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How to deal with Jehovah's Witnesses

It's Saturday afternoon and the doorbell rings. You open the front door ... two Jehovah's Witnesses. You have a choice. Slam the door shut or plant a seed.

As a born-again Christian, our response should be a desire to plant a seed.

A bit of background of the JWs

This religious group was founded by Charles Taze Russell in the late 1800's in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. Claiming to be the only true Christian religion, they dispute many tenets of mainstream Christianity, including the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the person of the Holy Spirit, immortality of the soul, predestination, the actual return of Jesus, hellfire, and the burning up of the world.

These religious beliefs are based on their Watchtower publications, with much indoctrination using their own translation of the Bible based on the Watchtower belief system. It has been altered to reflect their theology, with many of the verses that support the full deity of Christ being changed to support their viewpoint. Their version of the Bible has not been accepted by any other group.

The major point of contention

The Witnesses consider Jesus as just a 'little' god and a perfect man, a sort of demigod. He was Michael the archangel before his coming to earth, when became a man. When he died, he was not bodily resurrected. The body simply disappeared, and he rose as a spirit creature.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, John 1:1

Without accepting Jesus as God and Savior, the significance of the death and bodily resurrection of Jesus, who died to forgive our sins, remains hidden from them. Instead, they claim Jesus to be just a god and a perfect man.  

Though they may have a genuine love for God and are sincere in their beliefs, they have been deceived by a false gospel believing that when they die, their own death pays the penalty for their sins.

Remaining faithful and obedient to their Watch Tower Society until the end of the millennial reign of Christ Jesus, supposedly earns them the right to be declared righteous. To this end, they work on actively witnessing with no assurance of salvation. Of their total following, only a “remnant” will be eligible to be numbered among the 144,000 Jehovah's Witnesses, reigning in heaven with Jesus. The rest will stay on paradise earth.

Many topics can be discussed with Witnesses, since most people are aware of basic differences. Often debated are: refusing a blood transfusion or blood products, refusing certain medical treatment involving blood, and refusing military service. However, none of these are issues that affect one's salvation. Instead, the motive for ministering should be to bring the truth of the Word of God, and it needs to be done in Christian love and with compassion.

How to Witness to Jehovah's Witnesses

When answering that front door, a series of questions are usually asked by the JWs, followed by their standard answers. This is a well-practiced dialogue, studied with their religious leaders. If not careful, one can easily be drawn into this discourse, trying to defend one's own belief.

Instead of getting into that question/answer period, ask them first to share their testimony of why and how they became Jehovah's Witnesses. This gets them out of their practiced 'presentation'. Letting them go first demonstrates your willingness to listen. Then share your own testimony of why and how you made the personal decision to accept Jesus as your Savior. 

After this, keep the conversation centered on one simple point, the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, the foundation of our faith. This can seem daunting. One may be tempted to say, “Your Bible is wrong,” when using Scriptures because of our Bible differences.

To say, “You use your Bible, and I'll use mine,” doesn't really work, since the verses one would normally use, have been altered in the JW's Watchtower Bible: The New World Translation of the Bible (NWT). 

The question is, can one use their NWT Bible, with altered verses that deny the Trinity, to actually share the true Gospel? 

The most common verse Christians use to show the deity of Jesus Christ is John 1:1, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The NWT of this is: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.

NOTE: Red italics throughout are taken from the New World Translation of the Bible (NWT).

The Trinity, explained below, is implied in 1 John 5:7, For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 

Here, the NWT is totally altered, For there are three witness bearers, omitting the rest of the verse that is in the original Greek.

With such huge discrepancies, is it really possible to share the truth of God's Word using their New World Translation? The answer is, YES!

In ministering to the Witnesses, it's easier if one uses their Bible instead of telling them their Bible is wrong. It really is possible to show them Jesus as God, the Holy Spirit as God, and the implied Trinity. There is still enough truth in their Bible, that matches 'our' Bible, concerning the Trinity to lead them to question where they stand in their relationship with Christ.  

bAckground: What is the Trinity?

The word “trinity” is not found in the Bible and was probably first used by Theophilus of Antioch (A.D.181) meaning "three eternal distinctions in the one divine essence, known … as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit". [1] 

The three persons of the Trinity are shown together in the New Testament. At Jesus' baptism, the Father speaks, and the Holy Spirit descends like a dove on the Son (Mat 3:16-17). Jesus told the disciples to baptize in the name, not names, of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Mat 28:19).

The Father is God in John 6:27 and Galatians 1:1. The Son, Jesus, is called God in John 1:1 and Hebrews 1:8. The Holy Spirit is recognized as a person and not just a force. He has personality (e.g., intellect – 1 Corinthians 2:11 & John 14:26, and He speaks – Acts 13:2). He is also divine, being eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent and is called God in Acts 5:3-4.

The previous scriptures are just a few that reveal the Trinity in the Bible by showing three distinct persons but with the same essence. In Genesis 1:1, "God" is translated from the Hebrew "elôhîym" which is the plural of "elôha" (meaning "God" singular). However, when it's used with a singular verb, "elôhîym" becomes singular in sense. 6:4 and Ephesians 4:6 tell us that there is only one God. These three are one – trinity (monotheism, not tritheism)

The Jehovah's Witnesses' New World Translation Bible

Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) use their Bible, the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NTW), which has been translated “to conform to Jehovah's Witnesses' beliefs” [2]. It has changed many of the usual verses that relate to Jesus and the Holy Spirit as God. For example, John 1:1 (NWT) says: the Word was a god. This is backed up by their Greek grammar interpretation. The Holy Spirit is referred to as “it”.

One goal in witnessing to JWs is to show inconsistencies in their NWT Bible so that they will begin to question what they've been taught. Telling them right away that their Bible is wrong does not put them into a receiving mode.

Let them use their own Bible, but steer the conversation to their scriptures that still retain truth. This will show the inconsistencies in their book. Though much of it is changed, there are still verses that show the truth that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are God. 

This creates confusion for them. “How can one trust an inconsistent Bible translation?” can lead to being able to witness to them.

Discussing the Trinity with Jehovah's Witnesses

A good example of the Trinity revealed is when the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are grouped together and speaking together as one in 2 Samuel 23:2-3:

King James Version

The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.

New World Translation

The spirit of Jehovah spoke through me; His word was on my tongue. The God of Israel spoke; To me the Rock of Israel said: ‘When the one ruling over mankind is righteous, Ruling in the fear of God,

The 'spirit of Jehovah', the 'God of Israel', and the 'Rock of Israel' are identified in the New Testament:

  1. The spirit of Jehovah is the Holy Spirit as mentioned in Acts 5:3-9 in the story of Ananias and Sapphira: … why has Satan emboldened you to lie to the holy spirit … Why did you two agree to make a test of the spirit of Jehovah? (NWT).
  2. The God of Israel as mentioned in Luke 1:68: Blessed be Jehovah the God of Israel, (NWT) leaves no question with the JWs that Jehovah is the Father.
  3. That the Rock of Israel being Jesus is explained in 1 Corinthians 10:4: For they used to drink from the spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock meant the Christ(NWT).

These three are all speaking at the same time, as if one was speaking. 

An additional example of the Trinity is revealed in Matthew 28:19: Go, therefore, and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, (NWT).

If the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were three separate 'gods', then proper grammar would say, “in the names of …” rather than just the singular “name”.

Discussing Jesus as God

Verses from the New World Translation where Jesus is God are as follows:

  • John 10:30: I and the Father are one*, (NWT). “one” is “heis” in Greek and does not mean “*in unity” as their footnote says. It means “one” in the original, as can be seen in a New Testament Greek Lexicon.
  • Isaiah 9:6: and his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace, (NWT). Ask the JWs to explain this? How can Jesus be Mighty God and Eternal Father?
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:6

Equality of God the Father and God the Son revealed (KJV + NWT)

  • Isaiah 44:6, Jehovah is saying: This is what Jehovah says, The King of Israel and his Repurchaser, Jehovah of armies: I am the first and I am the last. There is no God but me, (NWT). In Revelation 22:16, Jesus confirms He is speaking: I, Jesus, sent my angel to bear witness to you, (NWT) when in Revelation 22:13 He says: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end, (NWT). This is only possible if Jehovah and Jesus are the same. How can two separate entities be the first and the last?
  • Isaiah 43:11, I am Jehovah, and besides me there is no savior, (NWT), similar to Isaiah 49:26: And all people will have to know that I am Jehovah, Your Savior and your Repurchaser, The Powerful One of Jacob, (NWT). Yet in 2 Peter 1:11, Jesus is portrayed as the Savior: In fact, in this way you will be richly granted entrance into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, (NWT). This is similar to 2 Peter 2:20, …by an accurate knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ …(NWT) and 2 Peter 3:18, No, but go on growing in the undeserved kindness and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, (NWT). How then can Jesus be called the Savior, when Jehovah plainly says that He, Jehovah, is the Savior?
  • Jeremiah 17:10: I, Jehovah, am searching the heart, Examining the innermost thoughts, To give to each one according to his ways, According to the fruitage of his works, (NWT). In Revelation 1:1 John begins by saying, A revelation by Jesus Christ ... then in Rev 2:23: so that all the congregations will know that I am the one who searches the innermost thoughts and hearts, and I will give to you individually according to your deeds, (NWT). Why is Jesus doing what Jehovah says He will do? (Rev 22:16 confirms Jesus talking).
  • 1 John 5:20: ...by means of his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and life everlasting, (NWT). Following proper English grammar, “this” refers to the noun before it, in this case "Jesus Christ". JWs are very persistent on proper Greek grammar – so English grammar should also be important, meaning that Jesus is the true God!

In most places of the NWT New Testament, “theos” (Greek for God) is translated “God” or “god” as necessary for their doctrine. 

More interesting, though, is that “kyrios” (Greek for Lord) is translated either “Lord” or “Jehovah” as necessary. In our King James Version (KJV), “kyrios” is translated as “Lord” and refers to Jesus. 

In the NWT, when “kyrios” is translated as “Jehovah”, there is a footnote that indicates a possible translation is “Lord”. 

One can ask the JWs why the 'kyrios' is translated into two different words. Even if they don't read Greek, show them this in a Greek/English interlinear Bible. Romans 10:9 says: For if you publicly declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [kyrios], and Romans 10:13, everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah* [kyrios] will be saved, (brackets mine). Both use the same Greek word. In their footnote*, it says, “*Jehovah, Lord.

One can then point out that all occurrences of “Jehovah” in their New Testament really are “Lord” in the original and show the inconsistency in their translation. 

If God was very particular to have His name “Jehovah” used, as the JWs insist, then why is it not written in Greek in the New Testament? Other important names, such as David and Moses, have very similar Hebrew and Greek spellings. Why isn't Jehovah's name written in Greek? Why did the NWT add it when it wasn't in the original scriptures?

Conclusion

It is possible to show the Trinity, especially with Jesus as God, using the NWT as a tool to reach the Jehovah's Witnesses. This is important because their understanding of who Jesus is, is distorted. For them, He is just a created angel, was made human, died, and was resurrected as a divine spirit creature. Helping to remove the blinders from their eyes and bring the light of the Gospel, the Good News, to them should be our aim. This is possible. The Word is powerful!

If they start to question what they have been taught, and are hungry for the truth, we can pray that they will be open to the Holy Spirit, Who will lead them into the truth. 

John 16:13

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.

However, when that one comes, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all the truth.

Footnotes:

  • [1] Thiessen, Henry Clarence, Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2006), pg 90
  • [2] Martin, Walter & Norman Klann, Jehovah of the Watchtower (Minneapolis, Minnesota 1981), pg 155

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And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:6

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Matthew 28:19-20

Unless stated otherwise, all Bible passages quoted in blue are from the KJV translation.