What should this Christian do when he is convinced that he is interpreting a text properly and was led by the Spirit in doing so?  Should he abandon his convictions because the Governing Body teaches something different?

Apparently, this Christian should abandon his conclusions and instead, believe what the Watchtower teaches.  But why shouldn’t it be the other way around?  Why doesn’t the Governing Body accept correction?  The simple answer is because the Governing Body has already assumed a position that demands correction of the subjects.  Therefore, by default, all interpretations that differ from theirs are to be dismissed as “personal opinions” or “private ideas.”  Yet, do we see anything in Ephesians 4:13 which assumes this level authority to anyone?  Instead, the faithful exegete should determine someone’s beliefs to be unbiblical before referring to these as “personal opinions.”

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Rather, he has complete confidence in the truth as it is revealed by Jehovah God through his Son, Jesus Christ, and “the faithful and discreet slave.” By regularly taking in the spiritual food provided “at the proper time”—through Christian publications, meetings, assemblies, and conventions—we can be sure that we maintain “oneness” with fellow Christians in faith and knowledge.—Matthew 24:45.

Again, there is nothing in Ephesians 4:13 or the context that says anything of the kind.  Here, the Governing Body assumes their interpretation of Matthew 24:45 and reads it into Ephesians 4:13 without justification.  That is, they suppose that “unity” equals all Christians agreeing with them.  Interestingly, the Watchtower is telling us to have “complete confidence” in their teachings and cites Matthew 24:45.  Yet, for decades the Watchtower has admittedly taught a false interpretation of Matthew 24:45.  Of course, some Jehovah’s Witnesses cite the Governing Body’s willingness for readjustments as evidence of their “complete confidence.”  Yet, Jehovah’s Witnesses will then cite Ephesians 4:14 to display their confidence for a contradictory reason as we will soon see.  Either way, whether stagnant or changing in their teachings, the JW’s would still display their confidence in the Governing Body.

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Second, the expression “the faith” refers, not to the conviction that each individual Christian professes, but to the totality of our belief, “the breadth and length and height and depth” of it. (Ephesians 3:18; 4:5; Colossians 1:23; 2:7) In fact, how can a Christian be in oneness with fellow believers if he only believes or accepts a certain part of “the faith”? This means that we must not be content with knowing just the basic teachings of the Bible or having just hazy or partial knowledge of the truth. Rather, we should be interested in taking advantage of all of Jehovah’s provisions through his organization to dig deeply into his Word. We must endeavor to gain as accurate and as full an understanding of God’s will and purpose as possible. This includes taking the time to read and study the Bible and Bible publications, to pray to God for his help and guidance, to attend Christian meetings regularly, and to have a full share in the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work.—Proverbs 2:1-5.

For JW’s, “the faith” equals “everything the Watchtower teaches.”  Therefore, the JW must accept everything they teach.  This is how they must be unified.  So again, we see an eisegetical insertion of something that is not taught in Ephesians 4:13.  Nowhere does it advise Christians to be unified by accepting teachings from a centralized group of men.  Nor does it teach us anything about “private interpretations.”  So what does Ephesians 4:13 tell us?

First, notice that the unity of the faith has not happened yet.  We know this because the body of Christ has not fully matured in having a full knowledge of Christ, “to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”  Even the Watchtower has to admit that they aren’t there yet.  In addition, they have to admit that they don’t have perfect theological knowledge.  They make mistakes and will continue to do so.

This is why Paul is commanding Christians who are gifted to continue to encourage, teach, and build up believers for service until they get to that maturity of full knowledge of Christ (Colossians 2:3).  What will this look like?

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Paul isn’t providing a solution for unity by telling Christians to obey the Governing Body.  Instead, the solution is with believers themselves to take initiative and build up the body of Christ by pointing them to Christ and the Scriptures.

“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.” (Ephesians 4:14)

This Scripture is quite interesting as it relates to the Watchtower because it flies in the face of their history.  First, JW’s place their trust in the Governing Body because they believe they are teaching truth.  Yet, they also place their trust in them because they sometimes admit when they have taught something false.

But we must question whether Ephesians 4:14 actually applies to the Watchtower.  Are they being “tossed around” with their teachings?   A quick glance at their sloppy history in formulating fictitious chronologies or their life threatening teachings regarding medical practices would reveal this to be so.  To the outside observer, the Watchtower is obviously being “tossed around” by “every wind of doctrine.”  Therefore, would it not be within the faithful Christians conscience to use Ephesians 4:14 to abandon their association with the Watchtower and begin to fellowship with believers who don’t appear to be identified with this verse?  If we’re really looking for “unity” in this passage, it seems that this would be the more unified choice.

“but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:15–16)

Notice that “unity” and “growth” are identified with Christ.  We are to grow up through unity in Him and to encourage others to do the same.  Instead of applying this, the Watchtower instead seeks to define “unity” by obedience to everything they teach.  Ephesians 4:11-16 says nothing of the kind.

In addition, we are to “speak the truth in love.”  What is the truth and how do we come to such knowledge?  For Jehovah’s Witnesses, “the truth” is whatever comports with Watchtower teaching (which they obviously believe to be biblical).  Yet, the Watchtower admits they teach things that are false and are capable of doing such for decades.  So how can you really “speak the truth” when you are to abandon what you think is truth for the sake of “unity.”  In other words, even if you think that your conclusion is more Scriptural than the Watchtower’s, you should abandon your “private interpretation” for the Watchtower’s.  This is neither truthful or loving and will not grow you in “all aspects into Him who is the head.”

To conclude, we have seen nothing in these texts which speak to “unity” in the way that the Watchtower demands.  JW apologists may suggest that “sects” are condemned by God because they aren’t “unified.”  Yet, Ephesians 4:11-16 doesn’t provide us with the solution that JW’s think it does; that is, to resolve “sects” by obeying a “Governing Body.”  Instead, the resolution to sects is to continue to have those gifted teachers and evangelist build up the body of Christ by pointing them to Christ and His Word.  Thus, according to Ephesians 4:11-16, when Christ returns in glory, only then will we have full doctrinal unity.  Therefore, the work of building up and equipping believers will continue until that time.

82 thoughts on “The Governing Body, Ephesians 4:11-16, and “unity”

  1. rotherham2 says:

    Hello Mike,

    I’ve read through your article and I have to say I don’t see much substance in your efforts to overturn Eph. 4:11-17. I see a lot of pleading that it soesn;t say what we say it does, but I don’t see any real evidence otherwise.

    I’ll address bits and pieces of that in the days to come, but again, I would like to ask you. “How does the church treat those who would cause division or the promotion of a sect?” Since we know these things will keep you from the kingdom of God, how should they be handled? I have more questions but we can do them a little at a time for clarities sake. I’m sure the readers would appreciate it.

    Regards,
    Rotherham

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Rotherham,

      The burden then is for you to offer an exegesis of the text. I addressed what Ephesians addressed in my exegesis and showed how the WT’s ideas are not in the text.

      Therefore, you need to show that I missed something that the text does address: namely, how we should treat sects and divisions, where the GB fits in to this, etc.

      You’re welcome to do so in the comments here

  2. rotherham2 says:

    Hello Mike,

    Thankyou, I will address those points in the hours and days ahead. But please first answer the questions that I have more than once asked.

    “How does the church treat those who would cause division or the promotion of a sect?”

    Since we know these things will keep you from the kingdom of God, how should they be handled?

    Regards,
    Rotherham

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Rotherham,

      If believers are convinced that another is teaching something that is false, they should offer correction to them.

      I don’t think there’s a hard and fast rule that covers the entire spectrum of what we should do when 1 or more in the congregation are trying to create a “sect.” I’d have to look at each individual case and address it accordingly.

      But for the sake of answering your question as directly as I can with a specific example: if a man was openly promoting immoral sexual behavior in the congregation and successfully leading others astray, I would seek to obey 1 Cor. 5 and have him removed.

      However, keep in mind that these sorts of things aren’t addressed in Eph. 4.

  3. rotherham2 says:

    Hello Mike,

    You haven’t addressed the question as asked. Corinthians addresses unrepentant sinners. What I am asking about is the promotion of a sect or the causing of division within the church. Your answer did not address that.

    What do we do with those who cause division and promote a sect?

    Another question that has direct bearing on this. How does the church determine if what is presented is a “sect”? What’s the criteria for determining this?

    As far as the Russell question goes, the church was fragmented and disjointed during the “growing” season of the wheat and the weeds. The church was the true anointed ones on earth, but they were not organized or unified. If Russell was among those as we believe he was, then he was a member of the true church, which was not unified. His effort would not be the causing of division but the attempt to unify the brothers. Since we are now in the harvest, the church is clearly identified and the situation has therefore changed.

    Now please, answer MY questions. This should be a two way exchange here.

    Regards,
    Rotherham

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Rotherham,

      Again, I would need a specific example to address. There are far too many factors in such a situation that can make it rather complex, so I can’t really broad brush it. I think you’d even have to agree with that.

      I will continue to point out once again that it will be your burden to point out how Ephesians 4 is said to somehow address an issue like this as it relates to an authoritative GB over all Christians worldwide.

  4. rotherham2 says:

    You don’t need a specific example. Just tell me what you would do if you had determined that the person was indeed promoting a sect and then tell me how you would determine that he was indeed doing so. This shouldn’t be that hard.

  5. rotherham2 says:

    And believe me, once you answer I will demonstrate how it all relates, not just to Ephesians 4, but everything else that touches on the subject.

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Rotherham,

      I’m sorry, but I don’t believe there is a hard and fast rule which can cover any and all situations relating to sects and divisions. Each situation is unique and I treat them accordingly.

      I’m not sure why it would be so difficult for you to provide a specific example when it’s something I require within my viewpoint.

      As far as Russell, I find that example quite convenient, since your rule seems to imply that ALL sects are condemned. Are there now exceptions to that rule?

    2. theapologeticfront says:

      Rotherham,

      I would also raise 1 Cor. 11:19, which tells us that there MUST be divisions within the church.

      And even so, Paul desired unity, even though he knew it wouldn’t come in this age. Correction was offered, but it does not automatically mean disfellowshipping in each and every case, which is why each case must be uniquely evaluated with wisdom.

  6. rotherham2 says:

    Mike,

    I fully understand that each case would be different,but what I am taling about is a case where you have determined that what was being promoted is indeed a sectarian promotion. It doesn’t matter the specifics in this hypothetical that I am asking about. In other words, you have determined it is a sect. What do you do with that one if they insist upon their view?

    And since you agree that each case is different, then what criteria are you going to use to see if it is a sect? Surely you must have something in mind or you wouldn’t be saying that each case is different. So what’s the criteria for determination?

    The reason Paul said that there would be sects among them was so that the approved ones would stand out. He KNEW that sects would arise. He warned of such things, so yes, they must arise, but it was for the purpose of demonstrating the ones who are approved. That has no bearing on what Titus 3:9,10 tells we should do with a sect promoter.

    There was no way to definitively condemn a sect during the days of Russell because the church was riddled with wheat. They couldn’t be differentiated, and any “weeding out” was forbidden by the sower, Christ, until the harvest began.

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Rotherham,

      I think we’re at a roadblock here because I require specific examples and you apparently don’t think they’re necessary. In addition, we may not even agree with what a “sect” is in the first place which, again, is why I’d need a specific situation to evaluate.

      I don’t find your explanation about 1 Cor. 11:19 to be adequate because it shows that divisions will inevitably be there IN the congregation until the end of this age. Nowhere does Paul say to remove any and all divisions in each and every circumstance without exception. Otherwise, there’s be no need to Eph. 4:11-16 to address since JW’s are apparently already there?

      As far as Russell, again, that’s completely an answer from convenience. Are all sects condemned or are they not? Russell was one of many was he not? Oh, but since you believe JW’s are right it doesn’t apply? I’m sorry, but I see this as a big double standard.

  7. rotherham2 says:

    Mike, Your reluctance to answer is speaking volumes, but that’s OK, let’s just first go with this without anything else to address for the moment.

    Let’s just talk about Titus 3:9,10. What does it say we should do with a persistant sect promoter?

    This should be easy.

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Rotherham,

      And your reluctance to provide a specific example speaks volumes.

      While I don’t see this example to be a “sect” per say, but the “perverted and sinning man” who’s causing the divisions with the “foolish strifes about the law” is to be rejected as the text says.

      Not to be applied to each and every case where there are disagreements within the congregation.

  8. rotherham2 says:

    So you agree that the one who is a persistent causer of division should be removed from the congregation. The original word is the word that answers to a “heretic”, one who adheres to false doctrine. So we would say that if one adheres to a false doctrine after admonition, they should be rejected, right? I think that’s fairly straight forward, don’t you?

    Now, how does the one examining the “heretic” determine if they are promoting a false doctrine? This is all leading back to Eph 4 and Hebrews 13, I assure you.

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Rotherham,

      I’m afraid we are getting too off track from Eph. 4. Let’s center the conversation in it and establish your views on what the text says. If you believe that it’s talking about how to address divisions, sects, etc. and how to approach detractors, then please show it from the text.

      I’ll answer your question briefly so we can move on. As far as the type of divisions described in Titus and therein regarding foolish strife a about the law, then yes, that one should be asked to be removed. And again, I don’t broad brush this to apply to any and all divisions within the church.

  9. rotherham2 says:

    Very well, I will take this as acknowledgement that you agree that those who are determined to be relentless heretics should be removed from the congregation. I agree, it doesn’t apply to every disagreement within the congregation, but it would certainly apply to heretics.

    That’s progress. Thank you. I will not start to address some of the comments in your article. Again, it will be piecemeal for the sake of the readers.

    Regards,
    Rotherham

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Rotherham,

      Just a thought: should all Christians observe certain aspects of the law and others not? Did Paul allow for these differences in the first century? You may want to incorporate answers to such questions as you address Eph. 4 and how unity will NOT be attained until the end of the age.

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      That which is mentioned in Acts 21:20 and following. The point is, the law wasnt necessary, but many Christians did find it important and chose to continue to observe many aspects of it in a “zealous” fashion.

      1. rotherham2 says:

        Observing certain practices of the Law were not condemned, they were simply unneccesary and unfruitful for the Christain. Whereas some things in the Law were still necessary for salvation, other things were clearly not.

      2. theapologeticfront says:

        Rotherham,

        I’m speaking of the things that weren’t necessary for salvation; things which some Christians found to still be important and others who chose not to participate. Why did Paul allow for these differences, even when many Christians were quite zealous in their perspective? Shouldn’t have have condemned the “division”?

  10. rotherham2 says:

    Before you got into your fuller explanation of Eph 4 in your article, you first draw attention to Hebrews 13:17 and our supposed misuse of that scripture, so I will first address that before getting to the fuller explanation of Eph. 4 because I believe your error in understanding is partially premised upon your poor treatment of Hebrews 13:17.

    I think it not a very good exegesis when you only consider what the word “obey” means, which we are in full agreement with you in its meaning. But there is another word in that verse that you seem to pass right over. It is the word “submit”.

    You see, it didn’t just say we should be “persuaded” but it also said we should “submit” to those taking the lead. Now what does the Greek word “submit” refer to?
    Notice what Thayer’s lexicon says concerning this word, and all of the lexicons that I have checked agree:
    1) to resist no longer, but to give way, yield (of combatants)
    2) metaph. to yield to authority and admonition, to submit

    So whereas you tried to downplay the idea of surrendering to those who are taking the lead, the meaning of “submit” is clear beyond any doubt. We not only “obey” by means of persuasion, we “submit” when we don’t necessarily agree, like one combatant would submit to another.

    Regards,
    Rotherham

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Rotherham,

      Submission is conditional to the persuasion of one’s leadership. When your persuasion of their leadership is violated, then you no longer surrender. I didn’t mean to “gloss over it.” I just figured that much would have been obvious and didn’t want to devote too much space to that point.

  11. rotherham2 says:

    So when would the case be that you would “surrender” to those taking the lead, in the form of a combatant who surrenders?

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      When you are confident that they are correct in what they’re saying to you. For example, if I found my elder to be doing sloppy research on a few cases, I would begin to lose my persuasion of his leadership and therefore I would no longer obey him unless I checked the facts first for myself.

      So yes, persuasion and obedience is conditioned upon where you agree with what they teach.

  12. rotherham2 says:

    So then according to your explanation there is never a time when you would actually surrender, like a combatant would surrender, to their view. You just obey because your convinced. That’s not surrender and that’s not what the word means.

  13. rotherham2 says:

    NO, I would not because it would be in clear violation of what the scriptures teach. As I have mentioned before, the scriptures come first in identifying the church, then one submits and obeys the church when it comes to ambiguous things. If there is no clear scriptural reason to reject what the church teaches in the area of an ambiguity, then you should not insist on your own views but you should surrender and /or obey what the church is teaching.

    You keep posing this hypothetical situation where some JW has absolute proof that the WT is wrong but you can’t even offer an example. In the posed case of the WT switching to the Trinity, which is of course an absurdity, then every JW would every right to reject the WT as the FDS in these last days. But nothing like that exists, you can’t even find one example where the current JW has anything of that nature.

    I’ve asked you to explain to me how that person would even know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have THE correct view and you answer in vague terms about the holy spirit letting them know. I then ask how they would know its the holy spirit and you don’t answer.

    Your problem is that you are trying to meld “surrender” into “persuasion” because all you are really putting on the table here is “persuasion”, but the words mean different things. Persuasion is not surrender and surrender is not persuasion. According to your explanation, the Hebrews author would have covered it all under “persuasion”. There would have been no need to mention “surrender” as a combatant, because if your persuaded, there’s nothing to surrender to.

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Rotherham,

      Ok, just so we’re clear then, the surrendering is conditional even after one is persuaded of their leadership. We agree. I chose an example that I know you’d find to be ridiculous to prove that very point.

      Can we now move on to Ephesians?

  14. rotherham2 says:

    OK, so we have agreed upon the following.
    1. An unrelenting heretic should be removed from the congregation.
    2. We should surrender our views to those taking the lead over us as long as those views do not violate what the scriptures teach.

    OK, so with those backdrops nicely in place, let’s proceed to Ephesians 4. I will present a post not too long from now.

  15. rotherham2 says:

    All things should be based upon scripture whether they are absolutely provable or not. Scriptural reasons for belief should able to be demonstrated. They should not violate scripture. Wouldn’t you agree?

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Rotherham,

      I agree. And if something can be proven in Scripture, wouldn’t that no longer make it ambiguous?

      Adultery is defined by Scripture.

      Let’s move on. I’ll take the blame for sidetracking on that one 🙂

  16. rotherham2 says:

    Maybe sometime you can show me where adultery is clearly defined in scripture and what acts would constitute adultery, or fornication. That discussion would actually dovetail nicely into this one, but we can leave it for later.

    Yes, if it can be proven by scripture than it is no longer ambiguous, naturally.

  17. Ivan Monroy says:

    In the 1950-1960 when JWs refused organ transplants because they were considered cannibalistic, would a JW who strongly rejected this erroneous teaching be considered a heretic because he or she disagreed and openly spoke out against this so-called ‘scriptural policy’?

    The JW position was provably wrong, easily verifiable from medical experts, yet the WT still maintained this position.

  18. Frankleeh says:

    There’s a lot of talk on this blog page about what should be done in this and that situation. I wonder if anyone can point me to the Scripture(s) where the first-century Christians actually did try alleged perpetrators of heresy and what system they used to do this.

    Where does the religious tribunal come from, for instance?

    At what stage does a presumed arrangement go beyond scripture?

    Cannot only God and Christ righteously judge an individual who has made a dedication to God?

    As far as I can see there was no formal arrangement for arraigning apostates or even sexual wrongdoers. So how did they do this?

    As to Ivan’s question; though the GB acts as if it is infallible (while claiming it is not), if someone is disfellowshipped for spreading a teaching that later proves correct, there is no reinstatement of that individual. Of course, the teaching that Ivan mentions above is purely speculative dogma, not clearly-stated Bible doctrine, therefore it was a presumption to nullify that person’s dedication to God anyway.

    1. rotherham2 says:

      Hello Ivan,

      The conclusion of the article was this:

      *** w67 11/15 pp. 703-704 Questions From Readers ***

      “It should be evident from this discussion that Christians who have been enlightened by God’s Word do not need to make these decisions simply on the basis of personal whim or emotion. They can consider the divine principles recorded in the Scriptures and use these in making personal decisions as they look to God for direction, trusting him and putting their confidence in the future that he has in store for those who love him.—Prov. 3:5, 6; Ps. 119:105.”

      Although you could tell they thought it would be repugnant due to it being cannibalism, it appears from the final paragraph that it remained a personal decision. That’s how I always remembered it having been around in the organization since the late 60s. They asked many questions without answering them either yes or no. Those would be some of the questions that one should consider in their eventual and final, personal decision.

      Regards,
      Rotherham

  19. rotherham2 says:

    Hello Mike,

    I see that we overlooked one other question that I need to get an answer to before proceeding. It’s important for me to know exactly where you stand on these issues so as to present my arguments effectively. No reason for me to try and prove or disprove something you already agree with, right?

    The question was :What criteria is used to determine if one is a “heretic”?. And who is it that decides?

    Regards,
    Rotherham

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Rotherham,

      A heretic is one who claims to be a Christian but denies that which is essential to be a Christian. For example, Christians who deny repentance are heretics because Scripture literally says to repent and believe.

      As far as who decides, Scripture decides that for us. It doesn’t even take an opinion to “decide” that. Same would be for someone who denied that Jesus came in the flesh.

      Hope that answers your question. Let me know if I need to clarify further.

  20. rotherham2 says:

    So we would agree that the scriptures are the final criteria for determining if one is a heretic. That’s good.

    Just as a review, we also have these:

    1. An unrelenting heretic should be removed from the congregation.
    2. We should surrender our views to those taking the lead over us as long as those views do not violate what the scriptures teach.

  21. rotherham2 says:

    OK, thanks, I think I am ready to bring all this together in conjunction with Ephesians 4:11-17. I’ll present the first piece of that a little later today, depending on my available time.

  22. rotherham2 says:

    Hello Mike,

    In reading verse 11 and 12 of Ephesians 4, I would like to ask your view of something in regard to the Apostles.

    I am sure you would agree that God first gave these “gifts” in men in connection with the Apostles. We know that the first century Christians adhered to the teachings of the Apostles and that when there was a doctrinal question about circumcision, that governing body of men at that time made decrees in regard to that for the surrounding congregations to observe.

    So how would you say that the Apostles fulfilled the responsibility of “perfecting” the holy ones so that the body would not be drawn hither and thither by every wind of teaching?

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Rotherham,

      I don’t believe Scripture teaches the “Governing Body.” Instead, I see from Scripture that the Jerusalem church was involved in the decision in Acts 15:22.

      As far as how the Apostles corrected the church in other instances: they penned inspired Scripture.

  23. rotherham2 says:

    Hi Mike,

    Well it says that the issue was taken to the older men and Apostles in Jerusalem for settlement. Then, once settled it states that the “decrees decided upon by the Apostles” were sent to the surrounding congregations for observance. How was that not a governing element or body acting in the first century for the other congregations?

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Rotherham,

      I don’t want to get into semantics here. Obviously, a “governing element” was there. And yes, the Apostles were involved in that decision. But it was an open decision whereby the older men and the congregation were involved. Does that sound like the JW Governing Body to you?

  24. rotherham2 says:

    Semantics is important, especially with things of this nature. Nothing says though that the congregation was involved in the decision or even at the council. The congregation was involved in agreeing with who would be sent with the decrees.

    Now, in Acts 16:44ff it says that it was the DECREES decided upon by the Apostles and elders of Jerusalem. The congregation was not accredited with the decree, just the Apostles and elders.

    I am glad to see you acknowledge that there was indeed a governing element and that first century Christians adhered to the teachings of the Apostles, which is the same thing as a governing body of men in regard to teachings, because surely, not every rank and file Christian had the authority to determine doctrine.

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Rotherham,

      v. 22 and following show that the letter was sent out, agreed upon by the church, apostles, and elders. So all of them were present, though I would agree that the Apostles and Elders were the primary players.

      In addition, v. 24 gives us a strong clue that since “some of OUR number” is mentioned relating to those spreading false teaching, this would imply the church was included since v. 22 involved them in addition to the elders and apostles.

      Last, there’s no evidence that the group stayed present there as an established office. Each Apostle individually brought their teachings to the Apostolic office, but they also sent their letters and teachings out to the church as individuals, not just as a group as in Acts 15.

      Therefore, I don’t agree that Christians in the 1st century simply adhered to a “body”, but to individual apostles who brought their own inspired teachings.

      By the way, is this an issue that we really need to tackle before going into Ephesians? We never seem to get there.

  25. rotherham2 says:

    Hello Mike,

    Since the Apostles are listed first as those gifts in men whose purpose was to perfect the holy ones, as mentioned in Ephesians 4, it is imperative that we understand exactly what there role was in doing so, so what is being discussed at the moment is very much a part of the understanding of Ephesians 4:11-17.

    So the decrees were not something determined by the congregation, merely agreed upon. The congregation did not formulate the decrees. The Bible tells us directly that it was the Apostles and older men.

    Regardless of who was involved in the spreading of the false teaching, it was the elders and Apostles of Jerusalem who created the decree for observance.

    No one is stating that these men all had to stay in Jerusalem so I have no idea why you would bring that up. However, it can not be denied that collectively, no matter where they were, they were a governing element or body of men when it came to teachings.

    By that authority, is that not how the Apostles fulfilled the responsibility of “perfecting” the holy ones so that the body would not be drawn hither and thither by every wind of teaching?

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Rotherham,

      The Apostles worked both collectively and as individuals. They were not always a centralized group who always made decisions collectively. That’s what I meant by remaining in Jerusalem.

      And my citation of the letter was to show that, at the very least, the congregation was present during the dispute.

  26. rotherham2 says:

    The only evidence we have of where doctrinal decisions were made was shown to be done collectively. That’s the Biblical precedent.

    However, the real point is this, which you didn’t comment on:

    By that authority, is that not how the Apostles fulfilled the responsibility of “perfecting” the holy ones so that the body would not be drawn hither and thither by every wind of teaching?

  27. rotherham2 says:

    Yes, they were from individuals, but collectively, without contradiction, formed the body of Christian teaching.

    So I think we agree than that the manner in which the first century congregation was protected from being carried hither and thither was by means of the teaching authority of the Apostles, right?

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Obviously, the inspired teachings did not contradict. But I’ll stand by my evidence that it was done by the apostles, both collectively and individually.

      An example of individual teaching was Peter letting Gentiles into the church. Was there anyone else involved in that decision?

  28. rotherham2 says:

    I have no problem with the collectively and individually remark. Naturally that would be the case because they would all teach in agreement being directly inspired by the spirit. That was of great advantage in the first century. But inspiration would cease. Does that mean what Eph 4;11-17 says would cease once inspiration would end?

    In Peter’s case, he was directly inspired by God to allow the entrance of Gentiles into the kingdom. But remember he was immediately questioned about it in the presence of the Apostles as to why this happened and once he explained it to them they accepted it. This shows that the Apostles were keeping a close eye on anything that came up within the church and wanted to be sure of is validity, and Peter complied by relating in detail what happened. So collectively and individually God was using them to establish Christian doctrine, but they remained united in their teachings, as is witnessed in this example and what we have in Acts 15 and 16.

    But just so we don’t lose track of where we’re supposed to be headed; we agree that the first century church was protected from being carried hither and thither by means of the teaching authority of the Apostles, individually and collectively, right?

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Rotherham,

      Where in the Acts 11 account does it show that the apostles were present? Doesn’t it appear that this was decided by Peter alone through inspiration and the apostles only heard by word of mouth through others?

      In answer to your first question, I’m not sure what you mean, so please clarify. In answer to your second question, yes.

  29. rotherham2 says:

    Ok, so where were we. Your last post to me stated:

    “Where in the Acts 11 account does it show that the apostles were present? ”

    In Acts 11:1 it shows that the Aposles immediatley heard of the events involving Cornelius. The Peter goes to Jerusalem with the news of what happened. Some, evidently among the older men of Jerusalem, still involved in the belief in circumcision (not resolved yet) wanted to examine this event as to its validity. After Peter explains they all accept it as proof that Gentiles are now receiving God’s blessing and spirit. This shows that this event was on the radar, so to speak, and that the Aposltles and older men of Jerusalem were every alert to this change.

    Mike:
    “Doesn’t it appear that this was decided by Peter alone through inspiration and the apostles only heard by word of mouth through others?”

    Yes, but that’s not an issue. We have agreed that either collectively or individually, the Apostles were establishing the Christian teaching through their inspired writings and actions. The point being that the change resulted in an immediate unity of thought by the Aposlte getting word of what happened and by Peter taking the information to the governing element/body at that time for their perusal and acceptance.

    Mike:
    “In answer to your first question, I’m not sure what you mean, so please clarify.”

    I had asked: Does that mean what Eph 4;11-17 says would cease once inspiration would end?
    In other words, Ephesians sets up a process where the holy ones would be “readjusted” down through time until such time as they would reach full understanding. My question is this: Did Ephesians 4:11-17 just apply to when the Apostles were alive, who were INSPIRED, or did it continue to apply down through history to men who were NOT inpsired?

    I am glad we agree on the second question.

    Regards,
    Rotherham

    In answer to your second question, yes.

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Rotherham,

      A few questions regarding your responses:

      1. Why assume those in 11:2 were the “older men”? The text doesn’t identify them.

      2. Is individually coming up with new doctrine or correcting previous doctrine before consent is made consistent with the JW GB? Even though Peter was an inspired apostle, I thought the JW GB was all about modeling the 1st century?

      In answer to your question, Eph. 4:11-16 applied in the first century and continues to apply today. But it will not find its fulfillment until Christ returns.

      1. rotherham2 says:

        Hello Mike,

        1. When we read in Acts 15 that the Apostles and older men said that “some from among us” had caused the concern over the circumcision, it is possible that some even among the governing element were holding to the circumcision. I suppose there is no reason to think it absolutely had to be some from among the older men in Jerusalem but there is reason to see it that way. Regardless, I think the point is that the Apostles had a close tab on things of this nature and Peter, an Apostle himself, immediatley went to jerusalem, which could bespeak his desire to report these things in person to the Apostles. Regardless, whether revelations were through the individual Apostle or not, the result was that the Christian church remained in unity.

        2. The situation today is different then the first century, naturally, due to the fact that inspiration is not present and neither are the gifts of the spirit, one being the discernment of inspired utterances. Today, although it is quite possible that a new understanding could be achieved through the efforst and research of an individual, as Proverbs recommends, there is salvation in a multitude of counselors. That is why there should be a concensus of a new view before it is promoted to the congregation. In the event that inspiration is no longer with us, this is the workable approach to any new understandings and still maintain the unity.

        I agree with your answer to Ephesians 4:11-17.

        Regards,
        Rotherham

  30. rotherham2 says:

    Hello Mike,

    It seems to me in reereading your post that you think that having a governing body is OK for the local congregation but is inappropriate on an earthwide basis. Am I reading that correctly?

    Regards,
    Rotherham

  31. theapologeticfront says:

    Rotherham,

    I don’t want to get too sidetracked here, but I have to point out that I find your agreement with individuals promoting new understandings to be inconsistent with current GB processes. Yes, the apostles were inspired, but is the GB following 1st century practices or aren’t they? There seems to be some picking and choosing. Doesn’t the GB require full consent amongst all before a new understanding can even be printed? It would seem that Peter’s example would be rejected today if it were followed by a GB member. But i’m fine with moving on as there is still much more I could say on this.

    In answer to your question, I would have to say “no” because I there is too much baggage with the phrase “governing body” for me to agree. Should the elders in the local congregation get together to work through difficult matters? Certainly, but in no way would I parallel this with the JW Governing Body concept.

    While I appreciate the conversation, i’d really just like to see an exegesis of Ephesians 4 from you and then interact accordingly.

  32. rotherham2 says:

    Hello Mike,

    The question I asked is relevant to the discussion, so please take time to answer it. Although I have and will again offer an exegesis of Ephesians 4:11-17, I also think it is important to interact with the person who is in opposition to the view. Since so much of modern day teaching is based upon opinion and sometimes personal whim, it is important to know their views so as what to address and what not to address.

    Yes, the GB is following first century practices with one very significant difference. They are not inspired and they do not possess the gifts of the spirit, in particular the gift of discerning inspired utterances. In the first century, through the combination of those two things, the inspired library of books was established. We certainly are not establishing inspired writings today. What we are establishing is the correct understanding of that library which has been corrupted by the weeds during the growing season. It is a “process” to continue to rid those things which cause stumbling and/or persons who do the same. Naturally, the need of the existence of a governing element should become readily apparent in order to accomplish the refinement that would take place during the harvest period, which is where we believe we are in the stream of time. Refinements can come about through the efforts and personal research of the individual members of the GB or through their collective efforts, but always, these new understandings are presented before the body for their perusal and either rejection or acceptance. I don’t know why you would think that to be so odd or why you think I am off on that estimation.

    With that in mind, Ephesians 4:11-17 clearly establishes that there would be gifts in/to men that would be responsible for readjusting the holy ones until that full stature arrives. And it should be readily clear from the context that the purpose was for the unity to be maintained so that the congregation would not be torn by every wind of teaching. I’m not really sure what more there is to exegete than that. I think we actually agree that this is what it says. I think your disagreement is in relation to how strongly we should adhere to the teachings of those gifts in men.

    The way we have things arranged within our modern organization of Christianity is that we are trying to maintain the same stance toward unity as was maintained in the first century. As I stated before, without the very beneficial aid of direct inspiration, given that we are in the process of digging out from age-old errors and discovering more and more about the ancient languages used, I don’t see any other way to maintain earthwide unity except in the fashion that we do so. I am sure that there is some room for variation, but the basic principle is Biblically sound. If such a thing can be carried out on a local level, why in the world would we think that the same thing would not be necessary on a worldwide scale? Without it, Christianity would indeed be a perfect example of different congregations being carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching based on the cunning and contriving errors of men.

    We believe that this reflects the spirit of what is stated in numerous places within the Bible. Ephesians 4:11-17 surely doesn’t stand alone. And any exegesis of that passage must be seen to harmonize with everything else that is stated on the topic.

    The scriptures often reiterate the stance that there should be no divisions or sects among you. The only allowance ever spoken of for the existence of sects was for the purpose of establishing those who were approved by God. It was prophecied more than once that wolves would sneak in and even arise from within to mislead the congregation and possibly even wreck their faith. Without a centralized authority, that is exactly what happens in the world of religion.

    From the things that we have established, which are:

    ————–
    1. An unrelenting heretic should be removed from the congregation.

    2. We should surrender our views to those taking the lead over us as long as those views do not violate what the scriptures teach.

    3. Ephesians 4:11-17 is an active and current process to be fully realized in the future.
    —————

    we should be able to readily perceive that one who would take an unrelenting stance against those giftsof men, and therefore create disuntiy and possibly a sect, they should be removed from the congregation after a second admonition.

    Regards,
    Rotherham

  33. rotherham2 says:

    Hello Mike,

    It seems to me that your major objection is WHAT IF one discovers absolute proof that the GB is incorrect. Should they continue to follow the GB or not? The problem with this question is this; One first has to establish by means of a multitude of counselors that what they have discovered is indeed an absolute error on behalf of the governing body. Then, and only then, if the GB doggedly holds to an absolute error, should one reject their view. But there have been many who think they may have stumbled upon something absolutely true, only to find out through thorough examination, it’s either not true or its just another way to look at things, possibly even as viable as a current stand by the governing body, but it needs to be understood that in that case, naturally, the decision of the governing body would trump the individual view.

    I think that those who have a huge issue with this kind of conformance simply have an overactive independent spirit and probably think more of themselves when it comes to authority then they really should.

    Regards,
    Rotherham

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Rotherham,

      I’m likely to be very unavailable for discussion over the next several weeks. While i’d like to address some of these recent arguments when I return, feel free to provide your exegesis of Eph. 4:11-16 or any other points you’d like to make along these lines.

  34. rotherham2 says:

    For now, I think this is enough to consider:

    Hello Mike,

    The question I asked is relevant to the discussion, so please take time to answer it. Although I have and will again offer an exegesis of Ephesians 4:11-17, I also think it is important to interact with the person who is in opposition to the view. Since so much of modern day teaching is based upon opinion and sometimes personal whim, it is important to know their views so as what to address and what not to address.

    Yes, the GB is following first century practices with one very significant difference. They are not inspired and they do not possess the gifts of the spirit, in particular the gift of discerning inspired utterances. In the first century, through the combination of those two things, the inspired library of books was established. We certainly are not establishing inspired writings today. What we are establishing is the correct understanding of that library which has been corrupted by the weeds during the growing season. It is a “process” to continue to rid those things which cause stumbling and/or persons who do the same. Naturally, the need of the existence of a governing element should become readily apparent in order to accomplish the refinement that would take place during the harvest period, which is where we believe we are in the stream of time. Refinements can come about through the efforts and personal research of the individual members of the GB or through their collective efforts, but always, these new understandings are presented before the body for their perusal and either rejection or acceptance. I don’t know why you would think that to be so odd or why you think I am off on that estimation.

    With that in mind, Ephesians 4:11-17 clearly establishes that there would be gifts in/to men that would be responsible for readjusting the holy ones until that full stature arrives. And it should be readily clear from the context that the purpose was for the unity to be maintained so that the congregation would not be torn by every wind of teaching. I’m not really sure what more there is to exegete than that. I think we actually agree that this is what it says. I think your disagreement is in relation to how strongly we should adhere to the teachings of those gifts in men.

    The way we have things arranged within our modern organization of Christianity is that we are trying to maintain the same stance toward unity as was maintained in the first century. As I stated before, without the very beneficial aid of direct inspiration, given that we are in the process of digging out from age-old errors and discovering more and more about the ancient languages used, I don’t see any other way to maintain earthwide unity except in the fashion that we do so. I am sure that there is some room for variation, but the basic principle is Biblically sound. If such a thing can be carried out on a local level, why in the world would we think that the same thing would not be necessary on a worldwide scale? Without it, Christianity would indeed be a perfect example of different congregations being carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching based on the cunning and contriving errors of men.

    We believe that this reflects the spirit of what is stated in numerous places within the Bible. Ephesians 4:11-17 surely doesn’t stand alone. And any exegesis of that passage must be seen to harmonize with everything else that is stated on the topic.

    The scriptures often reiterate the stance that there should be no divisions or sects among you. The only allowance ever spoken of for the existence of sects was for the purpose of establishing those who were approved by God. It was prophecied more than once that wolves would sneak in and even arise from within to mislead the congregation and possibly even wreck their faith. Without a centralized authority, that is exactly what happens in the world of religion.

    From the things that we have established, which are:

    ————–
    1. An unrelenting heretic should be removed from the congregation.

    2. We should surrender our views to those taking the lead over us as long as those views do not violate what the scriptures teach.

    3. Ephesians 4:11-17 is an active and current process to be fully realized in the future.
    —————

    we should be able to readily perceive that one who would take an unrelenting stance against those giftsof men, and therefore create disuntiy and possibly a sect, they should be removed from the congregation after a second admonition.

    Regards,
    Rotherham

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