Baptism—An Expression of Faith
“With the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.”—Rom. 10:10.
1. According to Matthew 28:19, how does a person show that he has become a disciple of Jesus Christ?
IT WAS the Lord Jesus Christ who set the pattern for us in getting baptized. All who want to be his disciples must likewise be immersed. This is clear from the command that the Son of God gave to his followers after his being raised from the dead. We read: “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.”—Matt. 28:19.
2. (a) What is the significance of water baptism? (b) For baptism to have real meaning, what is required of the individual?
2 Just what does water baptism signify? It means that a person is going on public record that he has disowned himself to become fully dedicated to Jehovah God as a disciple of Jesus Christ. To have real value in the eyes of our heavenly Father, this step must be undertaken voluntarily and without reservations. Not just the act of getting baptized, but everything associated with the baptismal arrangement is essential for salvation. The individual must repent of his sins, be converted, or completely turn around from a wrong course, disclaim all ownership of himself in full dedication to Jehovah God, becoming a servant of the Most High and of his Son. (Matt. 16:24; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 1 Thess. 1:9, 10) In harmony with Romans 10:9, the baptismal candidate, before submitting to water immersion, would be expected to make public acknowledgment of his having a proper understanding of these important matters. That passage of Scripture reads: “For 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.”
3. What do the words of 1 Peter 3:21 confirm in connection with baptism?
3 The words of 1 Peter 3:21 confirm that the entire baptismal arrangement, including this public expression of faith, is essential for salvation. The apostle wrote: “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.”
4. Of what significance is the expression “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”?
4 Clearly, the mere act of getting immersed is not what saves. While water can wash away filth or dirt, salvation does not result from a “putting away of the filth of the flesh” by a solemn external washing. Peter showed that salvation is “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” This means that the one getting baptized must have faith that salvation is only possible because the Son of God died a sacrificial death and was then resurrected on the third day. It is also essential that he accept Jesus as his Lord or Master with full authority to judge the living and the dead, for Peter continued: “He is at God’s right hand, for he went his way to heaven; and angels and authorities and powers were made subject to him.”—1 Pet. 3:22.
5. How does a person come to have a “good conscience”?
5 Then, too, it is with baptism that Peter associated “the request made to God for a good conscience.” To come into possession of a good conscience, all who get immersed must repent of their sins, turn around from a wrong course and dedicate themselves fully to God through Christ. Baptism is the public symbol of the heartfelt dedication now made by the individual and the expression of faith that he has made with his mouth. After following through on what Jehovah God requires, the baptized disciple comes into possession of a good conscience. As long as he maintains that good conscience he is in a saved condition. Divine condemnatory judgment will not be expressed against him.
6. (a) To what does the baptismal arrangement correspond? (b) How is faith involved?
6 But what did the apostle mean when he said, “that which corresponds to this”? According to the previous verse, the eight human souls, including Noah, were ‘carried safely through the flood waters.’ (1 Pet. 3:20) The very waters that destroyed those outside the ark saved or delivered Noah and seven members of his family from a wicked generation. Without faith, however, Noah would not have experienced this grand deliverance. Hebrews 11:7 tells us: “By faith Noah, after being given divine warning of things not yet beheld [that is, there were no visible indications respecting the coming of a global deluge and the destruction of human and animal life], showed godly fear and constructed an ark for the saving of his household; and through this faith he condemned the world, and he became an heir of the righteousness that is according to faith.” Just as Noah needed faith to build the ark, all who become baptized disciples of Jesus Christ must have faith to withstand the pressures that will be brought against them by a faithless world and its god.—John 12:31; 2 Cor. 4:4.
Why Faith Is Needed
7. At Luke 14:26-33, what counsel did Jesus Christ give, and why?
7 All who become dedicated, baptized disciples of Jesus Christ can expect difficulties. That is why the Son of God gave the following counsel:
“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.’ Or what king, marching to meet another king in war does not first sit down and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand troops to cope with the one that comes against him with twenty thousand? If, in fact, he cannot do so, then while that one is yet far away he sends out a body of ambassadors and sues for peace. Thus, you may be sure, none of you that does not say good-bye to all his belongings can be my disciple.”—Luke 14:26-33.
In harmony with these words, all who get baptized need to give sober consideration beforehand to what is involved.
8. What is to be our attitude toward unbelieving relatives, and why?
8 Of course, Jesus was not saying that his disciples were to loathe their relatives. Why, in the Sermon on the Mount, he admonished that we ‘love even our enemies and pray for those persecuting us.’ (Matt. 5:44) In actuality, then, we should be showing greater love for our unbelieving relatives, being eager and willing to do whatever is possible in helping them to gain everlasting life. (Compare Romans 9:1-3.) However, a person who becomes a baptized disciple must “hate” them in the sense of loving them less than he does Jesus Christ. Why is this essential? His relatives may not be pleased with his course. They may indicate to him that if he does get baptized, they will disown him. So it does take faith to believe that his making a dedication of himself to Jehovah and getting baptized will not result in loss but in gain.
9. What gain do dedicated, baptized disciples of Jesus Christ enjoy?
9 How does a person gain by being a dedicated, baptized disciple of Jesus Christ? There is the satisfaction of knowing that we are doing what is approved by Jehovah God and his Son. Having their favor is worth more than anything else. Neither our friends nor our relatives can give us unfailing help, flawless guidance and everlasting life. But Jehovah God makes these things available to us through his Son. We also gain brothers, sisters, mothers and children in a spiritual sense. Jesus Christ gave this assurance: “Truly I say to you men, No one has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the good news who will not get a hundredfold now in this period of time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, with persecutions, and in the coming system of things everlasting life.” (Mark 10:29, 30) Compared with what we gain, what we may lose in the eyes of worldlings is mere refuse.—Phil. 3:8.
10. In order to be his faithful disciples, why is it essential to love Jesus Christ more than our own souls, and why does this call for faith?
10 Why did the Son of God also point out that we must love him more than our own souls? This is because of what we must expect from unbelievers. Second Timothy 3:12 says: “All those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.” If we loved ourselves more than we did God’s Son, we would not be willing to suffer verbal and physical abuse or, if necessary, to die for being his disciples. It certainly takes faith to go ahead with the step of baptism, recognizing that it could at some future time cost us our very lives. This faith includes unshakable confidence in the resurrection hope. (Acts 24:15) Yes, humans may kill us, but they cannot take away our right to be living souls. Only Jehovah God can do that, everlastingly destroying our title to life. For this reason, Jesus gave the following encouragement: “Do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”—Matt. 10:28.
11. Why is faith needed when we face economic hardships because of being disciples of Jesus Christ?
11 When we do not hold our lives too dear, we can also stand firm in the face of economic hardships. In modern times, some of God’s servants have lost their employment on account of sticking loyally to divine requirements. Especially when faced with problems in making a living, we need faith to believe that our heavenly Father will answer the petition: “Give us today our bread for this day.” (Matt. 6:11) All who get baptized need to be confident that Jehovah God can and will sustain his people in time of need.
A Life Course Requiring Faith
12. What advancement should a person strive to make after getting baptized?
12 While faith is required to become a dedicated, baptized disciple of Jesus Christ, this is just the beginning of a person’s life as a Christian. After getting baptized, we will want to continue growing in faith and making advancement in displaying the other fruits of God’s spirit—love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, mildness and self-control. We will want to be zealous in expressing our faith to others. (Gal. 5:22, 23; 2 Pet. 1:5-8) New disciples need to keep in mind that they are still spiritual babes and should take to heart the apostle Peter’s counsel: “As newborn infants, form a longing for the unadulterated milk belonging to the word, that through it you may grow to salvation, provided you have tasted that the Lord is kind.”—1 Pet. 2:2, 3.
13. How might a person develop a craving for spiritual nourishment?
13 To cultivate a real craving for spiritual nourishment, a person must take time to think appreciatively on what Jehovah God and Jesus Christ have done in his behalf and then allow his heart to stir him to feed on the Scriptures regularly. More is involved than simply reading the Bible. One must reflect prayerfully on what is stated therein and make personal application of the inspired counsel. A study of the Scriptures with the help of one or two basic Bible study aids is not enough for a person to know God’s Word fully. The Scriptures present much, much more for our spiritual uplift and strengthening.
14. With whom should new believers seek to associate, and why?
14 Good associations in the Christian congregation are also important for us to make spiritual advancement. The most desirable companions are spiritually minded fellow believers, persons who enjoy discussing God’s Word and have an intense interest in helping fellow humans. It was to Timothy, an elder in the Christian congregation, that the apostle Paul wrote: “Now in a large house there are vessels not only of gold and silver but also of wood and earthenware, and some for an honorable purpose but others for a purpose lacking honor. If, therefore, anyone keeps clear of the latter ones, he will be a vessel for an honorable purpose, sanctified, useful to his owner, prepared for every good work. So, flee from the desires incidental to youth, but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, along with those who call upon the Lord out of a clean heart.” (2 Tim. 2:20-22) Thus the apostle compared the congregation as it had developed in his day to a house containing vessels of all kinds. If it was necessary for an elder to keep clear of ‘dishonorable vessels,’ not making them his intimate associates, this is certainly of even greater importance for spiritual babes whose ‘perceptive powers are not yet trained through use to distinguish both right and wrong.’ (Heb. 5:14) They are far more susceptible to coming under corrupting influences.—Compare 2 Peter 2:18.
15. How can good companions be identified?
15 This does not mean that we have to look with suspicion at members of the congregation. It is not difficult to identify good companions. Jesus Christ said: ‘Out of the heart’s abundance the mouth speaks.’ (Luke 6:45) Clearly, those whose expressions truly incite us “to love and fine works” are loyal friends. (Heb. 10:24) Association with them can contribute toward a person’s growing to Christian maturity.
16. How do we demonstrate Christian faith?
16 Since the start of our life course as Christians is an expression of faith, our entire way of life really should be one that reflects unshakable faith in Jehovah God and in his Son. That faith is demonstrated by works that are consistent with it. The disciple James wrote: “Become doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves with false reasoning.” (Jas. 1:22) More is required of us than listening respectfully at congregation meetings and making appreciative comments about the things heard. We need to apply all the counsel of God, and this calls for works, activity, a willingness to respond to the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of others. It calls for us to share also in the great preaching work that must be accomplished before the “end” comes.—Jas. 1:27; 1 John 3:16, 17; Matt. 24:14, 21, 22.
17. In view of Jesus’ Illustration about the sower, what questions might we ask ourselves?
17 In harmony with Jesus’ illustration of the sower, we baptized disciples of Jesus Christ would want to prove ourselves to be “fine soil.” The “word of the kingdom” that was sown in our hearts should be bringing forth fruitage. Do we seize every opportunity to give a witness, thus bearing fruitage in the form of expressions about God’s kingdom? (Matt. 13:3-9, 18-23) In harmony with Revelation 22:1, 2, where part of Jehovah’s life-giving provision is compared to trees yielding their fruits each month, are we making a determined effort not to let a month slip by without our having a share in telling others about our faith? Important, too, is our striving to reach the hearts of unbelieving relatives and acquaintances through witnessing that is backed by a fine example in Christian living. While not compromising on what we know to be right, would it not be good to avoid making big issues unnecessarily over birthdays, holidays and the like with them? Is it not far better to concentrate on sharing with them positive, upbuilding thoughts from the Scriptures as circumstances lend themselves to do this? Our kindness, genuine concern and helpfulness can often provide a more powerful witness than many words.—Compare Romans 12:17-21.
18. Why is Christian discipleship rewarding?
18 Christian discipleship is indeed accompanied by serious responsibilities. But how rewarding our life is! Even now we experience peace of mind and heart in knowing that we have the approval of our heavenly Father and his Son. Our life is purposely directed in efforts to promote the eternal welfare of our fellow humans. With confidence, we look forward to the ‘life to come,’ an eternity of happy living in God’s righteous new order. (1 Tim. 4:8) Our faith, which is so essential in becoming a dedicated, baptized disciple of Jesus Christ, can lead to our gaining that grand future.