Thursday, December 1, 2016

God's Mouthpiece

A tract produced by the Roman Catholic The Evangelization Station, entitled "A Brief History of the Watchtower," states: "Russell called himself God's mouthpiece." The statement, as stated, is true enough. Of course, Russell did believe that God has used him in a general way to bring forth many truths from the storehouse of the Bible. The evident desired intent of this statement, however, is that Russell was claiming to be the sole authority on God.
The tract immediately follows, however, with the statement: "He made his living at the time as a haberdasher." This makes it appear that in some way while Russell was a haberdasher that he claimed to be God's mouthpiece. We do not know that Russell claimed such while he was in the haberdashery business, but we do know he made such a statement of himself after he got out of that business.
Nevertheless, it should be noted that Russell spoke, not only of himself as God's mouthpiece, but he also spoke of any who are servants of Jesus as God's mouthpieces. And since Russell recognized consecrated Christians among all the denominations of Christendom, he, in effect was recognizing any truly consecrated of any denomination as a mouthpiece for God.
One claims:
You see, in Biblical terms, a prophet is someone who speaks for God. Have you ever heard the Watchtower Society claim they are the mouthpiece of God? We have heard them say this many times. Personally, I have also read it too. The first time they made this claim was in Zion’s Watch Tower, dated July 15, 1906. On pages 229-30, Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, made this claim for the first time.
Russell, of course, was never a member of Jehovah's Witnesses, and was not the founder of an organization such as he preached against.
Speaking for God, however, as a Bible Student, or as a pastor, is not the same as speaking for God as a prophet as described in Deuteronomy 18:18-22. Otherwise, practically every minister of every denomination and church would have to be considered to be claiming to be a divinely inspired prophet of God, since they almost all profess to be preaching God's Word.
Did Brother Russell, in 1906, claim that he was a prophet as described in Deuteronomy 18:18-22?
Deuteronomy 18:18 I will raise them up a prophet from among their brothers, like you; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I shall command him.
Deuteronomy 18:19 It shall happen, that whoever will not listen to my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.
Deuteronomy 18:20 But the prophet, who shall speak a word presumptuously in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who shall speak in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.
Deuteronomy 18:21 If you say in your heart, How shall we know the word which Yahweh has not spoken?
Deuteronomy 18:22 when a prophet speaks in the name of Yahweh, if the thing doesn't follow, nor happen, that is the thing which Yahweh has not spoken: the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you shall not be afraid of him. -- World English
Did Brother Russell claim that Jehovah (Yahweh) had spoken to him, and that he was relaying the words that Jehovah had spoken to him? No. Here is what he said:
No, dear friends, I claim nothing of superiority, nor supernatural power, dignity or authority; nor do I aspire to exalt myself in the estimation of my brethren of the household of faith, except in the sense that the Master urged it, saying, "Let him who would be great among you be your servant." (Matt. 20:27) And my position among men of the world and of the nominal church is certainly far from exalted, being "everywhere spoken against." I am fully contented, however, to wait for exaltation until the Lord's due time. (I Pet. 5:6) In the Apostle's words I therefore answer, "Why look ye upon us, as though by our own power we had done these things? We also are men of like passions with yourselves"--of like infirmities and frailties, earnestly striving, by overcoming many besetments, discouragements, etc., to press along the line toward the mark of the prize of our high calling, and claiming only, as a faithful student of the Word of God, to be an index finger, as I have previously expressed it, to help you to trace for yourselves, on the sacred page, the wonderful plan of God--no less wonderful to me, I assure you, than to you, dearly beloved sharers of my faith and joy.
No, the truths I present, as God's mouthpiece, were not revealed in visions or dreams, nor by God's audible voice, nor all at once, but gradually, especially since 1870, and particularly since 1880. Neither is this clear unfolding of truth due to any human ingenuity or acuteness of perception, but to the simple fact that God's due time has come; and if I did not speak, and no other agent could be found, the very stones would cry out. -- Watch Tower, July 15, 1906, pages 229, 230
By quoting or referencing what Brother Russell said out of context, and placing his statement "as God's mouthpiece" in the context of the claims of the JW leadership, many would like to make it appear that Russell was claiming for himself, or for his Watch Tower Society, to have the same authority that the JW leadership claims. They would make it appear that Russell was claiming to have the "sole" divine authority as "God's mouthpiece" to present truth. In context, however, Russell disclaimed having any such "authority", as he stated, "I claim nothing of superiority, nor supernatural power, dignity or authority."
That Brother Russell was not assuming any such role as the later JW leadership claims can be seen from his statement a few years later, when, in 1909, he said:
And additionally St. Paul and the other Apostles and each of the Lord's faithful ones are ministers or servants of this New Covenant now, in that they are engaged, as the Lord's mouth-pieces, in calling the members of the Body of Christ, and engaged also as the Lord's representatives in edifying one another and building one another up in the "most holy faith," preparing one another as members of the Body of the Mediator, the Body of Christ, to be associated with him in the work of his Mediatorial Kingdom of a thousand years. -- The Watch Tower, September 15, 1909, pages 279, 280.
Here Brother Russell speaks of ALL who are consecrated as being "mouthpieces". And who did Brother Russell consider the "consecrated" to be?
In 1910, we find that Brother Russell said the following:
We must take the broad, general ground of the Scriptures and recognize only one Church.
Nor may we make the mistake of saying that the one Church is one sect. No sect, no denomination, however great and influential and numerous and rich, either in sordid or historic wealth, can be conceded the right to appropriate the name which our Lord gave to all truly his disciples. Surely none of us is sectarian enough to dispute this premise. We must learn to recognize the Church of Christ from the same viewpoint as does the Head of the Church. We must learn the force of St. Peter's words to Cornelius, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted with him." (Acts 10:34,35.)
Taking, therefore, the Scriptural view of the Church, we recognize it as the "Body of Christ" of many members, over which he is the head. It is composed of consecrated followers of Christ, irrespective of all denominational lines -- those who, turning from sin, accept Jesus as their Redeemer, through whom they have forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to the Father--those who have become disciples of Christ, taking up their cross to follow him, and who have received the begetting of the holy Spirit. Who could dispute that these are the Church of Christ? Who shall say that they must belong to this communion or that, or lose their relationship to the Head, Christ Jesus? The apostles never referred to Baptist Christians, Methodist Christians, Catholic Christians, Presbyterian Christians, etc., but merely to those whom we have described and whom they styled saints--"the Church of the living God, whose names are written in heaven." (Hebrews 12:23; 1 Timothy 3:15.) --- 1910 International Bible Students Convention Report, page 79
In 1915, he had his sermon, "The Catholic Church -- St. Peter's Kingdom Keys", published in "The Bible Students Monthly" (Volume 7, Number 9), which contains the following comment:
“The Lord in Heaven records as members of His true Church all the saintly — whether Roman Catholics, Anglican Catholics, Greek Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc. — and none others…. Do we not see that a part of our mistake was in calling the outward organization the Church of Christ, instead of remembering that the Lord alone writes the names of the Church, that He alone reads the hearts, that He alone is the Judge, and that He alone has the right to blot out the names of those who become reprobates? … We must see that the Church is a comparatively small company of saintly footstep followers of Jesus, irrespective of sectarian lines.” – Bible Students Monthly, Volume 7, Number 9 (1915), Under the title, “The Catholic Church — St. Peter’s Kingdom Keys.“
This shows that he considered anyone as consecrated, irrespective of denominational ties.
The point is that Brother Russell did not limit "the Lord's people" simply to those who agreed with him; he extended that to any of any denomination who were actually consecrated to the Lord, and who thus would be God's mouthpiece, even though their message might be mixed with denominational and/or sectarian errors.
Also in 1913, Russell wrote the following in The Watch Tower, June 1913, page :
We urge that the Lord's people stifle curiosity, and desist from prying into things not clearly set forth in God's Word, as being injurious to them, hurtful to the Cause we are all desirous of serving, and tending to hinder the work of grace in our own hearts and in the hearts of those to whom we are the Lord's ambassadors and mouthpieces.
Again, he refers to all the "Lord's people" as being mouthpieces. This again shows that when he spoke of himself as being God's mouthpiece, it was not any with concept of having the authority of a divinely-inspired prophet, as spoken of in Deuteronomy 18:18-22; he certainly never claimed to a be prophet in the sense of being a sole special representative of Christ. He never claimed that one had to come to him as a channel by which to come to Christ; he certainly never claimed that he himself was Christ, or that he, or the WTS, should take the place of Christ, which is what is being described by the term antichrist (instead of Christ, or against Christ).
Nevertheless, one of the meanings Brother Russell attributed to the word "prophet", was that of public expounder. As a public speaker he believed that all who were proclaiming the Bible were such prophets, again, irrespective of denominational ties. He believed, however, that many of the preachers are false prophets, prophets claiming authority that Jesus never authorized. From our own perspective, which we believe to be scriptural, if such a prophet, or teacher of God's Word, begins to claim authority that Jesus has never given to him, that prophet becomes a false prophet. Nevertheless, one could be a false prophect even if such a prophet had never been truly consecrated; on the other hand, even one was truly consecrated, he can become sidetracked so as to become a "bad" or "evil" servant of the Lord. -- Matthew 24:48-51; Luke 12:44-46.
See our study:
Parable of the Four Servants — Luke 12:42-48

And finally, to show that Brother Russell still was NOT claiming any kind of divine authority, in 1916, just before he died, Russell wrote The Watch Tower, August 15, 1916, page 248:
Let it be borne in mind that the [Watch Tower] Society exercises no authority, makes no criticism, but merely gives advice; and that in the interest of the Lord’s Cause and the Lord’s people. -- The Watch Tower, August 15, 1916, page 248.
We are providing some Google searches below of Russell's works related to Russell's usage of the words "mouthpiece" and "mouthpieces." Russell never claimed to a "sole" mouthpiece for God. (While most of the results are words of Russell, one should note carefully since many times the statements are not made by Russell, but by another.)
For further study of Brother Russell's usage of the word "mouthpiece" we suggest that one do some searches of Brother Russell's works.
(Original post: January 1, 2010; Updated August 16, 2014; updated and republished May 6, 2015)
Russell and “Only Channel” (Searches of Russell’s Writings) - Did Russell claim that he was God's "only channel of communication" with the church or the world?

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