For various reasons, I haven’t been able to keep up with the meeting workbook reviews. I have been prioritizing the Watchtower Study Reviews when I only have time to review one. If you find the Meeting Workbook reviews to be more beneficial, let me know and i’ll try to prioritize this better.
You can find the relevant workbook section here: https://www.jw.org/en/library/jw-meeting-workbook/october-2019-mwb/meeting-schedule-october14-20/
TREASURES FROM GOD’S WORD
You Must Be Holy
5 How can we show that we love Jehovah’s name? By our conduct. Jehovah requires that we be holy. (Read 1 Peter 1:15, 16.) This means that we worship only Jehovah and that we obey him with our whole heart. Even when we are persecuted, we do our best to live according to his righteous principles and laws. By performing righteous deeds, we let our light shine and thus bring glory to Jehovah’s name. (Matt. 5:14-16) As holy people, we prove by the way we live our lives that Jehovah’s laws are good and that Satan’s accusations are false. When we make mistakes, as we all do, we genuinely repent and turn away from practices that dishonor Jehovah.—Ps. 79:9.
6. Why can Jehovah view us as righteous, even though we are imperfect?
6 On the basis of Christ’s sacrifice, Jehovah forgives the sins of those who exercise faith. He accepts as his worshippers those who dedicate themselves to him. Jehovah declares anointed Christians righteous as his sons and those of the “other sheep” righteous as his friends. (John 10:16; Rom. 5:1, 2; Jas. 2:21-25) So even now, the ransom enables us to have a righteous standing with our Father and to share in the sanctification of his name.w17.02 9 ¶5
In the meeting workbook, only paragraph 5 is referenced. This is unfortunate because paragraph 6 provides the entire basis for worshipping, obeying, and bringing glory to Jehovah. Why? Because apart from the person and work of Christ, our works would mean nothing. We would all be condemned no matter how many good works we did.
But notice what the Watchtower leaves out. They ask the reader to consider 1 Peter 1:15-16 and then go on to speak about the importance of righteous behavior. That’s fine, but let’s not forget the basis for it in the context. 1:16 says, “Be holy for I am holy…(1:18) knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things…(1:19) but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” (1:18-19) I don’t know why this wasn’t quoted rather than go to different texts in different contexts like paragraph 6.
In paragraph 6, it is stated that Jehovah only forgives those who exercise faith. JW theology certainly teaches this, but it also teaches that the unrighteous (i.e. those who don’t exercise faith) will be resurrected, get a clean slate (their sins paid for through death), and have the opportunity to exercise faith. Next, the WT quotes John 10:16, Rom. 5:1-2, and James 2:21-25 as referring to friends of God and the sons of God. But these texts say nothing to divide Christians up in this way. In fact, no text does this. All Christians are declared righteous in the same way through faith (Rom. 4:5). All Christians are friends of God. All Christians are sons of God (Rom. 8:14).
But the real question is, what difference does it make for the Christian to be declared righteous by faith if unrighteous ones will be resurrected and given the same chance to follow Jehovah during the millennium? In addition, does that righteous standing before God for Christians follow from this life through the millennium?
6 Jehovah tells us: “You must be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16; 2 Peter 3:11) Jehovah will accept our worship only if it is holy, or clean. (Deuteronomy 15:21) Our worship cannot be clean if we do things Jehovah hates, such as things that are immoral, violent, or connected with demonism. (Romans 6:12-14; 8:13) But it would also displease Jehovah if we allowed ourselves to be entertained by such things. This could make our worship unclean and unacceptable to Jehovah and could seriously damage our relationship with him.lvs 77 ¶6
Let’s not forget history. JW’s celebrated holidays for years, even after they were chosen and approved by Jesus in 1919. Was their worship still acceptable to God?
Digging for Spiritual Gems
The Supreme Overseer. First Peter 2:25 evidently quotes Isaiah 53:6 as to those who ‘like sheep went astray,’ and Peter then says: “But now you have returned to the shepherd and overseer of your souls.” The reference must be to Jehovah God, since those to whom Peter wrote had not gone astray from Christ Jesus but, rather, through him had been led back to Jehovah God, who is the Grand Shepherd of his people. (Ps 23:1; 80:1; Jer 23:3; Eze 34:12) Jehovah is also an overseer, the one who makes inspection. (Ps 17:3) The inspection (Gr., e·pi·sko·peʹ) could be associated with expression of adverse judgment by him, as in the first century C.E. in the case of Jerusalem, which did not discern the time of her “being inspected [Gr., e·pi·sko·pesʹ].” (Lu 19:44) Or it could bring favorable effect and benefits, as in the case of those glorifying God in the day “for his inspection [Gr., e·pi·sko·pesʹ].”—1Pe 2:12.it-2 565 ¶3
Who is the “Shepherd and Guardian of your souls” that Peter is referring to? Watchtower says Jehovah and this isn’t referring to Jesus. Why? Because you can’t “return” to someone that you were never following. In addition, Jehovah is referred to as the Shepherd in the Hebrew Scriptures. He also “oversees” (or, “Guardian”). So there’s no good reason to think that 1 Peter 2:25 is referring to Christ, right?
Unfortunately, the Watchtower fails to exegete the passage to provide context. They also fail to provide any examples in the Christian Scriptures where this Hebrew “Shepherd” and “Guardian/overseer” language is applied to Christ. The closest we get is the Watchtower’s correct observation that Peter is drawing from Isaiah 53:6, which of course is a prophetic text about the coming Messiah. This should give any exegete pause in considering Jesus as the candidate for 1 Peter 2:25. But what about the context of 1 Peter 2:25? Does that give us any reason to think it is speaking of Jesus?
Notice the primary subject beginning in 2:21. It is Christ who suffered and is the example for us to follow. In 2:21-23 He is said to have committed no sin, was reviled, suffered, and entrusted Himself to God. This passing reference to the Father in v. 23 does not negate that Jesus is the focus. In v. 24, the meaning of Jesus’ death is described, and then v. 25 explains the reaction: Peter’s audience returns to Jesus.
The Watchtower assumes that “return” must mean turning back to one that you previously turned away from. While this is possible, I don’t think it’s a necessary or even likely interpretation. Even Isaiah 53:6 tells us that “each of us has turned to his own way.” In addition, BDAG does not define επιστρεφω (epistrefō) as “return to a point where one has been, turn around, go back.” Instead, it leaves open the possibility by stating, “to change one’s mind or course of action, for better or worse, turn, return.” Specifically in relation to 1 Peter 2:25, it defines the word as simply, “in good sense turn (about).”
Thus far, we don’t have any contextual or lexical support which necessitates a negation of Jesus Christ. But what about the Shepherd and Guardian? A simple word search will display ample evidence that Jesus is indeed the primary shepherd of Christians. Here are just a few:
“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me.” (John 10:14)
“I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice, and they will become one flock with one shepherd.” (John 10:16)
“Now the God of peach, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord.” (Heb. 13:20)
The consistent application (or dare I say, the only?) of Shepherd language in the Christian Scriptures is to Jesus Christ. What about the “Guardian/Overseer?” All the usages in the Christian Scriptures are referring to men. So there’s nothing in the word that necessitates exclusively God-language. Is Jesus the “Guardian of our souls” though? Indeed! Christian Scripture texts abound in support of this. One of my favorites is from John 6:
“This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:39-40)
Jesus is in control of our salvation. He even decides on who He will reveal Himself to (Matthew 11:27). Much more could be said, but i’ve provided ample evidence for Jesus being the referent in 1 Peter 2:25.
APPLY YOURSELF TO THE FIELD MINISTRY
When encountering someone who claims disbelief in God, the Watchtower is correct to not make assumptions as to the basis for their belief. The reasons could be intellectual or personal and emotional. Not surprisingly, the non-JW in the video essentially responded with the problem of evil and suffering. While the JW’s felt the need to relate to the experience, i’m not so sure it’s always helpful. Without further discussion, how can we relate to how someone else deals with tragedy? Everyone deals with it differently. I could have lost my mother too, but it’s not so relatable if it turns out that I didn’t have much of a relationship with my mother. You could get backed into a corner on this, so it’s probably best to refrain from relating such an emotional and tragic situation.
Otherwise, the JW was right to ask when he stopped believing in God and why. Questions are usually safer, especially in the initial discussion. People can be so easily upset and offended that it’s sometimes best to tread more carefully. The non-JW provides an example of family difficulty through hardship and death. Then, they go on to describe how they didn’t deserve this because they went to church.
Of all texts, James 1:13 wouldn’t be on my list to address the problem of suffering. This passage is dealing with temptation, not life’s hardships and trials. Notice in 1:14 the example of lust is provided. We aren’t necessarily “tested” with lust. Rather, we are tempted with lust. 1:16 reinforces this even further because deception is brought up. What makes more sense, being deceived by lust or tried by lust?
Amazingly, the JW’s get the non-JW to agree that “God does not try us with evil.” Really? I think Job would dispute this. Job was most certainly tried by evil actions. “Jehovah gave and Jehovah has taken away.” (Job 1:21) Furthermore, “shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10)
Trying someone with evil is far different from actually tempting them. Scripture is filled with examples of God using evil actions to bring about His purposes and strengthening the character of His people. And while this is true, it wouldn’t be the first thing i’d bring up in answer to the challenge.
Rather, I would continue to ask questions. Does this person really think that God doesn’t exist just because God did something he didn’t approve of? What kind of world would we live in if the Creator of the universe was forced by us to do only what we asked of him? The only thing the charge really proves is that you don’t like what God does. This doesn’t prove that God doesn’t exist, no matter how hard it is to emotionally reconcile your dilemma. The Psalms, for example, are filled with examples of the author struggling to understand God and why He does things, such as allowing evil men to prosper and followers of Jehovah to struggle. Much more can be said, but space will not allow to fully develop a theodicy.
In conclusion, the conversation started out ok but the non-JW was provided with some poor solutions.