Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Trinity: A Christian Perspective
Dr. Pat Zukeran provides Christians with a biblical perspective on countering the false teaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding the nature of God and the Trinity. Countering these non-Christian views will enable you to get to the heart of the matter in sharing Christ with members of this cult.
In another essay (Jehovah’s Witnesses: Witnessing to the Witnesses) I discussed effective evangelistic strategies when sharing the faith with Jehovah’s Witnesses. We covered some effective techniques such as the Witnesses’ record of false prophecy, the name “Jehovah”, the bodily resurrection of Christ, and the personality of the Holy Spirit. In this essay I would like to teach you how to defend the doctrine of the Trinity, a truth clearly denied by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Before we can defend this doctrine, however, we must have a clear understanding of the Trinity. Too many Christians lack a solid understanding of the Triune nature of God.
The doctrine of the Trinity is the belief that there is one God who has revealed Himself in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three persons make up the one true God. These three persons are of the same substance, equal in power and glory. It is important we understand this doctrine because the wrong Jesus or the wrong God cannot save us from eternal death. Paul makes a clear warning of this in 2 Corinthians 11:4.
The Bible clearly states that there is only one God. Deuteronomy 6:4 states, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.” Isaiah 44:6 states, “I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides me.” Clearly, these verses reveal that there is only one God. Yet, there are three separate persons in the Bible who are called God and have the characteristics only God can have. The Trinity is a difficult concept to grasp, because we are finite beings trying to explain an infinite God who is beyond our understanding.
Let’s take a look at some verses that back up our doctrine of the Trinity. The Father is obviously called God as seen throughout the Bible. No one will argue that point. So there is one member of the Trinity, the Father. Jesus the Son, is a separate person but He is also called God. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Titus 2:13 says, “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” So here we see clearly, the Son is also called God.
The Holy Spirit is also a separate person, and He is also called God. First, let us understand, the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force. He is a person and has the characteristics of a person. He can be grieved (Eph. 4:30), He speaks (Acts 13:2), and He can be lied to (Act 5:3-4). In Acts 5:3-4 the Holy Spirit is called God, “But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?…You have not lied to men, but to God.’”
So we see clearly that there are three persons in the Bible, and all three are called God. Yet, we must remember, there is only one God according to the verses we looked at Deuteronomy 6:4 and Isaiah 44:6. Therefore, we come to the conclusion that the Trinity is made up of three separate persons who are the one true God. At this point we need to look at verses Jehovah’s Witnesses use to attempt to disprove the Trinity and learn how to refute these arguments. Then we will look at the best verses to use in demonstrating the truth of the Trinity to Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Bible
I run in to many Christians who tell me, “The Jehovah’s Witnesses know their Bible so well, and they’ve got so many verses memorized.” The truth is, they don’t know their Bible well, it’s just that we Christians are lacking in our Bible knowledge. When it comes to the Trinity, Witnesses only know about 8 verses to defend their view. We’ll be studying the main verses they use to try to disprove the Trinity.
In one approach they attempt to show that Jesus cannot be God because He was created. The verse they use here is Colossians 1:15, “And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation.” Here the Witnesses say Christ is the first-born which they say means, “first created being of God.” Therefore, they conclude Jesus cannot be God since He was created.
The key to understanding this verse is understanding the term first-born, what does it mean? The Greek word for “first created” is the word Protoktioti. If Paul wanted to say Christ was the first created being, he would have used this word but he does not. He uses another term, Prototokos. Paul is referring to the Jewish use of the word first-born which not only means first one born but also is used as a title of sovereignty and pre-eminence.
Here’s an example of the meaning of the word. In Psalm 89:27 God says of David, “I also shall make him My first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth.” Let’s take a good look and see how first- born is used here. Is David the first-born son of Jesse? No, he is the eighth and youngest son of Jesse. Then how is it that David is the first-born? In the Old Testament use of the word, he is first- born in that he is pre-eminent or sovereign of all the kings of the earth.
Now stick that usage of first-born into the context of Colossians 1:15, and it fits perfectly. Not only that, have the Witnesses read on with you to verse 18. Verse 18 shows that Paul is clearly talking about the pre-eminence of Christ for he says, “He is also the head of the body” and “the first-born” for the purpose, “that in everything he might be pre-eminent.” If we were to replace first-born in verse 18 with the term pre-eminent, it would fit perfectly in the context. However, if we replaced it with first created, it would not fit in that context.
Another verse the Witnesses use to show Jesus was created is Revelation 3:14, “And to the angel of Laodicea write: ‘The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the Beginning of the creation of God….’” Here the faithful witness is Jesus and He is called, “The Beginning of the creation.”
The Greek word for beginning is arche, which is used in many ways. It is used to mean “origin or source of, or ruler,” but not first creation. Turn with the Witness to Revelation 21:6. In these two verses, Jehovah calls Himself the beginning. Does that mean Jehovah was created? No. Therefore, the Witnesses use of the term beginning, is incorrect.
Jesus was never created. John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Word” Jesus was with God from eternity past; Jesus has no beginning because He is the eternal God.
Is Jesus Inferior to God?
Is Jesus inferior to God? Another way the Witnesses try to disprove the deity of Christ is to show that Christ is inferior in nature to God. The verses they use here are John 14:28 and 1 Corinthians 11:3.
John 14:28 reads, “You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I.” They will ask you, “How can Jesus be equal to God if here He states ‘the Father is greater than I’?”
The term greater refers to position, not nature. The term better refers to nature. Here is a good example I use in illustrating this passage. The President is greater than you or I, correct? Yes, as Chief Executive Officer of the United States he is greater than you or I. The Jehovah’s Witness will agree. But, is the President better than you or I? What I mean is, is there anything about the President that makes him a superior being to you or me? No.
You see, greater refers to position, not nature. We see in Philippians 2:6-8, that Christ though He was in the form of God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied Himself and submitted Himself to the Father and took on the form of a servant. Though Jesus emptied Himself, He was always in nature God and equal to the Father in nature. If Jesus wanted to say He was inferior to God in nature, He would have said, “The Father is better than I.”
Here is an example of the use of the term better in Hebrews 1:4 (NAS); it says speaking of Jesus, “having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.” The NI V reads, “So he became as much superior to the angels….” Here we see that Jesus is a being superior to the angels, so the term better, is used. Remember, in explaining this verse, the term greater refers to position, not nature.
Another verse the Witnesses will use is 1 Corinthians 11:3, “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” Here they say since the head of Christ is God, Jesus must be inferior to God.
Once again you use the same concept of equal in nature, but Christ submitted Himself to the Father. Here the principle of headship and submission established by God is displayed both in marriage and in the Trinity. Now show the Jehovah’s Witnesses that in this passage, the head of the woman is man. “Does this mean that the husband is a superior being to his wife?” The answer is obviously, “No.” The husband is greater than his wife by way of position but not by nature. The same applies to the Father and the Son. The Father is greater by position, but not better by nature.
Remember when you’re Witnessing, you are not there to win an argument, but to show them the error of their ways in a loving and Christ-like manner, but also you are not to be afraid to boldly defend the faith.
Proving the Deity of Christ
One of the best defenses is a good offense. When defending the Trinity to Witnesses, take charge of the conversation. Don’t let the Witnesses run you in circles. You pick the topic and keep them on the topic you choose, instead of having them ask you all the questions, you have some questions ready for them to answer.
The best way to do this, when they appear at your doorstep, is ask them, “What organization are you with?” They will reply, “We are Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Then ask them, “Whom do you say is the God of the Apostles?” They will reply, “Jehovah.” You then reply, “How do you explain the fact that Jesus is the God of the Apostles?” They will be surprised and say, “No, that’s not true, where do you find that?” Here you have taken over the conversation. Now, stay in charge of the conversation and don’t let them break off on another tangent.
Next, you turn to the first text John 20:28, where Thomas, after seeing the resurrected Lord, proclaims to Jesus,” My Lord and My God.” Here, Thomas calls Jesus God. The Witnesses have two responses to this. One, they may say, “Well, Thomas was so surprised at seeing Jesus that he shouted, ‘My Lord and My God,’ in surprise just as we shout, ‘Oh, my God,’ when we’re surprised.” There’s a problem with that. Thomas was a devout Jew and never would have shouted “my God” in surprise for that would be blasphemy for a Jew. A second response they have is, Thomas looked at Jesus and said, “My Lord,” then looked to heaven and said, “My God.” There’s a problem with that too because the context does not say that. If you look at the passage, Thomas says, “My Lord and My God” to Jesus. So Thomas saw clearly that Jesus was God.
The next verse to turn them to is John 1:1. Now here the Witnesses will think you’re falling into their trap for they have a different translation. Their translation says, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was a god.”
Well, the first thing to do is to show them that both translations can’t be right. Someone is wrong. Ask them, “If we were to go to the local library here, we would find over thirty translations of the Bible. How many would translate it your way?” The truth is only one would, theirs. Then ask them, “Are you willing to say all the translators for the past centuries have been wrong and only yours is correct?” If they’re honest, they’ll think about it. Others will say, “Yes, ours is the only true translation.”
It is then you say, “Let’s say your translation is correct and mine is wrong, you still have a problem. How many gods do you have in that verse?” Then you take their Bible and count the number of gods with them. Say, “Well, here is one God with a capital G, what kind of god is He?” They’ll say, “A true god.” Then you go on and say, “Here’s another god with a small g, what kind of god is He?” They must say,” a true god.” Then you ask them, “How many gods do you have?” This is where they get stuck for they must either say two gods and be polytheists or deny their translation. These are two great verses to use when witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Alpha and the Omega
As I have witnessed to many Jehovah’s Witnesses, I have found some verses that work most effectively in proving the deity of Christ. Here are two of my favorite combination of verses.
The first verse is Revelation 1:8. I am reading from the Jehovah’s Witness Bible, and it reads, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says Jehovah God. Ask the Witness, “What does Alpha and Omega mean?” They’ll reply,”The beginning and the end.” Then ask them, “How many Alphas and Omegas can you have?” They’ll answer, “Only one.” Make sure you get this point across, there is only one Alpha and Omega.
Then turn to Revelation 22:12-13 which says, “Look I am coming quickly, and the reward I give is with me….I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Ask the Witnesses, “Who do you say the Alpha and Omega is?” They will say, “Jehovah.” Now take a careful look. The Alpha and Omega in verse twelve is coming quickly. Let’s see who is speaking in verse twelve.
Look at verse sixteen, “I Jesus, sent my angel to bear witness to you people of these things for the congregations. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star.” It is Jesus speaking in verse twelve. If there is any doubt go to verse 20 which says, “He that bears witness of these things says, ‘Yes; I am coming quickly’ Amen come Lord Jesus.” So it is clear that the Alpha and the Omega in verse twelve is Jesus. Here is a strong proof text that Jesus is God because both Jehovah and Jesus are called the Alpha and the Omega.
Another pair of verses that are effective when used together are Isaiah 44:6 and Revelation 1:17-18. Isaiah 44:6 says, “This is what Jehovah has said, ‘The king of Israel and the Repurchaser of him, Jehovah of armies, I am the first and I am the last.’” Ask the Witnesses how many firsts and lasts can you have? It’s obvious to anyone you can only have one first and one last. Ask them, “Who is the first and the last?” They will say, “Jehovah.” Now turn to Revelation 1:17-18 which says, “Do not be fearful; I am the First and the Last, and the living one; and I became dead but look! I am living forever.” Who is speaking here? Obviously, it is Jesus for He died but is now alive, and guess what? He is called the First and the Last. Here again we see Jesus is God.
These are my favorite verses, and I have never had Witnesses refute these arguments. Remember, the Witnesses at your door won’t convert right then and there. The key is to get them to start thinking and questioning the organization, and down the road, maybe in several years, they will seek answers and that will lead them out of the organization. Don’t give up or be discouraged when sharing with Witnesses. Though they may be rude and show no signs that they are thinking, the Word of God is powerful and is working in their hearts even if we can’t see it.
Remember Dr. Walter Martin (author of Kingdom of the Cults) went fifteen years without a convert, but he never gave up. Today we know of hundreds he pulled out of the organization. Continue to study the Word, and God bless you as you defend the faith.
©1994 Probe Ministries.