Baptism According to the Divine Will
“The patience of God was waiting in Noah’s days, while the ark was being constructed, in which a few people, that is, eight souls, were carried safely through the water. That which corresponds to this is also now saving you, namely, baptism.”—1 Pet. 3:20, 21.
1. What call is Jehovah sending out before Armageddon, and with what response?
WE SURELY live in momentous times. A whole world, the present system of things, is madly and blindly rushing toward its destruction in the universal war of Armageddon, when the age-old issue of Jehovah’s supremacy and universal sovereignty is going to be settled once and for all time. But out of that doomed old world Almighty God is calling people of good will of all nations, kindreds and tongues to come and find refuge in the righteous new world that he is creating. Every year thousands upon thousands, from all four quarters of the earth, are responding to the call and take their stand for Jehovah and his kingdom. In time they learn that it is their privilege and obligation to get baptized, according to the divine will.
2, 3. Of what significance is baptism in connection with Jehovah’s purpose of saving people?
2 What, then, has baptism to do with the possibilities of being. saved out of the dying old world into the endless new world, which the living God is making? The apostle Peter referred to Isaiah’s prophecy about new heavens and a new earth, which reads: “‘For here I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and the former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart. . . . They will do no harm nor cause any ruin in all my holy mountain,’ Jehovah has said.” (Isa. 65:17-25) So Peter wrote: “There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” Then he goes on to say: “Consider the patience of our Lord as salvation”; and in another place, as quoted above, he speaks of how God’s patience was waiting in Noah’s days, and mentions that eight souls were carried safely through the water. Then he argues: “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.”—2 Pet. 3:12, 13, 15; 1 Pet. 3:20, 21.
3 We have the Master’s own word for it that this has application right now, for he said that as the days of Noah were, so should the days of the Son of man be. (Matt. 24:37) At that time Jehovah deluged to destruction the then-existing system of things but saved eight persons, who had heeded his warning. In other words, baptism of the whole world in water brought death to the majority and salvation to only a few. So now, when the present order of things will be dissolved, the ungodly men will be destroyed but those who have heard and obeyed Jehovah’s warning message will be saved. That is what Peter is referring to when he speaks of the saving baptism.
4, 5. What was required of those who were saved in Noah’s day? What are the corresponding requirements for salvation in our day?
4 He did not mean, though, that the literal act of immersion in the waters of a river or lake is the means of saving, but the condition of being exclusively devoted to God, whereof water baptism is a symbol. How is that? Well, those who were with Noah in the ark and were baptized to him, when the ark was surrounded by the surging waters that fell from the windows of heaven, first had had to put faith in Jehovah’s warning message, which came to them through Noah; then they had had to work with him on the ark and thereby demonstrate their belief in God’s word and their willingness to obey him. And they had to continue in that condition right down to the day when Jehovah himself shut the door behind Noah and those who had actually gone into the ark with him.—Gen. 7:13-16.
5 What, then, is it in our day that corresponds to the ark wherein God saved Noah? It is the arrangement for preservation that Jehovah God builds through his Son, the glorified Christ Jesus, that is, “the new system of things.” Here on earth that new system of things is now represented by Jehovah’s witnesses, who have come into it and are organized as a New World society to bear witness to Jehovah’s name and purposes, his King and kingdom, and to live according to the divine will, thus showing the people of good will the way to salvation.
6. Is baptism a matter of choice for those who want to do the divine will?
6 All who do come to this New World society in order to learn the way to life and who give themselves to Jehovah God in dedication should be baptized in accordance with Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19, 20: “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.” So baptism in water is not left as a matter of choice for those who want to do the divine will, as Jehovah is still making disciples of people of all the nations, but it is a requirement that has to be complied with; and an ever-growing number of dedicated persons are now submitting to such baptism every year. A striking example of this was given on that memorable day during the Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses, in New York city in the summer of 1958, when 7,136 persons were immersed in water.
WHO MAY BE BAPTIZED?
7, 8. Of what is baptism a symbol, as illustrated in Jesus’ case?
7 Now, as to who should be baptized and in what way, in order to be in harmony with the divine will, Peter said that baptism is what saves, not a cleansing of the filth of the flesh, but rather “the request made to God for a good conscience.” Thus infant baptism is ruled out at once, because an infant cannot make such a request to God. Baptism is, in fact, a symbol, an act of confession, of what has already taken place in the heart of the baptized one: that he has dedicated himself to Jehovah God, to live henceforth according to the divine will. This is what Jesus’ own baptism meant. He is the great Exemplar to be followed by all who want to serve Jehovah God.
8 Matthew tells us that John the Baptist was immersing Jews who had repented of their sins against the Law covenant, which Jehovah had made with that nation. One day Jesus came to John to be baptized. But John hesitated to do it, because he knew that Jesus had not transgressed the covenant. Jesus then said that it ought to be done, in order to “carry out all that is righteous.” (Matt. 3:15) And the apostle Paul writes, in Hebrews 10:9, that at that time Jesus fulfilled the words of the psalm: “Look! I am come to do your will,” O God. (Ps. 40:7, 8) Jesus had now dedicated himself to do the special work that the divine will prescribed for him, and that was written “in the roll of the book,” that is, in the Hebrew Scriptures, which contained “the sacred pronouncements of God.” (Rom. 3:1, 2) And so, when John dipped Jesus completely under the water of the river Jordan, that was a symbolic act that testified that Jesus was now dead as to his earthly way of life up till then.
9. How must the act of baptizing be performed in order to make the proper symbol?
9 Jesus set the pattern as to why baptism must be performed in that way, by complete submerging, in order to be a picture, a symbol. The baptized one, in being dipped out of sight, is “buried” in the water. That such was the way John was baptizing is shown, aside from the fact that the Greek word translated “baptize” means “to dip, to submerge,” by the statement found in the apostle John’s narrative: “John [that is, the Baptizer] also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was a great quantity of water there.” (John 3:23) But the baptizer does not leave the person submerged there to die in the water. No, the baptizer raises him up again, as a symbol of the fact that he is now to walk in a new way of life, wholly devoted to Jehovah God, whose divine will must henceforth be his guide. Those who are being baptized do thereby testify that they have broken loose from the old world, in which they were born as the imperfect children of Adam, and which world is ruled by Satan, the great opposer of God and his kingdom; and they have come to seek refuge in the arrangement that Jehovah has made for men and women who believe, and that corresponds to the literal ark in Noah’s day.
10-12. (a) What does it mean that baptism is done “in the name of the Father”? (b) In the name “of the Son”? (c) In the name “of the holy spirit”?
10 When Jesus commanded his followers to make disciples of people of all the nations, he said, as quoted above, that these disciples should be baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.” The act of baptism, then, must be a confession of the fact that the baptized one has come to know that Jehovah God is the Supreme One, the almighty Creator and Giver of life, the righteous and all-wise God and the loving Provider of salvation from sin and its woeful results. He must also have seen the great issue that overshadows everything else in the world and that is soon to be settled forever, to Jehovah’s eternal praise, namely, the issue of universal domination: Is Jehovah God to rule the universe, or is the Devil? Connected with that is this lesser issue: Can men on earth serve Jehovah with integrity when subjected to trials and persecutions? With this knowledge the one who is going to be baptized according to the divine will has dedicated himself to Jehovah, willing to do His will at whatever cost.—Job 1:9-11; Jude 25.
11 Today, too, the baptized one also confesses that he has seen that Jehovah has given to his first-born, beloved Son, Jesus Christ, the name that is above every other name, so that there is salvation in none other. Jesus Christ is Jehovah’s chosen King and has now come in the glory of his kingdom and as the righteous Judge, and all who desire to live must “kiss the Son,” that is, hail him as King and obey his orders, and in due time he will become their Everlasting Father.—Acts 4:12; Matt. 25:31; Ps. 2:12; Isa. 9:6, AS.
12 That baptism is also done in the name of the holy spirit means that the baptized one is testifying to the fact that he has come to know that the holy spirit is the active force of the living God, which he sends out through his Son, Christ Jesus, and which operates toward Jehovah’s people, enlightening and directing his theocratic organization on the earth today as it did in the days of the apostles; and that the immersed one has rendered himself in submission to this holy force.—Acts 1:8; 20:28; Joel 2:28, 29.
13. What did Jesus do after he had received the holy spirit following baptism?
13 It was this holy spirit or enlightening and empowering force from God that came over Jesus when he rose out of the water of Jordan; and now mark what he did after that. After he had been in the wilderness for forty days and had been tempted by the Devil, he began to proclaim: “The kingdom of God has drawn near. Be repentant and have faith in the good news.” (Mark 1:15) The Devil had offered Jesus all the kingdoms of this world, but Jesus refused to have anything to do with him, for “it is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.” (Luke 4:6-8) It was Jehovah’s kingdom that he desired, and for it he was going to work, bear witness and suffer persecution, yes, he was willing even to lay down his life for it. And why was he put to death? It was because of his absolute loyalty to Jehovah’s kingdom, which is the instrument for vindicating his Father’s holy name and bringing salvation to obedient creatures, by means of Jesus’ redeeming blood.—John 18:33-37; 19:12-16.
14. What should one who contemplates getting baptized ask himself?
14 In view of this faithful example the one contemplating baptism should ask himself: Am I willing to do as Christ did, to publish the kingdom of heaven and stay loyal to it? Can I see myself as part of that happy crowd that John described in Revelation who stand before the throne and joyfully cry out: “Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb”? They were shown as having palm branches in their hands; just as when Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, seated upon the colt of an ass, the crowd that was then gathered there took branches from palm trees and went out to meet him and shouted: “Blessed is he that comes in Jehovah’s name, even the king of Israel!” In the great crowd of worshipers who now “meet” him and hail him publicly is where everyone belongs who dedicates himself now to Jehovah God.—Rev. 7:9, 10; John 12:12-15.
15. (a) Baptism marks the beginning of what? (b) What must the baptized one do in order to live forever? What counsel did Paul give in this connection?
15 The baptism or immersion really marks the public announcement of something new. Here now is a person who has dedicated his life to Jehovah God. He thereby, so to speak, seals the contract made in prayer that binds him to Jehovah, to obey his divine will and support his worthy cause. He is expected to be what James 1:25 calls “a doer of the work ‘ and he is to be “happy in his doing it.” Salvation is not assured to you once the step of baptism has been taken, but rather you must, as Paul says, “keep working out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12) When one has given himself to Jehovah to be his slave he must not leave Jehovah’s service—it means his life, and it is for life! In order to live forever one must forever be Jehovah’s obedient slave. In order to be that, it is necessary to associate now with his New World society, which is under the command and direction of the Greater Noah, Christ Jesus. This requires one to study God’s Word both privately and in meetings that are arranged for this purpose, and these keep one spiritually fit to have a share in spreading the good news of the ruling kingdom. The apostle Paul gave good advice in this regard when he wrote to the Hebrews (10:23-25): “Let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that promised. And let us consider one another to incite to love and right works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.” The day that he referred to has now drawn very near indeed. This must never be forgotten.
16. (a) What should the baptized one be careful to avoid? (b) What course under persecution meets with Jehovah’s approval?
16 The one who undergoes baptism should remember also that he must not let material riches allure him and cause him to leave the proper course of exclusive devotion to Jehovah, not even to get some temporary economic advantage from using the methods of the selfish old world. The danger of being ensnared into letting material things mean more to one than the high principles of New World living must always be watched. Neither should bad repute or threats of persecution, because of participating in the work of bearing witness, be allowed to hinder one from following the right course. ‘Think of Jesus,’ counsels the apostle, ‘who has endured such contrary talk by sinners.’ Think of the apostle John, who served Jehovah faithfully even in his old age, although it meant being exiled and put to hard labor as a prisoner on the island of Patmos; and of how Paul himself kept on faithfully amid great and continued persecution. (Heb. 12:2, 3; Rev. 1:9; 2 Cor. 11:23-27) Think of Jehovah’s witnesses in Germany in Hitler’s day and now behind the Iron Curtain and elsewhere under various dictatorships, how sufferings and privations have only spurred them on to greater zeal and how Jehovah has wonderfully blessed their efforts.
17. What special warning did Jesus give for our day?
17 One must never become so sure of himself that he thinks he is immune from being tempted to leave Jehovah’s service for one reason or another. He should remember that the King, Jesus Christ, himself warned, in Matthew 24:12, 13: “Because of the increasing of lawlessness the love of the greater number will cool off. But he that has endured to the finish is the one that will be saved.” It is necessary to be mindful also of the seemingly small things in connection with Jehovah’s work; for example, to stick to one’s agreements in the training program that is carried on in the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses, not to neglect to report service results, and so on.
18. Should one think of the truth only when attending meetings?
18 In Revelation 12:9, 17 we read that “the great dragon . . . , the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan,” who is now confined to the vicinity of the earth, is wrathful and wages war against those “who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.” For this reason it is all the more necessary to be on constant watch, to put on the complete suit of armor from God and to learn how to use the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God, both to defend oneself and to be able to take the offensive against the enemy. (Eph. 6:11-18) To take the offensive is, in fact, the best defense. In the spiritual war, wherein Jehovah’s servants are engaged, this means to go out and tell other people about our great and wonderful God and show them the way to life. The Christian should not think of the truth only when at meetings, but should have it in his heart. The psalmist wrote: “How I do love your law! All day long it is my concern.” (Ps. 119:97) And not only in the daytime was that so, but also at night: “O God, you are my God, I keep looking for you. . . . When I have remembered you upon my bed, during the night watches I meditate on you half-aloud.” (Ps. 63:1, 6) When the heart is full of the truth, it is not difficult to speak to others about it; and that is what one should do, for “with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation,” says Paul in Romans 10:10. And Peter says that Christians should always be “ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of [them] a reason for the hope” they have.—1 Pet. 3:15; Luke 6:45.
19. What should be the motive for dedication and baptism, and how is that motivating power manifested in our day?
19 If out of love one makes a dedication and obeys the command to get baptized, then the keeping of God’s other commands, such as that about public declaration of one’s faith and about attending meetings, will be easy, for they are fruits of love also. The exercising of love in association with fellow Christians results in greater appreciation of God’s requirements. The proverb says: “By iron, iron itself is sharpened. So one man sharpens the face of another.” (Prov. 27:17) Refraining from active service after baptism, like holding back from baptism itself, leaves one just outside that inner circle of nearness to God. At Acts 2:46, 47 we read that “day after day they [the apostles and the other early Christians] were in constant attendance at the temple with one accord, . . . praising God and finding acceptance with all the people.” Today all the great crowd of “other sheep” that have associated with the remnant of the joint heirs of Christ have been baptized with one accord and they have now joined in one accord in preaching the good news of the Kingdom.
20. (a) What song are Christians now singing against Satan? (b) Who will be saved when Gog makes his final attack?
20 In doing so these Christian spiritual warriors will also be singing the taunting song against Satan, the oppressive ruler of the old world, telling the people that his time is limited, until Jehovah’s great Vindicator, the King of kings and Lord of lords, will send him and all his hordes of wicked demons into the abyss. Before that happens, however, Satan, the Gog of Ezekiel’s prophecy, will make his final, all-out, desperate attack on Jehovah’s people, whereof the prophet tells in chapters 38 and 39, and then only those will be saved who have ‘acknowledged their belief in Christ, the King, before men.’—Isa. 14:3-20; Luke 12:8, 9.
21. Why is it proper for one who is contemplating baptism to scrutinize himself, and for what should he then look?
21 Now, as to the appropriateness of getting baptized, it must be remembered that Jehovah searches the hearts and tries the minds of those he accepts for baptism. Proverbs 21:2 says: “Jehovah is estimating hearts.” We stand or fall before him and are accountable to him. So it is proper that each one who is contemplating baptism should scrutinize himself in the light of God’s Word to see whether there is something that would really prevent him from getting baptized. This will be further discussed in the following article.