Answering Common Arguments Concerning Christ
The late Dr. Walter Martin once said that the average Jehovah’s Witness can make a “doctrinal pretzel” out of the average Christian in about 30 seconds. Sadly, this is true. Most Christians are content believing what their pastor teaches them on Sunday and never dig in to find out why they believe what they do. Thus, when a Jehovah’s Witness comes knocking on their door on a Saturday morning, the average Christian doesn’t know how to handle their arguments.
Although I believe that focusing your witnessing encounter on undermining the authority of the Watchtower Society is the most effective method of evangelizing Jehovah‘s Witnesses, (see What’s The Problem, Anyway?), there comes a time when you need to deal with doctrinal issues concerning the Christian faith. Even many people who are well acquainted with what the Bible teaches can become confused and flustered when dealing with Jehovah’s Witnesses. I believe the reason is twofold. First, the Witness you are encountering is very well trained and rehearsed in dealing with standard Christian theology. And by right he should be. The average Jehovah’s Witness attends five hours of meetings and training per week at the Kingdom Hall. He may also spend additional time during the week at various “book studies” held in a member’s house. And if that isn’t enough, he also manages to find time preparing for his next meeting by reading The Watchtower and Awake! magazines. Secondly, the unique way that Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught to interpret and use Scripture catch many Christian’s off guard.
The purpose of this article is to reveal and answer a few of the more common arguments that Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught to use to validate their beliefs about Jesus. This list is not anywhere near conclusive. A good Jehovah’s Witness may have many more “proof texts” in his arsenal. However, the following information should help you to think through and answer some of their more popular arguments.
Finally, don’t be a parrot and just memorize responses. Many Jehovah’s Witnesses do just that. If you get them away from their rehearsed arguments, they’re like a fish out of water. I encourage you to study the Word of God so that you can think through and give an educated response to Biblical challenges. Also, if you don’t know an answer its okay to say, “I don’t know. Let me look into that and get back to you”. This will give you another opportunity to witness to your lost visitors. And remember, the goal of any witnessing encounter is not to win a battle of scripture tossing. What good is it if you win the battle but the person leaves just as lost as when he arrived? The goal is to get the Jehovah’s Witness to THINK. 1 Corinthians says, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”. By showing Christian love and concern for your Jehovah’s Witness friend, you will be planting seeds that God can germinate into everlasting life.
Don’t forget, pray for them!
Watchtower Argument #1: Jesus is a Created Being
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”
The Watchtower teaches that the word “firstborn” in the above verse means that there was a point in time when Jesus was born or came into existence.
Response: Although the word “firstborn” can mean one literally born first in time, it actually carries a much more important meaning. Firstborn can also mean “preeminent one” or “first in rank”. In the Jewish culture, the firstborn son had special rights and privileges as the heir or the one who received a double portion of the father’s estate. By reading the surrounding verses in Colossians chapter 1, we can see what the author intended firstborn to mean. While Paul magnifies the Lord Jesus as the Creator and Sustainer of all things, in verse 18 he says, “that in all things He may have the preeminence”.
Point out to your Jehovah’s Witness friend the difference between the words “firstborn” and “first-created”. The New Testament uses the word firstborn approximately 7 times in reference to Christ, but not once does it refer to Christ as first-created. In fact, they are two entirely different words in the original Greek language.
Two ways you can illustrate the meaning of the word firstborn are:
1. Compare Genesis 41:51-52 with Jeremiah 31:9. Notice the change. Although Manasseh is the first one born to Joseph, Ephraim becomes the firstborn, or preeminent one.
2. In Psalm 89:27 David is called the firstborn, even though he was the last one born to his father, Jesse.
“These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God.”
The Watchtower teaches that the word “beginning” means that Jesus must have had a literal beginning to his existence.
Response: The Greek word for beginning is arche. This word carries several meanings. One meaning is “source” or “active cause”. We get our English word architect from arche. Ask the Witness to read Revelation 21:6 from their own bible. The same word, beginning (arche), is used in reference to Jehovah. Ask the Witness if he thinks that since Jesus had a beginning, Jehovah did also? One would have to conclude just that to be consistent with John’s usage of the word.
Another meaning that arche carries is “ruler” or “chief”. The NIV bible translates this word as Ruler in Revelation 3:14. We get our English word Archbishop from arche. I like this translation best. As a matter of fact, The New World Translation (the Jehovah’s Witnesses bible) translates arche as “Ruler” in Revelation 1:5. It also translates it as “government” in Luke 20:20 and Ephesians 1:21.
The Jehovah’s Witness you are encountering may take several portions of Proverbs 8 to prove that Jesus was created by Jehovah.
Their translation says in verse 22 that, “Jehovah himself produced me as the beginning of his way....”. In verses 24 and 25 it says that, “I was brought forth....”. They say that since the person being referred to here is Jesus, he must have been created.
Response: Point out to your Jehovah’s Witness friend that the first 9 chapters of Proverbs speak about wisdom personified. Ask them that if wisdom being referred to here in Proverbs 8 is Christ, who then is prudence in verse 12, that Jesus lives with? Also, point out to them that wisdom is referred to as “her” throughout Proverbs, not “he”. Note: The New World Translation refers to wisdom incorrectly as “it”. However, you can challenge them to do some research in this area.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
The Watchtower teaches that Jesus is Jehovah’s “only begotten Son”. They say that since Christ was begotten, He must have been created.
Response: The Watchtower is correct in saying that Jesus is the only begotten of the Father. However, this does not mean that there was a point in time when Christ came into existence. Lets look at it.
Notice that the above text does not refer to Jesus as the “begotten” Son, but as the “only begotten” Son. The Greek word for only-begotten is monogenes which means unique or one of a kind. The NIV bible correctly translates the meaning of this word by saying, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son....”.
We can further understand this by looking at Hebrews 11:17 where Isaac is referred to as Abraham’s only begotten son. Since we know that Isaac was not the only son born to Abraham (Ishmael was born first), the term only begotten here can not mean that Isaac was literally the only son born to Abraham. It does mean however, that Isaac was the unique son of Abraham’s. The only son by whom God’s covenant would be fulfilled. By applying this same reasoning to John 3:16, it becomes clear that John is trying to convey the idea that Jesus is the only one of His kind, the unique Son by whom all the earth would be blessed.
Another argument that the Jehovah’s Witnesses will bring up is that Jesus is not called God, but the Son of God. Although Jesus is called God throughout the Scriptures (John 1:1; 8:58, Titus 2:13, 2 Peter 1:1), lets focus on the word, Son, right now.
Even though the word, son, can mean offspring, it meant much more to the ancient Jewish culture. To the Jews, the term son of also meant “sameness of nature” and “equality of being”. This is why the Pharisees became so upset when Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of God. They were accurately concluding that He was claiming to be on a level equal with God. This was considered blasphemy according to the Mosaic law (see Leviticus 24:16). Lets go to the bible to see if we can support this. Check out the following 3 Scriptures:
John 5:18 “Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.”
John 19:7 “....We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.”
Mark 14:61-64 “....Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, ‘I am....’ Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘What further need do we have of witness? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?’ And they all condemned Him to be worthy of death.”
Caution! The Deity of Christ is perhaps the most difficult doctrine for the Jehovah’s Witness to understand. They are taught that this teaching originated with Satan himself and therefore, are very well trained to “disprove” it. Even after a Jehovah’s Witness leaves the Watchtower Society, it can be quite some time, perhaps years, before he comes to terms with the fact that Jesus is God. Therefore, I don’t recommend getting into a doctrinal dispute about this topic too soon. It’s best not to start in this area. See article, What’s the Problem, Anyway?
Watchtower Argument #2: Jesus is Inferior to the Father
“I am going to the Father, for my Father is greater than I.”
The Watchtower teaches that since the Father is greater than Jesus is, Jesus must be inferior to His Father.
Response: This verse, among many others used by Jehovah’s Witnesses, can be explained easily when one has a proper understanding of the relationship between Jesus and the Father. Most Jehovah’s Witnesses think that Christians believe that Jesus and the Father are the same person. For instance, they will ask you questions such as, “If Jesus is God, did He pray to Himself?” Or, “If Jesus is God, who ran the universe when He died?“
Jesus and the Father are not the same person. This is a heresy known as Modalism or Sabellianism. Christianity teaches that Jesus and the Father are two separate persons, equal in nature but different in function. The Father has a greater position than that of the Son; however, they both share the same nature as God. Notice that Jesus did not say that my Father is better than I. This is important and can be illustrated by the following. The president of the United States can say that he is greater than us in the sense that he has a higher position and rank. However, he cannot say that he is better than us because we both share the same nature as human beings. Remember, greater speaks of position, better speaks of nature.
One day two Jehovah’s Witness ladies came over to my house. They kept trying to prove that Jesus couldn’t be Jehovah. They were firing scriptures at me proving that Jesus was functionally subordinate to the Father. I kept repeating my belief that as a Christian, I had no problem reconciling that even though Jesus was obedient to His Father and came to do His will and not His own, they both shared the same nature as God. After about 30 minutes the younger of the two looked at me and said, “Oooh, you’re saying that you believe that Jesus is equal to the Father but willingly submits to Him. I never heard the Trinity explained that way”. Praise the Lord for modern day revelations!
A good defense regarding the above verse is found in John 14:12. Jesus says that His apostles will do “greater” works than His own. If a Jehovah’s Witnesses is consistent with his definition of greater from John 14:28 he would have to conclude that Jesus’ works were inferior to His followers works. This is surely a ludicrous idea.
“But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
The Watchtower teaches that since Jesus Himself didn’t even know the day and hour of His coming, He can’t be God.
Response: Although Christians believe that Jesus Christ is, by nature, God, we affirm that while Jesus was on earth, He was both fully God and fully man. This is important. During the Incarnation the Son never gave up any of His Deity, but took on, or added the nature of humanity. Philippians 2:5-11 illustrates this beautifully. Verse 7 of this passage in the NKJV which says, “but made Himself of no reputation”, can also be translated, “emptied Himself of His privileges”. Thus, as a man, Jesus voluntarily restricted Himself of many divine attributes such as His:
· Omnipresence: Jesus could only be at one place at a time.
· Omnipotence: Jesus had physical limitations like any man.
· Omniscience: Although Jesus in His Divinity knew all things, He chose to voluntarily restrict the knowledge of the day and hour of His coming.
In other situations, however, the Bible clearly portrays Jesus as being all-knowing. Some examples are: John 2:24-25, 6:64, 13:11; Matthew 9:4, 12:25.
If you understand the dual nature of Jesus Christ and the fact that He had limitations in His flesh, you will have an easier time refuting many typical arguments that attack the Deity of Christ.
“For unto us a child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder, And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
The Watchtower teaches that although Jesus is called a Mighty God, He is never referred to as Almighty God. Thus, Jesus is inferior to His Father.
Response: There are several ways you can go on this verse. First, one can see by looking at the text that the person referred to here is in fact God with a big “G”. Even the Watchtower’s bible translates this text with a big “G”, unlike their perversion of John 1:1 and 10:33, which denigrates Jesus as “a god”. Since the Watchtower teaches that the Father and the Son are two separate Gods, (or gods), they merit the right to be called polytheists. Only a Trinitarian viewpoint can reconcile the fact that both Jesus and the Father are both called God.
Secondly, show your Witness friend that in the very next chapter of Isaiah, in verse 10:21, Jehovah Himself is called “Mighty God”. Since Jesus was just given the same title, He must be equal with Jehovah.
Thirdly, the title “Everlasting Father”, given to Jesus, literally means, “Father of eternity”. (It does not mean that Jesus is the Father.) This means that since Jesus’ relationship to time is eternal, He must be an eternal being with no beginning and no end. This is a characteristic of Jehovah God Himself. See Psalm 90:2. See also Revelation 2:8 and 22:13 concerning the eternal nature of Christ.
The above verses are just some of the more popular ones that Jehovah’s Witnesses will challenge you with. I hope this will help you to “be ready in season and out of season”, and to “contend earnestly for the faith” the next time you are asked about “the reason for the hope that is in you” (2 Timothy 4:2; Jude 3; 2 Peter 3:15). We here at Tower To Truth Ministries know how hard it is to witness to Jehovah’s Witnesses. It takes courage and a lot of the Holy Spirit to be effective. Please remember however, that at the very least you will be planting seeds in the lives of these spiritually lost people. And you don’t know if God has been working in their hearts. So the next time your doorbell rings on a Saturday morning, you might just have a ministry waiting on your doorstep. Take advantage of the unique opportunity that God is giving you.
For a more in depth study of how to witness to Jehovah’s Witnesses, we recommend the following books:
1) “Reasoning From The Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses” by Ron Rhodes
2) “Approaching Jehovah’s Witnesses In Love” by Wilbur Lingle
Tower To Truth Ministries