“What Prevents Me from Getting Baptized?”
1. To what kind of person was Philip sent?
THE above question was asked by a devout man who already had a love for God, but who had just been enlightened as to “the good news about Jesus.” He was the Ethiopian eunuch, who had “gone to Jerusalem to worship” as a Jewish proselyte. He was on his way back to Ethiopia to resume his duties of high position in the service of the queen of Ethiopia when Philip the evangelizer was directed by God’s spirit to approach him.
2. How did Philip help the eunuch to understand the prophecy?
2 Running alongside the chariot, Philip heard the man reading aloud from the book of Isaiah. Asked if he understood the passage of Scripture he was reading, about an unprotesting lamb that was brought to the slaughter, the Ethiopian eunuch had to confess that he did not comprehend whether the prophet was speaking about himself or another man. What a fine opening for Philip! “Starting with this Scripture, he declared to him the good news about Jesus.” Yes, the prophecy of Isaiah was about the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world”!—Acts 8:26-35; Isaiah 53:7, 8; John 1:29.
3. How did this new understanding affect him?
3 How was the eunuch affected by this wholly unexpected but spectacular development in his life? “Now as they were going over the road, they came to a certain body of water, and the eunuch said: ‘Look! A body of water; what prevents me from getting baptized?’” Apparently Philip saw nothing in this man’s manner of life and understanding of God’s purposes, especially as these now related to Jesus as the Messiah and Savior, that would cause a delay in his getting baptized. The chariot was halted; they went into the water together and Philip baptized him on the basis of his accepting Jesus’ sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.—Acts 8:36-39.
What About You?
4. How many of those associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses have taken the step of baptism?
4 Associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world today are many who have not as yet been baptized in symbol of their dedication to Jehovah. The worldwide peak number of those sharing in preaching the “good news” in 1981 was 2,361,896 (of whom about 25 percent are not baptized as yet). But at the Lord’s Evening Meal in 1981, the combined worldwide attendance was 5,987,893. This means that over one half of those attending some meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses are not as yet baptized. Is this cause for alarm? No, but it is a cause for loving concern. Some of these have been associated for more than a few months.
5. How is the Ethiopian eunuch a good example for those not yet baptized?
5 Perhaps one of those not yet baptized is you, dear reader. Your reason for not yet being baptized may be a good one, but if not, we invite you to consider carefully and prayerfully the fine example of the Ethiopian eunuch who did not delay in getting baptized. He searched his own mind and heart, and asked Philip if there were any factors that prevented him from getting baptized. Finding no cause for delay, he promptly got baptized.
6. What steps should be taken by those who feel they need additional time?
6 You may not have been baptized due to your conclusion, based on an honest appraisal, that you just do not as yet have sufficient understanding of God’s Word to make a heartfelt dedication to Jehovah. To do this without reservation, you want to get to know Jehovah and his purposes better. That is commendable, and we encourage you to continue making fine advancement in your studies, while remembering that time is slipping away every day. Make the best of your opportunities to study the Bible privately and with the help of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) Develop the habit of regularly attending Christian meetings, where you will receive vital instruction and the needed association with true Christians and encouragement from them. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) As you diligently follow this fine routine, likely it will be only a matter of a few months before you are ready to symbolize your dedication by water baptism. Our heavenly Father invites you into this very special relationship with him!
7. (a) What could be the reasoning of some who are delaying baptism? (b) How does Jesus show this to be dangerous?
7 Perhaps you are one who has been attending the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses for several years but have not yet made up your mind to take the steps of dedication and baptism. When you examine the secret reasoning of the heart, could it be that you are delaying because you see that living as a Christian would impose restrictions upon you? Do you reason that as long as you are not baptized you will not be bound by these restrictions and will have a certain “freedom” to do some questionable things while the old system still exists, hoping to wait until the last minute to take your stand for true worship? Such reasoning can be dangerous, really disastrous! Jesus said: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare.”—Luke 21:34, 35; 1 Corinthians 15:33, 34; Romans 13:11-14.
8. How should we view Jehovah’s loving invitation to dedicate ourselves to him?
8 If you delay unduly in accepting Jehovah’s loving invitation to come into his favor by dedicating your life to him, the acceptable time for extending the invitation may run out in your personal case. (2 Corinthians 6:1, 2; Hebrews 12:25) So do not hesitate to reach out for the gift of life and draw it close to you in thankfulness. Do not continue to look back longingly to the attractions of this system, soon to go down. Respond to God’s love while you have the opportunity. While he is selective as to whom he brings into intimate relationship with him and is restrictive as to what can and cannot be done, the more you get to know Jehovah, the more you will see that what he does or requires is always the best for you. He does not wish to deprive you of anything that is really good or that will give you lasting happiness. (Psalm 145:16, 19) A respectful and obedient son considers it a very natural thing to be in the presence of his earthly father and to be instructed by him. How much more so this should be your attitude toward our loving heavenly Father!—John 14:23.
9. How should we face up to personal problems?
9 Of course, if you are having a real battle to bring some fleshly desire under control, and you really are trying with all your heart and strength to conquer this, you can be assured that God will help you to be victorious—not with a miracle to remove the problem, but with the help by his spirit to cultivate the needed fruits of the spirit in your life. Also, in the congregation you will find understanding and help by consulting the older men. They are there as God’s provision to help you.—Galatians 5:22-24; Ephesians 4:11-15.
10, 11. (a) What fine example did the Philippian jailer and his household set? (b) To “get saved,” was more involved than simple belief in Jesus?
10 So do not delay in doing what you know you should do to please God. Follow the fine example of the Philippian jailer who asked of Paul and Silas: “Sirs, what must I do to get saved?” On being told to “believe on the Lord Jesus and you will get saved, you and your household,” the account tells us that “one and all, he and his were baptized without delay.”
11 While an earthquake from God served initially to instill godly fear in this jailer, we should not expect such a spectacular awakening from God today to bring us to our senses and dissolve our reluctance. In the case of this man and his household, it was not a simple matter of showing general belief in Jesus that put them in a saved condition. Nor was it just an everyday commitment to the Christian way of life. No, for the account says that Paul and Silas “spoke the word of Jehovah to him together with all those in his house.” This involved getting to know Jehovah sufficiently to get forgiveness first of past sinfulness on the basis of accepting the ransom sacrifice. Admittedly, for them this took place in a very short time, in just one day. This was followed by their making a heartfelt dedication to the Sovereign Lord of the universe, Jehovah God, and being baptized in symbol of this. Yes, the jailer “rejoiced greatly with all his household now that he had believed God.”—Acts 16:25-34.
12. Should lack of complete understanding of some points delay one in getting baptized?
12 Perhaps you are one who is holding back because of some lingering doubt or question. But if some technical point on doctrine remains unresolved, there is all the more reason to search for the answer in God’s Word, praying incessantly to God to give you discernment. He will do so, as you build up complete trust in him. He will not put a “stone” or a “serpent” in your outstretched hand. (Matthew 7:7-11) You should not excuse yourself from dedicating your life to him because of some few things that may not be fully understood by you. The Christian is continually growing in knowledge of God and His purposes.—Philippians 1:9-11; Hebrews 6:1-3.
13. (a) What is recognized about young children in our midst? (b) When should one of young age get baptized?
13 And finally, you may feel that you are yet too young to make a dedication with understanding. For many, this may be true, since there are thousands of young children associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses—which to us is a cause for joy. (Matthew 19:13-15) While growing to be sufficiently mature, mentally and physically, to take upon themselves the full responsibility of dedication and baptism, we can have confidence that God ‘marks’ such children as “holy,” as long as they are responsive and obedient to believing parents. (1 Corinthians 7:14) But time does not stand still. If you have responded to your parents’ bringing you up “in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah,” and you have applied yourself in learning, both in the home and in the congregation, has the time now come for you to make your dedication to Jehovah? If so, after talking this over with your parents and the elders in your congregation, we encourage you to follow through on your decision to dedicate your life to Jehovah and get baptized.—Ephesians 6:1-4; 2 Timothy 1:5-7.
Serving Where Jehovah Places You
14. What factors should be noted now as to the ‘harvesting’ of anointed ones?
14 In getting baptized now, is there hope that God will call you to be a part of the bride of Christ? God, of course, is the judge, not humans. A person’s feelings and inclinations, such as may have been instilled while in some sect of Christendom, should not govern. (Romans 8:28-30; 9:16) It is important to remember that the ‘harvesting’ of the anointed ones is fast drawing to a close. (Compare Matthew 13:36-43.) For 19 centuries there was only the one calling, the heavenly one, with Jehovah being very selective as to who would serve with his Son to make up the Kingdom government. Many would be invited but only a precious few chosen. (Matthew 22:2, 14) In time the prescribed but limited number of 144,000 would be reached. After this no more would be anointed by holy spirit as witness that they had the heavenly hope, unless, in a rare occurrence, the unfaithfulness of one of the remaining ‘chosen ones’ made a replacement necessary.—Romans 8:16; 11:19; Revelation 7:1-8; 14:1-5.
15, 16. (a) What seems evident as to the ending of the heavenly calling and the gathering of the “great crowd”? (b) At this late hour, what would seem logical as to any replacements? (c) However, how should any personal claim to the heavenly calling be viewed?
15 When we consider how Jehovah has been dealing with his people during the ‘harvest period,’ it seems evident that the heavenly calling in general was completed about the year 1935, when the hope of the “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9-17 was properly understood to be an earthly one. This has worked out just as Jehovah foreknew that it would. As Revelation 7:3, 4 shows, there would be a final ‘sealing’ of the remaining ones of spiritual Israel. But, during this time just before the “great tribulation,” a “great crowd” without any limitation as to number would manifest itself. They would retain their natural hope of living on earth, not being “born again” with heavenly life in view.—Psalm 115:16; John 3:1-8.
16 As to the possibility of being a “born again” replacement at this late hour, understandably only a very few of these remaining anointed ones are likely to forfeit their heavenly calling by becoming unfaithful. Their ranks have by now been thinned by death to only a few thousand. If it becomes necessary to replace one, whom would Jehovah call? Jesus said of those invited to be his apostles: “You are the ones that have stuck with me in my trials.” (Luke 22:28) Logically, Jehovah would select someone who had been associated for many years and who had displayed endurance and loyalty under trial, rather than someone who had only recently become a baptized disciple of Jesus and perhaps was yet unproved in many respects. This is not said dogmatically or to provide a basis for judging anyone’s personal claim, but to help newly associated ones to avoid being presumptuous and to be sure of Jehovah’s manner of dealing with them.
17. What relationship does dedication and baptism begin, leading to what reward?
17 Whether one is of the “little flock” of Kingdom heirs or has the grand hope of living forever in perfection and happiness on the earth, such relationship begins with our coming into favor with our Father, Jehovah. (Luke 12:32) And how do we gain an approved standing before God? It is by taking in knowledge, exercising faith in Christ’s sacrifice, repenting of our former course in the world, positively converting to do God’s will, dedicating our lives to Jehovah and getting baptized in symbol thereof. Then, if we preserve our precious relationship with God, he is faithful in that he will reward us with eternal life, a priceless possession whether it be in the heavens or in the realm of the Kingdom here on earth.—Hebrews 11:6; Romans 6:23.
18. In what way is a ‘marking’ work going on now, and how do individuals show that they have been ‘marked’ for salvation?
18 Just ahead the separating of the “sheep” from the “goats” will come to a conclusion. None will be left on middle ground when God brings the “great tribulation” to sweep away “those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus.” (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9) Only those ‘marked’ for salvation will survive into his new order. (Revelation 7:3, 4, 9, 14; Ezekiel 9:2-6) How happy will be those who have submitted to this ‘marking’ for survival because of being accepted into a dedicated relationship with Jehovah God, as symbolized by water baptism, and continuing in integrity on the narrow road that leads to life!—Matthew 7:13, 14.
CAN YOU ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS IN REVIEW?
□ How did the Ethiopian eunuch set an example in getting baptized?
□ Why should one not delay in setting aside the attractions of this system in favor of accepting Jehovah’s loving invitation?
□ How will trust in Jehovah help a person when there is a lingering doubt or question?
□ How should youth view dedication and baptism?
□ Whom, logically, might Jehovah select if replacement of a spiritual Israelite became necessary?