A Simple Way to Speak to Jehovah’s Witnesses
For the most part, Christians know that Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) are a cult and have some strange beliefs. But when they begin to talk about God and his Son, Jesus; when they ask about faith and salvation; when they use what appears to be a normal Bible; when they speak the “Christian language,” many believers don’t know how to respond. How do you share the gospel with them? Do you even need to? How can you keep from being distracted by all their secondary beliefs and caught up in ‘dead-end’ arguments?
My purpose is not to provide a detailed look at the history and beliefs of JWs, but to provide a simple and effective apologetic method that any Christian can use for sharing the gospel when they come knocking on your door. And that begins with recognizing that the single, most important issue is their denial of the deity of Jesus Christ. JWs will say,
“We believe in Jesus, who said: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). We have faith that Jesus came to earth from heaven and gave his perfect human life as a ransom sacrifice (Matthew 20:28). His death and resurrection make it possible for those exercising faith in him to gain everlasting life (John 3:16). We also believe that Jesus is now ruling as King of God’s heavenly Kingdom, which will soon bring peace to the entire earth (Revelation 11:15). However, we take Jesus at his word when he said: ‘The Father is greater than I am’ (John 14:28). So we do not worship Jesus, as we do not believe that he is Almighty God.”
Because they do not worship Jesus, JWs do not worship the one, true and living God as he has revealed himself (see Heb. 1:1-4), and they do not worship in truth (John 4:23-24). This is not a light matter:
“Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:23).
“Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:22-23:22).
“Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9).
In short, because JWs deny the truth Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, they do not know Jehovah—and are certainly not his witnesses. Therefore, the best approach for sharing the gospel with JWs is to make a beeline to the deity of Jesus.
But how? When talking at your front door, understand that jumping into complex and technical debates about the Trinity is not a good place to start. They’ve got their proof-texts, and will be prepared to show you how even Jesus himself admitted that he wasn’t God—each of which can be understood with a proper doctrine of the Trinity and Jesus’s earthly ministry. What’s more, you can’t just pull out your favorite translation of the Bible and go to your proof-texts, because they have their own translation—the New World Translation (NWT)—in which verses clearly indicating the divinity of Jesus are rendered differently. For example:
ESV: “...and the Word was God.”
NWT: “...and the Word was a god.”
ESV: “To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.”
NWT: “To them the forefathers belong, and from them the Christ descended according to the flesh. God, who is over all, be praised forever. Amen.”
Your front porch is neither the time nor place to engage in a heated discussion about translation. Therefore, the most simple and effective apologetic for an encounter with JWs is to prove to them that Jesus is truly God using their translation of the Scriptures. You can have them read from their own Bibles and use basic logic to show that Jesus is the eternal Son of God.
Proving the Deity of Christ from the NWT
Instead of arguing about whose Bible has translated John 1:1 correctly, go to John 1:3. By accepting what verse 3 clearly teaches about Jesus being the uncreated Creator, it will (Lord willing) become clear as to why the NWT has incorrectly translated verse 1. John 1:3 reads the same in our Bibles, so have them turn there in their own Bible:
ESV: “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
NASB: “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”
NWT: “All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence.”
Here’s the argument, using their version’s wording:
- Everything that exists either came into existence or never came into existence.
- Only one “thing” never came into existence: God (Jehovah). Everything else that exists came into existence by being created.
- John 1:3 clearly teaches that “all things came into existence through him”—him being the Word, Jesus. Regardless of how they interpret John 1:1, this can’t be denied.
- John then reiterates the same truth, for clarity and for emphasis, saying: “and apart from him [Jesus, the Word] not even one thing came into existence.” In other words, everything that ever came into being owes its existence to Jesus.
- Here’s the main point: This means that “if Jesus caused all created things to come into existence, then He must have existed before all created things came into existence. Therefore, the Word could not have been created.”
- The only option is to place Jesus in the category of existing things that never came into existence; he is the eternal Word who was in the beginning with God and was God. He is the eternal Son, of the same essence of the Father.
It’s important to not let them drag you all over the NT, asking you “But what about . . .?” and taking you to their proof-texts. Again, they will only be properly interpreted with a correct understanding of the deity of Jesus. Make them wrestle with this text!
Another passage demonstrating that Jesus is the uncreated Creator is Hebrews 1:8-12, which quotes from Psalm 102.
Hebrews 1:8-12 (NWT): 8 But about the Son, he says: “God is your throne forever and ever, and the scepter of your Kingdom is the scepter of uprightness. 9 You loved righteousness, and you hated lawlessness. That is why God, your God, anointed you with the oil of exultation more than your companions.” 10 And: “At the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands. 11 They will perish, but you will remain; and just like a garment, they will all wear out, 12 and you will wrap them up just as a cloak, as a garment, and they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will never come to an end.”
What they need to see here is that both verses 8-9 and verses 10-12 are “about the Son,” Jesus; the conjunction “and” at the beginning of verse 10 makes this clear.
If their Bible has cross references, it will have one for verses 10-12 that points to where this quotation is from: Psalm 102:25-27. Have them turn there, but first tell them to look at Psalm 102:1 to grasp the context.
Psalm 102:1, 25-27 (NWT): 1 O Jehovah, hear my prayer… 25 Long ago you laid the foundations of the earth, And the heavens are the work of your hands. 26 They will perish, but you will remain; Just like a garment they will all wear out. Just like clothing you will replace them, and they will pass away. 27 But you are the same, and your years will never end.
Ask them who they think the “you” is in verse 25. They should say “Jehovah.” But if Psalm 102:25-27 is addressed to Jehovah, and if the author of Hebrews applies these verses to the Son, then Jesus must be truly God. He is given the glory that is alone due to Jehovah as Creator! Hebrews 2:10 (NWT) says that Jehovah is “the one for whom and through whom all things exist,” who made “the Chief Agent of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” But Colossians 1:15-16 (NWT) says of the Son that “All other things have been created through him and for him." Along with John 1:3, it is clear that Jesus was not created by the Father. Christ Jesus is the eternal Son, the Almighty God incarnate.
There are several other similar ways the deity of the Son can be proved using their Bible:
Jehovah does not share his glory with anyone else, but Jesus shares his glory.
Isaiah 42:8 (NWT): “I am Jehovah. That is my name; I give my glory to no one else...” (also 48:11).
John 17:1, 5 (NWT): 1 Jesus spoke these things, and raising his eyes to heaven, he said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your son so that your son may glorify you.” . . . So now, Father, glorify me at your side with the glory that I had alongside you before the world was” (also John 8:54; 16:13-14; Heb. 5:5; Rev. 5:13).
Jehovah is the only Savior, but Jesus is also referred to as the Savior.
Isaiah 43:11 (NWT): "I—I am Jehovah and besides me there is no savior” (also 45:21).
Titus 1:4 (NWT): “May you have undeserved kindness and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior” (also Luke 2:11; Acts 13:23).
Jehovah is referred to as “the Alpha and the Omega,” “the first and the last,” and “the beginning and the end” in Revelation, but Jesus claims these titles for himself.
Revelation 1:8 (NWT): “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says Jehovah God, “the One who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty”; 21:6-7 (NWT): “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To anyone thirsting I will give from the spring of the water of life free. Anyone conquering will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son."
Revelation 1:17-18 (NWT): “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last, and the living one, and I became dead, but look! I am living forever and ever, and I have the keys of death and of the Grave” (also 2:8); 22:12-13 (NWT): “Look! I am coming quickly, and the reward I give is with me, to repay each one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Last, but not least, here are two further examples asserting the deity of Jesus:
Isaiah 9:6 (NWT): For a child has been born to us, A son has been given to us; And the rulership will rest on his shoulder. His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace"
John 20:27-29 (NWT): 27 Next he said to Thomas: “Put your finger here, and see my hands, and take your hand and stick it into my side, and stop doubting but believe.” 28 In answer Thomas said to him: “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him: “Because you have seen me, have you believed? Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
Jesus clearly accepts praise from Thomas for confessing him to be his Lord and his God! He is the “Mighty God” of whom Isaiah spoke. Interestingly, there’s a cross-reference at the end of verse 28 to one of the JW’s favorite proof-texts “denying” the deity of the Son:
John 20:17 (NWT): Jesus said to her: “Stop clinging to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.’”
But their interpretation of John 20:17 is completely at odds with 20:28. Again, this apparent contradiction is explained only by the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.
None of this is to prove that Jesus is the Father! Yet as Creator, as Savior, as Alpha and Omega, the Son shares the same divine essence as the Father; they are equal in glory. If they think we are drawing such a conclusion, then you can give them the basic doctrine of the Trinity, that there is only one God who subsists in three persons. Explain that while we understand the word “Trinity” is not found in Scripture, this doctrine is a helpful framework for reading both Testaments as a coherent witness to the one true God.
* * *
If JWs do not honor the Son as God, they do not honor Jehovah. If they deny that Jesus is the Christ, and do not confess him as the eternal Son, they do not have the Father. If they do not abide in the teaching of Christ Jesus, they do not have God. If they do not rightly worship Jesus as Almighty God, they do not rightly worship Jehovah.
In other words, JWs are not true and faithful witnesses of Jehovah. They have rejected the truth about God. They do not know him, and are not known by him. And because they do not know him, “the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom [he] has sent,” (John 17:3), they do not have eternal life. This is why they need to hear the gospel. They need to hear the good news of the Redeemer who is truly man and truly God, who alone is a sufficient mediator between God and men.
We do well to remember the words of John Calvin:
“It was his task to swallow up death. Who but the Life could do this? It was his task to conquer sin. Who but very Righteousness could do this? It was his task to rout the powers of world and air. Who but a power higher than world and air could do this? Now where does life or righteousness, or lordship and authority of heaven lie but with God alone? Therefore our most merciful God, when he willed that we be redeemed, made himself our Redeemer in the person of his only-begotten Son [cf. Rom. 5:8]… . Since neither as God alone could he feel death, nor as man alone could he overcome it, he coupled human nature with divine that to atone for sin he might submit the weakness of the one to death; and that, wrestling with death by the power of the other nature, he might win victory for us.”
JWs must be called to repent and to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that they might have life in his name (John 20:31). Encourage them to continue going over the verses you showed them, to wrestle with those texts. Encourage them to prayerfully read through the gospel of John, asking for humility and understanding as they read. And you pray as well, that God may open their eyes to behold the beauty of Jesus in saving faith.
Matt Bedzyk is Lead Pastor at Emmanuel Community Church in Elmira, NY.
"Nature and Apologetics" by Arthur Hunt
"A Resolution for the Church" by Zachary Groff
"When Calling Yourself a "Christian" Isn't Enough" by Adam Parker
Joyfully Spreading the Word, ed. by Kathleen Nielson & Gloria Furman
C.S. Lewis: Apologetics for a Postmodern World by Andrew Hoffecker
 Much of the following material comes from several helpful resources such as: “How to Use the Back of a Napkin to Prove to a Jehovah’s Witness That Jesus Is God,” by Gregory Koukl and Justin Taylor, TGC (December 18, 2014); “I am a Jehovah’s Witness. Why should I consider becoming a Christian?” Got Questions.
 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 466.