Saturday, 17 March 2018

From Joseph to Jesus, a testimony


Book of Mormon 3Before I was taught by the Mormons in my teens, I only knew what I had learned at Sunday School as a small child and in R.E. lessons in school. Like many people, I thought that a Christian was someone who tried hard to do good things, read the Bible, and prayed to God.

I learned from my Mormon friends that Jesus had paid for the fall of Adam, so that we are all born sinless and are held accountable only for the sins we ourselves commit. Because Jesus died for my sins, I could work to be acceptable to God and hope one day to be judged worthy of heaven. It certainly sounded right, and I looked no further.

I was introduced to the Mormon church via a card through the door offering a free copy of the Book of Mormon. I had been asking a lot of questions about God and the purpose of life, so I sent it off. The book was delivered by two Mormon missionaries when I was out, so my mother made an appointment for them to come back and speak to me. Through their teaching, and visits to the church, my whole family were eventually baptised in March 1968.


I was eighteen years old when I first encountered the Mormon church. I have always maintained that the first thing that got my attention was the fact that they paid attention to me and valued my opinion. I knew nothing about religion although I had felt for some time that there must be more to life than the little I was experiencing then. This feeling had been increasingly distracting for me and so by the time the Mormons came along I imagine I was ripe and ready for picking.

I took the missionary discussions, all the time feeling quite embarrassed about my ignorance of spiritual matters. I had had no religious upbringing except the usual Sunday school and certainly my family were not churchgoers. This was an adventure and the missionaries presented answers to questions I had never considered. Everything was new and everything seemed right. So I joined on 29 September 1972.

I mostly enjoyed being a Mormon. I had experienced the "burning in the bosom" promised to all true seekers and, as a shy boy with nothing outstanding to boast of in my life, I felt special for having the inside track on truth. I was ordained an elder in the church on 25 February 1973 after over a year of study and faithful application, and had more reason to feel good as I was assured that I now had more authority than any of the so called spiritual leaders in the world.

It was through the church that I met Ann and we both had many happy times as Mormons. Our family started there and we found the church most helpful and supportive as we struggled with the usual difficulties encountered by young parents. Together we had gone to the temple and had been "sealed for time and eternity" and together we continued to enjoy the "blessings" of temple worship.

There were, of course, down times. However the church was always there for us. Looking back I feel perhaps we needed them more than most but they did not let us down and we have much to thank them for. Indeed it seems natural to ask, if it was so good why did you leave?


I didn't know that what I had found was not the real thing, but a counterfeit, a deception. It took me 18 years before I finally had the courage to admit that my faith wasn't working, and that all my efforts to please God only left me feeling inadequate.


For all the church had going for it there was one area in which it singularly failed me. I was looking for something when I joined and, with hindsight, I can see that it was the one thing the church was incapable of delivering. Peace with God. When Ann and I became dissatisfied we really did not understand why. We just knew - I knew - that something fundamental was missing from our spiritual experience. It was only as we began seeking with a determination we had never known before that we saw how radical would have to be the change in our lives if we were to go on with God. We were genuinely surprised to be faced with the choice of God or Mormonism.

Romans 8


A Christian friend asked us to read the book of Romans in the Bible, in a modern English version, and with no Mormon commentary. There we discovered the grace of God. I realised that the one thing I had never done in my life was to submit in obedience to Christ and ask Him to be my Saviour. I had believed in Him for 18 years, but I had been taught that the way to salvation was by obedience to the Mormon Church. They had effectively put themselves between me and God.

When I set out to read the book of Romans I was looking for a solution to the problems of my faith in the Mormon Church. I wanted to get right with God so that I could be a better Mormon. I certainly got more than I bargained for! Now I was faced with a dilemma. Could I give up some things that had been very precious to me, had been my whole life for 18 years, and leave all my Mormon friends? Or could I compromise and stay when I knew their teaching was false? You know, Jesus promised us abundant life, but He never promised it would be easy.

So many people think obedience is about the ten commandments and that sort of thing. Really it is about attitude. What really is the most important thing in your life? When I thought about it like that, there was no other choice I could make. I chose Jesus and the true gospel, and left the Mormon church. And I can honestly say that I have never regretted it. My life since really coming to know Jesus bears no comparison to all those previous years when I only thought I knew Him.


We made the right choice I believe and discovered a God who truly proves his faithfulness. So many scripture promises came true for us when we sought him and discovered that 'If you seek him, he will be found by you' (1 Chron.28:9). Coming from a system that saw obedience to law as the way to God we were brought to rejoice in the fact that 'a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify' (Rom.3:21). The law that had been written in books, that condemned us at every turn, was now writtern on our hearts, and we now knew the difference between conviction and condemnation.


The assurances of God's word were, and are, a blessing to us beyond anything we could hope or ask for. We know that through faith in Jesus we have eternal life as a present possession and a guaranteed inheritance (John 5:24).

I suppose the biggest surprise was that Christianity, far from being the hopelessly confused and frighteningly confusing religion painted by the Mormons, actually makes sense. In all its expressions and in every aspect it is a beautifully harmonious faith. If it is seen by the power of the Spirit, seen for what it really is, it is irresistible, and for honest seekers the Jesus we found is irresistible.

It was the friendship of a faithful Christian that opened us to the influence of the Spirit and brought us to Christ.

[Having moved from Josep to Jesus Michael is now Chairman of Reachout Trust, a UK Christian ministry founded iin 1982 by the late Doug Harris to reach out to those in the cults]

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

The Cults, The Internet, and The Church

Shadow or RealityMany years ago a friend and work colleague gave me a copy of Jerald and Sandra Tanner's Mormonism, Shadow or Reality? It is a big, red hardback book which would have proved daunting for most people. But for me it became essential bedtime reading, a treasure trove I still reach for when researching.

I had no idea such a book existed. Indeed, here in the UK, I had barely heard of Jerald and Sandra Tanner. In the days before computers and the Internet, information was scarce if you lived remotely from the geographical/cultural centre of the organisation you had left. As a Mormon I had easy enough access to teaching manuals from the church but as a critic I had to send away for materials as I discovered them; and if you don't known what you're looking for how do you find it?

There was no Amazon, no browsing the Internet for the latest titles. There were no forums, or discussion groups. When you did find quality material you were in a small minority, becoming the one to whom others might look for a lead on what is 'out there' and how to obtain it. For many people, the only sight they got of good books and tapes (remember tapes?) was when attending conventions, where there might be a book table, or from reading about them in newsletters.

Today its all available, overwhelmingly, staggeringly, confusingly available. Through web sites, blogs, forums, social media, online book stores, self-publishing, paperbacks, PDF, E-publishing, the list seems endless. Where before the challenge was tracking down good material and reliable sources, today the challenge is sifting through the mountains of information, discerning the helpful from the hopeless. When you do find quality material you are still in a minority if you have gone the extra mile to find and identify it. Indeed, sifting and curating quality material is more than ever a major part of the work of information and teaching based ministry.

These developments have not changed the basic vision and purpose of ministry, but they have changed somewhat how ministry is delivered. Online newsletters are much easier and cheaper to produce, E-books have made materials more affordable. Web sites, blogs, and social media make the work more immediate. Ministries can respond almost instantly to breaking news, which news is itself readily accessible. Email makes 'conversations' more real time, as do social media and discussion forums.

Some things haven't changed. Nothing takes the place of speaking face-to-face, and nothing will ever take the place of the local church, where we find like-minded people and grow as disciples of Christ. When someone leaves a cult it is vital they find their way to a place where there is life, grace, and sound, reliable teaching from people you can come to know and trust.

The picture of Christian community painted for us in the Bible cannot be replaced but must be replicated. The writer to the Hebrews urged, 'Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.' (Heb.10:25)

Luke, in his second letter, describes the New Testament Church:

'They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. all the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.' (Acts 2:42-47)

We must be more discerning than ever as we find and use the mountain of information available on the Internet. The best place to practice that discernment is among people with the experience and calling to teach and lead the church of Christ. By all means take advantage of the riches available to us today, but bring it to the test of Scripture, to the local church, and to prayer.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and ‘Church’

Nothing highlights more the very different needs of people coming out of the cults than the respective understandings of 'church' by Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. In an article on the LDS Church website, an overview of membership mentions the word 'church' nine times, including the article's title, and all positively. It speaks of belonging to the church, access to blessings through the church, opportunities for serving in the church. It typically capitalises 'the Church' when referring to to the Mormon Church. Mormons understand 'church' to be an institution, much as does the Roman Catholic Church.first-vision stained-glass

'Traditional' describes the Mormon approach to 'church,' even when Mormonism stands in opposition to other churches in its claim to be 'the only true Church.' This is evidenced in Mormon buildings boasting stained-glass window portrayals of Mormon history (right).

Jehovah's Witnesses, on the other hand, harbour a deep suspicion of 'church,' founded in historical antipathy towards the Roman Catholic Church. Church is apostate ‘Christendom’. Put the word 'church' into the search box on and you get Why Don't Jehovah's Witnesses Call Their Meeting Places Church? Jehovah's Witnesses at least understand that church is a body of people, although in every respect the Watchtower Society behaves as if it is an institution.

Kingdom Hall PlainA JW friend recently explained that Kingdom Halls lack any ornament because 'Jesus went to a synagogue, which was a plain meeting hall.' Of course, the degree of decoration in a synagogue, as with most religions' buildings, depends a lot on the wealth, or otherwise, of the congregation. I recently had a Sikh explain to me, apologetically, that the local temple was not as ornate as other Sikh places of worship. Kingdom Halls can certainly be very plain, (right) though a quick search online will find some pretty handsome buildings as well. Below is the Kingdom Hall on Grandview Highway, British Columbia.

Kingdom Hall Grandview Highway

To a Jehovah's Witness, the very idea of 'going to church' is anathema, and leaving the organisation finds them facing a mountain of prejudices to overcome just to step across the threshold of a church building.

For a Mormon, 'going to church' is what comes naturally, an invitation to church no great issue. Even as Mormons, my wife and I sometimes visited other churches, particularly on special occasions. We even visited a Kingdom Hall on one occasion. On Nisan 14 some years ago we were made very welcome but were asked whether our Mormon leaders knew where we were. When we answered that they did our hosts looked truly puzzled.

For each, their expectations of 'church' will be different. A Mormon will look for an institution that will operate much as the Mormon Church does. A Jehovah's Witness will, with trepidation, approach 'church' harbouring deep suspicion, expecting to trip over the devil at every turn. Of course, a faithful JW will not be seen in a 'church'.

For both, it is important we can offer a clear teaching on what 'church' is, and what it isn't. For the Mormon, starting with a high opinion of 'church,' it is a case of coming to a more biblical understanding of an idea they already accept, though misunderstand.

For the Jehovah's Witness, starting with a very low opinion of 'church,' it is coming to the knowledge that Christians already know the arguments about church being people not buildings (see Why Don't Jehovah's Witnesses call their Meeting Places Churches?) We need to help them come to understand that, even in New Testament times, there were differences between Jewish and Gentile churches (Acts 15) and Paul recognised:

'One man regards a certain day above the others, while someone else considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.' (Ro.14:5)

For both, the question of authority is a big one. Early in our Christian life, my wife asked a church leader and friend, 'What do we believe about this?' This is typical of how a cult member might ask a question, expecting there to be an official line. He answered that some people saw it one way, others another, and she should read the Scripture prayerfully and think it through for herself. As she put it, at that point the bottom fell out of her world. The cult member expects all teaching to be wrapped up in a neat package, tied with a bow, and unwaveringly believed.

Jehovah's Witnesses struggle with the idea that Christians can disagree yet remain in fellowship. It is a revelation for them to hear the words of Richard Baxter:


As my wife and I learned, there are those things we hold firmly, those things we hold lightly, and those things we hold away. What makes this possible is a message of grace, and an understanding that unity is not the same as, nor defined by, rigid uniformity. It's a messy business, church, and you only have to look at Paul's letters to Christians in Corinth to see this. Yet, even as he censured them, he addressed his first letter:

'To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.'

We too often take such grace and peace for granted. If we want to recover our wonder at such great blessings sit down with a Mormon or Jehovah's Witness who has left their organisation, and enjoy the privilege of explaining it to them. You will hear it again yourself as though for the first time, and join in their wonder and joy as the dawning truth of it enters their heart.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Leaving the organisation, Joining the Body

One of the many challenges facing a person who leaves the Mormon Church, or the Watchtower Society, is the question of where to go next. Tragically, some are so disappointed and hurt by their experience of their former religious organisation they go nowhere. Many are done with the whole show and go their own way, often into a rejection of God, certainly of 'organised religion.' I understand that.

Eternity in Their Hearts

Many more still feel the pull of eternity, that God has put in their heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11) It is tempting, in these circumstances, to explore this need for eternal things in private religion, seeking the companionship of God in nothing beyond personal piety and disciplines. The danger here is of what one Christian leader has called 'will worship.' It is when what defines me as a Christian is whatever I think it should be, a matter of my individual effort. My faith and my world-view are formed by my own thoughts and conclusions, nothing from outside these to challenge and test my Christian walk.

Personal devotion is, of course, part of the Christian life but the independent Christian, the Lone Wolf Believer, is unknown in the New Testament. Indeed, the whole Bible paints a very clear picture of God's purposes being carried out in community, from the family of Abraham, through the people of Israel, to the Body of Christ, the church in the New Testament and in the world.

The danger of this message of the body's imperative, in the context of cults, is that it might provoke a bad reaction from people who have already fallen for the lie that a believer belongs to an organisation, only to find this organisation has let them down, hurt them. It is important, then, to have a clear understanding of what I mean when I refer to joining and belonging to the body of believers, what it means and what it doesn't mean.Mission Word Cloud 2

A Christian Community

Our 21st century world seems increasingly fragmented, people living 'silo lives,' dwelling in discreet worlds that rarely, if ever, touch one another. It is a dangerous phenomenon which can leave people feeling isolated and lonely. The psalmist writes:

''Sing to God, sing praise to his name...A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families.' (Ps.68:4-5 NIV)

When we look at the people of God in the Old Testament, they are nation, community, family. God says through Moses:

'I bore you on eagles wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation' (Ex.19:4-6)

God called his people out of the house of slavery to bring them into covenant relationship with himself and with each other as a holy priesthood. In this role the called out people of God are to mediate the presence and blessings of God to the world around them. This chimes with God's original purpose in creation, to make men and women in his image to have dominion, to steward the earth, mediating the person and will of God to all creation (Gen.1:26-28)

This same thought is used by Peter to describe the role of the New Testament Church, the called out people of God, Jew and Gentile (Gal.3:28):

'But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.' (1 Pet.2:9-10)

These are people who identify with each other as they never would have, except for their calling into God's family. It is a people drawn together with purpose, to proclaim God's excellencies, to testify, by word and deed, the wonderful mercies of God in salvation. What does this look like? This picture of God's people is described in Acts:

'They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had things in common...And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.' (Acts 2: 42-47)

Believing, Belonging, Becoming

Paul describes the church with a familiar and helpful analogy:

'For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, as we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.' (Ro.12:3-5)

The church is described by Peter as, like living stones...being built up as a spiritual house...' (1 Pet. 2:5) Note there is a process here, we are, 'being built up.' This process is reflected when Paul describes church leadership in his letter to Ephesus as, 'equipping the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the fullness of Christ.' (Eph. 4:11-14)

The body is 'being built up' by the mature leadership of experienced Christians, described as elders. Peter writes:

'I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the suffering of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you, not for shameful gain, but eagerly, not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.' (1 Pet.5 1-3)

The Bible describes God's people as, 'the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.' (Ps.95:7) Jesus describes himself as the shepherd of the sheep (Jn.10: 1-18) and Peter describes Jesus as the Chief Shepherd, while elders are 'under shepherds' (1 Pet.5: 1-4) This is organic, not organisational. The distinction is critical. We must understand that those who believe belong to Christ, and those who belong are becoming like Christ.

‘Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and late rains. You also, be patient.’ (James 5:7-8a)

This is the church, the people of God, gathered around the word of God, ready to do the will of God, described in the New Testament as 'the body of Christ.' (Col.1:24) This is the family of God, the holy nation, the people called by God as his own possession to be a royal priesthood that mediates God to the world. They are described as devoted to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to breaking of bread, and prayer, to the common life. To attack the church is to attack Christ (Acts 7:9).

Paul is very clear in reminding us, 'we, though many, are one body in Christ...' (Ro.12:5) 'In Christ.'

Christ Loved the Church

The unity of the body is nothing to do with being in an organisation, it is everything to do with being 'in Christ.' Paul describes Christ as, 'the head of the body, the church' (Col.1:18) Agreement over doctrine is not about simply finding like-minded people, who read the same books, and speak the same orthodoxy, but about finding and fellowshipping with 'Christ-minded' people and working together to better understand the work of God in the world, through the church.

It can be, and often is messy. You only need to read the New Testament letters to Christians in Corinth, Galatia, and Philippi, to Timothy as he leads a church in Ephesus. There is also the pressure of heresies such as Gnosticism, and legalism, to a point where Christians are urged to 'contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.' (Jude 3) But it is well to remember, 'Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.' (Eph.5:25)

Those who are 'in Christ' belong to the body, the church, and the church is the plan of God. How does one become part of this body, the church? Paul's description of his own conversion, his journey to become part of this body of which he writes so enthusiastically helps us:

'If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I might gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God and depends on faith...' (Philip.3:4-10)

It is a process, an experience, that is described by Jesus as being 'born again' (Jn.3:3) Peter describes Christians as those who have been, 'born again, not of perishable seed but imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God...' (1 Pet.1:23). John writes, 'Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God...' (1 Jn.5:1)

It is Paul who reminds us, 'Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. 'Test yourselves, or do you not realise this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? - unless indeed you fail to meet the test!' (2 Cor.13:5)

In another letter to the same Corinthian Church Paul writes, 'Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of Christ. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement on himself.' (1 Cor.11:27-29)

The body of Christ is a community that gathers regularly to read and understand God's word, pray, break bread and share the new life they have in Christ, to then go out and mediate the good news in the world. It is a community of people with one thing in common, they are born again, born of God, born from above, and find themselves 'in Christ,' part of the body of which he is the head.

As a body we examine our faith together to test its validity according to God's word. As individuals, we examine ourselves to see that when we take the bread and the cup of the Lord's Table we do so recognising Christ's body and living as part of that same community. Community; that’s a good word for it.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Steve Chalke the 21st Century Luther?

steve-chalkeAs we mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation people are queuing up to offer their ‘95 Theses for the Twenty First Century.’ Not least among this number is Steve Chalke.

'In the early years of the 16th century, German priest and scholar Martin Luther came to believe that the shape of the established Church and its relationship to the State did not fit the needs of the world in which he was called to live and serve,' Chalke said.

'In the early years of the 21st century it is clear, once more, that the shape of the established Church and its relationship to the State no longer fits the needs of the world in which we are called to live and serve. It is time, once again, to reimagine the role of faith, Church and its place in the public square.' Read further here.

Chalke, who has a reputation for twisting Scripture, wrenching it from its original meaning and purpose, seems just as capable of twisting history. I imagine Luther turning in his grave at being caricatured as a 16th Century Steve Chalke.

Compare Chalke’s version of history with Luther’s own words and we find they are two very different stories. Luther’s famous words at the Diet of Worms stand out as a challenge to us all to trust the Word of God in all matters of faith and life:

‘Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.’

Lets be clear, Luther did not do what he did because, ‘the shape of the established Church and its relationship to the State did not fit the needs of the world in which he was called to live and serve,' He challenged the church because it had embraced the corruption of the age, and he called the body of Christ back to Scripture.

Compare Luther with Chalke’ and you see these men stand poles apart, Luther held captive by the Word of God, bound by the Scriptures, Chalke held captive by the spirit of the age, bound by the prevailing culture. It is well said that whoever marries the spirit of the age ends up widowed.

‘Choose this day whom you will serve’ Joshua 24:15

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The JW Memorial Meal: an Outsider’s Perspective

Jehovah’s Witnesses have this month gathered in Kingdom Halls around the world for their annual Nisan 14 celebration. This article, looking at the Memorial Meal from an outsider’s perspective, appeared in the April 2017 Reachout newsletter, Bridge of Reason.



It’s known by different names in different traditions; the Lord’s Table, the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, the Breaking of Bread, Holy Communion. Mormons call it ‘the sacrament’ which seems strange since it is a sacrament. Even in Mormonism, however, it isn’t the only sacrament since they also have baptism, as well as rituals of anointing. In my church we Acall it communion and I regard it as very precious. I was interested, then, in what the Jehovah’s Witnesses do with it, how they regard it.

To Jehovah’s Witnesses it is a ‘Memorial Meal’ and, while Christian churches celebrate this sacrament frequently, Witnesses mark it annually, on the Jewish Passover which, in 2017, will be Tuesday 11 April. My wife and I went to one of these celebrations once and saw that when the elements were passed around no one partook. This is because only the 144,000 are regarded as having a heavenly hope and, therefore, only they can partake. But that is not the only thing that is puzzling about this peculiar practice of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.


The Lord’s SupperLords-Supper-Communion-Bread-Wine

The familiar verses in 1 Corinthians 11 caution us against pride in partaking of the Lord’s Supper and then Paul goes on to ‘pass on’ a very important tradition from the earliest days of the church:

‘But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognised.

When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.
What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me."
In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.’
(1 Corinthians 11:17-26, ESV)

There are three things we learn here:

  • This ‘meal’ was eaten ‘when you come together as a church.’ Paul writes, ‘as often as you eat…and drink..’ so this was a frequent occurrence, something that happened when the church met. It appears it was also a meal in which overeating and even drunkenness were a possibility, the reasons for Paul’s chastisement of the Corinthian believers.

  • From earliest times it was known as ‘the Lord’s Supper’ and this will become significant for us later.

  • It is a memorial meal to, ‘proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.’

  • It would seem that an annual memorial is not in view here and nor is the idea that only an elite partook.


    Whose Cup?

    In the previous chapter Paul deals with the question of idolatry. Writing about food sacrificed to demons, he warns Christians in Corinth that they cannot participate in the body of Christ and participate in demons. He reminds us that the cup is the cup of Christ:

    Communion Goblet‘The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.’ (1 Corinthians 10:16-17, ESV)

    The New World Translation has the same wording.

    Further on in the chapter we read:

    ‘…what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.’ (vv 20-21, ESV)

    The New World Translation, however, reads:

    ‘what the nations sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers with the demons. You cannot be drinking the cup of Jehovah and the cup of demons; you cannot be partaking of “the table of Jehovah” and the table of demons.’

    The cup of the Lord has become the cup of Jehovah, the table of the Lord the table of Jehovah where, in vv 16-17, the blood in the cup was the cup of Christ, the bread on the table the body of Christ. In the Kingdom Interlinear they appear to want to have it both ways. In the Greek they correctly translate ‘cup of Lord..table of Lord’ while the text gives us ‘Jehovah.’ Of course, verse 20 clearly references God, a direct comparison is made between demons and God, and Jesus cannot be God in their thinking so ‘the Lord’ must become ‘Jehovah.’

    However, when we go back to that familiar passage in 1 Corinthians 11 we read:

    ‘For whenever you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he comes.Therefore, whoever eats the loaf or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be guilty respecting the body and the blood of the Lord.’ (1 Cor.11:26-27, NWT)

    It has become ‘the cup of the Lord’ again. It is embarrassingly obvious that the text has been tampered with in just those verses to suit Jehovah’s Witness doctrine. of course, most will not be so surprised by this but look at what they have done.

    Who is the Lord whose death is proclaimed? Jesus. Whose cup is it? The Lord’s. Who is the Lord? Jesus, of course.

    They have unwittingly made a case for identifying Jesus with Jehovah.They might have been better off leaving well alone.


    …Until He Comes.

    One final question. How long will Christians participate in this cup, eat at this table we call by different names? ‘…until he comes.’ But according to Witness teaching Christ returned invisibly in 1914. There are two questions we might ask Jehovah’s Witnesses as April 11th approaches, and in the days following:

    Whose cup is passed around Kingdom Halls around the world? The cup of Christ, or the cup of Jehovah?

    Why, if Jesus returned in 1914, are you having a memorial meal at all?

    communion-scripture 1 Cor 11

    Thursday, 26 January 2017

    Mormons and Christ’s Atonement.

    EnsignThe February 2017 Enisgn magazine of the Mormon Church just dropped through my letterbox. Leafing through it, my eye was immediately drawn to the visiting teaching message on page 7, Christ’s Atonement is Evidence of God’s Love.

    The atoning work of Jesus is a fundamental of the Christian faith. What a movement has to say on this issue tells a lot about where it stands in relation to the clear message of the Bible on first principles.The piece begins:

    “Understanding that our Heavenly Father gave His Only Begotten Son that we might have immortality and the potential for eternal life helps us feel God’s infinite and incomprehensible love for us.”

    Mormon thinking is shot through with references to feelings of course. Understanding in this instance, “helps us feel God’s infinite and incomprehensible love for us.” The Bible, however, tells us that our understanding of gospel principles helps us know! John writes:

    “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13)

    The same John, in his gospel, reports these words of Jesus:

    “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24)

    The Bible speaks definitively of eternal life as a present possession for all who believe. It further makes clear that this is so because something has happened to the believer, who ‘has crossed over from death to life.’

    Clearly, if we trust in Jesus, in the finished work of the cross and the evidence of an empty tomb, we who were once dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1-10) have entered into life. That life is described as ‘eternal life’ and as a present possession. I have heard, believed, crossed over from death to eternal life, and am now confident I will not be condmened.

    Mormonism offers only immortality, with only the potential to achieve eternal life, and that by our own efforts. Eternal life, in Mormon thinking, is spent in the presence of God, and is achieved through works. Yet, when we look at Paul, he writes of those who, saved by grace, are already seated with Christ in heavenly realms:

    “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were deadv in our transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved, and God has raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-6)

    Again we have a picture of salvation very different from that taught by Mormonism. In this we are ‘dead in our transgressions,’ and our salvation from that state cannot be by our own hand, a dead hand, but by the gracious hand of God. Having been ‘raised up’ from that dead state, we are described as already having possession of that place before the throne of God. The future for the believer is so assured that it is spoken of in the present tense, “God has raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”

    Earlier in Ephesians, Paul writes of believers being, “…marked with in him [Christ] with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession-to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)

    Our inheritance in Christ can be spoken of in the present tense because the believer has already received a guarantee of that inheritance in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

    All that the Bible promises as the present possession of those who truly believe Mormonism offers as only potential reward for those who strive to gain it, for the most worthy. It is a strange love that offers itself conditionally, a strange life that is available only to those dead hands that can reach out for it, a strange ‘good news’ that offers these things on condition of ‘worthiness’ to a people so fallen as to be dead in sin and thoroughly incapable of proving worthy of anything.