“I Resisted Him Face-to-Face.”
1) Elders confronting the rank-and-file
2) The prophet Nathan confronting King David
3) The Apostle Paul confronting the Apostle Peter
The Watchtower is indeed correct that Christians should be thankful when we are approached with needed counsel, whether it be from elder or non-elder believers. Of course, every situation is going to be different. Sometimes we may be approached because a fellow believer knows we’re struggling with something. Other times it may be because we’re engaging in unrepentant sin and in need of rebuke. Or it may be that we’re believing and practicing false doctrine, which would likewise require correction. In every case, love and obedience should be what drives us to the difficult task of confrontation (Eph. 4:15).
Let’s apply this to the Governing Body. When (not if) the Governing Body teaches error or gets involved in sinful actions, what is the duty of the Christian? Scripturally, we find absolutely no prohibitions against confronting the Governing Body, whether publicly or privately (assuming a Governing Body even exists Scripturally). Instead, we find both examples (Gal. 2:11-13) and commands (2 Tim. 2:24-26) whereby Christians confront others with the truth, even at the expense of unity. While divisions are never the ultimate goal, they are sometimes the by-product of confronting error and presenting the truth (1 Cor. 11:18-19).
This brings us to the Governing Body. Surely, no group of men are above correction. It appears the Governing Body is above correction because they have provided no guidance for how a rank-and-file JW could or should confront them when they are in error. Are there perhaps checks and balances in the upper levels in the organization? Perhaps, but we are never told. But one thing is for certain: publicly expressing disagreements with the Governing Body (even if it later turned out to be true) is forbidden and punishable. Even if Paul were a Governing Body member, it is difficult to imagine such a scenario ever taking place in JW leadership. If it has happened, it was behind closed doors (see Ray Franz’ Crisis of Conscious for an insider’s perspective).
Thus, if a fellow Christian, especially one with privileges in the congregation, is thoughtless or acts in an unchristian way, it can hurt us or make us angry. ‘How can such things occur among Jehovah’s people?’ we might ask. Actually, such things occurred even among anointed Christians in the days of the apostles. (Gal. 2:11-14; 5:15; Jas. 3:14, 15)
At the time this Watchtower article was written, the “faithful slave” was identified as follows:
We accept the teaching that all of the anointed ones living on earth at any given time constitute “the faithful and discreet slave” that Jesus said would provide timely “food” for his domestics. (w07 11/1 pp. 27-31 par. 12)
How interesting. Back in 2010, the Watchtower held that the “faithful slave” (i.e. all anointed JW’s) was capable in acting in unchristian ways, just as in the first century. Yet today, you would be hard pressed to find any such words being expressed of Governing Body specifically, who is now exclusively identified as the faithful slave. This is not to say the Governing Body is claiming sinless perfection. Rather, you wouldn’t find the Governing Body making statements about themselves as a group whereby they are “thoughtless…acts in unchristian ways…hurts…makes angry.” Remember, the Governing Body is a class, not individuals.
Next, to elaborate on what I stated a few paragraphs earlier, the Watchtower asks the reader to look up Galatians 2:11-13 and provides the following commentary:
Peter gave in to the snare of fear of man. (Prov. 29:25) Despite his firsthand knowledge of Jehovah’s thinking on the matter, Peter feared the opinion of the circumcised Jewish members of the congregation in Jerusalem. The apostle Paul, who was also present at that meeting in Jerusalem in 49 C.E., confronted Peter in Antioch and exposed his hypocrisy. (Acts 15:12; Gal. 2:13, ftn.) How would the Gentile Christians who were personally affected by Peter’s mistake respond to the injustice? Would they allow themselves to be stumbled? Would Peter lose precious privileges because of his mistake? (w17.04 27 ¶16)
Galatians 2 is a great example of how different the first century church was to the Jehovah’s Witnesses today. To repeat: could anyone imagine a scenario where a Governing Body member publicly rebukes another Governing Body member? Or worse, a non-Governing Body member publicly rebuking a Governing Body member? Whether Paul was in the Governing Body or not (from the JW perspective), this wouldn’t happen today.
Notice the Christians who were affected by Peter. In JW theology, there is no “allowing themselves to be stumbled” when the Governing Body teaches something that is false. You are to believe whatever the Governing Body puts in print. If that stumbles you, then you were just doing what you were told. Yet, the Watchtower seems to be implying that these Gentile Christians may have had the option to not follow Peter’s teachings prior to Paul’s rebuke.
The point is, no Christian or group of Christians is beyond rebuke, whether public or private. Yet, the Governing Body has placed themselves in a position whereby a rebuke from a rank-and-file wouldn’t be permissible.
Digging for Spiritual Gems
[Paul] also knew that Christ died, not for perfect people, but for sinners. And Paul was one of those sinners. In fact, he wrote: “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and handed himself over for me.” (Gal. 2:20) Yes, Paul accepted the ransom. He recognized that the ransom applied to him personally. (w14 9/15 16 ¶20-21)
What is often overlooked is the fact that the ransom even applies the non-JW, so that even the unrighteous are resurrected to life and provided the chance to prove themselves faithful during the millennium. Go HERE to view Watchtower quotes on this matter. The fact of the matter is, the ransom may be applied to you whether you appreciate it or not. However, this is not what the Scriptures teach. Jesus’ atonement and righteousness is only applied to those who believe (John 3:16, 36; Rom. 3:22-26).
Shifting gears to attending meetings, the Watchtower writes:
Jehovah wants us to worship him along with other true Christians. The Bible says: “Let us consider one another so as to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking our meeting together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24, 25) We should do our best to be at all the meetings. The meetings give us an opportunity to encourage and strengthen one another. (bhs 202-203 ¶18-19)
Play close attention to what is stated: be at all the meetings. What exactly is your best? And which meetings? The 2nd question is easier to answer. It’s only the meetings approved by the Governing Body. They set the standards that you must follow. Consider the following scenario. Perhaps you find it beneficial to you and your family to attend the Kingdom Hall meetings where you sing songs of worship and hear a few public talks. But there are other meetings that aren’t beneficial to you. Maybe you find that the Watchtower studies (and the public comments) are too shallow. Given your limited amount of time, you’d rather spend it on something that will be much more uplifting, so you start your own group along with a few like-minded believers. You meet once a week where you pray together, study together, and sign songs of worship. But in doing so, you are regularly skipping a weekly KH meeting (but still attending at least one). Would this be allowed? Probably not. But if not, by what biblical standard?
Living as Christians
Watchtower theology gets pretty complicated at this point. Believing in Christ sets you free from sin forever. According to the Watchtower interpretation of Romans 6:7, your physical death in this life pays for your sins, even if you were unrighteous and never trusted in Christ:
When the unrighteous are resurrected, will they be judged on the basis of their past actions? No. Romans 6:7 states: “The one who has died has been acquitted from his sin.” The unrighteous will have paid for their sins by dying. Thus, they will be judged on the basis of what they do after their resurrection, not what they did in ignorance before they died. (w14 6/1 11 ¶1)
The Watchtower has two points of theology to reconcile:
1. Believing in Jesus sets you free from sin and death.
2. Whether you believe in Jesus or not, you pay for your sins with your death. Then, you’ll be resurrected and will be judged on the basis of what you do after your resurrection.
So what’s the problem? Unless you survive the tribulation, you are going to die and pay for your sins. Yet, the Scriptures teach that if you have faith in Christ, He will pay for your sins with His death (2 Cor. 5:19-21).