Key Scripture: “Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” (Romans 10:3)

 The objective of The Righteousness Approach is to help Jehovah’s Witnesses see that striving to become righteous enough to prove worthy of everlasting life is an impossible task.

The problem

Jehovah’s Witnesses think that if they will just work harder, attend more meetings, study Watchtower literature more thoroughly, do more door-to-door witnessing, and obey God’s laws more faithfully, then Jehovah may deem them worthy to be resurrected or to survive Armageddon into the “new system,” Christ’s millennial kingdom. They think this is the way to obtain peace with God and a sense of his approval. (p. 63)

They don’t realize they are falling into the same error as did the Israelites described by Paul in Romans 10:3, quoted above. There is a power of sin that dwells within all of us, and the more we try to become righteous in God’s eyes through keeping rules and laws, the more we just become aware of our repeated sins and failures. This explains why so many Jehovah’s Witnesses feel unworthy and fear that God will reject them. Because they are basing their quest for God’s approval on the Watchtower’s performance-based salvation system rather than on God’s Jesus-based acceptance provision, they don’t experience the rest Jesus promised to his followers in Matthew 11:28 or the peace with God described in Romans 5:1. (pp. 63-64)

Despite all this, most Witnesses are not ready to accept God’s way of salvation—justification by faith apart from works. Before they will come to Jesus to receive as a gift the righteousness that comes from God, they first have to see that the Watchtower’s salvation system is not God’s way of salvation. Trying to attain moral perfection by self-effort simply doesn’t work, even if you have 1000 years to try. Until they are challenged to face this reality, they will be able to get by with wishful thinking. They will assume that things will all somehow work out for them as long as they follow all the Watchtower’s directives. (p. 64)

The unexpected approach

Instead of arguing about whether there are separate “heavenly” and “earthly” classes, we can instead let the Witnesses be the teachers by asking them to explain in detail their understanding of the entire salvation process from now through Christ’s millennial reign. The goal is to help them Witnesses see that the Watchtower’s system does nothing to cure them of their inherited sin nature and leaves them permanently unsure of their salvation. This will give us an opening to offer the biblical alternative. (pp. 64-65)

After they give you the basics of the salvation process as the Watchtower understands it, then back up and ask them clarification questions. These are questions they never ask themselves. (pp, 64-65)

Ask the Witnesses questions such as these (pp. 64-67):

  • What all do I need to do in order to become acceptable enough to God to enter the millennial kingdom?
  • How righteous will I have to be in order for Jehovah to deem me worthy of everlasting life?
  • How much depends on Jesus and how much depends on me?
  • How can I know that I have done enough?

Request that one of them read Romans 7:14-20 aloud. Have them explain from that passage why human beings keep sinning. Ask them how this factors into the plan of salvation. The point you want to get them to see is that not only do we have a problem with our sins, for which we need forgiveness, but that we also have a problem with our self that renders us incapable of living the righteous life that God desires unless he transforms us inside. (p. 67)

Study Questions

  1. Please read Romans 10:3. What does this verse mean by seeking to establish your own righteousness? (pp. 63-64)
  1. Have you ever tried to behave righteously enough to satisfy God? How did that work out? What is his standard of righteousness?
  1. What is “the righteousness that comes from God”? How can we submit to it?
  1. Why would telling Jehovah’s Witnesses point blank that the Watchtower’s salvation system is wrong be counterproductive? Why would questions be more effective in getting through to them? (p. 64)
  1. What is your understanding of Christ’s coming 1,000 year reign? Specifically:
  • Where will the Kingdom be located—Heaven or earth?
  • Where will Christ be located at that time?
  • Where will Christians be located at that time?
  • Who will be subjects of this millennial kingdom?

          (Note: This is an opinion question. Christians may vary on their understanding of end times events.)

  1. Have you ever heard a Jehovah’s Witness explain the Watchtower’s two-class salvation teaching (only 144,000 “anointed” go to heaven in spirit form while the rest live in paradise on earth during Christ’s millennial kingdom)? If so, how did you reply?
  1. Please read Romans 7:14-20. Why do human beings keep sinning? How might asking this question of Jehovah’s Witnesses help them see the impossibility of the Watchtower’s salvation system? (pp. 66-67)