The other morning I was cleaning the kitchen when I heard a knock at my front door. I thought it was strange since the only people who usually knock on our front door are friends and neighbors—and they were all at work or school.
I opened the door and, to my surprise, I was greeted by a well-dressed elderly man. He’d come to invite me to an event at his church. He was kind and friendly. Yet something felt off when he said, “You know, a lot of people think the resurrection of Jesus is the most important part of the Easter story, but actually it’s his death that is most significant.”
I replied, “Well, yes, His substitutionary atonement was significant…” He didn’t react. And that was okay because behind me was my three-year-old son waving a broom like a Color Guard charging into battle…so I had to go before something or someone got hurt.
The gentleman put a booklet in my hand with some information about the event and then left. I opened it and saw that the booklet was a “Watchtower” production inviting people to come to the local “Kingdom Hall.” “Oh, he’s a Jehovah’s Witness,” I thought.
Now, to be honest, I don’t know a lot about Jehovah’s Witnesses. I can’t tell you every tenet of their theology or what it’s like to attend one of their “churches”. They seem like nice people. And they seem really committed to their beliefs. But I do know one big difference between Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses. And it’s a difference that breaks my heart.
According to their website, www.jw.org, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe “God created Jesus before he created Adam.” For them, Jesus is the literal firstborn of creation. Simply put, God the Father is eternal. God the Son [Jesus] is not. Which means, for them, Jesus is not fully God in the same way God the Father is fully God. Instead Jesus is “the divine Son of God” and Jehovah is “the only true God.”
To be fair, people have believed such things about Jesus since Jesus first walked the earth. But in 325 AD at the Council of Nicaea Christian leaders from around the world agreed that such a belief was not biblical. At that meeting they affirmed that Scripture teaches and Christians believe that there is
“…one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.”
The big difference between Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christians is that Christians believe that Jesus is fully God and Jehovah’s Witnesses do not.
Why does this matter?
If Jesus is not God, then Jesus sinned. And if he sinned then his sacrifice cannot save us.
In John 10:30 Jesus proclaims to the Jewish authorities, “I and the Father are one.” Now, just in case there was any question about what he meant in that statement, the next few verses make it clear:
“Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’ ‘We are not stoning you for any good work,’ they replied, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.’” (John 10:31-33)
The Jews knew he was claiming to be God. And Jesus did not correct them.
Similarly, after Jesus had been raised from the dead, his deity is affirmed. When Jesus appeared before Thomas (aka Doubting Thomas), Thomas was so taken aback that he worships Jesus saying, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)
Again, Jesus does not correct him. Jesus, it seems, believed that he was, in every way, God.
Now, if Jesus knew that God the Father [Jehovah] was “the only true God” then Jesus committed the sin of blasphemy when he let people think he was equal to and worthy of the same worship as “the only true God.”
This is a real problem.
For if Jesus sinned [by committing blasphemy], it means Jesus’ sacrifice/atonement on our behalf was meaningless. Because a person in debt has no means to pay the debt of others. So, too, a sinner cannot pay the debt of other sinners. Only a perfect and righteous person has the means to pay off the debts of sinful people.
It is true that Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that Jesus was sinless. But if Jesus wasn’t fully God that can’t be true.
The important question is, was Jesus right to let people think that he was God and worship him?
If he was fully God—Yes!
If he was not fully God—No!
If Jesus was not fully God then Jesus sinned. Period.
This is why the one big difference between Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses breaks my heart.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have put their trust in a version of Jesus—a Jesus that may be son of a god, but who is actually not really a god at all. And because of that, they are looking for salvation from one who does not have the power to save them.
Only a Jesus that is in every way God is worthy of our worship. Only a Jesus that is in every way God has the righteousness to pay for our sin. Only a Jesus that is in every way God can actually save us.
And so I pray for the gentleman who came to my front door. I pray that he will come to know Jesus—the real Jesus. And I pray that one day he might come to Jesus and, without reservation, say, “My Lord and my God.”
To learn more about Jehovah’s Witnesses and how you can respond when they come to your door, check out https://carm.org/jehovahs-witnesses
Hey Thanks Alan for breaking that down so people can see the key difference. I think I would add that although the council of Nicea formally declared the Trinity to be the official position of the church, it had been informally believed from the beginning. The council was called because Constantine wanted unity within the church and Arian had come up with a different theology than the traditional understanding of the triune God. I think the final vote was like 294-6. Yet people today seem use this council 250 years removed from the events of scripture to validate their claim that strong dissention was pervasive and it was a power struggle. Typical power meta narrative stuff from postmodern thought.
Thanks, that was great!
“If Jesus is not God, then Jesus sinned. And if he sinned then his sacrifice cannot save us.” Simply and well put Alan! Thank you, but I would challenge you on one sentence…”because Jesus BELIEVED, he was the Son of God”…he knew…
Love reading your blogs! Keep them coming!