Is it possible that God communicates certain things to us individually and other things through an approved organization which acts in the role of a prophet?
This idea is based on the idea that an organization can act like a person. An organization can influence its members to copy the viewpoints of its leaders, express themselves in a similar way, or act in a uniform manner. It may appear that the organization has a mind of its own, but that is not so. An organization is not a separate entity like a person. It has no capability for independent thought, feeling and opinion.
Every thought or action comes from individuals in an organization. Apart from its members, an organization is absolutely incapable of generating, communicating or carrying out ideas. This means that any communication that comes from the organization is really coming from an individual, even though that member may be sincerely attempting to speak on behalf of the group. It also explains why it is so hard at times for sincere members to determine just what the organization’s viewpoint is on certain matters, since written or verbal communications may be contradictory. This is so because they simply reflect the different viewpoints of the different people who produced the communications.
After W.W.II the Nazi organization never went on trial for war crimes. Individuals did. An organization cannot commit nor be punished for crimes. It bears no accountability. People do. Jesus said that when he would return he would separate the goats from the sheep. He would base his judgment on personal conduct rather than loyalty to an organization or belief structure.
An organization has no viewpoint, no memory, no conscience, no love, no hate. It has no emotions or opinions. It cannot do right or wrong. The basic truth about the nature of organizations makes it clear that it is only on a personal basis that an individual can have a relationship with God (or anyone else).
Organizations are a way for people to combine their efforts so they can accomplish more as a group than they could accomplish as individuals. The only authority that organizations have is in the minds of individuals who obey the organizational rules and regulations. Obedience to directives given by representatives of an organization may be perceived as obedience to that organization. But it is not. It is simply obedience to the will of the individuals who made up those directives, since an organization has no will of its own. It is easy to lose sight of this simple fact when confronted with the enormous accomplishments that are possible when individuals pool their efforts. But huge buildings and other material achievements do not impress God nor indicate his favor and blessing.
We should not be intimidated or fooled when the leaders of an organization point to visible marks of their success as an indication that God has blessed them or is backing their work. God has absolutely unlimited resources and abilities. He has no need for any buildings, printing presses, financial support, or any type of organizational structure to multiply his resources, as if there were things he couldn’t do by himself. We all know that one of the problems associated with organizations is that rules and regulations that may be the best possible compromise for governing the behavior of people as a group, may be unfair to individuals within the group. God on the other hand, can give personalized direction to each individual. We can rely on the fact that our heavenly father knows what we personally need and will supply those needs in the best way possible.
In the centuries since the death of the apostles, many religious organizations have been formed often with very sincere intentions, to provide fellowship, escape persecution, and attempt to protect believers from false teachings. However, in time, the original founders die and the membership grows. Active, influential members of these organizations may sooner or later lose sight of the original purpose of forming the fellowship or organization. Lacking faith in Jesus’ ability to meet his disciples’ needs, or perhaps by a sense of responsibility, or by opportunities for financial gain, power or prestige, they may hide behind the lofty stated goals of the organization and maneuver things so they gain increased control over others. The terrible consequences that ultimately result when this process matures are written in blood and tears across the pages of history. Leaders of these organizations may claim to represent Christ, and insist that they have authority to speak in his name. Declaring that they have the right to interpret the Bible, they expel anyone who disagrees with those interpretations. They may substitute their own views for the pure message of the Bible, and increase membership through human means such as the promise of security within the organization. They have maintained their membership through blackmail, coercion and threats, dictated rules and regulations to their members, demanded loyalty and financial support, and browbeat sincere persons with the tyranny of authority.
Jesus said to be on the watch for false prophets that come to you in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves. He said that those men could be recognized by their conduct or fruits, not as an organization but as an individual. For this same reason, organizational growth or size does not necessarily show God’s approval and blessing, for Jesus said that many false prophets will arise and mislead many.
Organizations are not wrong in themselves. They provide a way for resources such as time, energy or money to be channeled and used. In the wrong hands, however, these resources may be used for purposes other than to honor Jesus Christ and focus on his redemptive work. When individuals within organizations choose to focus on Christ, they may find themselves at odds with the organization to which they belong. They may face a choice, since the organization to which they belong may expel them as “dangerous” nonconformists.
The Bible says that God spoke to mankind through prophets in pre-Christian times, and through his Son in the Christian era. There is absolutely no evidence anywhere in the Bible that even suggests that God ever established or worked through a small group of special representative servants who regularly acted as his administrators, revealing his messages or expressed will to the rest of his faithful people. That is why there is not a single exhortation in the Bible to identify or exhibit loyalty, faithfulness, obedience or cooperation with such an approved representative group.
We cannot transfer our personal accountability before God to another person, and, as we have seen, an organization in itself, cannot take responsibility for anything. Paul said: “each shall render an account for himself to God.” On the day when we must render an account to God for how we lived, a record of loyalty to an organization will be no substitute for a fine record of faith in God and resulting good Christian conduct toward others.
The conclusions presented, if accepted, may create a problem for a person who may be considering whether to associate with an organization. If they choose to leave, they may wonder where to go. Even if they have serious doctrinal disagreements with the organization, they may consider simply staying with it, since the consequences for leaving, especially on doctrinal grounds, will almost certainly include rejection by friends and family, plus slander and gossip. Leaving may not seem worth that abuse, especially if one goes off in a search for “truth” to another group or church, only to find that the new church has certain doctrines correct, but not “the whole truth.” Searching among organizations to find “truth” may be fruitless and frustrating. But it is certainly not the only, nor the best, alternative. Actually, the decision shouldn’t be about choosing between organizations at all. Why not?
Some people believe that the true religion must teach all the truth, that if just one teaching is incorrect, the entire body of teachings is suspect. This view is that “truth” consists of “correct teachings” or “accurate explanations” that seem to fit reality, interpretations that can be supported of “proven” by human reasoning and the use of Bible references for support in the same way that a scientist or mathematician uses physical axioms or procedures. This approach cannot be used to know God. Paul warned against such a view of knowledge: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone thinks he has acquired knowledge of something, he does not yet know (it) as he ought to know (it). But if anyone loves God, this one is known by him” (I Cor. 8:2-3). No person or group of persons, and thus no organization, church or religious group knows everything about God or his ways. So no one can find “the truth that leads to eternal life” by searching for the “correct” explanations of Bible passages or “proving” doctrinal positions. “Truth”, in the Bible sense, simply isn’t found there.
Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” Therefore knowing “truth” in the Bible sense must begin with a relationship with Jesus Christ, simply accepting him as God’s Son and our Savior, Mediator, Lord and King. When many of Jesus’ disciples left him because they didn’t understand some of his teachings, he asked the twelve, “You do not want to go also, do you?” Peter answered: “Lord, whom would we go away to? You have the sayings of everlasting life; and we have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus’ disciples were not about to leave him and go elsewhere in search of truth. They knew that no one else could give them life. Peter’s reply shows that he understood that the question was not about where to go, but about whom to trust. The apostles recognized Jesus as the only source of truth, and knew that they could trust no other person or group of persons to give them teachings that would lead to eternal life.
Some people refer to the organization in terms the Bible uses to refer to Jesus Christ. Some say that they are “in the truth” to mean they are “in the organization”. The organization is presented as handling “all the kings interests” on earth, really everything that Jesus said He would handle personally. To attribute to an organization such capabilities as providing leadership and protection from enemies amounts to nothing less than idolatry. Persons who make such claims are false prophets.
Rather than following any man or group of men, follow only Jesus Christ, who has “all authority in heaven and on earth”. (Matt28:18) Based on that firm foundation, Christian fellowship, whether you prefer it in a more or less structured form, takes on a whole new dimension. Seek and you will certainly find a variety of other true Christians with whom to share the pure joy of belonging to and sharing Jesus’ love, guided by God’s spirit and his Word the Bible, to his glory and praise.
The following are proofs that God has worked with individuals all down through history and not with organizations.
God spoke directly to Adam, Eve, Cain, Noah and Abraham. He later used Moses as a mediator between Himself and the people. In that role, he foreshadowed Christ. Moses was a mediator and a prophet. Joshua who followed him was a leader but not a mediator or prophet. The Levites were only to carry out religious functions, not executive or prophetic ones. Who then directed things in Israel?
There was no need of a centralized government because the nation of Israel was actually a single family. It was “organized” along family lines. In Israel, the elders were not elected by popular vote nor appointed by God. They were relatives of people the represented.
Under the Law, the Israelites were to be guided by personal conscience rather than human rulers who enforced governmental power through police or other armed forces. Sanctions against sinners or lawbreakers were carried out in each community by the people themselves under the supervision of the elders. Each individual was responsible for his own behavior before God, his family and the community. This was a theocratic form of government in its true sense. God himself acted in the place of any earthly king. Did this form of government work?
After entering the promised land, the Israelites lived for over 350 years without any human king or centralized government. “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” (Judges 21:25) This theocratic arrangement did not result in anarchy. The evidence is that this was an excellent arrangement.
God selected and appointed judges from time to time as needed. They acted as leaders, but more in a military than in a governmental way. At times more than one judge was active. At times no judge was active. They had no special executive authority, nor did they act as kings over Israel, for God was to be their only ruler. The closing chapters of judges contain an interesting and unusual story of how justice was administered under this arrangement in the case of violent crime.
The Bible states that during over two thirds of the period of the judges, there was peace in the land. There were never so many peaceful years after the period of the Judges ended. Only one prophet, Deborah, had to be sent to them during that period. What happened to change the nation and changed the peaceful conditions in the land?
Eventually, the Israelites began to clamor for a king. They wanted a centralized government. Why? Was it because the theocratic type of rule that had brought peace and prosperity for generations wasn’t working? No. Was it to protect them from apostasy? No. They said: “then we will be like other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” (Sam. 8:20) It was so they could be just like the pagan nations around them. The idea was selfish, worldly and untheocratic. And God said exactly that. Samuel thought that Israel had rejected him as a prophet, but God corrected him. God said that their request was a rejection of Him as their king. God warned Israel that a centralized form of government would lead to many difficulties, but they continued to insist that God give them a human king.
God granted their request. He chose a good and capable man, Saul, as their first king. With the passage of time, the good qualities for which Saul was chosen became corrupted. God rejected Saul and chose another king for Israel, the boy David, who grew into a man “agreeable to God’s heart.” Even a man with this wonderful recommendation was not without serious faults. David’s reign was marred by personal scandal and family tragedy.
David’s son, Solomon, was called the “wisest of men.” His forty year reign was marked by peace, prosperity and happiness, but with age , he too, was unfaithful to God. As a result, when Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, took the throne, God split the nation forever into two kingdoms.
Centralized government over all Israel failed miserably. It lasted only three generations, even though God himself selected the kings. Afterwards, good and bad kings ruled in both kingdoms. God did not refuse to deal with either kingdom. He sent prophets to both kingdoms.
By the time Jesus appeared on the scene, Israel as a nation was anything but highly organized. They were governed by foreigners. They were divided in their beliefs. They had embellished and added to the Law to the point that even simple commands such as the Sabbath were nearly impossible to obey. The worship carried on in Jerusalem was corrupted by commercialism and meaningless rituals and formalities.
In spite of this situation, Jesus’ ministry was directed to Jews and Samaritans rather than Gentiles. Why? In spite of unfaithfulness and apostasy, they were still God’s chosen people. It was only after their rejection of the Messiah that their house was abandoned to them.
How did God communicate with Israel? He spoke to some directly, (Gen. 46:1-4; Josh. 8:1) or through angels. (Judg. 6:11-24; chapter 13) Other, including prophets, received visions or dreams. (1 Ki. 3:5-15; 9:1-9; Isa. 1:1; Amos 7:1-9; Ezek. 1:1) But most messages to God’s people were delivered by prophets. As Hebrews 1:1 states: “God… long ago spoke on many occasions and in many ways to our forefathers by means of the prophets.”
Prophets were most often sent to God’s people when they were unfaithful. Their job was simply to deliver messages from God, warn the people to turn from false worship and encourage them to obey the Law and practice true worship. Who appointed these prophets? They were not chosen by national leaders, priests or even other prophets. They were appointed by God himself, by the Holy Spirit. They simply received messages from God and passed them on to others. The Israelites were given three ways to know whether someone calling himself a prophet truly represented God: 1. The prophet spoke in the name of God. 2. The prophecy came true. 3. The prophecy promoted true worship. The job of the prophet as described in the Bible, offered little or no prestige or power. Prophets were unpopular. Most of them were treated poorly by God’s chosen people. Were God’s prophets ever organized into a central body that gave direction to the nation of Israel? The Bible mentions groups of prophets in a couple of places, such 1 Sam. 10:5, 10; 2 Ki. 2:3, 5; 4:38. But there is no mention of them acting as any type of regular “channel” of communication. In fact, at times prophets were not aware of the existence of other prophets or even other true worshipers.
For example, Elijah thought that he was the only person left that did not bow down to Baal. God said that He had 7,000 in Israel that had not bowed down to him. Those faithful persons would doubtless have been considered disloyal to the anointed king that was in power. Yet they were obviously not organized into any type of group. They lived in quiet, personal faith to God while surrounded by God’s unfaithful but still chosen people.
Throughout the entire pre-Christian period, the Bible mentions faithful individuals who were loyal to God, regardless of whether the nation’s leaders were faithful. This was true right up until Jesus appeared. A righteous prophet named Simeon saw the young child Jesus, in fulfillment of a prophecy given him by the Holy Spirit. A faithful prophetess named Anna is also mentioned.
Jesus’ arrival involved a new spokesman rather that a new way of communication between God and man. Would Jesus establish a visible organization to represent his interests on earth, or would each individual Christian be an “ambassador substituting for Christ?” 2 Cor 5:20
Before ascending to heaven, Jesus indicated to the eleven that He had already been given authority to take personal responsibility for everything: “all authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth. Go therefore and make disciples of people of all nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father …….. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” Matt. 28:18-20
Jesus said that he would send a paraclete, a helper or counselor that would take his place on earth after he returned to heaven:: “he lives in you and will be with you.” (John 14:16,17) “but when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you…..” John 16:13-15
Was the Holy Spirit simply to work during a short interval, a generation or so after the start of the Christian congregation, until Jesus could organize the newly formed church to take over the duties of the Holy Spirit, that is, feeding the disciples, “guiding them into all truth” and speaking on Jesus’ behalf? No. Jesus said that the spirit would be with them forever, needing no replacement.
Because Jesus would be in constant contact with his disciples after his resurrection through the Holy Spirit, there was no reason for him to encourage them to expect the development of any centralized group of human representatives for guidance or direction. Jesus had not indicated otherwise when he said:”… where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Matt. 18:20
Does the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:1-35 show a centralized government? Some believed that Gentile Christians had to be circumcised. Paul went to Jerusalem at the direction of the Lord himself, “as a result of a revelation.” Paul’s account given to the Galatian congregation shows that he went into a private meeting with those “who seemed to be something” in the congregation, the prominent elders. He set before them the Gospel that he preached among the Gentiles, and did not give in to them for a moment.” These godly men, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, recognized that they were in error, accepted the correction given by Christ through Paul, and spoke up in a larger meeting with the other elders, guiding it under the direction of the Holy Spirit so all arrived at a proper viewpoint. They then wrote a letter of apology, addressed specifically to the Gentiles in Antioch, suggesting some things that, if avoided, would contribute to peace among the Jews and Gentiles, as well as to their health and prosperity.
There is no evidence that any new understanding came out of this meeting. The elders at Jerusalem received correction rather than giving direction. This event produces no evidence that there was any “governing body” of men in Jerusalem that made rules and regulations to pass on to all other Christians. Quite the opposite in this case. The evidence clearly shows that God’s spirit worked through faithful individuals to guide the Christian congregation away from error.
The book of Acts is filled with accounts that clearly illustrate the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy mentioned by Peter in Acts: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.” This prophecy said that God, through the Holy Spirit, would communicate with Christians in the same ways he had during pre-Christian times, directly, and by visions, dreams and through prophets. It shows the very active involvement of Jesus personally, as well as the Holy Spirit, angels, visions and dreams in the early Christian congregation. This included the conversion of individuals, the expansion of the congregation, selecting and guiding apostles and missionaries, keeping the congregation from corruption by falsehood, encouraging and assisting Christians through trials and hardships, and guiding the recording and preservation of all essential information that Christians would need in coming centuries, that is, the Christian scriptures. There is no essential part of the growth of Christianity that Jesus or the Holy Spirit did not guide and direct.
Consider: Philip, was sent by an angel to the road. The Spirit sent Philip to the Eunuch’s chariot. After baptizing him, the Spirit led Philip away. Cornelius had a vision that told him to send men to Joppa to get Peter. Peter was given a vision to explain the men sent by Cornelius. Jesus himself converted Saul. Saul, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, was outstanding among the apostles for carrying the Christian message to non-Jewish persons. He started many congregations. Who authorized him to do this? It wasn’t the congregation at Jerusalem or Antioch. Saul and Barnabus were commissioned as missionaries and sent out at specific direction of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:1-4)
The record shows that persons to whom Paul preached were directed to look to Christ himself for guidance rather than to any group of elders, in Jerusalem or anywhere else. When Paul spoke to the jailer in Phillipi, he simply spoke God’s word to the man and all those in his house. They were all baptized. Did Paul direct their attention to the local congregation to finish their “training”? No, for there was no congregation there, only another recent convert, a woman named Lydia. Acts 16:30-34
There are many other examples that could be cited, but the message is clear: Jesus Christ himself and the Holy Spirit, rather than any man or group of men, played the most active role in guiding early Christians.
Just as the Israelites were given a way to clearly identify true and false prophets and prophecy, so were Christians:
1 John 4:2-3 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.
John did not focus on doctrine, behavior or the source of the prophecies as the criteria for judging messages that supposedly come from God. Rather, prophecy is judged by its focus. If the focus is on Christ and his redemptive works, it is from God. If not, the spirit of prophecy is from the antichrist.
This material was taken wholly from a document prepared
by Tom Cabeen a former JW. It is not the entire article.