When you tell Jehovah’s Witnesses that salvation comes by faith apart from works, they completely misunderstand what you are saying.
In order to overcome their misconceptions, we first need to identify them and realize why Witnesses have them.
- Witnesses think “justification by faith” means “license to sin.”
When you tell them that works have no part in the salvation process, they think you are claiming that all you have to do is muster up some sort of intellectual belief in Jesus without genuine repentance of sin and Jesus saves you while leaving you free to sin all you want to.
Part of the problem is the fact that the Watchtower teaches Jehovah’s Witnesses that all of “Christendom” is a counterfeit Christianity controlled by Satan.
They view it as being infested with clergymen who talk about Jesus one day and hire prostitutes the next, all the while raking in money from gullible followers. The highly publicized fall of prominent televangelists reinforces this impression.
When they hear you saying that you believe salvation comes by “faith without works,” they think this is what you are defending.
- Witnesses think “justification by faith” means “license to snooze.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses think you believe that you get saved by praying a simple prayer and that once you are saved, you don’t have to do any good works—just lie back in your recliner and wait for Jesus to take you to heaven when you die.
This view is fostered by the number of professing Christians who show up at church at Christmas and Easter but don’t do much else.
In contrast, Witnesses take pride in the fact that that they volunteer hundreds or even thousands of hours each year going door-to-door “sharing the good news of Jehovah’s kingdom.”
In fact, the Watchtower teaches them that their salvation is dependent on “exercising faith,” not just having faith.
Although “exercising faith” uses the word “faith,” what it really means to Jehovah’s Witnesses is continual works—works they believe they have to do until they die in order to be guaranteed salvation by God.
What kind of continuing works does the Watchtower say are necessary?
- Calling God “Jehovah”
- Witnessing door-to-door
- Refusing blood transfusions
- Studying Watchtower literature
- Attending Watchtower meetings
- Keeping separate from the world
- Serving with “Jehovah’s organization”
- Being submissive to Watchtower elders
- Doing whatever the Governing Body commands
- The list goes on and on and on
- Witnesses think you believe that obedience, endurance, and good works are irrelevant to the Christian life.
It’s easy to understand why they believe this.
In arguing in favor of justification through faith alone, we downplay works.
Often, we forget to acknowledge that works are an important part of the Christian life. It’s just that they have no role whatever in saving us.
Christian works are the products of salvation, not the means to salvation.
Now that we’ve identified these misconceptions, in the next post we’ll consider how to overcome them.