Gaining Peace With God Through Dedication and Baptism
1, 2. (a) Why are people in general not at peace with God? (b) Why is it vital for all to gain such peace?
GAINING peace with God? But why? Few persons consider themselves in conflict with God. Is it possible, however, to be an actual enemy of God and not be aware of it? The apostle Paul explained to Christians in the first century: “We all at one time conducted ourselves in harmony with the desires of our flesh, doing the things willed by the flesh and the thoughts, and we were naturally children of wrath even as the rest.”—Ephesians 2:3.
2 Likewise today, though you may be interested in pleasing God, sin inherited from Adam affects your outlook and can cause you to pursue “the things willed by the flesh.” Even if you are a person studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses or an unbaptized youth whose parents are Witnesses, a self-centered do-as-I-please attitude may characterize much of your life and continue to alienate you from God. A person who maintains such a course is ‘storing up wrath for himself.’ (Romans 2:5; Colossians 1:21; 3:5-8) God will express his anger completely during the fast-approaching “day of wrath and of the revealing of God’s righteous judgment.” (Romans 1:28–2:6) How can you gain peace with God and survive this “day of wrath”?
The Foundation for Peace
3. How did God provide the basis for reconciliation?
3 Jehovah took the initiative to help. “He loved us and sent forth his Son as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) Jesus’ sacrificial death propitiates, that is, appeases or satisfies Jehovah’s justice. This provides a legal basis for the forgiveness of sins and, eventually, for the complete removal of the enmity between God and man. Yes, it is possible to become “reconciled to God through the death of his Son,” as the apostle Paul wrote.—Romans 5:8-10.
4. What relevant vision was given to Ezekiel, and why is it of importance to us?
4 But to benefit personally from Christ’s sacrifice, we must take certain steps. These are indicated in a dramatic vision given to the prophet Ezekiel, a vision that is fulfilled during our time when God’s “day of wrath” is imminent. God’s executional forces are pictured in the vision by six armed men. Before these express God’s wrath, a seventh man, carrying a secretary’s inkhorn, is told: “‘Pass through the midst of the city, . . . and you must put a mark on the foreheads of the men that are sighing and groaning over all the detestable things that are being done in the midst of it.’ And to [the six armed men] he said in my ears: ‘Pass through the city after him and strike. . . . But to any man upon whom there is the mark do not go near.’”—Ezekiel 9:1-6.
5. What leads to repentance?
5 These protectively ‘marked’ ones were sickened because persons claiming to worship the true God had ‘filled the land with violence’ and had engaged in sexual immorality, idolatry, and all manner of other wrong conduct. (Ezekiel 8:5-18; Jeremiah 7:9) Likewise today, those who would be ‘marked’ must first learn, through a study of the Bible, to value God’s standards and become grieved at heart, yes, to ‘sigh and groan,’ over teachings and practices that dishonor him. Perhaps because of ignorance some engaged in wrongdoing or consented to such by giving their support. Yet, now they begin to view such activities as God views them—with disgust! (Romans 1:24-32; Isaiah 2:4; Revelation 18:4; John 15:19) This increased appreciation leads to one of the first steps to gain peace with God: repentance. The apostle Peter urged: “Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out, that seasons of refreshing [rather than wrath] may come from the person of Jehovah.” (Acts 3:19) How refreshing such forgiveness is!
Getting the “Mark”
6. For what reasons were some people marked during ancient times?
6 To be spared from God’s wrath, those who ‘sighed and groaned’ had to be marked on their forehead. (Ezekiel 9:4) In ancient times slaves were often marked on the forehead to be clearly identified. Distinctive marks on the forehead and elsewhere might also show that a person worshiped a certain deity.* (Compare Isaiah 44:5.) So, in our day, what is the distinctive, lifesaving mark that clearly identifies its bearers as true worshipers and slaves of Jehovah?
7. What is the symbolic mark?
7 The symbolic mark is the evidence, as if displayed on your uncovered forehead, (1) that you are a dedicated, baptized disciple of Jesus Christ and (2) that you have put on the Christlike new personality. (Ephesians 4:20-24) Since those thus ‘marked’ must first make a dedication, we need to know what this involves. Jesus explains: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and follow me continually.”—Mark 8:34.
8, 9. (a) What does it mean to ‘disown yourself’? (b) How can what dedication requires be illustrated?
8 The Greek word translated “disown” means “to deny utterly” or “renounce.” Therefore, to ‘disown yourself’ means more than denying yourself a certain pleasure or indulgence now and then. Rather, it means being willing to say no to yourself when it comes to letting your life be dominated by your personal desires and ambitions. We are helped to see the scope of Jesus’ words by noting how this concept is translated into different languages: “To stop doing what one’s own heart wants” (Tzeltal, Mexico), “to not belong to oneself any longer” (K’anjobal, Guatemala), and “to turn his back on himself” (Javanese, Indonesia). Yes, this means an exclusive dedication, not just a commitment that could be made to a number of things.
9 A Christian named Susan, who formerly was quite independent, explains what dedication meant to her: “I was surrendering my whole self to someone else. Jehovah now determines my course, tells me what to do, and sets my priorities.” Are you willing to make the same exclusive dedication to Jehovah God? Remember, the symbolic mark identifies you as ‘belonging’ to God, as a happy slave to his Master.—Compare Exodus 21:5, 6; Romans 14:8.
10. What matters should one consider before making a dedication?
10 “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?” asked Jesus. (Luke 14:28) So are you willing to: Attend Christian meetings regularly? (Hebrews 10:25) Maintain the high moral standard set by God for his servants? (1 Thessalonians 4:3, 4, 7) Have as full a share in the Kingdom preaching work as you can? Put God’s will first when choosing a career or setting goals in life? (Matthew 6:33; Ecclesiastes 12:1) Care for your family obligations? (Ephesians 5:22–6:4; 1 Timothy 5:8) Once you have made a personal dedication in prayer, a further step lets others know this officially.
11. What does baptism symbolize, and what is accomplished by it?
11 Jesus commanded that his followers be baptized. (Matthew 28:19, 20) They were to be totally immersed in water and raised out of it. Like a burial and a resurrection, this well pictures a person’s dying to a self-centered way of life and being made alive to do God’s will. By baptism you identify yourself as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in association with God’s worldwide congregation.* Baptism validates a solemn agreement made with God. (Compare Exodus 19:3-8.) Your life must be in harmony with his laws. (Psalm 15; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Baptism, which ordains you as a minister of God, reflects also a “request made to God for a good conscience” because you know that you are at peace with God.—1 Peter 3:21.
12. When are children protected by their parent’s “mark”?
12 Should even youths consider baptism? Well, recall that Jehovah told the six armed men in the vision: “Old man, young man and virgin and little child and women you should kill off—to a ruination. But to any man upon whom there is the mark do not go near.” (Ezekiel 9:6) Of course, children too young to make a dedication would be protected by a parent’s “mark” if that parent is striving to bring the children up to love Jehovah and if they are obediently responding. (1 Corinthians 7:14) Yet, if a child is intelligent enough to make a personal decision and has reached the point where he “knows how to do what is right,” do not presume that he will continue indefinitely under the merit of his parent’s “mark.”—James 4:17.
13. What are some considerations in determining a youth’s readiness for baptism?
13 Before making a dedication, a youth should have adequate knowledge to comprehend what is involved and should be seeking a personal relationship with God. He should understand and be adhering to Bible principles, knowing that he will be held accountable for any infraction thereof. He should also have sufficient experience in sharing his faith with others and know that this is a vital part of true worship; he should truly want to serve God. Naturally, he would not be expected to show the maturity of an adult, but his spiritual progress should be reasonably steady.
14. Why did one youngster consider his baptism a protection?
14 If one has ‘counted the cost,’ it places one at no disadvantage to make a dedication as a youth. With almost all new Christians, after baptism appreciation deepens. “Getting baptized as a youngster was a protection for me,” explained David. “As I got older, I noticed how some unbaptized teenagers in the congregation felt free of the authority of the elders and as a consequence veered into bad conduct. But I always remembered that I had dedicated my life to God. My life was already taken, so I could not follow such teenagers.”
15. (a) How do we know that it is possible for youths to maintain a serious view of true worship? (b) How can parents best assist?
15 ‘What, though, if my son or daughter gets baptized when young and then cools off?’ some parents wonder. Certainly, a youth should not get baptized just to please a parent or because some friends do. Yet Joseph, Samuel, King Josiah, and Jesus when teenagers all had a serious view of the worship of God and held to it. (Genesis 37:2; 39:1-3; 1 Samuel 1:24-28; 2:18-21; 2 Chronicles 34:3; Luke 2:42-49) In modern times, a Christian named Jean was baptized when she was only ten years old. When asked years later if she really understood the step, Jean replied: “I knew I loved Jehovah, I appreciated what Jesus did for us, and I wanted to serve Jehovah.” She has served faithfully for some 40 years since her baptism. Each youth is an individual; no one can set a standard age limit. Parents should strive to reach their child’s heart, helping him or her to develop godly devotion.* They should not only keep before their children the privilege of dedication and baptism but also fortify them to be steadfast worshipers.
16. Why is more than head knowledge required?
16 While Bible knowledge is essential, the “mark” involves more than head knowledge. For instance, in the vision given to Ezekiel, likely the elders executed for offering up incense to false gods had extensive knowledge of Jehovah’s written Word. But their behavior behind closed doors showed that they were not true worshipers. (Ezekiel 8:7-12; 9:6) So, to be ‘marked’ for survival requires putting on “the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.”—Ephesians 4:22-24.
17. (a) What obstacle holds some back from baptism? (b) How can the counsel of James 4:8 be applied?
17 A formidable obstacle is the influence of your sinful flesh. (Romans 8:7, 8) Some even hold back from baptism because of not controlling some serious fleshly weakness or because of wanting to indulge in illicit worldly pleasures. (James 4:1, 4) Such ones are missing a precious relationship. God’s Word advises: “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you indecisive ones.” (James 4:8) Decisive action is required. As an example, one man who began to study the Bible had abused alcohol and drugs for 16 years and was deathly sick because of this. With determination he overcame these bad habits. “But just as I was progressing toward dedication, a woman began begging me to have an affair with her. It was a real temptation,” he admitted. “Though the woman thought I was crazy, I told her: ‘I’m studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I cannot.’” What prompted his response? “I had seen what Jehovah did for my life by helping me to get off the alcohol. He helped me in other ways too. This kept drawing me closer to him. I could not disappoint him.” This man had grown close to God.
18. What is a key to overcoming obstacles?
18 What counts is not how much you know but how much you love what you know. Psalm 119:165 says: “Abundant peace belongs to those loving [not just knowing] your law, and for them there is no stumbling block.” The key is loving God’s law, deeply appreciating its value in your life.—Isaiah 48:17, 18.
19, 20. (a) What obstacles must be overcome, and what assurance do we have? (b) Successfully overcoming all obstacles will result in what?
19 Of course, other obstacles or stumbling blocks may arise. “The hardest one for me,” said the brother mentioned above, “was fear of men. I had some worldly ‘friends’ that I used to drink with. It was the most difficult thing for me to tell them that I was cutting off my association because I was going to dedicate my life to God.” (Proverbs 29:25) Others have faced the scorn of family members. One newly baptized Witness, who overcame her husband’s opposition, observed: “Rather than one major hurdle, there were a lot of little hurdles I had to get over one at a time.” Faithfully overcoming each obstacle as it comes will fortify your heart. Be assured that there is no obstacle that cannot be overcome by those loving God’s law!—Luke 16:10.
20 As you prevail over each stumbling block, you will gain “abundant peace.” (Psalm 119:165) Yes, “you will walk in security on your way . . . Your sleep must be pleasurable. You will not need to be afraid of any sudden dreadful thing, nor of the storm upon the wicked ones, because it is coming. For Jehovah himself will prove to be, in effect, your confidence.”—Proverbs 3:23-26.
About 150 years after Ezekiel’s vision, the Greek historian Herodotus, noting that the marks on devotees of the god Hercules afforded them protection, wrote: “If the slave of any person whatsoever takes refuge [in Hercules’ temple], and has sacred marks impressed on him, so devoting himself to the god, it is not lawful to lay hands on him.”
Recently the two questions addressed to baptismal candidates were simplified so that candidates could answer with full comprehension of what is involved in coming into intimate relationship with God and his earthly organization.
See “Train Your Child to Develop Godly Devotion” in our issue of August 15, 1985.
Points for Review
□ How does God help us to gain peace with him?
□ What is the symbolic lifesaving mark?
□ What is the significance of dedication and baptism?
□ What sort of obstacles must be faced, and how can these be overcome?
[Box on page 13]
Immersion or Sprinkling?
The account of Jesus’ baptism mentions his “coming up out of the water.” (Mark 1:10) That Jesus was immersed is consistent with the meaning of the Greek word translated baptism (baʹpti·sma). This comes from the word ba·ptiʹzo, which means “dip, immerse.” It was sometimes used to describe the sinking of a ship. The second-century writer Lucian uses a related word to describe one person’s drowning another: “Plunging him down so deep [ba·ptiʹzon·ta] that he cannot come up again.” The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology concludes: “Despite assertions to the contrary, it seems that baptizō, both in Jewish and Christian contexts, normally meant ‘immerse’, and that even when it became a technical term for baptism, the thought of immersion remains.”