Questions From Readers
● How long did John’s baptism properly continue? When did Jesus’ baptism begin for his followers?—J. G., United States.
John the Baptist called upon the Jews to repent of their sins committed against the law covenant, and because of this repentance or in token of it he baptized them in water. According to clearly worded modern versions of the Bible John stated at Matthew 3:11: “I, on the one hand, baptize you with water because of your repentance.” (NW) “I am baptizing you in water in token of your repentance.” (AT) “I am baptizing you in water to picture your repentance.” (Williams) As long as the Jews were under the law covenant they were under obligation to keep it, and when they sinned against it by failing to meet its requirements it was appropriate for them to show repentance. From A.D. 29 to A.D. 33 they indicated repentance by submitting to John’s baptism.
Jesus’ baptism was something different. He was sinless, perfect, and hence had no sins to repent of. He kept the law instead of sinning against it. Rather than his baptism in water picturing repentance of sins against the law covenant it betokened his dedication to do Jehovah’s will. But Jesus had more than a mere immersion in water; he also had an immersion by Jehovah’s holy spirit. (Matt. 3:16) Hence to be immersed or baptized as was Jesus after he was baptized in water by John would mean receiving the outpouring of holy spirit. When did that baptism with holy spirit first happen to Jesus’ followers? It was A.D. 33, at the time of Pentecost. Then for the first time were Jesus’ followers baptized in holy spirit, as he had been some three and a half years earlier. Then baptism in water in Jesus’ name by Christian administrators on earth began, as Peter said on that occasion: “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the free gift of the holy spirit.”—Acts 2:38, NW.
When Jesus died on the torture stake the basis for terminating the law covenant was provided. The basis for its cancellation was there effected and was indicated by the statement that then Jehovah nailed it to the torture stake. (Col. 2:14) It was fully and legally canceled at Pentecost, when it was replaced by the new covenant there put into operation. While the old law covenant lasted, John’s baptism to show repentance of sins committed against it was fitting, but when it was legally canceled out and replaced by a new covenant John’s baptism would be ineffective. If any thereafter were baptized with John’s baptism it was without benefit, and they needed to be baptized in Jesus’ name. (Acts 18:25, 26; 19:2-6) Hence John’s baptism had merit only as long as the law covenant was in effect; with the law covenant’s legal termination at Pentecost and its replacement by the new covenant at that time, baptism in water in Jesus’ name and baptism with holy spirit began.
● How could Jesus truly say that everyone that takes up the sword would perish by it, when actually this has not been so?—L. R., Spain.
What was the occasion on which Jesus said this? Was he making a general pronouncement that was to hold true at all times? Or has that only been a presumption men have drawn from his words? The setting of his words is as follows: Jesus was in Gethsemane with some of his disciples. He had just instituted the Memorial with the eleven faithful apostles and had adjourned to this garden. He had just said his betrayer was approaching when Judas came with soldiers from the chief priests to take him into custody. When the soldiers laid hands on Jesus the apostle Peter cut off the ear of the slave of the high priest. Then it was that Jesus said to Peter: “Return your sword to its place, for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father to supply me at this moment more than twelve legions of angels? In that case, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that it must take place this way?”—Matt. 26:52-54, NW.
Had it been Jesus’ desire for a deliverance from the soldiers he would not have obtained it by swordplay, but by angelic forces. He made sure some in his group had swords, just to show he would not resort to weapons even when they were available. There were only two swords in his group, however. But Judas “came and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs.” (Matt. 26:47; Luke 22:38, NW) What chance would two swordsmen have had against a great crowd similarly armed? No chance at all. For the two with Jesus to take up the sword against such overwhelming odds would have only meant the death of these two from the swords wielded by the great crowd. They would have had no chance. Moreover, any such attempted delivery of Jesus could not succeed because it would be contrary to Jehovah’s purpose. So any of the small group with Jesus at that time who would take up the sword then would surely perish by the sword, and Jesus explicitly warned them of that. To assume that Jesus was here stating a broad, general truth or proverb to be applied at all times and under all circumstances is unjustified.