Recognizing God’s Requirements for Life
1, 2. What are the two questions asked of all candidates for water baptism as performed by Jehovah’s witnesses?
THE speaker, one of Jehovah’s witnesses, at the conclusion of his discourse on the subject of baptism asked of those who were about to be baptized: “(1) Have you recognized yourself before Jehovah 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?” After getting an audible “Yes” in reply, he next asked: “(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?” Getting an audible answer of “Yes” to this second question, the speaker informed those about to be immersed that they were eligible for the public ceremony of water baptism.
2 These same two questions are propounded by Jehovah’s witnesses to all candidates for water immersion, whether the ceremony is arranged for the baptizing of one or two or for the baptizing of thousands, as, for example, in New York city in July of 1958 when 7,136 persons were immersed in water during the “Divine Will” International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
3. What questions may properly be asked about the information contained in these two basic questions?
3 But upon reading the above two questions you may ask: What is the significance of water baptism as performed by Jehovah’s witnesses and what does it accomplish? How does one recognize himself as a sinner before Jehovah and in need of salvation? How does one come to know that salvation comes from Jehovah, the Father, through his Son, Jesus Christ? Further, how does one go about dedicating himself unreservedly to the doing of God’s will, and in what way is God’s will for such one revealed through Jesus Christ and through the holy Bible and under the enlightening power of holy spirit? All these questions are worthy of our serious consideration, and to get truthful and satisfying answers let us turn to God’s Word of truth and consider what it has to say on this subject.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF BAPTISM IN WATER
4. (a) What significance was there in the baptism performed by John the Baptist? (b) How had the Jewish nation been made aware of their sinful state, and what would the sacrifices they made cause them to realize?
4 To begin with, let us consider the significance of water baptism. The disciple Luke records the following that occurred in the spring of the year 29 C.E.: “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, . . . in the days of chief priest Annas and of Caiaphas, God’s declaration came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. So he came into all the country around the Jordan, preaching baptism in symbol of repentance for forgiveness of sins.” (Luke 3:1-3) John the Baptist carried on this baptizing work for repentant Jews. His baptism, we are told, was “in symbol of repentance for forgiveness of sins.” Luke further tells us that John was fulfilling the words of the prophet Isaiah, for he was ‘preparing the way of Jehovah.’ (Luke 3:4) John the Baptist was the forerunner of the one whom all flesh would see as the saving means of God, namely, Jesus Christ. The Jewish nation was in a covenant relationship with Jehovah God and thus that nation was obligated to keep the laws and commandments of Jehovah as his chosen people. Being sinners, born imperfect, they were thus transgressors against the laws that Jehovah had given them. For centuries the Almighty God had been impressing upon their minds that they were sinners in need of someone to redeem them from their fallen condition. Through his prophet Moses, God gave them a set of laws and commandments that brought forcefully to their attention that they were sinners and that their sins needed to be atoned for. Through Moses, Jehovah God said that each year there would be a day of atonement for the nation of Israel and on that day, the tenth day of the seventh month, sacrifices would have to be made in behalf of their sins and that these sacrifices would continue as a statute or law to ‘time indefinite.’ By this yearly remembrance the Jewish nation would recall their sins and see the need of offering up animal sacrifices to atone for their sins. At the same time they would realize that the blood of bulls and of goats would never release them from their sins and make them perfect. Otherwise the animal offerings would have ceased.—Heb. 10:4.
5. Why was the baptism by John the Baptist necessary for the Jews?
5 By the year 29 C.E. the Jews had had the day of atonement for many centuries, but during that time they had drifted away from God and had even gone into exile and ceased to exist as an independent nation of God. Now John the Baptist was calling upon them to repent and be baptized for forgiveness of sins against God’s righteous laws. By being baptized in the Jordan River by John the Jews were signifying that they were repenting of their sins against the law of God. They were preparing themselves for the coming of the one who would be God’s saving means for mankind, namely, Jesus.
6. Why did John the Baptist question the need of Jesus’ being baptized?
6 At the end of about six months of doing baptizing, John the Baptist was approached by Jesus, now about thirty years of age. Jesus asked John to baptize him. But John reasoned, How could it be that Jesus would come to him to be baptized? John knew that his baptism was in symbol of repentance for sins against God’s law, and he knew that Jesus was no ordinary human, but, rather, a sinless individual, for he later said: “See, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) So John the Baptist said to Jesus: “I am the one needing to be baptized by you, and are you coming to me?” Then Jesus replied: “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.”—Matt. 3:14, 15.
7. (a) What significance was there in Jesus’ baptism by John? (b) Why was the baptism at Pentecost of the first followers of Jesus a baptism symbolically like that of Jesus?
7 What, now, was the significance of this baptism of Jesus by John? It was not in symbol of repentance for sins, for Jesus had none. It was not in symbol of Jesus’ there dedicating his life to God, for he was a Jew and a member of a nation already dedicated to God and in covenant relationship with God. Therefore, by this course of water baptism Jesus was symbolizing something else, namely, the presenting of himself before Jehovah to do Jehovah’s will for that time. That is, Jesus was presenting himself to his heavenly Father, Jehovah God, to be used in behalf of the “kingdom of the heavens” as Jehovah saw fit. God was pleased with Jesus’ presentation of himself and we are told that a voice from the heavens said: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matt. 3:17; Heb. 10:5-7) The first followers of Jesus were people of the Jewish nation, those in a dedicated relationship with Jehovah God, a nation set aside for God, and which nation was obligated to do God’s will as set out in the Law covenant. The Bible account shows us that in 33 C.E. at Pentecost the apostle Peter called on such Jewish people to be baptized with a water baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins,” namely, to become disciples of Jesus Christ. (Acts 2:37-41; Matt. 28:19, 20) It might be called a baptism of presentation of themselves to God to do his will as disciples of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul, about 52‹v›C.E., called on certain disciples in Ephesus to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 19:4-6) These had been previously baptized with John’s baptism in symbol of repentance. However, by the new baptism these circumcised believers were dedicating themselves to Jehovah to do his will and carry out his commandments under the new covenant. They being members of a nation already rejected by Jehovah God and no longer under his special favor since the year 36 C.E., their baptism in Jesus’ name was a baptism in symbol of dedication, a dedication of themselves to God through Christ Jesus.—Dan. 9:24-26.
8. (a) What appropriate significance did baptism take on when the first non-Jew, Cornelius, was baptized? (b) So what then became necessary for all who would become Christians?
8 Yes, indeed, with the preaching of the good news of the Lord Jesus to the first non-Jew, namely, the Italian centurion Cornelius, in the year 36 C.E., there was an appropriate significance given to water baptism. The non-Jews or Gentile nations were not in a dedicated relationship with Jehovah as the nation of Israel had been up till 36 C.E. They were in no national covenant with the Creator of heaven and earth. Thus when the way to God’s favor was opened up to them in 36 C.E. they had first of all to conclude in their own minds that they wanted to dedicate themselves to God to do his will. They had to make request of God for a clean conscience. Therefore, they had to dedicate themselves to God, or set themselves unreservedly aside for the doing of God’s will, and then when they were immersed or baptized in water such baptism appropriately symbolized their becoming dead to their previous course in life and their becoming alive to God’s will for disciples of Jesus Christ. So they henceforth set their heart, mind, soul and strength to do God’s will in fulfillment of their dedication of themselves. Thus they are dedicated to God unconditionally, for him to do with them as he pleases according to his Word. Water baptism became an apt public declaration of such dedication. Water baptism, then, is a necessary step for a believer who wishes to enjoy the salvation of God through Jesus Christ. This salvation comes to believers of the Word of God and doers of the commandments of God.—1 Pet. 3:21.
RECOGNIZING OURSELVES AS SINNERS
9. How does one come to know he is a sinner in need of salvation?
9 But now the question, How does one reach the conclusion that before the God of the universe, Jehovah, he is a sinner and in need of salvation through Christ? One need only turn to the Word of God to find that he is born imperfect and sinful. Open your Bible to the book of Psalms. There we read: “Look! With error I was brought forth with birth pains, and in sin my mother conceived me.” (Ps 51:5) David’s son Solomon also made mention of the fact that “there is no man that does not sin.” (1 Ki. 8:46) The apostle John under inspiration wrote: “If we make the statement: ‘We have no sin,’ we are misleading ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) Sin is a missing of the mark of perfection. Our first parents started all of us on the road of sin and death by their disobedience to God’s righteous and perfect laws. The fact that no man continues to live forever is evidence that all men are born in sin. For, as the apostle Paul says, “the wages sin pays is death.”—Rom. 6:23.
10. Do all people believe mankind is born in sin and that death is a result of sin? Why do you so answer?
10 There are many today who do not believe these Bible truths. To the world’s more than 160 million Buddhists no act is sin. The idea of sin is unknown. It is simply the case of a bad act’s producing a bad result. Thus if one were a Buddhist it would be difficult for him to realize the results produced by sin, or, in fact, to recognize himself as a sinner. To many millions of people of various religions, death is from God. One Catholic clergyman stated after a young girl had been murdered by her brother that God had in effect said to this girl that the reason for her death was: “Because I love you and I want you home.”
11. How can we come to right conclusions regarding ourselves as sinners?
11 In order, then, to reach the right and accurate conclusion about ourselves as sinners it is necessary to listen to God, the Creator of man, and to realize that sin produces death and therefore we must turn to God for salvation. In the garden of Eden, after placing man in that paradise, God said to him: “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.” (Gen. 2:16, 17) Adam and Eve both disobeyed that law of God and received the due recompense, namely, death. Their offspring, the human family, were all born after that sin of disobedience in the garden of Eden and thus all were born in sin and condemned to death. Recognizing that fact, the apostle Paul said: “For just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22) By observation one knows that man dies, and it becomes evident that the human race is in need of salvation and deliverance from death. Man needs to be saved from the spiritual and physical consequences of sin. When one comes to this frame of mind, one is then in a position to ask: “How does one come to know that salvation comes from the Father, Jehovah, through his Son, Jesus Christ?”
JEHOVAH’S SALVATION THROUGH CHRIST
12. What must we realize about any salvation by man?
12 One can come to appreciate Jehovah’s salvation comes through his Son Jesus Christ only when one realizes the futility of any redemption by imperfect man. This is Jehovah’s word to the sons of man: “Hear this, all you peoples. Give ear, all you inhabitants of the system of things, you sons of humankind as well as you sons of man, you rich one and you poor one together. Those who are trusting in their means of maintenance, and who keep boasting about the abundance of their riches, not one of them can by any means redeem even a brother, nor give to God a ransom for him.” (Ps. 49:1, 2, 6, 7) So, turning to another source, to the wisdom of God, one can come to know of the salvation by Jehovah through a study of his Word of truth the Bible.
13, 14. Outline the steps taken by Jehovah God to bring about redemption through Jesus Christ.
13 As quickly as Jehovah found that Adam and Eve had disobeyed his law in Eden he began making provision for redeeming the offspring of the first human pair. Immediately he made mention of producing a seed that would crush the originator of the rebellion, namely, the arch-foe of Jehovah, Satan the Devil. (Gen. 3:15) Thereafter, he used the nation of Israel as a type through which he gave many illustrations and references leading to the one that would be mankind’s redeemer, namely, Christ Jesus. For example, through the blessings pronounced by his servant Jacob upon his twelve sons he foretold the coming of the promised righteous one. To the fourth son, Judah, Jacob said: “The scepter will not turn aside from Judah, neither the commander’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him the obedience of the people will belong.” (Gen. 49:10) Later he said of this Promised One, through his prophet Isaiah: “For there has been a child born to us, there has been a son given to us; and the princely rule will come to be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. To the abundance of the princely rule and to peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom in order to establish it firmly and to sustain it by means of justice and by means of righteousness, from now on and to time indefinite. The very zeal of Jehovah of armies will do this.”—Isa. 9:6, 7.
14 Years after these inspired words of Isaiah were uttered God caused his servant Daniel to write about this coming One in these words: “And you should know and have the insight that from the going forth of the word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Leader, there will be seven weeks, also sixty-two weeks.” (Dan. 9:25) Upon coming to earth and being miraculously born as a perfect child to the wife of Joseph, the virgin Mary, Jesus grew to manhood. He came to John the Baptist at the Jordan River, and John under inspiration said of Jesus: “See, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!”—John 1:29.
15. (a) How did Jesus testify that he was man’s savior? (b) What did the apostles Paul and John say about this?
15 This one, Jesus himself, said concerning his purpose in coming to earth: “The Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matt. 20:28) The apostle Paul corroborates this testimony of Jesus in these words: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all.” (1 Tim. 2:5, 6) The apostle John spoke of Jesus in this way: “We ourselves have beheld and are bearing witness that the Father has sent forth his Son as Savior of the world.”—1 John 4:14.
16. Why did Jehovah take these steps?
16 The one who set about to make these marvelous provisions for mankind is Jehovah God, the Creator of man. We are told in His Word: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) This love on the part of God is great. He does not even desire wicked ones to die, but, rather, that they would turn from their wickedness. Through Ezekiel he says: “‘As I am alive,’ is the utterance of the Lord Jehovah, ‘I take delight, not in the death of the wicked one, but in that someone wicked turns back from his way and actually keeps living.’” (Ezek. 33:11) One comes to know these things and much more by study of the Word of God, his revealed truth, the Holy Bible.
MAKING AN UNRESERVED DEDICATION
17. What attitude should one have on establishing these points on salvation?
17 On establishing a basis for this belief in God and his provision for salvation through his Son, Christ Jesus, the learner now desires to know what the next step for him is in order to ensure coming under the benefits of the provision by God. We might liken this to a person who has been the recipient of many blessings and wants to do something in return for his benefactor to show his appreciation. The psalmist felt that way and stated it in these words: “What shall I repay to Jehovah for all his benefits to me? The cup of grand salvation I shall take up, and on the name of Jehovah I shall call. My vows I shall pay to Jehovah, yes, in front of all his people.” (Ps. 116:12-14) A person realizing he is a sinner, and knowing that salvation comes from Jehovah and through his Son, Christ Jesus, then studies the Word of God to find out God’s will for him. He learns from such a study that God asks certain things of him.
18. (a) How did Solomon outline God’s requirements for those who would gain his favor? (b) What did Jesus encourage persons to do?
18 The wise King Solomon summed up well what God asks of those who will benefit from his provisions for life. After outlining much of the vanity of this life he says this to those who would gain God’s approval: “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. For the true God himself will bring every sort of work into the judgment in relation to every hidden thing, as to whether it is good or bad.” (Eccl. 12:13, 14) If one will fear the true God, Jehovah, that is, hold him in awe, fear to displease him and seek to do his will, then one will keep his commandments. One will find the course of action outlined in God’s Word that is pleasing to God and that shows one wants to do God’s will in God’s way. His diligent search of the Holy Scriptures will reveal to him that God’s commandments are not burdensome. In fact, Jesus, mankind’s ransom and one of those in whose name a person is baptized, said this to those he encouraged to follow him: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.”—Matt. 11:28-30.
19. What part does prayer play in one’s determining to dedicate himself to Jehovah?
19 One interested in setting himself apart to do God’s will will go to Jehovah in prayer through Christ Jesus and ask for Jehovah’s spirit to be with him and to indicate to him, through the Bible, just what he must do to merit Jehovah’s favor and blessing. Jesus in his sermon on the mount gave this encouragement: “Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you.” (Matt. 7:7) Finding that it is Jehovah’s desire that one set oneself aside to do that One’s will, a person then should take the necessary steps to bring himself into an acceptable condition so that Jehovah will acknowledge his dedication and water baptism and deal with him. Therefore, let us turn to God’s Word and find what he wants of those who would please him.