Engaging the Jehovah’s Witnesses
Whenever I study the Bible, I tend to think through apologies for the modern-day Arian heretics, who seemingly saunter everywhere. You may know them as “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” In my missionary travels throughout the world, I have always found them present. Jehovah’s Witnesses are followers of Charles Taze Russell, a nineteenth century American promoter of Arius’ teachings.
Arius was a priest in Egypt during the early fourth century A.D. As a splendiferous minister of error, Arius promoted a human-only Jesus. The biblical doctrine of the deity of Christ was denied by him, and this, of course, ruined his belief in the doctrine of the Trinity, too. Arius’ heresy forced the church to come together to formulate the Nicene Creed (A.D. 325), which has been a blessing to every generation of Christians ever since.
When I approach the local Jehovah’s Witnesses, it does not comply with their script. My strategic approach is a bit Socratic, but not entirely. By asking questions, I can pose as an inquirer, a seeker of the knowledge of “the greatest man who ever lived” (the title of one of their colorful books).
As a rule, when one perverts the core doctrines of the Christian faith, more heresies will attach themselves to one’s ignoble cause. Thus, hell is diluted in their teaching, and a peculiar abhorrence for special days (ie. Christmas, Resurrection Sunday, etc.) sets them apart. This separation is desirable in their view, which is why they saunter through town in fine clothing. This helps me identify them, so as a witness of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8), I can approach and witness to them.
My rationale is that if they are out promoting heresy, then they should be ready recipients of religious engagement. In other words, they are prime recipients for my preaching Gospel truth. I must confess I do not have a successful track record of on-the-spot conversions, but through the years, I have thought my way through some arguments that have truly encouraged my faith in our Triune God, in Christ Jesus, and in the Bible. These arguments, in the form of question to ask, I now share with you.
First, who is God? Jehovah’s Witnesses will tell you, “Jehovah is God.” He alone is God, and Jesus is a created human being, who then created everything else before coming into the world, to live the exemplary life for everyone to follow ( I have found them to be universalists at heart because they deny the doctrine of hell).
In their view, Jesus is a sort of superman, but definitely not God. Christians have been given the right to call God, “Father” (Jn 1:12; Rom 8:15). Jehovah is a name constructed from the Hebrew consonants YHWH. Yahweh is the familiar evangelical alternative. The meaning of the name is “I am.” It is the Hebrew verb, “to be.” It is a very provocative name, as in, “God is,” or “God is________________.”
God’s name is not to be taken in vain (Dt 5:11–3rd commandment), and so many Bible translations hide the name of God in the Old Testament by using “LORD” in all upper-case letters. It is stunning to read the Old Testament in Hebrew because of the remarkable number of times the name of God is found in the text. Christians do not deny that Jehovah is God, but we must go further, and hopefully some of the Jehovah’s Witnesses will travel with us.
Second, who is Lord? Jehovah’s Witnesses will tell you, “it is Jehovah.” This is where things get interesting. Christians are taught by the apostle Paul that “Jesus Christ is Lord,” representing the authentic confession for a Holy Spirit-filled Christian (Phil 2:11). Paul also teaches that the Holy Spirit is the Lord (2 Cor 3:17). So how can there be three people in the Bible with the exalted title, “Lord”?
The Jehovah’s Witnesses have to deny the Trinity because they deny the deity of Christ. This also shows us they must deny the deity of the Holy Spirit, too. According to the JWs, the Holy Spirit who is called “He” in the Bible becomes a simple force, but definitely not a person, let alone a person in the Triune Godhead. Yet, this title proves to be a problem for those who deny that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are God because we have three “Lords” on the pages of Scripture, but there is only one person, as Lord, in the opinion of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Should we believe them or believe the Word of God?
Third, who is the Savior? This question is a problem, so usually they take the popular tack of, “Jesus is savior.” Whether this is the answer, or whether they claim, “Jehovah is savior,” I direct them to Paul’s epistle to Titus (1:4), where it reads, “To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.” This is to encourage them. Then, with surprise in my voice, I say, “Oops, wait a minute, look at verse 3 of chapter 1.” This is where Paul confesses his stewardship of the Gospel, “which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior.”
“God our Savior” and “Christ Jesus our Savior” is a problem for them. How can they both be Savior? Barring a notoriously convoluted reply, I close the Savior argument with an even more exacting statement from Paul who was, “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus (Tit 2:13).” Jehovah is clearly identified six times in the Old Testament as Savior. Jesus Christ and God are identified thirteen times in the New Testament as the Savior.
Fourth, who is King? By this time, they are shunting me to the theological sideline, and insist they must move on. I encourage them to take a greater interest in God, especially God’s Word. Guilt keeps some of them listening. Here we make the case for Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, being “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev 17:14; 19:16).
This same phrase is used by Paul in writing to Timothy about what God desires for Christians, until the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ, “15 which He will bring about at the proper time — He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen (1 Tim 6:15–16).”
Who is “He” in this text? Is the antecedent Jehovah God, or is it Jesus Christ? Well, who is Sovereign? Who has eternal dominion? If they say, “Jehovah,” they are right, but we have already established Jesus with the title King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev 17:14; 19:16).
In addition, it is Messiah (Dan 9:24–26), according to the prophet Daniel that has an eternal kingdom given to Him by the Ancient of Days (Dan 7:13–14), who “is the living God and enduring forever, and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed, and His dominion will be forever (Dan 7:26b).” Jehovah God and Messiah, who is the Son of Man, both have sovereignty and dominion and a kingdom. If we make the connection between God and Christ, between Yahweh and Jesus, all of this is glorious. Which reminds me…
Fifth, to whom belongs all of the glory? The God of glory (Ps 29:3) has made the heavens tell of the glory of God (Ps 19:1). They will tell you, “Jehovah deserves the glory.” Does Jehovah share His glory with another? Isaiah received a word from Jehovah regarding this most important question, “I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images (Is 42:8).” Jehovah does not give glory to another, but when Jesus prayed His high priestly prayer in John 17, He said, “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was (17:5).”
If God does not share His glory with another (Is 42:8), and yet, Jesus requests of Jehovah to be glorified, and claims He shares in Jehovah’s pre-Creation glory (Jn 17:5), then Jesus must be God. That is, unless the greatest man in the world is a liar, and then he would not be so great.
In summary, we have looked at a number of titles ascribed to Jesus Christ. We have learned that Jesus is Lord; Jesus is King; Jesus is Savior; and Jesus gets glory…glory which can only be given to God, who is Jehovah, the Lord, the King of heaven, and Savior. The fact that Jesus and Jehovah share this many coincidental identities is no coincidence, for those who know the truth about Jesus Christ. The reason Jesus Messiah is Lord, and King, and Savior, and gets glory is because He is God, to the glory of His Father.
David E. Norczyk
Spokane Valley, Washington
February 1, 2021