by Vahé Jebejian
“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” Colossians 4:5-6
You’ve certainly encountered them, as well. They are always on the street, standing behind a stand with books, such as What Does the Bible Really Teach, or handing out a brochure called The WatchTower. I’ve made a habit of talking to Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is interesting that whichever country you go to, their arguments are always the same, the same verses are quoted always.
In the mornings as I rush to the train station, I often see Valentin. He’s a Jehovah’s Witness (JW), and I’ve come to know him very well. I can even say that we’re friends. He invited me to come to their commemoration of the passion of Christ which was on March 23. I literally had 12 hours to think about it. Finally, I decided to go.
The pastor preached what sounded like a very Christian message. At first, I thought, “Wow, we have a lot in common,” even though I was aware of the differences, especially on the Divinity of Christ. The uneasiness started when the preacher never mentioned anything about Jesus’ resurrection. He also claimed that before descending to Earth, Jesus was some kind of an angel. The uneasiness continued when he claimed that only 144,000 will go on to live with Christ and the rest would stay on Earth, based on Revelation 7:4, “And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000”. The climax was when they had communion (Jehovah’s Witnesses celebrate communion once a year) but no one participated in it. Later, I understood that only those who consider themselves to be part of the 144,000 could share in Christ’s body and blood. When the service was over and as I left the meeting place, a feeling of sadness came over me.
I am writing this passage with the same sadness that took over me that night. Jesus couldn’t have been clearer when He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you,” John 6:53.
As every JW one encounters, Valentin, too, invited me to a cup of coffee. I gladly accepted. JWs are very well trained. On top of that, Valentin happens to be one of the elders in his church. But, we must rest assured that “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword,” Hebrews 4:12. The Word of God will win the battle, but for that, we must be “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith,” Colossians 2:7. We are not here to defend God. He doesn’t need defending. But we are called to show the right way, to lead the ones who ago astray, to be His hands and feet.
We so often hear from the pulpit that Jesus is the Son of God and God at the same time. But we must be able to prove it with Scriptures so that when we hear verses, such as “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” Colossians 1:15, we won’t be dumbstruck. JWs claim that Jesus was created by God, and they use similar verses to prove it. If one is not rooted in the Word of God, such verses may shock us and make us question our faith.
Another verse they are keen on using is John 14:28: “The Father is greater than I” to prove that Jesus is not God. Another passage is when Jesus prays to God in the garden of Gethsemane. They ask, “How can Jesus pray to God if He is God? Is He praying to Himself?” And this is only the beginning. They’ll ask you such questions, and if the Word is not truly rooted in your heart, it’ll shake your confidence. Most importantly, it will give the JW the feeling that he is right, that Jesus is not God, and that Christians are mistaken. But we know for sure, “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him” Proverbs 30:5.
The answer to Colossians 1:15 is that firstborn is prototokos in Greek which is used to define leadership and inheritance. Jesus said, "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” Matthew 28:18. In ancient Near Eastern culture, firstborn didn’t necessarily imply ‘the oldest child’. The answer to John 14:28 and the prayer in Gethsemane is first, the fact that Jesus as a human longed for a relationship with God, as we all do. Second, being three persons and one being, Jesus had a relationship with God before coming to Earth, and there was no reason for it to stop when He came to Earth. On Earth, Jesus “emptied himself, by
taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man” Philippians 2:7. This explains why Jesus referred to God as being greater than Him in John 14:28.
There are verses that undeniably refer to Jesus as God. Hebrews 1:3 is one such example: “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature”. The word in Greek used for ‘exact imprint’ is charaktēr, which means exact reproduction, non-replicable imprint. It was used to refer to the exact imprint of Caesar on a coin.
Another important verse is Philippians 2:6 where Paul talks about Jesus saying, “who, although He existed in the form of God”. The Greek word used here for ‘form’ is morphos, which means ‘the same from the inside’, Jesus had God’s same nature. Furthermore, the word existed in Greek is best translated as ‘continued on existing’ which proves the eternal existence of Jesus Christ, He is not just a creation of God. The list of verses is long.
Finally, the meeting with Valentin ended. It was a great time of scripture reading and analysis. When shown truths such as these, one cannot simply walk away from them. It is their right to refuse to accept them, but as long as they claim that the basis for their faith is in the Bible, it is impossible to hide from the Truth, for “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” Hebrews 4:12.
I want to challenge you that the next time a couple of JWs come to your door, invite them in like a brother or a sister. Be sure to be well rooted in the Word of God and remember that we are not called to be successful but to be faithful. We cannot change people’s hearts, only God can. But, we are called to plant the seed. To end, I would like to quote a prayer by Henry Nouwen, a Dutch catholic priest and theologian, “God, help me to see others not as enemies or as ungodly but rather as thirsty people. And give me the courage and compassion to offer your Living Water, which alone quenches deep thirst.”