Responses to Jehovah's Witnesses
What Nazarenes believe
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An African martyr's statement on commitment
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Excerpts from e-mail interchange with a Jehovah's Witness
- Jehovah's Witness question: Didn't you know that the cross is an idolatrous symbol borrowed from paganism? Another reason why true Christians should not use the cross is because too many non-Christians uses it for their personal use.
- My answer: The cross isn't "borrowed" from anywhere. It's what the Romans used to execute Jesus. That's clear from an ancient pagan who made fun of Christ by scratching into a Roman wall a drawing of Jesus on a cross with the head of a donkey. Are you telling me Paul was promoting paganism when he talked about glorying in the cross? Are you telling me the writer to the Hebrews was promoting paganism when he/she talked of Christ enduring the cross?
Then, do you really believe that Christians shouldn't use the cross because it's been mis-used by some people in the past? Is that statement logical? Think about what you've written. If we follow what you say here, then we shouldn't use the Bible because there are a lot of people who have misused it.
If we follow your line of reasoning, we shouldn't use the word God because a lot of people use it as a swear word. Following your line of reasoning means that we should not talk about Jesus anymore because a lot of people have done bad things in His name. If we follow your line of reasoning, we shouldn't even talk about peace because people have misused that word in some horrible ways.
- Jehovah's Witness question: Did you know that Jesus wasn't executed on a cross? He died on a stake.
- My answer: There is some debate on what the cross of Christ looked like. It is true that this instrument of execution used by Assyrians, Persians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans was originally just a stake. However, there's archaeological evidence that by the time of Christ's crucifixion, crossbars were being used.
In New Testament times, it was common for the condemned person to carry the crossbeam to the place where an upright pole or stake had already been erected. As an offender got ready to walk from his prison cell to the public execution site, a tablet was often hung on him stating his crime or crimes. At the crucifixion site, the beam to which the outstretched arms of the condemned person had been fastened was lifted up and attached to the upright post.
In a marvelous bit of poetry in Philippians 2, Paul notes that Jesus was God "in very nature" and then marvels that he "became obedient to death -- even death on a cross!" In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul speaks of how we are reconciled to God "through the cross" (Ephesians 2:16).
You may not rejoice in all this. But, the Apostle Paul and I do! So, why don't you join us?
- Jehovah's Witness question: Crucifixion was just a horrible way to die. Why do you spend so much time talking about it? Shouldn't we concentrate on the things Jesus said and what did when he was here on earth?
- My answer: I'm sorry that Jesus' crucifixion is an object of horror and loathing for you. That is the pagan way of thinking. You can choose to align yourselves with the pagans if you wish. But I would plead with you not to be one of "the enemies of the cross of Christ" of whom Paul spoke in Philippians 3:18.
Yes, crucifixion is one of the worst forms of execution. Still, I prefer to stand on the side of the Apostle Paul in saying, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 6:14). (Note the use of the word "Lord" here which identifies him as Adonai -- Hebrew for "Lord God" -- of the Old Testament).
Paul also said that lifting up the cross was "a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles" (1 Corinthians 1:23). Don't join unbelievers in letting the cross be a stumbling block to your faith in Jesus as Immanuel, God come in human flesh. Embrace the cross as Paul did!
Paul urges us not to let "the cross of Christ be emptied of its power" (1 Corinthians 1:17). Some people may believe that Jesus was just an angelic being who came and said wonderful things and was unfortunately executed. However, when you say that, aren't you doing exactly what Paul has warned against? Aren't you emptying the cross of its power?
- Jehovah's Witness question: Did you know that when you celebrate Christmas, you are celebrating a pagan holiday? Did you know that Jesus wasn't born on December 25?
- My answer: Yes, some pagans did celebrate an event on December 25. Pagans also celebrated other events by naming Monday after the moon god and Saturday after Saturn and Thursday after Thor and so on. Does that mean you are engaging in pagan worship every time you use those words for the various days of the week? I don't think so. Please don't accuse me of pagan worship simply because I celebrate Christ's birth on a day when some pagans long ago had a worship event on that same day.
The Bible doesn't say Jesus the Christ was born on December 25. I don't disagree with you on that. It's very likely that my Lord and Savior wasn't born on that date. This just happens to be the time of the year that I celebrate that particular Biblical event. I could just as well celebrate the coming of Immanuel into the world in March or in October. This happens to be the time when I celebrate it along with fellow believers. Is there something wrong with the whole community of faith looking at the Old Testament prophecies and their fulfillment with the birth of Jesus of Nazarene?
- Jehovah's Witness question: If you know Jesus wasn't born on December 25, why do you promote that as Jesus' birthday?
- My answer: We're not promoting December 25 as the actual day on which Jesus was born. I was born on November 21. Rarely does my family celebrate my birthday on that day. They usually pick a day closest to that day when we can all get together. Does that mean that this year we were saying I was born on November 19? No, we weren't. This year November 19 was simply a convenient time to celebrate.
I have a granddaughter who was born on December 31. This year the family wasn't able to get together for that particular day. So, we're celebrating with her on January 8. Does that mean we don't know when she was born? No. Does that mean we're trying to say she was born on January 8? No.
That's the way it is with our celebration of Christmas. You've misunderstood us. We're not trying to argue that December 25 was the actual day of Jesus' birth. We're simply celebrating the coming of God in human form to reconcile the world unto Himself! That may not be worth celebrating to you, but to me and my family, that's worth celebrating.
- Jehovah's Witness question: Isn't it wrong to use a mythical figure like Santa Claus to celebrate Christmas?
- My answer: I'm not sure why you put Santa Claus into the picture. I don't remember bringing him up. Santa Claus wasn't part of the Lord's Supper celebration that we did together in our church service during a recent Christmas season. I'm celebrating the coming of God to earth in the person of Jesus Christ to rescue His fallen creation.
While Santa Claus has grown into a mythical figure, he does have real historical roots. There was a real Nicholas who lived in the late 200s and early 300s in what is now Turkey. While Nicholas was young, his wealthy parents, who were devout Christians, died in an epidemic. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his considerable inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering -- especially the children. Having said that, I'm not one to debate the Santa Claus figure. He's not the reason I celebrate. Jesus, the promised Messiah who is the great "I AM" of Scripture, is the reason I celebrate.
- Jehovah's Witness question: Why do you go around singing carols at Christmas? Why don't you go around teaching the truth instead?
- My answer: Don't you think singing is a wonderful Christian act of worship that also has great teaching value? [ story of "Silent Night" ]
Yes, I am a happy celebrator of the coming of the Messiah. Both Matthew and Luke give two entire chapters to the event. There are numerous prophecies in the Old Testament that refer to the birth of the Messiah. So, I'm a celebrator of the event in which God in Christ came into the world to reconcile lost sinners to Himself. Isn't that giant rescue operation worth celebrating?
This last Christmas my wife and I and our two granddaughters went caroling with three van loads of people from our church. We went to two group homes of people with disabilities and sang songs about the birth of our Savior. Then we went to the homes of three elderly shut-ins and sang on their doorstep. We wound up at a horse barn. There, in a stable, my wife Barbara read aloud the nativity story from Luke. It was a great evening of celebration.
The Christmas season is the celebration of Immanuel, God with us! Praise the Lord. God has come in Christ Jesus to save us.
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