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Several years ago, while I was pastoring a church and teaching apologetics at a Christian high school in Wisconsin, I learned an invaluable lesson during a conversation with two Jehovah’s Witnesses at my door. Since I had studied their teachings, I felt well prepared to refute their claims.
They wanted to start by talking about how much we have in common, but I got right to the point: I believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, and His sacrificial death on the Cross was sufficient to pay for all of my sins. They, in contrast, believe Jesus is a created being whose death on a stake was not sufficient to pay for our sins.
I refuted their attempts to show that Jesus isn’t God by showing them passages where Jesus explicitly claims to be God (for example, John 8:58; 10:30). I remained gentle and respectful because I sincerely wanted them to know the Savior.
Following this encounter, I was fired up because I had won a resounding victory and successfully defended the Christian faith. But did I really win?
Not long afterward, it struck me that those Jehovah’s Witnesses were sincere, devout, hard-working people made in God’s image—and on their way to a Christless eternity. These poor souls had been deceived by the “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4). They were trying to please God through their works; yet they missed the gospel. I shudder to think about their impending punishment, not just for believing a false gospel but for misleading others.
An ache for lost souls bound for destruction should drive our apologetics. We can shoot down arguments and offer reasons for our beliefs, but if we don’t lead them to the soul-saving gospel of Jesus Christ, we have not successfully defended the faith.
Salvation does not depend on our arguments, but the Holy Spirit can use our heart-felt words to bring a person to faith in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:6). We must be gentle as we humbly and lovingly correct their errors (1 Corinthians 13:1–3), all the while praying that God may grant them repentance (2 Timothy 2:24–26).