Updated: Nov 26, 2020
“I fed you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet strong enough. In fact, neither are you strong enough now, for you are still fleshly. Since there are jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly and are you not walking as men do?” - 1 Corinthians 3:2,3
The experience of realizing not everything in the Watchtower is in harmony with the Scriptures may feel a bit like waking up from a deep sleep. Like many of us, you may have been serving God for many years. Nevertheless, it might have taken awhile to become fully aware of the contrast between the truth in his word and the prophetic interpretations we once took for granted. As members of the congregation discerning these things can be quite disturbing. It is understandable that some may be so shocked that they begin to question their faith altogether.
Therefore, it would be wise at this point to take some time and evaluate our attitude and motivation. How did we end up looking for sources of information and encouragement outside the authority of the "Governing Body"? Was it because someone or something stumbled us and exposed a weakness in our faith? Or rather, was it after we had exhausted all of the resources the congregation has available that we needed to look, 'outside the box' so to speak, in order to confirm the truth we found in God's Word through our personal study? Are we looking to excuse ourselves from attending meetings, or participating in the ministry? Begging off from spiritual activities may denote fleshly thinking which we should be on guard against.
If we truly cherish our relationship with our father we readily welcome counsel from his Word. The admonition cited in 1 Corinthians chapter three should impel us to take an honest evaluation of ourselves. Are we more fleshly or spiritual in our overall attitude and disposition regarding the truth? Obviously, our natural inclination is toward fleshly thinking. Are we actively resisting that pull? We do not need anyone to echo what the fruitage of the spirit is, our father has made sure we are all able to recite it by rote. (Galatians 5:22,23)
As we start to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the truth found in God's Word we must be careful not to forget the basics. Christ's core teachings are simple. “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and - - - your neighbor as yourself”. (Matthew 22:37-39) “Have love among yourselves”. (John 13:35) Everything we do and say must be motivated by love. Otherwise, as Paul said, all our efforts to serve God would be in vain. Indeed Paul spoke specifically to us: “If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all the sacred secrets and all knowledge, and if I have all the faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians13:1)
There is no point to pursuing knowledge and acquiring insight into all the sacred secrets contained in God's Word if we do not focus on making love our defining characteristic. As mentioned, the purpose here is not only to provide information but, more importantly, to support and encourage each other to continue zealously worshiping our God.
We may well have legitimate grievances with the congregation today. Perhaps the congregation's view of the 'generation' exasperates us. Did you know there was a similar error in the first century? Something Jesus said to Peter was misinterpreted by the disciples as an indication Christ's presence would begin while the apostle John was still alive. When was this erroneous view corrected? In the year 98 John wrote “Jesus did not say to him that he would not die” (John 21:20-23) That wrong view was embraced and possibly promoted in the congregation for more than 60 years.
Have you discerned that there is no Scriptural basis for turning in a field service report? How about brothers serving the congregation being prevented from having a beard? Indeed, there are many reasons we might end up frustrated and find fault with those imposing their imaginary authority they think they possess over Christ's congregation today.
Rest assured, Paul had even greater obstacles to hurdle in his day. The primary issues for Paul were the Law and circumcision. Paul repeatedly and emphatically argued that none of the disciples should be put under compulsion to keep the Mosaic Law and be circumcised.
Paul had to deal with a pretend "governing body" much like the one we have today. You might argue that the "governing body" back then had the apostles serving on it. We can be confident that by the year 56 there was no "governing body" in Jerusalem that the apostles presided over. The study note in the New World Translation Study Edition has some interesting comments on Acts 21:18. The “James” serving on the "governing body" was not the apostle James, but rather was Jesus half brother. The historian Eusebius said: “The remaining apostles, in constant danger from murderous plots,were driven out of Judea.” (Eusebius, Book III, V, v. 2) Hence the apostles were not in Jerusalem at that time. (See box – “James And The Governing Body”) Note what Paul had to say about some of these elders that made up the first century "governing body". “Regarding those who seemed to be important—whatever they were makes no difference to me, for God does not go by a man’s outward appearance—those highly regarded men imparted nothing new to me.” (Galatians 2:6) Paul also did not receive any approval or appointment from a "governing body" of his day. He said: “I did not immediately consult with any human; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before I was.” (Galatians 1:16,17) While Paul was certainly humble and did what he could to promote unity in the congregation, he had very little respect for any brother's conviction that circumcision and keeping the Law should be promoted in Christ's congregation. (Galatians 5:12)
Who was it that supported the Law and circumcision in the first century? “Those of the sect of the Pharisees who had become believers stood up from their seats and said: “It is necessary to circumcise them and command them to observe the Law of Moses.” (Acts 15:5)
At a critical juncture in Paul's life he was compelled to go to Jerusalem. The holy spirit had made it clear to him that this trip would end up with his being imprisoned. (Acts 21:11) Upon his arrival in Jerusalem he went to the "governing body" and informed them about the progress of his ministry. Were they excited to here the report? No. Did they offer him encouragement and support? No. They told Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and they are all zealous for the Law. But they have heard it rumored about you that you have been teaching all the Jews among the nations an apostasy from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or to follow the customary practices. What, then, is to be done about it?” (Acts 21:20-22)
Can you imagine how Paul must have felt when these brothers looked him in the eye and said that? They said it to him right after he had just greeted them and went on to give them “a detailed account of the things God did among the nations through his ministry.” (Acts 21:19) Remember this is the same man that four years earlier blasted the Galatians for promoting the Law. He wrote “O senseless Galatians! Who has brought you under this evil influence, you who had Jesus Christ openly portrayed before you as nailed to the stake? This one thing I want to ask you: Did you receive the spirit through works of law or because of faith in what you heard? Are you so senseless? After starting on a spiritual course, are you finishing on a fleshly course?” (Galatians 3:1-3) This is who Paul was and that is how he felt about it with God's blessing and spirit. He had to stand there as these men on the "governing body" told him to show the people he was keeping the Law.
If that was the situation the apostle Paul had to deal with we shouldn't expect more from the "Governing Body" today. Most if not all of the brothers back then likely had known the Lord in the flesh and enjoyed close association with the apostles. The brothers today have never had the privilege of benefiting from that kind of association. What example did Paul set for us? He dealt with that "governing body" in a loving way. When they looked him in the eye and told him to do something stupid he did not argue with them. He could have, but he didn't. He was laser focused on the course he was on, knowing his imprisonment was imminent. (Acts 21:13) He did not want to cause any further disunity or disturbance for the congregation. He left the matter alone and acquiesced to their request. Nevertheless, he did write a letter to the Hebrew congregations addressing this issue five years later.
All of us inevitably end up asking ourselves the same question. What should we do? If God expects us to worship him with truth, how can we be associated with a congregation that we discover to be actively promoting false prophetic interpretations? A Scripture we could prayerfully ponder is 1 Corinthians 4:5 “do not judge anything before the due time, until the Lord comes. He will bring the secret things of darkness to light and make known the intentions of the hearts.”
We have direct admonition in God's Word to not judge the congregation “until the Lord comes.” If these issues frustrate us just imagine how Jesus, as head of the congregation, must feel. We can be confident that he is eagerly anticipating cleansing God's worship of all untruth. While we await Jesus arrival what should we do? Undoubtedly we have heard the answer many times. Paul wrote: “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)
What is the counsel? Take our brothers and sisters needs into consideration. Incite them to show love by our fine example. Do not forsake “meeting together” with them. Encourage them. As we look for the light cresting the horizon on the Lord's day we need to be found doing these things “all the more so”. Learning the truth found in God's Word should not be something that stumbles us or slows us down. To the contrary, it should impel us to increase our zeal.
If we have acquired knowledge, wisdom and discernment we are under obligation to stop thinking and acting in a fleshly way. Many of the things discussed here would fall into the category of 'solid food'. Regarding solid food, Paul said we need to be spiritually strong to digest it. He admonished the Corinthians saying that they were not strong enough for the solid food he wished to impart. He counseled them pointing out that “there are jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly and are you not walking as men do?” - (1 Corinthians 3:3)
We need to be on guard with respect to our spiritual progress. It is essential that we constantly evaluate ourselves to make sure we are moving forward and never regress in our spiritual comprehension. (Colossians 1:9-12) As discussed, those serving on the "governing body" in the first century were guilty of spiritual regression. A few years after they gave Paul the fleshly minded command to show everyone that he was keeping the Law he wrote them the following admonition: “For although by now you should be teachers, you again need someone to teach you from the beginning the elementary things of the sacred pronouncements of God, and you have gone back to needing milk, not solid food.” (Hebrews 5:12) Later on in the twelfth chapter he assured them of God's affection for them hence the discipline. Indeed the entire tone of his letter was pleading with them to pay attention and discern the greater realities that the Law foreshadowed. (Hebrews 10:1)
We need to remember that our father is watching us. Malachi 3:16 says “Jehovah kept paying attention and listening. And a book of remembrance was written before him for those fearing Jehovah and for those meditating on his name.” Our fear of displeasing our father will help prevent us from making any presumptuous judgments about individuals in the congregation today. God has appointed his son to judge these men. It is not our place to do so.
Paul instructed us “brothers, just as you received instruction from us on how you should walk in order to please God, just as you are in fact walking, we request you and appeal to you by the Lord Jesus to keep doing it more fully.” (1 Thessalonians 4:1) Note that he said “keep doing it more fully”. We need to continually press on towards maturity as Christ's disciples. (Hebrews 6:1) If we do our best to apply this counsel, and humbly look to our father for help, we will indeed be “strong enough”.
“James And The Governing Body”
Jesus half brother James did not exercise faith in him while he was engaged in his ministry. (John 7:5) Afters Jesus resurrection he appeared to James, who then became a believer. (1 Corinthians 15:7) There is little doubt that Jesus had a close personal relationship with his younger brother James. From the beginning James was a pillar in the congregation. (Acts 1:14) In the year 56 it seems that James, and other brothers that served on the first century "governing body" lacked appreciation for the fact that adhering to the Law was of no benefit for Christ's congregation. (Acts 21:20-22) Nevertheless, James appears to have appreciated and benefited from the letter Paul wrote in the year 61. Shortly after having received Paul's letter he was inspired to write his own letter to the congregation in the year 62. Paul emphasized the superiority of a disciple's faith over adherence to the Law. James expounded on the point Paul had made by emphasizing that our faith needs to be accompanied by works. (James 2:14-17) It is noteworthy that in the year 56 James and the brothers had instructed Paul to accompany men, who had made a vow, to the temple for worship. (Acts 21:23, 24) However after having received and meditated on Paul's letter he was inspired to write “Above all, my brothers, stop swearing, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath. But let your “Yes” mean yes and your “No,” no, so that you do not become liable to judgment.” (James 5:12) So in echoing Jesus words to 'let our yes mean yes' James demonstrates an appreciation for applying principals over adherence to the Mosaic Law. In doing this James sets a fine example for us by his willingness to accept correction and adjust his thinking to align with Christ's.