Last time, we examined Ephesians 2:8-10 verse-by-verse.
This time, we’ll examine the same passage as a unit to see the interplay between God’s work and ours.
In the Watchtower’s New World Translation, Ephesians 2:8-10 reads as follows:
8 By this undeserved kindness you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing; rather, it is God’s gift. 9 No, it is not a result of works, so that no one should have grounds for boasting. 10 We are God’s handiwork* and were created in union with Christ Jesus for good works, which God determined in advance for us to walk in them. (*or “are a product of His work”)
You can ask Jehovah’s Witnesses, “In verse 8, who is doing the work that produces our salvation?”
Clearly, it’s God, not us. God provides salvation as a gift.
Ask, “In verse 9, what do our works have to do with our meriting salvation?”
Again, clearly, the answer is, “Nothing.”
Then ask, “What does verse 10 say about the relationship between God’s work and a Christian’s work?”
First, God does a work by creating Christians “in union with Christ Jesus.” The footnote indicates that the Christian is a product of God’s work.
Second, the purpose of this creative work by God is to enable Christians to do good works that God determined in advance for them to do. Without God first doing his handiwork, it would have been impossible for the Christian to do those good works.
So God does have good works for Christians to do, but they are a product of God’s transforming work. They aren’t the means by which we obtain salvation.
Now, the Watchtower believes these verses apply to 144,000 “anointed” Christians only, not to anyone else. That is, the Watchtower teaches that only the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation 7 and 14 are “created in union with Christ Jesus,” that only they are “born again.”
The Watchtower doesn’t see a spiritual rebirth as an inner transformation which occurs at salvation. Rather, it sees being born again as God’s way of designating members of the 144,000 to be the only ones who will eventually go to heaven. Every other Christian will live on a paradise earth.
In discussing this issue with Witnesses, you can ask them:
- Does Ephesians 2:8-10 distinguish between groups of Christians?
- Does it say anything about who will go to heaven and who won’t?
- Is salvation a result of faith for the 144,000 only?
- Is it only the 144,000 who have no grounds for boasting?
- Is it only the 144,000 to who have good works God has prepared for them to do?
At this point, you can share with them your understanding of what these verses teach:
- In order for any of us to become a Christian, we first have to become God’s workmanship—created in Christ Jesus—by faith
- This is what the new birth is all about. It’s not about who goes to heaven and who doesn’t.
- When we have this experience, the Holy Spirit indwells us.
- That isn’t something reserved for 144,000; it’s for every Christian.
- In fact, until we have the Holy Spirit indwell us, we aren’t God’s handiwork—we aren’t Christians at all.
In that regard, you can show them Romans 8:9. In their translation, that verse reads as follows:
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.
The Watchtower teaches that this applies only to the 144,000.
If they tell you that ask:
- What does it mean to be in harmony with the flesh?
- Is it only the 144,000 who are not in harmony with the flesh?
- Why aren’t you included in “anyone”?
- Don’t you have Christ’s spirit?
- Don’t you belong to Christ?
- If not, why do you consider yourself to be a Christian?
God does have good works for all of us to do.
But in order to be able to do them, we first have to become God’s handiwork.
And, according to Ephesians 2:8-10, that comes by faith as a result of God’s work, not ours.