Every now and then I write these huge answers to a comment, then I think, why not post this thing? So here’s my attempt at an answer to a great question about the Jehovah Witnesses. (when they come to your door, tell them the crazypastor said hi!)
It is hard sometimes to know where to begin with the Jehovah Witness Church. They have many beliefs about a great many things that come from their own church tradition and their official interpretations. And you know, as soon as I say that, immediately someone from a Jehovah Witness Church might object and say that it isn’t their interpretation, but it is THE interpretation. It’s the rest of us who are wrong!
That’s my point.
Generally the Jehovah Witnesses Church considers itself right and everyone else wrong. They aren’t the only Church like that mind you. Nevertheless, differences of opinion are not allowed. They have even produced their own Bible translation, with the wording changed in many keys places to agree with their own doctrine. They of course claim this version is the most accurate translation even though Greek and Hebrew scholars wouldn’t agree.
In John 1 for instance, John makes a clear statement indicating that Jesus shared in the essence of God.
The American Standard Version of 1901 (usually considered the most accurate to the original languages) translates it this way: John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (Word = Jesus)
The Jehovah Witness Church’s version of the Bible reads this way:
“In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.”
(Notice Jesus was just a god in this one, not part of THE God. That’s because the Jehovah Witness Church doesn’t believe in the traditional Christian teaching of the Trinity. More on this later…)
The ASV also translates the following verses:
John 1:3 All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made.
John 1:4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
(In Jesus was life, Jesus is the source of all life)
Whereas the Jehovah Witness Church’s version:
3 All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence. What has come into existence
4 by means of him was life, and the life was the light of men.
(by means of him was life, Jesus was just the conduit really)
No other version translates the verses this way. According to the Jehovah Witness Church, all those versions are wrong and they are the only ones who are right. (so for the rest of this article, I’ll just use their Bible since supposedly it’s accurate)
Because of the multitude and inflexibility of these disgreements, it’s tough sometimes to keep from launching into one argument after another when talking with the Jehovah Witnesses. They don’t want me to just put my faith in Jesus. They want me to believe everything the way they believe it. They want me to quit using any other Bible translation but the one they have. They won’t have anything to do with any other church because they don’t agree with them on a million different things. But again, they aren’t the only group of “Christians” like that.
It’s nevertheless important to ask what they believe about the basic doctrines or ideas of the Bible. What do they believe about the things that really matter?
For one thing, they are similar to the Mormons in believing that Jesus and the Father are separate entities completely. According to their website, they believe Jesus was created by the Father before the creation of the universe, and that Jesus then created everything else (or it was created through him).
They believe that Jehovah is God’s true name and anyone who doesn’t recognize this is not part of the true Church. Crazy thing is, Jehovah was actually something that resulted from scholars writing the vowels from “Adonai” -which means Lord, into the word YHWH -which is the name for God as it appears in the original Hebrew Old Testament. The Jews considered the name of God too sacred to say out loud so they would substitute by saying Adonai. Scholars used the vowel points from Adonai to fill in YHWH and ended up with YaHoWaH, which became… you guessed it…. Jehovah.
Jehovah for the Jews, isn’t really even a word or a name at all.
There are a great deal more things to argue over, the 144,000, what happens in the Millennial reign, Christmas trees, serving in the military, etc…
The focus on these arguments is a symptom of the real problem, and it’s much the same as that of the Mormon Church, and the official stances of the Catholic Church, and any other legalistic church groups: The real problem is the idea that we can only be saved if we join a particular church, agree with everything, and straighten up our life and do all the right things.
It makes a person wonder…
Was Jesus lying to the thief on the cross? The thief didn’t do anything except ask Jesus for mercy by faith.
My goodness, if God can’t save us unless we have everything figured out, he’s a pretty unfair God in my opinion. Here’s what the Jehovah Witness Church’s official website says I must do:
1. To become a friend of God, you must obtain a good knowledge of Bible truth (1 Timothy 2:3, 4), put faith in the things you have learned (Hebrews 11:6), repent of your sins (Acts 17:30, 31), and turn around in your course of life. (Acts 3:19) Then your love for God should move you to dedicate yourself to him. This means that in a personal, private prayer you tell him that you are giving yourself to him to do his will.
By the way, no one in the Bible (see the book of Acts) who ever became a Christian, EVER used a personal, private prayer or had all those steps above. They simply put their faith in Christ and got baptized in Jesus name.
2. After you have made your dedication to God, you should be baptized. (Matthew 28:19, 20) Baptism lets everyone know that you have dedicated yourself to Jehovah. So baptism is only for those who are old enough to make a decision to serve God. When a person is baptized, his whole body should be put under the water momentarily.*—Mark 1:9, 10; Acts 8:36.
Historically, baptism was an outward representation of leaving your old life behind and starting a new one. Baptism in the Christian world is an outward expression that I am leaving behind my old life and becoming a follower of Jesus. The Bible says my old life has been united with Christ in His death, (thus it’s gone, done, finished) and I live a new life which is united with Jesus in his resurrection (thus it’s a new life, raised from the dead so to speak). That stuff is in Romans 6 and II Corinthians 5.
3. After you have made a dedication, Jehovah will expect you to live up to your promise. (Psalm 50:14; Ecclesiastes 5:4, 5) The Devil will try to stop you from serving Jehovah. (1 Peter 5:8) But draw close to God in prayer. (Philippians 4:6, 7) Study his Word each day. (Psalm 1:1-3) Stick close to the congregation. (Hebrews 13:17) By doing all of this, you will gain the strength to stay faithful to God. For all eternity you thus can do the things that God requires of you!
So my salvation, according to the website, depends mostly on me. Jesus was my “ransom,” but I must learn it, believe it, turn my life around, say a prayer to dedicate my life to God, be baptized to show everyone else I’ve made such a dedication, keep my promise to God by serving Him -like the door to door witnessing for example-, continue to pray, study the Bible more, “stick close to the congregation” whatever that means, and by doing all of this… I’ll get strength to stay even more faithful.
That’s quite a list of things to do. Does the Bible agree? No.
According to Jesus from their own version of the Bible, the work of God is to exercise faith in Him. Jesus didn’t launch into a long list of how to be saved. When asked about salvation, Paul didn’t launch into a long list either, He told the Philippian jailer to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” They did, and he and his whole family were baptized. Peter didn’t launch into a long list when asked about salvation by thousands of people who had just come to realization of who Christ was. Peter told them to repent, (which means to change your mind and direction) and be baptized. No one ever mentioned sticking to the congregation, or turning your life around first, etc…
The Bible always comes back to believing in Jesus and hitching your wagon (so to speak) to Him. Maybe that’s why the Jehovah Witnesses Bible includes what Jesus said in John 6, when Jesus was asked what is required of us by God. Jesus said it was to believe in the One He has sent. Their Bible, of course, removes Jesus from the equation, and reads “to exercise faith in Him.”
Still, that ain’t nearly as long a list is it?
Galatians 2:20-21 (their version) “It is no longer I that live, but it is Christ that is living in union with me. Indeed, the life that I now live in flesh I live by the faith that is toward the Son of God, who loved me and handed himself over for me. 21 I do not shove aside the undeserved kindness of God; for if righteousness is through law, Christ actually died for nothing.”
Catch that? IF RIGHTEOUSNESS IS THROUGH LAW, CHRIST DIED FOR NOTHING.
I’m not going to be made righteous by obeying the rules and regulations set forth by the Jehovah Witnesses Church or any other church. I’m not going to be righteous because I’m REALLY dedicating myself to being good. I’m not going to be righteous just because I want to, or I attend the correct church and agree with them on everything. I am made righteous by my faith in Jesus Christ who died for my sins, and the surrender of my life to him. That’s the only thing that works.
So the emphasis of “living up to your commitment” in my opinion will lead to frustration and/or pride because that is based on me and my stength instead of God and his strength through Christ.
All that to say this. The Jehovah Witness Church has a great many opinions about a great many things. They make a lot of statements, and when Jesus comes up, they are usually trying to argue that Jesus and God the Father are separate beings, and the Father created Jesus etc…
I’m not sure which, or if, any of those teachings might cause someone to miss out on salvation from God’s wrath. The Main Things are still the Main Things: One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.
We worship Jesus as Lord, the Creator of the Universe, the Son of God who died as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and rose again as our hope of eternal life. We put our faith in him not simply believing he’s real, but also that our lives are in his hands from now on. We live a new life with the help and strength of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. To this end, we were baptized in Jesus name, an outward act of leaving our old self behind and beginning a new life with Jesus Christ who lives in us through the Holy Spirit.
As their version of the Bible says about Jesus:
9 For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every [other] name, 10 so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, 11 and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. -Philippians 2:9-11
There’s your main thing right there. Jesus. Called Him Lord, just as the Jews would call the Father Lord, not Jehovah, which wasn’t even a word at the time. Still isn’t if you’re a Jew.
Perhaps this separates us more than anything, because Christianity has always exalted Christ higher than the Jehovah’s Witnesses tend to do. They would disagree, but the early church doctrines and creeds, including the entire Gospel of John, specifically went out of their way to include Jesus as part of God. These days we call it, The Trinity. The idea that Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are three distinct persons, but together make up one God. The word itself is not in the Bible, but the idea -the concept is, and it’s just easier to call it something than to try and explain it every time.
In other words, don’t get hung up on the word “Trinity” not being in the Bible. The concept is. The words “personal relationship with God” and “family of God” are not in the Bible either. They are just names we give ideas from the Bible because it is convenient to do so.
So when the Bible says God is one… Ephesians 4:6, Deut. 6:4,
and Jesus says he and the Father are one… John 17:21
and Jesus is worshiped as God,… as mentioned above
and takes the name of God ….in John 8
Is called God… John 1
and is the Creator as even the Jehovah Witness Church believes,
and all the places in the New Testament where Jesus is recognized as having the attributes of God. …such as Hebrews 1:3 but many more
Well you can see the idea anyway that God includes Jesus. The Bible says God is one, but here is Jesus telling Philip in John 14ish… that “if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”
Having said all of this, if someone wants to explain it differently and/or use a different word, I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that they would go to hell for it. The thing that determines whether or not a person will be saved from God’s judgment is the decision they have made to accept or reject Jesus as their Lord and their Savior.
Which is the real problem with the Jehovah’s Witnesses doctrine. They emphasize works, and doing things as somehow earning salvation. The Bible actually condemns this.
You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. -Galatians 5:4
Salvation is not based on who has figured the most things out. Salvation is based on the grace of God, through our faith in Jesus. In a general sense, nothing we can do, can ever earn us enough points to be saved, instead, we need to be right with God by accepting Christ. Jesus is the line in the sand generally speaking. As the Bible says, “salvation is found in no one else.”