Willing Slaves of Jehovah
WHOSE slave are you? “No one’s; I’m free,” may be your confident answer. But you cannot possibly be free. In this crucial time your service is to one of two masters, either to Jehovah God or to Satan the Devil. The apostle Paul said: “Do you not know that if you keep presenting yourselves to anyone as slaves to obey him, you are slaves of him because you obey him, either of sin with death in view or of obedience with righteousness in view?” (Rom. 6:16, NW) So, since one has this choice as to whose slave he will be, the question is: Which is the better master? Satan allows a certain willful independence, loose morals and riotous living, but he is a vicious tyrant whose service leads to sorrow, suffering, disease and death. On the other hand, Jehovah God demands faithfulness, obedience and right living, but he frees you from wickedness, allows forgiveness of sins and points the way to innumerable blessings and everlasting life.
The choice between these two masters posed no difficulty for several thousand persons who symbolized their dedication to Jehovah God by water baptism at district and national assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses held world-wide during the past summer. These people had seen that what the old world has to offer is indeed shallow in comparison with the blessings that Jehovah God grants his servants, even now. And so, following Jesus, they had separated themselves from slavery to Satan, and had dedicated their lives to the service of the righteous master Jehovah God, becoming his obedient slaves.
Dedication is the act of setting oneself apart by solemn agreement, unreservedly and unconditionally to do the will of Jehovah God, through Christ Jesus, as that will is set forth in the Bible and made plain by God’s holy spirit. Jehovah God knows of that dedication from the time it is made, but through one’s submitting to baptism that dedication is publicly acknowledged, and from that day forward it is known that the individual can be expected to live and act like a true Christian.
JESUS SET THE EXAMPLE
Jesus took the same course. When he had reached thirty years of age, the age of manhood under God’s law for Levitical temple service, he faced the decision: What would he do with the rest of his life? Would he remain a carpenter, or would he perform what he knew to be his Father’s will? There was only one right and proper course for him to take. But the interesting thing is the first act he performed upon taking up that obligation. Listen to the account: “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John in order to be baptized by him. But the latter tried to prevent him, saying: ‘I am the one needing to be baptized by you, and are you coming to me?’ In reply Jesus said to him: ‘Let it be, this time, for in that way it is suitable for us to carry out all that is righteous.’ Then he quit preventing him.” (Matt. 3:13-15, NW) Now, why should Jesus, a sinless man, consider this baptism necessary to “carry out all that is righteous”? Because it was with this baptism he presented himself for the ministry, receiving God’s spirit and acknowledgment of Jehovah’s approval.
The apostle Paul applied the prophecy at Psalm 40:6-8 to the time when Jesus “comes into the world”: “Then I said, ‘Look! I am come (in the roll of the book it is written about me) to do your will, O God.’” (Heb. 10:5, 7, NW) When did Jesus thus come into the world, vowing to do God’s will? Not at his birth could he express this determination. Rather, it was at the time he was baptized and began to preach that he really took up this action, that Jehovah’s spirit came upon him and a voice was heard from heaven saying: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matt. 3:17, NW) Thus, this dedicatory promise of doing God’s will would apply from the time of Jesus’ baptism.
Christian baptism today likewise indicates that the baptized one has dedicated his life to Jehovah, that, in effect, he vows publicly, before witnesses, “I am come to do your will, O God.” Baptism is an appropriate symbol for such dedication. Being immersed in water, then raised up out of it, symbolizes the burial of the individual to his past course, and his being raised up to do the Father’s will. He is signifying that he has become a willing slave of God.
But is not baptism for a remission of sins, as many religions teach? It is true that John’s baptism had to do with the remission of sins, but we are not under John’s baptism, but under the different one that Jesus instituted. Yet it is interesting to note that even in the case of John’s baptism it was not the actual dipping in water that brought about the forgiveness, but the repentance of those who were baptized. Thus, modern translators render John’s words: “I, on the one hand, baptize you with water because of your repentance.”—Matt. 3:11, NW; compare also An American Translation and C. B. Williams’ translation.
John was preaching repentance among the Israelites for sins against the law, to prepare them for the Messiah, but Christians know it is the blood of Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world,” that is the true means of all remission of sin.* (John 1:29, NW) Thus, Jesus’ baptism, not John’s, is the one set before us today, and Jesus’ baptism accompanied his dedication to do his Father’s will, preliminary to his ministry.
Why are the thousands who were baptized by Jehovah’s witnesses actually dipped under the water, rather than merely being sprinkled? Because the word “baptism” itself comes from a Greek word meaning to dip, submerge or immerse, thus plunging beneath or surrounding with the thing in which one is baptized. Sprinkling does not meet this requirement. It is not the method Christ used. It does not fit the example of one’s burial to his own past course and being raised up to do God’s will. Some argue that sprinkling is more convenient, and that this method must have been used by the early congregation, since it would have been too great a task for them to dip the 3,000 who were converted at Pentecost. But there were sufficient pools in Jerusalem to allow for this, and in New York in 1953 Jehovah’s witnesses baptized far more than that 3,000 (4,640) in about half a day, properly immersing them as Jesus had been immersed.
FULL DEDICATION REQUIRED
According to Jesus’ specific instructions, baptism must be “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.” (Matt. 28:19, NW) This means more than merely having these words repeated at the time of the individual’s baptism. One who is baptized in the name of the Father must recognize the great Creator, Jehovah, as the only living and true God, the Father and Life-giver, the rewarder of those who show faith in him. He is the one to whom the individual’s life must be dedicated as the highest power, the one to whom every creature must be subject and obedient. The dedication is a promise to uphold his cause, his worship, his Word and his name. “He that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.”—Heb. 11:6, NW.
It must be “in the name of the Son” in that it must include a recognition of the fact that we come to the Father only through the Son’s merit. We must recognize Christ’s great station in Jehovah’s organization, his position as anointed King and Ruler of Jehovah’s kingdom. This also includes following Jesus’ example, trusting him for salvation, accepting him as the “leader and commander to the people.”—Isa. 55:4.
The baptized one must recognize his need “of the holy spirit,” without which the dedication cannot be maintained. The holy spirit must be recognized as the active force of Jehovah, the force that accomplishes his will. The baptized one must have determined to act in harmony with that spirit of Jehovah, not going contrary to it, not blaspheming against it. He should pray that he will be filled with more of that spirit and be led by it, rather than following his own will or that of any man.
To do all these things is not a part-time job, but to do them the individual must have dedicated his life to Jehovah. And thus, only where one has made such a dedication is his baptism really “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.” The words that someone says over us at the time of our baptism are not the important thing. It is not the place in which the baptism is performed, nor the kind of garments that are worn that are important, but what is important is what the individual has done, whether he has made that dedication, whether he has devoted his life to Jehovah.
This baptism is not something that, once done, can now be forgotten. Ecclesiastes 5:4 tells us: “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it.” And Jesus said: “No man that has put his hand to a plow and looks at the things behind is well fitted for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62, NW) So the necessity of properly maintaining that integrity to Jehovah is the thing that stands before the half million and more persons now living who both have made this dedication and are holding faithfully to their Christian activity, ministering to thousands more who will likewise take the same course.
If the world cannot understand how it is possible for a man or a woman with a full heart to dedicate himself unreservedly to Jehovah’s service, then that is too bad. They should be able to recognize it. But if they cannot understand what would make people, of their own free will, want to separate themselves from slavery to Satan and his old world, then let them examine the facts concerning Jehovah God and his new world. Many who had formerly scoffed have made that examination and have changed their minds, rejecting the slavery of a vicious master and joining enthusiastically with the ever-swelling multitude who are joyfully and happily becoming willing and obedient slaves of the true God. Have you yet done so?
Certain texts are used in an attempt to prove baptism is a sacrament that remits all sins, among them Acts 2:38 and Ac 22:16. The first, according to the King James Version, says: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” However, at least one translator, C. B. Williams, paraphrases to show that it is the repentance that brings about the forgiveness, and that the baptism is an expression of that repentance. Acts 22:16 says, according to the King James Version: “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Properly translated, however, this instruction is to rise, get baptized and “wash your sins away by your calling upon his name.” (NW) Thus, it is not the baptismal water that washes away the sins, but it is the calling on the name of the Lord that does it.