Questions From Readers
Many Gentile Christians, when in their previous heathen state, ate flesh offered to idols, ate it as a feast with the idol, and were thus supposed to have communion with the idol. These were sacred feasts where certain parts of the animal were used on the idol-altar and certain parts were used by the offerer, and thus the eater at such events was a partaker or sharer with the idol or the demon god the idol represented; just as the Israelites were partaking at the altar of Jehovah when they ate part of the animal sacrifices they offered at the temple, and as Christians thereafter were partaking at the table of Jehovah when they used the bread and wine at Memorial. It is this formal, religious, sacred eating of meats sacrificed to idols that Acts 15:20, 29 and Acts 21:25 forbids. It would make Christians partakers with demons, and render them unfit to partake at Jehovah’s table.—1 Cor. 10:18-21, NW.
However, not all of the meat of animals sacrificed to idols was used in the sacred feasts, but much of it found its way into the shambles or pagan meat markets. It was such meat that 1 Corinthians 8:1-10 allows Christians to buy and eat. Whatever meat was sold in these meat markets, even though the blood of the animal or part of its flesh had been used in idol worship by idol worshipers, could be eaten by Christians. It was not eaten as a part of a sacred feast in honor of an idol. Yet on one point the Christian was to be careful: he was not to stumble a weaker brother. If one not fully mature in knowledge and understanding on this matter objected to a mature brother’s eating the meat, the mature brother would not eat. While free to do so, he would not allow his freedom to be the cause of a weaker one’s judging him adversely. He would refrain from eating rather than stumble his weaker brother.—1 Cor. 8:11-13; 10:23-33, NW.
We might clarify the situation somewhat by this illustration, though it is not analogous. Today we might drink wine and eat bread; but we would not drink and eat these things with false religionists who were unworthily celebrating the Lord’s evening meal. Also, those of the “other sheep” class would not drink wine or eat bread at our own Memorial celebrations; but they might properly drink some of the wine and eat some of the bread that might have been left over, doing this later on in the evening after the celebration, or even the next day, and away from the Kingdom Hall. But if some of the brothers felt keenly on this matter, opposing this later use of the wine and bread, then for the sake of their conscience and to avoid stumbling them other brothers would not so use these leftovers in the presence of such weaker ones, though there would be no wrong against God committed by such use of the bread and wine.
● What is the unforgivable sin against the holy spirit that Jesus spoke about?—B. E., New York.
Jesus had just cured a demon-possessed man who was blind and dumb. The crowds marveled, but the Pharisees scoffed and said Jesus did it by means of Beelzebub. Jesus refuted their claim by showing that if Satan expelled Satan he would be divided against himself and his kingdom could not stand. Also, if Jesus expelled demons by means of Beelzebub, by whose means did their sons expel them? Then he said: “Every kind of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the spirit will not be forgiven. For example, whoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the holy spirit, it will not be forgiven him, no, not in the present system of things nor in that to come.”—Matt. 12:22-32, NW.
They could speak against the Son of man and later be forgiven on the grounds of their ignorance of the facts about him. Their sins of ignorance are forgivable if they do not resist knowledge of the truth when they are brought face to face with it. However, it was different when the Pharisees said: “This fellow does not expel the demons except by means of Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” Why so? Because this was a sin against the holy spirit, since manifestly such a cure as Jesus had just performed could not be by human power. To say it was of Satan was illogical, as Jesus showed them. The Pharisees did not say such cures were of Satan when their sons cast out demons. Why arbitrarily say it now, in Jesus’ case? Why say it was God’s spirit when their sons did it, but deny the manifest operation of the holy spirit when Jesus did it? Why? Because they did not love the truth and did not want to be led to the truthful conclusion that they were false teachers and Jesus was the Messiah. To admit this would mean giving up many selfish practices. Too many selfish things were at stake for them.
So they resisted the true conclusion to which Jesus’ works should have led them. Let them speak against the Son of man if they wished; still they should have listened to the witness borne him by his works, works performed by the power of the holy spirit. Jesus said: “If I am not doing the works of my Father, do not believe me. But if I am doing them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works.” (John 5:36; 10:37, 38, NW) When they said these miraculous works were done by Satan they sinned against the spirit. They blasphemed God’s spirit, saying it was of Satan. Willfully and for selfish reasons they resisted the display of its power. To such ones Stephen said: “Obstinate men and uncircumcised in hearts and ears, you are always resisting the holy spirit.”—Acts 7:51, NW.
It was this willful quality of the sin that made it unforgivable, because it made them unteachable, beyond correction, and opposed to God’s provision for forgiveness. As Jesus said: “Whoever blasphemes against the holy spirit has no forgiveness forever, but is guilty of everlasting sin.” (Mark 3:28-30, NW) There is no sacrifice to cover such willful sinning against the holy spirit, “not in the present system of things nor in that to come.” This does not mean such Pharisees will return in the thousand-year judgment day to find themselves still unforgiven; that would accomplish nothing. It means that the operation of God’s spirit will be very manifest then, as it was when Jesus was on earth, and that then, just as when Jesus was on earth, some will sin against the manifest operation of the holy spirit, and especially so at the end of the thousand-year reign when Satan will be loosed for the final test on earth’s inhabitants. Such sin will still be unforgivable, at that distant time.
Writes John: “If anyone catches sight of his brother sinning a sin that does not incur death, he will ask, and he will give life to him, yes, to those not sinning so as to incur death. There is a sin that does incur death. It is concerning that sin that I do not tell him to make request. All unrighteousness is sin; and yet there is a sin that does not incur death.” (1 John 5:16, 17, NW) If one sins in ignorance or because of human imperfections, forgiveness is available. But for willful sinning there is no sin-atoning sacrifice: “If we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left, but there is a certain fearful expectation of judgment and there is a fiery jealousy that is going to consume those in opposition.” (Heb. 10:26, 27, NW) Willful sin, with eyes wide open to the undeniable operation of God’s holy spirit or active force, is unforgivable and we should not pray for the forgiveness of such sinners. Even before Christ’s time intercession was not to be made for such ones. (Jer. 7:1-16; 11:14; 14:11) Willful sinners, insincere and unrepentant, set in their evil ways and unwilling to conform to God’s requirements, have “no forgiveness forever”; which means that when they die they go into second death.
So we see that one does not have to be of the anointed class to sin against the holy spirit, nor does he have to have God’s spirit upon him as do the “other sheep” class in order to sin against it. Many in Satan’s visible organization sin against the holy spirit by deliberately and willfully disobeying what they know to be written in God’s Word and by not conforming to the new world society when they see the manifest operation of God’s spirit upon his visible organization.
● What Has Religion Done for Mankind? on page 37, quotes Proverbs 8:22-31 according to the Moffatt translation, wherein it refers to Jehovah’s only-begotten Son as “his foster child”. Why is the Logos spoken of as a foster child?—H. J., New Jersey.
Because Jehovah filled his only-begotten Son with wisdom, the Son became the very symbol of wisdom and he speaks of himself as Wisdom in Proverbs chapter 8. In Pr 8 verse 30 where Moffatt uses the expression “foster-child” to refer to the Son, Moffatt is giving a literal translation of the word ah·móhn, which is from the Hebrew verb ahmán, meaning “to nourish, nurse, be guardian to”. In Isaiah 49:23 the participle of this verb, ah·méhn, is translated in the King James Version “nursing fathers”, and “nourishers” in the margin. At Isaiah 60:4 the word is rendered “nursed”. So when Moffatt refers to Wisdom as Jehovah’s foster child he means that this Son is a favorite child, nursed, nourished, cherished, guarded. Moffatt is not meaning to say Wisdom is an adopted child in the modern legal sense of foster child. How could he mean this, when in the preceding verses Moffatt’s translation shows Wisdom was created by Jehovah, formed and fashioned by Him as the “first of his creation”?