The Meaning of Your Baptism
1, 2. (a) Why should water baptism be of personal interest to each of us? (b) Briefly, how would you answer the questions set out in paragraph 2?
IN THE year 29 C.E., Jesus was immersed in the Jordan River. Jehovah himself was watching and expressed approval. (Matt. 3:16, 17) Three and a half years later, following his resurrection, Jesus gave instructions to his disciples, saying: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth. Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them.” (Matt. 28:18, 19) Have you been baptized in harmony with what Jesus there directed? Or are you preparing to do so?
2 In either event a clear understanding of baptism is important. Questions that deserve consideration include these: Does the baptism of Christians today have the same meaning as that of Jesus? Does everything that the Bible says about baptism apply to you? What is involved in living in harmony with what Christian water baptism signifies?
Baptisms Performed by John
3. To whom was John’s baptism limited?
3 About six months before Jesus was baptized, John the Baptist went into the wilderness of Judea, preaching: “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” (Matt. 3:1, 2) People from all that region heard what John said, openly confessed their sins and were baptized by him in the Jordan. That baptism was for the Jews.—Acts 13:23, 24; Luke 1:13-16.
4. (a) Why did the Jews need urgently to repent? (b) What was required if they were to avoid being ‘baptized with fire’?
4 Those Jews were urgently in need of repentance. In the year 1513 B.C.E. at Mount Sinai their forefathers had entered into a national covenant with Jehovah God. But they had not lived up to their responsibilities under that covenant and so were condemned by it as sinners. Their situation was critical. “The great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah” foretold by Malachi was near, and in 70 C.E. it came upon Jerusalem as swift destruction. John the Baptist, with a zeal for true worship like that of Elijah, was sent in advance of that destruction “to get ready for Jehovah a prepared people.” They needed to repent of their sins against the Law covenant and be prepared in heart and mind to accept the Son of God, whom Jehovah was sending to them. (Mal. 4:4-6; Luke 1:17; Acts 19:4) As John explained, God’s Son would baptize with holy spirit (which baptism faithful disciples first experienced at Pentecost of 33 C.E.) and with fire (which came upon the unrepentant ones as destruction in 70 C.E.). (Luke 3:16) To avoid personally experiencing that ‘baptism with fire’ those first-century Jews needed to get baptized in water in symbol of their repentance, and they had to become disciples of Jesus Christ when that opportunity opened up.
5. (a) When Jesus came to be baptized, why did John question it? (b) What was symbolized by Jesus’ baptism in water? (c) How serious was Jesus about fulfilling God’s will for him?
5 Among those who came to John to be baptized was Jesus himself. But why? John knew that Jesus had no sins to confess, and so he said: “I am the one needing to be baptized by you, and are you coming to me?” But Jesus’ baptism was to symbolize something different. So he replied: “Let it be, this time, for in that way it is suitable for us to carry out all that is righteous.” (Matt. 3:13-15) Jesus’ baptism could not symbolize repentance over sin; nor did he need to dedicate himself to God, because he was a member of a nation already dedicated to Jehovah. Rather, his baptism, on attaining to Jewish adulthood at 30 years of age, symbolized the presenting of himself to his heavenly Father to do His further will. God’s will for the “man, Christ Jesus,” involved activity in connection with the Kingdom, also the sacrifice of his perfect human life as a ransom and as the basis for a new covenant. (Luke 8:1; 17:20, 21; Heb. 10:5-10; Matt. 20:28; 26:28; 1 Tim. 2:5, 6) Jesus took very seriously what his water baptism symbolized. He did not allow himself to be diverted to other interests. To the end of his earthly life he stuck to the doing of God’s will.—John 4:34.
Baptism Into Death
6. What other baptism did Jesus undergo and over what period of time?
6 In harmony with what Jesus’ baptism in water symbolized, he also underwent another baptism. He knew that the assignment set before him by God would lead to his laying down his human life as a sacrifice but that he would be raised in the spirit on the third day. He spoke of this as being a baptism. This “baptism” began in 29 C.E. but was not completed until he actually died and was resurrected. So about three years after his water immersion he could appropriately say: “I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and how I am being distressed until it is finished!”—Luke 12:50.
7. (a) Who else are baptized into death? (b) Who performs this baptism?
7 Those who will reign with Christ in his heavenly Kingdom must likewise be baptized into death. (Mark 10:37-40; Col. 2:12) At their death they lay aside forever their human life, as Jesus did. And at their resurrection they join him in heavenly rulership. This is a baptism performed, not by any human, but by God through his heavenly Son.
8. What is meant by their also being “baptized into Christ Jesus”?
8 Those who are baptized into Jesus’ death are also said to be “baptized into Christ Jesus.” By means of holy spirit channeled through Christ they become united to him, their head, as members of his spirit-anointed congregation, his “body.” Because that spirit enables them to reflect Christ’s superior personality, it can be said of them that they all become “one person in union with Christ Jesus.”—Rom. 6:3-5; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27, 28; Acts 2:32, 33.
Water Baptism of Christian Disciples
9. (a) When did baptism in the manner directed at Matthew 28:19 first take place? (b) Using the questions and scriptures provided with this paragraph, analyze what Jesus was indicating that baptismal candidates must recognize.
9 Jesus’ first disciples were baptized in water by John and were then directed to Jesus as prospective members of his spiritual bride. (John 3:25-30) Under Jesus’ direction they also did some baptizing, which had the same significance as John’s baptism. (John 4:1-3) Starting with Pentecost of 33 C.E., however, they began to fulfill the commission to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.” (Matt. 28:19) You will find it very beneficial to review what that means, in the light of the scriptures cited with the following questions:
10. (a) What is symbolized by Christian water baptism today? (b) How is this different from Jesus’ own baptism? (c) When Scripturally qualified persons are baptized, what do they become?
10 The first ones to be baptized in harmony with those instructions given by Jesus were Jews (and Jewish proselytes), who as a nation were already dedicated to God and were shown special consideration by him down till 36 C.E. However, when the privilege of Christian discipleship was extended to the Samaritans and the Gentiles, before being baptized they personally had to make an unreserved dedication to Jehovah to serve him as disciples of his Son. For all, including Jews, this continues to be the significance of Christian water baptism down to our day. This “one baptism” applies to all who become true Christians. They thus become Christian witnesses of Jehovah, God’s ordained ministers.—Eph. 4:5; 2 Cor. 6:3, 4.
11. (a) To what does Christian water baptism correspond, and how? (b) From what is a Christian thus saved?
11 Such baptism has great value in the eyes of God. After mentioning Noah’s constructing of the ark in which he and his family were preserved through the Flood, the apostle Peter drew attention to this. He wrote: “That which corresponds to this is also now saving you, namely, baptism, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the request made to God for a good conscience,) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 3:21) The ark was a tangible evidence that Noah had dedicated himself to do God’s will and had then faithfully done the work assigned by God. This led to his preservation. In a corresponding way, those who dedicate themselves to Jehovah on the basis of faith in the resurrected Christ, who get baptized in symbol of that and who then proceed to do God’s will for his servants in our day are saved from the present wicked world. (Gal. 1:3, 4) No longer are they headed for destruction with the rest of the world. They have been saved from this and have been granted a good conscience by God.
Living Up to Our Responsibilities
12. Why is one’s getting baptized not in itself a guarantee of salvation?
12 It would be a mistake to conclude that being baptized is in itself a guarantee of salvation. It has value only if a person truly has dedicated himself to Jehovah through Jesus Christ and thereafter carries out God’s will, faithful to the end.—Matt. 24:13.
13. (a) What is God’s will as to the way that baptized Christians use their lives? (b) How important should Christian discipleship be in our lives?
13 God’s will for Jesus included how he used his life as a human. It was to be laid down in death as a sacrifice. In our case our bodies are to be presented to God, to carry on a self-sacrificing life. They are to be used exclusively in the doing of God’s will. (Rom. 12:1, 2) Certainly we would not be doing that if, even occasionally, we deliberately conducted ourselves like the world around us or if we built our lives around selfish pursuits while giving only token service to God. (1 Pet. 4:1-3; 1 John 2:15-17) When a certain Jew asked what he must do to get everlasting life, Jesus reminded him of the importance of living a morally clean life, and then he pointed out the need to make Christian discipleship, being a follower of Jesus, the primary thing in life. It could not take second place to material pursuits.—Matt. 19:16-21.
14. (a) What responsibility in connection with the Kingdom do all Christians have? (b) As illustrated on page 101, what are some effective ways in which to do this work? (c) If we truly share in such activity wholeheartedly, of what does that give evidence?
14 It should also be remembered that God’s will for Jesus included vital activity in connection with the Kingdom. Jesus was himself anointed to be King. But while on earth he was also a zealous witness concerning the Kingdom. We have a similar witnessing work to do and we have every reason to engage in it wholeheartedly. By so doing we demonstrate our appreciation for Jehovah’s sovereignty and our love for fellow humans. Also we show that we are united with fellow worshipers worldwide, all of whom are Kingdom witnesses, in pressing on toward the goal of everlasting life in the realm of that Kingdom.
● What similarities and what differences are there between Jesus’ baptism and water baptism today?
● For whom was John’s baptism? Who are baptized into death? And who get “baptized into Christ Jesus”?
● What is involved in living up to the responsibilities of Christian water baptism?
[Box/Pictures on page 101]
In What Ways Do You Proclaim the Kingdom?
From door to door
By returning to visit interested ones
At home Bible studies
On the streets