When people come knocking… Part 1 – Jehovah Witnesses

Talking to people about the good news of Jesus Christ is a vital (and it can be a joyful) part of Christian living. Not every Christian gets the same opportunities to do this. Some places have a cultural reluctance to talk about Christian teaching. In many areas of our lives we meet people who have a determined hardness against discussing the gospel. But occasionally, we meet people who are at least interested in talking about the Christian Bible and about Jesus Christ. Some even come to our front door to do so. I’m talking about Jehovah Witnesses and Mormon Elders. I’d like to encourage Christians, people who know the Lord Jesus Christ and love him in sincerity, to talk with these people. They have a zeal for God, but they don’t know Him. I’ve a few suggestions of things to talk about when they come knocking. This post will focus upon things to mention when talking to Jehovah Witnesses. There are so many ways in which JW people deviate from the Bible’s teaching. It is often hard to find a helpful topic upon which to speak. I usually concentrate on three areas:

  1. The absolute sovereignty of God in saving otherwise un-savable people.
  2. The divinity and humanity of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
  3. The need for new birth if anyone is to be part of the Kingdom of God.

The first and second points tend to go together in my conversations with JWs. They have to do with our utter sinfulness and rebellion, and God’s extraordinary mercy, love and power. We are God’s creatures, but we disobey him daily. Even our best efforts fall short of righteousness and deserve death. More than this, because of Adam’s role as our representative before God, his failure is ours. In Adam we broke the agreement that God made with us. We have forfeited life and are bound over to death, everlasting death. We cannot do anything to save ourselves. But God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit made a second agreement between themselves. The Son of God would come as the second Adam to represent his people (Genesis 3:15). Jehovah-Jesus, as the Good Shepherd (compare Ezekiel 34 and John 10), would come and put right all that we had done wrong. Jehovah-Jesus would take to himself a human nature to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Jehovah-Jesus is Saviour; beside him there is no other saviour (Isaiah 43:11 and Acts 4:12). Our right standing with God depends completely on who Jesus is and what he has done for us. He alone is our righteousness. The third point is a gift from God to sinners. We cannot bring ourselves to new birth. It is the Holy Spirit’s work in applying the salvation, that Jesus won, to individual sinners. He brings us to new understandings and attitudes. He makes us a new creation in Christ Jesus. Our Lord Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again or he would not be able to enter, or even see (perceive/understand) the Kingdom of God. This is important, because the people from the Watch Tower organisation who come to your door will tell you that they are not born again. Yet, the place where they meet is called a Kingdom Hall. They say that they are in the kingdom (as long as they remain faithful and survive the final battle), but they say they are not born again. Only 144000 special Christians are re-born; the others are not. These others deny that they need to be born again. Against such thoughts, Jesus says that it is essential that people be born again, or they will never enter nor understand the kingdom of God. Note that before he was born again, Nicodemus did not understand or see the necessity of the new birth. Our JW friends are in the same condition as he was. They too need what Nicodemus received by God’s grace. They, along with anyone else who is saved, must be born again.

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Some… will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God

Luke 9: 27

‘ I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God (coming in power).’

 This verse is much debated. Some think that ‘the kingdom of God’ is a reference to the transfiguration of Jesus, which Peter James and John were to witness. Others understand it as foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Again, some say it refers to the second coming of Christ. But, along with some other commentators, I believe Jesus is referring here to regeneration.  In other words, he is saying that some of the people there would become Christians.

 I think this is the best explanation because of what came before this statement.

 Jesus had asked his disciples who they thought he was. Peter’s answer, ‘The Christ of God’, was the trigger for Jesus explaining what his mission was – that the ‘Christ must suffer many things, be rejected by the elders and high priests and scribes, and be killed, then rise on the third day.’

 All this talk of Jesus dying was too much for Peter. He thought to snap Jesus out of this morbid state of mind by a few strong words. By this reaction, Peter showed that he was not yet thinking about his relationship with Jesus in the right way. Peter thought that he was fine as he was. There was no need for Jesus to die in Peter’s opinion. Besides, it seems that the disciples at that time were looking for some kind of nationalistic salvation, and thought that Jesus would be a king like David who would deal with the Roman oppressors. This thinking had to change.

 Our Lord Jesus knew far better than Peter what was needed for Peter, and any one else, to be reconciled to God. Sin had to be dealt with. Later, in a garden, Jesus prayed that a cup might pass from him. It was the cup of God’s anger and judgment against sin. But Jesus knew that he must take that  cup in the place of his sinful people, if they were ever to be saved from the condemnation due to their sin.

 Jesus knew that his death and resurrection were necessary so that the Holy Spirit could apply the benefits of His finished work to people like Peter. Peter needed to be born again, to use the language of John chapter 3 and I Peter chapter 1, or he would never understand or enter the kingdom of God. Our Lord implied as much in his address to the crowd (Luke 9: 23 – 26).

 Jesus started his talk with the word ‘if’.

 ‘If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.’

 He was talking to a mixed crowd of people, and his message is one of repentance. His words declare that their lives are wrong, and they need to admit it to themselves. This sort of confession, if it is to be real and permanent, has to be the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. It is a turning from death to life. If left to ourselves, we would continue to have an all-too-good opinion of ourselves. Such a change as Jesus describes is effected only by regeneration or the new birth.

 At the new birth, a person abandons their old Christ-less way of life. They then realise that, if they were to reject Christ, they would lose everything on the day of judgment and receive a well-deserved condemnation. They see that in losing their old way of life they gain instead eternal life in Jesus. Their former attitude to Jesus Christ  and his words is fundamentally changed. They begin to see him as the one who has the words of eternal life. They will follow him.

 Jesus implies that this change is for sinners; for people who in the past had been ashamed of Jesus’ words, as Peter had been. Jesus told the crowd that some of them would see the kingdom of God before they died. Some, like Peter, would be born again. They would take up the cross (the gospel) and follow Jesus.