Baptism of Those Who Are Disciples
“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.”—Matt. 28:19, 20.
1, 2. In respect to water, how has the creation been worshiped more than the Creator?
PURE, refreshing water—one of the many blessings of life given to man by the great Creator. The informed, reverent person offers praise and thanksgiving to the Creator of rivers, Jehovah, the Giver of life and of every good gift. However, many ancient peoples, not knowing the Creator, directed their worship to the waters. An example of this is found in the religion of the ancient Egyptians, who worshiped the river Nile, shown by their hymn to the Nile: “Health to you who comes to this land to give life to Egypt . . . when you kindly listen to the prayers of men . . . creator of all good things, lord of seeds . . . the granaries are overflowing, the warehouses are full and the possessions of the poor are multiplied.”
2 Although the Nile has long since ceased to be worshiped by these people as a god, river worship does still continue to our day. India and neighboring countries abound with “holy rivers” and “river gods” that hold an important place in the lives of the people. Famous among the “holy rivers” is the mighty Ganges, believed by some to flow from the hair of Siva, one of the Hindu trinity. Notice that it is the fervent belief of every good Hindu that bathing in the waters of the Ganges will impart spiritual strength and virtue. Even a single drop of the “holy” water on the tongue or eyelids of a dying man is thought to cleanse him from sin.
3. Explain the similarity between the ceremonial use of water in Christendom and that in non-Christian religions.
3 River worship may not appeal to you. You may not consider it to be a reasonable religious requirement that you worship water. Perhaps you recognize water to be a blessing for man but not a source of blessing. Do you know, however, that in general in all religions the use of water is viewed very much as its use is regarded by the multitudes who bathe in the waters of the Ganges River to gain spiritual strength and virtue? The similarity is in the fact that merit is claimed for the act of bathing and, in the case of other religions, for the act of sprinkling, pouring or immersing, the latter being baptism or dipping.
4. How is religious, ceremonial use of water designated?
4 This view, that sins are in some way water-soluble and that therefore some spiritual merit or benefit results from the use of water in religious ceremonies of various kinds, is shown in the designation of such by the churches of Christendom as a “sacrament.” According to the Greek and Roman Catholic religions, baptism is the first of seven sacraments, and, according to most Protestant denominations, the first of two. However, “sacrament” is not found in the Bible. There is no Bible basis for the position taken by religions of either Christendom or the non-Christian world that grace, holiness or spiritual benefit comes to the one who is immersed or sprinkled, or the one upon whom water is poured in religious ceremony.
5. Is any use of water in a Christian religious ceremony approved by the Bible?
5 Is any use of water in a Christian religious ceremony approved by the Bible? Yes, and from the text quoted at the beginning of this article you can see that such is the case, because there is a command by Christ Jesus, the founder and leader of Christianity, who said: ‘Go and baptize.’ He also identified and described persons who were to be baptized in accordance with his command as being those who were eligible to become “disciples.”
6. Why is it so important to be fully and correctly informed on Scriptural water baptism?
6 Essentially, the Bible teaches water baptism to be an initial step of obedience which the Scriptures require to be taken by each one who makes a dedication to Jehovah God. Such being the case, we should like to know why and we should like to know the real significance. First some further points on what Christian baptism as outlined in the Bible is not. The false teaching that baptism is a sacrament is one of the great religious wrongs that has been done to men. Why so? Because such teaching leads people to believe that baptism has merit and imparts grace and benefit to the one being baptized, because the claim is that being immersed or wet by water results in amazing things for the individual who is so immersed or even sprinkled or upon whom water is poured.
REGARDING THE SACRAMENTAL CLAIM
7. What sacramental claim is made by the Catholic religious sect?
7 The following information is taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume II, and we quote it now for the purpose of showing what is claimed by the Catholic sect for the baptism ceremony. “‘The Decree for the Armenians’ in the Bull ‘Exultate Deo’ of Pope Eugene IV. . . . ‘Holy Baptism holds the first place among the sacraments, because it is the door of the spiritual life; for by it we are made members of Christ and incorporated with the Church. . . . The effect of this sacrament is the remission of all sin, original and actual; likewise of all punishment which is due for sin.’”
8. Contrast the Bible truth with Christendom’s claims regarding (a) remission of sins; (b) freedom from sin and death; (c) punishment for willful sin; (d) membership in the spiritual congregation.
8 This teaching means that the one immersed or on whom water is poured will receive life in heaven because, according to the Catholic claim, “original sin deprived the human race of an unearned right to heaven.” It follows that the viewing of water immersion as resulting in forgiveness of original sin and therefore a sacrament obscures many truths of God’s Word. Remission of sins does not come to a person because he gets wet with water, and that is true relative to original and subsequent sin. Remission comes only through Jehovah’s provision of the sacrifice of Christ Jesus. The sacrifice of Jesus’ perfect human life frees mankind from sin and death, as stated in John 1:29; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 9:24-26; 1 John 2:1, 2. Neither could a dipping in water save the individual of the corrupt world from punishment that is due for willful sin, as pointed out in John 15:19; Galatians 1:3, 4; Revelation 18:3-8. Immersion in water does not constitute an individual a member of the church, the body of Christ, the spiritual congregation.—2 Thess. 2:13; John 17:6; Rom. 8:30.
9-11. How is the sacramental claim for ceremonial washing further established as being non-Christian?
9 The Catholic Encyclopedia comments further on the matter of water baptism, stating: “How natural and expressive the symbolism of exterior washing to indicate interior purification was recognized to be, is plain from the practice also of the heathen systems of religion. The use of lustral water is found among the Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Hindus, and others.” The Catholic authority quoted here is correct in saying that among the heathen, pagan religions washing and baptizing in water is also considered as a sacrament that imparts much merit. Non-Catholic authorities agree with this Catholic authority that such is the case, and so it is that we have two authorities who unite in proving the non-Christian claim or theory that water baptism is a sacrament to be of demon or devil origin.
10 In this connection The Two Babylons by Hislop states: “This doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration also is essentially Babylonian. Some may perhaps stumble at the idea of regeneration at all having been known in the Pagan world; but if they only go to India, they will find at this day, [persons], who have never opened their ears to Christian instruction, as familiar with the term and the idea as ourselves. . . . We find different ancient authors bearing direct testimony both to the fact of this [Babylonian] baptism and the intention of it. . . . They who were thus baptised were, as Tertullian assures us, promised, the consequence, ‘REGENERATION, and the pardon of all their perjuries.’ Our own Pagan ancestors, the worshippers of Odin, are known to have practised baptismal rites, which, taken in connection with their avowed object in practising them, show that, originally, at least, they must have believed that the natural guilt and corruption of their new-born children could be washed away by sprinkling them with water, or by plunging them, as soon as born, into lakes or rivers. Yea, on the other side of the Atlantic, in Mexico, the same doctrine of baptismal regeneration was found in full vigour among the natives, when Cortez and his warriors landed on their shores. . . . The reader has seen already how faithfully Rome has copied the Pagan exorcism in connection with baptism. All the other peculiarities attending the Romish baptism, such as the use of salt, spittle, chrism, or anointing with oil, and marking the forehead with the sign of the cross, are equally Pagan.”
11 Today in the various church baptismal ceremonies of Christendom the following devices are included: godparents, breathing on the face of the candidate to exorcise evil spirits, making the sign of the cross, imposition of hands, putting “blessed” salt in the mouth of the candidate, touching the ears and nostrils with spittle of the priest, anointing with oil, the threefold ablution, white veil, lighted candles and other appendages of worship not provided by the Bible. These are identified by The Catholic Encyclopedia and other religious authorities as being appendages of demon practice or devil worship and therefore unchristian.
NOW TO THE BOOK OF CHRISTIAN BAPTISM
12, 13. (a) Have we a guide in this matter? What is it? (b) When does Jesus’ command of Matthew 28:19, 20 apply? (c) Why does it have special force now?
12 In order to determine what Christian baptism actually signifies we turn not to tradition or paganism but to the Bible, the Holy Word of God, the religious guide of Christians. (Matt. 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-8) At Matthew 28:19, 20 is an outstanding reference to baptism for Christians.
13 The words of Jesus (Matt. 28:19, 20) which constitute instructions relative to baptism were stated sometime before he ascended to heaven on the fortieth day after his resurrection from the dead in the year 33 C.E. Such words constitute a general command effective from the time he gave it down through the centuries to the conclusion of the system of things. The period of the conclusion of the system of things is where mankind has been since the year 1914 C.E. So it is that during these modern days, as long as there are persons who qualify as disciples, having been made such by means of the Christian ministry of the Word of God, it is proper and is in obedience to the command of Christ Jesus that such be baptized. In fact, this command of Matthew 28:19, 20 has greater force and effect now during this “time of the end” than ever before, because the work of teaching as well as preaching has been extended by Jehovah’s faithful witnesses to the “people of all the nations” with response on the part of disciples from all of these various nations of the earth, truly earth wide! Throughout the earth this past year 120,905 were baptized.—Mark 13:10.
14. (a) Give the evidence of obedience to Jesus’ command in the early Christian organization. (b) What nations are embraced in it now?
14 Shortly after Jesus gave the command relative to making disciples and baptizing them, ten days after his ascension, on the festival day of Pentecost about three thousand Jews and circumcised Jewish proselytes were converted to faith in Jesus Christ. Then and there at Jerusalem the apostles of Christ began a work in obedience to his command, namely, they baptized these thousands of circumcised believers in water, “in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of [their] sins.” (Acts 2:1-41) Later on, as shown in the account of Acts 10:1-48, persons who were not Jews and who had never been within the law covenant arrangement of Israel began to be baptized, likewise in the name of Jesus Christ. So this act of baptism directed by Jesus was performed at the outset of the Christian congregation and has continued through the years, and in this present time of “the conclusion of the system of things” has truly widened out to embrace disciples of all nations. Here is a Bible-ordained use of water in connection with the Christian religious ceremony of dipping, immersion or baptism. Jesus’ instructions continue to be followed.
NOT EVERYONE IS QUALIFIED
15. Who qualifies for Christian baptism?
15 From Jesus’ words it is clearly seen who are qualified for baptism: “Make disciples . . . baptizing them.” (Matt. 28:19) Disciples are persons who are learners, persons who have information and form a judgment on the matter on which they are informed, which in this case is concerning Christ Jesus, his Heavenly Father, Jehovah God, God’s Word, His purposes and the relationship of such individuals to Jehovah through Jesus Christ. Perhaps you will ask, “If that is true, how can infants, babes, be baptized? Are they eligible for the Christian baptism commanded by Jesus?”
16, 17. (a) Why is infant baptism contrary to Matthew 28:19? (b) Why is such not of apostolic origin?
16 Can little babies repent, gain knowledge, exercise faith, devote themselves to Jehovah God? No, they cannot do that. Otherwise stated, they cannot become disciples. Also, since baptism is not a sacrament, it does not of itself bestow any merit upon the one baptized, and so it follows that the baptism of infants is without any value, even as it is without the support of God’s Word. Read in Acts 10:44-48 concerning the conversion of Cornelius and see that the holy spirit fell upon those hearing the word of God; these persons became eligible for baptism and they were immersed. It cannot be said that infants can hear the Word of God with understanding and with effect upon them, qualifying them for Christian baptism.
17 Probably the leading historian of the early post-apostolic Christian congregation is Neander and he has the following to say regarding infant baptism: “Faith and baptism were always connected with one another and thus it is in the highest degree probable that baptism was performed only in the instances where both could meet together and that the practice of infant baptism was unknown at this period.” “But not till so late a period as (at least certainly not earlier than) Irenaeus, a trace of infant baptism appears, and that it first became recognized as an apostolic tradition in the course of the third century, is evidence rather against than for the admission of apostolic origin.”—Planting and Training of the Christian Church.
18. What adults are qualified?
18 The requirement that a candidate for proper Christian immersion be a disciple rules, not only against the eligibility of babes, but also against the eligibility of other persons, even adults, who are unacquainted with and unresponsive to the Word of God. Jesus’ command not only emphasizes the fact that acceptable candidates for baptism are to be made disciples but also emphasizes what they are to have learned, because he said, “teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:20) Their having been taught to observe the commandments of Jesus means more than their simply having been informed what those commandments are. A person can be told or can be informed and not be responsive; but, when a person is taught those things, the fact is demonstrated by the response.
19. Show the qualifying response to God’s Word and its fine results.
19 So it is that we read, in Acts 2:41, that “those who embraced his word heartily were baptized.” Other persons of the early Christian congregation were baptized “when they believed Philip.” Such believers “proceeded to be baptized, both men and women.” (Acts 8:12) The response to the Word of God on the part of the disciple is seen in his taking a course that must be followed by all who will gain life from among mankind, which course is really the highest and noblest of human ambitions and aspirations. (John 17:2, 3; Ps. 119:1, 2) It is that which brings a human creature into his proper relationship with his Creator. It is the only real worship of God. Without it there is not actually a worship of God by individuals today and, moreover, it is the course that leads to everlasting life. It is that of a personal dedication to Jehovah.
20. What is included in Christian dedication?
20 As you know, dedication has the meaning to declare, to affirm, to state solemnly, to devote. It refers to the act of setting apart or devoting something to a certain use. It is the act by which a person or thing is initiated into some way or course or use. When we apply this to the disciple of Christ Jesus we readily see that to such a person dedication is the exclusive devotion of the Christian to Jehovah God and so to his service or worship. It is a personal thing. It is the act of a person determining unreservedly and unconditionally to do the will of Jehovah God through Christ Jesus. (Prov. 14:27) Dedication demonstrates complete trust and confidence in Jehovah and shows that the individual knows that Jehovah is God, that God is right, that his cause will be victorious, that there is no doubt in the heart and mind of the dedicated one and that he is happy and joyful to take his stand on the side of Jehovah. “Put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct and which is being corrupted according to his deceptive desires; . . . be made new in the force actuating your mind, and . . . put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” (Eph. 4:22-24) Christians are followers of Christ Jesus and as such are servants of Jehovah God and therefore serve him, being devoted to him, dedicated to him.—Acts 11:26.
21. Who now have a close relationship to Jehovah God?
21 Jesus’ command emphasizes that dedication brings to the disciples a close relationship to Jehovah God. On earth at the present time are hundreds of thousands of faithful Christian witnesses of Jehovah who have taken this step of dedication, have symbolized it by water immersion or baptism and are faithfully serving Jehovah and ministering his word to his praise and the blessing of their fellowman.
22. Why must the obedient disciple be baptized?
22 They symbolize their dedication by water baptism; that is where the immersion comes in, as Jesus said: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them . . . teaching them.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) The disciple must be baptized if he would be obedient to the requirements of the Bible. Baptism is an open, public, formal ceremony indicating that one has made a decision to do God’s will. This in the presence of witnesses is a requirement upon the dedicated individual. There of necessity must be observable evidence of the dedication the individual has made because such dedication marks the change or turning point in the person’s life and his fellow Christians are entitled to know this, that they might be aware of what to expect from the person from now on.
23. (a) Why do Jehovah’s witnesses perform the symbol appropriate to the circumstances, and what is it? (b) In Jesus’ case, what did his baptism evidence? (c) How about his Jewish disciples up to 36 C.E.? (d) And thereafter?
23 We do not need to search for a symbol that would be appropriate to the dedication as representative thereof because the Bible designates immersion as such and there could not be a more proper and appropriate one. Christians are followers of Christ Jesus. “In fact, to this course you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely.” (1 Pet. 2:21) This leader, Christ, was immersed by John the Baptist as a symbol of the presentation of himself as a member of the dedicated Jewish nation. “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, in order to be baptized by him. . . . 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.’ . . . After being baptized Jesus immediately came up from the water . . . 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; Ps. 40:7, 8; Heb. 10:7) The approval of his Heavenly Father Jehovah upon his presentation and its symbol is manifested in the account. Following the example that Jesus set, members of the early Christian congregation were baptized. (Acts 10:48; 8:12, 36, 38, 39) In the case of those who were of the Jewish nation their immersion up to the year 36 C.E. was also a symbol of the presentation of themselves as members of a dedicated nation. Thereafter the baptism of Christians, whether of Jewish or of non-Jewish ancestry, was in symbol of their dedication, the dealings by Jehovah with the Jews through the Law covenant having terminated after the death of Jesus in 33 C.E. and at the expiration of the period of special favor to Israel just prior to the carrying of the Christian gospel to non-Jews. So in today’s late period of time both natural Jew and natural non-Jew, people of all races and origins, stand the same before Jehovah God individually with the opportunity of making a personal dedication and, upon their doing so, fulfilling the obligation to symbolize this by water immersion.
[Pictures on page 299]
Hindus believe that bathing in their holy river the Ganges is a sacrament that imparts merit, washing away their sins
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Since babies cannot he disciples, the baptism of them is without any value
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Baptism is a public ceremony indicating that the disciple has made a dedication to do God’s will; 120,905 disciples were baptized last year