Why One Must Be Baptized
1. What instinctive desire do human creatures have, and how can it be really satisfied?
THE desire to worship their Maker and God is one of the many qualities of the mind that places human creatures on a plane far above the lower animals. This desire is instinctive and hereditary and all mankind possess it. The most primitive races as well as the most highly advanced peoples of earth—even the so-called “godless” ones of human society—all possess some measure of this inborn desire to worship a superior or some object that the worshiper secretly considers to be higher and more honorable than himself. It was Jehovah God that implanted this desire to worship in the first human pair, and he did so that they might worship their Creator and Benefactor, which was for their good and for their proper guidance. It was not long, however, before the rebel Satan succeeded in turning the worship of the first pair away from their Creator, and since then the majority of humankind have indulged themselves in many false religions in an effort to satisfy their desires to worship. So when an honest person learns the truth he gladly abandons his false religion and turns to the pure, clean worship of the Most High God, “whose name alone is JEHOVAH.”—Ps. 83:18.
2. What are the first three steps taken by those being set free by the truth?
2 As a result of the great prison-breaking work now being directed by Christ Jesus, tens of thousands of men and women each year, more than a thousand a week on the average, are gaining their freedom from the prison houses of false religions. How can one break away from false religion? With each of you there must be first a “turning to Jehovah,” for “where the spirit of Jehovah is, there is freedom.” You must then put faith in God and his precious promises, for “without faith it is impossible to win his good pleasure.” At the same time each of you, newly turned to learn of Jehovah and his ways, must keep studying the Bible, for you must realize that in it are contained the revealed purposes of Jehovah concerning man and what Jehovah requires of him for life.—Gal. 5:1; 2 Cor. 3:16, 17; Heb. 3:12; 11:6, NW.
3. What further progress does one make in knowledge and understanding that eventually leads to dedication?
3 In your progressive study of the Bible not only do you learn the basic doctrines of Jehovah’s righteous system of things, but you also grow in understanding of the deeper things of God’s Word. You begin to appreciate the great issue that was long ago raised by Jehovah’s chief enemy, Satan the Devil, and the need for Jehovah to vindicate his Word and name completely in his battle at Armageddon, now near. By study you learn where we are on the stream of time; that we are in the “last days” of this dying old satanic system of things, but that before its full end comes this good news of Jehovah’s triumphant kingdom first is being preached as a witness to all the nations. All this takes time, for only after a period of diligent systematic study of Bible doctrines and laws, and Bible history and prophecy, can you come to understand and appreciate these great truths. Actually, a student of God’s Word is in training, becoming equipped to minister to others by this course of study. In due time you find in your heart a burning desire to share in this preaching work. But this work is not done by hired worldly men and women. No, only God-ordained ministers share in it—only persons upon whom the spirit of Jehovah rests. You learn that Jehovah gives his spirit only to those who wholly and unreservedly dedicate themselves to him, through Christ Jesus. You have therefore recently made or will make in time a solemn dedication of yourself to Jehovah, because dedication to Jehovah God is a divine requirement.
4. What questions concerning baptism and dedication are sometimes raised?
4 In making this dedication you must determine in your heart and mind that henceforth you will serve Jehovah God with everything you have, with all your heart and soul and vital force. You realize that only by making this dedication can you get life from Jehovah through Christ Jesus. The seriousness of this you begin to realize. Jehovah has no pleasure in those who make vows and then break them. The importance and seriousness of all this you must come to understand and fully appreciate. But why, after secretly making such a solemn dedication to the living God in one’s own mind and heart, must one be baptized in water? Is water baptism necessary, is it a divine requirement, and must it be a public baptism by total immersion?
5. (a) What is the basic meaning of “baptism”? (b) Why is it necessary that baptism be performed before witnesses?
5 Our English word “baptism” is drawn from the Greek word báptisma, from the verb meaning “to dip, submerge, immerse.” It contains not the slightest thought of sprinkling. So to be baptized in water one must be plunged into it and be totally submerged from head to foot. Instead of this being an initiating secret rite, performed in hiding or in seclusion, baptism according to the Scriptures is an open, formal ceremony, like a marriage ceremony, that is carried out publicly as an announcement or testimony before witnesses to establish legally that which an individual has already determined in his heart and mind. (2 Cor. 13:1; Matt. 18:16; Deut. 19:15) When one makes an unconditional dedication to Jehovah he becomes an alien to this old devilish world. Therefore dedication is like taking out citizenship in the new world, and the formal ceremony of baptism is in effect an oath before witnesses confirming this fact.—Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 2:11, NW.
6. John the baptizer came to what people, at what time, and for what purpose?
6 Baptism is of divine origin. Nineteen centuries ago “John the baptizer [the forerunner of Christ] turned up in the wilderness [in the spring of A.D. 29], preaching baptism of those repenting for forgiveness of sins.” (Mark 1:4; Acts 13:24, NW) The nation of Israel was under the law covenant established at Mount Sinai, but they had sinned against that covenant that was given for the purpose of leading them to the Messiah. (Gal. 3:24) Now the Messiah was about to appear, hence the need for repentance and a return to Jehovah on the part of the covenant-breaking Jews. This was John’s message, one calling for repentance, a ‘turning back to Jehovah’; and as an open public testimony of this before witnesses John baptized those thus repenting before Jehovah. (Luke 1:16, 17, NW) Hence John’s baptism was for a particular people at a particular time and for a particular purpose.
7, 8. (a) Why did John protest against baptizing Jesus? (b) How was water baptism a suitable symbol of Jesus’ dedication?
7 In due time Jesus came down to those same Jordan waters and requested John to baptize him. But Jesus was no sinner against the law covenant. Indeed, he was “guileless, undefiled, separated from the sinners,” a fulfiller of the law, not a breaker of it. (Heb. 7:26; Matt. 5:17, NW) John recognized this fact and tried to prevent such baptizing of this holy one, but Jesus answered him, saying: “Let it be, this time, for in that way it is suitable for us to carry out all that is righteous.” Jesus, having reached the age of thirty, now was dedicating himself without reservation to do Jehovah’s will henceforth and forever; and as a symbol of this Jesus found it very “suitable” and “righteous” that he be baptized.—Matt. 3:13-15, NW.
AN APPROVED SYMBOL
8 And how was water baptism a suitable symbol of Jesus’ dedication? Completely giving himself up to the hands of the one baptizing him, willingly and without resistance, showed Jesus was giving himself over without reservation. Being lowered by John into the water backward and completely submerged in the water well illustrated how Jesus had become dead and buried to his former course in earthly life. Had he not been raised out of the water it might well have been his death. So being raised up showed he was being made alive to the doing henceforth of Jehovah’s will. In all respects and details, therefore, water baptism is a “suitable” and “righteous” symbol of personal dedication.
9. Concerning baptism what commandment did Jesus give and to what extent has it been carried out?
9 Jesus showed his approval of water baptism, not only by his own act in submitting himself to be baptized, but also by the specific commandment he gave shortly before ascending on high. To his faithful footstep followers Jesus said: “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 in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the consummation of the system of things.” (Matt. 28:18-20, NW) Some days later, at Pentecost, upon hearing Peter’s stirring talk on dedication which ‘stabbed them to the heart,’ about three thousand Jews, we are told, ‘embraced his word heartily and were baptized.’ Some three and a half years later, the first of the uncircumcised non-Jewish (or “Gentile”) nations, the Italian army officer Cornelius, with “his relatives and intimate friends,” all together “many people,” was baptized in water in symbol of complete dedication to God. Now we are down here at “the consummation of the system of things” and Christ Jesus is, as he said he would be, directing this work of discipling and baptizing people of all the nations in great numbers.—Acts 10:22, 24, 27, 47, 48, NW.
10. To true Christians what does water baptism mean?
10 Today, then, in the case of true Christians, what is the meaning of baptism? The same as in Jesus’ case. Christ left us a model to follow closely. (1 Pet. 2:21, NW) “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake day after day and follow me continually.” In fact, “whoever is not . . . coming after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 9:23; 14:27, NW) To disown oneself would be to give up the ownership of oneself and, instead, give oneself to God as his slave, taking up the doing of God’s will. Down to the very end that is what Jesus did, as he expressed it again and again during that last night on the Mount of Olives: “Not as I will, but as you will.” “Not what I want, but what you want.” “Not my will, but yours take place.” (Matt. 26:39, 42; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42, NW) Baptism in Jesus’ case was not to symbolize his repentance of sins against the law covenant and neither is it such in our case. Baptism of Jesus was not for remission of Adamic sins and neither is it such with us. With both Jesus and his followers since Pentecost baptism in water is a symbol of dedication, a confirmatory sign visible to others that testifies to them that the one being baptized has given himself to Jehovah to do His will, cost what it may.
11. To be baptized “in the name of the Father” shows what?
11 But what did Christ mean when he said that one should be baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit”? First, “the name” of the Father includes more than just his self-given name, the Hebrew tetragrammaton, translated “Jehovah.” The “name of the Father” refers to the Parenthood, the rightful sovereignty and peerless authority that Jehovah holds. He is the Universal Sovereign, Creator of the heavens and the earth, the almighty, supreme Source of life. The great issue confronting the whole universe that must be settled at Armageddon centers around the office and authority of this Eternal Father of light and truth. Being baptized “in the name of the Father” shows that one appreciates and recognizes the unique position, power and authority of Jehovah the great Theocrat.
12. What does it mean to be baptized “in the name . . . of the Son”?
12 Second, being baptized in the name of the Son likewise shows that one appreciates the high authority and office that Jehovah’s beloved Son Christ Jesus now holds since his resurrection by Jehovah. Of that faithful Son we read: “His name will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’” (Isa. 9:6, RS) So for you who now believe Jehovah not only is this holy Son your Savior, Ransomer and Redeemer, but he is also God’s Anointed King of the new world, the great High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, the worthy Vindicator of Jehovah’s universal sovereignty and name.
13. What function is filled by God’s holy spirit? Hence to be baptized in its name shows what?
13 Third, one rightly recognizes also the office and function filled by God’s holy spirit. Instead of being the third person of some pagan triune god, the holy spirit is the active force of Jehovah God that he supplies to willing humans for their unitedly accomplishing his will and purpose. The holy spirit was the force that inspired the prophets of old to write God’s holy Word. It was the force that directed the early Christians after their resurrected, spirit-guided Head and Master ascended to heaven. (Luke 4:18-21; Acts 2:16-18; 2 Pet. 1:21, NW) The holy spirit is the same divine active force that is directing God’s theocratic organization in the earth today, and that upholds and continually actuates all of God’s dedicated ministers. Therefore, being baptized in the name of the holy spirit shows or testifies that such baptized one recognizes this invisible active force of God, willingly submits to its actuating him, and desires to be guided and controlled by it at all times according to the will of the living God.
BAPTIZED A SECOND TIME
14. Even though previously baptized, should one after making a dedication to Jehovah be baptized again?
14 Often the question is asked whether one baptized previously in a ceremony performed by some other religious group should again be baptized when coming to an accurate knowledge of the truth and making a dedication to Jehovah. Because of what has been already said, now there is compelling reason for also saying, Yes, one must be baptized again. Obviously, by any of such religious systems one was never in reality baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit,” because had he been so baptized he would have appreciated the authority and office of such true Higher Powers. And if previously dedicated to Jehovah, the individual would have separated himself from such God-dishonoring Babylonish systems even before letting them baptize him. So the act of being baptized is not the important thing, but, rather, that which the act symbolizes is the element of importance.
15. Why was it necessary for those at Ephesus to be baptized the second time?
15 There is an instance recorded in the Scriptures where this very situation arose. At Ephesus a certain Jew interested about twelve men in his message to the point of baptism, but he knew only about John’s baptism and that is what he preached to them. Some time later the apostle Paul visited this city and found them, and after he inquired whether they had received the holy spirit they confessed to Paul they did not know what he was talking about. Then Paul asked them: “In what, then, were you baptized?” They said: “In John’s baptism.” Paul in straightening them out on this point evidently explained how John’s baptism was for Jews who had sinned against the law covenant, and inasmuch as that covenant now had been fulfilled and nailed to Christ’s torture stake by Jehovah it was no longer in effect. “On hearing this,” the account goes on to say, “they got baptized [all over again, but this time] in the name of the Lord Jesus.” It was then that they received a goodly measure of God’s holy active spirit.—Acts 18:24, 25; 19:1-7; Matt. 5:17; Rom. 10:4; Col. 2:13, 14, NW.
16. To true Christians why is baptism such a serious matter?
16 From all we have been considering here it is manifest that water baptism of true Christians is not a simple, trivial ceremony of initiation into an organization of men. Rather, baptism is a very serious act linked with life, for it involves the making of a vow before Almighty God. Ecclesiastes 5:4-6 (AT) says: “When you make a vow to God do not delay in fulfilling it; for he has no pleasure in fools! What you vow, fulfil! . . . say not . . . ‘It was a mistake.’” Persons who are not true to their word and their agreement, Paul tells us, “are deserving of death.” (Rom. 1:31, 32; Num. 30:2-4, NW) It is therefore proper for the minister talking to candidates to ask those who desire to be baptized to stand up and answer certain questions. Before the minister proceeds, he should allow time for the candidates to rise and then he may make remarks to the following effect:
TO APPLICANTS FOR BAPTISM
17. By what authority are Jehovah’s witnesses discipling and baptizing people of all nations?
17 When the resurrected Jesus Christ was yet on earth he stated: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” This was some time before his ascension to heaven. He was very specific then in speaking to his disciples, for he said: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the consummation of the system of things.” (Matt. 28:18-20, NW) Under this command Jehovah’s witnesses are going forth throughout the world to make disciples of all sorts of people.
18. Why are baptismal applicants anxious to be baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit”?
18 You baptismal applicants have become learners or disciples of Christ and therefore you have come to know the Father. You have taken to yourself the name of the Father in that each of you calls himself one of Jehovah’s witnesses. Therefore you want to be baptized in the name of the Father. Jesus said his disciples should also be baptized in the name of the Son, and you have also taken his name, for you are Christians. You as such must follow the high principles that he stood for and be anxious to walk in his footsteps, for he always did the will of his Father and witnessed for him. Your being baptized in the name of the holy spirit can take place only provided you recognize that it is Jehovah’s active force and operates on those who love Jehovah and are willing to do his commandments. At John 14:15-17 (NW) Jesus said to his apostles: “If you love me, you will observe my commandments; and I will request the Father and he will give you another helper to be with you forever, the spirit of the truth.” Jesus has also taught us that Jehovah’s Word is truth, and by your constant study of his Word of truth you will understand Jehovah’s will. (John 17:17) You will see the marvelous work that Christ Jesus did and is doing, and you will recognize the power of Jehovah’s spirit.
19-22. (a) What two questions should be asked of persons desiring to be baptized? (b) If able to answer “yes” to these questions, should a person hesitate or delay to be baptized?
19 Therefore now with your mouth make a public declaration of your faith by answering these two questions that I shall ask you, and let your answers be hearable, that all those about you may be witnesses to the declaration that you solemnly make:
20 (1) Have you recognized yourself before Jehovah God as a sinner who needs salvation, and have you acknowledged to him that this salvation proceeds from him the Father through his Son Jesus Christ?
21 (2) On the basis of this faith in God and in his provision for salvation, have you dedicated yourself unreservedly to God to do his will henceforth as he reveals it to you through Jesus Christ and through the Bible under the enlightenment of the holy spirit?
22 All of you who answered “Yes” to these questions should be baptized without hesitation or delay. You have sufficient knowledge and understanding of what you are doing and God holds you responsible to carry out his will by being baptized in water.
23. After being baptized, what should a person always remember?
23 Keep always in mind Jehovah’s triumphant kingdom and its glorious King, Christ Jesus, who blazed the way as our Leader and Commander. Have the same mental attitude he had toward Jehovah, as described in Psalm 40:8 (AS): “I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart.” Ah, yes! remember Jehovah’s law, his infallible written Word the Bible! Study it carefully, walk according to its guidance and direction, for it is a light to your path. Remember Jehovah’s spirit! Allow it to govern your every activity, for it is far stronger than the spirit of the Devil. Remember Jehovah’s organization! Stay close to it at all times, for it is like a mother to you, to nourish, feed, discipline and protect you.
24, 25. What course will bring dedicated and baptized Christians their greatest happiness, together with peace of mind and contentment?
24 You will want to remember this day of your water baptism; so make a permanent record of it for future reference. This day, which has a relationship to your ordination and commissioning by God, is certainly a great day and a happy occasion in the life of each of you, for today you are announcing before many witnesses that you have abandoned your former ways of false religion and have chosen forever to worship Jehovah with his true witnesses. And in turning to the pure worship and service of your Creator you have received many wonderful things at His bountiful hands. All of this has made you very happy, but since there is still more happiness in giving than in receiving, you will not be content just to have and enjoy these good things by yourselves. You will therefore be very zealous in urging others in this world of many false religions likewise to take sides with Jehovah and join with you in singing his praises. Following such a godly course you are bound to have great gladness of heart with peace of mind and contentment even now before the battle of the great day of God Almighty at Armageddon and to have, in the ages to come, overflowing joy and happiness without measure, all to the honor, glory, praise and vindication of the Word and name of the living God, Jehovah! The minister then would say: “Let us all bow our heads in prayer to Jehovah.”
25 With these thoughts in mind and their hearts turned toward God now the candidates should go to the baptism place and be immersed in water. Forever thereafter each one so dedicated and baptized should preach Jehovah’s kingdom and live according to the written Word of God, for he must continue to prove himself one of Jehovah’s witnesses.