reprinted from the book, Refuting Jehovah's Witnesses see catalog

Body of Christ

Biblical Overview

Those who have embraced the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior and have been born again are referred to as the true Church, the Bride of Christ (1 Cor. 15:9; Rev. 21:2). This church was formed on the day of Pentecost in the year 33, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the 120 disciples of Jesus waiting in an upper room (Acts 2:14).

In Acts 15:13-18, the disciple James recalls the prophecies of Amos 9:11,12 and Jeremiah 12:15, where it was foretold that Israel would be restored to God's favor, and the Gentiles would see salvation as well.

While the promises to the nation of Israel were well-known from Abraham's time forward and are still expected by some orthodox Jews, the Church actually represents a mystery that was not revealed to the Jews; it was a special purpose of God. Regarding this, the apostle Paul spoke of

. . . the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is CHRIST IN YOU, THE HOPE OF GLORY. (Colossians 1:2627)

The choosing of a Bride for Christ that would experience a spiritual rebirth and would one day rule in heaven with him was not understood until after Pentecost of 33 A.D. As Matt. 28:19,20 and 24:45 reveal, the Church (Bride of Christ) would exist during the interim between Christ's first and second coming. He would be present with his Bride, directing and blessing her, often through shepherds who would be accountable to God for their leading the flock in a good way or a bad way. In his parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30), Jesus answers his question as to "who then is the faithful and sensible slave" who will be providing for the Lord's sheep when he returns. It will be those Christian shepherds who produce fruit from their ministry and their shepherding work. Appointed shepherds in the body are especially accountable to God for how they take care of their master's interests (John 21:15-17; 1 Peter 5:14).

There would always be born-again Christians throughout history. Modern-day cults which claim that Christianity has been effectively dead for 1900 years until their leader came along have little faith in God's ability to maintain followers on the earth. Jude 3 tells us that the faith once delivered (literal Greek: once for all having been given) would not need to be redelivered or reestablished at a further point in time, due to a complete apostasy of the body of Christ. Jesus said that he would be with his disciples until the end (Matt. 28:20) and that he would establish his church on solid foundations and it would not be shaken (Matt. 16:18). His disciples would be recognized by their knowing Christ as their personal Lord, by their love for the Church and each other from a pure heart (not from an enforced unity or group pride), and their awaiting his return. By definition, they would be part of Christendom, which includes all people who claim belief in Jesus Christ. Most of them would therefore logically be found in the various churches, since Christians are encouraged to meet together to worship and strengthen one another (Hebrews 10:24,25).

It would be foolish for us to reject all of Christendom because of some poor examples who merely claim to be Christian. By the very definition of "Christendom," we would thereby also be rejecting true Christians. Jesus warned us that there would be counterfeit Christians (the "weeds," or tares of Matthew 13:24-30) that would grow together alongside the true Bride of Christ, so we need not be surprised to find false Christians.

THE BODY OF CHRIST WILL ALWAYS HAVE MAJOR PROBLEMS TO OVERCOME

That is, at least, until the Lord returns and we are perfected. This is the area where the cults have made the most effective inroads, by constructing a counterfeit church (or organization) that often appears to have greater unity than the Christian church. A closer look, however, reveals that such organizations are united on the principles of "obedience or else," instead of by the love of Christ.

Freedom requires us to use our heads and our hearts in making decisions, rather than following a code of rules as did the Pharisees. For many, though, such freedom is frightening. They would prefer to have all decisions made for them, so as to avoid responsibility. Such individuals are ripe for joining a cult.

If we compare the Church (or, Body of Christ) to a human family with a father, we realize why the Church continually has problems. Within any family there are always those who refuse to mature or wise up. They will cause problems for the other members of the family. In turn, the other members have opportunity to learn patience and other fruitages of the Spirit. In such a family, the father does not disown a "problem child" just because he is causing grief to the others, but will discipline him, yet keeping him within the family. His goal is to ultimately shape the child into a mature person.

The Corinthians had moral problems that God did not immediately step in and correct. Rather, God expected the elders to readjust the person. Also, there were the Galatians, who fell into false doctrine for a time. Revelation chapter two reveals that the Ephesians tolerated false doctrine which the elders weren't correcting, so Christ himself was going to come and straighten them out. Those in Pergamum were fornicating and eating things offered to idols, which stumbled others. In addition, they held onto the false teachings of the Nicolaitans (Rev. 2:14-16). Rather than weeding them out for apostasy, Jesus calls them to repentance before he will act. The church in Thyatira was tolerating a woman teacher that claimed to be a prophetess, who taught them how to fornicate and still be called Christians! Yet Jesus even gave her time to repent, which time could have been a matter of years for all we know (Rev. 2:20-23).

The point is, God operates a little differently than we would. His timing is different, and he is generally more gracious than we would be! (Isa. 55:69) Man's natural tendency is to take all matters into his own hands and demand conformity to a list of rules and codes of conduct, as in the cults. By doing so, one avoids having to show compassion or mercy towards troublemakers in the church. He thereby becomes like the eldest son of a family who rejects his weaker brothers and sisters, seeking to become independent. To justify his course, he uses the excuse that the family is a bad example to outsiders, and that he is therefore keeping himself free from being contaminated by "immature" ones. Such an attitude reeks of pride and hatred for the lowly ones who really do need help within the family!

Rather than seeking to work as a body and help those who are weak in faith and immature in heart, we may be like that eldest son. Looking down on the body of Christ, we decide to form a clique that will pride itself in being one step above the others. Such a course puts us in line for discipline by God. He does not look kindly upon those who despise his "little ones" (compare Matt. 25:41-46).

GOD CHOOSES SHEPHERDS TO LEAD HIS FLOCK

The Bible sets forth qualifications for elders (Greek: presbuteros) in the church in 1 Tim. 3:17 and Titus 1:59. Qualifications for deacons (Greek: diakonos) are laid out in 1 Tim. 3:8-13. The head of the Church, Christ, can designate some as prophets, teachers, evangelists, etc. He may call them directly through supernatural means, as in the case of the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 15:8), or they may be appointed as such by qualified Christian men. Their qualifications come, not from an organization or particular denomination (though they usually operate out of a church group), but from measuring up to these qualifications set forth in 1 Timothy and Titus. If men meet the qualifications for office and are appointed by other Christian elders, or if they are directly appointed by God for a particular work, they are said to be appointed by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28). These men are given charge over the flock, as shepherds in spiritual matters (not over the secular affairs of their life or their personal business). Their authority can be abused and this happens from time to time, and this is why they possess limited power. Only in the cults are the leaders given full power over the people.

If we recognize those who are appointed by the Holy Spirit within the church, and we decide to work as part of the local body, then we should submit to them where our conscience does not object, so as to make it easier for them to do the Lord's work given to them (Heb. 13:17). They have their own orders to follow (1 Peter 5:13). If you choose not to belong to any church, that is your decision and it will not affect your salvation, but it will affect your spiritual health, which leads us to the next consideration:

GOD LIKENS THE CHURCH TO A BODY

In 1 Cor. 12:7-31, Paul likens the church to a human body, where each member plays a part in contributing to the welfare of others. In Colossians 2:19 he indicates that this body is supplied and held together by the "joints" and "ligaments," meaning that there is a cohesiveness in the Body of Christ; there is a working together and a sharing in love. That way it is easier for us to remain as fruitful branches attached to the Vine, which is Christ (John 15:58). It is much harder (but not impossible) to be considered part of the Body if you isolate yourself from fellowship. Additionally, there are other complications. Due to our sinful nature, we tend to become selfish and withdrawn when we keep to ourselves (Prov. 18:1). On the other hand, as we put the interests of others ahead of our own and seek to minister to others within the Body, we feel good and our personal problems seem to become less significant (Phil. 2:3,4). God is also pleased with us, as even our Lord said, "There is more happiness in giving than in receiving." (Acts 20:35)

Of course, circumstances may prevent us from fellowshipping with others for various reasons. Because there are so many false teachers around, we may even be afraid to check out the churches. This is a monumental hurdle for former cult members to conquer. The hard part, let's face it, is getting to know strange people and daring to disagree with them or question them if we see something we consider wrong. Yet, often they are not wrong at all; and we end up with a more enlightened perspective on a formerly narrow viewpoint.

In seeking the right church or fellowship, we should not be looking for those who act like Christ already (you'll be hard-pressed to find them!), but we are looking for people who are drawing closer to Him day by day in their own spiritual lives. The "Bride of Christ" is promised in "marriage" to Christ, being built up as a place for God to inhabit by Spirit (Eph. 2:22).

There are God-given benefits from associating with a church. There can be much encouragement and good fellowship. The writer of Hebrews tells us not to forsake our gathering together (Heb. 10:24,25). There is a nurturing atmosphere that promotes healing (1 Thes. 2:7-12). Since there are shepherds in each group, they can assist us with our problems (Gal. 6:1). If we fall into sin or drift away, someone will come looking for us out of love (Matt. 18:12-14). According to James 5:14,15, we can be prayed for and be healed of sickness.

THE CHURCH WILL RULE WITH CHRIST ON EARTH

The Body of Christ is a priesthood, chosen first of all to proclaim the excellencies of God, who has called us out of darkness into light (1 Pet. 2:49). We are promised a place in the throne room of Christ one day (Rev. 3:21). We will reign with Christ over the earth for a thousand years (Rev. 20:6; 5:10). The earth will be restored to a paradise and many ancient promises will be fulfilled (Isa. 2:14; Jer. 3:17,18). The Church is said to judge the twelve tribes of Israel at that time (Luke 22:29,30). The Revelation of John tells us there will be a time when the church comes down from heaven back to the earth, obviously in their glorified condition (Rev. 21:2,3,9-14).

Refuting Jehovah's Witnesses

JW: "GOD HAS ALWAYS HAD AN ORGANIZATION"

God has always had a people, not a tightly knit organization resembling a business. God should not be expected to work through or recognize such institutions as if they are his "representatives." The Israelites in the wilderness were the closest God's people have ever come to being an "organization," as this was God's will at that time. Yet Adam, Enoch, Noah, Job, and the prophets were not "organized." Even the early church was far from being tightly organized.

The WT has misconstrued Matthew 24:45 to fit themselves, as they so often call themselves the "faithful and discreet slave class," as if Jesus was referring to a manmade organization or institution. Were they to read Matthew 25:20-23 and think about it, they would realize that Jesus mentions MORE THAN ONE faithful and discreet slave, and in fact was only indicating that any faithful Christian shepherd is represented by these faithful slaves, and that false prophets and unfaithful shepherds are represented by the evil slave of Matt. 24:48 and 25:26. He could not possibly be referring to one group or even one denomination of Christians, as this prophecy covers at least 2000 years, with hundreds of groups coming and going. God is interested in individuals, not organizations.

JW: "JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES MODEL THEMSELVES AFTER THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH."

Jehovah's Witnesses claim to model themselves after the NT Church. Not unexpectedly, so do most other "Christian" cults. However, there is no historical match, as the records of the early Church reveal they were worlds apart from being a regimented, well-oiled machine. Unity came through their spirits being united by a love for Christ - not through a unity enforced in the flesh, as is the case with modern religious organizations like the WT. Since such organizations cannot produce true spiritual unity (which can only come by the Holy Spirit), they must enforce unity by rules and regulations. Even some "orthodox" churches have developed this technique. Note the words of Harold Bussell in his book, Unholy Devotion - Why Cults Lure Christians with regard to such unrealistic expectations:

Many cults, as with numerous Evangelical groups, present themselves as being modeled after the New Testament church.

We all long and search for the "ideal" Christian community. We all have high expectations of the model Christian church. As Christians we esteem the New Testament church as our foundation and its fellowship as the goal for our community life. . . . [We] frequently forget that the New Testament church was constantly beset with doctrinal, behavioral, even racial problems.

The Corinthians, for example, tolerated sexual aberration, misunderstood the resurrection of the dead, and misused the gifts of the Spirit, and some even got drunk at Communion services. The Galatians misrepresented the gospel and turned to legalism for a time. The church in Colosse mixed Christian teachings with heathen worldviews. . . . 

Can we expect more from our "New Testament church"? Many cults describe themselves as ideal communities; they promise perfect fellowship. Our yearning and search for such an ideal can quickly turn our heads in the direction of those who offer something beyond what God is committed to establish in the here and now with fallen and redeemed human beings. (Unholy Devotion, p.51,52)

In a cult, you will find a community of people that believe the same thing, wear the same thing, have the same habits and talk the same talk. There is a community pride that goes along with such organizations; a sense of brotherhood much like Jewish communities and political activists possess. JWs feel at one with each other, not because of a unity based on a common love for Christ, but on their common interests in matters of routine and idealism. But this utopian idealism is an enforced idealism; there can be no dissent among the ranks. It restricts the freedom of people to be individuals, and forces them to conform to a certain narrow pattern of life so as to collectively accomplish a goal, much like communism operates. Christ never intended that we all be clones of each other and walk and talk alike. He never intended that rules of conduct and dress be drawn up and enforced. The apostle Paul condemns the adding of laws (legalism) in Gal. 5:14, along with those who advocate a "different" gospel (Gal. 1:69). The Lord intended that we use our individuality to reflect his glory and worship him and his Father (John 5:23).

JW: "THE CHURCHES ARE TOO DIVIDED OVER MATTERS OF DOCTRINE."

One of the great "stumbling blocks" that the church presents to the JW or ex-JW is the doctrinal variations that he sees within the churches. The WT has led him to believe that Christianity in the beginning was a united group, all believing the exact same thing, and having a central body of elders to police the church. Nothing could be further from the truth! Paul Johnson, a historian and author that the WT occasionally quotes, admits:

The followers of Jesus were divided right from the start on elements of faith and practice. . . . In Jerusalem, there were leaders and pillars, vaguely-defined officials modeled on Jewish practice; but they were ineffective. . . . Nor could the pillars of this inner party maintain their authority even in Jerusalem. They slipped back into Judaism. . . . The atmosphere of the early church, in short, was that of a loosely-organized revivalist movement. (A History Of Christianity, p.44)

History paints a much different picture of the early Christian congregation than one sees in a modern-day Kingdom Hall. A good example of WT deception on this point is their reference to Paul's admonition at 1 Cor. 1:10 that we should "all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and the same line of thought." The WT would have you believe that the early church was just as regimented doctrinally as the JWs are, and that Paul is supporting this concept here.

Well, then, we must ask, what was causing the dissention in the Corinthian congregation? Was it theological matters that Paul warned against, concluding by disfellowshipping those who were not of the same opinion? We don't find Paul mentioning any such doctrinal `errors' in the first four chapters. Rather, the problem was the same as within the church systems today; people are separating from one another over personalities and egos. Paul recognizes and deals with the problem as a case of spiritual immaturity, not as apostasy! He urges them to put aside their petty differences (which were obviously not important doctrinal issues) and to love one another and to accept one another as equals in the body of Christ.

Interestingly, there is no concrete indication that the Corinthians ever fully solved this problem, nor that any congregation would ever be free of it. Divisions result from the flesh, and no Christian has yet fully conquered the flesh. It appears that spiritual immaturity and lack of love will always exist with some in the body of Christ, at least until Christ's return.

JW: "THE CHURCHES MAKE A DISTINCTION BETWEEN CLERGY AND LAITY, WHEREAS WITNESSES DO NOT; ALL ARE VIEWED THE SAME."

JWs enjoy attacking the churches for having titles of responsibility such as pastor, preacher, clergyman, and so on. While the title Father is scripturally out of line (although at times, such as Paul's use of it in 1 Cor. 4:15, it might be acceptable when understood within a particular context), the use of pastor, apostle, preacher, and even clergyman is acceptable when understood according to their true meaning (Matt. 23:9). A pastor's duty is to shepherd the flock (Eph. 4:11). The shepherd is distinguished from the flock, not in importance, but in responsibility. 1 Peter 5:2 says to "Shepherd the flock of God in your care . . . and when the chief shepherd has become manifest, you will receive the crown of glory." Peter is talking to the pastors; or, if you will, the "clergymen." Pastor is just another word for shepherd.

The use of such terms by no means indicates that there are two classes of Christians, any more than having different responsibilities in a family makes one member of the family any better than another. All the WT has done in their organization is to change the names from pastors (bishops) to "overseers" and deacons to "ministerial servants," which are less accurate expressions of the Greek words episkopoi and diakonos. The words: church, bishop, pastor, deacon, etc. are more biblically accurate than their "Watchtowerese" equivalents. The Watchtower is not a "theocracy," but a hierarchy. In a court case involving ownership of a Kingdom Hall in Bonham, Texas during 1986, the Watchtower even claimed to be a hierarchy, just as the Roman Catholic Church.

The WT is full of class distinctions when you consider their teaching of the "two classes" of Christians, one with earthly hopes and the other with heavenly hopes. (The Bible says that Christians will both go to heaven and later live on the earth1 Thes. 4:17,18; Rev. 21:1,2). But what the WT is really teaching is that only their "144,000" fit the description of Christians as outlined in the Bible. This applies as far as being born-again, going to heaven, being with Christ, having Christ as their mediator, being fully justified and sanctified while in the flesh, eating communion, and ultimately ruling with Christ. These promises are only held out for the special "anointed" class!

JW: "HOW CAN I FELLOWSHIP WITH A CHURCH IF I DON'T AGREE WITH EVERYTHING THEY TEACH?

Sometimes it is those who have the least doctrinal hangups that love Jesus the most, and often such ones love people more than those who are "sticklers" for minor theological issues. This is not surprising, since "exclusivism" in doctrine is not a spiritual trait at all, but rather a fleshly trait (Gal. 5:20). When we separate company with our brothers over the fact that they want to celebrate Christmas and we don't think it's proper, or whether they believe in voting and we don't, then we are developing a fleshly attitude. Where is our love for the one for whom Christ died? Is their difference of opinion one that involves their salvation? Cannot we overlook their habits or customs, even if we are more "right" than they are? (Read 1 Cor. 1:10, 3:14 and Romans chapter 14.) If we have the same love for people that Jesus did, we will be seeking to set men free from concern over petty things of the flesh and dissentions, and teach them to have love for all people, and to concern ourselves with true spiritual warfare.

What enables some to go to a church or fellowship when they might not even agree with all that is taught there? How can they still be spiritually fed there, and enjoy the fellowship? The answer probably lies in their love for people, as well as a desire to minister to those who are in need of ministering to. In a Christian fellowship, you are bound to find some who can minister to you. Thus, by ministering and being ministered to, we thus can have a hand in the work of building up the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27).

JW: "THE CHURCHES ARE WRONG IN PAYING MINISTERS AND GIVING THEM TOO MUCH POWER. ALL CHRISTIANS ARE TO BE MINISTERS."

The Witnesses deride "Christendom" for paying their shepherds salaries and for calling them "ministers" or "pastors," implying that these men are given too much power over the people. Yet the Bible does not condemn this practice; allowing freedom for each church to establish its own pattern of giving.

At the same time, however, the JW elders have control over the way JWs dress, how they talk, what they do on weekends, how much they eat, where they do their preaching, how they study their Bible, and who they can or cannot talk to. They even have life and death matters in their hands, by prohibiting their members from taking blood transfusions, while they may lie dying on the operating table. The elders can prevent them from talking to members of their own family who have left the Witnesses, under pain of disfellowshipping. How interesting that they accuse the churches of setting one man over another! While it is true that due to fallen human nature some ministers will abuse their authority, ALL JW elders are required to go beyond the Scriptural basis for authority by enforcing the manmade rules of the WT.

WT leaders will often discourage giving to charitable organizations, as well as involvement in projects to help the poor and needy. However, as Christians, it should bother our consciences to ignore the needs around us (Luke 10:30-37). One identifying mark of the "new personality" and the new birth in Christ is the transition from self-centeredness to charitable giving (Luke 12:33,34).


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