Your Conscience Toward Jehovah
“Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the request made to God for a good conscience.”—1 Pet. 3:21
1. (a) What essentials do disciples know? (b) What decision have they made? (c) Why is baptism an initial step of obedience?
DISCIPLES are taught ones and, as such, know the things that Jesus commanded. Therefore they know their obligations respecting the moral standards of Jehovah’s Christian organization and the Scriptural responsibilities and requirements in connection with the ministry of the good news, the message of Jehovah’s kingdom, as set out in his Bible. The decision and the act of dedication have already taken place before the dedication is symbolized by water immersion. So the baptism is an initial step of obedience by those qualified. Therein, that is, in the symbol of the dedication, the disciple expresses a request to God for a good, close relationship to him.
2, 3. In baptism, what request to God does the disciple make?
2 “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father.” (Matt. 28:19) This command shows the close relationship to Jehovah into which the properly baptized disciple is taken. As we have observed, water baptism does not symbolize “the putting away of the filth of the flesh.” It does not picture our being washed from our sins in the blood of Jesus Christ, which washing is spoken of in 1 John 1:7 and Revelation 1:5. Rather water baptism expresses a “request made to God for a good conscience.” “The patience of God was waiting in Noah’s days, while the ark was being constructed, in which a few people, that is, eight souls, were carried safely through the water. That which corresponds to this is also now saving you, namely, baptism, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the request made to God for a good conscience,) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 3:20, 21) In stating that the global flood of Noah’s day put him in mind of the water baptism, Peter was saying that an antitype of getting into the ark before the flood is water baptism, such as he was directed to perform. But how is this a “request made to God for a good conscience”?
3 It is a request made to God by the presentation of ourselves to God in full dedication to him through Jesus Christ. Concerning this Dr. A. T. Robertson in Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 6, states: “That may be the sense here, that is, a vow of consecration to God after inquiry, having repented and turned to God and now making this public proclamation of that fact by means of baptism (the symbol of the previous inward change of heart).”
4. As to conscience, what change does the disciple make from “the time that has passed by”?
4 So the disciple—you, if you are a disciple, once had a bad conscience toward God, but now, having accepted the good news of salvation, you desire to have a good conscience toward him, and to this end you make a request to God for a good conscience by presenting yourself to him in full dedication. “For the time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations.” (1 Pet. 3:21–4:6) By dedication we make request to God for a good conscience and, after our dedication, our request is consummated by water baptism. Thus we symbolize this dedication by water baptism, and we get the requested good conscience. This whole baptism arrangement of God cuts us off, delivers us, from this sinful, conscienceless, doomed world of mankind. Do you want to have a good conscience before God? Do you think you can have such without dedication to him and water baptism?
5. Conscientiously, in the name of whom first is the disciple baptized? Why?
5 This shows the close relationship to Jehovah, in whose name first the disciple is baptized. The dedicated one must recognize that God is a father, although many religions do not accept that Scriptural fact. The name of the Father must be upheld. “You, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.” (Ps. 83:18) “For with you is the source of life.”—Ps. 36:9.
WHY IN THE NAME OF THE SON?
6. (a) From whom did the Son receive his official authority? (b) Why baptism in the name of the Son?
6 This Father has a most beloved Son. “Go therefore and make disciples . . . baptizing them in the name of the . . . Son.” (Matt. 28:19) It is in his footsteps that we must follow. Concerning him Philippians 2:9-11 states: “God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” The act of baptism is a person’s following the example set by this Son of God, and he is the proper one to follow because, as his Heavenly Father states: “Look! As a witness to the national groups I have given him, as a leader and commander to the national groups.” (Isa. 55:4) “He has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Rev. 19:16) “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man Christ Jesus.”—1 Tim. 2:5.
7. (a) For what is the Son responsible? (b) What recognition does the disciple show at baptism?
7 The salvation for which we hope and in which we trust and for which eventually he officiates in our behalf in priestly office is dependent upon him as Jehovah’s great provision. Such point was made by Paul when he wrote: “He became responsible for everlasting salvation to all those obeying him, because he has been specifically called by God a high priest according to the manner of Melchizedek.” (Heb. 5:9, 10) One’s being immersed in the name of this high one, therefore, shows that the dedication to Jehovah is with recognition of his Son and is in appreciation of the fact that one’s relationship to Jehovah God is through the Son, Christ Jesus, and one confesses his lordship, to the glory of God the Father. We can well see that it is not getting wet with water, but it is the sacrifice of Christ that is the basis of our salvation and forgiveness of sins. So we gladly recognize the office of authority, the High Priestly function, of the Son.
8. In addition to having knowledge, what is required of the disciple?
8 As followers of the Son disciples must not only know the Bible requirements on conduct and morals but also be living up to them, having conformed their private lives to the high standards set out in God’s Word in all respects, and they must have freed themselves from conduct, religion or enterprise conflicting with Bible principles. Anyone who plans to get baptized should first come to an accurate knowledge of at least the basic teachings of the Bible, which is in harmony with Jesus’ instructions first to make disciples, and thereafter to baptize them.
UNFAILING SUPPORT OF THE DISCIPLE
9. Explain in the name of what the disciple is third baptized.
9 “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the . . . holy spirit.” (Matt. 28:19) The holy spirit is not a person, but it is the active force of Jehovah God accomplishing his will and essential to the disciple in the faithful performance of his dedication to Jehovah. It is concerning the holy spirit that Jesus stated: “I will request the Father and he will give you another helper to be with you forever, the spirit of the truth.” (John 14:16, 17) The Word of God, for the guidance of the Christian, is referred to as the “sword of the spirit” (Eph. 6:17), and similarly the Bible is related to God’s spirit by Peter: “Prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.”—2 Pet. 1:21.
10. (a) State some accomplishments through the holy spirit. (b) What is the import of baptism in its name? (c) What is available to the new disciple, and how is it related to baptism?
10 The spirit of God provides his Word, preserves his Word of truth, reveals it, enabling his servants to understand it, and empowers the followers of Christ Jesus for the ministry of the Word of God. (1 Cor. 2:10) One properly baptized in the name of the holy spirit must recognize the obligations upon Christians in being ministers of the good news and as such a minister must share in the great worldwide work of making disciples of other persons, teaching them in turn. This means cooperation with the congregation of God’s people and association with it, taking advantage of all the fine provisions made through the congregation upon which God’s spirit rests for the spiritual welfare of all therein. In fact, as a person contemplates becoming a disciple and reaches the point of making a dedication to Jehovah he, in conjunction with the ministerial servants in the congregation organization, will be able to review the publication “Your Word Is a Lamp to My Foot.” This informative Watch Tower publication includes eighty basic teachings of the Bible. These are to be gone over, one at a time, so that it will be known to all, the prospective immersion candidate and his associates in the Christian congregation, that the one desiring to symbolize his dedication does have an understanding and appreciation of these basic teachings of God’s Word.
11. How significant is the holiness of the spirit?
11 One’s realization that the baptism is in the name of the holy spirit, that the Word of God has been provided and preserved by his holy spirit, also that his spirit is holy and not of the demons, is essential, in order that its leadings may be conformed to and not be resisted.
12. In contrast to doctrines of demon origin, what basic truths must the disciple know?
12 This proper Christian conduct goes into all phases of life, private and public, and so it is necessary that there be this review of the basic teachings of the Scriptures on the Kingdom, prayer, the Christian ministry of today, the congregation, the enemy of God and of Christians, Satan the Devil, the demons, Armageddon, the soul, sin, the resurrection, proper conduct, moral cleanliness, the sanctity of blood, theocratic conduct in the family circle and the relationship of the individual Christian to his fellow servants of God and to men in general. Also, he must know why one who has made a dedication to God, should be baptized in symbol thereof.
13. Joel 2:28, 29 has what fulfillment, and betokens what relative to verses 30-32?
13 One’s being baptized in the name of the holy spirit also carries with it an appreciation of the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel 2:28, 29: “I shall pour out my spirit on every sort of flesh, and your sons and your daughters will certainly prophesy. As for your old men, dreams they will dream. As for your young men, visions they will see. And even on the menservants and on the maidservants in those days I shall pour out my spirit.” With a first and partial fulfillment on the early Christian congregation at Pentecost when God’s spirit came upon his people there gathered (Acts 2:1-4), Joel’s prophecy is fulfilled completely in our day. The final outpouring of God’s spirit upon his dedicated servants in this “time of the end” betokens the sure fulfillment of the rest of Joel’s prophecy, indicating the destruction of the great world organization that is the enemy of Jehovah and of his kingdom. (Joel 2:30-32; Dan. 12:4) Those who are baptized must appreciate this and in doing so must serve in harmony with the holy spirit, separate from the world organization of mankind not dedicated to Jehovah.
THE MERIT OF THE CROWD OF DISCIPLES
14 “Beloved ones, do not be puzzled at the burning among you, which is happening to you for a trial, as though a strange thing were befalling you. On the contrary, go on rejoicing forasmuch as you are sharers in the sufferings of the Christ, that you may rejoice and be overjoyed also during the revelation of his glory. If you are being reproached for the name of Christ, you are happy, because the spirit of glory, even the spirit of God, is resting upon you.” (1 Pet. 4:12-14) The principle of these words addressed to the early Christian congregation applies to those being made disciples in our day. Such need not be puzzled. They understand the situation, seeing the movement of Jehovah against his enemies. They take full advantage of the privilege of prayer, that they may be sustained by Jehovah in the keeping of their integrity, demonstrating the merit of the great crowd of Revelation 7:9, 10. “After these things I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands. And they keep on crying with a loud voice, saying: ‘Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”
15. The origin of the “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9, 10 is what confirmation of Jesus’ baptism command?
15 The origin of those of the “great crowd”—‘all peoples’—confirms the fact that in obedience to Jesus’ command disciples are being made of all nations. The “great crowd” of Revelation chapter 7 is composed of dedicated, baptized persons, disciples of Christ with an earthly Paradise hope. So for you to be in that favored class these steps of worship must be taken by you.
16. What is the merit displayed by the “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9, 10?
16 Dedicated disciples become a target of persecution by Satan the Devil’s use of his organization. So it is that by maintaining integrity and by the endurance of this tribulation, by their faithfully continuing to hail Jehovah God as Supreme Sovereign and ascribing their salvation to him and to his Lamb, those of the “great crowd” do finally receive salvation, even through the impending battle of Armageddon, surviving it. What a favored position these occupy, at the present time and in the future! What a notable, meritorious feat on their part is their faith and faithfulness, this resulting in their salvation!
17. What constancy is required of the disciple, and how is prayer contributory thereto?
17 Truly the one who is a disciple of Jesus is a person who not only learns the word but remains in this word. “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31, 32) The avenue of prayer in keeping integrity is essential to this end, and prayer should be for God’s name to be sanctified (Luke 11:2), for God’s kingdom (Luke 11:2), for God’s will to be done (Matt. 6:10; 26:42), for the day’s material necessities (Luke 11:3), for forgiveness (Luke 11:4; Dan. 9:19), for deliverance from temptations of the wicked one (Matt. 6:13), for knowledge of God’s will, wisdom and understanding (Phil. 1:9; Jas. 1:5; Ps. 119:34), and for God’s spirit (Acts 8:14, 15; Luke 11:13). Even at the time of baptism the one being baptized should be in a prayerful mood as was Jesus at the time of his immersion. (Luke 3:21) Such will aid in bringing forth the fruitage of God’s spirit.—Gal. 5:22, 23.
18. Explain circumstances requiring rebaptism.
18 Now, when the teaching work is being carried on in all lands, among all kinds of people, and when lovers of righteousness respond to the preaching of the message of Jehovah’s established kingdom, new disciples come in line for baptism as outlined by the Bible. Maybe some of such persons have been sprinkled or immersed or had water poured on them in a religious ceremony or possibly have dipped themselves in the Ganges River or otherwise have utilized water in a religious ceremony. Some may have been immersed in association with the theocratic Christian congregation but without having studied the book “Your Word Is a Lamp to My Foot” and without an understanding and appreciation of dedication. Such persons may have wondered if they should now be baptized or perhaps be baptized again. Yes, they should, if they had not truly made a dedication before they were baptized but now are disciples, having come to a knowledge of the truth of God’s Word and having made a dedication to do Jehovah’s will. Yes, if the previous baptism was not the Scripturally ordained ceremony of complete immersion at the hands of a dedicated Christian witness of Jehovah. So if one finds that he has been at variance with the Holy Scriptures in this respect, having undergone no valid baptism of a disciple, then he is now due to perform the symbol of Christian baptism before witnesses in evidence of the dedication he now has made.
THE JOYFUL CEREMONY
19. Outline the ceremony of Christian water baptism.
19 At the time arranged for the baptism the new disciple will assemble with others of the congregation. It is good for a dedicated, immersed, qualified minister to address the assemblage, reviewing for a few minutes, perhaps twenty minutes or so, the essentials relative to dedication and baptism. This affords the opportunity for those who have previously made a dedication before coming to the place of immersion to give audible answer to searching questions wherein an affirmative answer would indicate that the candidates are qualified disciples and eligible for immersion and should be baptized. The review by means of the discourse at the time of the baptism is spiritually beneficial. It puts the mind of all in the proper frame and centers the attention of the heart on the important symbolism being undertaken. The candidates should stand following the discussion and in audible voice answer each of the two questions that are put by the one conducting the services.
20. Analyze the searching questions put to the candidates for immersion.
20 Two questions which do search out the heart and mind of each candidate are: (1) Have you recognized yourself as a sinner and needing salvation from Jehovah God? And have you acknowledged that this salvation proceeds from him and through his ransomer, Christ Jesus? (2) On the basis of this faith in God and in his provision for redemption have you dedicated yourself unreservedly to Jehovah God, to do his will henceforth as that will is revealed to you through Christ Jesus and through God’s Word as his holy spirit makes it plain? Those who answer “yes” audibly to these two questions so that the other persons present may witness their affirmation of dedication may appropriately be baptized.
21. How is the assembly for baptism arranged, to the point of going to the water?
21 It is appropriate too that the candidates keep standing as the speaker now offers prayer, especially in behalf of the candidates. All witnesses assembled should bow in prayer, as the one conducting the service leads in asking Jehovah’s blessing upon the occasion and upon those being immersed in particular, that His will might be done then and in the days to come. Following prayer, any directions necessary should be given to the candidates so they will know how to proceed to the immersion place.
22. (a) What water is adequate for the climax of the baptism service? (b) What is appropriate at this place and time?
22 Then those who are to perform the immersion, all of whom must be themselves dedicated, baptized Christian ministers, male members of the congregation, and those who are to be immersed, both male and female, and any others who may be assisting in the services or observing, go to the place of immersion. This may be any adequate body of water, the seaside, a lake or river, an indoor pool or, if circumstances necessitate, a smaller vessel or tank of water and, in any event, large enough to provide for complete immersion. At the place of baptism on this joyful and solemn and serious occasion it would not be appropriate for any to indulge in play. Jesus was praying, not playing, when he went to baptism, so we know he did not jump in and take a swim and otherwise act inappropriately. So on this occasion no one would dive into the pool, tank or stream and swim about waiting for the candidates to get ready but all should act with decorum and keep in mind what is being done, the reason for it and thus help the candidates to do the same thing.
23, 24. In what way does the immersion relate to ordination?
23 Each individual should carefully note and observe the date of the baptism. The event is the result of obedience to God’s commands through his Word relative to the matter and so the time of baptism may be taken as the time of Christian ordination and be recorded and verified as occasions in the future may require. It is so recognized by the congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses and by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. So for the purpose of record, baptism by Jehovah’s witnesses is a valid ceremony of ordination for Jehovah’s witnesses within the meaning of the law of the land. Proof that one can have that one is thereafter a faithful minister includes that to which the apostle Paul pointed as his own letters of recommendation, namely, individuals who, due to a disciple’s efforts, have in turn dedicated themselves to Jehovah God, having been made disciples.—2 Cor. 3:1-3.
24 How appropriate it is, then, that in all the Christian congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses throughout the earth the matter of baptism be considered. How appropriate also it is that at the conventions of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses, their circuit assemblies, district assemblies, national and international conventions, provisions be made for new disciples to symbolize their dedication by the God-ordained ceremony of water immersion!
25. (a) How meritorious are Jehovah’s requirements? (b) What assurance is this to Jesus’ disciples?
25 Those who enter upon a dedicated course of life can do so with complete assurance for the present and for the future. They have made a wise decision, that of serving the great Source of life. They well know that whatever they have found or will find to be the course outlined by the Scriptures for any occasion or circumstance, it is the best course. The way that Jehovah God would have his people take is the best way. Upon their own merits God’s requirements are best. Christians know that it is not a matter of their doing something just because the Bible requires it but at the same time preferring to do something else. Otherwise stated, it is not just a matter of taking a course of action because God wants a Christian to do so, when at the same time something else is personally preferable. No, because that which God outlines for his people is in itself best. Not only is it something to be done because Jehovah asks it, which is reason enough for doing so, but because in itself that which Jehovah God asks is the best. What confidence and assurance this is to new disciples! Where men’s ideas conflict with God’s Word we affirm without hesitation that God’s Word is correct; men’s ideas in conflict therewith are wrong. What a wonderful thing it is to be dedicated to such a God as is Jehovah and to serve him!
“Walking alongside the sea of Galilee [Jesus] saw two brothers . . . And he said to them: ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once abandoning the nets, they followed him. Going on also from there he saw two others who were brothers, . . . and he called them. At once leaving the boat and their father, they followed him. Then he went around throughout the whole of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom.”—Matt. 4:18-23.
[Picture on page 309]
After a talk on baptism 347 candidates for baptism at Melbourne, Australia, stand and are asked two questions to search out their hearts and minds