The Jehovah’s Witnesses: Zeal without Knowledge

By Ricky R. Gilreeth

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the saints at Rome, his prayer for the people of Israel was “that they might be saved” (Rom. 12:1). In the next verse, Paul described their spiritual condition in these words: “For I bear them record that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” These words, written nearly 2,000 years ago, could well have been written about many religious groups today, but especially about the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is likely that most of us have at sometime made comments similar to this: “If members of the Lord’s body only had the zeal that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have, we could accomplish much more in working for: the salvation of men’s souls.” In the second chapter of his letter to Titus, Paul wrote that the purpose of Jesus giving himself for our redemption was that he might “purify unto himself a people, zealous of good works.” Too often we, as members of the Lord’s body, fail in our responsibility to those who are lost because we lack true zeal. In contrast to this stands the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a people full of zeal. They are willing to go from door to door giving away and selling literature in an effort to convert others to their belief. But we must realize, theirs is a zeal without knowledge.

For the most part, the knowledge of the average Witness was not obtained through diligent study of God’s word. He is one who has been well trained in the art of salesmanship. Brother H. E. Phillips once wrote: “They use the Bible as if they really believed it, but they are trained experts at perverting passages and taking them out of context. They have a system of brainwashing the uninformed in the scriptures by attacking translations, faith in the Bible, and religion in general.”(1) Yes, the Witness may have zeal, but by his perversion of the scriptures and attitude toward the Bible in general, he shows he is “without knowledge.”

A witness is one who has seen something or can testify to something. Paul was a witness to the things he had seen and heard. He could testify or bear witness of those”things (Acts 26:16). Likewise, the apostles were eye-witnesses of the resurrected Lord. There is not a person living today who can testify that he has seen the resurrected Lord or Jehovah and yet, this meaning is inherent in the word “witness.” These people claim to be witnesses of God but by the definition of witness it is impossible for them to be a witness because John declared, “No man bath seen God at any time” (Jn. 1:18). It was not until 1931 at a convention in Columbus, Ohio that the name “Jehovah’s Witness” was adopted by this organization. Note the following quotation taken from a Watchtower publication:

In 1931 their representatives from many countries assembled in convention in America, resolved that they desire to be known as and called by the name which the mouth of the Lord God has named, to wit, `Jehovah’s Witnesses’: ‘Ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah’ (Isa. 43:10; 44:8).(2)

We might well note here that if Isa. 43:10 teaches that those who are God’s true witnesses must be designated by the name “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” then God had no witness until the year 1931.

The “Witnesses” teach that Christ was the “faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God,” and takes preeminence amqng all the witnesses. Furthermore, they teach that Jesus appointed others to be witnesses in His words spoken in Acts 1:8. The New Testament teaches that only a select group of people were to be witnesses, and this in a special sense. Jesus gave the promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit to those who were to be His witnesses-the apostles (Acts 1:8). It is apparent from the context that only the apostles were being addressed. Who were to be witnesses? The twelve apostles. For a Witness to cite Acts 1:8 is damaging to them in still another way. Keep in mind that God said to Israel, “Ye are my witnesses” (Isa. 43:10). In Acts 1:8, however, there is a change in the one of whom a person is to be a witness. Speaking to the twelve. Jesus said, “Ye shall be my (Christ’s) witnesses.” There is a clear shift in the one concerning whom testimony is being given. Of this, Van Baalen observes,

The clear shift from the command to be Jehovah’s witnesses to my witnesses’ in Acts 1:8 is ignored because to note this change to ‘the only name under heaven that is given among men wherein they must be saved’ would be to put our Lord Jesus Christ on a footing of equality with God.(3)

Thus one can readily see that these people are witnessing for the wrong personality. Their zeal in this respect falls under the same category as did Israel’s-zeal without knowledge. Certainly zeal is an attribute every Christian should possess. But in our zeal, may we always strive to have a zeal governed by a pure knowledge of God’s word, something the Jehovah’s Witnesses are without.


1. H. E. Phillips, “The Jehovah’s Witnesses Cult,” Truth’s Appeal, Vol. 4, No. 22 (Sept. 2, 1970), p. 2.

2. Let God Be True, 2nd Edition, (Brooklyn, N.Y.: The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society), p. 213.

3. J. K. Van Baalen, The Chaos of the Cults, (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1962), p. 262.

Truth Magazine XIX: 26, pp. 413-414
May 8, 1975