Key Scripture: “In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again’.” (John 3:3)

 The objective of The New Birth Approach is to show Jehovah’s Witnesses that the new birth involves an inner transformation of a person by the Holy Spirit and is the only way by which anyone can obtain eternal life.

 The challenge

 If the Watchtower’s two-class salvation system were only a matter of location—whether all Christians will go to heaven or whether most of them will live forever in paradise on earth—the topic would be of little practical significance. However, because of the Watchtower’s erroneous teachings, the vast majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the new birth and the new covenant are not for them.

The Watchtower does not believe that the new birth is an inner transformation of a repentant sinner by the Holy Spirit. Rather, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the new birth is God’s way of designating Jesus and 144,000 “anointed” Jehovah’s Witnesses to have a “heavenly hope” instead of an earthly one. Eventually, the 144,000 will be joint heirs and co-rulers with Christ.

The Watchtower teaches that all other Jehovah’s Witnesses and believers from the Old Testament era can be saved without being born again and without having Christ’s righteousness imputed to them. They benefit from the new covenant by virtue of their association with the anointed 144,000, but they themselves are not a part of that new covenant.

We want to show them that the Bible presents only one way of salvation, not two, and that God’s offer of the inner transformation of a new birth and entry into the new covenant are essential to their own salvation. Of course, we can’t teach Jehovah’s Witnesses this directly. Remember that they consider themselves to be “in the truth,” so they must be the teachers.

The unexpected approach

Begin by asking the Witnesses to tell you their understanding of what the new birth is. After they give you their explanation, tell them that their definition is very different than your understanding and ask them to help you by examining Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3. Ask one of them to read John 3:1-10 aloud so you can ask them some questions about it.

It’s evident from the text that Nicodemus completely misunderstood what Jesus meant when he told him he needed to be born again and contrasted the spirit and the flesh.

Focus on verse 10, where Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You are Israel’s teacher said Jesus, and do you not understand these things?”

  • Ask, “If Jesus’ statement about the need to be born again was a totally new teaching that 144,000 people would receive spirit bodies when they die and go to heaven, why would he be surprised that Nicodemus didn’t already understand that? Why would he expect a man raised and educated solely under the Mosaic Law Covenant to know such a thing?”
  • Don’t let them hopscotch to other Bible passages. You are asking specifically about what Jesus expected Nicodemus to understand. They believe that a Jewish scholar would have expected to live on a paradise earth.
  • In this way, you will open the door to showing the Witnesses that the new birth and the new covenant are something quite different from what the Watchtower teaches.

Although you shouldn’t take over the role of teacher, as their student you can say, “I’d like to tell you what I’ve always been taught this passage means and get your take on it.” That should be acceptable because you are asking for their criticism of what you’ve been taught.

 Say, “I believe Jesus was indicating that all human beings need a spiritual rebirth, an inner transformation by the Holy Spirit, in order to meet Jehovah’s righteous standards. That’s something he would expect an Old Testament scholar like Nicodemus to understand.”

Next week, we’ll look at how to demonstrate this point to the Witnesses from Old Testament scriptures.

Study Questions

Please read John 3:3. Christians understand the new birth to be an inner transformation brought about by God as part of our salvation process. In contrast, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the new birth is just God’s way of designating Jesus and the 144,000 (Revelation 7:1-4) for an eventual spirit resurrection and life one day in heaven. They believe everyone else can be saved without being born again since they will live on a paradise earth and never go to heaven.

Where do you rank the importance of this topic in getting through to Jehovah’s Witnesses?