“Make Disciples”—Till When?
1. What raises the question as to whether a limit was set as to the number of disciples to be baptized?
WERE disciples of Christ to be baptized up to a certain number of them? Since, in Revelation 7:1-8 and Re 14:1-3, he revealed that 144,000 spiritual Israelites are to be joint heirs with him in the heavenly kingdom, did he not thereby set a limit on the number that were to be baptized as his disciples?
2. (a) When commanding the disciple-making, did Christ specify any number? (b) What discrimination would result in very few “Christians” being baptized nowadays?
2 Not necessarily, for, at Matthew 28:19, 20, he set no limit on the number but said simply: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them.” Certainly he could know and he would know when to halt the baptizing of learners, pupils, disciples of him, for he is the one Teacher of them and would know when he had as many of them as he wanted. Consequently his obedient followers can only continue on making and baptizing followers of him for as long as he permits. Certainly if we baptized only those believers who, after making a complete dedication of themselves to God through Christ, claimed to have the witness of God’s spirit that they were spiritual Israelites, heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, we would be baptizing very few “Christians” today. Why do we reason so?
3, 4. (a) According to reports published since 1942, what has happened to the number of baptized Christians claiming to be begotten of God’s spirit? (b) How do the number of those baptized as contrasted with those partaking of the emblems at the Lord’s Supper during 1969 and the preceding year illustrate this?
3 According to the published reports since the year 1942 the number of baptized Christians who make up the “remnant” that claim to be begotten of God’s spirit as spiritual joint heirs of Jesus Christ has decreased each year.
4 For example, this past April 1, 1969, there were just 10,368 of this anointed spiritual remnant that attended the annual Lord’s Supper and partook of the Memorial bread and wine. But in stark contrast with this, during this past year of Kingdom proclamation there were 120,905 new believers who were baptized in water in symbol of their dedication to God through Christ. During the previous year of activity there were 10,619, or 251 more that partook of the bread and the wine at the Lord’s Supper. Thus during this past service year there were hundreds less that claimed to be of the 144,000 spiritual Israelites. How many of these 10,368 remaining were among the 120,905 who were baptized in water in the 1969 service year? If it depended upon such ones, how few baptisms in water would have been conducted in the 1969 service year? And yet the report shows 120,905 baptized.
5. (a) How long, or till when, were the making of disciples and the baptizing of them to continue? (b) Since the Kingdom preaching continues on as foretold since 1914, what related work would continue along with it?
5 How long, or till when, were the making of disciples of Christ to be kept up, together with the baptizing of them? Jesus Christ indicated this, for after giving his command in Matthew 28:19, 20 concerning discipling and baptizing, he said: “And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” Ah, then, this work was to continue into the “conclusion of the system of things.” That is where we find ourselves since the end of the “appointed times of the nations” in early autumn of the year 1914. (Luke 21:24) At the present time the worldwide preaching of “this good news of the kingdom” is going ahead on a scale never before realized since 1914, in a climactic fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 24:14 concerning the “conclusion of the system of things.” Logically, then, if under Christ’s direction this Kingdom preaching has gone on increasingly until now, the discipling and baptizing would continue on along with it.
6. (a) As what were those tens of thousands baptized according to Matthew 28:19? (b) Since 1923 on what prospect were many of those accepting the message setting their hope?
6 Well, then, are those tens of thousands of baptisms that have been reported annually in recent years baptisms of “disciples” of Christ? Yes! That is the only type of persons that dedicated Christians are instructed in Matthew 28:19, 20 to baptize and teach. It is true that, after praying in behalf of his “little flock” of spiritual sheep Jesus Christ went on to say: “And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16) These “other sheep” were to have an earthly hope of eternal life in a terrestrial paradise, and not a heavenly hope. It is true, also, that since the year 1923, when the parable of the sheep and goats was explained at the Los Angeles (California) convention and later published in The Watch Tower of October 15, 1923, many hearers of the Kingdom witness have set their hopes on being of the “other sheep” class and inheriting the earthly paradise under God’s heavenly kingdom. But for years they were not advised to get baptized.
BAPTIZED AS BEING WHAT?
7. When instructed to be baptized, what were they authorized to be baptized to be?
7 It is true that since the counsel given in paragraph 33 on page 250 of The Watch Tower of August 15, 1934, persons desiring to be of these “other sheep” have been baptized in water in symbol of their dedication of themselves to God through Christ. But what were they authorized to be baptized to be? Specifically to be “other sheep”?
8. What question arises as to what those baptized on Saturday, June 1, 1935, at the Washington, D.C., convention were baptized to become, and why?
8 It is further true that in the following year at the spring convention held in Washington, D.C., capital of America, the prophecy in Revelation 7:9-17 was explained and the “great multitude” (AV) therein described was declared to be made up of present-day “other sheep” with earthly hopes, this startling explanation being later published in The Watch Tower as of August 1 and 15, 1935. And on the day following that joy-inspiring speech many of the conventioners who were hopeful “other sheep” were baptized. But on that Saturday, June 1, 1935, at the Washington convention those many who were immersed were baptized as being what? As being “other sheep”? As being members of the “great multitude” legitimately holding paradise hopes? Is that what they had dedicated themselves to God to become?
9, 10. (a) How do Matthew 25:41-46 and Revelation 7:9-17 indicate this to be the time for a “great crowd” of “other sheep” to appear? (b) What question therefore arises as to baptizing believers into classes?
9 In Scripturally confronting this question we can with safety refer only to what Jesus commanded his followers on the subject. It is a fact that Jesus’ parable of the sheep and goats is part of his prophecy regarding the “conclusion of the system of things” and that this particular parable applies within the time of the “conclusion of the system of things,” that is to say, in the present time. It is likewise evident that the vision of the “great crowd” (Rev. 7:9) was given to John the apostle after he had the vision of the 144,000 sealed spiritual Israelites. Hence this vision would apply now, specifically since 1935, when the sealing of the 144,000 spiritual Israelites appears coming to its close.
10 Also in accord with that fact the number of the anointed remnant of spiritual Israelites who observe the Lord’s Supper gets smaller and smaller. And yet today the baptized and dedicated witnesses of Jehovah number around one million. These Christians hope to survive the oncoming “great tribulation” on the coming day of God’s vengeance and enter into God’s new order on earth. So this is evidently the appointed time for the coming forth of this unnumbered “great crowd” of “other sheep.” Down till this “conclusion of the system of things” Jesus said he would be with his obedient followers “all the days” as they carried on the discipling and baptizing. But did Jesus command them that they should baptize some dedicated ones as members of the “little flock” to whom it is the heavenly Father’s good pleasure to give the celestial kingdom? And to baptize others dedicating at this time as “other sheep,” as members of the unnumbered “great crowd” who are to be heirs of the earthly paradise under God’s kingdom?
11. (a) Why does the Scriptural answer to the questions call for a reexamination of the matter of dedication? (b) What is it proper for us to expect God to give to an individual after his baptism?
11 The Scriptural answer is No! What Jesus simply said was: “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.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) This calls for us to get the correct understanding of Christian dedication. When dedicating ourselves to God through Christ we do not lay down any terms for God according to which only he is to accept our dedication. When we dedicate ourselves, we present ourselves to God as Jesus his Son did, saying: “Look! I am come to do your will.” (Heb. 10:9, 10; Ps. 40:7, 8) Thus we express no choice of our own, but we leave it to Jehovah God to decide what our eternal destiny shall be. If it is his will that we desire to be done in our case, then we shall accept his assignment of us and will be satisfied with it, happy in it. (Rom. 9:16) It is proper to expect that after one’s baptism God would give a witness to the dedicated, baptized one what his decision has been in that one’s case. To the one whom he begets by his spirit he will give a son’s witness.—Rom. 8:16, 17.
12. (a) Certainly, then, we are baptized to be what, and after doing what figuring? (b) Of whom do we want ourselves as well as others to be the baptized disciples?
12 In all certainty, then, what we are baptized as being is, without exception, disciples of Jesus Christ. Our baptism is according to his command, yes, in imitation of him. Our coming to God with the decision to do his will is likewise in imitation of Jesus Christ, after we have followed his counsel to figure out the expense first. (Luke 14:25-33) As dedicated, baptized servants of God, we can be disciples of no one else but his faithful Son. For at the transfiguration of Jesus on the high mountain after the Passover of 32 C.E. Jehovah God said to the apostles there present: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved; listen to him.” (Matt. 17:1-5) One truly dedicated to God desires to be a disciple of no one else but God’s own choice. He does not want any other dedicated, baptized persons to be a disciple of anyone else but of Jesus Christ. Just as the apostle Peter, who witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration, wrote: “Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps [not Peter’s] closely.”—1 Pet. 2:21.
13. (a) In view of the time and the foretold events, what should a candidate not conclude as to his baptism? (b) What should he expect God to indicate to him in due time after his baptism?
13 So then, just because we are living in the “conclusion of the system of things” and because Jesus Christ is present on “his glorious throne” and separating the symbolic “sheep” from the “goats,” it is no reason for anyone who is being baptized since 1934/1935 C.E. to think that he is being baptized as one of the “other sheep,” or as a modern-day Jonadab, or as one of the “great crowd” who are not spiritual Israelites. (John 10:16; 2 Ki. 10:15-23; Rev. 7:9-17) He should not think so even though he knows that already the dedicated, baptized witnesses of Jehovah number around a million world wide, or far more than the 144,000, the number to which the spiritual Israelites with heavenly hopes are limited. He should bear in mind that he is being baptized as a disciple of Jesus Christ, a learner, a pupil, of him. After his baptism he may rightly expect that Jehovah God, to whom he has dedicated himself without laying down any terms, will in due time give him a witness as to whether he has been assigned to the “great crowd” of present-day “other sheep” or not.
14. Regardless of what is thus indicated to them, what do they fundamentally remain, and what requirement is expected to be met by them unitedly?
14 Whether in due time the dedicated, baptized person has the indication from God that he was begotten by God’s spirit to be a spiritual Israelite or has been made a member of the sheeplike “great crowd,” one fact remains: he is fundamentally a baptized disciple of Christ. The same degree of faithfulness to God is expected of the disciple who is one of the “other sheep” as of the disciple who is one of the remnant of spiritual Israelites. A disciple is a disciple. All the disciples, regardless of whether of the “little flock” or of the “great crowd,” are now “one flock” under the “one shepherd,” the Lord Jesus Christ, who laid down his life and surrendered his earthly soul for all the sheep. (John 10:15, 16; Luke 12:32) They are not followers of different religious men on earth, but are followers of the “one shepherd.” They are learners, pupils, of this Shepherd, through whom they receive instruction from God. (John 6:44, 45) What they learn they must apply, put to use and live by faithfully. Otherwise they are not Christians. Only as disciples of Christ can they expect to survive the war of Armageddon.
DISCIPLES MAKE OTHER DISCIPLES
15. According to Matthew 28:16-20 those who were already disciples were told to do what, and whom do they imitate in this respect?
15 One important thing is to be noted from the account of Matthew 28:16-20, and it is this: The account there says: “However, the eleven disciples went into Galilee to the mountain . . . And Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying: ‘ . . . Go therefore and make disciples.’” It was those who were already disciples whom the resurrected Jesus told to do the discipling work in all the nations. This means, therefore, that a disciple of Christ is not to be merely a learner or pupil of him but is to make disciples of others, disciples of the ‘one teacher,’ Jesus Christ. In doing this he is imitating his one Teacher, Jesus Christ, himself, for Jesus Christ also made disciples. (John 3:25, 26; 4:1) Women as well as men have the privilege of becoming his disciples. Tabitha or Dorcas of Joppa is specially named as a disciple. (Acts 9:36) Women as well as men were baptized in water as Christ’s disciples, as believers in him.—Acts 8:12; 16:15.
16. According to that command of Christ what work still goes on, but what about further continuance of that work?
16 Although we are living in the “conclusion of the system of things,” this making of disciples and baptizing them is still going on. But the fact that we are so far advanced in this concluding period since 1914 C.E. is an indication that the time left for making and baptizing disciples in all the nations is near its end. According to his promise the resurrected, glorified Jesus Christ is with us in this work that he himself commanded us as his disciples to do.—Matt. 28:20.
17. What other baptism did John the Baptist describe that Jesus is now preparing to perform?
17 While Jesus is supervising the work of discipling and baptizing in water during this “conclusion of the system of things,” he is also preparing for a baptism of another kind in the very near future. Concerning him John the Baptist said before even Jesus himself was baptized in the Jordan River nineteen centuries ago: “That one will baptize you people with holy spirit and with fire. His winnowing shovel is in his hand, and he will completely clean up his threshing floor, and will gather his wheat into the storehouse, but the chaff he will burn up with fire that cannot be put out.”—Matt. 3:11-13.
18. (a) When did Jesus begin baptizing with holy spirit? (b) When did he baptize the Jewish people with “fire”?
18 Jesus began baptizing his disciples with holy spirit on the festival day of Pentecost in 33 C.E. (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4 to 2:33) In the year 70 C.E. he became a baptizer with fire upon the Jewish people in the province of Judea and in Jerusalem, when Jerusalem and her temple were immersed in fiery destruction, 1,100,000 Passover celebrators in the city were killed and Judea was desolated as 97,000 surviving Jews were dragged off into slavery throughout the Roman Empire.
19. According to that first-century type, what is now due to be baptized with “fire,” and why?
19 That was a prophetic type of the larger and final fulfillment of the prophecy upon the modern-day antitypical unchristian Jerusalem, namely, worldly Christendom. Because of her not being really a disciple of Jesus Christ but being rather a follower of Nimrod, the “mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah” and the founder of ancient Babylon and her pagan religion, Christendom is really a part, in fact, the outstanding part, of modern Babylon the Great. When this world empire of false Babylonish religion goes down, Christendom will be destroyed with it, she being baptized with fire as were the first-century Jerusalem and Judea.—Gen. 10:8-10; Rev. 17:1 to 18:18.
20. What words of counsel are now being said like those of Peter to inquiring Jews on the day of Pentecost, and hence with what baptism is it better to be baptized?
20 Thirty-seven years before the desolation of Jerusalem and Judea in the year 70 C.E., the apostle Peter told the inquiring Pentecostal celebrators at Jerusalem to get baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and urgently entreated: “Get saved from this crooked generation.” (Acts 2:37-40) Similar words of the utmost urgency are today being said by the dedicated, baptized witnesses of Jehovah to all those who till now have kept on celebrating religiously in antitypical Jerusalem, or Christendom. Truly it is far better to be baptized now in water as a dedicated disciple of Christ than to be baptized in the near future in the fire of destruction into which Christendom will be plunged, thus to perish with her “crooked generation.”
21. (a) What can be said as to whether only those in Christendom need to heed the warning message? (b) Who will survive the fiery destruction, and what command does this class now continue to obey?
21 “People of all the nations” outside of Christendom need likewise to take heed to the urgent message, for along with Christendom, all Babylon the Great, the world empire of false Babylonish religion, “will be completely burned with fire, because Jehovah God, who judged her, is strong.” (Rev. 18:8) The dedicated, baptized disciples of Jesus Christ will be the ones to survive this approaching time of fiery destruction and to enter into God’s righteous new order, a truly Christian new order. With that in view, Jehovah’s witnesses as disciples of Christ continue to obey his command: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them.”—Matt. 28:19.
[Picture on page 755]
Those who partook of the Memorial emblems last April numbered just 10,368. In contrast with this, 120,905 new believers were baptized during the past service year
[Picture on page 758]
A disciple of Christ is not merely his pupil but should teach others, making them also disciples of Jesus