Are You Ready for the Responsibilities of a Baptized Witness?
“Now as they were going over the road, they came to a certain body of water, and the eunuch said: ‘Look! A body of water; what prevents me from getting baptized?’”—Acts 8:36.
1. What changes for a person does Christian baptism bring?
LIKE a man moving from one country to a new one, learning a new language and taking up a new occupation, so is the step of Christian baptism. The person making this move leaves this old system with its ties and allegiances and comes over into association with those of God’s spiritual nation, becoming part of the New World society of Jehovah’s people world wide. While still in the world, they are no longer a part of it, as they now recognize the power and authority of God’s heavenly government, his kingdom, in their lives. And instead of being divided nationalistically or linguistically, they now learn the “pure language” that all Jehovah’s people speak in common, the language of truth from the Scriptures. (Zeph. 3:9) Finally, they take on a new assignment of work, entering into the service of their Creator, making that the first interest in their lives.
2. How can one become a disciple of Christ?
2 Are you ready for such a move? Obviously it would take considerable thought, planning and prayer. That is why Jehovah’s witnesses do not encourage anyone to rush into baptism without first thoroughly learning what it means and what the responsibilities of a baptized Witness are. Yet the work that Jesus commanded be done and that Jehovah’s witnesses world wide are engaged in is to prepare sincere people for just such a move. Their work is to “make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them . . . teaching them.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) This is not a mere matter of putting one’s name on a church membership roll, or subscribing to some creed to qualify for membership, which status may then be maintained indefinitely regardless of the person’s course of conduct. To be a disciple of Christ a person must first qualify through study, acquiring faith by hearing the Word of God, and then deciding to make this move to come over on God’s side by taking one’s stand as a dedicated servant of Jehovah God.
3. What should a person showing interest in the truth expect, but what attitude should he have?
3 Those moving in such a direction usually come under attack in one or another of the many insidious ways that Satan uses to discourage those desiring to serve Jehovah. It may be opposition from family or friends; it may just be fear of what others will think. But it is something to expect, for, as Paul wrote at 2 Timothy 3:12, “all those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.” This is not due to any wrongdoing on their part, but is because of the basic truth that Jesus explained to his disciples: “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you. Bear in mind the word I said to you, A slave is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:19, 20) This is no cause for alarm, because when we are on Jehovah’s side, nothing that Satan can do can cause us lasting harm. Rather, Jesus showed, it should be a cause of happiness on our part if we suffer for his name’s sake, becoming objects of Satan’s attacks just as Jesus was.—Matt. 5:11.
4. What understanding should a person considering baptism come to have?
4 However, it does mean that those doing the discipling and teaching work must prepare those with whom they study to be forearmed to withstand such opposition. It is a reason, too, why a person contemplating baptism should not rush into it, but should first have a good understanding of God’s Word, strong faith in Jehovah, and a willingness to serve him faithfully, regardless of what may come. The student must come to appreciate that Jehovah is the Great Teacher through his inspired Word the Bible. As Isaiah 48:17 says, “I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One causing you to tread in the way in which you should walk.” He learns, not that it is Jehovah who needs him, but that he needs Jehovah and that he is born in sin and is therefore in need of Jehovah’s provisions for life and salvation through Christ Jesus. In fact, each one, whether he realizes it or not, is a slave of sin and thus without hope of everlasting life until such time as he accepts the ransom Jehovah provided through Jesus. (Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 6:17, 18, 22, 23) When one’s study and faith show him clearly what an undeserved kindness it is on God’s part, not only for him to learn the truth, but to have his heartfelt dedication accepted by the Creator, he can see why those of the “great crowd” who now take this step of dedication in effect cry out with a loud voice, “Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.”—Rev. 7:10.
5. What changes may be necessary prior to baptism as indicated by the Scriptures?
5 He can understand, too, why a change must be made in a person’s life before his dedication would be acceptable to Jehovah. As Jesus said, “The true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him.” (John 4:23) But those who worship according to some religious formalism to be seen of men, or whose religious teaching is tainted with falsehood, cannot expect their way of worship to be pleasing to God, Rather, concerning the world organization of false worship, a voice out of heaven is heard declaring: “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins.”—Rev. 18:4; Matt. 6:1-5; 1 Cor. 10:20, 21.
6. What things would be required for one’s dedication to be acceptable to Jehovah?
6 Some persons find that they need to make a real change in their way of living to qualify to approach Jehovah in dedication. Psalm 15:1-3 asks: “O Jehovah, who will be a guest in your tent? Who will reside in your holy mountain? He who is walking faultlessly and practicing righteousness and speaking the truth in his heart. He has not slandered with his tongue. To his companion he has done nothing bad.” So it may require making one’s mind over to Jehovah’s way of thinking and conforming one’s life to his righteous standards with the help of his active force. Those who continue in a dissolute way of life, showing themselves to be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, those who are more interested in the desires of this life than in everlasting life and who show themselves to be friends of this old system of things, thereby indicate they are the enemies of God. He will not even consider their prayers, much less accept an insincere dedication, which amounts to saying one thing and doing another.—Isa. 1:15-17; Jas. 4:4.
7. What privilege and responsibility can be ours?
7 However, all persons of honest heart who come to know Jehovah’s Word and purposes are invited to share in the grand work recorded in Psalm 148:13, 14: “Let them praise the name of Jehovah, for his name alone is unreachably high. His dignity is above earth and heaven. . . . Praise Jah, you people!” This, in fact, is one of the responsibilities of a baptized Witness. God is indeed gracious to give mere man the honor of serving him in this way. And considering what a privilege it is to represent Jehovah in this way by bringing the truth to others as Jehovah’s witnesses do in their house-to-house ministry, we can understand why the only ones invited to share in this work are those who have not only come to appreciate the Scriptures and the Kingdom hope, but have also made their lives over in harmony with God’s will. As Jesus said in prayer to his Father, at John 17:6: “I have made your name manifest to the men you gave me out of the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have observed your word.” Yes, such ones have come out of this system with its corruption and disregard for God’s righteous requirements and have come to observe and follow God’s Word. They “observe the commandments of God” and so qualify for “the work of bearing witness to Jesus.”—Rev. 12:17.
8. (a) Explain what preparation a person considering baptism should make. (b) What are some basic truths with which he should be familiar?
8 In order to observe the commandments and do the witness work, accurate knowledge of the truth is required. As Paul commented: “Do you, however, the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself?” (Rom. 2:21) Especially before such an important step as baptism is it necessary to get an accurate fundamental knowledge of the Scriptures and of what is required of a baptized witness of Jehovah. Baptismal candidates, therefore, are encouraged to read and study the Bible carefully. As an aid to accurate knowledge the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society has encouraged all persons before baptism to study or at least read carefully the basic Bible textbooks “Things in Which It Is Impossible for God to Lie” and Life Everlasting—in Freedom of the Sons of God (or, if they are not available in your language, other recent publications of the Watch Tower Society that cover similar material). These publications help to establish a basis for rocklike faith as they cover subjects such as how we can be sure of the existence of God, which sacred book of religion is the truth, and how to become one of God’s men of “good will.” Besides doctrinal information, the student learns of the respective places of man and woman in the Christian congregation, the importance of neutrality in this old system, the sacredness of blood, and of the fight that must be maintained against wicked spirit forces for one to receive finally the paradisaic blessings God has in store for those faithfully serving him.
9. Why is it proper for a person considering baptism to consult with the congregation overseer prior to taking such a step?
9 Additionally, the Watch Tower Society has recently provided in English, and in a number of other languages, the publication “Your Word Is a Lamp to My Foot,” showing the Scripturalness of Jehovah’s modern-day organization in the earth. In the first portion of this publication some key Bible questions are propounded, together with their answer in the form of Scriptural citations. When the student consults with the overseer of the local congregation and can affirm that his life is in harmony with the Scriptural pattern and shows that he can comment with understanding on these basic truths, then, indeed, such a person is in position to dedicate himself in prayer to Jehovah and undergo water baptism in symbol of his dedication to do Jehovah’s will. Such fine guides to accurate knowledge, provided by Jehovah as the Great Teacher through his channel of communication in the earth today, help us to appreciate what Jehovah requires of each person who loves him and desires to serve him. Then truly such a person is in position to say as did the Ethiopian with whom Philip discussed the truth: “Look! A body of water; what prevents me from getting baptized?”—Acts 8:36.
10. (a) What does baptism mean for the individual, and why is it so important? (b) What blessings come to the individual who is baptized?
10 By this step of baptism one actively puts oneself on God’s side, demonstrating one’s faith in Jehovah and in Christ Jesus. One takes up the fight of Christian faith, entering the ranks of those serving Christ. (2 Tim. 2:3, 4) He has made his dedication to Jehovah in prayer, in effect determining to devote himself to the doing of God’s will unconditionally. In this he follows the example set by Jesus as recorded in the Scriptures. He indicates he is desirous of following the lead of God’s holy spirit. Such a course has God’s approval and brings the support of his spirit and the encouragement and assistance of his organization as well as the assurance of a good conscience that the individual is sincerely endeavoring to please God fully. (Mark 1:9-11; 1 Pet. 3:21) Thus when the individual is lowered beneath the water of the baptismal site, it is as though he is buried or dies symbolically to his past situation in life and is then raised up for a new start, ready and willing to conform fully to God’s guidance in his life. Baptism is therefore a solemn commitment made to the Creator. Since nothing in a person’s life can have greater significance than his relationship to God, his baptism as a Christian is therefore the most important step in his life.—Eccl. 5:4-6.
11. (a) How is baptism different from an individual’s private prayer of dedication to God? (b) What does baptism indicate that a person recognizes?
11 At the time of baptism it is customary that other dedicated persons be present as witnesses to the ceremony. They recognize that the one being baptized is publicly avowing to accept the responsibilities and privileges that come with being a baptized Witness. But they are not the only witnesses. As Jesus said, the individual is baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.” So we can be sure that Jehovah and Jesus are interested witnesses on such occasions. They are interested because this person has come to recognize that Jehovah is the Supreme Sovereign and Life-Giver and that Jesus, his Son and our Redeemer, is the enthroned King of Jehovah’s new system of righteousness. He acknowledges the guiding power and force of Jehovah’s spirit in his life and realizes that his dedication and baptism put him on the side of the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ who today faithfully follow the lead of ‘the Chief Agent and Perfecter of their faith, Jesus.’—Heb. 12:1, 2.
12. Why is following the course of dedication to God recommended despite all obstacles?
12 Baptism brings responsibilities and privileges, but also opposition. Jesus showed that this dedication of one’s self to Jehovah must take precedence in one’s life, even over family or relatives if they are opposed. Only by one’s faithfulness will one be found pleasing to Jehovah and perhaps impress on one’s family the importance of their also taking up the same faithful course that leads to life. (Rom. 10:13) As Jesus said, “Whoever is not carrying his torture stake and coming after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26, 27) Are you willing to do that? The goal toward which one strives is a great one—everlasting life. Since the reward is great, it is only reasonable that achieving it is not easy, but with Jehovah’s help it can be gained. Jesus described access to this reward as a narrow gate and a cramped road that few find, but, once found, it is the road to stick to regardless of the problems along the way. (Matt. 7:14) Since Jehovah has shown such love for us through the sacrifice of his Son, to make this prospect of life possible, we want to show unswerving love also for Him in living up to our dedication.—1 John 4:9.
13. (a) What does baptism not mean for the individual? Why? (b) What good Scriptural counsel should a baptized Christian be sure to follow?
13 Once one is baptized, one does not lean back and rest on one’s laurels, feeling that now one has done what God requires. It is not the end of the road, but the beginning just as Jesus’ life showed. It was after his baptism that he commenced his public ministry, throwing himself into the preaching work, despite the opposition and hatred manifested by the religious class in his day, which hatred was appeased finally only by his death. So, recognizing the work ahead, one who dedicates oneself to Jehovah wants to be sure one keeps well equipped for it. This means study. Not just congregational study, but personal Bible study so that when we need convincing Bible answer to help someone appreciate the truth, we will be able to give it. (1 Tim. 4:16) As Proverbs 18:15 says, “The heart of the understanding one acquires knowledge, and the ear of wise ones seeks to find knowledge.” Peter urged: “Go on growing in the undeserved kindness and knowledge of our Lord.” (2 Pet. 3:18) Paul counseled, “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.” (2 Tim. 2:15) Finally, Hebrews 6:1 encourages, “Let us press on to maturity.” So the baptized Witness does not slow down or stop his studying of the Scriptures just because he is now baptized or perhaps because the one who previously studied with him discontinues giving this assistance. Rather he sees the need to continue growing in knowledge and under standing himself and so plans a definite schedule for continued personal study and asks Jehovah through prayer to help him by means of his spirit to understand his Word even more as time goes on. (Prov. 2:4-6; Jas. 1:5) He recognizes this as one of the responsibilities of a baptized Witness in order to keep spiritually strong.
14. (a) What arrangement does Jehovah have for the well-being of his servants on the earth, so why should a baptized person want to cooperate with it? (b) What did Jesus say about Christian unity?
14 His study as well as his association with Jehovah’s people helps him to understand that Jehovah has, not only a heavenly, but also an earthly, visible organization of people doing his will. Jesus foretold that among his people there would be a “faithful and discreet slave” class who would be providing the spiritual food to God’s family of devoted servants on earth, acting as his channel of communication and overseeing the carrying out of the Kingdom interests world wide. (Matt. 24:45-47) These anointed overseers serve as though being guided in their activities by the right hand of Christ. They take the same viewpoint as Jesus had when he said to Jehovah, “Let, not my will, but yours take place.” (Luke 22:42) To illustrate the harmony that would prevail in Jehovah’s organization, Jesus likened it, in John 15:1-10, to a vine with branches. Jehovah is the Great Cultivator, Jesus is the vine and those coming into spiritual union with him are the branches. Clearly this necessitates a recognition of Jehovah’s organization in the earth today. This vine is a productive one bearing fruit that will last through Armageddon.—Heb. 13:7, 17.
15. What good fruits should all Christians endeavor to produce?
15 What kind of fruit is it that those attached to the vine must bear in order to have God’s favor and to avoid being pruned off as unproductive sprouts? Actually the Scriptures mention two kinds of fruitage that a Christian would endeavor to cultivate. One is the fruitage of the spirit, including love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness and self-control. (Gal. 5:22, 23) To stay in harmony with Christ and to be pleasing to Jehovah, these qualities must be produced. But we want to see such fruitage, not only in ourselves, but also in others. Those who are disciples of Christ understand that it is Jehovah’s will that they make disciples of others also. As Proverbs 11:30 says, “The fruitage of the righteous one is a tree of life, and he that is winning souls is wise.” This was the work to which Paul and the early Christians devoted themselves. Paul wrote to the Romans (1:13) that he hoped to come to minister among them that he ‘might acquire some fruitage also among them even as among the rest of the nations.’ By this he referred to Kingdom fruitage or Christian disciples. Each one who dedicates himself to Jehovah has a responsibility in this regard to endeavor to acquire fruitage by discipling people of the nations.
16. How do the Scriptures point out a Christian’s responsibility and the wise course to follow?
16 Paul felt so strongly about this responsibility, that he said: “If, now, I am declaring the good news, it is no reason for me to boast, for necessity is laid upon me. Really, woe is me if I did not declare the good news!” (1 Cor. 9:16) This work is not one we do just in our own strength, but we can be assured of the assistance of Jehovah’s spirit as long as we prepare and do our part. It is Jehovah who brings the fruitage and the increase as a result of the activities of his servants throughout the earth. Each one who dedicates himself to Jehovah has a serious responsibility before his Creator. As Ezekiel 33:8 says, if “you actually do not speak out to warn the wicked one from his way, he himself as a wicked one will die in his own error, but his blood I shall ask back at your own hand.” How much happier a course to share actively in giving the warning and as a result have the joy of rescuing many honest-hearted ones for life in Jehovah’s paradisaic new system! To such ones Jesus declared: “I say, then, to you, Everyone that confesses union with me before men, the Son of man will also confess union with him before the angels of God.”—Luke 12:8.
17. Despite difficulties, of what can one who is dedicated to Jehovah be sure?
17 What a cause for joy to have the Son’s favor! So, one who enters into a dedicated relationship with Jehovah and who accepts Jesus as his Mediator automatically receives responsibilities; one also receives many blessings and much joy. Such one recognizes that Jehovah is his strength and source of help, the One who saves and shepherds his people. (Ps. 28:7-9) He finds that, far from being a burden, the service he performs to Jehovah brings him much happiness and is a source of refreshment to him. (1 John 5:3) Even though one may be under much pressure from family or friends, or though circumstances are difficult for the time, the one who continues to find a place for Kingdom interests in his life, making first place for Jehovah and his service, will find the way smoothed for him. This was true for the returning captives of Zion, and it is true for spiritual Israelites today. As Psalm 126:5, 6 declares: “Those sowing seed with tears will reap even with a joyful cry. The one that without fail goes forth, even weeping, carrying along a bagful of seed, will without fail come in with a joyful cry, carrying along his sheaves.”
18. What should an unbaptized person do, and with what goal in view?
18 What a privilege it is to know the truth and have some share in advancing the Kingdom interests in these “last days.” For those of you contemplating baptism, now is the time to prepare for it by careful study, by bringing your life into conformity with Jehovah’s righteous requirements, and by prayer to Jehovah for his guidance. Then do not hold back, but, like Jesus, move ahead into greater service and receive Jehovah’s approval. And for those who have taken this step, let each one live up to the responsibilities that come with dedication to Jehovah, knowing that “loving-kindness belongs to you, O Jehovah, for you yourself pay back to each one according to his work.” (Ps. 62:12) Show to all that you have moved over from the old system to the new, that you have learned and can now teach the pure language of truth under the direction of Christ the King because you willingly accept the responsibilities of a baptized Witness.—Luke 9:59-62.