Cults - Jehovah's Witnesses

11 - Witnessing to a Jehovah's Witness

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
Four factors must govern our witness to members of the Watchtower cult.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Final installment of a series. Read part ten.

Four factors must govern our witness to members of the Watchtower cult.

The adherents of the Watchtower Society are in tremendous spiritual bondage. They live under the constraints of an authority structure based on the changeable commandments and doctrines of men and not on the unchanging Word of God, much less on an accurate translation.

The Watchtower Society's "Jesus" (whom they call "a god" with a small g) is not the one true and living God of the Bible, but a cheap counterfeit. The Watchtower doctrine of salvation denies the blood atonement of Jesus Christ for sinners, and teaches that each individual must pursue the hopeless task of atoning for his own sins. Scripture abundantly demonstrates that the Watchtower religion is absolutely false, and that it keeps lost souls in darkness, leading them to eternity in the Hell that this cult tells them does not exist.

How Should a Christian Witness to a Jehovah's Witness?

Having established the utter falsehood and hopelessness of the Watchtower religion, we move to one final question. It is not a question about the Watchtower Society, but about authentic Christians: How should we bear witness of the truth to the Jehovah's Witnesses who come to our doors, or we encounter at work or in other settings?

This is not a remote or theoretical issue. The number of people who are being baptized into the Watchtower cult has been growing exponentially. The Watchtower Society is on the rise not only in the United States where it originated, but also in many other nations - especially in Africa, the former Soviet republics, and the former satellite nations of Eastern Europe. The Watchtower Society is everywhere. And so the question we are now considering is indeed a vital one. We must answer it, as we have answered all the others, on the exclusive authority of the Bible.

The answer is that a Christian should witness to a Jehovah's Witness in the same way that you would witness to any other unbeliever. You should witness to a Jehovah's Witness in essentially the same way that you would bear witness for Christ to a Roman Catholic who relies upon his church membership; to a member of a liberal church who is relying upon his baptism and good works for eternal life; to an unbelieving Jew who rests in legalism; or to a Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim.

Why is this true? We find four factors in Scripture that bear upon the answer.

Man Has Not Changed

The first factor is the truth that unsaved man is essentially the same - regardless of whether he is a member of a liberal church, a follower of Buddhism or Islam, an atheist, a Scientologist, or a Jehovah's Witness. The condition of every individual apart from Christ is the same, and has been since our first parents fell into sin. Sinning man is, Jesus declared, "condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18). The Jehovah's Witness is a lost sinner, separated from the life of God that is found only through Christ, and is on the way to eternity in Hell.

All have sinned and come short of the glory of God... (Romans 3:23)

Through one man [Adam] sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all have sinned... (Romans 5:12)

The sin problem of the Jehovah's Witness is the same as that of every other individual who has never yet repented of his sins and trusted, by God's grace alone, through faith alone, in the finished work of Jesus Christ alone, for eternal life.

God Has Not Changed

This brings us to a second factor that bears upon our witness to a Jehovah's Witness: Just as man has not changed, God has not changed. God is no less holy than He has ever been throughout eternity. God's absolute requirement of absolute holiness in order for an individual to have a relationship with Him and enter His glorious presence has not changed. A Jehovah's Witness is under the same condemnation before the same holy God as everyone else, because of his unbelief.

Because God has not changed, the penalty for the violation of God's righteous requirements has not changed. It is still eternal death - not only physical death, but far more importantly, spiritual death, eternal separation from God in the torments of Hell. Many today - sadly even many self-described evangelicals - join Jehovah's Witnesses in denying a literal Hell. But the Holy Spirit declares that

God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? (Numbers 23:19)

The Gospel Has Not Changed

This then brings us to a third factor that bears upon our testimony to Jehovah's Witnesses: Just as man has not changed and God has not changed, the Gospel has not changed. Furthermore, God's Word is also absolutely clear that there are not different gospels for different people. As the Holy Spirit tells us through the writer to the Hebrews, the same Gospel was preached to Israel in the wilderness as was preached to mankind after Christ's death, burial, and resurrection (Hebrews 4:2). A Jehovah's Witness needs to hear and respond to the preaching of the same Gospel as every other lost sinner.

Regeneration by the Holy Spirit is Essential

This then brings us to the fourth factor that bears upon the witness of a Bible-believing Christian to a Jehovah's Witness: Regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential in order for any person to be saved. The one who is spiritually dead must be brought to spiritual life.

That work of regeneration is the same for a Jehovah's Witness as it is for any other unbeliever. Regeneration is an absolute necessity whether you are a Jehovah's Witness or a Muslim, a Scientologist or a Seventh-day Adventist, a Buddhist or an atheist.

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration [paliggenesia, literally, the renewal of life] and renewing [anakainoseos, literally, the renovation] of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7)

You Cannot Argue Anyone Into Heaven

Neglect of the Biblical truth of the necessity of regeneration has contributed to the practice of what much of the contemporary church wrongly calls apologetics.

Much of what is called apologetics in our time rests upon a wrong assumption - that we must answer all of an indivi-dual's objections to the propositional truths of the Word of God before that person can be saved; that Christians must, by our own arguments, break down an individual's resistance to the Gospel; that we must, to put it in the case of the Jehovah's Witness, refute all of the complex and fluctuating false teachings of the Watchtower Society; that we must our own selves turn an individual's heart and mind against his deeply-held beliefs in order for that person to be saved; that we must, in effect, argue a person into Heaven.

Scripture is clear: We are foolish to think we can do that. It is not the way God works, and it is not what He has called us to do. Look at the example of the Apostle Paul in Acts chapter nine. This man, who was "breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts 9:1) and was on his way to Damascus to further persecute the Christians, was confronted directly by the Lord Jesus Christ.

And what did our Lord Jesus say to this "Hebrew of the Hebrews" whose name was then Saul? He said, "It is hard for you to kick against the goads" (Acts 9:5). What this makes clear to us is the fact that there was a work of God already going on within this man Saul who became the Apostle Paul. "It is hard for you to kick against the goads," Jesus says. It is hard for you to resist the work that I, God, have been doing in your heart. That work of God was now coming to a climactic point on the road to Damascus.

And so Saul the devout Jew, the enemy of the true church of Christ, was saved from his sins - not because he had all of his objections dealt with, but because he confessed with his mouth that the authentic Jesus Christ who died and rose again bodily is God in Heaven, Lord of all, the only Savior, and he said "Lord, what do you want me to do?"

And so the Lord sent Saul the new convert to a believer named Ananias in the city of Damascus. Ananias was one of the Christians who had been the object of Saul's persecution. He was understandably fearful, and at first he questioned what God was doing. But God said to Ananias, "he [Saul] is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name..." (Acts 9:15).

Every individual who is ever saved from his sins is a chosen vessel of God to bear witness for Christ. That is true of the Jehovah's Witness convert as much as it is of the Jewish convert, the Muslim convert, or the Roman Catholic convert.

But for the purposes of the question we are addressing - How should a Bible-believing Christian witness to a Jehovah's Witness? - we need to consider something else about the case of the Apostle Paul which is also true of everyone else who ever believes on the Lord Jesus Christ and is saved.

The newly regenerated Saul was not saved because he had all his questions answered. He was not brought to spiritual life because he had all of his objections dealt with. He was not born from above because he as yet understood all of the great truths that he would communicate to the church under Divine inspiration in his epistles. He was saved because he bowed the knee to Christ.

Did this new convert as yet understand the great truth of justification by faith alone that he sets before us in Romans? Did he as yet fully understand the great truth of the threefold work of the persons of the Trinity to bring about the salvation of sinners, as the Apostle Paul later gives it to us under Divine inspiration in Ephesians chapter one?

Did he as yet understand that the law of the Old Testament ordinances had been entirely done away with because Jesus Christ had come? Did he as yet understand the great truth that he proclaims in Ephesians chapter two, that God had made one body in Christ out of both Jew and Gentile, and had broken down the wall of separation between them?

Of course not. Saul the new convert did not as yet fully grasp all of these things. Over the years to come, Christ was going to personally teach him those things when He took him into Arabia for three years, and schooled him further through revelations given to Paul during his missionary journeys and imprisonments. But all that was yet to come.

How a Person Comes to Christ

It is the same for a Jehovah's Witness today as it was for the man named Saul two thousand years ago. A Jehovah's Witness who comes to saving faith in Jesus Christ by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is not going to have all his questions and objections answered on day one, or on day two, or in year one, or in year two - or even in an entire lifetime.

But because God the Holy Spirit has regenerated and now indwells that individual, according to First Corinthians chapter two that person is no longer a natural man who cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God because they are foolishness to him. He is now a spiritual man, a Spirit-indwelled man, who can begin to comprehend spiritual things.

What is the point of all this? It is that we need to present the same Gospel message of salvation by God's grace alone, through faith alone, in the atoning work of Christ alone, apart from any works of our own, to the Jehovah's Witness as to any other lost sinner.

That is what we are called to do - proclaim the Gospel message. But the work of changing the heart of the sinner is the work of God the Holy Spirit. We must ask God to do that work. We must ask Him to graciously use our humble witness in order to bring the souls of Jehovah's Witnesses to the same new birth in Christ that we have experienced.

Is that to say that we should not address the falsehoods of the Watchtower Society in our dealings with Jehovah's Witnesses? Not at all. But this is not where our emphasis needs to be. Our emphasis must be on declaring the Gospel message. Our witness must be founded upon a recognition of the fact that God the Holy Spirit must work in the heart of the individuals with whom we are dealing.

A friend of TeachingTheWord wrote to tell us his own experience, which underscored these truths:

We live on a country place outside of Memphis, Tennessee. One morning earlier this week a car pulled into our driveway. My wife was grateful that I happened to be home at the time. Two men got out, and I met them on the front porch. They were cordial, and I asked who they represented. You guessed it. They were Jehovah's Witnesses.

I don't remember all that I said, but they heard immediately that I am a believer in the Lord Jesus, the Christ - and that there is nothing more important for a true believer than the authority of God's infallible, inerrant Word and reading and studying it daily. I told them that true believers adhere to the doctrines found in faithful translations of the Scriptures - and reject the doctrines of men.

I told them that in their cult they did not recognize the same Jesus - the Jesus of the one true Gospel. They tried to tell me I had them confused with the Mormons. I explained that this was not so. I told them that Jesus, the Son of God, wore a crown of thorns so that I could wear a crown of righteousness; that there was nothing I could ever do to save myself; that salvation is entirely by the grace of God through faith, enacted by the Holy Spirit of God; that this was what happened to me. Faith came in through grace, and my thinking totally changed. I told them, "That is the Biblical doctrine of regeneration."

More was said. But what I want everyone at TeachingTheWord to know is that in very large measure, the Lord had providentially prepared me for that appointment with the help of your many resources, in particular your website's Bible Knowledgebase articles on the Jehovah's Witnesses and your continuing encouragement to Christians to systematically read and study the Scriptures. No doubt it was the Holy Spirit through the power of His Word, but I later realized that I never had any anxiety or fear in this confrontation. I was determined to share the truth. That was all that was important.

The more experienced Witness of the two tried to tell me how much credit I deserved for my "sincerity." He said they almost never run into anyone like me. I immediately told him that the point of the matter is knowing, by the grace of God, that "I deserve nothing... I could never do anything to earn my salvation... Jesus did it all."

During that night, I woke up around 2 A.M., unable to go back to sleep - that is, until I realized the restlessness was because I needed to pray for those men and their families. And so I did. Then I was able to go back to sleep.

Now it is the end of the week, and on reflection I know the Lord blessed my wife and me in these circumstances. This side of eternity we will probably never know if any of the things I said or did will make a difference - but I was privileged to honor Christ. That is more than enough.[1]

One of the most telling and convicting things we can do is to say to a Jehovah's Witness, "I am praying for you; I am praying that you will come to the light, that you will be saved" - and then we need to put those words into action on our knees before the throne of grace.

Recently a friend who is an evangelist among people in the bondage of another cult (Mormonism) told me of a man to whom he had witnessed who came to saving faith in Christ. The man told him that one day he was reading the literature of his cult, and also reading the Bible. It was, as the man put it, "like a light went on. I realized that the Bible is the truth, and I realized that the religion I had held onto for so long is a lie."

This is what we must pray for in our witness to the followers of the Watchtower Society - the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. And this is why, in all of our witnessing, Scriptural truth must be the issue. Not our opinions, not their opinions, but Scriptural truth.

It is the Word of God, Hebrews chapter 4 tells us, that "is alive and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner" - in the original language, a critic - "of the thoughts and intents of the heart." God the Holy Spirit uses the Word that He has written to "convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8).

At the Last Judgment, God's Word will be one of two things for every human being. For the saved, it will be the instrument of God's grace by which they will enter into eternal life in the New Heavens and New Earth. For the lost, it will be the instrument of God's holy Law pronouncing their condemnation to eternity in Hell because of their unbelief.

The Word of God probes, searches, and questions. It gets to the heart of the issue. It can never be robbed of its power and authority by sinful man's excuses, evasions, or efforts to change the subject. With God there is ultimately but one subject: "What will you do with My Son? Will you receive Him as Lord and Savior, or will you reject Him?"

And so, how should a Bible-believing Christian witness to a Jehovah's Witness? In the same way that we should witness to any other individual who is lost in sin and in need of cleansing by the blood of Christ: Stand on God's Word. Speak the truth. Set forth the Christ of Scripture in all of His power and glory. Rely on God the Holy Spirit. This is His promise:

So shall My Word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void [i.e., without effect], but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)



1. Reproduced by permission of the correspondent.


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