To Jehovah's people the idea of being in God's Grace is an alien concept as this expression is rarely if ever used in "the truth". Why is this, why is the belief in Jehovah's grace so foreign to Jehovah's household, when in reality appreciating God's grace is fundamental in drawing close to Jehovah, the God of love. (Jas 4:8; 1 Joh 4:8) There is no doubt we are drawn to Jehovah because of his love, the more we learn about him and his qualities the closer we become. In "the truth" we are taught the foundation in coming to know Jehovah is based on John 17:3:
"This means everlasting life, their coming to know you, the only true
God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ." (all Bible references
New World Translation unless otherwise specified)
"coming to know you" previously rendered "taking in knowledge".
So from our inception we are encouraged to look at "the truth" from an academic level. Of course it's ignorance to claim our studies on scripture are purely based on academia but they do lean heavily towards an academic outlook, though in itself not wrong as outlined in John 17:3, coming to know Jehovah is important but to build depth to that relationship we need much more than knowledge. (Rom 8:39)
Listen to how beautifully The Voice Bible translates John 17:3:
"because You have given Me total authority over humanity. I have come bearing the plentiful gifts of God; and all who receive Me will experience everlasting life, a new intimate relationship with You (the one True God) and Jesus the Anointed (the One You have sent)."
By using terms such as "come bearing the plentiful gifts of God" and "a new intimate relationship with You (the one True God)" The Voice shifts the emphasis from an academic level to an intimate one. What The Voice is trying to achieve is the true meaning of the original Greek and its import to us personally, remember the Bible is Jehovah's letter written to us, his beloved children. (Eph 5:1) Consider these words from the Foreword of The Voice Bible:
"The Voice retains the unique literary perspective of the human writers. Most English translations attempt to even out the styles of the different authors in sentence structure and vocabulary. Instead, The Voice distinguishes the uniqueness of each author. The heart of the project is retelling the story of the Bible in a form as fluid as modern literary works, yet remaining painstakingly true to the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts. Accomplished writers and biblical scholars are teamed up to create an English rendering that, while of great artistic value, is carefully aligned with the meaning inherent in the original language. Attention is paid to the use of idioms, artistic element's, confusion of pronouns, repetition of conjunctions, modern sentence structure, and the public reading of the passage." (all Bold text mine)
This reference to The Voice is not trying to prove it to be a superior translation, the reference is to show the import of John 17:3, the personal reference and meaning to us. The Voice helps one to appreciate this knowledge of God is not for intellectual gratification but for establishing an intimate relationship with our heavenly father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus (a new intimate relationship with You). The other important aspect is what Jehovah gives us, not what we give him ("I have come bearing the plentiful gifts of God").
Grace vs. Underserved Kindness
Search as you may there is no reference to the word "Grace" in the New World Translation, it is translated as "undeserved kindness". This is what Insight into the Scriptures has to say on the subject:
Undeserved Kindness. The Greek word kha′ris (cha′ris) occurs more than 150 times in the Greek Scriptures and is rendered in a variety of ways, depending on the context. In all instances the central idea of kha′ris is preserved—that which is agreeable (1Pe 2:19, 20) and winsome. (Lu 4:22) By extension, in some instances it refers to a kind gift (1Co 16:3; 2Co 8:19) or the kind manner of the giving. (2Co 8:4, 6) At other times it has reference to the credit, gratitude, or thankfulness that an especially kind act calls forth.—Lu 6:32-34; Ro 6:17; 1Co 10:30; 15:57; 2Co 2:14; 8:16; 9:15; 1Ti 1:12; 2Ti 1:3.
On the other hand, in the great majority of occurrences, kha′ris is rendered “grace” by most English Bible translators. The word “grace,” however, with some 14 different meanings does not convey to most readers the ideas contained in the Greek word. To illustrate: In John 1:14, where the King James Version says “the Word was made flesh . . . full of grace and truth,” what is meant? Does it mean “gracefulness,” or “favour,” or what?
Scholar R. C. Trench, in Synonyms of the New Testament, says kha′ris implies “a favour freely done, without claim or expectation of return—the word being thus predisposed to receive its new emphasis [as given it in the Christian writings] . . . , to set forth the entire and absolute freeness of the loving-kindness of God to men. Thus Aristotle, defining [kha′ris], lays the whole stress on this very point, that it is conferred freely, with no expectation of return, and finding its only motive in the bounty and free-heartedness of the giver.” (London, 1961, p. 158) Joseph H. Thayer in his lexicon says: “The word [kha′ris] contains the idea of kindness which bestows upon one what he has not deserved . . . the N. T. writers use [kha′ris] pre-eminently of that kindness by which God bestows favours even upon the ill-deserving, and grants to sinners the pardon of their offences, and bids them accept of eternal salvation through Christ.” (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 1889, p. 666) Kha′ris is closely related to another Greek word, kha′ri·sma, concerning which William Barclay’s New Testament Wordbook (1956, p. 29) says: “The whole basic idea of the word [kha′ri·sma] is that of a free and undeserved gift, of something given to a man unearned and unmerited.”—Compare 2Co 1:11, Int.
When kha′ris is used in the above sense, in reference to kindness bestowed on one who does not deserve it, as is true with the kindnesses extended by Jehovah, “undeserved kindness” is a very good English equivalent for the Greek expression.—Ac 15:40; 18:27; 1Pe 4:10; 5:10, 12.
So does the claim made in the Insight Book that "The word 'grace,' however, with some 14 different meanings does not convey to most readers the ideas contained in the Greek word" but 'underserved kindness' can? The statement "most readers" implies some readers are able to discern the true meaning of the Greek word kha′ris using the translation Grace, and if the word Grace does not convey the true meaning why do "the great majority of occurrences, kha′ris is rendered “grace” by most English Bible translators"? Underserved Kindness may well be a good English equivalent for the Greek expression but does it really convey the true meaning when considering the depth of the Greek word? Can the Insight book make the claim the word "Grace" does not convey the true meaning of the Greek word kha′ris and "underserved kind" does? Consider Aristotle again:
"Thus Aristotle, defining [kha′ris], lays the whole stress on this very point, that it is conferred freely, with no expectation of return, and finding its only motive in the bounty and free-heartedness of the giver.”
Translating kha′ris as underserved kindness is simplistic and subtly misleading in the sense it conveys only the act of the giver being undeserved but not the motive of the giver as encompassed in the word grace (motive in the bounty and free-heartedness of the giver). Underserved kindness has the power in translation to make one feel worthless in Gods eyes, one underserved of God's kindness, subtly misleading one to conclude perhaps they may need to do something deserving to receive God's kindness. We are undeserving only from the point of being born into sin, therefore based on divine justice undeserving of everlasting life but Jehovah deems us deserving of everlasting life due to his love for us, clearly demonstrated by the ransom sacrifice of his only begotten son in our behalf. (Rom 3:23; Joh 3:16) Jehovah would never have gone to such an undertaking if he deemed us undeserving of his kindness. Jehovah's Grace is beautifully illustrated by the words of Jesus found at Mathew 23:37
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent to her—how often I wanted to gather your children together the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings! But you did not want it."
Do you sense what God's Grace means by these words, do you sense the warmth and feeling of Jehovah wanting to spread his protective care over us? This is God's Grace! Please compare Jesus' words of Mathew 23:27 with Revelation 21:3 and 7:15 to feel the warmth of Jehovah's protect care.
God's Grace can be compared to the pardon that a Governor of a state can give to a guilty prisoner who is facing execution for something that he or she did. Justice will be served and the prisoner will be executed unless the governor pardons the prisoner, if the governor pardons the prisoner he has extended grace over justice. Of course this grace was extended by the Governor due to the fact the prisoner was reformed and was truly sorry for his former life course but justice still demands his death, no works on behalf of the prisoner could ever change that. But God's Grace goes even further, for not only does he stay the execution, he sets us free from prison! The Grace extended by God can never be earned by us, it is Jehovah's free gift.
Ephesians 2:8 clearly illustrates this very point:
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take
credit for this; it is a gift from God. (NLT)
For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favour) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; (AMP)
God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God. (GW)
For you have been delivered by grace through trusting, and even this is not your accomplishment but God’s gift. (CJB)
For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing. (The Voice)
God's Grace can never be earned by works, salvations is only through
Grace based on our Faith! This salvation comes through our faith in
Jesus who died for us, faith means we truly believe this fact, never
doubting. As a result of this divine gift we are motivated to please
our creator by living in harmony with his will as outlined in
"Furthermore, God made you alive, though you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you at one time walked according to the system of things of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. Yes, among them we all at one time conducted ourselves in harmony with the desires of our flesh, carrying out the will of the flesh and of our thoughts, and we were naturally children of wrath just as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, made us alive together with the Christ, even when we were dead in trespasses—by undeserved kindness you have been saved. Moreover, he raised us up together and seated us together in the heavenly places in union with Christ Jesus, so that in the coming systems of things he might demonstrate the surpassing riches of his undeserved kindness in his graciousness toward us in union with Christ Jesus. By this undeserved kindness (God's Grace) you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing; rather, it is God’s gift. No, it is not a result of works, so that no one should have grounds for boasting. We are God’s handiwork and were created in union with Christ Jesus for good works, which God determined in advance for us to walk in them. Therefore, remember that at one time you, people of the nations by fleshly descent, were the ones called “uncircumcision” by those called “circumcision,” which is made in the flesh by human hands. At that time you were without Christ, alienated from the state of Israel, strangers to the covenants of the promise; you had no hope and were without God in the world. But now in union with Christ Jesus, you who were once far off have come to be near by the blood of the Christ."
What a beautiful expression, "the grace of God", it prompts
pleasant, peaceful thoughts about our father, drawing us closer to
him, whereas underserved kindness makes us feel just that
undeserving. But the meaning of kha′ris was never intended to make
us feel undeserving or alienated from Jehovah, kha′ris was meant to
draw us closer to him, to be enveloped by his Grace, this was
manifest through Jesus, as highlighted in Titus 2:11:
"We have cause to celebrate because the grace of God has appeared, offering the gift of salvation to all people." (The Voice)
Yes God's grace is not simply words, an expression of endearment, this grace has been enacted upon, Jehovah sent his son to die for us that we may gain everlasting life and have the same opportunity as Adam and Eve, this loving provision demonstrates God's gift which no amount of works could ever earn. (1 Cor 15:45)
Grace vs. Works
At this point it has to be made very clear "works" to any Jehovah's Witness means witnessing, any who deny this fact are not being true to themselves or those they are trying to convince to the contrary. As Jehovah's people we need to give serious consideration to the understanding of God's grace, as a culture of salvation through works has subtly developed in God's Household. The New Covenant sets us free from works of law to a far superior law, the law of a Christian trained conscience, the law that actives our heart and stimulates our mind. (Jer 31:31-34)
"However, become doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves with false reasoning. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, this one is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, and he goes away and immediately forgets what sort of person he is. But the one who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and continues in it has become, not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work; and he will be happy in what he does." - James 1:22-25
James highlights the point that enacting on the New Covenant is not
motivated by law but a good conscience belonging to freedom. (Gal
5:13) Once we peer into
the perfect law of the New Covenant it is up to us personally to
continue in it, when we withdraw from that mirror we continue to
obey our beloved father out of love for what he has done for us, we
need not continually hold the mirror before us, if we do then our
motivation to serve is purely by law. (Gal 5:22,23)
The motivation that springs from ones heart is far superior to that of motivation by law, as this is done by obligation, compulsion and pressure to conform to a specific program of works, where as being motivated by appreciation of God's Grace is one of faith and love, which is spontaneous, an act freely done from the heart. To illustrate, the law tells us to drive our car at a certain speed, we do so because the law tells us do so but if we discern the reason behind the law then our compulsion to obey changes. We consider other factors outside the law such as safety for ourselves and others, driving at an excessive speed has the potential to take our life or the lives of others, this understanding then has a far superior outlook and we are no longer simply motivated by law but a deep appreciation.
The Watchtower Society claims belief in the teaching of salvation by faith not works, but does this claim hold up in practice? There is an intense emphasis placed on submission to a centralized authority, with loyalty to it and its directives being equated with obedience to God and Christ. (2 Thess 2:4) Is this culture of submission to a human authority conducive to the scriptural principle of salvation through faith? Jehovah's people are well known for their preaching activity and distribution of Bible based literature. Billions of hours, millions of pieces of literature and other such information is regularly published to remind us this work identifies us as true worshippers of Jehovah. (Mat 24:14) The question all true Christians need to ask themselves is why/how are they motivated to engage in their public ministry? Is it something they individually and freely choose to do as a result of a personal conviction based on love and faith, this being the determining factor on how, when and to what extent they engage in their ministry. Is this motivation free from any organisational coercive pressure, overt or subtle, is our zeal motivated by conforming to an organisational program that subtly determines the effect of God's salvation in a sense that failure to give strong support to this program induces a nagging sense of guilt? You do well in seriously meditating on these questions as these two scenarios have two styles of motivation, one based on faith through grace the other on works. (2 Cor 9:7)
The culture now pervading in God's Household is not one based on personal conviction through a diligent study of God's word but one of institutional conformity determined by a centralized authority. The Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses has stressed not a Christianity reflecting strong personal convictions based on accurate Bible knowledge but Christianity distinguished by conformity with a centralized power determining for its members precisely what the "direction from God's word" is and what our response should be to that word. The very exercise of personal conscience is viewed as something needing to be controlled organizationally. This runs contrary to Jehovah's view who encourages us at Hebrews 5:11-14 to train our Christian conscience:
"We have much to say about him, and it is difficult to explain, because you have become dull in your hearing. For although by now you should be teachers, you again need someone to teach you from the beginning the elementary things of the sacred pronouncements of God, and you have gone back to needing milk, not solid food. For everyone who continues to feed on milk is unacquainted with the word of righteousness, for he is a young child. But solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their powers of discernment trained to distinguish both right and wrong."
If we are obligated to have our conscience shaped by a central authority we are no longer using our powers of discernment trained to distinguish both right and wrong. We have forfeited our Christian responsibly and handed that responsibly to others, we have become one needing milk, still infants having our consciences shaped by others. Partaking of solid food as a mature person means we no longer need to suck at the teat of others, we shape our own conscience through the mental training that belongs to God's word. (Eph 4:23)
"Do you think I care about the approval of men or about the approval of God? Do you think I am on a mission to please people? If I am still spinning my wheels trying to please men, then there is no way I can be a servant of the Anointed One, the Liberating King." - Gal 1:10 (The Voice)
How do we know when we are trying to please men and not Jehovah? Whenever we feel under pressure to serve our loving Father then we are trying to please men, spinning our wheels so to speak. Pressure is applied in a number of ways: peer pressure, pressure based on reward, pressure resulting from fear, pressure of failure, pressure for not measuring up. The root of these pressures is trying to please the expectation of men. There can be no doubt worship today in God's household is founded on pressure due to the fact Christian works primarily focuses on witnessing. Pressure to engage in specific organizational activities and to measure up to human standards, with little to no consideration given by the shepherds if we are motivated by our conscience or organisational conformity. One notable means for exerting pressure is the use of a "field service report" where we are expected to fulfil a monthly average of "works". This report is kept on file for examination by the elders and the visiting circuit overseer as a measurement of our spirituality; openly this is denied but any who have been in Jehovah Organisation long enough know that's exactly what this report is all about.
Karl Adams the presidentially appointed overseer of the Writing Department in Brooklyn during the presidency of Nathan Knorr wrote this letter to the president voicing his concerns over the "field service report":
"Admittedly, the entire arrangement of reporting our field service is something beyond what the Bible specifically requires of Christians. This being so, whatever may be done in the way of reporting should be handled in a way that will avoid any clash with Jesus' counsel, namely, "Take good care not to practice your righteousness in front of men in order to be observed by them." (Matt. 6:1) Also, at 2 Corinthians 10:12 Paul warned against seeking to exalt oneself by the making of comparisons. (See also Galatians 5:26.) Yet, the keeping of a record of placements tends to make publishers think in those terms. As is well known, circuit servants [overseers] have left hard working servants [elders] in congregations discouraged because of pushing them on matters involving their field service reports, when they were actually trying hard to shepherd the flock--but, of course, that time does not show on the report. And, in speaking to the entire congregation, a circuit servant [overseer] often makes more of whether the congregation is placing 12 magazines per publisher than whether there is genuine Christian love in the congregation."
Nothing has changed in God Household, and very few witnesses today
would disagree with Karl Adams observations all those many years
ago. Though we recognize the truth expressed in these words most of
us would be fearful to speak openly. Why? To do so would label us as
disloyal to the Governing Body, lacking humility and running ahead
of God's Organisation.
Unquestionably, of all the "works" stressed for God's Household to practice, no other holds pride of place above our house-to-house activity. No other service is viewed as so indicative of one's loyalty and devotion to Jehovah. As followers of Christ we are under obligation to service as public ministers but this should never be used as a gauge of our faith to the extent now done in God's Household. (Math 28:19; 1 Cor 9:16) Those who do so have become the masters of our faith robbing us of the joy our ministry should bring. Our ministry cannot and should not be governed by any central authority, for in so doing they steal the sin atoning value of Jesus ransom sacrifice. (2 Cor 1:24; Gal 2:20,21)
Scriptures used to justify works
John 14:21: "Those who accept my commandments (particularly witnessing) and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” (NLT)
To apply this scripture strictly to works (witnessing) is wrong because to do so means obedience is part time, the inference on obedience is place on activity in the field but this command demands that we obey at all times--not some of the time. Think of works in these terms: Genuine love for God leads to wholehearted obedience. If you told your spouse that you would love them on Saturday morning, Sunday afternoon and all day Thursday but struggled to love him/her the other times your relationship would be in jeopardy. Yet we assume that God is satisfied with occasional love or partial obedience through a program of witnessing. He is not. The prophet Samuel highlighted this point to King Saul when stating "to obey is better than to sacrifice (witnessing)" - 1 Sam 15:22
James 2:26: "Indeed, just as the body without spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead."
How many times have we had this scripture dragged out of the vault, dusted off and slung in our face to justify works as necessary for salvation? What role do works play in God’s acceptance of us? None! We have already seen that. So, how does works fit in then? First, all Christian works not just witnessing are an outward sign of the faith that has already saved us. In the "faith-without-works-is-dead" passage, James used Abraham’s work of offering his son to God as an example (James 2:20-23). But this act of righteousness did not do anything to bring him righteousness, that had already been granted. Yes, our faith in God's grace motives us to engage in all aspects of Christian works (the greatest of these being the love we display towards our brothers and sisters - John 15:13) which enables us to have a greater quality of life in contrast to those without God's grace. Good works are the result of our salvation! (Ephesians 2:10).
Consider the James 2:20-26 from The Voice bible: "The fact is, faith has to show itself through works performed in faith. If you don’t recognize that, then you’re an empty soul. Wasn’t our father Abraham made right with God by laying his son Isaac on the altar? The faith in his heart was made known in his behaviour. In fact, his commitment was perfected by his obedience. That’s what Scripture means when it says, “Abraham entrusted himself to God, and God credited him with righteousness.”And living a faithful life earned Abraham the title of “God’s friend.” Just like our father in the faith, we are made right with God through good works, not simply by what we believe or think. Even Rahab the prostitute was made right with God by hiding the spies and aiding in their escape. Removing action from faith is like removing breath from a body. All you have left is a corpse."
Can you determine how works is simply the result of our faith in God's grace, not the reverse? Works do not gain faith, on the other hand a strong belief in God's grace leads to a self motivating spirit of fine works. Both Abraham and Rahab demonstrated this by placing faith in God which then in turn stimulated heartfelt works not done out of obligation but love. Our works, including witnessing are fundamental in our worship to Jehovah, as all these works motivated by our understanding of God's grace move us to obey him.
In conclusion the subtle change of the word "grace" to "underserved
kindness" shifts the emphasis from faith to works, giving control of
our faith to a central body of men who through the premises of works
control our faith by applying pressure through the use of works over