Baptism Necessary for Christians
1. (a) How did Jesus view the necessities of life, and upon what did he place the emphasis? (b) Why must Christians make room for the spirit?
NO MATTER where you may live in this world stop and ask yourself, How many things in this life are undeniably necessary? You may reason there are many and start to enumerate them in your mind. Reflect for a moment, though, and reevaluate. Generally speaking, would not most people say there are only three? Food. Shelter. Clothing. However, note what Christ Jesus stated: “On this account I say to you: Stop being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear. Does not the soul mean more than food and the body than clothing?” (Matt. 6:25) Notice there the emphasis is not on the material but on the spiritual. Why? Because the spiritual, not the material, counts with God. Hence, if we conduct our lives aright we can honor and praise God, our heavenly Life-giver. If we make room for the spirit and avoid the tendencies of fallen flesh we can pursue a course of life necessary for God’s approval. (Rom. 7:18, 19, 22, 23) Could there be anything of greater value in these critical, momentous times when the survival of the entire human race is in question?
2. (a) What questions will enable us to examine ourselves before God? (b) Define Christian dedication, and show its importance.
2 Hence, in reality, while three things are necessary to keep us alive physically, one more must be added if we are to be successful spiritually. It is appropriate, therefore, to scrutinize carefully our hopes, our aspirations, our goals in life. Hence the questions: What standing do I have with God? What does he want and require from me? How can I give him what is truly due him? The only reasonable answer to these questions is dedication of one’s life to God. But what is dedication? Christian dedication is the act of a person in setting himself apart by solemn decision unreservedly and unconditionally to do the will of Jehovah God, through Christ Jesus, as that will is set forth in the Bible, being made plain by God’s holy spirit. Without dedicating our life to God, we could hardly expect his favor and approval. Since there is nothing material that we can offer God, for he owns the beasts upon a thousand mountains, it is clear that we can offer only spiritual gifts to him. Jesus points this out clearly: “Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him. God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.”—John 4:23, 24; Ps. 50:10.
3. Into what favored relationship will dedication bring a Christian? Explain its value.
3 Actually, dedication, a spiritual relationship, is required of all who would gain life. Note how this point is made at Luke 14:27: “Whoever is not carrying his torture stake and coming after me cannot be my disciple.” Furthermore, when we do something like following the Son of God, then God, in turn, does something wonderful for us. What? He permits us to come into a highly favored relationship with him, as close as a father with his son. Imagine the blessing resulting to one who can truly call God his “Father”! Recognizing this prospect and the value of doing the divine will, should we not place the highest premium upon spiritual values rather than material ones? Will this not bring us joy, happiness and peace of mind in this fear-ridden, materialistic world? But you may ask, How can anyone come into a position whereby he can dedicate his life to God and enter into this favored relationship with his heavenly Father?
4. Upon what is Christian dedication based? What part does faith play?
4 As with everything we build, this relationship, too, must be constructed on a solid foundation. Its base is accurate knowledge and faith. Actually, one must be drawn to God by faith based on knowledge of his Word. Is this not what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”? (John 14:6) Just how vital is this intellectual understanding and appreciation of God’s Word known as “faith”? The apostle Paul answers, at Hebrews 11:6: “Moreover, without faith it is impossible to please him well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” Yes, we must have a faithful knowledge of God’s will in order to do it. In this there is no emotionally directed appeal. Rather, the knowledge is based upon the revealed will of God from his Word, the Bible.
5. What is Jehovah’s will for true Christians today?
5 And what is Jehovah’s will for all who would gain his favor today? His Word reveals it at Ephesians 5:15-17: “So keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked. On this account cease becoming unreasonable, but go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.” Can we deny that these are wicked days, in which “men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth”? (Luke 21:26) Yet there really is no question as to what God’s will is, for the reasonable Christian course is to increase our spirituality and mold our lives to the pattern that will eventually merit his approval and blessing.
6. How can we show our appreciation to Jehovah for all his kindness?
6 As we study the Bible our minds are filled with the wonderful truths of God’s Word and we are moved by an overpowering desire to make known our appreciation to Jehovah God for his innumerable expressions of kindness. If we held back we would no doubt feel like the prophet Jeremiah, who said that God’s Word was as a burning fire shut up in his bones and he could not contain it. (Jer. 20:9) Thus the inescapable conclusion to the matter is our desire to share this good news and unreservedly give ourselves to Jehovah to do his will.
7. In addition to possessing knowledge, what else is vitally necessary to qualify for dedication and baptism?
7 However, even though we may have Scriptural knowledge, which is a prime requirement for baptism, still before we can follow through we must be clean morally and spiritually. Commenting on this, Isaiah said: “Turn away, turn away, get out of there, touch nothing unclean; get out from the midst of her, keep yourselves clean, you who are carrying the utensils of Jehovah.” (Isa. 52:11) It is crystal clear, then, that any who would qualify for Christian dedication and baptism must separate from the world and be clean. Why? Because “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) They must make whatever adjustments are required in their lives to conform to the moral standards laid down in God’s Word, the Bible. For example, if one is newly acquainted with the truths of the Bible and has not had time to strip off unclean habits of the world or straighten up his way of living with the opposite sex, then he would not yet qualify for baptism. Marital affairs must be in good order too. One must be clean morally and spiritually. Note what the apostle Paul said at 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: “What! Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom. And yet that is what some of you were.” Note—“that is what some of you were,” not are. What was just quoted from God’s Word provides a sharp definition of what we must not be if we would qualify for the all-important Christian dedication and baptism.
8. (a) Show the relationship between dedication and baptism. (b) How was Jesus’ baptism something new?
8 Now that we know what Christian dedication is and how vitally necessary it is to anyone who would merit Jehovah’s approval, we must also recognize the part that accurate knowledge and faith play. Part of the accurate knowledge necessary for Christians in this regard is the relationship between dedication and baptism. Actually, baptism is a public symbol of one’s private dedication to serve God. The pattern for Christian dedication and baptism was set by Jesus, the Son of God. In reality, his baptism was something new. (Heb. 7:26) Prior to Jesus’ baptism, John the prophet had been baptizing Jews who were sinners and who were repentant over their sins against the law that Jehovah God had given to the nation of Israel through Moses. (Matt. 3:1-11; Acts 19:4) Jesus was no such repentant sinner. John the Baptist knew that Jesus was holy, pure and undefiled, and John tried to prevent Jesus from being baptized, saying: “I am the one needing to be baptized by you, and are you coming to me?” Jesus overcame John’s objection by saying: “Let it be, this time, for in that way it is suitable for us to carry out all that is righteous.” (Matt. 3:14, 15) John then submissively baptized Jesus.
9. Outline some of the interesting and valuable points gained by an examination of the baptism of Jesus.
9 There are some interesting and valuable points to be gained by an examination of this baptism of Jesus, the Son of God. First of all, how old was he on this occasion? Luke established this when he said: “Furthermore, Jesus himself, when he commenced his work, was about thirty years old.” (Luke 3:23) Hence Jesus was no infant on this occasion. He was a grown man, capable of making the vital decision to dedicate himself to do the divine will. Notice further, he was immersed completely in water. The record states: “After being baptized Jesus immediately came up from the water.” (Matt. 3:16) This was no sprinkling ceremony but, rather, a complete immersion. That such was the custom with John is established by the Scriptures at John 3:23: “John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was a great quantity of water there.” Further, please note that the baptism was performed by an authorized baptizing agent, John the Baptist. Once Jesus came up out of the water there was a change in him. No longer would he pursue the life of a carpenter. Rather, he, by water baptism, symbolized his dedication of himself, body and all, to do Jehovah’s will in a way more than the law given through Moses demanded. At his being buried by John under the water Jesus symbolically died to his past situation in earthly life. His will did not die but conformed more and more to the divine will as outlined for him, namely, the preaching of the good news of God’s kingdom.—John 4:34; 5:30; Luke 22:42.
10. Show how Christian baptism has a similar significance today.
10 Actually, Christian baptism has a similar significance today. Jesus provided the pattern. In order to be valid it must be made with understanding. Even as Jesus was baptized when he had made an intelligent, free-will decision regarding dedication, so Christians today must understand what they are doing. This would preclude infant baptism as unscriptural. (Rom. 10:9, 10) Moreover, one who would be baptized now must be living a clean, honorable life, even as Jesus was. It is obvious that some transformation takes place prior to baptism; otherwise, how could something unclean be dedicated to the clean, pure God, Jehovah? Baptism could not possibly consummate a pretense of dedication. Additionally, the baptizing agent must be a dedicated servant of Jehovah, even as was John. In these days of the established heavenly kingdom, who else is publishing the good news of God’s kingdom? Upon whom is Jehovah’s name, and into whose hands have his Kingdom interests been placed? Jehovah’s witnesses are the only ones, and hence it would only be proper that the baptizer be one of Jehovah’s dedicated male representatives of the New World society.—Isa. 43:10; Matt. 24:14, 45-47.
11. Is baptism a cleansing ceremony? Explain why you so answer.
11 Remember, too, that baptism as performed by John the Baptist was not performed for the removal of sin but was a symbol of repentance for sins against the old Jewish law covenant. Certainly in the case of Jesus he had no sins. (1 Pet. 2:22) Likewise today, true Christian baptism is an outward symbol of what has already taken place inwardly, namely, a complete, wholehearted dedication to do the will of Jehovah God. It is not a religious ceremony that removes sins. Rather, repentance must precede baptism, as pointed out by the apostle Paul at Acts 26:20: “Both to those in Damascus first and to those in Jerusalem, and over all the country of Judea, and to the nations I went bringing the message that they should repent and turn to God by doing works that befit repentance.” So baptism is not a ceremony, the water of which washes away sins, but, rather, a symbol of dedication. Preceding it there must be repentance and reverence. Following it there must be a faithful fulfilling of the dedication vows.
12. Illustrate the seriousness of baptism, and outline how some have mistaken views concerning baptism.
12 Baptism is a serious step, but by the same token it is a joyful step. It must be made with intelligence and proper appreciation for its significance. To make the vow of dedication and then fail to carry it out would mean death. (Eccl. 5:4, 5) On the other hand, to fail to make it and hold back when one has sufficient knowledge would also mean death. Some may mistakenly feel that it is not necessary to be baptized, claiming that they have insufficient knowledge and will wait for a more favorable time. Remember, it is not baptism that obligates one; it is knowledge. When one knows enough to recognize that this old world will soon pass away with all its desires, and that the only way we can gain life is to start living for the new world now, he knows enough to be baptized. If one is morally clean at this time, then why delay?—1 John 2:15-17.
13. (a) Why is it unwise to rationalize on baptism? (b) What assurance do we have from God that he will help us?
13 One could theorize and offer many reasons as to why it is not yet necessary for him to be baptized. He could think, ‘How can I live up to my dedication vows? What assurance do I have that God will help me? What will I do when difficulty arises? Will I remain faithful? Perhaps I should wait until I get more knowledge and it will be more opportune.’ Would this not be a form of rationalizing? Would this not be engaging in “the practice of explaining or justifying one’s opinions and actions solely by what is considered reasonable”; which is the definition of rationalizing? Also, would this not be leaning on one’s own understanding instead of God’s? Whose standard should we follow, ours or God’s? If there is any doubt as to what is the right thing, would it not be the course of wisdom to get the help and advice of mature Christians who have your best spiritual interests at heart? Remember the assurance Jehovah gives us at Philippians 4:13: “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.” Hence, why delay, why procrastinate, if we qualify for Christian dedication and baptism?
BAPTISM AFTER EXAMINATION
14. Explain what it means to be baptized (a) in the name of the Father, (b) the Son, (c) the holy spirit.
14 Next, Jesus said we should be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the holy spirit. (Matt. 28:19, 20) What does this mean? Fatherhood refers to parenthood, and being baptized in the name of the Father shows that one recognizes the superiority and sovereignty of our heavenly Father, whose name alone is Jehovah. (Ps. 83:18) We must sanctify his name, respect his sovereignty, love his kingdom and serve its interests. (Luke 11:2) Next, being baptized in the name of the Son shows one’s appreciation for the high authority and position conferred upon the Son by the Father. There must be love and appreciation for the Son because he is the Ransomer. Without his sacrifice we could not gain life. How great a debt we owe him! (Isa. 55:4; John 4:42) Finally, being baptized in the name of the holy spirit means to recognize such spirit as the active force of Jehovah. It is that same force that unerringly guided the men of old to write the Bible, impelled the early Christians to withstand persecution successfully and that today guides Jehovah’s theocratic organization on earth.—2 Pet. 1:21; John 6:63; 1 John 5:6.
15. Outline some of the valuable aspects of baptism.
15 One’s baptism is a public demonstration of death to a past course of life. If the candidate remained submerged in water, truly it would mean his death. Fittingly, one is raised to life as it were, alive to do the will of Jehovah. Thus one’s day of baptism could be said to be the day of one’s start in a new life. Baptism serves both as a public confession of one’s dedication and as a sign of one’s being an ordained minister. Doubly blessed by Jehovah is this individual. The date of one’s baptism should be recorded and remembered always. As far as Jehovah’s visible organization is concerned it is the date of your ordination to the ministry of the Most High.
16-19. (a) What important questions are asked of candidates for baptism? (b) What indicates eligibility for baptism? (c) On this occasion, of what is it good to have a clear perspective? (d) Is baptism the ultimate goal?
16 However, before candidates are admitted to baptism it is proper and fitting that they answer two questions, so that all those assembled with them for the occasion may be witnesses who have heard from the candidates’ own mouths that they understand what they are doing and that they have taken the required steps to qualify for baptism. Those who can answer the questions in the affirmative should say “Yes” after each question, and they should say it loudly and in unison, that is, all at the same time.
17 The first question is: 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?
18 The second question is: 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?
19 Everyone who has answered “Yes” to those two questions is eligible for baptism and should be baptized at that same assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses. The baptized one should remember the day always, for it is truly a decisive day of his life. On such an occasion it is a very wholesome thing to have a clear perspective of one’s responsibilities and privileges in the ministry from this point forward. Remember, baptism is not the ultimate goal but rather the beginning of a very favorable relationship.
20. What questions present themselves for further discussion?
20 Following baptism, that vitally necessary step, how should one view his relationship to Jehovah, His organization, his Christian brothers? What can one do to fulfill one’s dedication vows faithfully and joyfully? How can one increase one’s spiritual-mindedness and decrease one’s desire for the material things of life? What steps should one pursue to gain greater maturity, in order that one might endure and walk in his integrity before God in these critical days? We will leave these questions for the next article to answer.