The fifteenth chapter of Acts provides a template for how congregations are governed in the Christian congregation. An issue arose—one that will hardly seem relevant today, and will strike some as downright strange. Suffice it to say that the subject of male circumcision took center stage for a significant time back then. From the days of Moses, it had been the sign of a special relationship with God, and there were those of Jewish background who wanted to extend the one-time requirement to persons of all backgrounds who were swelling the ranks of new-found Christianity:
“And certain men came down from Judea and began to teach the brothers: ‘Unless you get circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ But when there had occurred no little dissension and disputing by Paul and Barnabas with them, they arranged for Paul and Barnabas and some others of them to go up to the apostles and older men in Jerusalem regarding this dispute.” (vs 1-2) It is a passage sure to displease the anti-cultists, for it sends the signal that the latter were going to do something about it. Would they stoop to “brainwashing” and “thought control?”
Governing as though Plato’s philosopher-kings—it is remarkable the similarities (See Chapter 42)—the “apostles and older men” in Jerusalem set policy for the first century congregation. They determined how scripture applied for the rapidly growing Christian faith, much as modern governments apply principles contained within national constitutions. If they did not do so, constitutions would quickly become inapplicable, lost among new developments not explicitly spelled out.
Traveling ministers carried decisions of that early governing body to the ever-increasing congregations, which within decades had spread throughout the Mediterranean world. Acts 16:4-5 relates:
“Now as they traveled on through the cities they would deliver to those there for observance the decrees that had been decided upon by the apostles and older men who were in Jerusalem. Therefore, indeed, the congregations continued to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number from day to day.”
Alas, for those who suppose Christianity ought to be based upon Western democracy! It wasn’t guidelines being delivered. It wasn’t suggestions. It wasn’t proposals to be put to popular vote. It was decrees which were to be observed.
It’s not just the New World Translation. Nearly all English translations use the terms “decrees” or “decisions.” The New International Version calls them “decisions for the people to obey.” Of the few variations, only the paraphrased Message translation waters the phrase down to “simple guidelines which turned out to be most helpful.” The Amplified Bible uses “regulations,” Moffatts Bible says “resolutions,” and the Good News Bible offers up “rules.”
Isn’t this what one would expect? If God’s ways are really higher than our ways, as Isaiah 55:9 states, and people become Christian converts precisely for that reason, does anyone truly think that God’s ways would be determined by majority vote? If that’s the case, who needs God? The aforementioned apostles and older men governed from Jerusalem as a God-ordained arrangement. They were not ambitious men seizing power. They were Christians with the most experience, men who had introduced the faith to others, and they saw to their own succession.
That 15th chapter of Acts reads like the minutes of that body’s consideration of circumcism. The resulting “decision is not to trouble those from the nations who are turning to God, but to write them to abstain from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood,” and it was relayed throughout the congregations.
The decision was not at once accepted by all, which in itself offers a template for modern-day similar situations. Long after the governing arrangement supposedly settled the matter (49CE, per biblical chronology), its representatives were yet reasoning with those who opposed it, becoming more forceful with the passage of time:
(circa 51CE - 2 years later): “For such freedom Christ set us free. Therefore stand fast, and do not let yourselves be confined again in a yoke of slavery. See! I, Paul, am telling you that if you become circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Moreover, I bear witness again to every man getting circumcised that he is under obligation to perform the whole Law.” (Galatians 5:1-3)
(55CE - 6 years later): “Was any man called circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Has any man been called in uncircumcision? Let him not get circumcised. Circumcision does not mean a thing, and uncircumcision means not a thing, but observance of God’s commandments [does].” (1 Corinthians 7:18-20)
(circa 61CE - 12 years later): “Look out for the dogs, look out for the workers of injury, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are those with the real circumcision, who are rendering sacred service by God’s spirit and have our boasting in Christ Jesus and do not have our confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:2-3)
(circa 63CE - 14 years later): “For there are many unruly men, profitless talkers, and deceivers of the mind, especially those men who adhere to the circumcision. It is necessary to shut the mouths of these, as these very men keep on subverting entire households by teaching things they ought not for the sake of dishonest gain.” (Titus 1:10-11)
Did such resisters eventually find themselves ousted from the congregation? It seems likely, in view of such directives as: “As for a man that promotes a sect, reject him after a first and a second admonition; knowing that such a man has been turned out of the way and is sinning, he being self-condemned.” (Titus 3:10-11)
Anti-cultists will go into convulsions at the behavioral, informational, thought, and emotional control mechanisms indicated by the above. There can be little question that the Bible itself must be a cult-manual in the eyes of these ones. They should not bother with middlemen such as Jehovah’s Witnesses—those who endeavor to live by the Book—but go after the source itself, thereby revealing their intolerance to all.
Who are these big babies, terrified of what some visiting factory worker or even janitor trudging up their driveway might say? Are they really the same ones who carry on about their newfound freedom, their keen intellect, and their powerful self-determination? They are the shallowest of people masquerading as the deepest, the narrowest masquerading as the broadest. The existence of God cannot be proven by the standards modern anti-cultists accept as proof. However, neither can it be disproven. It can be shown to be reasonable, that’s all, but to those whose reason is forged in another hearth, it cannot be. As regards being narrow, they will say the same of Witnesses. It is fair game. Let the great issue be put squarely before all. Is it government by men that will save us all or government by God?
What a pathetic view of human nature these anti-cultists have. Just how much mileage can one get out of playing the victim card? Are we all truly but putty, ever at the mercy of some passerby with new ideas? You should hear how some of these ones carry on about how Jehovah’s Witnesses show up at doors to “convert” people underhandedly. Witnesses ought to state that goal up front, they demand. It is all they can do not to insist upon a notarized statement.
It is nonsense. Nobody converts another. People convert themselves, based upon processing and trying on new ideas for size. If you were to tell a visiting Jehovah’s Witness point blank that you wanted to convert, you would not be able to. You would commence on a period of study and preparation, seldom lasting under a year in these parts, (United States) 95% of the time in familiar surroundings, with full option to say “no thanks” at every juncture. It is a situation far less controlling than higher education, where one may be cut off from previous surroundings almost completely, and the barriers to discontinuance may be high, involving finance or expectations.
It is so juvenile to maintain, as the anti-cultists do, that Witnesses are out to “recruit” new members. It is icing on the cake for them should that happen, but hardly the cake itself. With the supposed goal of conversion at least a year away, one can be sure that the visiting Witness does not even think of it for many months to come. The object is simply to share information, or even to shed new light on what is already known, irrespective of what one may do with it at a later date. Most people do nothing with it. “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth,” says Matthew 24:14. It says nothing about conversion, leaving that possibility open for another occasion.
Enough of this cult nonsense. Everything is misrepresented. The legal Trinity is missing two legs. “Truth” is not enough—there must also be “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” It’s high time to respond to these overgrown adolescents as the police did years ago to the overgrown adolescents of the 60s. When student radicals began calling them ‘pigs,’—doubling down when they saw that it got under their skin—one resourceful cop responded: ‘PIGS—Pride, Integrity, Guts, Service.’ Yeah! Same here. Do enemies think that they can get under Witnesses’ skin, swinging around the ‘Cult’ truncheon, when everyone knows the word means something else? Very well. Let Witnesses wear the moniker proudly: ‘CULT—Courage, Unity, Love, Truth.’ At some point, one must kick back at this nonsense.
Jehovah’s Witness stand for an alternative way of life, no question about it. As one of many “new religions,”—the scholarly term—there was no reason to extend the “cult” word to them. Coin a new word. “Cult” has been around forever, and it reliably evokes prejudice, if not hate. For that reason, enemies of Jehovah’s Witnesses embrace it. They eschew what is dignified so as to go for the jugular, as they smell blood in the water.
From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!