How the Wt. Society Kept Us From Partaking of the Bread and Wine
A nightmare to a typical Christian might be the act of tripping with the Communion tray at church and flinging permanent stain-causing wine all over everyone in the first few rows. A nightmare to a typical Jehovah’s Witness might be the act of accidentally partaking of the wine when he or she wasn’t “worthy” to do so. How on earth has the Watchtower Society managed to convince millions of people worldwide to simply pass the bread and wine at the Lord’s Evening Meal instead of partaking of it? Believe it or not, they have accomplished this by simply switching an adjective for an adverb when discussing Paul’s words at 1 Corinthians, chapter 11.
The scripture in question is found at 1 Corinthians 11:27, where the apostle Paul said, “Consequently, whoever eats the loaf and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be guilty respecting the body and the blood of the Lord.” (NWT) The word “unworthily” here is an adverb describing the manner in which the Corinthian Christians were partaking of the Lord’s Supper.
To their credit, the writers of the Watchtower magazine, when writing about the Memorial celebration, often include an accurate description of the context of Paul’s admonition. For example, the April 1, 1996, issue of the Watchtower, pp. 6-8, said the following:
“Paul wrote the Corinthian Christians about partaking unworthily because a problem had arisen in the congregation in regard to the Lord’s Evening Meal. Some did not respect its sacredness. They brought their supper with them and ate it before or during the meeting. Often they ate and drank to excess. This made them drowsy and dulled their senses. By not being mentally and spiritually alert, they could ‘not discern the body’ and thus became ‘guilty respecting the body and the blood of the Lord.’ . . . This resulted in judgment against them, for they were showing disrespect, even contempt, for it.”
So what is the problem? As long as Christians today don’t partake “unworthily” in the above-mentioned manner, then there would be no judgment against them. The adverb “unworthily” describes their actions. But look at what the Watchtower Society does in the very next paragraph of that same Watchtower article---
“Some have partaken of the memorial emblems although, later, they realized that they should not have done so. Those who rightfully partake of the memorial emblems have been chosen by God and have the testimony of God’s spirit to that effect. It is not their personal decision or determination that makes them worthy [underlining mine]. God has limited the number of those who will rule with Christ in the heavens to 144,000 . . .”
Suddenly, the biblical adverb “unworthily,” describing a drunken, gluttonous way of partaking, has been switched by the Watchtower to the adjective “worthy,” applied to the person who is partaking as being worthy or unworthy. This has nothing to do with what Paul wrote to the Corinthians!
All of the Corinthians were worthy to partake because Jesus’ ransom sacrifice made them worthy, and certainly none of them were wrestling with whether or not they were part of the heavenly class! Yet that is exactly what the Watchtower Society has to “prove,” if they are going to use Paul’s words to divide Christians today into two groups---those who partake and those who don’t.
Just as a quick reminder, let me paraphrase what the 1996 Watchtower quoted above said: Those who ate and drank to excess were not able to discern the body of the Lord because they were drowsy with dulled senses. Therefore, they came under judgment.
However, that’s not what the Society says in the 1990 Watchtower, 2/15, pp. 15-20. There they ask, “What did those Christians need to discern and how? Primarily, they had to appreciate in heart and mind their calling to be among the 144,000 heirs of heavenly life” [underlining mine].
Can you believe that? Eating and drinking to excess have disappeared, and the Society has now superimposed a modern Witness mindset on those Christians back in Corinth, as if they were wrestling with whether or not they had a heavenly hope! How does the Watchtower justify this? By stating in the same article, “At Pentecost 33 C.E., God began selecting the 144,000 for heavenly life. As this hope was new, not held by God’s servants before Jesus’ time, how would those selected know or be assured of this hope? They discern this by receiving the testimony to it given by God’s holy spirit.”
In other words, all of “God’s servants” or Jewish Christians would have had an earthly hope before Pentecost, so this heavenly hope would be new to them. But Paul was not writing 1 Corinthians to Jewish Christians. The Corinthians were Greek, and they had never believed in future life on a paradise earth. They believed in the immortality of the soul. There is no way those Corinthians would be struggling to discern if they had a heavenly or earthly hope!
What a gravity-defying leap the Watchtower Society has taken---from Paul’s description of partaking “unworthily” because of drunkenness or gluttony---to the Watchtower’s description of Jehovah’s Witnesses becoming “unworthy” because of not discerning their earthly hope.
And how serious a mistake would this be? The Watchtower, 1991, 3/15, pp. 19-22 makes it quite clear. “Jehovah’s choice is what counts. In ancient Israel, God chose those who would serve as his priests, and he executed Korah for presumptuously seeking the priesthood divinely placed in Aaron’s family. Similarly, it would displease Jehovah if a person presented himself as one called to be among the heavenly kings and priests when God had not given him such a calling.”
No wonder those of us former Witnesses, who became convinced there is only one hope, still thought long and hard before summoning up the courage to partake of communion that very first time. Look at how manipulated we were into believing we were “unworthy,” when all this time the Bible was describing the way in which Christians were partaking!
So don’t let the Watchtower Society’s substitution of an adjective for an adverb influence the rest of your life. There is only one hope (Eph. 4:4). All who profess faith in Christ are in the New Covenant and are members of his body. As such, Paul’s further words in 1 Corinthians 11:26 encourage us to partake of the emblems regularly: “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (NIV)