Dedication—To Whom? Why?
“But you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation [a consecrated nation; a dedicated nation], a people for special possession.’”—1 Peter 2:9, New World Translation; The Jerusalem Bible; The New English Bible.
1, 2. (a) Did Abraham Lincoln belong to any church of Christendom, and yet in his Gettysburg speech how did he refer to the nation of which he was president? (b) What action reflects on the trust of this nation in God, and how will the government that follows the world trouble be “for the people”?
OF ALL the churches of Christendom, not one could claim the 16th president of the United States of America as a member. Yet, when giving his famous Gettysburg address on November 19, 1863, that Bible-reading man, Abraham Lincoln, said these forceful words:
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. . . . But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. . . . It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us . . .”
2 Since that memorable speech at the battle site at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the United States has belied the claim of the motto on its dollar bill, “In God We Trust.” Despite the dedication of the president and of any other sincere Americans to it, “government of the people, by the people,” will “perish from the earth.” Happily, “for the people” this will be no lasting calamity, because there will follow the supreme royal government of God by his appointed King, Jesus Christ, for the blessing of all the inhabitants of this globe, including what is now the American continent.
3, 4. (a) What “nation” will then come to the fore? (b) From what words of Jehovah addressed to Israel was Peter quoting with regard to this new “nation”?
3 Then a new nation will come to the fore. What nation is that? It is the one to which the following inspired words were directed: “But you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession.’”—1 Peter 2:9.
4 With those words the apostle Peter quotes expressions used by God with reference to His chosen people of Israel who were then at Mount Sinai in Arabia, as recorded at Exodus 19:5, 6. There we read: “And now if you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property out of all other peoples, because the whole earth belongs to me. And you yourselves will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
5. In the light of Bible usage, do “consecrate” and “dedicate” mean the same thing?
5 At Exodus 19:6 and; 1 Peter 2:9, quoted above, some translations enhance the simple phrase “a holy nation” by translating it “consecrated nation” or “dedicated nation.”a (See The Jerusalem Bible; Moffatt; Knox; The New English Bible.) Accepting and living by Jehovah’s standards would set the Israelites apart as a consecrated or dedicated people. God can “consecrate” or “dedicate” a thing or person or group of people. From God’s standpoint, the two words can mean basically the same thing. However, imperfect humans, while not being able to “consecrate” anything, constituting it clean for a holy purpose, can properly and lovingly “dedicate” something, including themselves.
6. (a) In saying, “All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do,” what action was taken by the nation of Israel, individually and collectively? (b) Into what arrangement did God bring them without coercion?
6 God proposed to the delivered Israelites that they would become a holy nation to him, on the condition that they ‘strictly obeyed his voice and kept his covenant.’ They answered: “All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do.” Thus, individually as well as collectively, they irreversibly dedicated themselves to their Savior, Jehovah God. Although Jehovah had already chosen them because they were the natural descendants of Abraham, and had miraculously delivered them from Egypt through the Red Sea, yet he waited upon the Israelites to make this dedication of themselves to him and his worship voluntarily. On this basis they were made Jehovah’s covenant people. Concerning this, we read:
“When every commandment according to the Law had been spoken by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of the young bulls and of the goats with water and scarlet wool and hyssop and sprinkled the book itself and all the people, saying: ‘This is the blood of the covenant that God has laid as a charge upon you.’”—Hebrews 9:19, 20; Exodus 24:1-8.
7. (a) What would be the situation of Jews in subsequent generations? (b) How could they lose their dedicated status?
7 Subsequent generations of Jews would be born into this dedicated nation and, as a consequence, into a dedicated relationship with God. But individually, in growing to the age of responsibility, they would have to imitate those Jews at Mount Sinai in proving by their motivations of heart and actions that they were truly dedicated to Jehovah in order to continue in this holy nation in good standing. Indeed, their welfare as a nation and their very lives were involved. This is true because God can remove the sacred or holy status he places upon a people, if they prove unworthy, and transfer this to those who prove worthy. That is why the apostle Peter came to apply the original words of God to natural Israel, that they would become to him “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” to the new Christian nation that came into existence at Pentecost C.E. 33. How did this transfer of holy recognition come about?
8. (a) When Peter wrote his first inspired letter, what calamity was about to befall Israel, and what relationship did the Jews no longer hold with Jehovah God? (b) Who, then, composed the “consecrated nation”?
8 When the apostle wrote the words of 1 Peter 2:9, the Jewish people were nearing a national disaster. Their templed city of Jerusalem was about to be destroyed by the Roman legions and they were to be dispersed internationally, as Jesus had foretold. (Luke 21:20-24) Sad to say, in 33 C.E., they had rejected Jesus Christ the Mediator of God’s new covenant, and unquestionably the old Law covenant that had been mediated through the prophet Moses was no longer in force. “That which is Israel in a fleshly way” was now being rejected. (1 Corinthians 10:18; Matthew 23:38) The new nation of spiritual Israel had been produced by Jehovah God. (Romans 9:6; Galatians 6:15, 16) This new “consecrated nation” was made up of the disciples of Jesus Christ to whom Peter addressed his letter, namely, “the ones chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, with sanctification by the spirit.”—1 Peter 1:1, 2.
9. Did God foreknow the members of that holy nation individually, and how did they become a chosen “race”?
9 This does not mean that God knew the individual members and appointed them by name beforehand. Rather, he foreknew that he would produce a new nation, “a holy nation,” and foreknew the things that would be required of each individual member in order for that one to be chosen and taken into the holy nation. Also, this spiritual nation would be made specially holy by God’s holy spirit, the members of the nation being begotten by means of the holy spirit to become spiritual sons of God. (Titus 3:4-7) In this holy, or sanctified, standing they could serve as a “royal priesthood.” As spirit-begotten ones, they were a “race,” a “chosen race.”
10. Since God deals with anointed Christians as a “nation” or group, what questions arise as to individual responsibility?
10 But how does dedication to Jehovah by the individual members of the new nation come into the matter? While God “consecrates” or “dedicates” them as a group or nation, must each one make an unreserved dedication of himself to God in order to be accepted as a member of this new nation? Do not the Scriptures simply say, in effect: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved’? Or, simply, ‘Repent and be converted’? Thus, are not simple belief, repentance and conversion all that are specified as being required to become a disciple of Jesus, a Christian? Did Jesus, the Son of God, take the step of dedication when he was on earth? Let us see.
“I Have Come . . . to Do Your Will”
11. Under what covenant arrangement with God was it that Jesus was born, and how was that so?
11 With regard to Jesus’ human birth, Galatians 4:4 tells us: “When the full limit of the time arrived, God sent forth his Son, who came to be out of a woman and who came to be under [Mosaic] law.” After his miraculous birth to a Jewish virgin, his circumcision on the eighth day confirmed that by birth he was one of God’s covenant people, and in this connection Joseph and Mary “brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to Jehovah.”—Luke 2:22-24.
12. In symbol of what did John baptize Jews who came to him, but why did he first object to baptizing Jesus?
12 It was to this dedicated nation that the forerunner of Jesus Christ, John the Baptizer, was sent, to call the nation to repentance. Even Jesus said: “I was not sent forth to any but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24) The message to this dedicated people of God was a special one, not applicable to non-Israelite nations. John the Baptizer called upon those “lost sheep of the house of Israel” to repent of their sins against the Law covenant. (Matthew 3:1-6) “John baptized with the baptism in symbol of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” (Acts 19:4) However, when Jesus presented himself to John for water baptism, this obviously was not in symbol of repentance, for Jesus was sinless and no violator of the Law covenant under which he had been born. John, knowing this, hesitated to baptize Jesus, but complied with his request on being told: “Let it be, this time, for in that way it is suitable for us to carry out all that is righteous.” (Matthew 3:13-17) What did he mean?
13. (a) How did Jesus fulfill Psalm 40:7, 8? (b) What did Jesus’ baptism symbolize?
13 Here Jesus was acting in harmony with the prophecy concerning him at Psalm 40:7, 8: “In view of that, I said: ‘Here I have come, in the roll of the book it being written about me. To do your will, O my God, I have delighted.’” In Hebrews 10:5-10 that prophecy is applied to Jesus Christ, since, in Jesus’ case, God did not want sacrifices that were offered in line with the Mosaic Law covenant, but wanted as a sacrifice the perfect human body that God had prepared for his Son to be sacrificed as the basis for a new covenant. So when getting baptized, Jesus was not dedicating himself to God, for he was already a member of a dedicated nation and, being sinless, needed no conversion. (Hebrews 7:26) Rather, his baptism was a symbol of the presenting of himself to his heavenly Father to do His further will. And in this respect Jesus set a pattern for the baptism of his disciples.
14. (a) After John’s imprisonment, what message did Jesus start to preach? (b) For what did the repentance and baptism at this time prepare people?
14 After Jesus heard that John the Baptizer had been put into prison, he launched out on a campaign of preaching to the already dedicated Israelites. “From that time on Jesus commenced preaching and saying: ‘Repent, you people, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” (Matthew 4:17) Baptizing in symbol of repentance gained new intensity. (John 3:26; 4:1, 2) When the Greater Moses, Jesus Christ, ascended to heaven and presented to Jehovah God the value of the merit of his human sacrifice, the Mosaic Law covenant was voided and the basis was laid for the setting up of the foretold “new covenant.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34) So, on the day of Pentecost of 33 C.E., the Jewish disciples of Jesus were transferred from the Mosaic Law covenant to the “new covenant” of which the Greater Moses, Jesus Christ, was the Mediator.b
15. (a) What did not end immediately for the Jews with the canceling of the Law covenant? (b) What was God’s will now for Jews who cared about their dedicated relationship with God?
15 While the Law covenant had now been invalidated, God’s time period of special favor and attention to the Jews, on the basis of their being the natural seed of Abraham, had not ended; it ended first in the year 36 C.E. So, even after the first outpouring of holy spirit in 33 C.E., the spirit-anointed apostle Peter said to a crowd of Jews in Jerusalem: “Repent, therefore, and turn around [be converted] so as to get your sins blotted out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the person of Jehovah and that he may send forth the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.” To repair their dedicated relationship with God would now involve not only repenting over sins against the Law covenant in which they still considered themselves to be but also presenting themselves as prospective members of this new nation, which was God’s will then for all who became disciples of Jesus, Christians. This is confirmed by what Peter said earlier on the day of Pentecost to Jews who were “stabbed to the heart” over their share in causing the death of Jesus. To them, Peter said: “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.” Thus, much more was involved than simple repentance and a general resolve to do better based on belief in Jesus.—Acts 3:19, 20; 2:37-40, NW; AV.
16. (a) When the Kingdom message reached the circumcised Samaritans, what did their baptism in water symbolize? Why? (b) What substantiated that they had been taken into covenant relationship with God?
16 Before ascending to heaven, Jesus told his apostles that they would widen out the witness regarding him to “Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) While the Samaritans were non-Israelites, people “of another nation,” they got circumcised because they accepted the books of the Bible written by Moses and considered him the mediator between themselves and God. (Luke 17:16-18) In His undeserved kindness, Jehovah saw good to have Peter use a special key for the Samaritans somewhat earlier than the use of one for uncircumcised Gentiles in opening up opportunities in connection with the kingdom of the heavens. But since those Samaritans had not really been in the Mosaic Law covenant, and were ‘worshiping what they did not know,’ they now, in getting baptized, first had to dedicate themselves understandingly to Jehovah God in the name of the Messiah, Jesus, as the Mediator of a new covenant. Their being baptized afterward with the holy spirit substantiated that they had been accepted into the new covenant.—Matthew 16:18, 19; John 4:4-42; Acts 8:5-25.
17. (a) When and how did God first visit the uncircumcised non-Jews “to take out of them a people for his name”? (b) What did their baptism in water symbolize?
17 In the year 36 C.E., when God’s time of special favor to the Jews expired, Jehovah God turned his attention to the uncircumcised non-Israelites, the Gentiles, “to take out of them a people for his name.” (Acts 15:14-18) Using another of the “keys,” Peter was sent to the household of the Roman centurion named Cornelius, who was kindly disposed to the Jewish people. These Gentiles must have accepted the witness about Jehovah God and his glorified Messiah, for the holy spirit fell upon them and they began speaking in tongues. God had mercifully begun to grant “repentance for the purpose of life to people of the nations also,” through Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” (Acts 11:18; John 1:29) Jehovah had accepted them, too, into his spiritual nation on the basis of the dedication made to him in their hearts. Holy spirit confirmed this. So none of the Christianized Jews who accompanied Peter could find objection to his command that they get “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” That started off “the conversion of people of the nations.” (Acts 10:1-48; 15:3) Since then all who have desired to serve God, whether Jew or Gentile, have had to make a dedication in their hearts to Jehovah. And, in connection with their baptism in water, they present themselves for the doing of God’s will for them, in imitation of Jesus.
18. What questions now present themselves, to be taken up in the next study?
18 But how important is dedication, of which water baptism is a symbol? How is this connected with salvation, especially in view of God’s day of wrath just ahead? Must those who are not part of Jehovah’s spiritual nation, but who hope to live on earth forever, get baptized?
a The first appearances of the word “Dedicated” in the Hebrew Scriptures are found in Genesis 5:18-24, in the name “Enoch,” which name means “Dedicated.” In the Hebrew text this name is spelled Hha nokhʹ, and is related to the Hebrew word Hanukah, which means “Dedication.” In John 10:22 the “feast of dedication” that Jesus attended is mentioned. (Rotherham; Authorized Version) To this day the Jews call this festival Hanukah, meaning “Dedication,” as can be seen from Hebrew translations of John 10:22.
b There is no record of these early disciples of Jesus getting baptized again in symbol of their presentation sometime before the outpouring of holy spirit on them at Pentecost. Evidently their earlier baptism of repentance while still under the Law included this aspect, which would be in imitation of Jesus, since John’s baptism was carried out with Messiah’s appearance in prospect and prepared them for God’s will for them in connection with his coming.
IN REVIEW, CAN YOU ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS?
□ Who compose the “holy” or “dedicated” nation of 1 Peter 2:9?
□ How did the ancient Israelites dedicate themselves to Jehovah God?
□ When Jesus was baptized, was he dedicating himself to God?
□ What was symbolized by the water baptism of believing Samaritans and Gentiles?
□ To become Jesus’ followers, uncircumcised non-Jews had to do what?
[Blurb on page 18]
A new “nation” came into existence on the day of Pentecost of 33 C.E.
[Picture on page 17]
The ancient Israelites dedicated themselves to Jehovah God