“Who has bewitched you?” Paul was seriously concerned that someone was leading the Galatians away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was pointedly questioning them, and strongly warning them to beware.
Beware being bewitched, Paul warned – understanding that there is not another gospel to be drawn away to, even if it appears that angels from heaven are presenting it. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn out of position in Christ. Don’t be misled by charm into evil doctrines. Don’t be fascinated, and deceived, by false representations claiming to be truth.
What is offered to bewitch the saints? What is offered to pervert the gospel? Emptiness. Things that beguile through enticing words. That cause us to question God and His goodness and His precious plan of salvation:
- Appealing to the flesh rather than the Holy Spirit
- Pleasing man rather than God
- Appealing to works rather than faith in Christ’s sacrifice for sins
- Back into bondage rather than freedom in Christ
- Glorying in the flesh instead of the cross
- Traditions of men rather than the truth of God
- Trusting in self rather than the Saviour
- The law rather than grace
Paul so strongly opposed false prophets, he put a curse on them! Read it yourself in Galatians chapter 1. Perverting the gospel is a serious crime in the kingdom of Christ. Those who attempt to bewitch followers of Christ anger God Himself. Jesus flatly stated that those who cause others to stumble in the faith would be better off drowned. Those who trouble the saints will bear their judgment, Paul wrote.
Paul warned the Galatians to not be otherwise minded. One of the Greek definitions of bewitched is to be put out of our wits. When someone is tempted to not obey the truth through false representations, they’re being pulled off the mark. And if we miss the mark, we also miss the prize. If we miss the mark by being bewitched, we risk tearing down the hedge of spiritual protection around our children, confusing and endangering them along with ourselves. What we reap, we sow. Beware being bewitched. And warn others with sincerity and humility to avoid the same trap.
If any within the Church are pulled off base by being bewitched, we are to lovingly restore them to the right path with meekness, exhorting them to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free in order to escape being entangled with bondage. Jesus warned that if, having put our hand to the plow, we look back, we endanger our souls. Let’s watch out for ourselves and others lest the enemy devour any of us. Beware being bewitched.
This is the thirteen-hundredth (1,300) anniversary of the year of King Pelagius of Spain’s most famous battle; one which changed the course of European history. Because of his belief in the teachings of the Bible, he and a small band of Spanish Christians were able to demonstrate that a seemingly invincible enemy could be defeated. Without his courage and heroism, Spain may never have become a strong Christian nation since his time.
Beginning in 718 AD, an army of Africans and Arabs, under the banner of Islam, began their invasion of Spain. This army of Muslims had been conquering countries throughout Africa and the Near East since they began their “jihad” in the late 600s AD. They came across the Mediterranean Sea from Africa into southern Spain and were an unstoppable force that destroyed cities and towns wherever they went. A historian in 754 AD wrote that the Muslims “ruined beautiful cities, burning them with fire, condemning lords and powerful men to the cross; and butchered youths and infants with the sword.”
The objective of the invaders was to sow terror among the Christians so that they would either surrender without fighting or flee. The invaders slaughtered, cooked, and pretended to eat Christian captives, while releasing others who, horrified, fled and informed the people in Northern Spain that the Muslims were eating human flesh. In the face of such a fierce army the Christians had only two choices: acquiesce to Muslim rule or flee to the mountains, where they risked hunger and various forms of death.
Among the Christians that fled to the mountains was Pelagius (better known as Pelayo). He was born in 685 AD and died in 737 AD. He had survived that battle for the city of Guadalete. In Northern Spain the hold on the population by the Muslims was less than in Southern Spain, so there was less threat of attacks in that part of the country. Pelagius became the leader of a small Christian community at the foothills of the Asturian Mountains and was forced to pay tribute to the Muslim warlord in the area. Because the Muslim warlord chose to “marry” Pelagius’ sister, against his wishes (and those of his sister), Pelagius stopped paying tribute to the warlord. This resulted in the warlord sending troops to extract the tribute and to punish Pelagius.
Pelagius fled deep into the mountains with a band of Christians and set up a kingdom called Asturias in 718 AD. The Muslims were not willing to let this group of Christians survive, so they assembled an army of 180,000 men and surrounded the mountain stronghold of Pelagius. The Muslims chose a bishop who had acquiesced to Muslim rule to convince Pelagius that his cause was hopeless.
Pelagius replied to the bishop’s pleadings with the following words:
“I will not associate with the Arabs in friendship nor will I submit to their authority.” Then he made a prophecy (which was fulfilled over the next 8 centuries). “Have you not read in the divine scriptures that the church of God is compared to a mustard seed and that it will be raised up again through divine mercy?”
Pelagius and his fellow Christians held out in the mountain stronghold for four years suffering cold and hunger, but never giving up. Eventually the Muslims attacked the stronghold which was a small valley in the mountains. The Christians were able to surprise the Muslims by hiding in a cave at the rear of the Muslim army and were able to defeat them in this deceive battle. A second battle was launched a month later and again the Muslims were defeated. At this point they chose to leave the Christians alone. It was, as mentioned above, the first time the Muslims had been defeated and it stopped the spread of Islam from expanding into northern Spain and further into Europe and gave the Christians hope of taking back their country.
Because of the success of Pelagius, over the next 800 years (until 1492) the Christians were able to gradually push the Muslims further and further south until eventually they retreated back across the Mediterranean Sea and back to Africa.
After much internal debate, I have decided for my first official adventure into my Apologetics series on World Religions, I would take a closer look at Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) and their beliefs. I keep seeing and hearing discussions about JWs all over the place.
I recently had a special-needs friend make an announcement that she was now attending a Jehovah’s Witness meeting, after a lady knocked on her door and warned her she was going to hell if she didn’t join them at one of their meetings. This made me realize, even more, the importance of being able to understand these other worldviews.
Think long and hard about the last interaction you had with a JW when they knocked on your door or hit you up at the Walmart. How did you respond? Did you simply tell them you had a church and send them away? Or did you do something to plant that seed with them?
It’s my hope that by the end of this article you are able to engage in a healthy, hopefully productive conversation with them. Armed with a better knowledge of their basic beliefs, you should have a better idea of how to plant the seed with them during your short conversation!
What do Jehovah’s Witnesses actually believe?
First, some history! The Jehovah’s Witnesses were founded in the USA in the 1870s by Charles Taze Russell. Raised in the protestant church, Russell decided to take what he liked about the Christian faith and leave what he didn’t. In 1884 he founded the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WBTS) and these little pamphlets that they distribute door to door are held in the same esteem as the Holy Bible (of which they have their own translation, the “New World Translation”).
Russell first predicted Armageddon would begin in 1914. (Although he passed away in 1916, despite Armageddon’s failure to happen!) Several of his successors would also falsely predict the end of the world, occasionally leading to an exodus of JW members upon their failed predictions.
Russell’s successor, Joseph Franklin Rutherford, had a moment of panic when his prediction of a 1925 Armageddon failed to happen and the church was approaching 144,000 members. This number is significant because, according to their belief, 144,000 faithful JWs will be admitted into heaven. Once their following surpassed that number, the beliefs switched a bit. Now, 144,000 will be admitted to heaven. The rest of the faithful members will live on Paradise Earth (The new Earth referenced in Revelation 21) where they will be allowed to live peacefully until they fall from grace and are booted. (Yes, you read that right – even in the “afterlife” JWs believe that we are able to lose our salvation and be kicked from Paradise Earth into the abyss.)
So here we are in 2018, several failed Armageddon dates later, and many more than 144,000 members. So what else does the JW faith believe?
The Jehovah’s Witnesses do believe in one God, much like Christianity. However, that’s about where our similarities end. They do not believe that the Holy Trinity is scriptural. They do believe that Jesus is the Son of God, in that God created him. But he was not God on earth.
In fact, they believe that Jesus was actually Michael the Archangel. That his spirit was implanted in Mary, making him human.
They do believe that Jesus was born, lived, and died (on a stake, not a cross). They also believe that he was resurrected, although only spiritually and not physically. (This is important, because everyone else who has died is in a state of unconsciousness – awaiting the Armageddon when they will awaken and take up residence of the New Earth.)
Another variance between the JWs and Protestant Christians? JWs do not believe in hell. They believe that all spiritual beings who have passed are in a slumber, and those chosen to live on Paradise Earth will be awakened at the end of the world, and those who are not awakened will just rest in an eternal slumber.
So the next time a Jehovah’s Witness knocks on your door, what should you do?
Greet them with kindness! Like my mom always told me, “You get more flies with honey.”
Also, don’t bombard them with negative facts! No one wants their belief system to be attacked with anger, and made to feel less than. Sure, there are many discrepancies – but that’s NEVER a way to lead into a discussion!
One thing I have found true about nearly all of my interactions with JW members? They are scripted. Once you appear to be open to talking to them, chances are good that this will set them up for their memorized speech. This speech will often cover the depressing events around the world, God’s plan for Paradise Earth and that God’s name is indeed Jehovah.
One of my favorite approaches is to turn this into a dialogue and share with them some of the amazing ways I have seen God act in my life. What I was like before I was truly following God, how Jesus came into my life, how my life has changed, how much I enjoy my daily time with God.
This is giving them a glimpse into a reality that they don’t often learn about. (They learn that all those outside the JW organization don’t have hope, that we are all sad and striving to live up to an unattainable lifestyle.) You are giving them hard proof of God acting OUTSIDE their norm.
If you feel comfortable, and that the seed you’ve planted is starting to grow? Agree to take their literature – you can tell them you’re interested in learning a little more about their beliefs. (Hopefully you are! I know it fascinates me!) You can even invite them to come back and share more with you once you’ve had your chance to study!
Now here’s the hard part: Actually study! Take their literature and study it. Come up with solid questions, doctrinal differences. And be prepared to discuss those with them! Hopefully you’ll be watching seeds grow within them, as they discover more outside of their current view.
It’s my hope, that within this post I have introduced you to a few of the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and encouraged you to have a productive conversation the next time they knock on your door! We are, after all, called to be ready always to give a defense to our faith!
Before I jump feet first into this newest series here on the FWC Apologetics Blog, I want to take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Jacque, and I am a member of the FWC Tech team – you can almost always find me in the sound booth at church! I grew up in the church, spent many years pushing away from my faith, and came back to the church when my daughter (now 10) was born.
I found my home at Family Worship Center in 2008, and have been an active part of this community ever since! Aside from serving in the sound booth and the technical side of the office staff? I am also active with the Apologetics and Women’s Ministries, as well as leading a life group.
Now, let’s jump into the basics of what I am hoping to share with you over the coming months.
I can’t count high enough to tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “Aren’t all religions basically the same thing?” It’s one of the reasons I have been passionate about understanding and debating other religions, especially those that closely resemble Christianity.
As I begin this adventure in blogging with the FWC Apologetics team, I will be looking at many of the world religions and cults. A few examples are Buddhism, Christian Science, Hinduism, Islam, Mormonism, Scientology and more. I will be focusing on both the similarities and differences, as well as how you can defend the Christian Faith when you encounter these other world religions.
Understanding these other religions is so important, and passing that knowledge to our loved ones, will help us all to better understand the broader world-views. I have found that as I study other religions, my own convictions grow stronger.
My fascination with world religions started early in life. I was raised in the church, but all of these other religions were one big mystery to me. In high school, I befriended a Buddhist – and it led me to seriously question my faith. I firmly believe that if I had been well educated in other religions, I may not have wandered as far and for as long as I did. (And I thank God every day that he kept drawing me back to him!)
My goal with my series of posts on this blog is to help us all to get to know these other religions, understand exactly what they believe, and be able to engage in a friendly conversation with members of these faiths in hopes that we plant seeds to lead them to the one true God!
This year, nearly a month ago on October 31st, we celebrated the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral. The act of nailing a document to the door was not, in and of itself, that unusual, but it was its content that was to make history. As mentioned, the act itself was not that unusual; the nailing of documents to the door was a call to debate, and the defense of one side or another was posted for all to read and thus respond.
What Martin Luther did was to call into question one of the fundamental teachings of the Catholic Church: that of “justification”. That is to say, that one is saved by grace through faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9) (Sola Fide, Sola Gratia). The Truth is found in the Bible alone, and not in what the Church may say it is (Sola Scriptura). Further, that Jesus Christ is our only Lord and Savior (Sola Christus). And finally, we live for the Glory of God alone, not for the Church or anyone therein (Soli Deo Gloria).
These themes contained in Luther’s theses were put forth to convince the Church that they needed to change and reform their practices which had corrupted their doctrine. The Church had been allowing people to “buy” their way into heaven. The money, of course, went to the Church allowing them to expand and beautify their churches. It had also led to the placing of “unqualified” individuals into positions of authority in the Church, as they were able to buy a Bishop position, or even Cardinal. The Church wanted to be the “go-between” between God and the people, setting the rules based on their interpretation of Scripture (to which few had access).
The Catholic Church had been the only Christian denomination for more than 1,000 years and, during that time, had grown to be more of a political force than a spiritual one. They did, however, use their spiritual authority to convince the political leaders to “cooperate” with the Church, when it suited their needs. They had lost sight of their true mission, which was to share the gospel and grow up life-long followers of Christ. It became, rather, an international multinational enterprise designed to enrich its members.
Luther defended himself at a “trial” in Worms, Germany and was fortunate to have royal supports who protected him from the Church, or he would have been “eliminated” as a heretic, as those who had come before him had been. Luther found sanctuary in Germany and was able to translate the Bible into German for the general public to begin to know the Word of God directly and personally.
Once the earthly power of the Church had been broken, others followed Luther in defiance of the Church. What would become the Protestant Reformation had begun and there was no turning back. The Church did begin to push back against the “heretics” who now taught that Scripture was the final authority and not the Church. For the next 300 years numerous conflicts within and among nations were largely based on religious grounds. Thousands of people were killed defending what each thought was the “true” religion.
While there were negative consequences of this Reformation, there were many positive ones. There was a gradual spread of the Bible in native languages, and although Bibles were still hard to come by (because of the expense of the printing), it was able to be read by those who were literate.
The Reformation also allowed for the questioning of “authority” on the political level, as it had been questioned on the spiritual level. Ultimately the founding of this country was based on a willingness to question the authority of the King which had been born, in part, out of the Reformation. The Reformation laid the ground work for the justification of questioning kings and princes, whose actions did not line up with the Word of God. The Founding Fathers studied the writings of the early Reformers to find the scriptural justification for the American Revolution. Such works proved critical to the Americans who were reluctant to defy the “lawful” king without scriptural justification.
When we look at the original documents written by the Founding Fathers, we see a very religious group of men who publicly professed their belief in the principles of Christianity, and fought a war of independence to defend them. The writers of the Constitution all stated publicly that they were affiliated with one of the established Christian denominations present in America.
While it is true that there is no mention of God in the Constitution, the writers of that important document purposely left out a reference to Him, because they did not want the federal government establishing an official national church. They had left a country that had such a church and saw the excesses and abuses that resulted. Further, they did not want the federal government to have the power to “define” God. The Constitution was designed to limit the federal government, and the first 10 amendments to that document added additional restrictions. The states wanted to further insure the government was truly limited.
The First Amendment was “first” because of its importance to the states and to the people. The modern secular progressive community reads this amendment as meaning that, because the government should not establish a religion, they should not favor any one religion and remain silent when it comes to any mention of religion. Again, the mistake they make is to read what has come to be known as the “Establishment Clause”, and not the “Free Exercise” Cause. The whole point of putting these two concepts in the same amendment was to have a balance between favoring one religion over another and allowing individuals to publicly express their religious beliefs.
The Founding Fathers wanted to make sure that the government did not stifle the free exercise of religion in public. Such exercise is not favoring one religion over another, but rather allowing all religions access to the public square. As further evidence of the intent of the Founders, we need merely to look at the Declaration of Independence, which lays out the principles upon which the country was founded, and which underpins the basis of a Constitutional government.
The Declaration clearly states that there are certain inalienable rights that government cannot take away, and that those rights come from God. Further, that God is the Creator of all things and that He does, in fact, exist. Such a statement had not previously been so stated in any governing document in the Western World. So when we honor God in the public square, we are conforming to the principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.
Secular progressives (who dominate today’s media, Hollywood, and public education system) disagree with this stance, and will defend their position by referencing all the Supreme Court cases which support the silencing of free exercise of religion in the public square, and unfortunately for us, they are right. These decisions were put forth by liberal courts who based their decisions not on any precedents, but on what was a popular view in society at the time they decided.
Armed with these court decisions, the secular progressives have proceeded to try to force the elimination of any image of Christianity from the public square. They do not want any crosses on city or state emblems or symbols. No crosses on public property, along with the 10 commandments. Of course, those who are offended by the removal of those symbols are not considered, only those few who are offended by the existence of the symbol. The minority is protected from offense over the objections of the majority.
As Christians, we should continue to press our case, as those unprecedented decisions by the courts can be reversed. They were made by men and can therefore be overturned by men. We have the Founding Fathers and God on our side and the historic truth should, in the end, win out.
People who want to know why we’re Christians don’t always phrase their question with the words “What is the reason of the hope within you?” However the approach is worded, we’re to be ready with a meek, love-in-truth answer.
Not always have I been ready with the reason for our hope. Now I am. Let’s look at this together.
According to Webster, a religion is any specific system of belief, worship, and conduct involving a code of ethics (morality) and philosophy (a worldview).
Christianity is a religion – a system of beliefs, worship, and conduct. We often hear the statement that Christianity isn’t about religion, it’s about relationship. Christianity is a religion, the foundation of which is a vibrant, authentic relationship with Almighty God through His Son Jesus Christ. It is a worldview that speaks to every area of this life and the next.
Christianity is the religion of the New Testament Scriptures, a Judeo-Christian belief system based on the entire Word of God, the Bible.
There are different doctrines within Christianity represented mainly by denominations. Denominations hold to varying doctrines; they are not different religions. Denominations are generally doctrinally divided by their originators. Catholicism has its popes, Protestants who broke from Catholicism beginning with Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Wesley, among others, and, in general, hold to the fundamental truths of the gospel.
Christianity has fundamental doctrines that all true Christian denominations attest, the majority of which are listed here:
- The Creator God
- Mankind created in the image of God
- The fall of mankind resulting in the sin nature
- The immortality of man
- Salvation by grace through faith in the sinless sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God – virgin-born, fully God and fully Man
- The Trinity
- The inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God
- Eternal reward or punishment for deeds done in this life following a final judgment
Teaching that differs from these fundamental truths is heresy and a falling away from the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3; Galatians 1:8&9).
The answer to why I am a Christian and not a follower of another religion or cult has two parts.
- Only in Christianity is God the God He says He is in His Word and,
- Only in Christianity does God do for me what He says in His Word He’ll do.
- All non-Christian religions and cults have either a distorted view or an outright denial of the Trinity. All are marked in their confusion of the Persons of the Trinity and their deviation on the nature of God, altering Him, diminishing Him, or denying Him altogether.
Another characteristic common to cults and non-Christian religions is the false teachings regarding the deity, Person, work of atonement, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, distorting or denying the second Person of the Trinity and Savior of mankind.
All cults and non-Christian religions grossly and painfully misrepresent the Holy Spirit, blasphemously denying His distinct place and Person in the Trinity.
The Bible is retranslated to match the erroneous beliefs of cults and non-Christian religions or it’s disregarded altogether. Words are redefined to fit false doctrines, or there is a claim of new, additional revelations that contradict and cancel biblical Scriptures. Thus the Bible is deliberately undermined and deceptions are reinforced to adherents of cults and non-Christian religions.
The only hope of eternal life is diabolically misrepresented to people lost and in desperate need of knowing the Lord and Savior of mankind as He is. Too many have swallowed the lie that we all believe in the same God. Any belief system that twists, perverts, or diminishes God from Who and What He is as He presents Himself in His Word does not know and serve the true and living Jehovah Triune God.
And so I am a Christian because only in Christianity is God the God He says He is in His Word.
- One teaching totally missing from all cults and non-Christian religions is the hope offered in the Gospel – the Christian message.
None teach the blessed hope of eternal salvation through faith in the blood of the everlasting covenant, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ the spotless Son of God.
None teach that Jesus came to seek and save the lost.
None teach that He was God in human flesh, the one Mediator between God and man.
None teach justification and adoption through faith in Jesus Christ.
None teach redemption from the power of sin.
None teach the “come alongside” comfort of the Holy Spirit.
None teach the hope of heaven for eternity though having nothing within myself to earn that reward but that Christ in me is my hope of glory for He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Rather the teaching is that I must save myself by performing good works required by the group I’m in, or through many reincarnations, or mantras, meditations, or deprivations. And then heaven is represented as a state of mind, or an interplanetary confederation, or a sexually deviant paradise, or non-existent.
The only hope of eternal life is diabolically misrepresented to people lost and in desperate need of knowing the Lord and Savior of mankind as He is. Not one cult or non-Christian religion presents salvation to its adherents as it is offered to all who come in faith as presented in the true Gospel message.
And so I am a Christian because only in Christianity does God do for me what He says in His Word He’ll do for me.
The conjecture floats that cults are populated by people hurt or disappointed by Christians or the hypocrisy of church attenders. As Christians, let’s live holy lives, adorning the doctrine of God, that we not be stumblingblocks in the way of the lost coming to Christ, those who need our answer of hope. We must plead that God will open the eyes, ears, hearts, and minds of those blinded by the false teachings of cults and non-Christian religions, that they might turn to Jesus. Let’s pray and live true to our calling as Christians so others may come to know Him as He is, that He may do for them what He says in His Word He’ll do for them.
Many points taken from Josh McDowell and Don Stewart’s book, The Deceivers