Jehovah God is the only one who has the ultimate power over life and death. He has also given his Son Jesus Christ the power over life and death by appointing him to be the judge of the living and the dead. The Holy Bible is the book that is inspired by God, and it is the only source where we can learn the laws and principles of God and how we can get everlasting life.
The members of the Governing Body have made many laws in addition to the Bible. And they say that God’s servants must keep these man-made laws in order to get everlasting life. Because of this, they have put themselves in the place that rightfully belongs to God and given themselves the power over life and death.
A number of these man-made laws relate to the place of individual Christians inside the Christian congregations, whether they will be allowed to continue to be a part of these congregations or whether they will be disfellowshipped from them. An individual who is disfellowshipped is “handed over to Satan” according to 1 Corinthians 5.5, and the view of the members of the Governing Body is that disfellowshipping is the same as a death sentence.
The members of the Governing Body have given the elders the power to disfellowship members of their congregation on the basis of the laws that the Governing Body has made, and they have given them the power to decide whether God has forgiven the sins of a wrongdoer. And because disfellowshipping is the same as a death sentence, the Governing Body has given the elders power over life and death. I will show this in detail in this article.
DO THE COMMITTEES OF THREE ELDERS WITH DISFELLOWSHIPPING POWERS ACCORD WITH THE BIBLE?
Paul shows that Christians who are wicked must be disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation. But the Christian Greek Scriptures do not tell who will make the decision of disfellowshipping and the procedures of this decision. However, there are some important clues in 1 Corinthians 6:1-4
1 Does any one of you who has a dispute with another dare to go to court before unrighteous men, and not before the holy ones? 2 Or do you not know that the holy ones will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you not competent to try very trivial matters? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? Then why not matters of this life? 4 If, then, you do have matters of this life to be tried, is it the men looked down on in the congregation whom you assign as judges?
The point here is that if a Christian has a dispute with another Christian, this should not be settled in a worldly court but by the holy ones. The argument of The Watchtower is that in Israel, the elders in the gate of the town served as judges in disputes, and in a similar way, the elders of the holy ones in the congregations must serve as judges in disputes between Christians. This is a good argument.
An example supporting this view is found in Matthew 18:15-17:
15 “Moreover, if your brother commits a sin, go and reveal his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two more, so that on the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. 17 If he does not listen to them, speak to the congregation. If he does not listen even to the congregation, let him be to you just as a man of the nations and as a tax collector.
The argument of The Watchtower is that the word “congregation” in the phrase “speak to the congregation” refers to the elders of the congregation, just as was the case in Israel. This is a logical argument because the law of Moses was still valid when Jesus uttered his words. Therefore, “the congregation” did not refer to all Jews in the city but only to the elders at the city gate. And a similar situation among Christians would naturally refer to the elders as well.
However, there are two sides to this passage where The Watchtower errs. The clause “let him be to you just as a man of the nations and as a tax collector” does not mean that the person should be disfellowshipped, as the view of the present members of the Governing Body is. The Watchtower also applies this clause to all Christians, with the meaning that they must shun this person who has been disfellowshipped. However, the pronoun “you” is in the singular, and its antecedent is the innocent man to whom another man sinned. This means that only for the innocent man should the sinner be as a man of the nations and a tax collector and not to all members of the whole congregation.
The point we can learn from 1 Corinthians chapter 6 and Matthew chapter 18 is that elders in each congregation represent the whole congregation. The Watchtower has applied this principle to judicial cases, and the body of elders appoints three elders to be members of the judicial committee. This is a logical way to apply the principle. However, many years ago, the elders were told that three elders were normally used in judicial cases. But in very difficult cases, five elders could be used without breaking any rule.
The conclusion of this section is that the formation of a judicial committee of three elders and the formation of an appeal committee with three other elders accord with the principles that are found in the Bible.
|The formation of judicial committees and appeal committees with three elders accord with the principles of the Bible.|
. A detailed analysis of Matthew 18:15-18 is found in the article, “A man of the nations, a tax collector” in the category “Shunning not based on the Bible.”
THE GUT FEELINGS OF THE MEMBERS OF THE JUDICIAL COMMITTEES VERSUS JEHOVAH’S FORGIVENESS
In the article, “What kind of persons deserve to be disfellowshipped?” I wrote that if a Witness for a long time had practiced a serious sin, but he stopped practicing his sin the day before the meeting with the judicial committee, and he says that he has asked Jehovah for his forgiveness, he should not be disfellowshipped. This definitely contradicts the instructions regarding disfellowshipping that the members of the Governing Body have given to the elders.
THE HUMAN COMMANDMENTS THAT THE MEMBERS OF THE JUDICIAL COMMITTEES HAVE RECEIVED
We read in The Shepherd book, chapter 16, points 6-8:
- In the Bible, two Greek verbs are used in connection with repentance. The first stresses a changed viewpoint or disposition. The second emphasizes a feeling of regret. Therefore, repentance involves a deep regret over a damaged relationship with Jehovah, remorse over the reproach brought upon God’s name and people, and sincere longing to come back into Jehovah’s favor. It includes a heart-motivated rejection of the bad course as something repugnant, hated. (Rom 12:9) Such an attitude should be demonstrated by “fruits that befit repentance,” making evident to an adequate degree a sinner’s claimed repentance. —Luke 3:8; it-2 pp. 770-777.
- Judging repentance is not simply a matter of determining whether the wrongdoer is weak or wicked.Weakness is not synonymous with repentance. Neither should the judicial committee’s decision be determined by the notoriety of the wrong. The judicial committee should look for clear works of repentance commensurate with the wrongdoing. (2 Cor. 7:10, 11) The committee must be convinced that the wrongdoer has a changed heart condition, that he has zeal to right the wrong, and that he is absolute determined to avoid it in the future. Even if this is the individual’s first time before a judicial committee, he must give evidence of genuine repentance if he is to remain in the congregation.
- The extent to which the person deviates from righteousness may be major or minor, and logically the degree of regret (repentance) ought to be commensurate with the degree of deviation. Was the individual caught off guard so that he momentarily succumbed to temptation, or did he plan to do wrong? Was he unaware of the gravity of his sin? Did he deliberately ignore counsel or warnings? Was it a single offense, or was it a practice? The more an individual repeats serious sin, the more that one reasonably gives evidence of being like wicked people who are “practicing what is hurtful.” — Ps. 28:3.
The following things are required if a sinner shall not be disfellowshipped according to the Shepherd book:
- The sinner must demonstrate fruits that befit repentance to show that his repentance is genuine.
- The judicial committee requires different degrees of fruits that befit repentance, depending on how serious the sins of the wrongdoer are: “the degree of regret (repentance) ought to be commensurate with the degree of deviation.”
- Even if the sin only is committed for the first time, the wrongdoer can be disfellowshipped.
- The committee members must be convinced that the wrongdoer has a changed heart condition. This means that whether a brother should be disfellowshipped or not is based on the gut feelings of the members of the judicial committee.
All these requirements have been invented by the members of the Governing Body, and none of them has a basis in a text of the Christian Greek Scriptures.
TAKING THE PLACE THAT RIGHTFULLY BELONGS TO JEHOVAH
The Christian congregations consist of sincere persons who have repented their sins and have fruits that befit repentance. They have dedicated themselves to Jehovah and they have his approval. If one servant practices a serious sin, he is on the point of destroying his good relationship with Jehovah. What must this person do to restore his good relationship with Jehovah? He must stop practicing the sin and ask Jehovah to forgive his sins. And Jehovah will forgive the sins of his sincere servants, just as we read in 1 John 1:9.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous so as to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Do the elders in the congregation play any role in this situation? In some situations, they can play a role, as we read in James 5:14, 15 says:
14 Is there anyone sick among you? Let him call the elders of the congregation to him, and let them pray over him, applying oil to him in the name of Jehovah. 15 And the prayer of faith will make the sick one well, and Jehovah will raise him up. Also, if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
When a member of the congregation is depressed and feels completely lost because of his sins, he can ask the elders to pray for him. And James says that Jehovah will raise him up and his sins will be forgiven. I will show in another article that the sins that are mentioned by James are serious sins that the members of the present Governing Body view as disfellowshipping offenses. Please note that the elders do not ask the Christian if he has fruits that befit repentance. They evidently feel compassion for this Christian and they pray for him. Do the elders have anything to do in connection with the forgiveness of the wrongdoer’s sins? Absolutely not. This is something that is between the sinner and Jehovah God. And when the sins of the Christian have been forgiven, he again has God’s approval and he will be a valuable part of the Christian congregation.
The elders who constitute a judicial committee are instructed to do the very opposite of the elders mentioned by James. They must ask a wrongdoer a number of questions in order to find out what is in his mind and heart, which is impossible because only God can read the minds and hearts. They demand that the sinner must be able to point to actions proving that he has repented. And they demand different kinds of such actions depending on how serious they view that the sins are. If they are not convinced by what the sinner says regarding his repentance, they decide that he is a wicked person and they disfellowship him.
|When a wrongdoer says that he has stopped with his sin and asked Jehovah to forgive him, the elders must accept that, and they cannot disfellowship him.|
But there is one way by which the elders can know that Jehovah has forgiven the brother. If the brother continues to be a part of the congregation and he continues to function in the congregation in a good way, the elders understand that Jehovah are blessing him and that he has forgiven his sins. This means that when a brother says that he has stopped practicing his sin and asked Jehovah to forgive him, the elders cannot disfellowship him regardless of how serious the sin is. If the brother is not sincere, and he remains in the congregation, his heart condition will at some point in time be revealed, as we read in 1 Timothy 5:24:
24 The sins of some men are publicly manifest, leading directly to judgment, but as for other men [their sins] also become manifest later.
If we follow the procedure that I have outlined above, we let Jehovah decide who will be a member of the congregation and who should not be a member. By following the procedures instructed by the Governing Body, the elders are taking the place that rightly belongs to Jehovah. How so? Only Jehovah can forgive sins. But the three elders of the judicial committee are asking the brother a great number of questions so they can decide whether his sins have been forgiven. But this is a matter between the wrongdoer and Jehovah. And the elders have no right to meddle in this matter.
First, when the brother says that he has stopped with his sin and asked for Jehovah’s forgiveness, on the basis of the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians chapters 5 and 6, the case should end and the brother should not be disfellowshipped.
Second, instead of accepting that Jehovah is the only one who can forgive sins, and leave the case to Jehovah, the elders ask the brother many questions to determine whether his repentance is genuine. But because they cannot read the mind of the brother, they cannot know the motives of the brother — they can only guess what his motives are.
Third, the judicial case is held quickly after the elders have become aware of the sin of wrongdoer. And because of this, there has been little time to show “fruits that befit repentance.” When the elders do not see such fruits, often they disfellowship the brother, saying that after he has been disfellowshipped, he can demonstrate “fruits that befit repentance” and he can apply to be reinstated. In this way, they often disfellowship a wrongdoer whose sins Jehovah has forgiven.
Fourth, the book for elders says, “The committee must be convinced that the wrongdoer has a changed heart condition.” If they are not convinced, he will be disfellowshipped. As mentioned, the elders cannot read the thoughts of the brother and know his heart condition. But the instruction from the Governing Body places the elders of the judicial committee in the place of Jehovah God. On the basis of their gut feelings, they may decide that the brother has a bad heart condition, and his sins are not at the moment forgiven. Therefore, they disfellowship him.
Fifth, only God can read the hearts of humans, and only he can know whether the brother’s repentance is genuine. The right thing to do for the elders of the judicial committee would be to accept the word of the brother that he is no longer practicing his sin and that he has asked Jehovah to forgive him. And by this, they would leave the case to Jehovah.
|No member of the congregation who has committed sins, regardless of how serious they are and how often they have been committed, but who has changed his course and say that he has asked Jehovah to forgive him, must not be disfellowshipped from the congregation.
This is important because the only way that the elders can know whether Jehovah has forgiven a sinner is to let him continue to be a part of the congregation and see if Jehovah is blessing his efforts to worship him in spirit and truth.
There should be no subjective considerations regarding the heart condition of the wrongdoer, and he should not be disfellowshipped on the basis of the gut feelings of the members of the judicial committee.
THE INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE GOVERNING BODY REGARDING JUDICIAL CASES ARE NOT BASED ON THE BIBLE
Instead of letting God, by his forgiveness or no forgiveness, decide whether a Witness must be disfellowshipped or remain in the congregation, the Governing Body has given the elders the right to decide this. Therefore, the Governing Body has put the elders in the place of God. And the procedures by which the elders will decide the destiny of the sinners violate several Bible principles.
THE WRONG STRESS ON ACTIONS THAT BEFIT REPENTANCE RATHER THAN ON FORGIVENESS OF SINS
Point 6 in the long quotation from the Shepherd book at the beginning of the article says that in order to regain a good relationship with Jehovah, the sinner must reject the bad course as something repugnant. This is, of course, good advice, and then we read:
Such an attitude should be demonstrated by “fruits that befit repentance,” making evident to an adequate degree a sinner’s claimed repentance.
What the quotation says is a human commandment that nullifies the truth that only God has the right to decide whether a Witness must be disfellowshipped or be allowed to remain in the congregation. I will elucidate that. First, I will discuss the expression, “fruits that befit repentance.”
It is true that to get God’s forgiveness, a person has to repent his sins. But there is no requirement in the Christian Greek Scriptures for “fruits” or “works” to prove that; the only requirement is to stop doing the sin. In Matthew 3:8, John spoke to the Pharisees and Sadducees when he said, “Therefore, produce fruit that befits repentance.” They had not committed one particular sin and, therefore, needed to prove that they had repented this sin by pointing to fruits that befit repentance. But John’s words referred to their whole life that they had to change if his baptism should have the right meaning for them. The words of Paul in Acts 26:20 are connected with the message he preached. Paul asked everyone to repent their previous ungodly actions and turn to God “doing works that befit repentance.” So, the expression “works that befit repentance” refers to what persons must do before they are baptized as Christians and not after they have been baptized and have committed sins.
If a servant of God had followed the admonitions of John and Paul and had become a Christian, he had by this shown that he had “works that befit repentance.” If this person committed a serious sin, and then he had stopped doing this sin, he could, on the basis of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice, ask God to forgive his sin. And God would not require “works that befit repentance” because he would read the heart of the one who had committed the sin. The requirement by the Governing Body to have “works that befit repentance” is a human commandment that has no basis in the Bible.
Moreover, the requirement of “fruits” or “works” to prove repentance will in a great number of instances lead to disfellowshipping. This is so because the requirements of the judicial committees for “works that befit repentance” are strict and often difficult to fulfill for the wrongdoer. Disfellowshipping such persons will prevent the elders from seeing evidence of what really is important, namely, of God’s forgiveness. If these disfellowshipped persons were allowed to remain in the congregation, the elders could see that Jehovah blessed them, which is evidence of his forgiveness. This means that the requirement of “fruits/works that befit repentance” contradicts the basic truth that only God can decide who will be a part of his congregation.
THE HUMAN COMMANDMENT OF DIFFERENT DEGREES OF REPENTANCE
The Governing Body has introduced several strict requirements in connection with serious sins. One is found in the Shepherd book 16. points 7 and 8:
The judicial committee should look for clear works of repentance commensurate with the wrongdoing. (2 Cor. 7:10, 11)…
The extent to which the person deviates from righteousness may be major or minor, and logically the degree of regret (repentance) ought to be commensurate with the degree of deviation.
By using the word “logically” the Shepherd book shows that this instruction is not based on the Bible. However, I cannot see any logic in this instruction. The consequences of the serious sins mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians chapters 5 and 6 are different. If a person gets drunk, he may not hurt anyone physically or materially, and the same is true if two unmarried persons who have sexual relations. If a person is extorting or exploiting someone, he may hurt the person materially. Serious sins may also have serious consequences. Adultery, for example, may lead to dissolved marriages and to much suffering for men, women, and children — even to the loss of property and money.
However, there is neither biblical nor logical that there are degrees of regret (repentance). A person who has committed a serious sin may not have anticipated the bad consequences. And if his sin has caused much suffering for others, he may be very sorry for that. But a sinner who wants to be a friend of God will regret his sin and repent. But the word “regret” in its biblical sense exclusively relates to the sin and not to any consequences of the sin.
To justify the view of “degrees of repentance,” point 7 refers to 2 Corinthians 7:10, 11. But this is a wrong application of the verses. The Watchtower of July 1, 1972, page 15, says:
The apostle shows the importance of determining this when he writes: “For sadness in a godly way makes for repentance to salvation that is not to be regretted; but the sadness of the world produces death.” (2 Cor. 7:10) So it is a life-or-death matter that our motive be the right one. Worldly sadness does not stem from faith and love of God and righteousness. It is born of regret due to failure, disappointment, material or social loss, the prospect of undergoing punishment or shame. Worldly sadness mourns the unpleasant consequences wrongdoing brings. But it does not mourn over the unrighteousness itself, or the reproach it brings on God.—Compare Jeremiah 6:13-15, 22-26.
These comments correctly point out that repentance can have two different qualities, “sadness in a godly way” and “sadness of the world”. But they do not say that there are different degrees of “sadness in a godly way,” which means “repentance to salvation.” The word “commensurate” has the meaning, “corresponding in size or degree; proportionate,” and the sentence “the degree of regret (repentance) ought to be commensurate with the degree of deviation.” shows that the members of the Governing Body claim that there are different degrees of “sadness in a godly way.” That the elders should measure the degree of repentance of a sinner is a human viewpoint that has no basis in 2 Corinthians 7: 10, 11 or in any other text in the Bible.
As I already have stressed, whether a Witness who is guilty of serious sins should be disfellowshipped or not is based on whether Jehovah has forgiven the sins of that person. The elders cannot know this, and therefore they must accept the word of any sinner that he has stopped doing his serious sins and has asked Jehovah for his forgiveness. Only persons who at present are “practicing lawlessness” and who “are hardened in sin” must be disfellowshipped.
THE WRONGDOER HIMSELF MUST PROVE THAT HIS REPENTANCE IS GENUINE
There is a basic principle in the jurisprudence of Norway and most other countries: A person is innocent until it is proven that he is guilty. An accused person must not prove that he is innocent, but the prosecutor must prove that he is guilty. This principle is, of course, valid in the Christian congregations as well. But in connection with judicial cases, the Governing Body has turned this principle upside down because in such cases, the accused person must prove that he is “innocent.” Even a person who has done one serious sin one time may be disfellowshipped. In this connection, the Shepherd book chapter 16, point 7. says:
Judging repentance is not simply a matter of determining whether the wrongdoer is weak or wicked. Weakness is not synonymous with repentance. Neither should the judicial committee’s decision be determined by the notoriety of the wrong. … Even if this is the individual’s first time before a judicial committee, he must give evidence of genuine repentance if he is to remain in the congregation.
The words that a sinner “must give evidence of genuine repentance” both violate the principle that a person must not prove that he is innocent, and that every person whose sins Jehovah has forgiven must be allowed to remain in the congregation. Moreover, the difference between “wicked” and “weak” in the quotation also shows the lack of understanding of the members of the Governing Body. Paul shows in 1 Corinthians 5:13 that only wicked persons must be disfellowshipped, and this indicates that no person who is weak but not wicked should be disfellowshipped. It is true that weakness is not the same as repentance. But how can the elders know that a person is wicked?
In the article, “What kind of persons deserve to be disfellowshipped?,” I demonstrated that according to Paul, a Witness should not be disfellowshipped for what he does but for what he is. Only persons whose personality is permeated by one of the disfellowshipping offenses mentioned in the Christian Greek Scriptures should be disfellowshipped. In order to find out whether a person is wicked, the Shepherd book 16:8 says:
Was the individual caught off guard so that he momentarily succumbed to temptation, or did he plan to do wrong? Was he unaware of the gravity of his sin? Did he deliberately ignore counsel or warnings? Was it a single offense, or was it a practice? The more an individual repeats serious sin, the more that one reasonably gives evidence of being like wicked people who are “practicing what is hurtful.” — Ps. 28:3.
The only thing each of these questions may show is that the wrongdoer is weak because of his inherited sin, and it does not show that he is wicked. The wrongdoer in Corinth, whom Paul said was wicked, had lived with his father’s wife for a long time and refused to stop with this when the congregation received Paul’s letter saying that he should be disfellowshipped.
This means that whether a brother planned to do the sin, whether he deliberately ignored warnings, or whether he practiced the sin for a short or long time, do not show whether this brother is wicked, i.e., it does not show whether he is permeated with the sin.
|Only a person who is practicing one of the disfellowshipping offenses that are mentioned in the Christian Greek Scriptures, and who refuses to stop with this when he is confronted by the elders, can rightly be said to be wicked.|
THE SUBJECTIVE NATURE OF THE DECISIONS OF THE JUDICIAL COMMITTEES
The last point referred to something that was concrete. The elders required evidence of genuine repentance, which means that they required “works that befit repentance” to prove that the wrongdoer’s repentance was genuine. However, the book for elders also introduces something that is abstract and conjectural. We read in the Shepherd book 16. 7:
The committee must be convinced that the wrongdoer has a changed heart condition, that he has zeal to right the wrong, and that he is absolute determined to avoid it in the future.
There are several problems with this requirement. If the judicial committee has a meeting with the wrongdoer a week after his wrongdoing, there is hardly any possibility for “works that befit repentance” during this short period. This also shows that the requirement of such “works” is very problematic. The words of the quotation can be criticized from two other angles as well.
By using the word “convinced” in relation to the elders, the situation is moved from the objective realm to the subjective realm. Some persons are easily convinced, while others are by nature more skeptical. So, the quoted words say that the life of a Christian who has committed a serious sin is dependent on the subjective assessments of the three elders in the judicial committee; it is dependant on their gut feelings.
The words of the quotation also place the elders in the position of God. They are now asked to judge whether the sins of the person have been forgiven or not, and if not, they will “hand the person over to Satan” — disfellowshipping him. And their basis for playing God with power over life and death are subjective assessments — their gut feelings!
But let us see what Jesus said. We read in Luke 17:3, 4:
3 Pay attention to yourselves. If your brother commits a sin, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4 Even if he sins seven times a day against you and he comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
The words of Jesus do not refer to serious sins against the law of God. But the principle expressed by Jesus can be applied to such sins as well. I will apply the requirement of the Governing Body in point 7 to the words of Jesus and rewrite these words in the following way:
The innocent person must be convinced that the wrongdoer has a changed heart condition in order to forgive him.
On which basis could the innocent person mentioned by Jesus be convinced that the sinner had a changed heart condition? There were no “works that befit repentance.” To the contrary, the person continued with his course of sinning seven times. But just the same, he should be forgiven each time.
When accounts from the Hebrew Scriptures or the Christian Greek Scriptures are discussed, the present Governing Body often ask “What can we learn from this account?” And we may ask the same question, “What can we learn from the words of Jesus?” We can learn three things:
1) The forgiveness of God is far-reaching.
2) Forgiveness is possible each time a sin is committed without any limit of the number of committed sins that can be forgiven.
3) We need not be convinced that the person has changed his heart condition in order to forgive him, we just accept his words for that.
Few elders realize that by following the instructions from the Governing Body, they have put themselves in the place that rightly belongs to God. This is so because they, in reality, decide whether God has forgiven the sins of the wrongdoer or has not forgiven these sins. No human can know when God have forgiven the sins of a wrongdoer. And by giving the elders the power to decide that, the Governing Body has put the elders in the place only God should have. And they have given the elders the power over life and death.
|The Governing Body has put the elders in place of God because,
· They are given the task is to assess whether a wrongdoer has “works that befit repentance,” and because of this, if the sins of the wrongdoer have been forgiven by God. Only God knows when the sins are forgiven, and he does not ask for proof of repentance.
The Governing Body has made it hard for wrongdoers to give evidence for repentance by introducing the following human commandments:
· There are different degrees of repentance, and the sinner must show the degree of repentance that the elders require.
· The sinner must prove that he is innocent (= has the right degree of repentance).
· If the three members of the judicial committee are not convinced (= subjective assessments, gut feelings) that the person has changed his heart condition, he will be disfellowshipped.
PROTECTING THE CONGREGATION FROM CORRUPTING INFLUENCES
If the elders in the judicial committee must accept the words of the wrongdoer that he has stopped sinning and asked Jehovah to forgive him, and let him remain in the congregation, will that not lead to spiritual anarchy with the view that “anything goes”? Could not the consequence be that the congregation would not be protected from corrupting influences by allowing a wrongdoer to remain in the congregation?
First, we must remember Paul’s words that only a wicked person should be disfellowshipped, and a person who has stopped practicing the sin and asked Jehovah for his forgiveness, cannot be said to be wicked.
Second, no brother whose sins God has forgiven should be disfellowshipped. And the elders cannot, by asking the wrongdoer questions, know whether or not God has forgiven his sins.
Third, there is only one way for the elders to know whether the sins of a wrongdoer have been forgiven, and that is to let him continue to be a part of the congregation and see if Jehovah blesses this person in his doings in the congregation.
THE TWO WAYS OF PROTECTION AGAINST CORRUPTING INFLUENCES
Jehovah God wants that the congregations of his servants must be clean. But he also wants that his servants must show the same mercy in connection with wrongdoers who have stopped with their wrongdoing, as he has shown those who have dedicated their lives to him. In order to let both things happen, Jehovah has given instructions in his word showing his servants how to treat wrongdoers and protect his servants.
THE FIRST WAY OF PROTECTION IS TO FOLLOW THE BIBLICAL INSTRUCTIONS OF DISFELLOWSHIPPING ACCURATELY
Paul said according to 1 Corinthians 5:13 that wicked persons must be expelled from the congregation. The Watchtower of July 1, 1963, page 411 correctly pointed out which persons can be viewed as wicked:
Therefore, the ones who are hardened in wrongdoing are the ones who are disfellowshiped. It is where serious violations of Jehovah’s righteous requirements have become a practice that this measure is taken. First John 3:4 states: “Everyone who practices sin is also practicing lawlessness.” So dedicated Christians who become practicers of lawlessness in the Christian congregation today are disfellowshiped.
This means that if the elders must not hesitate to disfellowship persons who are practicing one of the disfellowshipping offenses mentioned in the Scriptures and refuse to stop, i.e., persons “who are hardened in wrongdoing,” the corrupting influence will be removed from the congregation.
THE SECOND WAY OF PROTECTION IS TO LEAVE THE JUDGMENT TO JEHOVAH
The Scriptures say that only wicked persons must be disfellowshipped. This means, as I have shown, that a wrongdoer who has stopped practicing sin and asked Jehovah to forgive him, cannot be said to be wicked. Allowing this wrongdoer to remain in the congregation causes no harm. But this is the only way by which the elders can know whether Jehovah has forgiven the serious sins of this wrongdoer. The elders cannot read his heart. But if they see that this brother is putting effort into serving Jehovah and Jehovah is blessing him, they know that he has a good relationship with Jehovah and his sins have been forgiven.
Jehovah loves his loyal servants, and disfellowshipping a wrongdoer who has a right heart condition because the elders are not convinced that he has repented his wrongdoing, can result in serious harm for the wrongdoer. If they had disfellowshipped him even though he was not wicked, they would not have left the situation to Jehovah because they would have prevented him from regaining a good relationship with Jehovah inside the congregation and from showing that Jehovah had forgiven his sins.
There is also another aspect that I illustrate with the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 8:11, 12
11 Really, by your knowledge, the man that is weak is being ruined, [your] brother for whose sake Christ died. But when YOU people thus sin against YOUR brothers and wound their conscience that is weak, YOU are sinning against Christ.
The question in Corinth was whether a Christian could eat meat that was sold at the market or served in restaurants when the meat came from animals whose parts had been offered to idols. Paul shows that there was nothing wrong with this meat and that eating it or not was a matter of each person’s conscience. But if a Christian believed that using his freedom to eat the meat could be a stumbling block and that he would leave Jehovah because of this, he should never eat the meat.
If a Christian who has been a wrongdoer stops doing what is wrong and asks Jehovah to forgive him, he knows that Christ died for him, and he is confident that Jehovah will forgive him. If this sincere brother has not fulfilled the strict requirements of the members of the judicial committee and they disfellowship him, that can be a stumbling block for him and he can leave Jehovah and become “ruined.” In such a case, the members of the judicial committee “are sinning against Christ.” Unfortunately, I am aware of several situations like this, where the members of the judicial committee have been pushing the brother away from Jehova.
But what if the wrongdoer who said he had repented but did not have the right heart condition? No harm would be caused by giving him the chance to remain in the congregation. Jehovah sees everything, and if this brother has a wrong heart condition, that will become evident, as Paul says in 1 Timothy 5:24:
24 The sins of some men are publicly known, leading directly to judgment, but those of other men become evident later.
If the wrongdoer starts to practice sin again, the elders must act decisively and disfellowship him. In this way, the corrupting influence in the congregation is removed.
|Only Christians who are “hardened in wrongdoing” (The Watchtower of July 1, 1963) and are “wicked” (1 Corinthians 5:13) deserve to be disfellowshipped from the congregation. The instruction of the Governing Body that a Christian who has committed one single serious sin and who does not show the degree of regret that the elders expect will be disfellowshipped is a blatant violation of the Holy Scriptures. This instruction is an expression of extremism, and it flies in the face of Jehovah’s love and mercy.|
The instructions in the Christian Greek Scriptures regarding how to treat those who are guilty of serious sins is very simple:
When a person confesses a serious sin and says that he has stopped doing the sin and asked Jehovah to forgive him, the elders should accept this and let him remain in the congregation, so they can see evidence of Jehovah’s forgiveness when the see that Jehovah is blessing him.
There should be no questions about how his wrong course started to find the heart condition of the brother, and no requirements to prove his repentance by “works that befit repentance.” It is Jehovah who forgives sins and not the elders in the judicial committee. Therefore, the requirement that they must be convinced that he has changed his heart condition if they shall let him remain in the congregation, is a violation of Jehovah’s position as the only one who can forgive sins.
So, no questions, no assessments of the heart condition of the sinner, no expressions of the gut feelings of the members of the judicial committee — just one single question: “Have you stopped practicing sin, and have you asked Jehovah to forgive you?” If the brother confirms this, the elders in the judicial committee would be sinning against Jehovah and Jesus Christ by disfellowshipping this brother.