Watchtower: January 2016
Study Article: “The Spirit Bears Witness With Our Spirit”
Study Date: March 14-20, 2016
“The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.”
– Romans 8:16
We continue with Part 4 of our commentary on the first study article in the January 2016 Watchtower magazine (“WT”). The Spirit Bears Witness Part 1 (paragraphs 1-4), Part 2 (paragraphs 5-7) and Part 3 (paragraphs 8-10).
Experiencing the “New Birth”
WT Paragraphs 11:
“11 When the holy spirit imparts this conviction, the Christian who is anointed undergoes tremendous changes. Jesus referred to this inner process as being “born again,” or being “born from above.”  (John 3:3, 5; ftn.) He explained further: “Do not be amazed because I told you: You people must be born again. The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who has been born from the spirit.” (John 3:7, 8) Clearly, it is impossible to explain fully this personal calling to those who have not experienced it.
As shown in our response to paragraph 9, in Part 3, it is not impossible to explain the “personal calling” to the new birth. However, in John 3:3-8, Jesus is not referring to the calling. He is referring to the new birth itself. And he is not saying that being born again is impossible to understand. He is telling Nicodemus that the new birth cannot be discerned with the material eye. It can only be discerned by spirit. With the eyes of the flesh, you can behold the manifestations of the spirit, but you cannot actually discern the spirit. (John 3:8)
Accordingly, outsiders could not recognize those who have experienced the new birth unless they used their spiritual eyes. This explains why those who are not spirit led cannot distinguish between the faith sons of God and the false sons who are seeking glory. It also sheds some light on why the writer of this Watchtower article views the matter as “impossible to explain fully.”
And yes, one who experiences the new birth “undergoes tremendous changes.” He or she is instantly transformed from a slave to a son, and progressively abandons a slave’s mentality and grabs hold to a son’s courage and power. (Galatians 4:1-7) One who is born again develops a long range view of matters and can therefore more easily display the qualities of a spiritual person – the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, and self-control, even under the worst of circumstances. He or she knows that whatever befalls him or her, their hope is secure.
One who is born again abandons a fleshly or material outlook on life and releases his grasp on works. He or she stops trying to produce good fruit, and instead becomes a good tree who naturally produces good fruit. Their whole life becomes one of victorious accomplishment. Trouble will invigorate them; disappointment will spur them on; difficulties will challenge them; and obstacles will stimulate them. Such a person is re-established as a person of faith, courage, and devoted service to man, for God's sake. Such a person becomes readjusted to this life as a temporary resident (1 Peter 2:11), but also becomes readjusted to the universe – as a citizen of the heavens. (Philippians 3:20) They view matters vastly different from those who’s outlook on life exists within the confines of earth.
WT Paragraph 12:
“12 Those who have been invited in such a manner may wonder: ‘Why have I been selected? Why me and not someone else?’ They may even question their own worthiness. But they do not question the fact that they have been invited. Their hearts are bursting with joy and appreciation. They feel much as did Peter when he said under inspiration: “Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for according to his great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance. It is reserved in the heavens for you.” (1 Pet. 1:3, 4) When anointed ones read those words, they know without any doubt whatsoever that their heavenly Father is speaking to them personally.
This paragraph contains two offensive ideas: (1) that anointed ones wonder why they have been selected; and (2) that the Christian writings are only directed to a small group of Christians.
The only reason a newly anointed one among Jehovah’s Witnesses would ask ‘why me’ is because of the erroneous teaching that there are only 144,000 who will go to heaven. Of course, in a group of 8 million, and the belief that there are only a few thousand slots left, one would naturally wonder ‘why me.’ But there is no scripture in the Bible that limits the number of those who go to heaven, not even the scriptures in Revelation that refer to the 144,000 “who were bought from earth.” A fair reading of those verses (Revelation 7:3-4, 14:1-5) shows that the 144,000 are bought from earth, but they are not ‘kings and priest’ who would be given a kingdom. The ‘kings and priests’ are a great unnumbered crowd of people who were also “bought” for God “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:8-10) See The Great Crowd of Partakers for a detailed discussion.
And it must be remembered that Revelation presents most of its ideas in symbolic language that are susceptible to many different interpretations. So it would not be wise to rest one’s eternal future on one of many interpretations. It is much wiser, and far more discreet, to trust what Jesus demonstrated, namely that all who want the heavenly inheritance can attain it:
“However, to all who did receive him, he gave authority to become God’s children, because they were exercising faith in his name.”
– John 1:12
The teaching that not all faithful Christians will go to heaven actually creates an environment of doubt and suspicion causing Jehovah’s Witnesses to ask not only ‘why me?’ but also ‘why him or her?’ The reality is that in Kingdom Halls where an anointed one serves, the majority of the congregation, including Elders and Servants, question the sanity of such a person. Yet there is no Biblical record indicating that any early Christian group similarly challenged the hope of one another or doubted whether their own future was in the heavens. So who authorized this stark change in beliefs and hope? By what authority? We know for a certainly it was not by the authority of the Bible, Jesus, or the apostles!
As for the second offensive statement, it is a long held belief among Jehovah’s Witnesses that the Christian scriptures are directed only to the anointed and that the ‘other sheep’ benefit from them only ‘by extension.’ But the teaching ‘by extension’ is just more improper types and shadows alluding to the Jew and gentile proselyte distinction. There is no scriptural basis for this among Christians.
“You are all, in fact, sons of God through your faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in union with Christ Jesus. Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s offspring, heirs with reference to a promise.”
– Galatians 3:26-29
So we can say, yes, when anointed Christians read the Bible, they should view it as personal counsel. But we also say that every Christian should be anointed or pursuing the anointing. All who belong to Christ are heirs with the heavenly kingdom. Unless they do not belong to Christ.
This offensive belief has been successful in getting the vast majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses to outright reject certain statements in the Bible. So, not only does the Watchtower organization separate Christians from one another – so-called ‘other sheep’ from the ‘anointed’ – but it separates those ‘other sheep’ from the Bible itself! They have not only shut the door to the kingdom of the heavens on the ‘other sheep,’ they have effectively unplugged the ‘other sheep’ from a power source so that they are nothing more than little dogs seeking the crumbs from the table. We will discuss this further in our commentary on the next study article, “We Want to Go With You.”
The questions for paragraphs 11 and 12 asks:
11, 12. What might an anointed Christian wonder, but what does he never doubt?
As mentioned above, an anointed Christian among Jehovah’s Witnesses might wonder why me? But once they come out from under the “supervisors and stewards” (Galatians 4:2) and into the care of the true shepherd, Jesus Christ, that question answers itself. They were invited because they exercised faith in Jesus. Period. And through the working of the Spirit of Truth, there will be no doubt about it.
WT Paragraph 13:
“13 Before receiving this personal witness from God’s spirit, these Christians cherished an earthly hope. They longed for the time when Jehovah would cleanse this earth, and they wanted to be part of that blessed future. Perhaps they even pictured themselves welcoming back their loved ones from the grave. They looked forward to living in the homes that they built and eating the fruitage of trees that they planted. (Isa. 65:21-23) Why did their thinking change? They did not become dissatisfied with that hope. They did not change their mind because of emotional stress or turmoil. They did not give up on this earth, as if they suddenly felt that they would find living forever on earth to be tiresome or boring; nor did they merely want to explore some new frontier in heaven. Rather, they changed because of the operation of God’s spirit that not only called, or invited, them but also changed their thinking and hope.
The question for paragraph 13 ask:
“13. How does the way a person thinks change when he is anointed by holy spirit, and what causes this change?
A person’s thinking changes because their eyes are opened to truth, thanks to the guidance of the Spirit of Truth. They realize neither Jesus nor any Christian Bible writer taught that those exercising faith in Jesus would live forever on earth. They realize that unless they participate in ‘eating and drinking of Christ,’ they have no life in themselves, they will not be resurrected, and they will not be in union with Jesus, as Jesus unambiguously stated:
“So Jesus said to them: “Most truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I will resurrect him on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in union with me, and I in union with him.”
– John 6:53-56
Due to their ‘knocking, seeking and asking,’ they realize that the only hope ever taught to Christians is the pursuit of heaven to live forever in the places Jesus prepared for us in the ‘house of the Father.’ (John 14:1-4) This realization causes an anointed Christian to abandon the erroneous ‘Synagogue hope’ and grab hold to ‘the real life.’ (1 Timothy 6:19)
What is most noteworthy in paragraph 13 is that the Watchtower organization has made another change in direction. It has been long taught that a person who once held the earthly hope could not be anointed. The teaching was that true anointed ones NEVER longed to live forever on earth even before they realized they had the heavenly hope. Even today, if you asked most Jehovah’s Witnesses whether an anointed one could have previously held the earthly hope, they would answer, No. So why this change? And why now?
We believe this change is being made to prepare the congregations for the new crop of men who will serve on the Governing Body in the near future. It is known that many of the current “helpers” to the Governing Body once held, or currently hold, the earthly hope. So it would cause a further breakdown in confidence in leadership if these “helpers” suddenly claimed to be anointed. The answer to such a self-created dilemma is, as usual, to change the teachings!
As a side note, we were amused at the phrase in the paragraph “nor did they merely want to explore some new frontier in heaven.” Who talks about the heavenly hope as being an adventure, a new career, a ‘new frontier?’ As far as we know, just this website. Funny!
WT Paragraph 14:
“14 Should we conclude, then, that these anointed ones want to die? Paul was inspired to answer this way: “In fact, we who are in this tent groan, being weighed down, because we do not want to put this one off, but we want to put the other on, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (2 Cor. 5:4) They have not lost interest in this life, wanting it to end quickly. On the contrary, they are eager to use each day in Jehovah’s service together with friends and relatives. Yet, no matter what they are doing, they cannot help but remember the glorious hope that they have for the future.—1 Cor. 15:53; 2 Pet. 1:4; 1 John 3:2, 3; Rev. 20:6.
The question for paragraph 14 asks:
“14. How do anointed ones feel about their life here on earth?
We agree with the sentiments in this paragraph. An anointed son of God becomes a true fellow worker with Christ and spends the remainder of his life as an ambassador of the heavenly country and furthering the work Jesus started. Some serve in a capacity similar to apostles by making the ambassadorship and reconciling work their life’s call. Others serve as disciples who do what they can under their circumstances. But all know that one day, they will put off the flesh and take on new bodies suitable for the heavens. (1 Corinthians 15:44, 53) They are thoroughly prepared for any ‘end of a system of things,’ whether that be by Jesus returning to earth, or them going to meet him in the heavens.
This is our commentary on the subheading entitled “Experiencing the New Birth.” But we note very little was said in this subheading about the new birth. For those who want more information about being born again, please see our article “Being Born of Spirit.”
We hope this additional information has been enlightening, and we address the final subheading in the next commentary.