A Ransom or a Fig Leaf?

In this article I will continue my exposition of the heresies in the JW book used for recruiting people: What Does the Bible Really Teach? I will be briefly examining Chapter 5 titled The Ransom – God’s Greatest Gift.

Jehovah has given us many things, but his greatest gift to us is the ransom sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ” (p. 50)

Jehovah’s Witnesses indoctrinate their readers by presenting some elements of truths which most Christians would agree with. But as you proceed, these truths are laced with varying degrees of falsehoods.

Indeed, the sacrifice of Jesus at the cross is the greatest gift God has given mankind because without accepting this offer, mankind is lost eternally.

Jesus, whom the Bible calls ‘the last Adam,’ had a perfect human life, and he never sinned. (1 Corinthians 15:45) In a sense, Jesus stepped into Adam’s place in order to save us. By sacrificing, or giving up, his perfect life in flawless obedience to God, Jesus paid the price for Adam’s sin.” (Ibid, 51)

In the booklet, Should You Believe in the Trinity? (1989, 15) they stated this more clearly:

Jesus, no more and no less than a perfect human, became a ransom that compensated exactly for what Adam lost – the right to perfect human life on earth. So Jesus could rightly be called “the last Adam”… the perfect human life of Jesus was the “corresponding ransom” required by divine justice – no more, no less … If Jesus, however, were part of a Godhead, the ransom price would have been infinitely higher than what God’s own Law required. (Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:19-21) It was only a perfect human, Adam, who sinned in Eden, not God.”

I. This is a blasphemous attempt to put Adam and Jesus on equal footing. The Bible proof texts offered even fly in the face of their claim.

In 1Cor. 15:45, the first Adam is called “a living being” while Jesus, the last Adam, is called “a life-giving Spirit.” They are not on equal footing. It was the God’s breath of life that made Adam “a living soul,” but Jesus wasn’t made a living soul, He is the One who gives life and we know God is the only Source of life.

“For as the Father life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.” (Jn. 5:26)

Verse 47 says: “The first man [Adam] is of the earth, earthy: the second man [Jesus] is the Lord from heaven.” They are not on equal ground.

The passages in Exodus 21:23-25 and Leviticus 24:19-21 refer to the laws guiding Israelites and their neighbours. This applies to human interpersonal relationships and has no relevance to the atonement.

Another text JWs cite is 1 Timothy 2:5, 6 “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all.”

Their New World Translation (NWT) has distorted this text to support their blasphemy. The Greek word there is antilutron meaning “ransom,” nothing in the text says it’s corresponding. The Watchtower Society smuggled the term “corresponding” into their version, to cement their false teaching on the atonement.

II. Both Christ’s deity and humanity were necessary in God’s plan of salvation. His deity was essential because:

(a) Only God could pay the infinite penalty for our sins. No man, no matter how perfect, can pay the price for the sin of mankind. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (2Cor. 5:19).

(b) By His deity, Jesus could render perfect obedience to God’s law. No human being could perfectly keep God’s law. Man with his bankrupt life cannot render a perfect obedience to God (Ps. 130:3).

(c) Only Jesus, as God’s incarnate, could bear the wrath of God redemptively and free others from the curse of the law. God “laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Is. 53:6, Ps. 49:7-10).

(d) By His Godhead, Jesus crushed the head of the serpent and He offers the fruit of His accomplished work to all those who accept Him by faith.

His humanity was important because:

(a) His paying the penalty involved suffering of body and soul. Only man is capable of bearing them (Jn. 12:27, Acts 3:18, Heb. 2:14).

(b) He had to assume human nature, including the weaknesses that came from the fall, and at the same time be sinless (Heb. 2:17, 18).

(c) He had to experience all the woes, temptations and trials of mankind to be a perfect human example for His followers and a true human Mediator (Heb. 7:26, 1 Pet 2:21).

The JW belief that Jesus is the archangel Michael raises more questions. An archangel can’t pay the penalty of mankind’s sins; cannot bear God’s wrath; cannot crush the head of the serpent and apply the benefits of divine redemption to mankind. If Jesus was an archangel, then the ransom is infinitely lower than the demands of divine justice.

Why was it necessary for Jesus to suffer so much?… By enduring faithfully in spite of great suffering, Jesus gave the best possible answer to Satan’s challenge. Jesus proved that a perfect man possessing free will could keep perfect integrity to God no matter what the Devil did.” (page 51)

There we go again with the “perfect man” tag. The significance of Christ’s suffering goes beyond enduring faithfulness. He was wounded and whipped and by His stripes, physical healing is offered (1Pet. 2:24). He “became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2Cor. 8:9).

He “endured the cross, despising the shame” and this was used by God “in bringing many sons to glory” (Heb. 12:2, 10:12). He was rejected by men and by His Father (Matt. 27:46) and at that instance, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (v 50). His rejection opened the way for us to be “accepted in the Beloved” as God’s children (Eph. 1:6).

The Watchtower Society dare not acknowledge these truths because they would reveal Jesus is more than a perfect man and His work at the cross is beyond a human undertaking.

In heaven, Jesus presented to God the value of his perfect human life sacrificed as a ransom in exchange for Adam’s offspring … All those future blessings, including everlasting life in perfect health [on a paradise earth], are made possible because Jesus died for us. To receive those blessings, we need to show that we appreciate the gift of the ransom.” (pages 51, 54)

This sounds biblical, but it’s not entirely biblical. The Watchtower believes in what is called a “partial works atonement.” This view states that Jesus only made a down payment for sins and brought back only what Adam lost. The implication is that Jesus’ work was not sufficient for salvation or eternal life, so, a JW must work to prove himself worthy first before receiving salvation and eternal life.

According to their doctrine, it’s only by obeying the words of the Watchtower that anyone can receive eternal life. None of them is certain of their salvation because even after the millennial reign (the 1000 years after Armageddon), Jehovah’s people will still fall away and lose their salvation after being deceived by Satan. It’s then Jehovah will declare them righteous. Their doctrinal confusion about eschatology has been addressed in other articles.

By making loyalty to a religious organization a condition of salvation, the Jehovah’s Witnesses espouse salvation by works:

Those who prove loyal to Jehovah will have their names indelibly written in the ‘book of life’ as being perfect in integrity and worthy of the right to everlasting life on earth. Jehovah himself will then declare them righteous in the complete sense” (The Watchtower, Dec. 1, 1985, 18).

During the final period of the ancient world that perished in the Flood, Noah was a faithful preacher of righteousness. (2 Peter 2:5) In these last days of the present system of things, Jehovah’s people are making known Gods righteous standards and are declaring good news about the possibility of surviving into the new world. (2 Peter 3:9-13) Just as Noah and his God-fearing family were preserved in the ark, survival of individuals today depends on their faith and their loyal association with the earthly part of Jehovah’s universal organization.” (The Watchtower May 15, 2006, p. 22)

“In effect, Jesus also conveys Jehovah’s voice to us as he directs the congregation through “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matt. 24:45) We need to take this guidance and direction seriously, for our everlasting life depends on our obedience.” (The Watchtower August 15, 2014, p. 21).

These stem from a warped view of justification and the atonement. By way of response:

1. God laid on Christ “the iniquity of us all” (Is. 53:6). The Hebrew word for iniquity is avon. In its Biblical use, it stands also for punishment or the evil consequences that inquity brings. Jesus, though sinless, identified with our sin and endured in our place all the evil consequences that we deserved by divine justice. In exchange, God offers us all the good that was due to the sinless obedience of Jesus (2 Cor. 5:21)

2. Jesus not only paid for Adam’s sins, but also our past, present and future sins. God “set Him forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past…” (Rom. 3:25)

“And you, being dead in your sins…hath he quickened together wit.h him having forgiven you all trespasses” (Col. 2:13).

3. Once a sinner puts his faith in Christ, he or she receives Christ’s righteousness imputed to him. He is legally declared righteous by God. He doesn’t need to wait till Armageddon to be declared righteous by God. (Rom. 3:20, 4:3, 5:1).

4. The moment faith is placed in Christ, one has “passed from death unto life” (Jn. 5:24) and has his name in the book of life. He receives “eternal life” and the benefits of salvation as a present possession, not as in a future paradise earth (2Cor 6:2, 1Jn. 5:13, 2Pet. 1:3)

If Jesus paid only what Adam lost, then how much was paid off by His sacrifice and how much can our works pay? How can we know that we have done enough good works to qualify us for salvation?

If we have to do something to make Jehovah love us, how can we then say His love and gift of salvation are free and unconditional? How can JWs say they believe in salvation by faith without works, when it is conditioned on “trying their best?” If Jesus is 100% sufficient for the payment of our sin debt, then why do we need to add our works for Jehovah to declare us righteous?

To reinforce the idea that works must be added to faith in Christ to be saved, the NWT replaces the word “believes in Him” with “exercising faith in him.”

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only- begotten son, in order that everyone exercising faith him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (Jn. 3:16)

How, then, can you demonstrate that you appreciate God’s gift of the ransom? To begin with, get to know more about the Great Giver, Jehovah (John 17:3). A study of the Bible with the aid of this publication will help you do that.” (Bible Teach, 55)

Notice the switch “study of the Bible with the aid of this publication.” You can’t learn directly from the Bible, but you have to depend on the Watchtower Society to tell you what it says! After all the dribbles, the real emphasis is dependance on the words of uninspired men rather than the inspired Word of God.

Yes, true faith is proved by ‘works,’ that is, by our actions. One way to show that we have faith in Jesus is by doing our best to imitate him not just in what we say but also what we do.” (Ibid, 55)

“Doing our best?” Didn’t the Bible say in the Gospel “is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith?” (Rom. 1:17). For us to be like Christ, He must dwell in our “hearts by faith” (Eph. 3:17) and we in Him. The NWT has sadly twisted its texts to deny this.

KJV “…be found IN HIM” (Phil. 3:9)
NWT “…be found in union with him”

NIV “…Christ lives IN ME…” (Gal. 2:20
NWT “Christ is living in union with me…”

RSV “…he… abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1Jn. 4:16)

NWT “…God dwells in union with him, and he in union with God.”

Every true believer is positionally in Christ and has His righteousness. On the other hand, JWs are relying on their own efforts to receive eternal life – just as Adam and Eve also relied on self-made figleaves in place of God’s covering. Only God’s covering is secure and sufficient.