Questions From Readers
● Can an anointed Christian who is disfellowshiped later be reinstated and still have the heavenly hope?
Yes, that is possible. Of course, in each case Jehovah God is the one to determine whether he will extend forgiveness.
The fact that this is possible is borne out by what we read in the apostle Paul’s letters to the Corinthian congregation. He wrote to Christians who had been anointed by holy spirit and given the hope of heavenly life. Paul addressed them as “you who have been sanctified in union with Christ Jesus, called to be holy ones.”—1 Cor. 1:2; 15:49.
One of these anointed Christians began to practice fornication. When he evidently did not repent and stop his immorality, Paul directed the congregation to disfellowship him. (1 Cor. 5:1-5, 9-13) However, it seems that this disfellowshiped person thereafter did sincerely repent. He is understood to be the person whom Paul was referring to in his second letter when he advised the Corinthians to forgive and accept back the former sinner.—2 Cor. 2:6-11; 7:8-13.
When that man was reinstated into the congregation, what was his hope? Had he lost the heavenly calling, and had his hope now been changed to everlasting life on earth? No, for the earthly hope is not, as it were, a second-chance prospect. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and multitudes of other persons of outstanding faith had the hope of eternal life on earth, but this was not because they failed to measure up to the heavenly calling. They simply did not live in the time when the heavenly calling was in process according to Jehovah’s will. (Heb. 10:19, 20) Comparable faith and integrity are required of all who will gain everlasting life, whether in heaven or on a paradise earth. A Christian who is anointed with holy spirit and made a joint heir with Christ must prove faithful to that calling if he is to receive eternal life at all.—Rev. 2:10, 11; Phil. 3:8-14; Rom. 8:14-17.
This, though, does not mean that while they are on earth anointed Christians never sin. In the flesh, they are still imperfect and consequently they sin, as do all humans, and may even commit gross sin. The Christian disciple and Bible writer James, certainly an anointed Christian, wrote: “For we all stumble many times. If anyone does not stumble in word, this one is a perfect man.” (Jas. 3:2; 2:5) It appears that such unintentional sin resulting from imperfection is what the apostle John meant by “sin that does not incur death.” (1 John 5:16) God can forgive such sins. John said: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous so as to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”—1 John 1:9.
But repentance is necessary. If an anointed Christian today practiced gross sin and did not manifest repentance, the congregation, out of obedience to God’s counsel, would have to disfellowship him. If he subsequently repented, though, he could be forgiven and reinstated, as was the man in Corinth.
God does not, however, forgive all sin. According to what Jesus said in Mark 3:28, 29, those who willfully and knowingly blaspheme God’s spirit can never be forgiven. And Paul wrote: “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.” (Heb. 10:26, 27) Such unforgivable sin is evidently what John referred to as “sin that does incur death.”—1 John 5:16.
If an anointed Christian sinned against the spirit, practicing willful sin without repentance and ‘impaling the Son of God afresh,’ God would completely and forever reject him. (Heb. 6:4-6) Not being repentant, he would not be reinstated. Jehovah would have to select and anoint another Christian as a replacement so that the full number of 144,000 would be kept complete. It might be compared to heaven’s choice of Matthias to replace unfaithful Judas Iscariot so that there would be twelve faithful apostles of Jesus on which to build the Christian congregation.—Acts 1:23-26; Eph. 2:20.
Is this to say that if an anointed Christian is disfellowshiped, Jehovah then and there selects a replacement? No human can say that, for we cannot know if the disfellowshiped individual has committed the unforgivable sin. Jehovah knows, and so the matter can be left in his hands. Just how and when he chooses to select a replacement is for him to decide. He did not give a detailed discussion of the matter in the Bible. So rather than speculate on what He will do or try to guess whether a disfellowshiped person is beyond the possibility of repentance, we can leave the matter up to Jehovah, the righteous Judge.—Heb. 12:23.
If a congregation has had to disfellowship a person but he later repents and is reinstated, we can rejoice over Jehovah’s mercy and forgiveness. (Luke 15:7) That is so whether the person professed the heavenly hope and continues to do so or had and continues to have hope of everlasting life on earth. All of us should take to heart the lessons learned from this—our own need to fight constantly against imperfection and sin, the importance of seeking forgiveness when we do sin and the necessity of enduring to the end so as to be saved.—Matt. 10:22.
● Was it God’s original purpose that the woman be in subjection to her husband? Or was it only after Adam and Eve sinned and God told the woman that “your husband . . . will dominate you”?—Gen. 3:16.
It is evident from the Bible record that God’s original purpose was for the man to be the head of his family and that the wife be in subjection to her husband.
Before Eve was created, Jehovah stated: “It is not good for the man to continue by himself. I am going to make a helper for him, as a complement of him.” (Gen. 2:18) The man, therefore, would have the primary responsibility in the family and the woman would help him.
The apostle Paul, at 1 Timothy 2:11-14, refers to Adam’s being created first, in showing that women in the Christian congregation should be in subjection to the men as overseers and that the woman should not “exercise authority over a man.” Why? “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. Also, Adam was not deceived, but the woman was thoroughly deceived and came to be in transgression.”
Eve should have carefully consulted with her husband regarding any important decision to be made. And especially should she have been alert to inquire of him when being tempted to eat of the forbidden fruit, since the serpent’s enticement was to disobey God’s previous command, given through her husband Adam, not to eat of the forbidden fruit. Recognizing her husband’s headship in this way would have been a protection and a safeguard for her. Submission to his headship by consulting and cooperating with him would have greatly assisted her in obediently rendering proper worship to God.
In passing sentence upon Eve, Jehovah said: “I shall greatly increase the pain of your pregnancy; in birth pangs you will bring forth children, and your craving will be for your husband, and he will dominate you.”—Gen. 3:16.
It does not appear that Jehovah directly brought these conditions into existence as a punishment on Eve and, by inheritance, on all her daughter descendants. Rather, by cutting off the woman as well as the man from divine favor, Jehovah was pointing to the consequences and abuses that would result. Childbearing would be very difficult under imperfect conditions. Jehovah foreknew that within the marriage arrangement now, imperfections would often lead to frustration, anxiety and turmoil. It would be a natural desire for a woman to crave a husband, not just for sexual satisfaction, but because of desiring a home and children, security and companionship. These desires would be very strong in a woman even though the fulfilling of them would mean domination by an imperfect husband.
Such husbandly dominating would be beyond the normal exercise of headship. It would sometimes result from the woman’s attempting to usurp the headship of her husband, with the man resisting such usurpation. Also, the man would often tend to abuse his headship.
Even in Christian marriage, the apostle Paul warned that there would be occasions for “tribulation in their flesh.” (1 Cor. 7:28) Nevertheless, under imperfect conditions, a good measure of happiness and success can be had in a Christian marriage. With love predominating and the husband and wife appreciating and fulfilling their respective roles, any tendency toward domination by the wife or toward abuse of headship on the part of the husband would be kept to a minimum. The Christian wife sees the wisdom of subjecting herself to her husband’s headship with deep respect, and the Christian husband is conscious of loving his wife as he does his own body.—Eph. 5:21-23.
There is no need for a Christian wife to feel frustrated or unduly restricted because of subjecting herself properly to her husband. In the same way, those in the Christian congregation are submissive to the elders in the congregation who are taking the lead. (Heb. 13:17) The elders have greater responsibility, though not being superior to their brothers whom they serve. By the same token, the husband has the position of being head of his family, though this does not make him superior to his wife. They are fellow heirs of life.—1 Pet. 3:7.