Questions From Readers
▪ Why have Jehovah’s Witnesses disfellowshipped (excommunicated) for apostasy some who still profess belief in God, the Bible, and Jesus Christ?
Those who voice such an objection point out that many religious organizations claiming to be Christian allow dissident views. Even some clergymen disagree with basic teachings of their church, yet they remain in good standing. In nearly all the denominations of Christendom, there are modernists and fundamentalists who greatly disagree with one another as to the inspiration of the Scriptures.
However, such examples provide no grounds for our doing the same. Why not? Many of such denominations allow widely divergent views among the clergy and the laity because they feel they cannot be certain as to just what is Bible truth. They are like the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day who were unable to speak as persons having authority, which is how Jesus taught. (Matthew 7:29) Moreover, to the extent that religionists believe in interfaith, they are obligated not to take divergent beliefs too seriously.
But taking such a view of matters has no basis in the Scriptures. Jesus did not make common cause with any of the sects of Judaism. Jews of those sects professed to believe in the God of creation and in the Hebrew Scriptures, particularly the Law of Moses. Still, Jesus told his disciples to “watch out . . . for the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:11, 12; 23:15) Note also how strongly the apostle Paul stated matters: “Even if we or an angel out of heaven were to declare to you as good news something beyond what we declared to you as good news, let him be accursed.” Paul then repeated that statement for emphasis.—Galatians 1:8, 9.
Teaching dissident or divergent views is not compatible with true Christianity, as Paul makes clear at 1 Corinthians 1:10: “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (New International Version) At Ephesians 4:3-6 he further stated that Christians should be “earnestly endeavoring to observe the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace. One body there is, and one spirit, even as you were called in the one hope to which you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all persons.”
Was this unity to be achieved and maintained by each one’s independently searching the Scriptures, coming to his own conclusions, and then teaching these? Not at all! Through Jesus Christ, Jehovah God provided for this purpose “some as apostles, . . . some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers . . . until we all attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man.” Yes, with the help of such ministers, congregational unity—oneness in teaching and activity—could be and would be possible.—Ephesians 4:11-13.
Obviously, a basis for approved fellowship with Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot rest merely on a belief in God, in the Bible, in Jesus Christ, and so forth. The Roman Catholic pope, as well as the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, professes such beliefs, yet their church memberships are exclusive of each other. Likewise, simply professing to have such beliefs would not authorize one to be known as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Approved association with Jehovah’s Witnesses requires accepting the entire range of the true teachings of the Bible, including those Scriptural beliefs that are unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses. What do such beliefs include?
That the great issue before humankind is the rightfulness of Jehovah’s sovereignty, which is why he has allowed wickedness so long. (Ezekiel 25:17) That Jesus Christ had a prehuman existence and is subordinate to his heavenly Father. (John 14:28) That there is a “faithful and discreet slave” upon earth today ‘entrusted with all of Jesus’ earthly interests,’ which slave is associated with the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Matthew 24:45-47) That 1914 marked the end of the Gentile Times and the establishment of the Kingdom of God in the heavens, as well as the time for Christ’s foretold presence. (Luke 21:7-24; Revelation 11:15–12:10) That only 144,000 Christians will receive the heavenly reward. (Revelation 14:1, 3) That Armageddon, referring to the battle of the great day of God the Almighty, is near. (Revelation 16:14, 16; 19:11-21) That it will be followed by Christ’s Millennial Reign, which will restore an earth-wide paradise. That the first to enjoy it will be the present “great crowd” of Jesus’ “other sheep.”—John 10:16; Revelation 7:9-17; 21:3, 4.
Do we have Scriptural precedent for taking such a strict position? Indeed we do! Paul wrote about some in his day: “Their word will spread like gangrene. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of that number. These very men have deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already occurred; and they are subverting the faith of some.” (2 Timothy 2:17, 18; see also Matthew 18:6.) There is nothing to indicate that these men did not believe in God, in the Bible, in Jesus’ sacrifice. Yet, on this one basic point, what they were teaching as to the time of the resurrection, Paul rightly branded them as apostates, with whom faithful Christians would not fellowship.
Similarly, the apostle John termed as antichrists those who did not believe that Jesus had come in the flesh. They may well have believed in God, in the Hebrew Scriptures, in Jesus as God’s Son, and so on. But on this point, that Jesus had actually come in the flesh, they disagreed and thus were termed “antichrist.” John goes on to say regarding those holding such variant views: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him. For he that says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works.”—2 John 7, 10, 11.
Following such Scriptural patterns, if a Christian (who claims belief in God, the Bible, and Jesus) unrepentantly promotes false teachings, it may be necessary for him to be expelled from the congregation. (See Titus 3:10, 11.) Of course, if a person just has doubts or is uninformed on a point, qualified ministers will lovingly assist him. This accords with the counsel: “Continue showing mercy to some that have doubts; save them by snatching them out of the fire.” (Jude 22, 23) Hence, the true Christian congregation cannot rightly be accused of being harshly dogmatic, but it does highly value and work toward the unity encouraged in God’s Word.