I have been really impressed by the recent appearance of a number of street stalls hosted by Jehovah’s Witnesses which ask clearly and simply “What does the bible really teach?” I am impressed because many JWs are out on the streets doing mission work. I am impressed because the question invites people to ask one vitally important question. I am concerned for JWs, however, and for those with whom they engage because of the question.
First, my concerns for those with whom they seek to engage in bible study. If the question is addressed to unbelievers who have never read the bible or have misconceptions about it, then it is an important yet innocuous question. It’s a good thing to ask people to explore the bible. Jesus promised that by the work of the Holy Spirit his disciples would be led into the truth, as the Holy Spirit illuminates the word of God (John 16:13).
Yet, now imagine that someone becomes a believer though this street work. This is my concern. The question ceases to be innocuous if what is meant by “what does the bible REALLY teach?” means “only Jehovah’s Witnesses really know what the bible really teaches” or “we’re right and every other believer in the Lord Jesus in other denominations is wrong.” This is an arrogant and unbiblical position to hold. Not even the Apostle Paul claimed to have a handle on everything because he knew that he could only see in part (1 Corinthians 13:12). And as Don Carson explained, in his lecture to St Andrew the Great members in 1996, the bible is true but our individual grasp of the truth is always being formed and is expanding.
And so, to be truly concerned with the answer to the question, we must be willing to engage with people who love the word of God and yet with whom we disagree about what the bible teaches. The word of God is living and active and so it is meant to be studied by all believers together (believers being those who have been saved by grace through faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9)). We are to maintain the bond of peace and the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:1-3) as we attain to practical unity through the teaching and preaching of the word of God (Ephesians 4:13). The word of the LORD works in us as we study together and our knowledge increases (2 Peter 3:17-18).
And so, anyone who is really interested in what the bible teaches will be willing to open the bible with any other believers. I would be happy to sit with anyone, JWs included, who knows the LORD and loves his word. We all know in part, and so we should have valuable insights to share, if we are illuminated by the Holy Spirit. Then we’ll both see what the bible really teaches and reach unity as the Apsotle Paul wrote. So, if you are reading this as a Jehovah’s Wtiness, or anyone else who loves the Lord and his word, then please feel free to knock on my door next time you are in West Bromwich and we’ll get our bibles open together.