Is belonging to an Organization a requirement for salvation?
"Come to Jehovah's organization for salvation"-Watchtower 1981 November 15 p.212
The word "organization" is never used in the Bible. The Scriptures make it clear that being in union with Jesus Christ is the requirement for salvation.
- John 10:9 "I am the door; whoever enters through me will be saved."
"The Bible shows that Jehovah has always guided his servants in an organized way... The nation of Israel was called "Jehovah's congregation." If you were a true worshiper of Jehovah back then, you had to be part of that congregation of worshipers, not separate from it. ...Did Jehovah ever use more than one organization during any period of time? In Noah's day only Noah and those with him inside the ark had God's protection and survived the floodwaters. Also, in the first century there were not two or more Christian organizations. God dealt with just the one. There was just the "one Lord, one faith, one baptism." Likewise in our day Jesus Christ foretold that there would be only one source of spiritual instruction for God's people." You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth p.192
- Bible history proves that this is not the case. For the majority of history God has not used any organization. He predominantly has operated through individuals, and has regularly dealt with more than one group at a time.
- There is only one period of time during which it can be claimed that God dealt with an organization; that is the nation of Israel. Yet even this group split into two distinct entities and he continued to deal with them and individuals and other groups.
Did Jesus indicate that all of his followers would need to be part of a single organization?
- Mark 9:38-42 "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. 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. But whoever stumbles one of these little ones that believe, it would be finer for him if a millstone such as is turned by an ass were put around his neck and he were actually pitched into the sea."
- Matthew 18:20 "Where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst!"
Did the first century Christians form a centralized, governing body?
- The term "governing body" does not appear in the scriptures. Rather than showing the existence of a small number of 12 leaders being referred to as a Governing Body, Acts describes a gathering of the apostles and older men in Jerusalem along with Paul and Barnabas, who were traveling missionaries, and others. This large group combined to decide on an important issue affecting the local congregations.
- There was freedom within congregations to discuss different points of view without fear of retribution, as shown by open discussion on circumcision. Even when guidelines were given at Acts 15 regarding circumcision, these were not binding. The formation of congregations indicates order but does not imply an elite group of specially directed leaders in a position to demand unquestioning obedience.
- The history of the Apostle Paul shows that there was no centralized Governing Body directing the early Christians. After Paul's conversion, he did not convene with a governing body or go to Jerusalem to receive an assignment. Rather, he immediately embarked on his missionary work under direction of Holy Spirit. Paul did not make his first trip to Jerusalem until three years after his conversion, and even then he did not meet with a group of leaders, but just with Peter and James.
The concept of Jehovah having one single organization that he directs by means of a Governing Body is used to support the concept that being a Jehovah's Witness is essential for salvation. Though the Bible consistently says it is faith in Jesus that is important, the Watchtower shifts attention to the Organization with statements such as "we must uphold the truth of that organization." (Watchtower 1961 May 1 p.276) The Governing Body uses this principle to set itself as a spiritual authority above the Bible, such as when stating:
"Thus the Bible is an organizational book and belongs to the Christian congregation as an organization, not to individuals, regardless of how sincerely they may believe that they can interpret the Bible. For this reason the Bible cannot be properly understood without Jehovah's visible organization in mind." Watchtower 1967 October 1 p.587
Jesus said "He that believes has everlasting life"(John 6:47) and "I know my sheep and my sheep know me"(John 10:14). When a Jehovah's Witness reads passages like these they are trained to understand "whoever believes what the Watchtower says about Jesus may have everlasting life", and "the sheep know me, only by means of the Watchtower Society".
It is apparent that for most of the history of the Bible, Jehovah did not have a visible organization. Even during the short period that he used the Nation of Israel he regularly dealt with individuals in preference to the leaders of that organization, as was also the case during early Christian times. With both the Jews and early Christians, within just a few decades they were plagued with corruption and apostasy.
Based on the Biblical evidence, is it reasonable to believe that Jehovah deals only with the leaders of the organization rather than faithful individuals, even ones outside of that organization or who disagree with false teachings of His representative organization?
Based on Jesus teachings that he is the only way to salvation, is it correct to think that being associated with an organization is our means of salvation?