From Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians:
Now I exhort you brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgement (1Co 1:10).
From where do the divisions come, and the dissensions? For that matter, why is the body of Christ divided into sects and denominations? The assembly at Corinth was troubled by false and misleading doctrines, and were led astray by mysticism and pagan tradition, or what we might call the tradition of men. Some aligned themselves with Paul, others with Apollos, or Peter, and still others with Christ.
Strife in the church is born of the flesh and sown in the wisdom of man. Has Christ been divided? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? [1Co 1:13, 1Co 1:20]
It was not unexpected that we received an aggressive response to our articles, Is Jesus God? and Beware the False Prophets. Understand that the mission of Messiah Gate is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ (1Co 15:3-4). The Apostle Paul wrote that he was not going to be distracted by the wisdom of men, but to know only Christ and Him crucified (1Co 2:2).
In weakness, fear and trembling Paul preached the Good News through the demonstration of the Spirit, and the power of God. After hours of prayerful consideration we published these two articles knowing that the backlash would be swift and dogged. Indeed, responses came in from around the world refuting the content of our posts.
These contentions have become a distraction, but they cannot go unanswered. Our disagreement is with the group that calls themselves Bible Students. A Google search most often links their name with Jehovah’s Witnesses.
They disputed our statement that Charles Taze Russell was the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses even though the Kingdom Hall in our neighborhood traces their inception to the same Charles Russell whom the Bible Students claim as their founder!
We covered a very brief history of Russell and the JW’s in our previous articles, but suffice it to say that Russell did organize the International Bible Students Association which evolved into the Jehovah’s Witnesses though some groups splintered off to form independent cells of Bible Students who rejected the centralized organization instituted after Russell passed away.
It should be noted that some students departed the movement in disagreement with Russell’s changing doctrinal positions. As a young man, he tried to witness to an unbeliever and was, himself, converted to unbelief. His search for light and truth led him to reject orthodox Christian beliefs regarding the Trinity, Deity of Christ and eternal judgement, or Hell.
[On these three issues the Bible Students, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, indeed many sects and cults, share common thought.]
Russell became fascinated with the Adventist proclamation of end times prophecy; and through his occult interest in pyramidology he mathematically determined the end of the age based on the measurements of the Great Pyramid of Giza. With one year corresponding to one inch he predicted that the world would end in 1914. When this didn’t happen, Russell simply concluded that Christ had returned invisibly. The Bible Students–citing the Book of Deuteronomy–took issue with our statement that Russell was a false prophet. Certainly, no one would assume that Russell was an appointed spokesman (Dt 18:18), and we exhort the brethren to heed the words of our Savior: Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many (Mt 24:11).
Russell’s intrigue with the pyramid and the Temple cast suspicion on his affiliation with the Free Masons. Also suspect was his liberal use of the Masonic cross and crown, and the winged Sun-Disk emblem representing the Egyptian god Ra. Bible Students will vehemently deny that he was a Mason though we have the transcript of Russell’s clouded speech to the 1913 Bible Students’ Convention:
Now I am a free and accepted Mason. But not after the style of our Masonic brethren. I can appreciate there are certain very precious truths that are held in part by our Masonic friends.
Russell saw himself as a Bible Mason, and believed that the Masons were brothers in the shared light although it is interesting to note that the Jehovah’s Witnesses now view Russell (and Bible Students) in the old light while they are possessor’s of the new light.
Russell published a series of books titled Studies in the Scriptures which he claimed all bible students needed to read in order to understand the light and truth of the Bible.
Not only do we find that people cannot see the divine plan in studying the Bible by itself, but if they had merely read the Scripture Studies, and had not read a page of the Bible, they would be in the light, and have the light of the Scriptures (Watchtower, 15 September 1910, p. 298).
Much like the Jehovah’s Witnesses (and Masons), Russell was almost cultish is his belief that he alone possessed the truth. His understanding of Hebrew and Greek seemingly opened his mind to correct biblical interpretation. When his authority (and knowledge of biblical languages) was challenged in court, Russell perjured himself before confessing that he was never ordained nor familiar with the Greek language.
Then there was the matter of Miracle Wheat sold through Watchtower publications, and exposed by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Russell sued the paper for defamation, but the court denied his claim.
In 1906 his wife, Maria, sued for divorce on charges of immoral and reproachful behavior. Officials of the Watchtower and Tract Society testified that they paid back alimony to Russell’s wife until the time of his death in 1916.
To itemize Russell’s shortcomings would serve no useful purpose except to highlight that a servant of God must be above reproach. We recognize that all of us fall short of the glory of God, but to gloss over these issues (as do the Bible Students) is nothing less than revisionist history.
Essentially, the only practical difference between the Bible Students and Jehovah’s Witnesses is that the Bible Students don’t come knocking on our door every weekend.
They prefer to spam our email.
Next: Is Jesus God?