Young People Ask . . .
Should I Get Baptized?
THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD Susana was in the final stages of cancer when she attended her last convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. She did not know that she would die within just ten days. However, not even cancer could stop her from fulfilling her most cherished desire: to be baptized as a dedicated Witness of Jehovah and a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Susana was just one of thousands of young people among Jehovah’s Witnesses in recent years who have cherished the privilege of being baptized. But perhaps you find the prospect of taking such a bold stand rather frightening. Not that you do not believe the Bible-based truths you have been taught. You may be a regular attender at Christian meetings and you may regularly participate in sharing the Bible’s truths with others. Yet, when it comes to dedicating your life to God, you may hesitate. How important, then, is baptism? And why do so many youths shy away from it?
Religion Without Dedication
In Christendom, the question of baptism is often answered for youths by their parents. Some sects encourage parents to have their children baptized as infants. And even when the baptism rite is reserved for adulthood, youths are usually expected to follow their parents’ religion as a matter of course, not choice.
Interestingly, though, a Gallup survey in the United States revealed that while “nearly all teens (96 percent) believe there is a God,” only 39 percent prayed frequently. And only 52 percent had confidence in organized religion. Young Diane is thus typical in saying: “I believe in God and all that, but I believe more in just trying to be a good person than reading every line of the Bible.”
Yes, religion can be a feeble force, indeed, when it has been imposed upon a youth by his parents. A study made of a group of Catholic juvenile delinquents further illustrates this. Half of them attended church. Most knew the basic doctrines of their faith. And almost 90 percent of them did not approve of stealing. Yet, over two thirds were thieves! Observed the book The Adolescent: “One reason may be that the boys’ religious commitment was marginal. All were born Catholics; their initial commitment was made for them by their parents. Their religion was not their own.”
Baptism—Why a Christian Requirement
For good reason, then, the Bible requires that you—not your parents—make a personal dedication to God.* ‘Well and good,’ you might say, ‘but if dedication is personal, something between God and me, why do I have to get baptized?’
Because baptism involves ‘the salvation of your soul.’ (1 Peter 1:9) God has in mind bringing “vengeance upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus. These very ones will undergo the judicial punishment of everlasting destruction.” (2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9) All indications are that this destruction will come in our day.*
Yet, God’s will is that “all sorts of men should be saved.” (1 Timothy 2:4) He wants you to escape the end of this system of things and live forever in Paradise on earth! (Revelation 21:3, 4) But how can you identify yourself as one obeying the good news? It is not enough simply to believe the Bible truths you have been taught, nor is it enough simply to tag along with your parents to Christian meetings. (Compare James 2:19.) Those desiring salvation must dedicate themselves to God and do his will. Says the apostle Paul at Romans 12:1: “Consequently I entreat you by the compassions of God, brothers, to present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, [“dedicated,” The New English Bible] acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason.”
But dedication cannot remain a strictly private matter. After all, how devoted, how dedicated, could a secret disciple really be? (Compare John 19:38.) Would you trust a friend who wanted to keep your friendship secret? Wisely, then, God requires all to ‘make public declaration for salvation.’ (Romans 10:10) This begins at baptism. At that time, one makes verbal declaration of one’s faith. Then, baptism in water follows. (Matthew 28:19, 20) What value could there be, though, in being plunged into water?
Baptism is not a mere bath; it is a symbolic burial. When you go beneath the baptismal waters, it impresses upon you that you have died to your former life course. Previously, your personal ambitions, goals, and desires took first place in your life. But Jesus said that his disciples would ‘disown themselves.’ (Mark 8:34) So when you are raised up, you are reminded that you are now alive to do the will of God. This bold, public act is a vital part of the marking that identifies you for salvation!—Ezekiel 9:4-6; compare 1 Peter 3:21.
‘I’m Afraid I’ll Get Disfellowshipped’
If baptism is so important, why, then, do some youths hold back from it? Awake! asked that very question to a number of Christian youths. One girl said: “A lot feel that they will have more freedom if they’re not baptized. They feel that if they get into trouble, they won’t be as responsible.” A youth named Robert echoed this comment by saying: “I think a lot of young people hesitate to get baptized because they fear it’s a final step that they can’t back out of. They feel that if they do something wrong, they’ll be put out of the congregation.”
It is true that one cannot back out of a dedication to God. (Compare Ecclesiastes 5:4.) A person dedicating himself to God takes on a serious responsibility. He or she is obliged to “walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him.” (Colossians 1:10) One engaging in gross wrongdoing even risks being expelled from the Christian congregation.—1 Corinthians 5:11-13.
Yet, one cannot reason that as long as one is not baptized, anything goes. For “if one knows how to do what is right and yet does not do it, it is a sin for him”—baptized or unbaptized! (James 4:17) One may avert formal expulsion from the congregation, but one cannot escape Jehovah’s judgment. “Make no mistake,” warns Paul, “there is no thumbing your nose at God; for a man will reap just the same that he sows.”—Galatians 6:7, Byington.
Often a fear of getting disfellowshipped really masks a secret desire to practice wrongdoing. A young woman named Natalie candidly observed: “I was raised in Satan’s world and know what it is like. But a lot of young people want to get out and experience what’s out there.” Rather than letting wrong desires hold you back from baptism—or letting them develop into wrong acts—why not get some help, perhaps talking matters over with a parent or a mature Christian?—James 1:14, 15.
Really, the freedom Satan’s world offers is a mere illusion. As the apostle Peter said of some who were misled in his day: “While they are promising them freedom, they themselves are existing as slaves of corruption. For whoever is overcome by another is enslaved by this one.” (2 Peter 2:19) Is it really freedom to have your thinking, conduct, and morals controlled by others? Is it really freedom to engage in acts that lead to disease, disgrace, and, ultimately, to death?—Proverbs 5:8-14.
A Japanese youth named Hitoshi faced those very questions. He was raised by Christian parents and recalls: “While others played, I had to go to meetings. I wanted more freedom. I thought I was missing out on something.” Yes, like the psalmist Asaph, he became “envious” of wrongdoers. (Psalm 73:2, 3) But after giving sober thought to the matter, Hitoshi’s feelings changed. He says: “I realized what my life would be without the truth—I could see myself living 70 or 80 years and then dying. But Jehovah holds out everlasting life!” Hitoshi thus made a dedication to God and was baptized.—Compare Psalm 73:19-28.
Are you moved to do likewise? A youth named David was. He recalls: “Getting baptized as a youngster was a protection for me. . . . Some unbaptized teenagers in the congregation felt free of the authority of the elders and as a consequence veered into bad conduct. But I always remembered that I had dedicated my life to God.” Perhaps, though, you are not sure if you are really ready to take this step. Information to help you will be presented in a future article.
The folly of infant baptism is discussed in the article “Should Babies Be Baptized” in The Watchtower of March 15, 1986.
See the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, (published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.), chapter 18.
[Pictures on page 26]
The decision to serve God is one that only you can make. Baptism identifies one as a dedicated disciple of Christ Jesus