“Jesus . . . was baptized . . . And immediately on coming up out of the water . . . like a dove, the spirit coming down upon him; and a voice came out of the heavens: ‘You are my Son, the beloved; I have approved you.’”—Mark 1:9-11.
1. (a) What step follows dedication? (b) What symbolized Jesus’ dedication, and when did he receive the holy spirit?
AFTER an individual has made a dedication in his own mind and heart to serve Almighty God, how does he consummate such a dedication? Another step is necessary, and that is to announce or confess it publicly to others by his being baptized in water. It is interesting to notice that Christ Jesus set the pattern for this right practice. “After being baptized Jesus immediately came up from the water; and, look! the heavens were opened up, and he saw descending like a dove God’s spirit coming upon him. Look! also, there was a voice from the heavens that said: ‘This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.’” (Matt. 3:16, 17) From these words we notice that Christ Jesus’ dedication was openly symbolized by baptism. After he came up out of the water Jehovah’s spirit came upon Jesus, and it was then that Jehovah God made the statement in the hearing of John the Baptist that He was well pleased with the course his Son had taken.
2. (a) What is the meaning of the Greek word from which “baptism” is derived? (b) How should baptizing be done?
2 The word “baptism” is taken from the Greek word báptisma, which means “dipping.” Thus in no manner does it have reference to sprinkling. Notice, too, the voluntary action on the part of Jesus when he submitted himself to John the Baptizer for immersion. He placed himself completely at John’s disposal to be immersed backwards in the water. The manner in which Jesus was completely submerged or hidden in Jordan’s water well illustrated how Jesus became buried as dead to his former course of earthly life. His then being raised up out of the water shows how he was being made alive for the doing of Jehovah’s will from that time forward. How suitable, then, is water baptism as a proper public sign or symbol of one’s personal dedication! No one assisted John when he baptized Jesus, no other person being mentioned as being present at this immersion act. Certainly this, too, sets the pattern as to the proper way in which a follower of Christ should be baptized, that is, by only one person in submerging the candidate in the water backwards and then, after complete submersion, lifting him up again.
3. Whom did Jesus give authorization to do baptizing?
3 It is important, too, that Jesus went to a dedicated servant of Almighty God to have the baptism performed. Just as Jesus went to a dedicated servant for baptism, he told his eleven faithful disciples to baptize others. Recall when Jesus approached the mountain in Galilee, where he had arranged to meet those disciples. There to them he spoke stirringly: “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.” These words Jesus addressed not to the priests, Sadducees, or Pharisees, but only to those disciples who were loyal ambassadors of his. Furthermore, we notice that they were told to make disciples of people. That meant to give to others instruction and information first, and then it was upon this condition that later they were baptized, and by the same dedicated servants of Almighty God. At that time they heard and received the truth only through Jehovah’s witnesses. Today a similar situation exists. People hear and receive instruction of the truth only from those that are true witnesses and dedicated servants of Almighty God, and the baptizing should be performed by persons that also already have been baptized.—Matt. 28:18-20.
4. (a) From whom did the Ethiopian eunuch receive understanding of God’s Word? (b) How was his dedication symbolized?
4 For our further guidance an interesting account is given concerning Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. “Philip opened his mouth and, starting with this Scripture, he declared to him the good news about Jesus. Now as they were traveling over the road, they came to a certain body of water, and the eunuch said: ‘Look! a body of water; what prevents me from getting baptized?’ With that he commanded the chariot to halt, and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. When they had come up out of the water, Jehovah’s spirit quickly led Philip away.” Here we note that instructions were given by the faithful servant of Almighty God, and when the candidate received the good news he wanted also to be a servant, and to be immersed. This marked the open or public acknowledgment of his dedication of himself to serve Jehovah God.—Acts 8:35-39.
5. From whom did Saul of Tarsus receive instructions? And what followed?
5 When Saul of Tarsus was directed to go to Damascus it was not until Jehovah’s servant, Ananias, was dispatched to where Saul was staying and Saul received instruction from Ananias that he recovered his sight and was filled with the holy spirit. The Bible account of this states: “And immediately there fell from his eyes what looked like scales, and he recovered sight, and he rose and was baptized, and he took nourishment and gained strength.” It was necessary that he come in contact with the disciples or witnesses of Jehovah and then doubtless Ananias, a true servant of God, performed the baptism of Saul.—Acts 9:18, 19.
6. Who only received approval to instruct and baptize during days of the early Christian congregation, and what parallel do we see today?
6 Another point that is extremely important is that Jehovah did not tell all people to disciple and baptize all nations, but these words were given by Jesus 1,900 years ago only to his fellow witnesses or sons of God, Jehovah. It was only when individuals came to them, received instructions and then were baptized that they were filled with holy spirit, either just before the actual water baptism or not a long time afterward. The same circumstances are true today. It is only through his channel of communication that Jehovah now is using that an individual obtains accurate knowledge of the truth; likewise, it is fitting that only persons devotedly serving Jehovah baptize taught ones who dedicate themselves to serve God.
7. (a) Why is sprinkling not proper baptism? (b) Why is baptism in any of Christendom’s religious systems unacceptable in Jehovah’s sight?
7 Someone might say that he had been baptized before in some church and may even feel that this was somehow a dedication. But here a question arises: To what teaching or principles was he dedicated? If such one was sprinkled as an infant or at any other age, could such one dedicate himself to Jehovah? No, because sprinkling is not the Scripturally proper type of baptism. But if one has submitted himself to immersion in water in some one of the many nominal religious systems, can such baptism today be considered by such baptized one as acceptable to God? No, because since 1918 those religious systems have been on judgment. Also, the members have been taught God-dishonoring creeds and human traditions that completely nullify the Word of Jehovah God. In fact, baptism in any one of the many ecclesiastical systems would be a mere submitting of oneself to the man-made ritual of that particular religious system. For example, most of Christendom’s sects believe and teach the “blessed trinity” doctrine, which denies the Bible teaching of Jehovah’s eternal supremacy and his Son’s being always obedient, subordinate and unequal to his Father. Also, the doctrine of the immortality of the human soul, contrary to the Bible teaching of the manner in which Jehovah God created humans. Today most of Christendom’s systems acknowledge rulers of this system of things as the higher powers to which they must be in subjection. How contrary this is when true Christians are admonished to be in subjection to Jehovah’s enthroned King, Christ Jesus, and have loving respect for the unified, clean organization Jehovah now uses earth-wide for announcing good news of his established kingdom! So both a dedication and water baptism acceptable to the true God will fully harmonize with the terms of Jehovah’s requirements written in his Word, the Bible; and every willing learner will eagerly conform to such righteous requirements.
8. What does it mean to be baptized in the name of the Father?
8 Recall the words: “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.” The position of the Father must necessarily be known to the learner or taught one. The name “Father” shows parenthood, priority. It refers to the superiority and rightful sovereignty of the true God, Jehovah, and also is a sign of the complete, supreme authority of Jehovah. An appreciation of this unique position and power must be known by the learner or disciple. Also, he properly should be familiar with and recognize that there is a great issue of domination confronting the universe at this time and that a proper settlement of that issue will be successfully accomplished by Jehovah.
9. What does it mean to be baptized in the name of the Son?
9 Also, being baptized in the name of the Son obviously shows the disciple’s appreciation of the Son’s high authority and position, both of which Jehovah has given to his Son. The Son’s redemption value as Ransomer of repentant disobedient humans must likewise be known by the disciple. He would have to respect the Son as God’s anointed, reigning King of Jehovah’s new world, besides acknowledging the Son as the everlasting Father to a great crowd of persons of good will that through him will receive life upon earth.
10. What does it mean to be baptized in the name of the holy spirit?
10 The learner also comes to know that the holy spirit is not a third person of a “trinity,” but truly is the active force of Jehovah. It is that force that supplies willing humans with understanding of God’s will and purpose. It is that same force that inspired God’s prophets of old to write his holy Word. It is the force that directed the Christians after Christ’s resurrection at the time of Pentecost and from then on to our time. It is this same force, this divine force, that is directing God’s theocratic organization in the world today. It is likewise that force that upholds and continues to activate God’s dedicated ministers at this time, and that active force to which they render themselves in submission.
11. (a) When may baptism be invalid? (b) Why was the ancient Ephesians’ first baptism invalid?
11 Any baptism other than a proper one performed by a dedicated person would be invalid. Also, it would be invalid if the individual did not have a proper understanding at the time of his dedication. This is illustrated to us by Paul when he went to Ephesus and found certain learners. He asked them: “Did you receive holy spirit when you became believers?” “They said to him: ‘Why, we have never heard whether there is a holy spirit.’ And he said: ‘In what, then, were you baptized?’ They said: ‘In John’s baptism.’ Paul said: ‘John baptized with the baptism of those repenting, telling the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this, they got baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid his hands upon them, the holy spirit came upon them, and they began . . . prophesying.” This demonstrates to us that even John’s baptism did not bring the holy spirit upon an individual, this fact showing the importance and necessity of being baptized in the name of the one coming after John, that is, Jesus. As an example, it shows that those sharing in John’s baptism after Pentecost A.D. 33 of necessity had to repeat the baptism in order to receive the holy spirit.—Acts 19:1-7.
12. (a) What was the purpose of John’s baptism? And of the law? (b) How could John’s baptism prepare the Israelites?
12 One may ask, Was not baptism for the removal of sin? John’s baptism was not for the removing of sins, but was for repentance over sin against the old or law covenant. At Mark 1:4, 5, we read: “John the baptizer turned up in the wilderness, preaching baptism of those repenting for forgiveness of sins. . . . and they were baptized by him in the Jordan river, openly confessing their sins.” The Jews had been a covenant people and were guilty of sins committed against the covenant. John’s baptism gave them an opportunity to repent and to acknowledge that they had violated their covenant relationship to Jehovah, and then they could follow the proper course that would guide them to the Messiah. Otherwise they would not recognize the Messiah. In fact, that was the purpose of the law, as Paul explains: “Why, then, the Law? It was added to make transgressions manifest, until the seed should arrive to whom the promise had been made, and it was transmitted through angels by the hand of a mediator. Is the Law, therefore, against the promises of God? Never that! For if a law had been given which was able to give life, righteousness would actually have been by means of law. But the Scripture delivered up all things together to the custody of sin, that the promise resulting from faith toward Jesus Christ might be given to those exercising faith. However, before this faith arrived, we were being guarded under law, being delivered up together into custody, looking to the faith which was destined to be revealed. Consequently, the Law has become our tutor leading to Christ, that we might be declared righteous due to faith. But now that this faith has arrived, we are no longer under a tutor.” (Gal. 3:19, 21-25) For the Jews to have any reverence for the law and any understanding of it, they would have to admit that they were sinners and violators. Sin against the covenant required blood to be shed: “Nearly all things are cleansed with blood according to the Law, and unless blood is poured out no forgiveness takes place.” Obviously, then, John’s baptism did not provide such a cleansing. Yet John’s baptism was provided to give the Israelites a position of teachable humility before the law, and in that way they would be prepared to recognize the Messiah. The law was given to the Israelites in order that they would be led to accept Jesus as the redeeming one, because in no other way could remission of sins be provided.—Heb. 9:22.
13. (a) Why was Jesus’ baptism not for the remission of sins? (b) What did Jesus’ baptism accomplish and mean?
13 It is true that Jesus gave himself as the ransom for the remission of sins, but keep in mind that baptism of him had not remitted sins, because he had no sins. Peter stated: “He committed no sin.” (1 Pet. 2:22) Jesus was guileless, undefiled and entirely separate from sinners. Then why was he baptized? In fact, John asked him, ‘Why are you coming to me?’ In reply Jesus said to him: “Let it be, this time.” No, Jesus’ baptism was not for the purpose of washing away sin, nor did he set baptism as the example for Christians to follow for the remission of sins. His baptism marked a complete and absolute dedication. The law of Moses could not provide life. Hence Jesus came to fulfill the law in order that men might live again, because it was his ransom provision that could lay the foundation for the new covenant that God made with Christians. Jesus disclosed emphatically that he was dead to his past course of life when he was buried under the water and that he was just as vividly alive when he was raised out of the water, to do Jehovah’s will.—Matt. 3:14, 15.
14. (a) When is a follower of Christ ready for baptism? (b) Why should one avoid postponing baptism after making a dedication?
14 The same is true on the part of Christians that follow a similar practice in baptism. Consequently, after a learner dedicates himself to do Jehovah’s will henceforth, he is ready for baptism. Of course, it must be a wholehearted decision without any reservations. This means that baptism is a very serious occasion, but truly not a sad one. Weighty consideration should be given the matter. One cannot be baptized just because others do so. The seriousness of it is noted at Ecclesiastes 5:4, 5, which states that when a vow is made to God, one must not fail to fulfill it. An individual realizing the importance of fulfilling a vow to God might say: ‘Maybe I should hold off at this time. Perhaps this is not going to work out the way I think it is, and a failure on my part to carry out this dedication would mean death.’ That is true, vow-breakers are “deserving of death.” (Rom. 1:32) One should never lose sight of the fact that a failure to make a dedication would also mean death to the individual when he has an opportunity to know the truth and have knowledge of what it means to dedicate his life to Jehovah and then fails to do so. When a person has reached this point he has knowledge and he is accountable to the extent of his understanding.
15, 16. (a) What should take place in a person’s life prior to baptism? (b) Under what conditions would baptism be invalid? (c) Under what conditions should one properly be baptized a second time?
15 It is obvious that some transformation of the individual’s life takes place prior to baptism. He would have to clean up his life in event that he had been living immorally or had shared in practices that were unclean according to God’s standards. In event that an individual was baptized but had not cleaned up his life properly and was still living immorally or otherwise infracting God’s law, baptism could not consummate a dedication to do Jehovah’s will. Such a pretense of dedication would not be accepted by Jehovah. An unclean offering is not acceptable to Almighty God and we are to present ourselves to do God’s clean will.
16 In event a person found himself in this condition, it would be necessary for him to clean up his life, make a true dedication and then be baptized again. Even though an unclean individual had been baptized, his dedication would not have been acceptable to Jehovah. When he cleans up, then he should be rebaptized because under such conditions his dedication can be acceptable to Almighty God and the water baptism is valid.
17. (a) What do dedication and baptism mark in an individual’s life? (b) How important is the date of one’s baptism?
17 It is not just the ceremonial or symbolic baptism in water that gives life. Rather, it is what follows afterward, in faithful service of God. Baptism in water publicly marks just the beginning of something that must continue throughout life. In fact, there is no termination of this dedication. It must be an eternal one and it must be made with perpetuity, permanency, in mind. One can never escape the responsibility that is placed upon him by Almighty God at the time of dedication and baptism. He cannot treat it indifferently and carelessly or be unreliable as to its requirements. From the day of dedication onward, it marks the beginning of preaching as being the vocation of the individual. Doubtless he did share in the witnessing before this, but he was not in dedicated relationship with Jehovah until after his dedication had been made, followed as soon as possible by baptism. In this sense, the day of one’s baptism is the day of symbolizing one’s birth to a new life. It publicly declares the beginning of a new life, shared with other dedicated servants of God in His New World society now and forever. Dedication with baptism marks the time when one becomes dead to the old world and then alive to the new world without deviation. In effect it is a Christian’s coming alive as a dedicated servant of Jehovah and follower of Jesus Christ. Baptism therefore serves both as a public confession of one’s dedication and as an ordination ceremony. This important baptismal day of one’s life should be made a matter of record by reporting it to one’s congregation, as well as keeping this record for oneself. It is the date of one’s ordination by Jehovah’s visible organization.
18, 19. (a) How young may one be when baptized? (b) Is there a maximum age limit for baptism?
18 Frequently the question arises, At what age should one be baptized? Age in years is not the governing factor. Regardless of age, whether in the early teens or later, if a boy or girl has been taught God’s truth so he is familiar with the purposes and requirements of Jehovah and loves him and wants to serve him and makes a dedication, he is ready for immersion. The proper attitude is illustrated in Jesus’ words: “If you love me, you will observe my commandments.” “If you observe my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have observed the commandments of the Father and remain in his love.”—John 14:15; 15:10.
19 On the other hand, one well along in years may think that he is too old for dedication and baptism. Here, too, age is unimportant. If a person is single-minded in his determination to carry out God’s commandments as stated by Jesus, and wants to serve Jehovah and wants eternal life, then the aging or aged one also is ready for baptism in symbol of his dedication and he should not delay it.
20. What brings true and lasting happiness?
20 One who loves life wants it in full measure as only Jehovah can bestow it with all its attendant blessings. It is this love and unselfish devotion that causes him to volunteer for endless service of God, with an eternal existence in happiness.
APPROPRIATE TIME FOR BAPTISM
21. At what times can one arrange to be baptized?
21 Opportunities for baptism are generally available at conventions of Jehovah’s witnesses as well as circuit assemblies that are held twice a year. If by chance one cannot possibly be accommodated by one of these regularly scheduled assemblies, or due to some infirmities, another time may be arranged. Regardless of time or location, a dedicated servant of Jehovah should be assigned to do the immersing.
22, 23. (a) What important questions should be presented to candidates for baptism? (b) What response shows any candidate’s readiness for baptism?
22 It is essential that with the mouth a public declaration of faith be made. Two questions are therefore asked the candidates: (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? (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 enlightening power of the holy spirit?
23 Everyone who can answer “Yes” to these questions is eligible for baptism and should take this step without hesitation or delay.