I’ve had some interesting discussions with a few Jehovah’s Witnesses over the past week. They have stopped by my house a few times and my goal has been to move the conversation around two important differences between Christians and the Jehovah’s Witnesses: Who is Jesus? & How are we saved?
If you are not familiar with the Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs, they deny that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are God. They claim that Jesus is a created being and that the Holy Spirit is not a person, but only God’s active force. Further, if you are unfamiliar with orthodox Christian doctrine, both these views are heresy.
The earliest Christians who knew Jesus best, taught that He was equal in essence and nature to God the Father. The Scriptures also teach that the Holy Spirit is a person and that He has all the attributes of God. The Holy Spirit is the same in essence and nature to God the Father and Jesus, hence, the doctrine of the Trinity.
However, right now, I want to focus on the other question: How are we saved? The Jehovah’s Witnesses will claim to believe in Jesus as their savior and redeemer for their sins. If they would stop there and place their trust in Jesus for forgiveness then orthodoxy (and on my view, the true Gospel) could be obtained. However, the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus essentially wiped away previous sins to get them back to a ‘spiritual zero’. But from this point on, doing good works is essential to salvation. In fairness, they could be right. But according to orthodox Christian doctrine, this view of Salvation is heresy.
After reflecting on the Scriptures this afternoon it is unequivocal that the teaching of those who knew Jesus best taught that we are all sinful, in need of a Savior, who died on a Cross for our sins, which is a free gift, not that anyone can earn, but by faith and trust in the Savior, we can be set right with God. The Scriptures below will help demonstrate my point of view:
4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:4-8)
1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
7 “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN,
AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED.
8 “BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT.”
9 Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, “FAITH WAS CREDITED TO ABRAHAM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” 10 How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; 11 and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised. (Romans 4:1-12)
21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. (Romans 3:21-30)
8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 10 but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. (2 Timothy 1:8-11)
If the Jehovah’s Witnesses are teaching that true Salvation can be earned through good works, then I think they may be in danger of Paul’s warning:
8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! (Galatians 1:8-9)