I think it’s important for us to make clear to Jehovah’s Witnesses that the relationship between faith and works is not just a matter of semantics.
We don’t all believe the same thing just using different terminology.
People who rely on faith plus works for their salvation are not relying on Christ. They are really relying on themselves—trusting in themselves and in their efforts or in their standing with an organization run by fallible men.
All that misplaced reliance produces is condemnation, not salvation.
It is only when we humble ourselves, give up on ourselves and on everything else, and trust in Christ’s sacrifice alone that God saves us.
So the key to our salvation is reliance on Christ and Christ alone—trusting in his righteousness we receive as a gift rather than in our own righteous which we generate by our works.
You can illustrate this to Jehovah’s Witnesses through the life of the apostle Paul.
Jehovah’s Witnesses rely on their organizational standing and their works as their way of “exercising faith” in Jehovah.
That’s what convinces them they’re “in the truth.”
Don’t accuse them of anything, but do point out that when we think about works, we all need to be cautious in our evaluation.
People who haven’t experienced an inner transformation by God can, through self-effort, produce religious works that appear righteous to us, but those works will be rejected by God because merely human-generated righteousness is like filthy rags in his sight. (Isaiah 64:6)
Remember how righteous the Pharisees looked to men?
Yet Jesus said they were like whitewashed tombs—beautiful outside but spiritually dead inside. (Matthew 23:27-28)
Before his conversion, Saul of Tarsus was one of those spiritually dead Pharisees.
But he thought he was part of the one religious group on earth that really pleased Jehovah by their dedication and their works.
He says in Philippians 3:6 that in those days he had a righteousness based on law and that by that standard he was faultless.
Then he encountered Jesus on the Damascus road, and he saw his human-generated righteousness the way Jesus sees it.
And immediately he gave up on everything he had been relying on.
He tells us in Philippians 3:8-9: “That I might gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”
He had a miraculous inner transformation—spiritually, he died with Christ (Galatians 2:20) and experienced a new birth.
Saul the Pharisee was gone.
Paul the Christian was born.
And then God worked through that man and turned the world upside down.
What a great example of the biblical relationship between faith and works!