After the discussion of the Watchtower doctrine that Jesus is a created being, the rest of “Bible Teach” Chapter 4 covers Jesus’ life and ministry. Most of this you can agree with and continue to build bridges. However, there are some points you will want to challenge.
Assertion #4: Jesus preached the same message that the Watchtower does today
Paragraph 16 (p. 43) says that Jesus’ primary message was the good news of “God’s Kingdom, the heavenly government that will rule over the entire earth…”
This statement makes it appear that Jesus proclaimed the same message that the Watchtower proclaims regarding the coming millennial kingdom.
While most Christians agree that there will be a millennial reign of Christ on earth, have the Witnesses read aloud from their Bibles what Jesus said about God’s Kingdom in Luke 17:20-24:
On being asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God was coming, he answered them: “The Kingdom of God is not coming with striking observableness; nor will people say, ‘See here!’ or, ‘There!’ For look! the Kingdom of God is in your midst.” Then he said to the disciples: “Days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, but you will not see it. And people will say to you, ‘See there!’ or, ‘See here!’ Do not go out or chase after them. For just as lightning flashes from one part of heaven to another part of heaven, so the Son of man will be in his day.
So much for an invisible presence of Christ the Watchtower teaches!
Paragraph 17 (p. 43) says that Jesus preached everywhere, including people’s homes. You are supposed to think in terms of Jesus going door-to-door as the Witnesses do. Yet, the Scripture cited refers to a single incident of Jesus’ inviting himself to the home of Zacchaeus.
Paragraph 17 (pp. 43-44) says that the people “were neglected by their religious leaders, who should have been teaching them the truth about God and his purposes. Jesus knew how much the people needed to hear the Kingdom message.”
This is trying to drive a wedge between you and any religious leaders who don’t teach the Watchtower “Kingdom message.”
As I pointed out in The Come to Jesus Approach (pp. 76-78) from my book, Getting Through to Jehovah’s Witnesses: Approaching Bible Discussions in Unexpected Ways, what Jesus really emphasized was the need to come to him personally in order to get eternal life. John 5:39-40: “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
Pray that the Witnesses will come to see that the Watchtower has them making the same mistake!
Paragraphs 20-21 (pp. 45-46) describe Jesus’ faithfulness to his Father through temptations, trial, torture, and death.
We can agree with all of that.
If the Witnesses insist that we need to do all of that in order to obtain eternal life, then I would recommend using The Faith and Works Approach, especially its discussion of Romans 4:4-5 (pp. 93-94).
If they don’t, then I would recommend saving the Faith and Works Approach for Chapter 5.
Paragraph 21 (p. 46) matter-of-factly says that Jesus was “nailed to a stake.” This is a reference to the Watchtower teaching that Jesus died on an upright pole rather than on a cross. However, since that point is discussed in detail in Chapter 5, I would let it pass here without comment.
For now, just keep in mind how the Watchtower often first introduces its teachings subtly through casual or parenthetical statements.
Two more examples of this come in the same paragraph.
The first says that “his heavenly Father resurrected him back to spirit life.” That needs to be countered with The Bodily Resurrection Approach, but I recommend that you wait until Chapter 7 to do that.
The second says that Jesus returned to heaven “and waited to receive kingly power.”
That statement is setting you up for Chapter 8, where the book will tell you that Jesus received kingly power in 1914. I recommend waiting until then to challenge the Watchtower’s “end times” chronology.
At this point, you can respond by saying, “I’m not sure what that means when it says he waited in heaven to receive kingly power.”
Ask them to read aloud Matthew 28:18, which occurred before Jesus returned to heaven: “Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying: ‘All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.’”
You can add, “I don’t see what more power and authority he could possibly have been waiting for.”
A final example in Chapter 4 of the Watchtower’s way of introducing its doctrines subtly through matter-of-fact statements comes in the next-to-last sentence (paragraph 22, p. 46): “Jesus’ death actually opens to us the opportunity for eternal life on a paradise earth, in harmony with Jehovah’s original purpose.”
Not eternal life but the opportunity for eternal life…
Not tied into heaven but life “on a paradise earth, in harmony with Jehovah’s original purpose.”
I would let these statements pass without comment here, but be ready to discuss these matters in later chapters.
Chapter 4 has been a long chapter to work through, but that’s because it’s one of the most important.
If we are wrong about who Jesus or about what his mission and message were, we are wrong enough to be lost for all eternity.
Witnesses sometimes call an end to the study at this point if their student hasn’t progressed far enough in accepting the Watchtower Christology and gospel.
There’s nothing we can do if they take that attitude.
However, we can pray that they will want to cover the rest of the book with us and we can continue to prepare ourselves so we’ll be ready.
Next week, we’ll look into “Bible Teach,” Chapter 5—“The Ransom—God’s Greatest Gift.”