“Bible Teach”, Chapter 19, paragraph 7 (p. 186) says, “As described in the Bible, love for God is much more than a feeling… The Bible teaches: ‘This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.’ (1 John 5:3). To be genuine, love for God must bear fine fruit. It must be expressed in actions.”
What the Watchtower fails to understand is that none of this is possible without the inner transformation provided by the new birth (see The New Birth Approach from my book, Getting Through to Jehovah’s Witnesses: Approaching Bible Discussions in Unexpected Ways, pp. 131-133).
You can drive the point home by asking the Witnesses to tell you honestly how they think they are doing at keeping all of Jehovah’s commandments. Are they certain if they died tonight that Jehovah would consider them worthy to be resurrected?
Point out to them that 1 John 5:3-4 is addressed only to people who have had the inner transformation of a new birth: “For this is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome, because everyone who has been born from God conquers the world.”
As Christians, we can agree that good works are an important part of the Christian life, but as I said on pp. 90-91 of The Faith and Works Approach, we need to make the point with Witnesses that “works—though important—have nothing whatever to do with saving us. They are the products of salvation, not the prerequisites to salvation.” (Recall the two equations set out in my discussion of Chapter 12.)
Paragraph 8 (p. 186) states, “We show our love for God when we observe his commandments and apply his principles. It is not too hard to do so. Far from being burdensome, Jehovah’s laws are designed to help us live a good, happy, satisfying life.”
Point out to the Witnesses what Paul says about the flesh and the spirit in the following two verses from Romans (quotations are from the Watchtower’s New World Translation):
- Romans 7:18: “For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, there dwells nothing good; for I have the desire to do what is fine but not the ability to carry it out.”
- Romans 8:6-9: “For setting the mind on the flesh means death, but setting the mind on the spirit means life and peace; 7 because setting the mind on the flesh means enmity with God, for it is not in subjection to the law of God, nor, in fact, can it be. 8 So those who are in harmony with the flesh cannot please God. 9 However, you are in harmony, not with the flesh, but with the spirit, if God’s spirit truly dwells in you. But if anyone does not have Christ’s spirit, this person does not belong to him.”
With regard to the Romans 8 verses, ask, “According to this passage, can we please God and belong to Christ unless we have God’s spirit dwelling within us? How do we get God’s spirit dwelling within us except by the inner transformation of the new birth?”
Next time, we’ll look at what the Bible says about our need for a personal relationship with Jesus.