Our discussion will take the form of a simulated conversation between a Jehovah's Witness named Joe and a Christian named Chris.
Chris: Joe, are you working hard for your salvation? Is that why you spend so much of your time going door to door preaching to people?
Joe: Yes, I am working hard for the reward of eternal life. If I prove faithful I will gain the reward of eternal life in an earth-wide paradise.
Chris: But Joe, doesn't the Bible say that salvation is a free gift?
Joe: Jehovah promised the free gift of life by giving his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ as a ransom. God having provided such a precious gift, rewards those who with all diligence work to qualify themselves to receive it.
Chris: What would you say if your employer gave you your pay cheque and said to you "I have a free gift for you. Here is your paycheque." Wouldn't you say to him "What do you mean free gift? My pay is not a free gift. I earned it by working very hard!" You see Joe, if you work for something then it is no longer a free gift.
Joe: But the Watchtower says that vigorous exertion is required to be saved. Doesn't the Bible say in James 2:20 that faith without works is dead?
Chris: What does your Bible say in the next verse?
Joe: Let's see...it says "Was not Abraham our father declared righteous by works after he had offered up Isaac his son upon the altar?"
Chris: That says that Abraham was declared righteous by works. Who was he declared righteous by works to? Let's find out more about Abraham's righteousness. Please read Romans 4:2-5.
Joe: "If, for instance, Abraham were declared righteous as a result of works, he would have ground for boasting; but not with God. For what does the scripture say? "Abraham exercised faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness." Now to the man that works the pay is counted, not as an undeserved kindness, but as a debt. On the other hand, to the man that does not work but puts faith in him who declares the ungodly one righteous, his faith is counted as righteousness."
Chris: This is an important verse because here it says that to the one that does not work but has faith in God, his faith is counted as righteousness. Did you notice that Abraham is used as an example in both these scriptures?
Joe: Yes, so?
Chris: Well, in Romans 4 it says that Abraham did not have any grounds for boasting with God. It was Abraham's faith that caused him to be counted righteous before God not his works. If it was his works that caused Abraham to be righteous before God, then Abraham would have cause to boast. So, Joe, if Jehovah reads the hearts of all men and he sees the faith in one's heart and counts one righteous because of this faith, who would be the ones that would need to see the works in order to see our faith?
Joe: Well, men would have to see our works because they cannot read the heart.
Chris: That's right Joe! Our works prove our faith to other people. Could men have seen and understood Abraham's faith without seeing his works?
Joe: No. No human can read another's heart.
Chris: Did Jehovah see Abraham's faith without having to see his works?
Joe: We know that Jehovah reads men's hearts.
Chris: Because God sees our hearts he doesn't need works to prove to him that we have faith. You see James chapter 2 is all about showing our faith to others by our works. It has nothing at all to do with earning our salvation before God. If it meant that we must earn our salvation by works then the Bible would contradict itself.
Joe: What do you mean?
Chris: Read Ephesians 2:8 & 9.
Joe: "By this undeserved kindness, indeed, YOU have been saved through faith; and this not owing to YOU, it is God's gift. No, it is not owing to works, in order that no man should have ground for boasting."
Chris: Joe, why does the Bible say that people are not saved by works?
Joe: It says "in order that no man should have ground for boasting".
Chris: What does this verse say about how are we to be saved then?
Joe: It says by undeserved kindness, we have been saved through faith. But if we are saved by faith then where do good works come in? Aren't we supposed to do good works for Jehovah?
Chris: Ephesians 2:10 says that "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works". It is his work that saved us, but he also prepared good works for us to do. Good works are something that we will automatically do because we are saved. Good works are important but they are not something that we do to get saved. Joe can we discuss next week if the Watchtower is necessary for salvation?