Lesson 18

Tips on Witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses

1. Background

The Watchtower Society was founded by Charles Taze Russell (1582-1916), who had left his Presbyterian background because he was unwilling to believe in the doctrine of hell. Russell then worked in Adventist circles, coming to accept the Bible’s inspiration only after an Adventist persuaded him that the Bible didn’t really teach eternal punishment. Russell began publishing Zion’s Watchtower in 1874, teaching that the Kingdom of God would commence with the culmination of Christ’s return (which had begun in 1874) and Armageddon in 1914. After that event failed to happen, the Society changed in doctrine to teach that Christ’s return began—not ended—in 1914. The Society subsequently taught that the resurrection would take place in 1925, but dropped this teaching in 1926.

2. Scripture

The New World Translation (NWT) of the Bible is the only legitimate translation in their view. It was translated by the Society, and is filled with mistranslations, with words often added to change the meaning of the original Greek or Hebrew text.

3. What they Believe—The Major Issue

There are several beliefs that separate Jehovah’s Witnesses from Christianity. Jehovah’s Witnesses are forbidden from speaking to “opposers”—those who disagree with them and don’t appear ready to convert. If you don’t want to scare them off, try asking questions that will enable them to do most of the talking, yet get them thinking. Witnesses often don’t know the Bible very well—only the Watchtower publications and their proof texts. Encourage them to read the Bible on its own authority. Also agree with them about the moral filth of our culture, and the need for righteousness and obedience to God’s Word. This is our “common ground” and a good starting point. Then move to the weightier issues. Here’s the biggest falsehood the Society teaches...

The Big Issue Question: Do you agree this is the big issue? If you have the right Jesus, you’re right for eternity, but if you have the wrong Jesus, you’re wrong for eternity.

The Immanuel Question: Isn’t Jesus Immanuel (Matthew 1:23)? Doesn’t this mean “God with us”?

The Thomas Question: Didn’t Thomas call Jesus “My Lord and my God” in John 20:28? [Explain that the phrase “O my God!” didn’t exist in the first century. If they try to say that “My Lord” is addressing Jesus and “My God” is addressing the Father, ask if they would read the passage out loud again, and ask if that’s what it really says.]

The Lord Question: Isn’t Jesus called “Lord” (kurios or kyrios in Greek), which was the Greek translation of “Jehovah” in the Old Testament?

The Isaiah Question: Isaiah wrote of Jehovah in Isaiah 6:1-6, but John 12:31-41 says that it was Jesus’ glory Isaiah spoke of. How can these fit together if Jesus wasn’t Jehovah?

The Worship Question: Could we read Hebrews 1:6? Didn’t Jesus receive worship from angels? And didn’t he receive worship from his disciples in Matthew 14:33? I thought that angels were forbidden from receiving worship, like the angel John tried to worship in Revelation 19:10. I thought Exodus 34:14 says only Jehovah may be worshipped.

The First & Last Question: Isaiah 44:6 says Jehovah is the first and the last, but Revelation 22:13 says Jesus is the first and the last. How can we have two firsts and two lasts? Also, doesn’t the Bible say Jesus does works that only God can do? [See Lesson 8.]

The John 1:1 Question: [My favorite if you know a little Greek...] You say that John 1:1 actually says that Jesus was a god? I thought it said en arch hn o logos kai o logos hn pros ton  qeon kai qeos hn o logos. I didn't think a definite predicate nominative preceding a verb would have a definite article within Greek grammar. Doesn’t the New World Translation itself acknowledge this in its translation of verses 6, 12 and 13 in the same passage, where qeos is translated “God” even without the definite article?

The Multiple Gods Question: You say Jesus is “a god” but not “God”. How many real gods are there in the Bible? Could we read Isaiah 43:10? Doesn’t this say there is no other God before of after Jehovah? What do you think of Deuteronomy 32:39, where Jehovah says, “There is no god besides me”? If you say that Jesus is “a god,” aren’t you putting a contradiction in the Bible?

Then Reason-They-Killed-Him Question: But I thought the main reason the Pharisees tried to kill Jesus was because he claimed to be equal to God? Have you read John 5:18?

Witnessing Tip: Witnesses will bring up Colossians 1:15-17, where Jesus is the firstborn over creation. They will say that this means first-created. It does not. There is a separate Greek word for first-created. In the ancient world, the firstborn son was the one who inherited everything the father owned, sharing equally in his authority and honor. It speaks of rank, not of origin. The NWT adds the word “other” four times in this passage—you need to warn them, as Revelation 22:18 does, that adding words to the Bible brings judgment. If they bring up Revelation 3:14, where Jesus is the “arch of God’s creation,” there are 4 possible meanings: source, origin, beginning or ruler. When speaking of a geographical area—like creation—ruler is the correct choice. The passage is not saying that Jesus was the first-created.

4. Other issues of central importance

The Watchtower Society not only denies Jesus’ deity and the Trinity—both essential Christian doctrines—but also has other major errors, heresies serious enough to prevent their salvation. Among them...

Witnessing Tip: As big an issue as this is, I let it pass to focus on other issues.

The Always-With-Us Question: Would this make Jesus is a liar since he promised his followers in Matthew 28:20 that he would be with us always, to the end of the age?

The YOU Question: [In any context, just so they’ll learn to distinguish the two...] So, that’s what the Society teaches—what do YOU yourself think?

The ‘Questioning’ Question: How can one institution command unquestioning obedience? Wasn’t even an apostle like Peter rebuked for being wrong by Paul (Galatians 2:11)? Weren’t the Bereans called noble for questioning Paul and testing what he said against their own careful reading of the Bible (Acts 17:11)? Didn’t Paul command us not to accept a different gospel even if it came from an angel or from himself (Galatians 1:8)?

Witnessing Tip: Witnesses think that the opposition they face shows that they must really be right. Don’t slam doors on them. Love them—this will surprise them.

The Romans Question: Doesn’t Romans 3:20 say that no one will be declared righteous by observing the law? What do you think about Romans 3:28? Could you read it for me? I understood it to say that we are justified by faith apart from the works of the law. How do you explain Romans 4:5, where God says that to the one who does not work but trusts God, his faith is credited to him as righteousness?

The ‘Will-not-be-Condemned’ Question: But didn’t Jesus say in John 5:24, “whoever hears my word and believes the one who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life”?

The Faith & Works Question: Do you feel faith and works lead to salvation, or does faith leads to both salvation and works (faith+works = salvation or faith = salvation+works)?

The Does-God-like-You Question: So do you think God likes you? On a scale of 1 to 10, how certain are you that you will go to heaven? If you were to stand before God and he were to ask “Why should I let you into my heaven?” how would you answer? [Talk about the personal relationship you have with God through Jesus.]

The Smoke Question: I read in Revelation 14:9-11 that the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. How do you think the smoke keeps rising if they aren’t there anymore?

The Eternal Punishment Question: Doesn’t Jesus say in Matthew 25:46 that their punishment is eternal, just like his followers’ life is eternal?

The God’s Justice Question: If God is infinitely righteous and we aren’t, don’t you think he would be just to punish sinners forever?

5. Issues of Secondary Importance

Witnessing Tip: Many Witnesses are weary and discouraged. Stress Jesus’ light burden, his free grace, and the encouragement and support you have from fellow Christians who love you, do not judge you, and carry you when you cannot walk. Stress that the real Jesus is faithful to his people, and will never reject them.