Questions From Readers
● Is it advisable that one engage in preaching the good news before being baptized?
Baptism is a symbol of one’s dedication to Jehovah and signifies that henceforth the baptized one will follow Jesus continually in doing God’s will. (Mark 8:34) It is good to keep in mind that an important part of Jehovah’s will for this time is that people everywhere be given the opportunity to hear the good news. The special assignment that Jehovah has given his witnesses for this day is a twofold work: first, proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom along with his judgment messages to people of all nations and, secondly, teaching those who respond favorably, making disciples of them.—Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20.
Normally, a person contemplating baptism would have begun doing God’s will already by telling the good news to others, thus manifesting his desire to share in this twofold work. After making a dedication to Jehovah to do his will, a person would want to be baptized at the first opportunity thereafter, which could be a few weeks or several months later. In line with his dedication, it is reasonable to believe that he would be busy in the preaching and teaching work, perhaps having someone train him therein, at least during this period while he awaits baptism, if not before.
According to Jesus’ words cited above, ‘making disciples’ precedes “baptizing them.” And what is a disciple? He is more than just a learner. He is one who comes to appreciate and spread the doctrines taught by his teacher. Especially after he makes his dedication to God and is awaiting baptism, he should not hold back from this. The public declaration of the truth is to become a large part of his life henceforth, so why not get started?
However, what about the many examples in the Scriptures of persons who were baptized apparently before they engaged in preaching the good news about Christ? It is to be noted that many of these were Jews and proselytes who were already a part of Jehovah’s dedicated people, under obligation to be his witnesses even before their baptism in the name of Jesus Christ. (Isa. 43:10-12) For the most part, they had been serving God zealously, even before their baptism, according to their understanding of God’s requirements for his people under the law of Moses.
Those Jews who responded to Peter’s preaching at Pentecost, and were baptized, had shown zeal for their God in coming from distant countries to share in the feasts of the Jews. (Acts 2:5, 38-41) Like many other Jews, Paul had exhibited a zeal for God, “but not according to accurate knowledge.” In due course, after his baptism, he became most zealous in preaching Christ. (Gal. 1:14; Rom. 10:2) The Ethiopian eunuch was evidently a keen student of the Hebrew Scriptures, and had converted to the worship of Jehovah; when he heard “the good news about Jesus,” he was quick to seize the opportunity of receiving baptism and no doubt he was just as zealous in sharing the good news with others from that day when he gained understanding of it. (Acts 8:27-31, 35-39) Lydia, probably a Jewish proselyte, was already a zealous “worshiper of God” before she and her household were baptized by Paul, and there is no question but that she continued to serve God wholeheartedly, as well as becoming an outstanding example of hospitality. (Acts 16:14, 15) When Paul preached in Corinth, Crispus, who had served Jehovah as “the presiding officer of the synagogue,” became a believer along with his household and was among many Corinthians that were baptized. We can appreciate that he would continue to serve zealously as a Christian.—Acts 18:8.
Then, there were non-Jewish converts to Christianity. The record shows that Cornelius was “a devout man and one fearing God,” and that he and his household, on receiving the holy spirit, were heard “glorifying God.” So Peter had them baptized. Unquestionably, they continued to glorify God. But in their case, as with other non-Jewish converts to Christianity, such as the jailer at Philippi and his household, and Dionysius and Damaris at Athens, it appears that publicly declaring the good news was from baptism onward.—Acts 10:1, 2, 44-48; 16:27-34; 17:32-34.
In view of these examples, should a record of preaching be required today before baptism? There is no such requirement. No rules are laid down in this respect. However, in order to be baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a person is required to meet with elders in his congregation and to show in discussion with them that he really understands and appreciates the fundamental teachings in the Bible. Scriptures covering these teachings are set out on pages 19 to 52 of the book Organization for Kingdom-preaching and Disciple-making.
At the same time, there are very strong reasons why it is advisable for a person to commence public proclamation of the good news before baptism. It is not baptism that results in a person’s salvation, since baptism is merely an outward symbol of something that must have taken place already in the person’s heart, his offering himself in dedication to Jehovah God. Hence, Romans 10:9, 10 states: “If you publicly declare that ‘word in your own mouth,’ that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.” Accordingly, the individual will be wise to start making this public declaration whenever his study of the Bible has brought him to the point of exercising faith in the good news, and without waiting for baptism.
Those who heard Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost were conscience-stricken and moved to receive baptism in Jesus’ name. Thereafter, “they continued devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles,” in order to learn what to believe and what to preach. Doubtless the congregation in Rome was established by those “sojourners from Rome” who returned there. (Acts 2:10, 42) So, it was not only their baptism in Jesus’ name, but also their wholeheartedly praising God by proclaiming the good news that brought them His blessing.
New ones preparing for baptism today may share in this joyful service as soon as they appreciate the privilege, provided they have separated themselves from all worldly uncleanness. There are benefits to be derived from preaching the Kingdom from door to door even before baptism. This will acquaint them with the work of public declaration, showing them just what is involved in going to other people with the good news. It will start them on the road toward Christian maturity. (Heb. 5:13–6:2; 13:15) Certainly it is a requirement for them to make this public declaration from baptism onward, and so it is well for them to get acquainted with this work even before baptism.
The Bible examples of Christian baptism indicate that those who were baptized became very zealous advocates of God’s kingdom. So vigorous was their preaching that their opposers declared they had “overturned the inhabited earth” by their witnessing. In the space of less than thirty years it could be said that the “good news . . . was preached in all creation that is under heaven.” (Acts 17:6; Col. 1:23) Whether they started their service before or after baptism, they ‘made their advancement manifest to all persons’ and thus became a fine example to all who make a dedication today to God and symbolize it by water baptism.—1 Tim. 4:15, 16.
Although there is no requirement that a person must start to make public declaration of the good news before baptism, yet it is strongly recommended that all who come to exercise faith in the “glorious good news” of the Kingdom start proclaiming it from house to house without delay. Especially should they be doing this from the time of their dedication, and up to and following their baptism.—2 Cor. 4:4; 1 Tim. 1:11.