Are You Ready to Get Baptized?
EVERYONE who has read the Gospel accounts in the Bible knows that the Lord Jesus got baptized and that he commissioned his disciples to baptize others. Baptism in symbol of one’s dedication to God is a basic teaching of Christianity. (Heb. 6:1, 2) Have you been baptized?
Among the readers of The Watchtower, there are upward of fifty thousand persons each year who get baptized in imitation of Jesus and in obedience to his instructions. If you are a person who is contemplating that step, you will be interested in what was said on this matter at the “God’s Sons of Liberty” District Assemblies of Jehovah’s Witnesses held this past summer. There the question was posed: “How much should a person have studied, yes, to what extent should he know God’s Word before he gets baptized?”
The speaker had already pointed out that, for one to share publicly in the preaching work done by Jehovah’s witnesses, he ought to believe that the Bible is God’s inspired Word. He should know and believe at least the basic teachings of the Scriptures. His own life must harmonize with the Bible’s high standard in connection with honesty, sexual morality, and moderation in any use of intoxicating drinks. He should not be a person who is attending and sharing in the activities of any false religious organization, and he should not be involved in the political affairs of the world. Rather, he should be attending meetings of the Christian congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses. These requirements also apply to one who is contemplating water immersion.
In addition, the speaker said this in answer to the question on baptism: “Jesus’ instructions, recorded at Matthew 28:19, 20, read: ‘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.’ Now, what did he say that these people were to become before they were baptized? Disciples.
“That means that they should be persons who learn; and it includes even more than that. Notice in John 8:31 that Jesus says: ‘If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples.’ To remain in his word, they would have to know that word, wouldn’t they? It is good to realize that when a person gets baptized he accepts certain responsibilities. Obviously, he is not ready to get baptized if he does not know what those responsibilities are, is he? Jesus shows that those who know and live in harmony with his word are his disciples, and it is those who are disciples who are to be baptized.
“Realizing this, the Watch Tower Society believes that it would be a fine thing for anyone who wants to get baptized to read or study both the book ‘Things in Which It Is Impossible for God to Lie’ and the book Life Everlasting—in Freedom of the Sons of God (or, if this latter book is not yet available in your language, then carefully read the booklet Living in Hope of a Righteous New World) before presenting himself for water immersion. This is not an inflexible rule, but it is something that we strongly recommend so that those who get baptized will fully appreciate what they are doing.”
GROWTH IN LOVE AND KNOWLEDGE
Some may feel that this will hold back new ones who want to be baptized, and the speaker at the assembly was asked if that might not be the effect. He replied:
“Not at all. Really, as you study with them week by week you are encouraging them to progress. You are equipping them to be better praisers of Jehovah.
“It is true that if a person were to cover everything in those publications in a regular home Bible study before getting baptized, it might take quite a few months. But as you study with him week by week you are endeavoring to stimulate in him a love for the truth and a desire to grow in knowledge of it. Your desire for him is like that expressed by the apostle Paul in Philippians 1:9, namely, that his ‘love may abound yet more and more with accurate knowledge and full discernment.’ Once the person’s heart begins to respond, he is going to show some initiative in the matter. Why, if a person is really hungering and thirsting for the truth, in many cases he could read those two publications and look up the scriptures in not too many days. And, on the other hand, if an individual really does not have a strong love for the truth, one that moves him to do something about it, he is not ready for baptism anyway, is he?”
In the event that someone who has not read those publications should express the desire to be baptized, it was suggested that this be done:
“You might read together the scriptures that we have considered, emphasizing the need to know the teachings of the Bible. Then ask him some questions to highlight that need. Ask him what the Bible says about marriage, neutrality, blood, and so forth. Show him the importance of knowing these things. Explain to him that they are discussed in the book Life Everlasting—in Freedom of the Sons of God and encourage him to read it. Then take time from your regular study of the ‘Impossible to Lie’ book to quiz him on what he has read to be sure that he understands it. Certainly one who has this knowledge before he is baptized will be in a better position to live up to his dedication to Jehovah. Remember that you should urge all persons to read the books through as soon as they can.”
Encouraging individuals to have a clear appreciation of what is involved in being a Christian before they get baptized is consistent with what the Bible tells us about those persons who were immersed by the early Christians. This was emphasized when the convention speaker was asked: “What would you say if someone referred to the three thousand who were baptized at Pentecost, on the very day that Peter preached to them, or the Ethiopian eunuch, who was baptized by Philip after having just one Bible discussion with him?”
In answer he said: “It is important to keep in mind who these people were. They were not persons who had heard only a few verses from the Bible in their entire lives, as is true of so many today. Many were Jews and proselytes who knew the Scriptures. The inspired writings of Moses and the Prophets were read aloud every sabbath day in the synagogues. (Acts 15:21) They believed them. Now, when they heard about Jesus Christ, they expressed faith in the fact that he was the one of whom the prophets had spoken and that only through him could they gain salvation. So at Pentecost, after giving these people a thorough witness about Jesus, Peter urged those who believed to be baptized. And Acts 2:41 says: ‘Those who embraced his word heartily were baptized.’ They showed that they were different from the other Jews who, though they knew the Scriptures, put human traditions first; God’s Word found a response in their hearts.
“The same was true of the Ethiopian eunuch to whom Philip witnessed. He was acquainted with God’s Word. He had just been to Jerusalem to worship, and when Philip approached him he was busy studying the Scriptures. He believed in Jehovah God; he recognized how the holy spirit had operated to accomplish God’s will, and now, when Philip ‘declared to him the good news about Jesus,’ he accepted it and, in imitation of Jesus, he got baptized.—Acts 8:35.
“But today people in general do not have that background of Bible knowledge. They are not in a position to take on the responsibilities of a dedicated servant of God until they learn what his requirements are. And it will greatly assist them to gain that knowledge if they read the books ‘Things in Which It Is Impossible for God to Lie’ and Life Everlasting—in Freedom of the Sons of God.”
If you are studying the Bible with one of Jehovah’s witnesses, we encourage you to hasten your progress to Christian maturity by taking the initiative to read these publications with your Bible. Get a solid foundation of Bible knowledge, a clear picture of what is required of a Christian, and then do not hesitate to act in harmony with what you learn. But do not delay! Time is running out for this wicked world, and only those who are dedicated and baptized Christians who are living up to their Christian responsibilities have their feet firmly planted on the way to life.—1 Pet. 3:21.