Baptizing Follows Discipling
1. What is baptism, and how was it done in the case of Jesus?
THERE was no doubt about what Jesus meant when commanding his followers to “baptize” disciples. John the Baptist was the first man authorized to perform water baptism. Some of the apostles were formerly his disciples and so had been baptized by him. John baptized Jesus. Did John do this by sprinkling water on a person? The account shows that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River and that “after being baptized Jesus immediately came up from the water.” In the Bible, baptism and immersion mean the same thing, for the Greek word baptisma, from which we get the English word “baptism,” indicates a dipping, namely, submersion and emergence. So what occurs at baptism is that a person is temporarily “buried” out of sight and then lifted out of the water.—Matt. 3:13-16; John 1:33; see also Romans 6:3, 4.
2. Why did John the Baptist perform immersions?
2 John the Baptist was sent to baptize members of the nation of Israel who were dedicated to Jehovah God and obligated to keep the Law covenant but who were guilty of sins against Jehovah’s arrangement and needed to repent. By getting Israelites to repent in order to be cleansed of sins and by baptizing them publicly in symbol of repentance, he was preparing the way for God’s covenant people to come to the Christ.—Luke 3:3, 4; Acts 19:4.
3, 4. Why was the baptism of Jesus different from that of others, and what did it signify?
3 This does not mean that when Jesus came to John to be baptized it was because he needed to repent of any sins. First Peter 2:22 proves that Jesus never committed a sin. Evidently John was thinking of baptizing for repentance when he objected to immersing Jesus in the Jordan, but Jesus indicated that in his case it was something different, saying: “Let it be, this time, for in that way it is suitable for us to carry out all that is righteous.”—Matt. 3:13-15.
4 What, then, did baptism signify in Jesus’ case? Later writings, at Hebrews chapter 10, refer to Jesus when coming “into the world,” that is, to take up his ministry and offer his own “prepared” body in obedience to Jehovah’s will, as saying in accord with Psalm 40:6-8 (Septuagint): “Sacrifice and offering you did not want, but you prepared a body for me. . . . ‘Look! I am come (in the roll of the book it is written about me) to do your will, O God.’” (Heb. 10:5, 6) Since Jesus was a member of a nation dedicated to Jehovah God and in covenant relationship with Him, he was not symbolizing a dedication but was making a presentation of himself to do Jehovah’s will. Jehovah’s acceptance of his presentation was evidenced by the anointing with holy spirit and the voice from heaven saying: “You are my Son, the beloved; I have approved you.”—Mark 1:11.
5. What kind of baptism was performed by the followers of Jesus during his earthly ministry?
5 The apostles knew about this, and early in the ministry of Jesus the disciples shared in performing baptisms in water under the direction of Jesus. The baptism performed by them was upon members of the Israelite nation who had sinned and it was in symbol of repentance in the manner of John’s baptism. (John 3:25, 26; 4:1, 2) John’s baptism, however, was not to continue indefinitely, for he said concerning Christ Jesus: “That one must go on increasing, but I must go on decreasing.” (John 3:30) What was due to take its place was the Christian baptism that Jesus mentioned at Matthew 28:19. So when would that be? John’s baptism was only for those in the Law covenant relationship with Jehovah, and that covenant was in force or effect only until 33 C.E.
6. When did the purpose of John’s baptism come to an end, and how was this proved at Ephesus?
6 That John’s baptism was no longer valid after that and was not to be practiced throughout the so-called Christian era was made clear through the experience of the Ephesus congregation. Apollos preached to them but he knew only of John’s baptism. When Paul arrived at Ephesus he discovered twelve disciples who were immersed with John’s baptism, rather than in the name of the Father and the Son and the holy spirit. Therefore they did not receive holy spirit. When Paul explained matters they got baptized in the name of Jesus, following which they were able to receive holy spirit through Paul’s laying of his hands upon them.—Acts 18:25; 19:1-7.
CHRISTIAN BAPTISM OF DISCIPLES
7. (a) What is the difference between the baptism of John and Christian baptism since Pentecost? (b) Does Christian baptism wash away sins?
7 The water baptism that Jesus Christ outlined at Matthew 28:19 is different from John’s baptism; it is done in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit. Shortly after Jesus uttered those words, namely, at Pentecost, the apostle Peter, when speaking to the assembled crowd about forgiveness and Christian baptism, directed special attention to what they as Jews and proselytes especially needed, saying: “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the free gift of the holy spirit.” Following that statement he explained “with many other words” and exhorted them: “Get saved from this crooked generation.” Thus they learned details about Jehovah’s purposes and could see that there would be no salvation by remaining under the Jewish system of things. To receive holy spirit they must accept Jehovah’s provision through his Son. They were able personally to determine to do Jehovah’s will. As a result, about three thousand individuals were baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ” on that day. This does not mean that the baptism there performed washed away their sins. No, it was the shed blood of Christ Jesus in which they exercised faith that cleansed them from their sins.—Acts 2:38-41; 3:19; 1 John 1:7.
8. (a) How did Philip’s work lead to baptizing disciples? (b) How do we know that Philip did not overlook making disciples of his children?
8 In the time of great persecution at Jerusalem when Philip went to Samaria to preach, crowds paid attention to him. They became disciples because of what they learned, abandoning any connections with spiritism. Because Philip declared the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, men and women were able to see what Jehovah’s will was and to determine to do it and they were baptized in water. (Acts 8:5-12) Philip was involved with making disciples of others too, for soon Jehovah’s angel directed him to an Ethiopian eunuch who was trying to understand Isaiah’s prophecy. Philip instructed him, answering questions so he would understand the good news about Jesus and could become a disciple of Christ Jesus. When they came to a body of water large enough for submersion, the eunuch was baptized. (Acts 8:26-39) Philip also doubtless made disciples of his own children; hence, his four daughters prophesied.—Acts 21:8, 9.
9. What are some things that Peter told Cornelius and his household prior to their baptism?
9 Peter had a part in the discipling of Cornelius and members of his household. Cornelius had faith in Jehovah, making supplication to him continually, wanting to serve God. Through an angel Cornelius was put in touch with Peter, and when Peter arrived at the home all present were gathered before God to hear all the things commanded by Jehovah. While listening to Peter’s instructive discourse, which is recorded at Acts 10:34-43, they received holy spirit and thereafter got baptized.
10. How did Paul make disciples at Philippi, as reported at Acts chapter 16?
10 Paul had many opportunities to make disciples. At Philippi he spoke to a group of women beside a river. Among them Lydia, a woman worshiper of Jehovah, gave attention to what Paul taught, following which she and her household got baptized. (Acts 16:14, 15) There, through persecution, Paul and Silas got to speak the word of Jehovah to a jailer and his household, who were afterward baptized.—Acts 16:27-34.
11. What was Paul’s method of discipling at Corinth?
11 At Corinth, where Paul had to make tents for a season, he regularly used the sabbath to give instructive talks, at first in the synagogue, being intensely occupied with the word, witnessing to Jews. Crispus, the presiding officer of the synagogue, and many Corinthians believed and were baptized. Paul remained there altogether a year and six months to teach them to observe all the commandments of Christ Jesus and the word of God.—Acts 18:1-11.
12. (a) What do the Scriptural examples show is done before baptism? (b) Why is there no record of infant baptism, and why is it improper among Christians?
12 All the above-mentioned examples of early discipling followed by baptizing indicate the order of events that occurred in accord with the command of Jesus at Matthew 28:18-20. The good news about the Kingdom, the name of Jesus Christ and the word of God were declared and taught. Individuals who received instruction showed faith in Jehovah and Christ Jesus, wanting to serve God. It was only after they got to know the will of Jehovah and saw their relationship to him that they were baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 10:48) After baptism they continued to learn of the commandments of Jesus Christ and observed them. There is no record of infants being baptized, and rightly so, for how could that be done in accord with the command of Jesus to make disciples before baptizing is done? Each individual had to become responsible for his own course of action and do what he did with full knowledge of what was involved.
13. (a) How is baptism connected with one’s getting a good conscience? (b) What is the goal of baptized Christians, as pointed out at 1 Peter 4:1-3?
13 These candidates for baptism realized they were not in a good relationship with Jehovah because of the sin of Adam, the effects of which they inherited, and they had to take steps that would allow them to have a good conscience before God. Peter describes how baptism works toward saving people—“(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. 3:21) The goal is to be like Christ: “Arm yourselves with the same mental disposition; because the person that has suffered in the flesh has desisted from sins, to the end that he may live the remainder of his time in the flesh, no more for the desires of men, but for God’s will. For the time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries.” (1 Pet. 4:1-3) This indicates that baptized Christians are dedicated to Jehovah, doing God’s will and not the will of the nations.
14. How does a yoke illustrate the relationship of the disciple to Christ Jesus, and why is it encouraging to us?
14 The mental attitude of Jesus Christ was to do the will of Jehovah, so those who are his disciples want to have the same strong determination, even if there is suffering connected with it. They should, in fact, be following along in the same pattern as Jesus if they are going to be true disciples, for he said: “Take my yoke upon you [Get under my yoke with me (footnote)] 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. 11:29, 30) If the “yoke” to which Jesus referred was the one placed on him by Jehovah, this would mean doing the same work as Jesus, or, in reality, working along with him, because the double yoke would allow for two persons to handle the same load together. One serving under the same yoke with Jesus would find the load light and would have a wonderful help to deal successfully with the work as a servant or slave of Jehovah God.
15. (a) Those who come in line for salvation under the ransom provision have what relationship to Jehovah God? (b) In that relationship, what should they be doing?
15 The fact is that only by virtue of the ransom sacrifice of Christ Jesus is salvation possible. Jesus paid this price to his Father in heaven. All who come into the flock of Jehovah by virtue of faith in the shed blood of Christ, dedication and baptism are as slaves who are bought with a price in the slave market. To Christian overseers, Paul said: “Shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own Son.” To the Corinthians, Paul said: “You do not belong to yourselves, for you were bought with a price. By all means, glorify God in the body of you people.” (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 6:19, 20) One who is a slave does the bidding of his Owner, hence Paul told the Roman congregation: “None of us, in fact, lives with regard to himself only, and no one dies with regard to himself only; for both if we live, we live to Jehovah, and if we die, we die to Jehovah. Therefore both if we live and if we die, we belong to Jehovah.” (Rom. 14:7, 8) And to the Corinthians: “For the love the Christ has compels us, because this is what we have judged, that one man died for all; so, then, all had died; and he died for all that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised up.”—2 Cor. 5:14, 15. (See also Luke 17:7-10.)
16. How does the act of baptism well indicate the change in one’s position with regard to God?
16 Therefore, when a person is baptized he is as if buried under the water, ending his past course, and is raised up as a person devoted to doing the will of his Owner.
WHO CAN BE A DISCIPLE?
17. What did Jesus stress at Luke 14:25-33?
17 At times crowds were attracted to Jesus, so he let them know what is involved in becoming a disciple: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own soul, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever is not carrying his torture stake and coming after me cannot be my disciple. For example, who of you that wants to build a tower does not first sit down and calculate the expense, to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, he might lay its foundation but not be able to finish it, and all the onlookers might start to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man started to build but was not able to finish.’ . . . Thus, you may be sure, none of you that does not say goodbye to all his belongings can be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25-33) What was Jesus stressing to them? That if anyone wants to be a disciple of Christ he must be willing and able to put that discipleship first, ahead of all other things of value in life, and be willing to endure any suffering or trials that go with the privilege. At the outset one should be able to accept all that goes with it and reckon that one can complete the course of discipleship, even as a man who wants to build a tower completes construction of it.
18. (a) Why is it therefore practical for teaching to precede baptism? (b) Why must all connections with false religion be severed?
18 This is why the teaching work occurs prior to baptism. The prospective slave of Jehovah must learn and get to understand all that is involved and must be willing to undergo all necessary changes and put away all things objectionable to his new Owner. Only if he can give himself whole-souled in dedication should he take the step of being baptized. At Philippians 3:4-8 the apostle Paul described his advantageous position in the Jews’ religion, which he abandoned as he undertook Christian discipleship, and then added: “On account of him I have taken the loss of all things and I consider them as a lot of refuse, that I may gain Christ.” (See also Acts 22:3; Galatians 1:14.) All connections with false religion must be severed.—2 Cor. 6:17, 18; Rev. 18:4.
19. What are some bad practices from which the Scriptures show one must be clean prior to baptism?
19 The learner must see the need for repentance and a turning away from any past bad practices. “Deaden, therefore, your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of those things the wrath of God is coming. In those very things you, too, once walked when you used to live in them. But now really put them all away from you, wrath, anger, badness, abusive speech, and obscene talk out of your mouth. Do not be lying to one another. Strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality, which through accurate knowledge is being made new according to the image of the One who created it.” (Col. 3:5-10) Many persons who are learning about God’s requirements did not realize that all those things are bad in the sight of God, but when they get such knowledge and have the right heart condition they immediately cease the bad practice and take advantage of the provision of Christ Jesus through his sacrifice to get washed clean. (1 Cor. 6:9-11; Gal. 1:4) This action must precede baptism.
20. What does it mean to be “no part of the world”?
20 Involvement with political affairs of the world must also be terminated, for Jesus in prayer to God said of his disciples: “I have given your word to them, but the world has hated them, because they are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:14) And when before Pilate, Jesus said: “My kingdom is no part of this world. If my kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not from this source.”—John 18:36; see also Isaiah 2:4.
21. (a) Should we expect that taking up God’s service will be pleasing to all people we know? (b) At Matthew chapter 10, how did Jesus show that opposition may come within the immediate family, but what should be done about it?
21 One must expect that one’s new worship or one’s changed ways in living will not be pleasing to former associates, for Peter said: “Because you do not continue running with them in this course to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you.” (1 Pet. 4:4) But the victorious course of Jesus is comforting to us in this connection: “Indeed, consider closely the one who has endured such contrary talk by sinners against their own interests, that you may not get tired and give out in your souls.” (Heb. 12:3) Opposition may come right within the family. (Matt. 10:35, 36) This is in harmony with what Jesus said on calculating the cost of discipleship.
22. Why should we not be surprised when some persecution comes, and how should we view it?
22 A learner must know too that persecutions do come. Jesus explained: “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; if they have observed my word, they will observe yours also. But they will do all these things against you on account of my name, because they do not know him that sent me.” (John 15:19-21; 16:1) The apostles understood the issues and, when persecuted, they rejoiced “because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of his name.” (Acts 5:41) Knowing about these things helps a prospective Christian to count the cost of discipleship to “see if he has enough to complete it.” He must ask himself if he is prepared to pursue the course of Jesus and his faithful apostles in God’s service, not only doing discipling work, but also upholding righteousness even when put under some pressure by the world.
23. What assurance of help is there for those who take up God’s service?
23 When a learner makes a dedication and is baptized, he can depend upon Jehovah and Christ Jesus to help him succeed in proving faithful. God’s Word assures us of his loving care: “But, after you have suffered a little while, the God of all undeserved kindness, who called you to his everlasting glory in union with Christ, will himself finish your training, he will make you firm, he will make you strong.” (1 Pet. 5:10) Prayer is essential, as Paul emphasized: “Persevere in prayer.” He also said: “Carry on prayer for us, that the word of Jehovah may keep moving speedily and being glorified just as it is in fact with you; and that we may be delivered from harmful and wicked men, for faith is not a possession of all people. But the Lord is faithful, and he will make you firm and keep you from the wicked one.”—Rom. 12:12; 2 Thess. 3:1-3.
24. What knowledge should a learner have before baptism?
24 Learning does not cease with baptism, which means that the disciple does not have to know everything before he can make a dedication and be immersed in water. The apostles learned much more after they became followers of Jesus Christ, and he promised: “The holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the things I told you.” (John 14:26; see also Proverbs 4:18.) So the important matter is that the disciple have sufficient knowledge to understand what the will of God is, exercise faith, show repentance from his past course, determine in his heart to become a dedicated follower of Christ Jesus, and then be immersed in water. Thereafter he is required by God to serve with the same attitude as Jesus had in everything, and Jesus said: “Let, not my will, but yours take place.”—Luke 22:42.
25. (a) How do we know that Jehovah wants us to approach him and dedicate ourselves to him? (b) What basic questions may be considered by one who contemplates baptism? (c) If one wishes to be baptized, what should one do?
25 After considering what has been published on the preceding pages, if you are one who has been learning and you wish to observe the commandments of Jesus Christ, what should you do? Peter reminds you that the way is open to you; Jehovah wants you to come into harmony with him: “Jehovah . . . is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9; see also 2 Corinthians 5:18–6:2; Revelation 22:17.) After the Ethiopian had learned from Philip, he asked: “What prevents me from getting baptized?” (Acts 8:36) If you feel the same about serving Jehovah God and taking Christ’s yoke upon you, we suggest that you consider the following two questions, which are asked of candidates for baptism:
(1) Have you repented of your sins and turned around, recognizing yourself before Jehovah God as a condemned sinner who needs salvation, and have you acknowledged to him that this salvation proceeds from him, the Father, through his Son Jesus Christ?
(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?
If you find that you can answer “YES” to these questions, then it would be appropriate for you to speak to the presiding overseer in the congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses with which you associate, with a view to getting baptized. Following baptism you too can look forward to having a share in the worldwide discipling work with the blessing of Christ Jesus, who promised to be with his followers “until the conclusion of the system of things.”—Matt. 28:18-20.
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In obedience to Jesus’ command, his apostles baptized those who became disciples