I’m going to make the bold attempt, given my extremely limited time, to post a weekly article reviewing the Life and Ministry Meeting Workbooks for the following week. I’ve found that these workbook references contain a bit more substance than what is found in the weekly Watchtower articles. In addition, I’m well aware that I have different audiences, some who prefer written articles and others audio/video. So let’s see how this goes, shall we?
This week’s workbook makes reference to Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” and interprets 2 Cor. 12:7-10 as a prayer from Paul to Jehovah:
Another faithful servant asked Jehovah to remove “a thorn in the flesh,” a nagging problem. The apostle Paul entreated God three times to be set free from this trial. Whatever it was, like an irritating thorn, it could have robbed Paul of his joy in Jehovah’s service. Paul likened it to being constantly slapped. Jehovah’s answer was: “My undeserved kindness is sufficient for you; for my power is being made perfect in weakness.” Jehovah did not take away that thorn in the flesh. Paul had to contend with it, but he added: “When I am weak, then I am powerful.” (2 Cor. 12:7-10) What did he mean?
Paul’s problem did not miraculously disappear. Still, it did not prevent him from accomplishing remarkable things in Jehovah’s service. Paul relied on Jehovah for support and constantly asked for his help. (Phil. 4:6, 7) Toward the end of his earthly life, Paul could say: “I have fought the fine fight, I have run the course to the finish, I have observed the faith.”—2 Tim. 4:7. (w08 6/15 3-4)
Notice the Watchtower neglects to mention Jesus in their exposition, even though Christ is specifically identified as “The Lord” within the context of the passage:
“Concerning this I implored the Lord three times…” (12:8)
“…so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (12:9)
…for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (12:10)
There is simply no compelling reason to suggest “the Lord” as referring to anyone but Jesus. Yet, the Watchtower confidently asserts not only that Jehovah is the one who answers Paul, but the text itself reads “Jehovah.” This is in spite of the fact that no single Greek manuscript in existence reads YHWH/Jehovah here. The Watchtower’s interpretation is primarily based on their understanding that Jesus shouldn’t be prayed to. And since Paul wouldn’t pray to Jesus, then “the Lord” must be Jehovah/the Father. In the Watchtower’s own words:
We should present our prayers to God through Jesus and not directly to Jesus himself. (w94 12/15 p. 24-25)
Yet, there is no Scriptural prohibition against praying to or worshipping Jesus Christ. Rather there are a number of Scriptural examples where Jesus is prayed to (e.g. 2 Cor. 12:7-10, John 14:14, 1 Cor. 1:2, etc.) as well as worshipped (Heb. 1:6, Rev. 5:6-14)
Next, the Watchtower makes reference to an article where Christ’s power is made mention (though incorrect about the prayer being to Jehovah/the Father). So here they are half correct. Then, unfortunately, they reference another article where Christ is no longer the source of the power:
Paul realized that there was only so much he could do without help from a higher source. God’s holy spirit could supply the power that Paul lacked. Not only that, but God’s spirit could empower Paul to perform tasks that he would never have been able to complete in his own power. The same is true of us. If the strength we have comes from Jehovah, we will be strong indeed! (w18.01 9 par. 8-9)
Notice that it’s “God’s spirit” empowering Paul and that “there strength we have comes from Jehovah,” even though this is not what 2 Cor. 12:7-10 states. Why not state the power comes from Christ? This is not to suggest there is no involvement of the Father and Holy Spirit (though the passage is silent on the two). Rather, it’s about specifying what the passage itself specifies.
In the “Digging for Spiritual Gems” section, 2 Cor. 12:2-4 is addressed where Paul describes “the third heaven” and “paradise.” Because I did an entire podcast reviewing this “Question from the Readers”, I won’t belabor the point here.
Lastly, chapter 67 from “Jesus – the way, the truth, and the life” is referenced. These paragraphs caught my attention:
Jesus cries out: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever puts faith in me, just as the scripture has said: ‘From deep within him streams of living water will flow.’”—John 7:37, 38.
Jesus is referring to what will happen when his disciples are anointed with holy spirit and called to be in line for heavenly life. This anointing occurs after Jesus’ death. Beginning on the day of Pentecost the following year, streams of life-giving water begin to flow as spirit-anointed disciples share the truth with people.
There is no scriptural basis for believing that what Jesus promises in John 7:37-38 only applies to some Christians. In 7:39, John speaks of “the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive.” That is, the Spirit would be given to every follower of Christ following Pentecost. Yet, the Watchtower wants to create an artificial separation between two classes. It’s unclear from the Watchtower in chapter 67 where the “other sheep” fit into this. Do they receive no Holy Spirit? Jesus says,
“For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.” (John 3:34)
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:13)
There is also nothing in Jesus’ words in John 7:37-38 (or Pentecost) which state anything about “heavenly life” (i.e. eternity in heaven) for a particular group of Christians. Rather, all Christians receive the Holy Spirit and have the same locational future.