A Conversation With a Neighbor—Is Jesus God?
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES enjoy discussing the Bible with their neighbors. Is there a particular Bible subject that you have wondered about? Are you curious about any of the beliefs or religious practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses? If so, do not hesitate to bring up the subject the next time you come in contact with a Witness. He or she will be pleased to discuss such matters with you.
The following is a typical conversation that one of Jehovah’s Witnesses might have with a neighbor. Let us imagine that a Witness named Karen has come to the home of a woman named Samantha.
Is It True That You Do Not Believe in Jesus?
Samantha: My pastor says that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in Jesus. Is that true?
Karen: Let me assure you that we do believe in Jesus. In fact, we believe that exercising faith in Jesus is vital to salvation.
Samantha: I believe that too.
Karen: So this is something that you and I have in common. By the way, my name is Karen. May I ask your name?
Samantha: Samantha. Nice to meet you.
Karen: Nice to meet you too, Samantha. You may wonder, ‘If Jehovah’s Witnesses really do believe in Jesus, why do people say otherwise?’
Samantha: Yes, I’m curious about that.
Karen: In a nutshell, Samantha, we have very strong faith in Jesus, but we do not believe everything that people say about him.
Samantha: Can you give me an example?
Karen: Yes. Some people say that Jesus was simply a good man. But we do not agree with that idea.
Samantha: Neither do I.
Karen: So that’s another thing that you and I have in common. A second example is that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not agree with teachings that contradict what Jesus himself said about his relationship with the Father.
Samantha: What do you mean?
Karen: Many religions teach that Jesus is God. Perhaps that is what you have been taught.
Samantha: Yes, my pastor says that God and Jesus are the same.
Karen: Would you agree, though, that the best way to learn the truth about Jesus is to examine what he said about himself?
Samantha: Yes, I would agree with that.
What Did Jesus Say?
Karen: Let’s consider a Bible verse that sheds some light on the matter. Notice, please, what we read at John 6:38. Jesus said: “I have come down from heaven to do, not my will, but the will of him that sent me.” Now, that statement would be a bit puzzling if Jesus were God.
Samantha: What do you mean?
Karen: Well, notice that Jesus said he did not come down from heaven to do his own will.
Samantha: Right, he said that he came to do the will of the One who sent him.
Karen: But if Jesus is God, who sent him down from heaven? And why did Jesus yield to the will of that One?
Samantha: I see what you’re getting at. But I’m not sure that this one verse proves Jesus isn’t God.
Karen: Consider, though, what Jesus said on another occasion. He made a similar statement in the next chapter of John. Would you please read John 7:16?
Samantha: Sure. “Jesus, in turn, answered them and said: ‘What I teach is not mine, but belongs to him that sent me.’”
Karen: Thank you, Samantha. According to this verse, did Jesus teach his own ideas?
Samantha: No, he said that his teachings belong to the One who sent him.
Karen: That’s right. Again, we have to wonder: ‘Who sent Jesus? And who gave him the truths he taught?’ Wouldn’t that One be greater than Jesus? After all, the sender is superior to the one who is sent.
Samantha: That’s interesting. I never read that passage before.
Karen: Consider, too, Jesus’ words at John 14:28: “You heard that I said to you, I am going away and I am coming back to you. If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going my way to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am.” Based on that verse, how would you say Jesus viewed himself in relation to the Father?
Samantha: Well, he said that the Father is greater than he is. So I guess he viewed God as his superior.
Karen: Exactly. For another example, notice what Jesus told his disciples as recorded at Matthew 28:18. That verse says: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” So did Jesus say that he always had all authority?
Samantha: No, he said that it had been given to him.
Karen: But if Jesus is God, how could he be given more authority? And who gave it to him?
Samantha: I’ll have to think about that.
To Whom Was He Speaking?
Karen: There is something else that is rather puzzling if Jesus truly is God.
Samantha: What’s that?
Karen: It’s what we read about Jesus’ baptism. Notice the account recorded at Luke 3:21, 22. Would you please read those verses?
Samantha: “Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus also was baptized and, as he was praying, the heaven was opened up and the holy spirit in bodily shape like a dove came down upon him, and a voice came out of heaven: ‘You are my Son, the beloved; I have approved you.’”
Karen: Did you notice what Jesus was doing as he was being baptized?
Samantha: He was praying.
Karen: Yes. Of course, we might wonder, ‘If Jesus is God, to whom was he praying?’
Samantha: That’s a good question. I’ll have to ask my pastor.
Karen: Along a similar line, note that after Jesus came up out of the water, someone spoke from heaven. Did you notice what that One said?
Samantha: He said that Jesus was His Son, that He loved him, and that He approved of him.
Karen: That’s right. But if Jesus is God, who said those things from heaven?
Samantha: I never thought of it that way before.
Why “Father” and “Son”?
Karen: Here’s something else to consider: We’ve read that Jesus spoke of God as his heavenly Father. And when Jesus was baptized, a voice from heaven referred to Jesus as His Son. In fact, Jesus specifically called himself God’s Son. Now, if you wanted to teach me that two people are equal, what sort of family relationship might you use to illustrate the point?
Samantha: I might use two brothers.
Karen: Exactly—perhaps even identical twins. But Jesus referred to God as the Father and to himself as the Son. So, what message do you suppose Jesus was conveying?
Samantha: I see your point. Jesus is describing one individual as being older and as having more authority than the other.
Karen: Exactly. Think about this: You came up with such a fitting illustration of equality, that of brothers or twins. If Jesus really were God, don’t you think that Jesus, as the Great Teacher, would have thought of the same comparison—or an even clearer example of equality?
Samantha: Of course.
Karen: But, instead, he used the terms “Father” and “Son” to describe his relationship with God.
Samantha: You raise an interesting point.
What Did Jesus’ Early Followers Say?
Karen: Before I leave, I’d like to consider one other aspect of this subject with you, if you have a moment.
Samantha: Yes, I have a few minutes.
Karen: If Jesus truly is God, wouldn’t you expect that Jesus’ disciples would have plainly said so?
Samantha: That seems reasonable.
Karen: Yet, nowhere in the Scriptures do we read of their teaching that. On the contrary, notice what one of Jesus’ early followers, the apostle Paul, wrote. At Philippians 2:9, he describes what God did after Jesus’ death and resurrection: “God exalted him [Jesus] to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name.” According to this verse, what did God do for Jesus?
Samantha: It says that God exalted him to a superior position.
Karen: Yes. But if Jesus were equal to God before he died and God later exalted him to a higher position, wouldn’t that put Jesus above God? How could anyone be superior to God?
Samantha: He couldn’t. It’s impossible.
Karen: I agree. Based on all this evidence, then, would you say that the Bible teaches that Jesus is God?
Samantha: No, it doesn’t seem that way. The Bible says that he is God’s Son.
Karen: That’s right. Let me assure you though, Samantha, that Jehovah’s Witnesses hold Jesus in very high regard. We believe that his death as the promised Messiah opened the way to salvation for all faithful humans.
Samantha: I believe that too.
Karen: You might wonder, then, ‘How can we show Jesus that we appreciate his giving his life in our behalf?’*
Samantha: I have wondered about that.
Karen: Perhaps I could come back and share the Bible’s answer with you. Will you be home about this time next week?
Samantha: Yes, I will be here.
Karen: Great, I’ll see you then.
For more information, see chapter 5 of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach?