Is the Unjust Steward truly commended by Jesus for his shrewd decision to reduce debts and ingratiate friends? Or is he a dishonest manager that no one would trust? Does Jesus use sarcasm in Luke 16? Is the lesson only about financial dealings in worldly matters, or is there another level to the story? We decided to investigate.

Context

As always, examining the context helps to see who Jesus was addressing, and for what reason. The parable in Luke 16 follows the parable of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son. We know from Luke 14 that Jesus was at a chief Pharisees’ house. In chapter 15 the publicans and sinners wanted to hear Jesus speak and had come close, while the Pharisees and Scribes were still nearby. At the end of the Parable of the Unjust Steward, the Pharisees were still listening and resented the message. So, it seems that all these parables may have been told in succession, perhaps while Jesus was at the chief Pharisees’ house.

It is also possible that the parable of the Unjust Steward is a continuation of the Parable of the Lost, with a change of focus now towards the ‘Elder’ Son who proudly stayed with his Father. Although serving for many years and thinking he had never ‘transgressed’ any of the commandments, the Elder certainly never developed the character of his father. He was angry and resentful towards his wayward brother’s return, while his loving father was merciful and forgiving. 

Word Meanings

Sometimes it helps to look at the word-meanings. A ‘steward’ is a ‘house-distributor, or a manager, or an overseer.’ Joseph and Daniel both served faithfully in this capacity and are excellent examples of faithful stewards. However, this steward had wasted his [Lord’s] goods’. To ‘waste’ has the idea of ‘dissipate, squander, scatter’. It is the identical word used of the Prodigal Son who wasted his substance with riotous living’. However, this steward was still in the house; he hadn’t left! Like the Lost Coin parable, the Elder Son was lost inside the house.

‘I cannot dig’

When the steward’s ‘wastefulness’ was discovered, he was told he would be dismissed from his job. Like anyone getting a ‘pink slip’, this provoked anxious thoughts about how he would provide for himself. The first two options that came to his mind were to ‘dig’ or ‘beg’. Dig means ‘dig’ – but the word is only used in two other places in the New Testament!  One is in Luke 6:48, where Jesus talks about digging deep to lay your house (life) on the foundation of Christ. The other is in Luke 13:8, where the gardener decides to dig about an unproductive tree one more time to fertilize it and give it another chance to be fruitful. This is interesting… maybe the wasteful steward was not willing to dig deep and build his life on Christ’s commands? Or dig around others (perhaps the debtors!) to help encourage them to a life of productivity in Christ? As a steward he should have been doing these things – providing meat in due season for all in the house (Matthew 24:45-46). It seems he had never been willing to ‘dig’, and wasn’t willing to change his wasteful ways.

‘To beg I am ashamed’

Well, then what about the word ‘beg’? The word meaning isn’t all that revealing; it simply means to ask again and again, or to beg. Yet, there are plenty of places we are told to ‘ask’.

Ask and it shall be given you” (Matthew 7:7)

God knows how to ‘give good things to them that ask’” (Matthew 7:11).

Was there something the wasteful steward should have asked from his master? For instance, had he ever considered asking for forgiveness? Yes, he had been caught in sin, and he felt guilty and ashamed, but surely the best option at this point would have been to beg for mercy and forgiveness!

Generous with another man’s goods

In contrast, when the Prodigal Son came to his senses and realized he had made a foolish mistake, he decided to return to his Father, confess his failure, and beg for forgiveness. He was so humbled by his experience, he only asked to be a servant for the rest of his life.  The Unjust Steward didn’t consider asking for mercy, he decided instead to rely on his own ingenuity. “Take your bill,” he said to his master’s debtors, and then he ‘generously’ discounted the debts at his master’s expense! This isn’t true generousity – true generosity comes out of our own pocket. Discounting debts on a personal whim, is also not faithful management of his master’s property; he was continuing to be a waster. However, for those of his Lord’s debtors who weren’t loyal customers, this discounting of their debt would have endeared this ‘unjust’ steward to them.

Have we ever had the experience where a cashier, or waitress gives us a special deal hinting that it’s on their own initiative? Do we insist on an honest payment out of loyalty to the owner, or are we quick to take the advantage and go away with a glowing report of the good deal we were given? Would we return to seek out that same waitress or cashier the next time we visited? Would they become our favourite? Our friend?

If the debt in the parable refers to sin, as in, ‘forgive us our debts’ – faithful stewards don’t have the authority to ‘mark-down’ the debt a fellow-believer has to God. Just telling someone, “Don’t worry, God loves you as you are. You don’t have to change, He’ll overlook your sin”, does not take away their debt! In fact, it can give them a false sense of security. Far better to direct them towards God, the one who can truly forgive them!

The Bill

Looking up the word ‘bill’, we were surprised to discover it was the word ‘gramma’ – the word used for ‘scripture’ in many places! Was this steward discounting the Scriptures to bring himself into favour with others? Is it even possible to do this? Some scriptural ‘echoes’ helped to make this analogy clear.

For we are not as many, which corrupt [‘peddle, adulterate, to do a thing for base gain’] the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:17).

Or we read in 2 Corinthians 4:2, “But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”

Discounting the Scriptures?

Now, if this parable was directed to the Pharisees, was there a way in which they were handling God’s Word deceitfully? Were they discounting the Scriptures in order to bring themselves into favour with others, with ‘fake generosity’ that wasn’t coming from God? We were reminded of the Corban law in Mark 7:6-13, where the Pharisees had found a way to get around God’s command to look after one’s father and mother. Jesus told them they were, “Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition.”

The prophet Ezekiel told the people of his day, “with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life.”

The Luke 16 parable is powerful, because we can all think of examples where we or others have discounted people’s debts to God, without truly having the authority to do so. If God has clearly spoken in His Word about right and wrong, whether in regards to belief or practice, we need to be careful to proclaim the same accurate message that He has given. It is God who has set the terms for salvation, not us. Ironically, God’s promise of forgiveness is full and complete to all who confess and forsake their sins and ASK for forgiveness. To change the Gospel message to make it more appealing in order to make ourselves seem more compassionate, or merciful, or generous, will actually defeat the gift that God has given. Sin that is not confessed cannot be forgiven. The Unjust Steward offered 50% forgiveness at the most, while God offers 100%!

Commended?

However, one of the most confusing parts of this parable is that the Unjust Steward is commended for his actions. Is this a true commendation from Jesus, or is it a sarcastic remark? Would Jesus truly encourage us to ‘make friends of the mammon of unrighteousness [“injustice, moral wrongfulness of character, life or act’]’? This doesn’t add up with the lessons he draws from this parable in verses 10-13. He says, “ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

‘Everlasting Habitations’

We looked carefully at what the Unjust Steward hoped to gain. What are the ‘everlasting habitations’ of those who act like this unjust steward? Everlasting means ‘perpetual, eternal, for ever’, which is no surprise. However, ‘habitations’ means ‘tent, tabernacle, a cloth hut’. This is an oxymoron! Tents are certainly not permanent dealing places, any more than being taken into the home of a worldly friend will last longer than this life. The only permanent dwelling place for those who choose not to obey God or seek His forgiveness – is in the grave! This is the ‘eternal home’ offered to an unrepentant unjust steward.

‘Wiser than the Children of Light’

But what about the statement Jesus made in verse 8, that, “the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light”? Paul also drew lessons from godless people, for example, the athlete (1 Cor. 9:24-27), and the soldier (2 Timothy 2:3-6), but he wasn’t trying to encourage us to choose their occupations. Rather, the lesson is to follow their complete dedication and commitment in service to our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Unjust Steward may have enjoyed winning the favour of his Lord’s debtors, and he may have been rewarded for his unjust actions by the grateful customers who loved him for his fake generosity. However, the best they could give him was praise and comfort for this life. “Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” Matthew 6:1-6

‘Faithful over a few things’

The lessons Jesus draws from this parable in verses 10 to 13, and the Pharisees negative reaction, support the idea that this parable is against dishonest management whether in financial matters, or the spiritual guidelines that God has entrusted to us. How we act in the small matters of life now, will determine whether or not God will assign us a position in His eternal kingdom in the life to come. In his spiritual house, Jesus and God are looking for those who love God’s righteousness, encouraging others to confess and forsake sin and receive full forgiveness (be completely debt-free!), while balancing this with mercy towards those who are truly repentant for what they have done – like the prodigal son. 

The words we want to hear from Jesus

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” Matthew 25:21 

Click this link for a poem on this subject, “When Mr. Goodman Went Away”

One of the questions dividing many churches and communities today, is how to faithfully handle the growing number of alternative lifestyle choices. Are these choices acceptable to God? Are they something new to the 20th century? As a Christian should we be warmly welcoming those who are openly making such choices? What does Jesus advise?

God’s Purpose 

In the beginning, God made a beautiful world. He didn’t make the world because He thought humans deserved such a world. We are told that He made the world for His purpose. God’s stated purpose is that one day the world will be full of people who bring glory to Him (Numbers 14:21; Revelation 22:12-17) Glory is brought to God when we acknowledge that His ways are right and are the best way for us to live.

God made a woman for Adam out of one of Adam’s ribs. God had just finished creating the whole world out of nothing, and could have easily created Eve from nothing – but he chose to create her in this special way, demonstrating the importance of the relationship between a man and woman. One of the intended purposes was procreation, and the first command was to ‘be fruitful and multiply’.  (Genesis 1:28) Sexuality wasn’t created just for our own pleasure, but to sustain God’s beautiful creation. Sexuality has a purpose.

The Fallen State

Ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God and brought a curse upon the ‘very good’ creation, all of us in this fallen state, have some weakness/tendencies that are against God’s commands. There are many different weaknesses, whether it be anger, proneness to addictions, kleptomania, selfishness, murderous tendencies, sexual desires outside of marriage, lying, etc. (Romans 5:12-21; Mark 7:21-23) God has given us ‘free will’, but if we want to live FOREVER, he asks us to overcome our weaknesses and seek to follow His way, not our own. God promises His help. His Word – the Bible is there to guide us. Through prayer He will strengthen us, and He sent His Son Jesus to die for us, so that if we confess and ask for forgiveness – He will forgive ANY sin. “He who OVERCOMES shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.” (Revelation 21:7)

Our Choices

All throughout history, sexual desires have often provoked the strongest temptations of varied sorts, and for some, homosexuality is one of those temptations. Human tendencies towards homosexuality and alternative lifestyles has been noted from very first book of the Bible – Genesis 19, and is clearly referred to several times throughout the Bible, never in a positive light. Homosexuality is not new. There are very clear Bible passages that show God’s view of homosexuality, listed among other harmful tendencies that can become rampant once society loses sight of God’s Divine wisdom and purpose for His creation. (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:21-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:10; Revelation 22:12-16) 

For instance in 1 Corinthians 6:9-20, it says: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” The passage continues on to say that all these sins can be ‘washed away’ or forgiven, but urges us to ‘flee sexual immorality’ and “glorify God in your body.”

Celebrating Sin

Desiring another person’s spouse, engaging in sex before marriage, and several other sexual acts are also clearly stated to be wrong in God’s eyes, just as thieving, greediness, drunkeness and swindling, etc. are also condemned. However, being prone to weakness and temptation doesn’t mean we are rejected from God’s love, or none of us would have hope. But if we were to say, “I’m proud to be a greedy person. I can’t do anything about it – it’s just the way I am. Everyone has to applaud me for being greedy,” then, we are unlikely to confess our selfish actions as sin, and ask for God’s forgiveness. Without confession and repentance, there is no forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9; See also Luke 24:46-47; Psalm 32:1-5; Proverbs 28:13). There is a HUGE DIFFERENCE between struggling with a temptation, or choosing to proudly give oneself over to it.

Celebrating or Confessing?

Should Christians today warmly embrace those living alternative lifestyles? The answer to this depends on the attitude that is displayed. Christians who hold God’s Word as the authority for their lives, understand that we ALL need help, kindness, and HONEST direction from God’s Word and Holy Spirit to EMPOWER change…to OVERCOME.

However, when someone chooses to celebrate a weakness as something to be PROUD OF, and demands that others applaud their choice to openly embrace that tendency as something GOOD, those who love God’s Word, cannot faithfully give their approval. We know that this is God’s creation – not ours. He has a purpose with His creation. When Jesus returns to judge this world and become King of the Earth, we want to be on His side. (2 Thessalonians 1:5-11)

Do We Love Jesus?

Jesus said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.” (John 14:21; 1 John 2:1-6) Many want to talk about Jesus loving us. However, how often in these discussions do we hear anyone ask whether or not WE LOVE JESUS? To love and keep Jesus and His Father’s commands, is the way we demonstrate our love for them.

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” (1 John 5:2-4)

I love Isaiah 53. This Old Testament chapter gives such insights into the promised Messiah – who he would be, what he would suffer, and how he would heal the broken relationship between God and His creation. Following cross-references to other passages in both the Old and New Testaments, brings to light many hidden details woven into this remarkable prophecy.

Seeing that we are coming up to yet another Passover anniversary (the Christian’s “Easter”) which pointed forward to the sacrificial work of the “Lamb of God” slain to set us free from death, it seems completely fitting to focus this blog on Isaiah 53.

Who Will Believe the Report?

The Messianic chapter begins with a despairing remark, “Who has believed what he has heard from us?” (ESV) It seems incredible that a prophecy given a thousand years before it was fulfilled would not be believed when it finally occurred.

However, outside of  Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22, there are not many prophecies which speak so clearly and specifically about the sufferings the Messiah would endure. This may be the reason that few understood that suffering and death was part of God’s plan for his Son’s life. When one understands the role of suffering in the life of the Messiah, it becomes clear that the Law was also full of allusions to his sacrifice. The Messiah is the Passover lamb, the sin offering, the blood that cleanses and atones, and much more. As Jesus Christ said to his disciples, “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:” (Luke 24:44-46)

Everything about Jesus Christ’s life was prophesied far in advance of his coming. Looking back on the Law of Moses, the Prophets (such as Isaiah) and the Psalms, we can view the details and understand his life in a fuller way. Click here for a cross-reference chart showing many connections between Isaiah 53 and the Old and New Testaments.

In the New Testament, John 12:37-38 quotes the despairing remark from Isaiah 53:1, “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:” Even though Jesus did many indisputable miracles, few believed in him – he was not what they were expecting their Messiah to be.

A Root and A Branch

We are told in Isaiah 53:2 that, “he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground.” This word ‘root’ has the idea of a ‘sucker plant’ – a new growth coming from an old root. So many prophecies of Messiah refer to a ‘root’ or ‘branch’ coming from the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1-2, 9-10, Jeremiah 23:5-6; Zechariah 6:12-13). David, the son of Jesse, had been promised that one of his descendants would be ‘God’s Son,’ a king who will sit on David’s throne FOREVER! (2 Samuel 7:11-17, Psalm 89:20-48)

When the angel Gabriel told Mary she would have a son, in Luke 1, he said that, “the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

Jesus Christ is called the ‘Son of David’ in Matthew 1:1, and the apostles refer to him as being a descendant of David in Acts 2:29-30; 13:22-23. While Jesus was and is the ‘Son of God,’ he is also the son of Abraham, Jesse, David, Nathan… and so on down the line to Mary.  As explained to Mary by the Angel Gabriel, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” (Luke 1:34-35) God’s Holy Spirit power acted miraculously upon an egg in Mary’s womb (who was herself a descendant of Abraham and David), creating a baby without the involvement of a human father. God, who can form a living man from dust as he did with Adam, heal barren wombs to bear children, and restore a ‘dead’ womb as he did with Sarah at 90 years old, can certainly create a baby from an egg, without a sperm! 

The Messiah’s Appearance

Isaiah 53:2 also tells us that, “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.” The words and phrases used here seem to describe the Messiah’s physical presence, speaking of his form (figure) and his beauty (appearance), and telling us that he was not a man to be admired or desired for his outward appearance. Such a revelation may be surprising as we are used to seeing the very attractive, well-formed, blue-eyed paintings of Jesus. Human-beings generally like their heroes to be handsome, good-looking individuals. However, perhaps it was God’s plan to diminish the outward appearance of his Son, in order that we might be attracted to the Messiah’s character and godly attributes.

Despised and Rejected

Sadly, Isaiah 53:3 tells us that the Messiah would be ‘despised and rejected,’ and that we would turn away from him and not hold him in high esteem. This is echoed in Psalm 22:6-8, “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” Had Jesus been built like King Saul – a head taller than everyone and very handsome, he may have won many hearts for the wrong reasons. Instead, at the end of his life, hardly any stood by his side and most called for his destruction. As it says in John 1:10-11, “... the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”

Why Was the Messiah Afflicted?

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, we are told in Isaiah 53:4-5, “yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” This is one of the clearest prophecies in the Old Testament telling us that the Messiah was to suffer for OUR sins. Understanding the sacrifices in the Law of Moses, we see many allusions and types, but here in Isaiah 53, we are told clearly that the Messiah was to be the sacrifice for sin – a sacrifice that brought healing. All the other sacrifices in the Law had been made in anticipation of the real sacrifice that God required, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24) God required a willing sacrifice from a man who had never sinned and didn’t deserve to die; a man who chose, everyday of his life, to submit his will to his Father’s. (John 5:30; Luke 22:42; Hebrews 10:3-10) Unlike the sacrifices under the Law which needed to be offered again and again for sin, ‘Christ was ONCE offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.’ (Hebrews 9:25-28; see also 1 Peter 2:24; 1 Peter 3:15; Romans 4:25)

Like Sheep That Go Astray

In verse 6 of Isaiah 53, we have the simile, “All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way.” Another passage in the Old Testament gives a reason for this scattering of the sheep. Ezekiel 34 alludes to the leaders of Israel being selfish shepherds, more interested in eating the flock, than in caring for them. In Ezekiel 34, God has compassion on his lost sheep, saying, “Behold, I, even I, will both search for my sheep, and seek them out.” Jesus refers to himself as the good shepherd who would ‘give his life’ for the sheep (John 10:11). In speaking of Jesus’ death and resurrection in 1 Peter 2:24-25 it says, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”

The Passover Lamb

Not only is Jesus the good shepherd, but he is also the lamb! In verse 7 of Isaiah 53, we are told that he was brought ‘as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.’

The feast of Passover pointed forward to the Messiah’s sacrifice as the lamb of God.’ Exodus 12:17-23 records the details of this feast, when the blood from a ‘lamb without blemish’ was painted on the doorposts.  Painting the doorposts with the lamb’s blood saved the firstborns from death when the destroying angel passed through Egypt. The angel ‘passed over’ the homes with blood on the lintels and doorposts.

Jesus Christ was crucified at the time of Passover. (Luke 22:7, 14-19) He is spoken of as, ‘the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,’ (Revelation 13:8) since the promise of his sacrifice was given to Adam and Eve after the very first sin (Genesis 3:15).

When the Ethiopian Eunuch was travelling in his chariot, puzzling over the words in Isaiah 53, ‘like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth,’ Philip explained that the lamb referred to in this passage is the Lord Jesus. (Acts 8:32-35) In Hebrews 9:13-14, we are told, “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

Cut off

How was the Messiah taken from ‘prison’ and ‘judgement,’ as verse 8 of Isaiah 53, indicates? ‘Prison’ has the idea of ‘constraint or closure, or oppression.‘ ‘Judgement’ has the idea of ‘a verdict, or a sentence.’

Jesus was given an unfair trial, greatly oppressed and then led out to be crucified. He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.’

There is another Old Testament reference to the Messiah being ‘cut off.’ Daniel 9:26-27 also records a prophecy of Messiah’s coming, giving a prophetic timeline for when he would appear which begins with the command to return and build Jerusalem. Daniel was told, “And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease…”

The Messiah would be ‘cut off’ for the sins of others, not his own. With his ultimate, willing sacrifice of himself, he ended the need for sacrifices and oblations to be offered according to the Law. “…with his own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption… now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” (Hebrews 9:12, 26)

A Grave With the Wicked and the Rich

We are told in Isaiah 53:9, that ‘he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.” Jesus Christ died between two criminals (Luke 23:33). A rich man named Joseph, claimed his body and buried Jesus in his own newly-hewn tomb. The fact that there was never any deceit or guile in Jesus’ mouth, is reiterated in 1 Peter 2:21-23, “because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:”

It Pleased the Lord to Bruise Him?

So, why did it ‘please the LORD to bruise him,’ as we are told in Isaiah 53:10? It ‘pleased’ the LORD only in the sense that it was God’s plan and purpose from the very beginning. After the first sin, God promised to bring a seed of the woman’ to crush the ‘head of the serpent’ (Genesis 3:15). Once sin had entered the beautiful world God created, the only way to overcome the sentence of death, was for sin to be fatally crushed by the perfect obedience of another. (Hebrews 2:14) In the process of crushing the serpent’s head (a fatal blow), the seed of the woman was to be ‘bruised on the heel’ by the seed of the serpent (a temporary wound). We are told in 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them…For he made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

A Happy Outcome

Finally, in the last couple of verses in Isaiah 53, we reach the happy outcome of the sufferings, when the Messiah will “see the travail of his soul, and be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.”

Now that the sacrifice has been accomplished and Jesus sits at his Father’s right hand, he sees the many sons and daughters he has brought to glory. He is not ashamed to call us ‘brethren,’ and to see us as the children which God hath given me.’ (Hebrews 2:10-13) By his obedience ‘many will be made righteous.’ (Romans 5:19) Where Adam’s lack of obedience brought death on all God’s creation, “through one man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in the justification of life” (Romans 5:15-19).

Resurrection

However, it wasn’t just the death of Jesus that brought us life. If he was still dead, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19, that we would still have ‘no hope,’ and all those “who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” If perfect obedience led to nothing but death – what kind of a hope would that be?

However, this is the good news – “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Through Jesus Christ’s willing sacrifice, our sins can be forgiven and we, like him (the firstfruits), can be raised from the dead and given immortal life. (1 John 3:2-3; Romans 8:29) Where Adam brought the curse of death on the world, Jesus Christ brought the gift of life forever!

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for giving up everything in this life, submitting your will to your Father’s, and enduring great suffering in order to bring salvation to the world!

 

After attending the Kingdom Hall for about two years I was baptized by the Jehovah’s Witnesses on July 9, 1983. I was convinced, as most Witnesses are, that I was part of the only true religion on earth. I was in the antitypical “ark” of Noah, Jehovah’s visible Organization on earth. I believed that my membership in this organization was the only way to be saved.

I was very happy to be of the “great crowd of other sheep” because I had no desire to “go to heaven” – the destiny of the “144,000.” I looked forward to life on Paradise Earth. I was single, 25 years old, wanting to marry and have a family, which led me to seeing the first inconsistency in Watchtower teaching. Being part of the “great crowd” my destiny was to receive “human perfection” on earth. This is the hope of all who are of the “other sheep.” But what if I died or I was killed? Of course, I would be resurrected to human perfection, but I could not marry! This would mean that I and all those who are raised to “earthly life” would have to remain celibate forever while all those who lived through Armageddon and did not die, could marry, and if already married, could remain married and have children. I was perplexed as to why this was the case, since all who received earthly life would be in the exact same physical condition. I remember thinking, “Lazarus was raised from the dead and there was nothing to stop him from carrying on his normal functions. If he wasn’t already married, Jesus certainly never told him he could not marry.” I found this especially puzzling since we were told that all the resurrections in the Bible “pictured the earthly resurrection!”

Looking back, I can now see that the Witness’ teaching had forced them into a corner. Let me explain: the “other sheep” do not receive immortality as do the “144,000.” They will continue as flesh and blood humans who attain human perfection. The Watchtower cannot apply Jesus’ words in Luke 20:34-36 to the 144,000 because they do not believe the angels are immortal. Luke 20:34-36 says, “The children of this system of things marry and are given in marriage, but those who have been counted worthy of gaining that system of things and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. In fact, neither can they die anymore, for they are God’s children by being children of the resurrection.” Applying Luke 20 to the 144,000 would then require the Watchtower to teach that the angels are immortal. This they could not do – so their only choice was to apply it to the “other sheep,” but in doing so, they created this contradiction. I was heartbroken. I did not want to be celibate while many of my family and friends would be enjoying family life in human perfection. Weren’t Adam and Eve told to “be fruitful and become many and fill the earth”? I did not question the Scripture; it was the application that did not make sense. My constant prayer was that I would not be killed or die of some disease before Armageddon.

Despite this, I did not question the validity of the Watchtower. I was confident that it was some mistake and that a correct understanding would come in the future. Where else could I go? All the churches that I knew about, taught the immortality of the soul, and going to heaven at death, or burning in “hellfire” – all teachings that I could never accept.

The next thing that puzzled me was what Jesus states about his apostles in Luke 22:28-30, “However, you are the ones who have stuck with me in my trials; and I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom, and sit on thrones to judge the 12 tribes of Israel.” Such a promise to me, clearly contradicted what the Watchtower organization was teaching:

•The nation of Israel no longer plays any role in God’s plan.

•Among Jehovah’s Witnesses only the literal number of 144,000 are designated as spiritual Israel.

•The great crowd of other sheep are not spiritual Jews, they are Gentiles who attach themselves to the 144,000. Zechariah 8:23 is used to support this view.

•In the Kingdom, the 144,000 – “spiritual Israel” – will rule over the “great crowd” – people of the “nations” (Zech. 8:23) as kings and priests.

After reading the Luke 22 passage above, I sought out the Watchtower position on the identity of the “twelve tribes of Israel” in Luke 22:30. To my surprise, they actually were teaching that these 12 tribes of Israel are the “nations” of Zechariah 8:23 – the “great crowd” of “other sheep”! In Watchtower theology, the “other sheep” are not spiritual Jews. Luke 22 forces them to teach two contradictory teachings at the same time because they have to identify the 12 tribes apart from Spiritual Israel, because the Apostles will be judging them! Once natural Israel is eliminated from their understanding as having a part in God’s plan, they have no choice but to state that it is the other sheep who then become the 12 tribes of Israel in Luke 22. They are actually teaching two opposite teachings simultaneously – because they say that the other sheep are not spiritual Israel or Jews of any kind, but in Luke 22 they say these 12 tribes are the other sheep!

Although I was very puzzled, I still did not question or doubt the validity of the organization because in my mind there was nowhere else to go. I was still convinced that I was “in the truth” and the Watchtower Society were devoted servants of God and that in time through their intense study of the word in Brooklyn, they would clear up the inconsistencies that I saw.

I continued actively in the “door to door service.” One day I was asked to explain Matthew 8:11, “But I tell you that many from east and west will come and recline at the table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of the heavens;” As soon as I read it, I could hardly speak. I had never noticed this passage before. At the time I was convinced that there were “two classes” of believers. The 144,000 would go to heaven and receive the “heavenly kingdom” while all the rest would remain on earth. “All the rest” included Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I could not escape the clear words of Jesus himself that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would be in the “kingdom of the heavens.” I told the man that I would come back with an explanation.

When I researched the Watchtower understanding of this passage, it was so unbelievable that I was too embarrassed to give the man the explanation. I felt it couldn’t possibly be true. The explanation given was that Abraham is “symbolic of Jehovah God,” Isaac is “symbolic of Jesus Christ,” and Jacob is “symbolic of the 144,000.” Additionally, what proved to me that this explanation was incorrect is the parallel statement in Luke 13:28 where Jesus adds “all the prophets” to his statement about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Who did all the prophets “symbolize”?

From then on, I started to read other translations of the Bible, as well as reading the Bible without the Watchtower Publications to guide me. My existing belief, at that point, was that all the faithful men and women in the Old Testament had the earthly hope and that they didn’t even know that there was such a thing as the “heavenly hope.” I was stunned when I read Hebrews 11:16 in the King James Version. Since most Witnesses have the KJV, it’s quite normal to see a Witness read this version. In referring to the faithful believers in the Old Testament, including Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham, the passage reads, “But now they desire a better country, that is an heavenly…” How is that possible? I wondered. How could all these men and women of faith “desire” a “heavenly” country if this was not yet “revealed to them”? I turned immediately to my New World Translation which reads, “But now they are reaching out for a better [place], that is one belonging to heaven…”

This discovery in Hebrews 11 was very devastating, as every Bible I could find, read “heavenly” or “celestial” in this passage. The most devastating of all was the Watchtower’s own Kingdom Interlinear. The word-for-word English beneath the Greek reads, “Now but of better(one) they are reaching out for, this is of heavenly one…” I wondered why they would paraphrase the Greek word to read “one belonging to heaven” in Hebrews 11:16 and translate it as “heavenly” in the very next chapter -12:22?

I questioned the inconsistency. Was it possible that the Watchtower could not have their members read a verse that so thoroughly contradicted their fundamental beliefs?

For the very first time, I was deeply troubled. In fact, I was shattered, for my mental safety-net was gone. The man I had been talking to in my door-to-door service did not believe in the immortality of the soul, going to heaven when you die, hellfire or the trinity. He believed that the Kingdom of God would be on earth, all of which I believed and still believe to be Bible truths.

The living nightmare began. I was now married to a Witness, I had a stepson, and I had persuaded my mother to become a Witness. My brother in-law was a Witness and my two nephews were Witnesses. I knew what leaving meant – total shunning from family and friends.

As each year passed, the nightmare deepened as I continued to see more and more from reading the Bible on my own and realizing that my belief-structure was probably wrong. I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I confided in my doctor who put me on antidepressants. I could not confide in any Witnesses because they would have immediately gone to the Elders and told them I was doubting. I wanted the freedom to sort this out myself.

I eventually sent a lengthy letter to the Brooklyn headquarters. In the letter I pleaded for help. I told them that I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and had been put on medications by my doctor. I did not mention the letter to anyone in my family or to anyone at my Kingdom Hall. About two months later a Witness Elder from my congregation phoned and told me that he had been asked to deal with my issues. Brooklyn had contacted the Elders as opposed to addressing my letter personally.

The Elder came to my house and pointed out all the “good works” the “organization was doing that no other organization was doing. To him this was “proof that Jehovah’s Witnesses had the Truth.” To put things in perspective I asked him to read Matthew 6:1-4, “Take care not to practice your righteousness in front of men to be noticed by them; otherwise you will have no reward with your Father who is in the heavens. So when you make gifts of mercy, do not blow a trumpet ahead of you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be glorified by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” I also asked him to read Matthew 23:15, “…you travel over sea and dry land to make one proselyte…” After he read these two passages he was very upset with me. I pointed out to him that I was not trying to be disrespectful but the fact of the matter is that no one should boast. Secondly, all the preaching in the world does not make us right, as the inspired Word clearly says. Traveling over sea and dry land to make one proselyte is not proof that we have the Truth! I also pointed out to him that the contents of my letter was what I hoped to be discussing. He refused.

Over 30 years later I still remember word-for-word what he told me. “If you cannot see that the Watchtower Organization has the truth,” he said, “there is nothing more I can do for you and if you even attempt to approach the other Elders over this matter there will be trouble.” He then picked up his briefcase, stood up and walked out the door. My wife looked at me and said, “Your attitude stinks.”

I was broken. Only those who have experienced a similar situation regardless of the particular religion they belong to, can understand. I asked for a fish and was handed a serpent. I asked for a loaf and was handed a stone. (Matthew 7:9-10)

I suppressed my doubts for a few more years and said nothing to anyone. Eventually, we moved to another province “where the need was great” hoping that the Watchtower would receive “new light” and that everything would be ok. One evening speaking from the platform I happened to quote Romans 2:21, “Do you, however, the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself?…” How could I possibly go “door to door” and tell others to question the teachings of their church and act upon that questioning, when I was unwilling to do the same?

This time there was no turning back. I still had the hope that the Watchtower was right but I was not going to allow men to be masters of my faith. How ironic it was that I concluded that this was the reality – God was not the master of my faith but men. I was not the only Witness in this position.

This new harsh reality was brought home in an agonizing way when a young Witness friend of mine committed suicide by jumping into the Atlantic Ocean. I had played table tennis together with this young man in my basement. He was a very handsome, God-fearing, clean-cut fellow. He was just 23 years old. All the times we had played together neither of us could trust the other enough to confide our doubts. I had no excuse. I had become a Witness as an adult. No one had forced me to join. Rodney, on the other hand, was raised a Witness. His whole family were Witnesses; his entire circle of friends were Witnesses. For Witness youth there is no way out. Even if you do not get baptized and leave, you are still shunned as a “disapproved associate.” Rodney was not a rebellious young man; he was a “regular pioneer” putting in 90 hours per month. He had nowhere to turn but the Atlantic Ocean. When he killed himself the thoughts expressed among the congregation were that he was “selfish” and “couldn’t face the difficulties of being a true Christian.” I found out later from neighbours that Rodney had actually confided in some of his school friends about his religious doubts. I found it ironic that he could not go to his own Brothers and Sisters when he was experiencing such traumatic difficulties in his life.

I began to wonder what place do Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30 have for “Jehovah’s visible Organization”? The “faithful and discreet slave class?” The “anointed remnant?” “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you…”

For Witnesses “there is no way to leave” without experiencing the harsh consequences of doing so. The “reason” is irrelevant. If you leave to become a criminal or leave to pursue a path that you feel is a path of true righteousness, the treatment you experience is the same.

Rodney’s suicide will haunt me all the days of my life. What if we both had had the freedom to confide in one another? He might still be alive today.

In April 1991, I left the Watchtower religion. On April 28th I was baptized into Christ. My wife divorced me and my stepson hasn’t spoken to me in 27 years. My mother read the Bible from cover to cover without the Watchtower publications and three years later she left the Organization and was baptized into Christ. The ordeal almost killed her. She was 83 years old. On June 18, 2017, she fell asleep at 100 years of age awaiting the resurrection.

I know that there are thousands of Witnesses, young and old, that are living the nightmare that I lived. I also know that there is tremendous guilt for those who do not have the courage to do a thorough research out of fear that their suspicions will be confirmed. For those who do realize that the Watchtower Society is not “Jehovah’s visible Organization” there is a lot of guilt for not leaving. For many, they think that suicide is the only way out. Who knows how many are so confused that they do not know what to believe? Too many so-called “counter-cult-ministries” run by Ex-Witnesses are more concerned with propounding their own doctrines as opposed to helping Witnesses and Ex-Witnesses to think for themselves.

For the first time in my life I had actual faith. I had a firm belief that God and Christ would actually guide me. Is it frightening at first? Yes! Most importantly, it is a true promise from God and Christ that they will help you to find your way. “Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you; for everyone asking receives, and everyone seeking finds, and to everyone knocking, it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7) The very passages that I assured others with, now assures me, “Indeed, a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” (Matthew 10:36) “… Do not forsake me and or leave me, my God of Salvation. Even if my own father and mother abandon me, Jehovah himself will take me in.” Psalm 27:9,10.

It’s one thing to be able to quote a Scripture, it’s another to be able to live it.

In the 27 years since I’ve left the Watchtower Organization I have found freedom like never before. I can actually have discussions with those of my own congregation and disagree without fear that I’ll be cast out for doubting or questioning. It gives me so much joy to take out my Bible and read it for myself – whole chapters – all the way through. I feel so much relief that I no longer need to tally up my ‘good deeds’ in a monthly time card. My nagging questions are finally answered. I believe that I have found the Truth and the freedom to keep researching whenever necessary. In the end I am only concerned with whether or not I believe and teach the Truth according to God. It’s God’s Truth that I want to believe and teach to others – not the teachings of men.

If anyone wishes to speak with me I would be delighted to do so.

Norman Smith

reinodejesus@aol.com

Was Jesus born with the same nature that Adam enjoyed before the fall?

First and foremost, our only motivation for investigating Watchtower teachings is due to the deep measure of love and respect we have towards Jehovah’s Witnesses. We admire their zeal and dedication to our Heavenly Father. However,  we are compelled to encourage them to personally examine their unique beliefs carefully with the Bible. We will use the New World Translation in our investigations, as it is generally an accurate translation and familiar to those to whom we make this appeal.

The “Ransom Sacrifice”

The Watchtower teaching about the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ states that Jesus had to be like Adam in the following way: “He had a perfect mind and a perfect body. He would never get sick, would never grow old, and would never die.” The Watchtower goes on to say, “The ransom that had to be paid was another perfect life. This is why it is called a ‘corresponding ransom.’ (1 Timothy 2:6) The ransom had to have the same value as the life that Adam lost.” What Can the Bible Teach Us? Pages 53 & 54.

The Watchtower claims that Jesus’ ‘perfect mind’ and his ‘perfect body’ was “maintained pure through tests of integrity, with which to repurchase mankind, emancipate them. Hebrews 2:14,15.” Insight on the Scriptures, Vol. 2, page 736. According to their teaching, Jesus’ perfect life was thus ‘maintained’ and upon his death, he sacrificed this ‘perfect human life,’ returning to heaven as the invisible spirit creature – Michael the Archangel. On page 142, of You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, we read, “Christ gave up his body as a sacrifice. He could never take it back and become a man again.”

In the Watchtower’s view, Jesus could not be raised bodily from the grave because that would make void his sacrifice. He would be taking back the ‘price paid.’ They say that what Jesus ‘sacrificed’ is gone forever – his perfect human life.’ This is the single biggest argument presented by Jehovah’s Witnesses in arguing against a bodily resurrection. In their view, Jesus couldn’t take his body back because he ‘sacrificed it.’

Was Jesus Mortal?

The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus was sinless, in that he “…had done no wrong and there was no deception in his mouth,” Isaiah 53:9. He committed no sin, nor was deception found in his mouth,” 1 Peter 2 :22.  It is clear from the Scriptures that Jesus never sinned.

However, the Watchtower goes beyond the simple teaching that Jesus never sinned, to state that Jesus had a “perfect body and would never have died.” To say that Jesus would never have died, overlooks Biblical passages that state otherwise. Paul, the apostle, says emphatically; “For we know that Christ, now that he has been raised up from the dead, dies no more; death is no longer MASTER over him.” (Romans 6:9)

In what way was DEATH, Christ’s Master?

Jesus himself made a clear statement about his ‘life,’ saying, “No man takes it away from me, but I surrender it on my own initiative.” John 10:18.

How then was death, Christ’s Master? The answer to this is seen in the statement of Peter in Acts 13:34, “And the fact He resurrected him from the dead never to RETURN to corruption…” Can anyone ‘return’ to a place or state they have never been? Once Jesus was raised from the dead and given immortality, death was no longer his Master. Jesus then, will never ‘return to corruption.’ Peter’s words in Acts 13, indicate that Jesus will never again be subject to the mortal, dying nature that all humans possess.

‘Likeness of Sinful Flesh’

That Jesus was born with our nature is seen in Romans 8:3, “…God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh…” If God sent His Son in the ‘likeness of sinful flesh,’ how can this possibly correspond to Adam’s ‘perfect flesh?’ If indeed the Watchtower’s teachings are correct on this matter, the Bible should say that Jesus was sent in the likeness of ‘perfect flesh’ due to the ‘corresponding’ nature of the ‘ransom.’

Instead, Galatians 4:4 tells us that Jesus was ‘born of a woman,’ which would imply that Jesus was born with a ‘mortal body.’ Job 14:1-2 says, “Man born of woman, is short lived and filled with trouble… who can produce someone clean from someone unclean? No one can!”

That Jesus shared our mortal nature is further demonstrated by Paul as he continues in Romans 8:11, “If now, the spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised up Christ from the dead will ALSO make your mortal bodies alive through his spirit that resides in you.”

The NWT correctly keeps the word ‘ALSO’ in their translation of Romans 8:11, even though this passage makes the connection between Jesus’ ‘body’ and the ‘mortal bodies’ of the believers in Rome.  Paul is referring back to what he said in verse 3 of the same chapter. God sent his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.’ Jesus did not just look like sinful flesh – physically he was identical to us. To maintain that Jesus had a ‘perfect body’ is without Scriptural proof, and proven untrue by clear Bible statements.

For example, “Consequently, he had to become like his brothers in all respects, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest…” (Hebrews 2:17). Do Christ’s brothers have a ‘perfect mind and perfect body’? We have already seen from Romans 8:3 that Christ was sent “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” Further confirmation of this is seen in Hebrews 2:14, “Therefore, since the young children are sharers of blood and flesh, he also similarly shared in the same things...”

‘Made Perfect’

As stated earlier, Watchtower belief is that Christ’s ‘perfect life’ was “maintained pure through tests of integrity…” Insight of the Scriptures, pg. 736.  Is this what the Bible teaches?

Hebrews 4:15 tells us, “For we have a high priest not one who cannot sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested [tempted] in all respects like ourselves, but without sin.” The same Greek word used here for ‘tested’ is rendered by the NWT as ‘tempted’ in Matthew 4:1. How was a man who had a ‘perfect mind, perfect body, and someone who would ‘never get sick or die’, tempted ‘like we are in all respects’?

A ‘corresponding’ ransom, as defined by the Watchtower, would demand that Jesus be ‘tempted in all points’ like ‘PERFECT ADAM’, not imperfect us.  We are not able to find any Bible passages that even hint at the idea that Jesus’ ‘perfect human body’ was ‘maintained’ by his faithfulness.

The Watchtower points out that the terms ‘immortal soul’ and ‘trinity’ are not Scriptural language, indicating that these teachings are un-biblical. The terms ‘perfect human body’ and perfect human life’ are also never used in Scripture to describe Jesus.

We do read though, of how Jesus was made perfect in Hebrews 2:10, “For it was fitting for the one for whose sake all things are, and through whom all things are, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Chief Agent of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

The Hebrews 2:10 passage is clear. Jesus’ ‘perfection’ was through a process, demonstrating that there was a time when he was not ‘perfect’. His perfection was a moral perfection obtained through trial, not a perfection ‘maintained’ from birth.

Once this perfection was ‘obtained’ through suffering, Jesus was then able to offer a ‘perfect sacrifice.’ Jesus ‘overcame’ the very nature we all bear (John 16:33). Dying sinless, God raised him from the dead “no more to return to corruption” (Acts 13:34), and now death is no longer his ‘Master.’ (Romans 6:9)

Jesus Sacrificed his ‘Life’

If, as the the Watchtower claims, Jesus sacrificed his ‘perfect human life’ and could never take his body back, due to it being ‘sacrificed,’ then surely Jesus would have given such an explanation. However, consider the way in which Jesus described his sacrifice:

Jesus said, “I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:15)

“This is why the Father loves me, because I surrender my life so that I may receive it again.” (John 10:17)

To surrender one’s life is surely the same as to sacrifice one’s life.

Hebrews 9:26 clearly states that Jesus came “to do away with sin through the sacrifice of himself.”

If we use the Watchtower’s reasoning, that a sacrifice can never be regained, then this would require that Jesus remain dead because he sacrificed himself. Yet, we all are in agreement that Jesus was resurrected and lives at God’s right hand in heaven. Therefore, if the sacrifice of himself, and his life, could be regained through resurrection, so could his body.

In a future article, we will investigate whether Jesus was raised an invisible spirit creature or whether he was raised bodily and given immortality.

If anyone wishes to speak with me I would be delighted to do so.

Norman Smith

reinodejesus@aol.com