Baptism Shows Faith
“Here I have come . . . To do your will, O my God, I have delighted, and your law is within my inward parts.”—Ps. 40:7, 8.
1. Who is man’s finest example of faith, and how did he start showing faith in his youth?
JESUS CHRIST is man’s finest example of a creature showing faith in his Creator. The record of what he did as a man on earth provides us with guidance so much needed in our effort to pay God what belongs to God. Jesus was born of a nation that had the written law of God and was under covenant obligation to obey it. Though many of the nation were not doing that, Jesus from his early years demonstrated his strong faith in Jehovah by what he did. He chose a progressive course of life that would lead to favor with God. Of his youth it is written: “Now his parents were accustomed to go from year to year to Jerusalem for the festival of the passover. And when he became twelve years old, they went up according to the custom of the festival and completed the days. But when they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem . . . they returned to Jerusalem, making a diligent search for him. Well, after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers and listening to them and questioning them. But all those listening to him were in constant amazement at his understanding and his answers. . . . And Jesus went on progressing in wisdom and in physical growth and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2:41-47, 52) Even in youth he was seriously concerned about his relationship to God.
2, 3. (a) In fulfillment of Psalm 40:7, 8, what did Jesus do? (b) What is the proof that God was pleased by this show of faith?
2 By his exemplary course of progressing in knowledge and wisdom, Jesus grew in faith. He knew the will of God, and it was this knowledge plus faith and his strong desire to meet his obligations toward God that led him to present himself to Jehovah and do God’s will. Prophetically it had been written of him at Psalm 40:7, 8: “Here I have come . . . To do your will, O my God, I have delighted, and your law is within my inward parts.” He was about thirty years of age when by his own choice he was able to give up his former course of life and become a special servant of Jehovah. “Furthermore, Jesus himself, when he commenced his work, was about thirty years old.” (Luke 3:23) This required faith. But how did Jesus let it be known that he was taking this course of faith and obedience to God’s will?
3 “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. 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. 3:13-17.
4. What is the meaning of Christian baptism, and is it necessary?
4 Jesus was no sinner! His being submerged under water was not to take away sins. “He committed no sin,” says 1 Peter 2:22. Christian baptism is, therefore, not for removing sins, but it is the way to give public evidence of a positive presentation of oneself to God in the midst of all alienated system of things. It was necessary for Jesus and it is required of those who wish to meet their obligations to God even now. Today dedication to God and baptism require faith and must be accompanied by prayer to God.—Luke 3:21.
5. How did Jesus prove his faith shortly after baptism?
5 Not only does proof of true faith come at the time of baptism but, as Jesus demonstrated, a course of action showing faith must follow continuously thereafter. Jesus Christ proved his faith by serving Jehovah. First of all, he was called upon to defend himself against pressures designed to break him away from his course of obedience to Jehovah. Here his accurate knowledge of the Bible accumulated through diligent study and meditation, plus his faith, gained him an important victory. Satan opposes those who desire to pay their obligations to God. In the case of Jesus, Satan tried to take advantage of the situation by placing temptations before the newly anointed Jesus. However, each time a tempting proposition was offered, Jesus answered in the most powerful way—with the Scriptures. The first answer was, “Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth,” quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3. The second answer was taken from Deuteronomy 6:16, when he said: “You must not put Jehovah your God to the test.” The third and final answer was based upon Deuteronomy 5:9 and De 6:13, as well as Joshua 24:14, when he declared: “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.”—Matt. 4:4-10.
6. (a) Following the temptation, what did Jesus do? (b) Why did not Jesus and the apostles have to study in a seminary?
6 Following the baptism and temptation, Jesus began his ministry. “From that time on Jesus commenced preaching and saying: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” (Matt. 4:17) It was a kingdom message that should have been good news to the people, but it took strong faith to engage in this preaching work, because few of the listeners were ready to believe. The few who put faith in what he preached joined him as followers, eventually sharing in the preaching and teaching work. There was preaching in the mountains, at the seaside, in the synagogues, or at the homes, wherever people were to be found. The record tells how the principal work was praising the name of Jehovah and speaking of his kingdom; rather than begging for money and charitable giving of money or establishing orphanages, hospitals, universities, monasteries or social centers, it was a teaching work, done with kindness, compassion and understanding. Jesus knew that accumulated knowledge is the basis for stability in faith; the knowledge had to be taught. It is noteworthy that Jesus and his apostles did not attend theological schools or seminaries to equip them for carrying out a life of service to the Creator; rather, it is the Christian way to study and teach the inspired Word of God.—John 7:14-18.
7. What scriptures prove that Jesus had the faith to put spiritual things first in life?
7 Jesus did not make pursuit of material things the first concern in his life, but with faith he put spiritual things first, and Jehovah saw to it that he was provided for adequately throughout his ministry. He urged a rich young man to come and be his follower, for Jesus knew that his own course was the one that was pleasing to God, meeting man’s obligations toward God. But the young man did not have the faith to do it.—Matt. 6:20, 33; 8:20; 10:9, 10; 19:21; Luke 12:34.
8. (a) Explain the exemplary position of faith that Jesus took concerning the false religions and politics of his day. (b) After resurrection, how did Jesus continue to show that his sanctification to God was unending?
8 Christ Jesus also demonstrated how to avoid entanglements with the false religions roundabout. He knew God’s law and was not afraid to speak about it, though it made him a target for opposition and personal injury. His keen sense of righteousness was made known before the people as he denounced the traditions of false religion that make void the word of God. He spoke out against false teachings and hypocritical worshipers, showing his opposition to the practice of Babylonish religion. (Matt. 15:1-9; 16:6, 12; 23:16-36) Likewise, he explained to his followers the need to take a neutral position toward the affairs of this system of things, which included the immorality and politics of the day, even if this might lead to some Christians’ being killed. (John 15:18-21; 16:1, 2, 33; 17:14-16) Faith plus obedience kept Jesus set apart in sanctification to Jehovah God. He knew death was ahead for him, but he had faith in Jehovah and the resurrection power of God. Even after his resurrection he gave proof of his unending sanctification to the Creator by continuing to teach God’s purposes: “And commencing at Moses and all the Prophets he interpreted to them things pertaining to himself in all the Scriptures . . . Then he opened up their minds fully to grasp the meaning of the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:27, 45) These are but a few of the outstanding works of faith done by Jesus Christ. By careful reading of the Bible accounts we may learn of many more acts of faith performed by Jesus as examples to those who would be Christians paying God what is due.—1 Pet. 2:21-25.
TO THOSE COMING AFTER JESUS
9. What kind of work was to follow the ministry of Jesus?
9 For those who would serve Jehovah God in dedication following Christ’s ministry the command was given by Jesus at 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 conclusion of the system of things.” Why this command? No longer was God dealing with any earthly nation as his chosen people. A new system of things had arrived. Now it was up to the individuals, people of all the nations, to make their choice and come into harmony with God as dedicated men and women. What Jesus had said indicates that a number of things have to be taken into consideration before baptism is undergone properly.
10. Before baptism, what is one of the necessary requirements?
10 First of all, there must be the making of disciples, a teaching program. Men must learn about Jehovah God, the Father of Jesus Christ, gaining basic knowledge of his commandments, laws and principles. Beginning of God’s worship must occur, with appreciation of his position as the Supreme One. Knowledge of God and faith precede Christian dedication and baptism. Hence, it becomes understandable that no one is born a Christian, and, therefore, infant sprinkling or baptism is not Christian baptism. One must become informed before baptism and make a choice of his course in life, which is obviously impossible for a newborn infant.
11. What must one appreciate concerning God’s provision through his Son?
11 Appreciation of the ‘name . . . of the Son’ or his position in relation to God’s purposes is a requirement. One must come to recognize the need of Jehovah’s provision through Christ for removal of sin, the ransom sacrifice. He sees himself in true light as a sinner, needing repentance. “Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the person of Jehovah . . . To you first God, after raising up his Servant, sent him forth to bless you by turning each one away from your wicked deeds.” (Acts 3:19, 26) If one repents he shows faith in Jehovah’s provision and acknowledges Jesus Christ as Jehovah’s anointed King, willingly and joyfully submitting to Jehovah’s arrangement of things and wanting to copy the example of the Son of God while living in accord with Jesus’ teachings.
12. What is holy spirit, and how does man properly show recognition of it?
12 Nor may we omit from consideration Jehovah’s holy spirit. Holy spirit is not a person. Jehovah sends out his spirit or active force, as invisible to human eyes as the breeze itself, and it can fill men. (Acts 2:1-4) One studying God’s Word comes to recognize how Jehovah’s spirit operates upon his organization of creatures and how Jehovah uses his active force. It was by Jehovah’s spirit that the Bible writing was inspired and through his spirit its understanding is made clear. So there would be no resisting of the operation of Jehovah’s spirit or opposing his inspired Word.—Acts 7:51; 2 Pet. 1:21.
13. What high personal standards must be met before one can make a valid dedication to Jehovah?
13 Is this all that might be required of one who wishes to put himself into proper relationship with God through dedication and immersion? No, a study of the inspired Scriptures indicates a need for further considerations. God’s Word sets out standards for living as Christians, requiring men to clean themselves from certain practices often carried on in the world. Under the spirit’s inspiration Paul wrote to the Corinthians for their guidance and ours: “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. But you have been washed clean . . . in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 6:9-11) It is important to understand the meaning of the terms used here. Even if someone had been a practicer of some of these things in the past, he must cleanse himself fully from such practices in order to qualify himself for dedication and baptism, even as some Corinthians had to do. He will show the effects of his strong faith if he does so.
14. What other requirement does the Bible indicate is necessary for one to qualify as a servant of God?
14 There is more to consider also. Prophetically speaking of his servants, Jehovah caused the prophet Isaiah to record these words in Isaiah 2:2-4: “And it must occur in the final part of the days that the mountain of the house of Jehovah will become firmly established above the top of the mountains, and it will certainly be lifted up above the hills; and to it all the nations must stream. And many peoples will certainly go and say: ‘Come, you people, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion law will go forth, and the word of Jehovah out of Jerusalem. And he will certainly render judgment among the nations and set matters straight respecting many peoples. And they will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war any more.” This indicates peaceful activities for men who would serve God. The exemplary course of Jesus again lets us know what to do.—Matt. 26:52.
15. Why must a person cut off all connections with false worship?
15 Is one carrying on any practices of false worship? He must examine himself and cut off all connections with worship similar to that practiced in ancient Babylon and now under auspices of the world empire of false religion described in Bible language as Babylon the Great in Revelation 18:2. A man who will fulfill his obligations toward the living God Jehovah must give attention to the heavenly advice: “And I heard another voice out of heaven say: ‘Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues. For her sins have massed together clear up to heaven, and God has called her acts of injustice to mind.’” (Rev. 18:4, 5) If one belongs to or works for organizations or bodies of worshipers connected with Babylon the Great he would properly submit his resignation, remembering how Jesus himself was in no way a false worshiper at the time of his presenting himself to God and baptism. Only in so doing can a person give Jehovah his exclusive devotion.—Ex. 20:5.
16. (a) How does the record about Cornelius aid us to know how a proper dedication is made? (b) What are some important questions one must consider before dedicating oneself to God?
16 The Bible record of Cornelius, an army officer, reveals a man changing from a past course of life and becoming a Christian minister. Acts 10:30-32 tells how his earnest prayers to Jehovah brought angelic response and how Peter was directed to the home. Baptism is rightly performed by dedicated men; so Peter was sent. Of special interest to one wishing to make his dedication to God is the act of faith known as prayer. When one makes his dedication he prays to Jehovah in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son, the Mediator between God and man. Are you one who, desiring to make a dedication to serve God, has prayed to Jehovah to tell him so? Have you examined yourself to see if you are Scripturally qualified or clean from objectionable worldly practices so you might properly make a dedication to Jehovah to serve Him? Dedication is a solemn decision made unconditionally and an act of faith. Are you able to answer “Yes” to the two questions regularly propounded when individuals present themselves for Christian baptism?
(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?
If so, then we say: “And now why are you delaying? Rise, get baptized and wash your sins away by your calling upon his name.”—Acts 22:16.
REMEMBER WHAT FOLLOWS DEDICATION
17, 18. (a) Why may dedication and baptism be termed “a good beginning”? (b) What is the goal of those who undertake God’s service in association with Christ?
17 Faith and works must continue following dedication. Not only is the baptism done in the name of the Father, the Son and holy spirit, but thereafter one must faithfully show appreciation for his relationship to the Father, the Son and holy spirit. The dedication and baptism might be called a good beginning; they must be followed up by endurance in continually doing Jehovah’s will. It is a spiritually refreshing work in association with Christ Jesus. (Matt. 11:28-30) Jesus is our special example of faith and endurance following presenting oneself to God, at whom we are to look intently: “So, then, because we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also put off every weight and the sin that easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, as we look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Indeed, consider closely the one who has endured such contrary talk by sinners against their own interests, that you may not get tired and give out in your souls.”—Heb. 12:1-3.
18 Baptism is a part of beginning the race or course that leads to life. It is a race in which endurance is a primary factor. For the present God’s will is the preaching of good news of the Kingdom, and it is not yet completed. (Matt. 24:14) Christians are obligated to God on account of their dedication, and their happiness comes as they observe the faith. At the end of his ministry the baptized apostle Paul was able to say with confidence: “I have fought the fine fight, I have run the course to the finish, I have observed the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:7) One of the things required is to keep on preaching and teaching until that part of God’s work is concluded. Later on other blessed privileges will be given to the faithful creatures serving Jehovah.—Isa. 32:1.
19. With aid of God’s Word of truth, what course must be maintained following dedication and baptism?
19 Other matters also require our vigilance. Dedicated servants must maintain their position clean from Babylon the Great and the rest of Satan’s system of things. Prior to God’s great battle of Har–Magedon it is important that God’s servants be found scattered all over the earth for the purpose of telling out the good news of the Kingdom. Thus they cannot avoid contact with people of the world, but they do not allow themselves to become entangled again. Giving close attention to the truth, God’s Word, keeps them fortified and alert against uncleanness. They recall to mind what Jesus prayed for prior to his death, saying to his heavenly Father: “I request you, not to take them out of the world, but to watch over them because of the wicked one. They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world. Sanctify them by means of the truth; your word is truth.”—John 17:15-17.
20. How and why do dedicated servants of Jehovah study the truth?
20 The best way to keep a strong hold on the truth is by regular consideration of the truth in association with others of faith in a congregation. It becomes even more vital as we near the end of Satan’s rule. Bible study meetings in the congregation are Jehovah’s provision for building up his servants as each one makes open declaration of truths from the Bible. So it becomes a duty of man toward his God unwaveringly to maintain regular association with the Christian congregation, “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.” (Heb. 10:23-25) There can be no end to taking in truth; it must be a continuous action if we are to gain everlasting life. Jesus put it this way in his prayer to Jehovah God: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3.
21. (a) How do we press on to maturity? (b) What kind of fruit do mature ones produce?
21 Through accurate knowledge strong faith can be maintained. A little knowledge will start a Christian in the way, but we must not be satisfied with what is learned up to the time of baptism. Baptism is but one of the primary doctrines. What the apostle Paul describes as solid spiritual food is to be taken hold of and used. To serve God well we must desire to broaden out our knowledge of his purposes, to progress toward maturity with the help of God. This we can do if we keep using God’s Word, and it will put us in position to be able to guide ourselves in a life pleasing to God as we are able to choose the right things and reject the wrong. “Solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong. For this reason, now that we have left the primary doctrine about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying a foundation again, namely, repentance from dead works, and faith toward God, the teaching on baptisms and the laying on of the hands, the resurrection of the dead and everlasting judgment. And this we will do, if God indeed permits.” (Heb. 5:14–6:3) Those who walk humbly with their God press on to maturity from year to year, and this will equip them to serve well now and in the centuries to come if they are faithful. This wise course of life has a definite effect upon each servant of God. The more developed he becomes as a dedicated servant of God the more he will be found living in accord with God’s spirit. It should be the heart’s desire of each of us to show the fruitage of the spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control,” and at the same time impaling “the flesh together with its passions and desires.”—Gal. 5:22-24.
22. How do dedication and baptism test our faith?
22 This brief consideration of God’s requirements connected with dedication and baptism and the course to be taken thereafter helps us to appreciate what Jesus Christ meant when he commanded the discipling and teaching work among people of all the nations so they could observe all the commandments. (Matt. 28:19, 20) We are called upon to use the intelligence and free will God put into man when we take the vow of dedication. Once we have done as God wants us to do and made a dedication, Jehovah expects us to continue serving him for as long as we may live, and that may be forever. (Eccl. 5:4) This takes faith. But we should have faith that Jehovah will help us to meet our obligations; the faithful apostles did so and were blessed with success. Turning to modern times, last year alone 64,393 individuals symbolized their dedication to God through water immersion, and Jehovah is helping them. Persons dedicated to God have the whole association of brothers to help and encourage them also. For Christians, baptism is a joyous step toward everlasting worship of Jehovah God.
DOING WHAT WE OUGHT TO DO
23, 24. (a) What is it that every man ought to do? (b) Is Jehovah indifferent toward man and the earth?
23 Did you ever stop to think that man really owes God all these things? Is it reasonable for God to expect all this of mankind? Let us not forget where man got life; without it nothing can be enjoyed. But if we serve Jehovah we must not become boastful. Jesus used this illustration to make an important point for us: “Who of you is there that has a slave plowing or minding the flock who will say to him when he gets in from the field, ‘Come here at once and recline at the table’? Rather, will he not say to him, ‘Get something ready for me to have my evening meal, and put on an apron and minister to me until I am through eating and drinking, and afterward you can eat and drink’? He will not feel gratitude to the slave because he did the things assigned, will he? So you, also, when you have done all the things assigned to you, say, ‘We are good-for-nothing slaves. What we have done is what we ought to have done.’”—Luke 17:7-10.
24 The point is, when we serve God it is only what we ought to be doing. It is right. Jehovah God knows what is good for man. We are in the right position when serving Him. Multitudes of people in Noah’s day took the opposite course and died disastrously. Ancient Israel went astray and it brought them only trouble. Jehovah God is not indifferent toward mankind or what is going on here upon the earth. Israel thought so: “For they are saying, ‘Jehovah is not seeing us. Jehovah has left the land.’” (Ezek. 8:12) “Jehovah will not do good, and he will not do bad.” (Zeph. 1:12) But men who feel that way are wrong. Jehovah is aware of all the violence, wickedness and evil, as well as the indifference and reproaches against His name, and he will take action against all wrongdoers—Rev. 11:17, 18.
25. What does God want us to do in proving our faith?
25 Jehovah did not create man to be a violent destroyer of people or the earth itself. Above all, man is supposed to keep two great commandments. “‘You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. The second, like it, is this, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments the whole Law hangs, and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40) Jehovah’s way is the way of love. “Do not you people be owing anybody a single thing, except to love one another; for he that loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law. For the law code, ‘You must not commit adultery, You must not murder, You must not steal, You must not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there is, is summed up in this word, namely, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does not work evil to one’s neighbor; therefore love is the law’s fulfillment.” (Rom. 13:8-10) The expression of love for God and neighbor is a positive action. Should any man become indifferent or careless, failing to endure in it whole-souled, he must expect rejection as unfit to serve God. (Rev. 3:16) While we keep the second of the great commandments by showing love for our brothers, our neighbors, we must always remember what comes first, and that is to keep on loving our Creator, Jehovah God. That is the proof of our faith, that it is real and is acceptable to God.
26. What is the obligation of man?
26 If we are contemplating dedication and baptism, we now have a fine opportunity to examine our position and take steps that will lead us into harmony with Jehovah God. Or if we have already made a dedication, it is a good time to determine whether we are living up to our obligations and pressing on toward Christian maturity. Yes, after consideration of this subject dealing with the relationship of man to his Creator each one should know what he owes God. “The conclusion of the matter, everything having been heard, is: Fear the true God and keep his commandments. For this is the whole obligation of man.”—Eccl. 12:13.
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“Get something ready for me to have my evening meal.”