Jesus spoke about religious leaders who insist that others accept their own personal interpretations of the scriptures. He said that God finds the worship of people who do so to be in vain because they teach "commands of men as doctrines." ( Mt.15:9 ) A "command of men," as opposed to a command of God, is a teaching which men insist that their followers accept, even though it is not clearly stated in scripture. I believe Jehovah's Witnesses teach many such "commands of men" as doctrines. Because they do, I believe their worship of God is "in vain." I have here listed some of Jehovah's Witnesses' doctrines which I believe are clearly "commands of men."
1. Jehovah's Witnesses teach that there are two different "classes" of Christians with two different hopes for the future. They tell us that only a small minority of Christians will rule with Christ in his kingdom, and they say that the vast majority of Christians will be subjects of those kingdom rulers. However, the apostles taught that there was only "one hope" for all Christians. (Eph. 4:4-6) The apostles also forbid anyone to teach differently than they taught. Since Jehovah's Witnessers teach differently than the apostles on the issue of how many hopes there are for Christians, their two hopes/ two classes of Christians teaching is clearly contrary to the teaching of the scriptures. The Watchtower Society's insistence that all Jehovah's Witnesses accept and promote this teaching must then be regarded as a "command of men."
2. The Watchtower Society commands Jehovah's Witnesses not to accept blood transfusions. It is widely understood by all Christian groups except Jehovah's Witnesses that the instructions recorded in Acts 15:29, "Keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication," were written as strong advise to new Gentile Christians as a way they could avoid offending Jewish Christians. We know this by reading the context. Acts 15:19, 20 says, "My decision is not to trouble those of the NATIONS who are turning to God, but to write THEM to abstain from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood." It is plain that these words were not written as a binding decree imposed upon Christians. We know this because Paul later said that early Christians were, in fact, free to eat things sacrificed to idols ( one of the things Christians were advised to "abstain from" in Acts 15 ) so long as doing so did not stumble their brothers. (1 Cor. 8:4,7-9) We also know this because Paul said that for Christians, "All things are lawful but all things are not beneficial." (1 Cor. 6:12) Thus, Jehovah's Witnesses ban on blood is not scriptural. It must therefore be regarded as a "command of men."
3. Jehovah's Witnesses teach that crime, wars, contagious disease, earthquakes, famine and the like are signs of Christ's second presence and have been much worse since the year 1914 than in past generations. They teach that this proves that Christ returned in that year. The facts show that this is a misunderstanding of scripture. Read Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 carefully and you will find what Jesus was really saying. His point was that such conditions would exist all the way up to the time of his return and would not be signs of his return at all. He warned his disciples that they should not be worried by such things. He said, "These things must take place but the end will not come right away." (Luke 21:9) He compared the difficult times to come to "birth pains." (Mt. 24:8) For just as a woman must often undergo a long painful period of time before she finally gives birth, so Jesus indicated that our world had much pain to endure before he would finally return. To support their "composite sign of Christ's invisible presence" interpretation of scripture the Watchtower Society has shamelessly played with crime, war, disease and earthquake statistics ever since it first began in an attempt to prove their contentions. The truth is, however, since 1914 none of these problems has gotten worse and most have gotten much better compared to past generations. An objective study of scripture and history clearly shows that the Society's "composite sign" interpretation is not a teaching of scripture. However, the men who run the Watchtower Society command all Jehovah's Witnesses to accept and teach others this misinterpretation of scripture and distortion of history.
4. The name "Jehovah's Witnesses" was taken from God's words to Israel recorded in Isaiah 43:10. For a Christian group to take on such a name clearly conflicts with the teachings of scripture. First, as mentioned, the words spoken by God recorded in Isaiah 43:10 were spoken to the nation of Israel, not to Christians. The Bible tells us that Christians are to be witnesses of Jesus just as the Jews were witnesses of Jehovah. Jesus said, "You will be witnesses of me." (Acts 1:8) And the Bible tells us that it was "by divine providence," by God's own direction, that His people in the post-Jewish age would be known by the name of Jesus Christ. (Acts 11:26 NWT) Thus, instructing Christians to identify themselves by the name "Jehovah's Witnesses" clearly conflicts with the teachings of scripture and must be regarded as a command of men and not of God.
5. Insisting that all Jehovah's Witnesses accept and teach others that Christ returned in the year 1914 is certainly a command of men. Jehovah' Witnesses teach that Daniel chapter four indicates that Christ would return 2,520 years after the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the ancient nation of Babylon. They say this destruction took place in the year 607 BCE. However, as all those who have studied this teaching of Jehovah's Witnesses in an unbiased way have discovered, this understanding of Daniel chapter four is in conflict with both scripture and ancient history. Accepting and teaching others this highly questionable interpretation of scripture must then be regarded as a command of men.
6. The same can be said about Jehovah's Witnesses' teaching that the resurrection of all Christians who died before the year 1918 occurred in 1918. Paul said that those who teach that "the resurrection has already occurred" have "deviated from the truth" and "are subverting the faith." (2 Tim. 2:18) Jehovah's Witnesses teach that "the resurrection has already occurred." Thus, the teaching that the resurrection occurred in 1918 is clearly unscriptural, and the Watchtower Society's demand that all Jehovah's Witnesses accept and promote this teaching must be regarded as a "command of men."
7. The teaching that Jesus appointed the men who run the Watchtower Society as his "faithful slave" "over all his belongings" in 1919 is certainly not clearly taught in scripture. Thus, it can only be regarded as a teaching of men, not of God. And the Watchtower Society's insistence that all Jehovah's Witnesses accept and promote this teaching must be regarded as a command of men. Without any clear statement in scripture that Christ ever appointed the leaders of the Watchtower Society to such a position, such claims by the Watchtower Society are extremely presumptuous. And the Bible tells us that God hates presumptuousness. (Isaiah 13:11)
8. The Watchtower Society's use of the name "Jehovah" is not scriptural. They have added the name "Jehovah" many times to the text of the New Testament even though they admit that, "…no early surviving Greek manuscript of the ‘New Testament’ contains the personal name of God." ( The Watchtower March 1, 1991 p. 28 ) The Watchtower Society has said that they believe that the writers of the New Testament used the divine name in their original writings but that their original writings were later corrupted. However this contradicts what the Society itself has said. The Society tells us that, "Jehovah God has seen to it that his Word has been protected not only from mistakes copyists made but also from attempts of others to make additions to it. The Bible itself contains God’s promise that his Word would be kept in a pure form for us today." ( You Can Live For Ever in Paradise on Earth, 1982 p. 53 ) So, the fact is that Jehovah's Witnesses had no business inserting the name Jehovah into the New Testament portions of their New World Translations when that name is not found in any early surviving Greek manuscript of the New Testament. Historians tell us that the personal name of God, as used in the Old Testament, was not used in either its written or spoken form for many years before the time of Christ. Because the Jews were afraid overuse of the divine name might amount to "taking the name of the Lord in vain," they actually forbid its use altogether. The Bible tells us that for Christians the name of Jesus should be promoted above every name. (Phil. 2:9) Jehovah's Witnesses do not do this. Their putting the name Jehovah into the New Testament portions of their New World Translations and promoting that name above every name, rather than the name of Jesus as the Bible says Christians should be doing, and insisting that all Jehovah's Witnesses do the same is clearly a "command of men."
9. Jehovah's Witnesses insist that all their members must regularly engage in their work of preaching and disciple making. However, the Bible says that God gave only "some as evangelists" and only "some as teachers." (Eph. 4:11) Though all true Christians are certainly moved to share their faith with others when the opportunity arises, the teaching that all Christians are required by God to regularly serve as door-to-door preachers contradicts the scriptures and so must also be regarded as a command of men.
10. On this same line of thought, the Watchtower Society's demand that all Jehovah's Witnesses who share their faith with others keep track of their time doing so, and then report that number of hours they do so each month to their congregations is also contrary to the teachings of scripture. Jesus said that those who let others know what good works they are doing already have their reward in full. But he said that those who give in secret will be the ones who are rewarded by their father in heaven. (Mt. 6:1-4) Jehovah's Witnesses who are "regular publishers" let their elders know exactly how much time they spend preaching. Jehovah's Witnesses who are "Pioneers" let everyone in their congregations know how many hours they preach just by the act of "Pioneering." The Watchtower Society encourages this kind of "trumpet blowing," contrary to the teachings of Christ. Because they do, the Watchtower Society's telling all Jehovah's Witnesses to report the time they spend preaching is not scriptural and must then be regarded as a command of men.
11. Jehovah's Witnesses are not allowed to decide for themselves many minor matters which certainly should be left to an individual Christian's conscience. For instance Jehovah's Witnesses are not even allowed to decide for themselves if they will give their mother a card on Mother's Day or celebrate their child's first Birthday. This is not Christianity. It is legalistic Phariseeism. The Bible says that "Where the Spirit of God is there is freedom." ( 2 Cor. 3:17 ) With this verse in mind, since freedom of action, thought and speech to make decisions for themselves in minor matters such as these does not exist among Jehovah's Witnesses, we can only view the many legalistic prohibitions, which the Watchtower Society imposes on Jehovah's Witnesses, as commands of men not commands of God.
12. Jehovah's Witnesses refuse to let any member of the military or police join their religion even though the first Gentile accepted into the Christian congregation was a Roman army officer. Peter baptized Cornelius without ever demanding that he first resign from the military. (Acts 10) The fact that Jehovah's Witnesses treat baptismal candidates differently than Peter did shows that, in this area also, they teach commands of men as doctrine. ( Matt. 15:9 )
13. Jehovah's Witnesses "disfellowship" people for things never mentioned in the Bible. Jehovah's Witnesses have been disfellowshipped for using tobacco, for celebrating Christmas, for working for a Christian charitable organization and, more and more often today, simply admitting that they doubt the Watchtower Society's claim that it is God's exclusive channel for truth on the earth. Disfellowshipping and then shunning people for such unbiblical reasons clearly shows that the Watchtower Society's instructions to congregational Elders to disfellowship Jehovah's Witnesses for such things are commands of men, not commands of God.
14. Jehovah's Witnesses teach that only they are considered by God to be Christians and that only they have any hope of surviving Armageddon. Some of Jehovah's Witnesses actually deny the Society teaches this. However, as well informed member of Jehovah's Witnesses know, they do. As the Sept. 1, 1989 issue of the Watchtower tells us on page 19, "Only Jehovah's Witnesses, those of the anointed remnant and the 'great crowd,' as a united organization under the protection of the Supreme Organizer, have any Scriptural hope of surviving the impending end of this doomed system dominated by Satan the Devil." Jehovah's Witnesses have consistently taught that all members of Christendom's Churches, who are still its members when Armageddon strikes, will be executed by God. This amounts to judging and condemning others in the worst way. Who God accepts as Christians and who he will destroy at Armageddon is a judgment that is God's to make, not ours. Jesus commanded his followers to "Stop judging and you will not be judged," and "stop condemning and you will not be condemned." ( Matt. 7:1; Luke 6:37 ) Jehovah's Witnesses' teaching that God only accepts the worship of Jehovah's Witnesses, only considers them to be Christians and that only they "have any Scriptural hope of surviving the impending end of this doomed system," is not a teaching of Scripture and, in fact, is totally contrary to the teachings of Christ. Thus, the Watchtower Society's instructions to Jehovah's Witnesses that they should accept and promote such judgmental teachings are certainly commands of men and not of God.
15. Jehovah's Witnesses insist that all of its members attend five one hour long meetings every week, as well as various assemblies and conventions throughout the year. If they do not they are considered to be spiritually weak or spiritually sick. Though the Bible encourages Christians to not forsake gathering together, nowhere in the Bible are Christians told that they must attend five meetings a week. Therefore, the Watchtower Society's insistence that all Jehovah's Witnesses do so must also be regarded as a "command of men."
16. The Watchtower Society's teachings on the subject of who will receive a resurrection are clearly corruptions of scripture and, as such, must also be considered commands of men. Jesus said, "A time is coming when ALL who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out - those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned." (John 5:28,29 NIV) However, the Watchtower Society has long speculated back and forth about who will be resurrected and who won't. For instance, they have said, "The men of Sodom will be resurrected." Then, "No they won't." Then, "Yes they will." Then, "No they won't." And so forth. Such foolishness! Jesus plainly said that everyone who has ever lived and died will receive a resurrection. This has made no sense to the Watchtower Society so they have played with Jesus' words. Their NWT Bible has Jesus saying "all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out." They tell us this should be understood to mean all those who are now remembered by God. They tell us that those in "MEMORIAL tombs" refers to those in God's MEMORY. And they tell us that God forgets evil ones who have died so most of them will not have a resurrection. But to all Christians except Jehovah's Witnesses Jesus' words make perfect sense. For they know that Acts 24:15 confirms Christ's words in John 5:28,29 by telling us that "there will be a resurrection of BOTH the righteous and the wicked." And they know that Romans 14:12 says that "EACH of us will give an account of himself to God." They also know that Hebrews 9:27 tells us that "man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment." So, even though Christ's clearly stated intentions to resurrect everyone who has ever lived and died make no sense to readers of the Watchtower, they make perfect sense to readers of the Bible. The Bible indicates that God has no intention of letting evil men who spent their whole lives hurting others pass into eternal rest thinking they got away with their evil deeds. The Bible tells us God intends to bring back all wicked ones from their graves to face condemnation for the way they lived their lives. By the way, the Bible also tells us that the "resurrection of the righteous and the wicked" will take place when the thousand year reign of Christ has ended, not all during those thousand years as Jehovah's Witnesses teach. (Rev. 20:5)
As Jesus said, "It is in vain that they keep worshipping" God "because they teach commands of men as doctrines." (Mt.15:9)