I can't remember where I found the following article. It helped me see the light about religious organisations and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.
Remember Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:1-4
Joel 2:28 After this I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will have dreams, and your young men will see visions.
Acts 2:1-4 When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house were they were staying. And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech.
Read 2 Peter 1:20-21 and compare the difference in how the Holy Spirit operated between the Old Testament prophets and the Christians.
2 Peter 1:20-21 First of all, you should know this: no prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, moved by the Holy Spirit, men spoke from God.
God has been using individuals to carry out His purpose since Abel's day. He has never used any single group or organisation. The Watchtower Society has twisted scriptures to make it appear that He used a group of apostles in Jerusalem as a "Governing Body". If that is the case, why did it take Paul years to go up to Jerusalem after he accepted and submitted to his Lord and Savior on the Damascus Road?
Gal 1:15-20 But when God, who from my mother’s womb set me apart and called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me, so that I could preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone. I did not go up to Jerusalem to those who had become apostles before me; instead I went to Arabia and came back to Damascus.
Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to get to know Cephas, and I stayed with him 15 days. But I didn’t see any of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.
Now in what I write to you, I’m not lying. God is my witness.
The claim is made by the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization that God only deals with organizations and with only one organization at a time. Of course what they are saying is that God is only dealing with them and that all the other religions in the world are wrong and are being led and/or misled by the Devil. What does the Bible show to be the case in this matter?
We find early on in the Bible (Genesis) the case of Jehovah dealing with two brothers, Cain and Abel. Later on Enoch came on the scene and God was perfectly content in dealing with this man as well. Then came Noah and his family who belonged to no organized religion and yet found favor in God’s eyes. Later still came Abraham and again Jehovah showed no hesitation in dealing with him and his family although they did not belong to any organization unless you want to call his family an organization. In one sense it most certainly was but then if we do that, we make even more trouble for our concept that God deals only with one organization at a time. At some point we are introduced to Abraham’s nephew Lot who eventually leaves the family and strikes out on his own with his own family and thus with his own organization. What do we find then? Jehovah deals with Lot and his family just like he did when they were part of Abraham’s camp. No difference. So God is either not dealing with an organization at all or he’s dealing with two. In either case, our premise is already in serious trouble.
At one point in Abraham’s life he meets a most remarkable character, the mysterious Melchizedek, king priest of Salem. (Which may very well be the city that later became Jerusalem). Now here is an entire city (organization?) and a religion (there must be a religion for there to be a high priest and is not a religion an organization?) with which Jehovah is dealing. So at one point we have God dealing with Abraham and his family, Lot and his family, and the city of Salem and whatever religion (for we are never told) they practice. Three organizations. Not one, but three, including an organized religion with a priest apparently approved of by God long before Moses was even born! Isn’t that interesting? Right here and now it’s quite plain that God does not limit himself to dealing with a single organization. But wait, there’s more!
Sometime down the stream of time, Jacob who is later called Israel comes upon the scene and Jehovah makes a covenant with this man and his sons. One of those sons, Joseph, is sold as a slave to the Egyptians and later on becomes part of the Egyptian political system. Clearly he is no longer in his father’s camp now for he holds office now in a foreign country and yet what do we find? Jehovah is dealing with this man who is part of the Egyptian government while He continues to deal with Jacob and his camp. So now we have one organization and one individual that are being dealt with here simultaneously. But wait, that’s not all.
Though the record is not clear, perhaps some time after Joseph’s death and the birth of Moses, there was a man living in what is now Arabia with whom Jehovah was having very intimate dealings, a man who was very much involved in a religion in which he apparently served as a priest at least to some extent. This was at the time the twelve tribes were still in Egypt and still being dealt with by God. So even this late in history we still have Jehovah dealing with an enslaved nation as well as with a man practicing some sort of religion in another country. The man was, of course, Job. Job was never an Israelite and never belonged to Abraham’s camp and yet, like Melchizedek, he served the Most High God and found great favor in God’s eyes. But this is not the end of it either.
Some fifteen hundred years before the coming of Christ, a political nation was formed out of the twelve tribes that were liberated from Egypt. In the broadest sense of the term, that nation, consisting of millions, could be called an organization but that would be like calling a computer a group of circuits. True, but hardly descriptive. Let’s look at that nation and see if Jehovah dealt with that nation as an organization.
There was trouble at its very inception. While Moses was receiving the laws up in the mountain, Aaron was busy making the people a golden calf for them to worship. It got worst later on and what we find is God continually sending INDIVIDUALS appointed by him NOT BY HIS ‘ORGANIZATION’ to try to correct their willful, disobedient ways. Think about that for a few moments. Think about some of those anointed kings that sat on the throne at the head of this organization that mocked, persecuted, and even killed the individuals that Jehovah sent to them to correct their wicked ways. Think of the pride of those kings and priests, the pride that prevented them from recognizing the truth about what they had become.
There was constant murmuring against the Moses who had been duly authorized by, no less than, Jehovah himself to lead these people. His brother and his sister tried to come between him and God’s people. Later on the notorious Korah and a large group of like-minded rebels tried it as well. God had given Moses some incredible credentials which clearly and beyond all reasonable doubt established him as God’s true representative, credentials which Miriam and Aaron, and Korah did not have. Moses is viewed by many as representing Christ in this aspect of being a mediator between God and man and those who tried to usurp that divine arrangement met with God’s wrath. (Once Christ came he made it clear that he was THE mediator between God and man and there was to be no other. It stands to reason that anyone today that would presumptuously assume the role of Moses or Jesus as mediator(s) would also eventually have to deal with God’s wrath).
This particular ‘organization’ fared very badly in its attempt to remain faithful to Jehovah and was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people that trusted those leaders that kept telling them that they were authorized by God to instruct and lead them. There were crooked judges, corrupt priests, wicked kings, and the list goes on. The ‘organization’ seldom lacked bad leaders for there were far more bad kings than good ones. What God did was deal with individuals within that ‘organization’ and he did it time after time after time. There was no ‘organization’ at that time that was faithfully accomplishing Jehovah’s will and the nation of Israel brought untold reproach on God’s Holy Name over and over again.
But the question now arises: Now that Jehovah had a nation for his Name, would he deal only with that nation as long as he claimed it for His own? That is the claim being made by Jehovah’s Witnesses today. We have a marvelous insight as to how God views ‘organizations’ in the way he dealt with His own nation. It was during the reign of Solomon, third king of Israel, that God decided to tear his ‘organization’ apart. He sent the individual Ahijah, His duly appointed spokesman at the time (not a man appointed by the ‘organization’) to tell a man called Jereboam that he had been chosen to be king over the ten tribes that would break away from the nation. Not only did God split his ‘organization’ in two but he appointed the man that would lead the break away group. Now God had two ‘organizations’, two nations with which he would deal. So again the notion of his only dealing with one organization is proven to be a false teaching.
Of course the leader of God’s first ‘organization’ was extremely displeased with that news and sought to kill the one Jehovah had personally selected to head up that second ‘organization’. Not very good conduct to be sure but very typical of most of the leaders of both ‘organizations’ as history would bear out. Jereboam did not prove to be any better than the king of the other ‘organization’ because he soon initiated calf worship. Back to square one. So after roughly five hundred years of instruction and patience on Jehovah’s part, they were worshipping golden calves again!
When Jehovah sent an individual whom He had personally appointed to correct the king on his idolatry, the king acted like most leaders of ‘organizations’ who become drunk with power and turned on the prophet. Had Jehovah not intervened he surely would have had the prophet killed. This scenario was to be repeated many times throughout history and is a lesson that it seems some are never able to learn.
Some seventy or so years later another Jeroboam came on the scene. This one became king of Israel (the two tribes of Benjamin and Judah). It was at this time, some eight hundred years before the coming of Christ that another enigma appears. Jonah. Jonah is a prophet not to the nation of Israel but to the ten-tribe kingdom or the other ‘organization’. This demonstrates that God is still dealing with at least two different ‘organizations’ at this time. For some strange (strange if one assumes that Jehovah is interested only in the Jews) Jehovah manifests an interest in the spirituality of the Ninevites and so he sends his duly appointed representative to preach doom and destruction to the city. So now we have Jehovah interested in and directly dealing with THREE ‘organizations’! Isn’t that interesting? The record tells us that the city repented and evidently found favor in God’s eyes and God spared them. God spared a city that was not under his law covenant, a city practicing a religion that we are never given any details of, a city without a priesthood as authorized and outlined by the law covenant Jehovah had with the nation of Israel. Any lesson here?
All the while prophets were still being raised by Jehovah and sent to the leaders of the Jews warning them of the consequences of their trespassing his laws. I think it very important to re-state what has been previously mentioned that these prophets were appointed directly by God himself, not by his ‘organization’. More times than not, the ‘organization’ strenuously resisted these men sent from Jehovah. Understanding this we can come to appreciate that this ‘organization’ was not the instrument for the dispensing of Jehovah’s will to people of that era. To the contrary, this ‘organization’ often times was the greatest obstruction to that will. Jesus said this concerning this ‘organization’: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent forth to her," (Matt 23:37; Lu 13:34)
A couple of generations go by and the nation is decimated by the Babylonians. Many are hauled off to a foreign land while other families scatter about and become absorbed into other nations and cities. There is no more nation now, only the scattered remains of the people that once made up a powerful nation. The ‘organization’ is no more. God continues to deal with individuals from that nation although many now have become part of the political machine of their captives. Time passes, nations rise and fall, and one day those dispossessed people are released and a relatively small number make it back to the land of their forefathers. Another ‘organization’ is formed from the remnants of the first but it does not fare much better than the former nation despite the glorious prophecies of Isaiah and others who paint an Edenic picture of the repatriated land where peace and plenty are everywhere.
This period of the history of the nation of Israel is not nearly as colorful and exciting as the pre-exilic times but this is the period of history when their religion takes a turn and begins to form the complex system that it becomes. Ezra begins to compile what eventually becomes the Hebrew Scriptures which Jesus will use to denounce the religious system of that ‘organization’ once he comes to the earth. Of course, it behooves us to bear in mind that the religious system of the Jews was just one of the ‘organizations’ within that overall ‘organization’ we refer to as the nation of Israel. Within that ‘organization’ there were many smaller ‘organizations’ each with a different slant on what true worship should be. Jesus had to deal with these sects or small ‘organizations’ within the larger ‘organization’.
When Jesus arrives he finds this ‘organization’ with one overall religious system (organization) that has several sects (smaller organizations), none of which are pleasing to either him or his father. It is here and then that we find that the nature of this ‘organization’ has not really changed in the fifteen hundred years of its existence regardless of how many times Jehovah has corrected it. It flatly refuses to accept the authority of God’s Son. Why? Quite simple, actually. It does not want to relinquish its authority, its illusion or perception of its importance but most importantly it does not want to lose its power over the people.
This brings us to a fascinating but quite common phenomenon that is still with us today. For a very long time I could not understand how it was that the religious leaders of that first century ‘organization’ were unable to accept Jesus in light of the credentials he presented in the form of the profusion of miracles he performed. Take for example when he resurrected Lazarus and their response was to try to kill both Jesus and Lazarus. How unbelievable that is! One day I came across a term that the motion picture people use and then it dawned on me how this phenomenon works in so many aspects of our lives and particularly so when it comes to religion. The term is: ‘suspension of disbelief’. It’s the faculty we employ when we are faced with an impossible situation with which, for whatever reason, we do not want to deal with at the time. It can be as benign as watching a Western and seeing the hero shoot his six shooter nine times without reloading to something much more serious as refusal to deal with that spot on the X-ray that the doctor has just shown us. The consequences of acknowledging the impossible situation of the six shooter would mean that we can no longer involve ourselves with the movie for it has now become an absurdity. The consequences of accepting Jesus as the authority from God would have meant much more of a sacrifice for the Scribes and Pharisees and priests of his day.
Their acceptance of Jesus (one sent from Jehovah, outside of the law covenant arrangement, for he was no king or priest) would mean recognizing that they really had no authority when it came to God’s will. It would have meant recognizing that their importance existed only in their own eyes and that all their ‘knowledge’ was really no knowledge at all but just plain, old, human reasoning and opinions. This they had been passing off as the very thoughts of God for centuries now, an illusion they perpetuated to keep themselves in power over their brothers. Their very raison d’etre rested on the false premise they maintained, namely that of being God’s representatives. At one time God had made the arrangement of which they were a part and so it could be reasoned that there were there by Jehovah’s will. They placed more importance on the ‘organization’ than on what that ‘organization’ was doing and not doing. They forgot that God is not bound to accept organizations (even those he formed himself) just because of their labels anymore than he is bound to accept or reject individuals based on their membership to an organization. And so as seen in this light we come to appreciate that an organization is nothing to God. If the people in any given organization are doing the will of God, he is pleased. If the people in any given organization are NOT doing the will of God, he is displeased. Organizations are not figurative ‘arks’ into which people find refuge, they are no protection whatsoever. Jehovah has executed people inside his ‘organization’ time and again thereby demonstrating that the ‘organization’ was no protection whatsoever while he has looked on with favor to those outside that ‘organization’.
So what happened in Jesus’ day? God pulled individuals out of his ‘organization’ and directed them to his Son further demonstrating how impotent that ‘organization’ was when it came to salvation. He did this without the "organization’s" permission or authority even while they yet maintained that they were the only true authority and were duly constituted representatives of Jehovah. Jehovah did not feel any obligation to those individuals in that ‘organization’ and their membership in it did them no good whatsoever any more so than NOT belonging to that ‘organization’ hindered others from coming into God’s favor.
How did Jesus feel about ‘organizations’? Did he consider his followers an organization, an entity that had to be protected and insulated from the rest of humanity, an ark of salvation? "John said to him: "Teacher, we saw a certain man expelling demons by the use of your name and we tried to prevent him, because he was not accompanying us." But Jesus said: "Do not try to prevent him, for there is no one that will do a powerful work on the basis of my name that will quickly be able to revile me; for he that is not against us is for us." John 9: 38-40 Clearly Jesus did not advocate that God’s approval rested on a person’s membership in an organization…not even His own! Look what he says next: "For whoever gives YOU a cup of water to drink on the ground that YOU belong to Christ, I truly tell YOU, he will by no means lose his reward." (vs 41) Now do we grasp the significance of that statement? He did not say, "Whoever belongs to your ‘organization’ will get his reward", did he? He did not say that only the ‘organization’ was able to provide understanding of God’s will, did he?
Suppose an organization bears God’s name? Would that not make all the difference in the world? Would that not establish that organization as truly belonging to God and thereby having the authority commensurate with that? Again, Jesus’ words: "Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew YOU! Get away from me, YOU workers of lawlessness." (Matt 7: 21-23) Did you notice that the phrase ‘in your name’ occurs three times here and each time it’s in connection with something being done in Jesus’ name but yet it is unacceptable? Did Jesus mention anything here about having God’s name (or his) as criteria for acceptance from God? Does he mention anything here about belonging to God’s ‘organization’? Does he ever use the term at all? The one requirement stipulated here for salvation is simply the doing of God’s will, not membership in an organization.
Do we have any further examples that might help us to get a better picture of Jesus’ opinion of organizations in connection with salvation? I think we do. Jesus did not invite everyone to follow him on his preaching campaign, as some would have us believe. (See Luke 10:28; Matt 15:6; Mark 1: 40-44) Even when some actually wanted to follow him, he did not always allow it. (See Mark 5: 1-18) Then there is the enigmatic John the Baptist. He came before Jesus preparing the way for him and yet when Jesus came and John was privileged to see and hear the holy spirit and God’s own voice…John never became a disciple of Jesus! Not only that, but John retained most of his disciples and they stayed loyal to him to the point of burying him after his beheading. Did Jesus fault John for not turning over his disciples to him and coming over himself? No. To the contrary, Jesus paid John one of the highest compliments ever given a human. (Luke 7:28)
Jesus’ ministry was short in duration. After his death his followers organized and formed a religion. They were known as Christians and for a long time were considered nothing more than a Jewish sect given that the great majority of Christians were Jews and that their martyred leader had been one also. First century Christianity, as it existed in the days of the writing of the Greek Scriptures, lasted for less than one generation. With the death of the last apostle, it degenerated and broke up into sects. In the third century A.D., the bulk of those sects were consolidated into what would become the Catholic Church which, in time would also divide into Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox. Those two factions would later break up into even more sects. The first century ‘organization’ became many ‘organizations’. What did God do now that there were so many all claiming to be followers of his Son? Did he choose one and deal exclusively with that one? There is no evidence of that whatsoever. If having an ‘organization’ was so important to Jehovah, why did he not either choose one or form one like he did with the nation of Israel?
That is not to mean that there has been a shortage of those claiming to be God’s true church or ‘organization’. The Jews still believe that they are such. The Catholic Church most definitely believes that it is by virtue of ‘apostolic succession’. The Mormons think they are the ‘latter day saints’ by virtue of the claim of their founder receiving messages from God. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe and actively promote that they are the exclusive channel of communication that God is using today. So who’s right?
Well one could reasonably expect to see some credentials from any person or group making the claim of being a representative of the Almighty. After all, the Bible is full of examples of his providing such for those he sent in his name. So where are the credentials of those claiming to be such today? Ah, the inescapable fact remains that those credentials are nonexistent today. No person or organization today is able to demonstrate in any conclusive manner that they alone represent the Almighty, Jehovah God. That one fact is a thorn in their side and they don’t like to hear it because it renders them impotent when it comes to authority from God. If Jesus were to return to the earth today, without exception, there would be no religion that would accept him for the same reason that the Jewish religious system did not accept him in the first century. It would mean a loss to their perceived importance and the power they hold over those who allow them to do so.
* Judaism is the Jewish religion. It is based on revelation and a covenantal relationship of the only One God with the Jewish people. The name Jew is derived from Juda, one of the twelve tribes of Israel which had originally formed the Southern Kingdom, was taken into captivity by the Babylonians, and returned from exile to Judea (while the other tribes never returned as a group from their earlier captivity).
BTW, I was a publisher for almost 16 years until I put aside the WTBTS puiblications and started reading the Bible like it is meant to be read, like a book. Needless to say, I am now a witness for Christ instead out peddling books for a publishing company.