UNITY FOR THE NEW WORLD Edit
18 The sixth listed thing that God hates is a false witness that speaketh lies. If a brother is on trial, and a person appears to testify and tells falsehoods in order to get the defendant into trouble, rather than speak the truth about him, the falsifier becomes hateful to God. By his false testimony he may think to gain favor with the one questioning him, but he is certainly putting himself in disfavor with the Lord. One who pleases the Lord must come clean with his testimony. If such one's brother is under accusation and a point-blank statement is asked for, that one will say the truth about his brother- Even if it should bring a little persecution or rebukes from the worldly-minded, he will still be honest and say the truth. The Lord does not like a liar whose false testimony may be bought for some selfish advantage or bribe.
19 Seventh, and finally, the Lord abominates one that soweth discord among brethren. This is so easily done, by gossiping or tale bearing, by starting rumors or by finding fault. A person may hold a high position in the Lord's organization and may think chiefly of using his office to make others think well of him. At the same time he tries to disparage others or create a poor opinion of them by looking around for things with which to find fault, with one purpose, to sow discord among the brethren. A very good example of this is found in the "evil servant" class, whom the Lord foretold as sure to arise at the end of the world and who would smite fellow servants but would eat and drink with the drunken ones of this world. (Matt. 24:48-51) "A froward [rebellious] man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends." (Prov. 16:28) Whispering about any brother is to be avoided. If you think someone has done wrong, very well; if you want to say something about it, go direct to him. Do not start a whispering campaign. "The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly." (Prov. 18:8) In plain English, the admonition here is that one should mind his own business, and his business should be in accord with the Lord's Word. Then there will be no difficulty or trouble due to busybodying.-1 Pet. 4:15.
20 It does not matter what problem comes up among those of the Lord's organization, there is always a proper order to follow, and it is set forth in the Lord's Holy Word. As long as we follow that, unity will be maintained; there will be no disruption. Those trying to bring about disruption the Lord God by His angels will clean out from his organization in due time, and it will be after those that are approved by Him under the test are made manifest. 1 Cor. 11:19.
21 This brings up the questions: Is there anything in the Bible as to disfellowshipping brethren and as to a congregation's taking a vote to have this done? Or, do the admonitions at Romans 16:17 and 2 Thessalonians 3:14 state the limit of what should be done, namely, to avoid those causing division and to have nothing to do with them? Such questions call for the consideration of the words of the Head of the church, Christ Jesus, to his disciples: "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican [a tax-collector]." (Matt. 18:15-17) Jesus' words corresponding to these are found at Luke 11:3,4: "Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him."
22 The course above outlined by the great Peacemaker is for the purpose of keeping peace and unity among the brethren, rather than stirring up discord by tale bearing and whispering. In times past those words of the Lord have been interpreted to this effect: That, where one member of the church sins against another, the matter is, after due process, to be brought before a whole congregation. There it should be discussed and argued out. Then a vote should be taken by stretching forth the hand of each member of the congregation in a democratic-voting manner. Thus the congregation must indicate its determination of what should be done with the one found guilty.
23 Putting such a meaning into our Lord's words, however, has served to cause more controversy and disruption among congregations in times past than almost any other thing. Undue heat of contrary opinions has been stirred up and undue measure of time and attention has been taken from the Lord's work of preaching the good news of the Kingdom. [w1944 152] Reasonably, that could not be what the Lord purposed by giving such instructions. When methods produce the wrong results, then it is wise and timely to examine the methods hitherto used to determine whether such are Scriptural or not.
24 It must always be kept in mind that God's organization of his people is Theocratic, not democratic. The laws of his organization come from himself, the great Theocrat, Jehovah, the Supreme One. The laws of the organization do not draw their strength and validness from the voice or vote of the congregation and are not applied because of the consent of the governed. "For Jehovah is our judge, Jehovah is our lawgiver, Jehovah is our king; he will save us." (Isa. 33:22, Am. Stan. Ver.) Quaintly put, a Theocratic organization is ruled from the top down (which means from the Most High God downward) and not from the bottom up (that is, from the people of the congregation upward). It is true that the Head of the church did say that the one sinned against, who fails to gain his brother, should at length tell the matter to the church or congregation. However, Jesus did not say that the entire congregation should sit like a body of Supreme Court justices of last appeal and should have the case fully aired, and then vote in democratic manner after hearing and arguing the case. The words of Jesus at Matthew 18:15-17, as above quoted, go farther than the like words at Luke 17:3, 4, above quoted. Jesus' words in both Scripture citations agree with the law at Leviticus 19:17,18: "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart : thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD."
25 At 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, the apostle Paul argues against taking matters of difference between brethren into worldly courts, and says that the saints shall judge the world and angels and hence should be able to judge matters between themselves. Yet that is not saying that the entire congregation is constituted to sit as a court before which the cases of sin among the brethren against one another are to be submitted for final adjustment. Paul did not say that the entire congregation must consume time, attention and nervous energy in trying such cases, thereby focusing their attention upon sin and the due punishment of it. The congregation is the Lord's own. Therefore, when a brother has been sinned against by another and he finally brings it to the congregation and tells it, the Theocratic rule should be observed in the congregation.
26 The matter for straightening out should not be aired before the whole congregation for judgment, and take up everybody's time and consideration. It should be quietly laid before the representative members of the congregation or company, the ones that are charged with the responsibility for the spiritual welfare of the brethren and for the direction of their service to the Lord. The case recorded at Deuteronomy 21:18-21 illustrates this way of proceeding in an orderly, Theocratic manner. The record reads: "If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; and they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard- And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear." According to this procedure, the hearing of the case and the rendering of the decision should be confined to the representative brethren, as pictured by the city elders, not elective elders as in religious organizations, but elders who are such due to Christian knowledge, growth and experience. Their decision must be according to Theocratic law. After they render the decision, the congregation may hear about the matter and may concur in the decision and in the action due.
THE ORDERLY WAY
27 This course is supported by the way the apostles John and Paul proceeded, with due consideration for Jehovah's Theocratic arrangement. At 3 John 9-11 it is written concerning a disturber that wanted to shine and be boss and lord it over others: "I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words : and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God." In taking such action, John acted as a representative of the great Theocrat and as one of the twelve foundations of the church built upon Christ Jesus the Rock. (Rev. 21:14) The situation he took in hand was one where an individual was sinning against his brethren and thereby troubling the peace, unity and spiritual health of all the congregation. [w1944 153] There was no congregational assembly and voting upon what should be done. The serious situation was brought to the attention of a most responsible representative of the Lord's organization, possibly the sole survivor at that time of the twelve apostles. He advised what action he would take in behalf of the congregation.
28 Another responsible servant of the Theocratic organization, Jude, writes about divisionists: "These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the spirit." Or, rendered in plainer English: "These are those who cause divisions [make separations]: they are men of the world, devoid of the spirit. But do you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith and praying in the holy spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ which issues in eternal life. On some who are in doubt you should have pity; others you must save, snatching them out of the fire; and on others have pity mingled with fear, while you hate even the garment stained by the flesh." (Jude 19-23, Weymouth; Am. Stan. Ver.) Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, does not include in his epistle any instructions for a congregational meeting and democratic voting.
29 At 1 Corinthians 5 :1-7 the apostle Paul brings to view a case of sin between members of the congregation at Corinth, which case had become so notorious that it came within the knowledge of the congregation. However, it did not come to the congregation's notice in the way outlined by Jesus at Matthew 18:15-17. The sin was between a mother and son, and the mother did not bring the matter before the congregation. Instead, it was an offense by both parent and son against the entire company. The record reads: "It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened." Here the apostle Paul was duly handling "that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches".-2 Cor. 11:28.
30 As a representative of the Lord's Theocratic organization Paul did, indeed, instruct that a congregational meeting be held, but not to vote with outstretched hand and indicate by a show of hands what was their judgment and decision on the matter. They were told to meet to confirm and apply the judgment already expressed by the Lord's apostle. By putting from their midst this leaven of a case of fornication between mother and son it would tend to preserve the spirit of the Lord within the Christian congregation and would save it unto the day of the Lord Jesus Christ. The ones that had chosen to go in the way of Satan through committing fornication and to bring reproach upon the entire congregation thereby were to be 'delivered over to the one they had elected to serve till at last their flesh was destroyed'. The good of the congregation and of the witness work which it was carrying on demanded this obedience to Theocratic instructions for the organization.
31 It is apparent, therefore, that the congregation had not acted upon the case. So Paul, as the authorized Theocratic representative of the Lord, took the matter in hand. He advised the company the proper action to take to preserve the Lord's spirit among them. He instructed for the dismissal of the offender from their assembly, saying: 'But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without [the congregation]? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person." (1 Cor. 5:11-13) Later, when the genuine repentance of the dismissed offender became known, it was not the congregation or ecclesia that decided the re-admitting of the repentant one; it was the apostle Paul that ordered the receiving of such one back to their midst, as stated at 2 Corinthians 2:6-11 and 7:8-12. The entire course taken by the Theocratic representative was, as he wrote, "that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you." The congregation, by acting on the reproof given them, showed wisdom: "A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool."-Prov. 17:10.
32 At 1 Timothy 5:19-21 the apostle writes: "Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality." Such are not general instructions to all the congregation, authorizing anyone therein to take it upon himself to hear accusations and to deliver public rebukes and so make himself a spiritual policeman of the congregation. Be it noted that the apostle Paul was writing to a specially appointed servant to the brethren and an overseer of their interests, namely, Timothy. This young man in his relationship to the apostle pictures the present visible organization, the Christian "society" the Lord is using, in its relationship to Christ Jesus, "the Apostle and High Priest of our profession." (Heb. 3:1) The apostle directed the overseer of the congregations to entertain the accusations against elder servants, but only before the proper number of witnesses; and also to give out public rebuke to sinners, for the wholesome effect that it would have upon others of the congregation. No such authority to act was delegated to the entire congregation. In all cases the apostle recognized the Theocratic rule within God's visible organization and instructed accordingly.
33 Jesus' words at Matthew 18:15-17 and Luke 17:3, therefore, mean that the one sinned against should rebuke his brother who offends against him. This agrees with Proverbs 25:8-12: "Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbor hath put thee to shame. Debate thy cause with thy neighbor himself; and discover not a secret to another: lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away. A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures [frames] of silver. As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear."
34 If the sinner is wise, he will appreciate the calling of the offensiveness of his act to his attention privately instead of noising it about by tale bearing and whispering, and he will ask forgiveness. (Prov. 17:10) If he does not respond to this direct personal admonition, the offended brother may next bring the matter to his attention again, for the sake of bringing about a reconciliation, if possible, but this time taking along with him two or three witnesses, not necessarily appointed servants in the congregation. These can witness the brother's efforts at reconciling the offender and can add their weight to the admonition to him for his repenting and rectifying matters. As it is written: "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."- Jas. 5:19, 20.
35 If, now, the offender refuses to heed this second and reinforced admonition to a right course, then the offended one may tell it to the "church". According to Theocratic order, this would not mean to a congregational meeting with all present, but telling it to those charged with the care of the congregation and representing it in special service capacities. If he refuses to hear the church through its representative servants, then what? Does the Lord say the church or congregation should excommunicate the offender? No; but the Head of the church says to the offended one, whose efforts at reconciliation have failed: "Let him be unto THEE [not, unto the church] as an heathen man and a publican." The offended one may refuse to have anything further to do with such one until he comes for a reconciliation. Only where the peace and unity of an entire congregation are involved, and its activity in the Lord's witness work is being disturbed and hindered, there the Theocratic organization steps in and must take action in behalf of the congregation, as illustrated in the words and actions of the apostle Paul.
36 Paul's instructions were offered after the Lord Jesus said what he did at Matthew 18:15-17. Hence Paul's words show the proper procedure in congregational matters after Jesus had spoken as to personal matters. The point of the argument is, then, that brethren should seek to settle their personal matters between themselves rather than endanger and upset the good order, harmony, and united action of a congregation busy at getting Jehovah's work done.
37 In all those cases of apostolic times it is the Lord, through his Theocratic organization as represented by its special servants, who instructs servants or congregations what to do. To the special servant Titus Paul wrote: "A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself." That is: "After a first and second admonition, have nothing further to do with a man who causes divisions; for, as you know, a person of that sort has gone astray and is a sinner self-condemned." [w1944 155] (Titus 3:10, Weymouth) The servant acting for the Theocratic organization would give no assignments of service to such disturber of unity. To the church at Thessalonica Paul wrote: "And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." (2 Thess. 3:14, 15) One refusing to obey organization instructions, as represented by the apostle's epistles, should not be followed or imitated by others of the congregation, but should be helped to see the error of his way. If he falls into causing divisions in the congregation, then the Theocratic organization must step in through its authorized servants.
KEEPING ON THE JOB
38 A person that has been given an appointment of service in God's organization should keep on the job until the Lord makes a change for him. If he leans to his own understanding and thinks he would like to do something else that attracts him off the job, and then he makes the change for himself, he may cause division in the organization for a time. An illustration of this is found in the case of "John, whose surname was Mark". (Acts 12:12, 25) He left his mother at the house in Jerusalem and was sent out on the road with the apostle Paul and Barnabas to foreign lands. They all acted as special pioneers in the preaching service; "they had also John to their minister." (Acts 13:1-5) When this party got into the Roman sub-province of Pamphylia, John Mark quit his part in the special pioneer service and left Paul and Barnabas without benefit of his ministry in their foreign assignment. This reflected unfavorably upon John Mark as to future privileges of service, and on one occasion it caused division in the pioneer ranks for a time. The account of this, at Acts 15:36-41, reads as below:
39 "And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them [his cousin] John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; and Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches-" John Mark thereby lost his privilege of accompanying Paul, due to falling down in his past performance, quitting the work while on the job. The privilege went to faithful Silas.
40 Only after Mark had proved himself by a continuous record of faithfulness was the rift healed and he came back into Paul's confidence. He again became associated with Paul. During Paul's imprisonment at Rome he writes: "Aristarchus my fellow-prisoner saluteth you, and Mark, the cousin of Barnabas." (Col. 4:10, Am. Stan. Ver.) (Philem. 24) Then after a season of service with Peter at Babylon, Mark was summoned by Paul during his second imprisonment at Rome, Paul saying, "for he is useful to me for ministering." (1 Pet. 5:13; 2 Tim. 4:11, Am. Stan. Ver.) All considered, the best course is not to risk such a strain on one's relationship to the Lord's organization, as Mark did. For unity, peace, and the operation of the witness work without interruption, the consistently faithful servant will stay on his assigned service appointment.
41 The psalmist was inspired to describe the beneficial effects of unity now for the new world of life and righteousness. In beautiful verse he sings: "Lo! how good and how delightful for brethren to dwell together even as one. Like the precious oil upon the head, descending upon the beard; the beard of Aaron, which descended unto the opening of his robe: like the dew of Hermon which descended upon the mountains of Zion, for there did [Jehovah] command the blessing, life unto times age-abiding." (Ps. 133:1-3, Rotherham) Such dwelling together in unity was in Theocratic territory, particularly at Mount Zion in the time of a national feast, when all twelve tribes of Israel and the strangers dwelling within their gates came together to the place, Jerusalem, where Jehovah had placed his name and where his temple stood.-Ps. 122:1-9.