A Partial Gospel Is No Gospel at All!

July 30, 2010 at 10:36 am | Posted in False teaching, Grace and Faith, Questions for Pastor Glenn, Security and Assurance, Theology | 3 Comments

Dear Pastor Glenn

My friends are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I have had several theological discussions with them and knew they believed some weird things.   But recently he made a comment that really took me by surprise.  Apparently they believe that when you die, you will be born again (literally) and live another life and will keep doing that until you get it right.   Not quite like the re-incarnation of the eastern religions where you can come back as a cow or something – you always come back as another person, but re-incarnation nevertheless.  I didn’t realize Jehovah’s Witnesses believed that, did you?  Is that a main-line Jehovah’s witness belief, or a radical one that only some of them believe?

In one of my conversations, we got on the subject of true Christianity, and I made the statement that I thought the fundamental things you HAD to believe to be considered a Christian were 1) That Jesus Christ was not just a prophet or a man, but the Son of God, the second person of the trinity, 2) that He died on the cross for our sins, 3) that He rose from the dead, and 4) that belief in Him and acceptance of Him as Lord and Savior is the only way to salvation.   Both heartily agreed with that statement, so what’s your take on this?

Dear ________,

I found your inquiry interesting, as I too have never heard of JWs who believe in reincarnation.  After a short check, I could find no official belief in reincarnation among JWs, but my best resources for that have long since been given away.  However, that doesn’t exclude the possibility that some who call themselves JWs believe that way.  Like many who call themselves Christian, yet their theology comes from multiple sources – many of which are not Christian in any sense, so also there are certainly JWs who have a strange blend of JW and other philosophies all mixed together.

However, I would like to address the other question more directly as it has significance on how we understand the true Gospel.  I thought your four statements were great, but you didn’t define terms, and that makes all the difference.  JWs as I know them, would say they totally agree with statements 2, 3, and 4.  However, they would not understand those statements as you intended them to be understood.  For instance, “Did Jesus die on the cross for your sins?”  A JW would respond, “Yes, he did,” but when pushed would have to say, “He died so that my sins would be forgiven, which brings me back to even ground with God; now it’s up to me to get the rest of the way on my own.”  In other words, in their view, Jesus’ death didn’t purchase my salvation, thus guaranteeing my forgiveness; rather his death made my salvation a possibility which I must complete by my good works.  They say yes to the question, but there is a huge difference in meaning.

To your third statement, they would again say, “I believe Jesus died and rose again from the dead.”  Here they would be in agreement as to what that means, but they miss the implication of it.  Jesus’ resurrection gives them the possibility of resurrection; it doesn’t guarantee a resurrection for those who believe.

As to your statement 4, “Is belief in Jesus and acceptance of him as Lord and Savior the only way to salvation?”  Yes, they would say, Jesus is the only way to salvation; however, a complete honest answer would add that he is not the entire way to salvation.  Only through Jesus can we get to the place where we have the opportunity for salvation; taking that opportunity is up to us.

The first statement is a little trickier, and your friends affirmative answer may be some of that blended theology and may be based on what she understands “trinity” to mean.  I was tickled that you didn’t capitalize the word, since they don’t believe in the Trinity as we understand the Bible to teach it.  JWs believe that Jesus is the first created being, who was given power and authority by the Father and who in turn created everything else, but a created being nonetheless.  This is a matter beyond what I have time for now.

Of, course all this misses the point of the Gospel, and is not “gospel” at all.  When I ask my well-studied JW friend at the Rec Center questions about Jesus’ character and divinity, he has, at least in his mind, an answer for the biblical passages that seem so clear to us; but when I ask him about his assurance of forgiveness, he has no answer at all.  There is no assurance in their beliefs because their salvation is not based solely on Jesus’ character and work, but on their own works, which they know to be sinful.  The true Gospel says that Jesus did it all for us.

They could never sing as we do  .  .  .   “In Christ alone who took on flesh, fullness of God in helpless Babe.  This gift of love and righteousness scorned by the ones He came to save.  ‘Til on that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.  For every sin on Him was laid.  Here in the death of Christ I live.”

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3 Comments »

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  1. The Jehovah witness organization keeps changing what they allow members to believe (the bogus blood ban, end of the world predictions, bans on certain forms of sex between married couples, etc). It is disturbing that the organization demands complete, unthinking obedience to the organization rather than to God. Members serve the organization instead of God. This is wrong.

  2. Perhaps by “weird” you mean different than your beliefs. FYI, there are no such groups as “mainline” or “radical” among Jehovah’s Witnesses. We are united in one thought, as are the Son and the Father. Such a teaching as you describe does not exist among us. Either they are not Jehovah’s Witnesses or you misunderstood. I always wonder why people pose such questions on the internet when the answers are already available on our official website, which is easily accessible. Are they really sincere or just inviting ridicule and foolish comments like the post preceding mine? I’m sure you are not naive and know that MANY people these days use the internet to mislead and misinform and misrepresent. If you wish to have an authoritative answer simply visit http://www.watchtower.org/cgi-bin/lib/ProcessForm.pl where you will find Bible-based explanations to any questions you may have about our beliefs. I hope this is helpful.

  3. My readers will note that Sean never addressed the main point of this blog, that JWs have no assurance, he only addressed the comment of the questioner. My point stands: the teachings of the JWs give no assurance only a possibility based on human effort. That, as I point out above, is no gospel (i.e. good news) at all. The real good news is that Jesus paid it all; I simply must accept his payment. My assurance is not based on my good works but on Jesus’ character and his Good Work.
    –Pastor Glenn


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