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                          "STUDYING WITH JWs"


INTRODUCTION

1. It not uncommon for members of the Watchtower Society to come to your
   front door...
   a. Who refer to themselves as "Jehovah's Witnesses"
   b. A term I hesitate to use, as they've neither seen Jehovah nor do
      they speak for Him

2. Their zeal is commendable...
   a. They strongly believe in their faith
   b. They desire to share their faith with everyone
   -- Yet zeal alone will not save one - cf. Ro 10:1-3

3. Our heart's desire and prayer should be for their salvation...
   a. That they might know the truth concerning God's righteousness
   b. For which reason we ought to be glad for opportunities to study
      with them

4. Yet most opportunities to study with JWs are frustrating and
   unfruitful...
   a. Differences regarding basic Bible doctrines are many
   b. Discussions rarely make progress, and often become heated

[Why is this so?  What can be done about?  Is there anyway to lead a JW
to "the way of God more accurately" (cf. Ac 18:26)?  I don't have all
the answers, but the following thoughts might be helpful...]

I. THE CHALLENGE IN STUDYING WITH JWs

   A. THEIR DOCTRINE IS DIFFERENT...
      1. Their views differ on many Biblical subjects, for example:
         a. The deity of Christ, the person of the Holy Spirit
         b. The nature of man, death, and hell
         c. The bodily resurrection of Christ
         d. The second coming of Christ
      2. Their diverse doctrines make it difficult to communicate
         a. We may use the same words, but they mean something different
            to a JW
         b. E.g., salvation, spirit, soul, Son of God
      -- This makes it easy to wrangle over words, no matter what the
         topic, even the simple gospel plan of salvation!

   B. THEIR AUTHORITY IS DIFFERENT...
      1. They claim to follow the Bible, but...
         a. They accept only their translation (New World Translation)
            as reliable, which is slanted to support their peculiar
            doctrines
         b. They accept only those Biblical resources approved by their
            organization
         c. They do not consider the Bible alone as a sufficient guide
            to learn the truth
      2. So with any topic of discussion...
         a. They will accept only what is supported by their
            translation, their approved Bible study aids
         b. They will not accept any view, even Scripture, that counters
            the official belief of their organization
         -- This makes any effort to discuss the Bible and what it
            teaches to be fruitless and frustrating

[Unless we can agree on the same standard of authority, any effort to
study the Bible with JWs or anyone else will not be productive.
Understanding this will help us to realize what is...]

II. THE TASK IN STUDYING WITH JWs

   A. HELP THEM SEE THE STANDARD OF THEIR AUTHORITY...
      1. That their authority is the Executive Committee (EC) of the
         Watchtower Society
         a. That they believe only the EC is capable of properly
            interpreting the Bible
         b. That they must accept whatever interpretation is handed down
            by the EC
      2. In this regard, they are not much different from other
         religious groups who have a standard of authority different
         from just the Bible alone
         a. Roman Catholics accept the authority of the pope, and church
            traditions
         b. Mormons accept the authority of Joseph Smith, and succeeding
            presidents of their church
         c. Many Protestants accept the authority of their creeds,
            catechisms, councils, synods, etc.
      -- Their standard of authority is what separates one religious
         group form another; the JWs are no different, and we must help
         them see that!

   B. HELP THEM SEE THE DEFICIENCY OF THEIR AUTHORITY...
      1. This is the same task required with anyone who accepts a
         standard of authority outside the Bible alone; for example:
         a. A Roman Catholic would have to see the fallibility of the
            pope and their traditions
         b. Mormons would have to see that Joseph Smith was a false
            prophet
         c. Protestants who claim to believe in sola scriptura (the
            Scriptures alone), would need to be shown where their
            creeds, manuals, etc., contradict the Bible
      2. With JWs, this involves demonstrating:
         a. That the Watchtower Society considers the EC to be God's
            inspired spokesman or prophet today, who alone is able to
            properly understand the Bible
         b. That the EC has made many prophetic statements based upon
            their interpretations which have not come to pass
      -- We must help them see that the EC therefore fails the test of a
         prophet or spokesman for God, and qualifies as a false prophet
         who is not to be heeded - cf. Deut 18:20-22

   C. HELP THEM SEE THE SUFFICIENCY OF THE SCRIPTURES ALONE...
      1. This is the same task with anyone who has been dependent upon
         some other source for authority in religion
         a. They must be convinced that the Bible can be understood by
            all alike
         b. While there are parts that are difficult, what is necessary
            for salvation is clear
      2. The problem is many people fall under the control of an
         authoritarian organization...
         a. Before they have read much of the Bible themselves
         b. Then told they cannot understand it on their own
      -- We must develop confidence in the Bible as a book that can be
         understood, and was written to be understood by the average
         person

[With these thoughts in mind, I offer the following...]

III. SUGGESTIONS FOR STUDYING WITH JWs

   A. REVIEW THEIR DEPENDENCE UPON THE EC FOR THEIR AUTHORITY...
      1. You might ask these questions:
         a. Do you believe that anyone, anywhere, who just had a Bible,
            and no other literature, could understand it and be saved?
         b. Can the Bible be interpreted correctly only by the
            Watchtower?
         c. Are you allowed to read material by ex-Jehovah's Witnesses?
      2. Some other questions that might help:
         a. Do you believe the New World Translation is the only
            reliable translation? (note: they do accept the old American
            Standard)
         b. Are you willing to consider Bible resources other than those
            approved by the Watchtower Society?
      -- An honest JW will admit his or her dependence upon the EC for
         their authority

   B. REVIEW PROPHETIC CLAIMS OF THEIR AUTHORITY...
      1. They believe the Watchtower Society is God's prophet today
         a. "So, does Jehovah have a prophet to help them, to warn them
            of dangers and to declare them things to come?  These
            questions can be answered in the affirmative." (They Shall
            Know That A Prophet Was Among Them, The Watchtower,
            Brooklyn, NY, April 1, 1972, p. 197)
         b. "He had a 'prophet' to warn them. This 'prophet' was not one
            man, but a body of men and women...Today they are known as
            Jehovah's Christian witnesses." (ibid., p. 197)
         c. "...this group of anointed followers of Jesus Christ, doing
            a work in Christendom paralleling Ezekiel's work among the
            Jews, were manifestly the modern-day Ezekiel, the 'prophet'
            commissioned by Jehovah to declare the good news of God's
            Messianic kingdom and to give warning to Christendom."
            (ibid., p. 198-199)
         d. "...Jehovah's witnesses today make their declaration of the
            good news of the Kingdom under angelic direction and support
            ...And since no word or work of Jehovah can fail, for he is
            God Almighty, the nations will see the fulfillment of what
            these witnesses say as directed from heaven." (ibid., p.
            200)
         e. "Yes, the time must come shortly that the nations will have
            to know that really a 'prophet' of Jehovah was among them."
            (ibid., p. 200)
         f. "...Jehovah is interested not only in the vindication of his
            own name, but also in vindicating his 'prophet'." (ibid., p.
            200)
      2. They believe the Watchtower Magazine is how God communicates to
         people today
         a. "Its pages gleam with Scriptural and prophetic truths now
            due to be published for the education, comfort and guidance
            of all who desire to take their stand (and hold it) on the
            side of God and His Son, Earth's Rightful Ruler." (from an
            advertisement for The Watchtower).
         b. "Those who believe that God uses 'The Watchtower' as a means
            of communicating to his people, or of calling their
            attention to his prophecies, should study 'The Watchtower'
            with thankfulness of heart and give Jehovah God and Christ
            Jesus all the honor and credit and give neither honor or
            credit to any man." (The Watchtower, Brooklyn, NY, January
            1, 1942, p. 5)
      3. An honest and informed JW believes the following:
         a. Their organization has been anointed and commissioned to be
            God's 'prophet'
         b. They are under angelic direction and support, directed from
            heaven
         c. God helps them to understand the Bible through The
            Watchtower magazine
         d. That God will vindicate them as His 'prophet'
      -- Just as Mormons look to Joseph Smith as a prophet, so JWs look
         to their organization as a prophet of God today.  Do they pass
         the test of a prophet (cf. Deut 18:20-22)?

   C. REVIEW PROPHETIC FAILURES OF THEIR AUTHORITY...
      1. What was supposed to happen to churches in 1918?
         a. "Until 1878 the nominal church had been in a sense God's
            sanctuary or Temple; but He was from then on, culminating in
            1918, to remove it with a stroke or plague of erroneous
            doctrines and deeds Divinely permitted." (The Finished
            Mystery, Watchtower Bible And Tract Society, Brooklyn, NY,
            1917, p. 484-485)
         b. "Also, in the year 1918, when God destroys the churches
            wholesale and the church members by millions, it shall be
            that any that escape shall come to the works of Pastor
            Russell to learn the meaning of the downfall of
            'Christianity'." (ibid.)
      2. Who was supposed to be resurrected in 1925?
         a. "That period of time 1575 before A.D. 1 of necessity would
            end in the fall of the year 1925, at which time the type
            ends and the great antitype must begin.  What, then, should
            we expect to take place?" (Millions Now Living Will Never
            Die, Watchtower Bible And Tract Society, Brooklyn, NY, 1920,
            p. 88-91)
         b. "The chief thing to be restored is the human race to life;
            and since other Scriptures definitely fix the fact that
            there will be a resurrection of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and
            other faithful ones of old, and that these will have the
            first favor, we may expect 1925 to witness the return of
            these faithful men of Israel from the condition of death,
            being resurrected and fully restored to perfect humanity and
            made the visible, legal representatives of the new order of
            things on earth." (ibid.)
         c. "Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will remark
            the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the faithful
            prophets of old, particularly those named by the Apostle in
            Hebrews chapter eleven, to the condition of human
            perfection." (ibid.)
      3. What was supposed to happen in 1975?
         a. "According to this trustworthy Bible chronology six thousand
            years from man's creation will end in 1975, and the seventh
            period of a thousand years of human history will begin in
            the fall of 1975 C.E." (Life Everlasting - In Freedom Of The
            Sons Of God, p. 29)
         b. "That millennium will bring a sabbathlike rest to the earth
            and all those then inhabiting it." (AWAKE, 8 October 1968,
            p. 14)
         c. "Are we to assume from this study that the battle of
            Armageddon will be all over by the autumn of 1975, and the
            long-looked-for thousand-year reign of Christ will begin by
            then?  Possibly, but we wait to see how closely the seventh
            thousand-year period coincides with the sabbathlike
            thousand-year reign of Christ...It may involve only a
            difference of weeks or months, not years."  (Why Are You
            Looking Forward To 1975?, The Watchtower, August 15, 1968,
            Brooklyn, NY, p. 499)
         d. "Reports are heard of brothers selling their homes and
            property and planning to finish out the rest of their days
            in this old system in the pioneer service.  Certainly
            this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before
            the wicked world's end." (Kingdom Ministry, May 1974, p. 3)
      4. How do JWs try to deflect criticism for such mistakes?
         a. By saying they admit their mistakes, while false prophets
            do not
         b. That early Christians in Acts made mistakes, yet were spoken
            of with approval
         c. By claiming that they have been given "new light" to guide
            them more accurately
         d. But no prophet of God made mistakes when it came to
            prophesying the future!
         e. JWs want the authority of a prophet without the
            accountability of a prophet!
            1) They want people to heed the words of the Society as
               authoritative and final
            2) They don't want people to to apply the test of a prophet
               to them
      -- At worst, the Watchtower Society is a false prophet; at best,
         it is an unreliable interpreter of Scripture that has
         demonstrated its gross mishandling of the Word of God time and
         again!

   D. REVIEW THE ALL-SUFFICIENCY OF THE SCRIPTURES...
      1. The Scriptures were written to be understood, that one might:
         a. Know the certainty of what happened - Lk 1:1-4
         b. Believe in Jesus, and have life in His name - Jn 20:30-31
         c. Have an apostle's understanding of the "mystery of Christ"
            - Ep 3:3-5
         d. Understand the will of God - Ep 5:17
         e. Know they have eternal life - 1Jn 5:13
      2. The Scriptures are an all-sufficient guide for our salvation
         a. The whole counsel of God has been preached - cf. Ac 20:27
         b. All things pertaining to life and godliness has been given
            - cf. 2Pe 1:3
         c. The Word can save us, and help us grow - Jm 1:21; 1Pe 2:2
         d. That incorruptible Word lives and abides forever - 1Pe 1:
            22-25
         e. It has been revealed once for all - Jude 3
         f. Not even angels or modern apostles have anything new to add
            - Ga 1:8,9
      -- The Scriptures are able to make the man of God "complete,
         thoroughly equipped for every good work" - 2Ti 3:16-17

CONCLUSION

1. This lesson is not intended to present an exhaustive and complete
   response to the errors of the Watchtower Society; rather, it is has
   been my purpose to...
   a. Identify why efforts to study with them are often so frustrating
   b. Suggest where one needs to begin, if true progress is to be made

2. Once a JW is willing to accept the all-sufficiency of the Scriptures,
   and not be dependent upon the Watchtower Society to tell them what to
   believe...
   a. Then it might be fruitful to study fundamental issues
   b. Such as the deity of Christ, the plan of salvation, etc.

Otherwise, we might easily find ourselves engaged in behavior contrary
to that admonished by the apostle Paul:

   "But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they
   generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel
   but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility
   correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will
   grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and
   that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the
   devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will."
                                                (2Ti 2:23-26)

For an indepth study of the Watchtower Bible And Tract Society, its
history, organization, and doctrines, I recommend the following
material:

Jehovah's Witnesses, Vols. I & II, Maurice Barnett

This material can be ordered from the Florida College Bookstore.

You might also find these online websites helpful:

History Of The Watchtower Society
http://www.freeminds.org/history/history.htm

Jehovah's Witnesses Exposed
http://www.bible.ca/jw.htm
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