Over the last few weeks Sphelo (our church’s ministry apprentice) and myself have been targeted (yes, I think we have been targeted) by a group of enthusiastic and persistent Jehovah’s Witnesses. They probably believe that converting a pastor will earn them extra brownie points.
After arriving a number of times at our doorstep, they debate with us with the aim of persuading us that Jesus is not God, nor did he ever claim to be God. In fact, the Christian Church has misled millions into believing the false doctrine of the “Trinity”, a word that does not even occur in the Bible. Jesus, they claim, was a created being, the “first-born” over all creation – emphasis on the word born. Jesus was begotten or created by God. Jesus is not God and therefore he should not be worshipped and honoured as God.
At our church we have just worked systematically through the gospel of Mark in the New Testament. Mark leaves us with no doubt as to the identity of Jesus.
Son of God
Mark starts his gospel with these words, “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (1:1) Mark’s gospel ends with a hardened, pagan, Roman centurion seeing how Jesus dies and saying, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (15:39). We have to understand what the centurion was saying here. His worldview and culture told him that Caesar was the divine Son of God. Roman coins had this inscription: Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus. The Caesars were worshipped and honoured as gods in what is now known as the Emperor Cult. This Roman centurion sees how Jesus dies and realises that Caesar is not the Son of God, but Jesus is. Caesar should not be the object of his allegiance, rather Jesus should be. THe centurion understood that Jesus was no mere mortal.
Divine son of Man
During Jesus trail before the Jewish ruling council, the religious leaders could not find a charge against Jesus that held up to scrutiny. The high priest, as a last resort, asked Jesus directly, “”Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” (14:61) Jesus says I am! Jesus goes even further, he says he is in fact the Son of Man who sits at the right hand of God and comes on the clouds of heaven. This language is straight from Daniel 7 where one like a son of man comes on the clouds of heaven to God The Son of Man is given all power, dominion and authority, and even more startling, all the nations worship him. We all know that in the Bible we are told to worship God alone (Exodus 20:3). Yet all the nations are worshipping the Son of Man! Jesus, at his farcical trial, claims to be divine Son of Man. The high priest was not an idiot and realised that Jesus was claiming to be deity, on par with God:
‘“The high priest tore his clothes…”Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as worthy of death.’ (14:63-64)
Jesus was condemned for being a blasphemer, for claiming that which belongs to God. The irony is that the accusation is 100% true.
Jesus’ own claims to divinity don’t come as a shocker to the reader of Mark’s gospel. In chapter 1 Jesus is called the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit, a task which was reserved for God himself (Ezekiel 39:29). We read in chapter 2 how Jesus forgives a man his sins – a prerogative which belongs only to God (Psalm 51:1-4, Jeremiah 31:34 etc). In chapter 4 Jesus commands nature and, not too surprisingly, creation listens to its creator (Psalm 104:5-7 etc). Chapter 6 tells us how Jesus supernaturally multiplies bread and then proceeds to walk on water. The last chapter tells how Jesus rose from the dead.
Throughout Mark’s gospel Jesus does things only God can do. The Jehovah Witnesses’ counter this by saying that Jesus only did these things by the power of God, not because he was God himself. This argument, however, is not good enough. Mark’s gospel plus the astounding words and deeds of Jesus recorded in the other three gospels are clear evidence that Jesus was no mere man or angel. Jesus certainly willingly chose to leave the splendour of heaven and “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippans 2:7), but never did he stop being God. The God of the Bible is one God in three Persons; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Jehovah Witnesses are a cult, teaching a false doctrine and a different Jesus. They are obscuring the clear meaning of the Bible and drawing millions away from Jesus, God the Son, second person of the triune God.
See this site for more info on the Jehovah Witness cult.