Questions From Readers
● Is it right to say that Jehovah’s witnesses do a converting work or a proselyting work?
According to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, to convert is “to bring over or persuade (a person or group) to a particular belief, view, course, party, or principle often from a previously held position” or “to bring about a spiritual conversion in (as a religious conversion in a person or group).” A proselyte is defined as “one who has been converted from one religious faith to another.” Hence, to proselyte is “to convert from one religion, belief, opinion, or party to another.” A proselytizer is therefore “one that makes or tries to make proselytes.”
In Bible times, some foreigners became converts to the Jews’ religion. They were referred to in the Christian Greek Scriptures by the Greek word proseʹlytos, meaning “one who has come over to Judaism, a convert, proselyte.” (A Greek-English Lexicon, by Liddell, Scott and Drisler, 1849, page 1272) The Scriptures and Jesus himself called such ones proselytes, though this term is not applied in the Greek Scriptures to those converted to Christianity. (See Matthew 23:15; Acts 2:10; 6:5; 13:43.) Yet, according to modern dictionary usage, it can be said that a person who turns from some other religion to Christianity is a convert or proselyte.
The Greek word for “convert” is strépho, which means “to turn.” It is rendered “turn around” in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures at Matthew 18:3, where Jesus said: “Unless you turn around and become as young children, you will by no means enter into the kingdom of the heavens.” A related word, epistrépho, meaning “to turn about” or “turn upon” is used at James 5:20, where it is said: “Know that he who turns a sinner back from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” The Greek noun epistrophé, which is akin to epistrépho, means “a turning about, or round, conversion” and was used at Acts 15:3. At Acts 15:1-3 Luke did not try to avoid indicating that early Christians made converts. No, but after saying that Paul, Barnabas and others were sent to inquire of the apostles and older men at Jerusalem regarding circumcision, he explained that during their journey “these men continued on their way through both Phoenicia and Samaria, relating in detail the conversion of people of the nations.” So, when persons at that time embraced Christianity, they were converted.—See An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, W. E. Vine, pages 238, 239.
To his followers Jesus said: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) Were they not to do proselyting work, to make disciples? Indeed they were, and Christ’s modern-day followers do the same thing. If turning pagans from false worship to Judaism was proselyting them, then, also, turning pagans to Christianity means proselyting them. Of course, they do not use force or unchristian methods in their preaching work. No coercion is employed to bring about conversion. Instead, Biblical truths are taught today by Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. Those with righteous hearts respond to the truth. It is not the personal force of the minister that changes the person, for Christ said: “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him.” (John 6:44) It is the truth of God’s Word, as preached by Jehovah’s witnesses, that sets persons free from religious bondage. (John 8:32) Those who hear the message of truth must individually decide whether to accept or reject it. They determine whether to turn around, to make a change in life, to quit being fashioned after this system of things and become converts to true Christianity.—Rom. 12:2.
But Jehovah’s witnesses are doing a proselyting work, a work of conversion, just like that of the early Christians. Due to their ministry, hundreds of thousands of persons have abandoned Babylon the Great. And we joyfully look to the future, for there still remains some time for others to heed the admonition: “Get out of her, my people.”—Rev. 18:4.
● What does Acts 6:15 mean when it says that Stephen’s face “was as an angel’s face”? Was he transfigured, as Jesus was?
The Bible account at Acts, chapters 6 and 7, tells about Stephen’s defense before the Sanhedrin, and Acts chapter 6, verse 15, says: “As all those sitting in the Sanhedrin gazed at him, they saw that his face was as an angel’s face.” The scripture here does not necessarily mean that Stephen’s face was transfigured, as Jesus was on the mount of transfiguration. Yet there must have been something about Stephen’s face that fascinated the members of the Sanhedrin. It was not unusual, of course, for the judges to observe the countenance of the prisoner before them, which sometimes is an indication of guilt or innocence. Now, Stephen appeared before the court, not with the downcast face of one guilty of a crime, but with the countenance of an angel, a messenger sent by God, one with confidence that he had the backing of God. His face gave no evidence that he was guilty of wrongdoing. He displayed courage. His face showed that he was serene and unperturbed, because of his confidence in God. As Jesus had said not long before this: “I give you my peace. . . . Do not let your hearts be troubled nor let them shrink for fear.”—John 14:27.
The Bible’s description of the appearances of angels who manifested themselves at times to Jehovah’s servants also reveals that an angel’s appearance is awe-inspiring. So Stephen, filled with holy spirit, reflected the countenance of a representative of the God of glory, and Stephen’s facial appearance, for the moment, seemed to overawe his hostile judges. But the impression of the opposed Jews changed from wonderment to chagrin when Stephen exposed their guilt as to the murder of the “righteous One,” Jesus Christ. After Stephen’s rebuke, the judges “felt cut to their hearts and began to gnash their teeth at him.” But Stephen, “being full of holy spirit, gazed into heaven and caught sight of God’s glory and of Jesus standing at God’s right hand.” With this vision to strengthen him, he could face those unrighteous judges with confidence that he had indeed done the will of God.—Acts 7:52, 54, 55.