For when we were living according to the flesh, the sinful passions that were awakened by the Law were at work in our bodies to produce fruit for death. –Romans 7:5 NWT
What comes to your mind with those words “living according to the flesh?”
To explain, the New World Translation Study edition makes reference to James 1:14, 15:
14 But each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin; in turn sin, when it has been carried out, brings forth death.
They also include a study note from Romans 6:13 on not presenting any part of the human body to sin as weapons of unrighteousness.
This is all good information for any sincere person wanting a reminder to live a godly life.
But how many reminders does it take before one can achieve a life devoid of sin?
At the time this letter to the Romans was written, no one had achieved a sinless life. The author announced early in the letter that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 NWT)
Has anything changed since then?
Even so, meeting after meeting, Watchtower study after Watchtower study, Jehovah’s Witnesses dedicate their time and attention to the reminder not to live “according to the flesh” (Romans 7:5 NWT)
By this weekly education program coupled with a sincere desire to live a holy life, have any achieved a sinless life yet? I’m sure none of them would be so bold as to proclaim they have. Likely, they would quote the same truth Paul wrote in the first century that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God.
So what is the problem? Is it the teaching program? Are not enough Scriptures read?
Consider this. As one well versed in the perfect Law of God, the former Pharisee who became the apostle Paul admitted something surprising and quite contrary to what most devout followers assume about a Bible education. Speaking of the commandments, Paul wrote that the sinful passions “were awakened by the Law” (Romans 7:5 NWT)
If sinful passions were awakened by the Law, was there something wrong with the Law? Not according to Paul. He never credited the Law as the problem. In fact, he called the Law and it’s commandments holy, righteous, and good claiming to delight in it. (Romans 7:12, 22).
Likewise, Jehovah’s Witnesses value the moral teachings presented in their meetings and publications. As stated on their website, “we examine what the Bible says and how we can apply its teachings in our life.”
There is nothing wrong with such a goal and many active JWs delight in it. Yet, the problem of sin remains both in and outside the membership of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Clearly, it is not the abundance of moral reminders that keeps a man from sinning. No matter how many meetings a person attends, like all of us, they fall short of the glory of God.
So if the Law was holy, righteous, and good, why was it never able to make the Israelites holy, righteous, or good? Have Jehovah’s Witnesses improved upon this? Is the educational program of the Watchtower able to make a person righteous?
Their argument might be that the Israelites were a stiff necked, rebellious people and therefore never attained righteousness (Exodus 32:9; Acts 7:51-53). By contrast, they claim that “Jehovah’s Witnesses emulate the first Christians like no other religious people.” (Awake 2011 Jan p.8)
So let’s observe one of those first Christians they claim to emulate. The writer of this letter to the Romans we’re examining was used mightily by Jehovah in his testimony, in his missions of planting congregations, in prayer, and in writing epistles of correction and encouragement. If ever there were a Christian to emulate, it’s the apostle Paul who by a dramatic encounter with Jesus Christ changed course from persecuting Christians to becoming one! (Acts 9) If he was once among the “stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart” as an Israelite, he was no longer counted among them. As a Christian who knew the holy commandments and even met the risen Lord on the road to Damascus, surely Paul must’ve been close to perfection!
What does this first Christian tell us about himself though?
For I do not do the good that I wish, but the bad that I do not wish is what I practice. (Romans 7:19 NWT)
Paul admitted a few verses later that “what is bad is present with me.” Imagine, our beloved apostle practiced evil. Why? Was it because he had no respect for God’s mandates? No, that can’t be it. Paul stated that the Law was holy, righteous, and good! Did Paul have a desire to depart from Jehovah to pursue a sinful life? Not at all, he AGREES with Jehovah’s righteousness and desires to uphold it himself! He never said he WANTED to sin. In fact, he said he HATED sin!
For I do not understand what I am doing. For I do not practice what I wish, but I do what I hate. (Romans 7:15 NWT)
Can we all take a little comfort in just knowing that even a Christian such as Paul battled a nature he did not understand?
But again I propose,
is it really more meetings, more reminders of God’s moral guidelines that are able to make us righteous?
If the Israelites were not able to do it under the commandments Moses received directly from Jehovah, and neither was the apostle Paul able to do it after directly encountering the risen Christ sent by Jehovah, then what makes Jehovah’s Witnesses assume that they will attain a righteous standing by their sincere attempt to follow all the rules handed down by an organization that claims to be the sole channel through which God speaks now?
This is why the gospel of grace by which we are saved is completely a gift from God. There is nothing we can do to earn or deserve His mercy. We can only open our hearts to receive it by faith alone.
(not because of any righteous works we had done, but because of his own mercy), he saved us by means of the bath that brought us to life and by making us new by holy spirit. (Titus 3:5 NWT)
Keep yourself in God’s love,