Questions From Readers
◼ Does the material on being approved by God mean that Christians may speak to one who once was considered an “approved associate” but later, because of wrongdoing, was to be avoided?
Yes, it does. The Watchtower of November 15, 1988, showed why it is Scriptural to adjust our view of an unbaptized person who shares in the public ministry with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Formerly, such a person was termed an “approved associate.” If he thereafter unrepentantly broke God’s laws, the congregation was alerted, and the members would then avoid association and conversation with him.
As the recent material showed, the Bible requires that such disciplinary action be taken in the case of baptized persons who are unrepentant wrongdoers. (1 Corinthians 5:11-13; 2 John 9-11) Yet, the accountability of an unbaptized person who pursues wrongdoing is not the same as that of one who is baptized. (Luke 12:48) He has not been baptized and thus has not become approved in God’s sight, so disfellowshipping is not appropriate in his case. Basically, he is now a worldly person and can be dealt with accordingly.
What, then, of one who was formerly termed an “approved associate” but who is no longer qualified for the public ministry because of his wrong course? Since he is not disfellowshipped, he should be treated as the person of the world that he is.* Of course, the November 15 Watchtower advised on page 19 that due caution must be exercised by loyal Christians. These realize that the unbaptized person may well have shared in wrongdoing despite his having knowledge of God’s requirements. Mature Christians must be careful about socializing with such an individual. If questions arise as to the extent of contact that may be had with him, most of these can be resolved by following godly counsel. We can reflect on counsel such as that found at 1 Corinthians 15:33 and Proverbs 13:20 and ask ourselves: ‘What association would I properly have with a person of the world who is not living by Christian standards?’ If the elders see that a worldly person of this sort poses any threat, they can privately offer warning counsel to those in the congregation who seem to be endangered.
In time, an unbaptized person who had been an “approved associate” may give reasonable evidence of repentance, and he may desire to have a Bible study again. (Acts 26:20) He may speak to the elders of the congregation where he now attends, who, if it seems advisable, will arrange for him to have a Bible study. This will apply also if in the future someone is disqualified as an unbaptized publisher and later shows repentance. Usually, he ought to speak to the two elders who dealt with his wrongdoing or the two others whom the body of elders chose to review the matter if he requested that.
Appropriately, The Watchtower explained that it is somewhat different in the case of parents caring for minor children in the home—those legally dependent minors for whom they are responsible to provide material support. (Ephesians 6:1-4) The Scriptures lay on the parents the obligation to instruct and guide their children. So the parents (or believing parent) may choose to conduct a private Bible study with the erring minor or to include him in the family’s program of Bible study and discussion.
While the recent Watchtower material calls for adjustment in our thinking and dealings, it is done in line with the Scriptures that are beneficial “for disciplining in righteousness.”—2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
◼ In view of Titus 1:6, must a man’s children all be baptized if he is to qualify to be an elder in the congregation?
In the first chapter of Titus, the apostle Paul outlined qualifications for men serving as congregation elders. One was that a brother be “free from accusation, . . . having believing children.”
This could not mean that an elder’s children must all be baptized, for some may be infants. So Titus 1:6 must reasonably mean that a man’s minor children should be baptized or they should be learning Bible truth, accepting and applying it and moving toward baptism, while under family merit. (1 Corinthians 7:14) An elder should be endeavoring to make disciples out of his children, they not being “under a charge of debauchery nor unruly.”*
We can better appreciate this by noting how the Bible uses the expression “believer.” Of course, a person might have faith, or believe, in many things. (Acts 26:27, 28; 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 11; James 2:19) But we find “believe” most commonly linked to accepting Christianity and getting baptized. (Acts 8:13; 18:8; compare 19:1-5.) Baptism especially manifests that a person is a believer.—Acts 2:41, 44; 4:4, 32.
Some young children of an elder might not yet be physically, emotionally, or spiritually ready for baptism. Yet, Titus 1:6 describes them as “believing children” if they are progressing toward baptism, in line with their age and situation.
If someone in that situation is unaware of this adjusted view, it would be a kindness to refer him to these Watchtower articles.