What Prevents You From Getting Baptized?
“Look! A body of water; what prevents me from getting baptized?”—ACTS 8:36.
1. What was happening on the road between Jerusalem and Gaza?
JEHOVAH’S angel had spoken, and something noteworthy was taking place on the desert road between Jerusalem and Gaza. Seated in a moving chariot was an Ethiopian reading the Scriptures. Soon another man was running alongside the vehicle. “Do you actually know what you are reading?” he asked. “Really,” responded the Ethiopian, “how could I ever do so, unless someone guided me?” That guidance was provided by Philip the evangelizer, who had been sent by the angel. Once aboard the chariot, Philip started with a prophecy penned by Isaiah and declared “the good news about Jesus.”
2, 3. (a) How did the Ethiopian respond to the good news? (b) What questions does this incident raise?
2 At one point along the road, the Ethiopian exclaimed: “Look! A body of water; what prevents me from getting baptized?” At that, he commanded the chariot to halt. Both men entered the water and Philip baptized him. Then Jehovah’s spirit led the evangelizer elsewhere, and the Ethiopian went his way rejoicing.—Acts 8:26-39.
3 If you are associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses but have not been baptized, these events may prompt you to ask: Why was the Ethiopian baptized so quickly? How should baptism be performed? Of what is it a symbol? And what prevents me from getting baptized?
Not Baptized Too Soon
4. Who was this Ethiopian?
4 Since the Ethiopian “had gone to Jerusalem to worship,” he was a circumcised Jewish proselyte. He was a “eunuch” but not in a fleshly sense, for sexually mutilated men were excluded from the Israelite congregation. (Deuteronomy 23:1) In his case, “eunuch” denoted an officer, for he was ‘a man in power under Queen Candace of the Ethiopians and was over all her treasure.’—Acts 8:27.
5. Why could the Ethiopian eunuch be baptized so quickly?
5 The Ethiopian was a man of the nations. Since he had been converted to the Jewish religion, however, he could be baptized as a disciple of Christ before the Kingdom message went to uncircumcised Gentiles like Cornelius in 36 C.E. As a Jewish proselyte, the Ethiopian knew about God and His Word, though he needed spiritual help. So Philip was directed to preach to this man and could baptize him before the good news went to Gentiles.
Early Christian Baptism
6. How was the Ethiopian baptized, and why do you so answer?
6 How was the Ethiopian baptized? The word “baptize” comes from the Greek term ba·ptiʹzo, meaning “dip, plunge.” A form of the same word is used for “plunge” at 2 Kings 5:14 in the Greek Septuagint. And it is noteworthy that the Ethiopian requested baptism when he and Philip came to a “body of water.” For the baptism, they “went down into the water,” afterward coming “up out of” it. (Acts 8:36-39) Therefore, the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized by being immersed in water.
7. What precedent was there for baptism by water immersion?
7 Jesus himself was baptized by undergoing water immersion. Thus, after his baptism in the Jordan River, it is said that he “came up from the water.” (Matthew 3:13, 16) In fact, as a suitable place to perform baptisms, John the Baptizer had chosen a location in the Jordan Valley near Salim. Why? “Because there was a great quantity of water there.” (John 3:23) The Scriptures therefore authorize baptism in a body of water.
8. Regarding baptism, what can we conclude from practices of the Pharisees and other Jews?
8 We can draw some sound conclusions regarding baptism if we consider customs of the Pharisees and other Jews. The Gospel writer Mark said: “When back from market, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves by sprinkling [Greek, ran·tiʹzo]; and there are many other traditions that they have received to hold fast, baptisms [ba·pti·smousʹ] of cups and pitchers and copper vessels.” (Mark 7:3, 4) These men sanctimoniously sprinkled themselves before eating when they returned from the market. But they baptized, or immersed in water, the various objects they used during meals.
9. What did Tertullian say about baptism?
9 Even after apostasy had made inroads, the church father Tertullian (c. 160-230 C.E.) said concerning baptism: “There is absolutely nothing which makes men’s minds more obdurate than the simplicity of the divine works which are visible in the act, when compared with the grandeur which is promised thereto in the effect; so that from the very fact, that with so great simplicity, without pomp, without any considerable novelty of preparation, finally, without expense, a man is dipped in water, and amid the utterance of some few words, is sprinkled, and then rises again, not much (or not at all) the cleaner, the consequent attainment of eternity is esteemed the more incredible.” Note that Tertullian said, “a man is dipped in water . . . and then rises again.”
10. What do scholars say about the earliest mode of Christian baptism?
10 Scholars also show that Christians originally baptized people by total immersion in water. A noted French encyclopedia says: “The first Christians received baptism by immersion everywhere water was found.” And The Catholic Encyclopedia states: “The most ancient form usually employed was unquestionably immersion.”—Volume II, page 261 (1907 edition).
To Teach and Baptize
11. Jesus gave his disciples what commission?
11 Before a person is baptized, he must acquire and act on accurate knowledge. This was made clear when Christ told his followers: “Go therefore and 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, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.”—Matthew 28:19, 20.
12. What does it mean to be baptized “in the name of the Father”?
12 Being baptized “in the name of the Father” means that the baptismal candidate recognizes God’s office and authority. Jehovah is acknowledged as “the Most High over all the earth,” the Creator and Universal Sovereign. (Psalm 36:9; 83:18; 2 Kings 19:15) Such a person also accepts Jehovah as his Judge, Statute-Giver, and King.—Isaiah 33:22; Psalm 119:102; Revelation 15:3, 4.
13. Being baptized ‘in the name of the Son’ means what?
13 To be baptized ‘in the name of the Son’ means to acknowledge Christ’s office and authority and recognize him as the one through whom God has provided “a corresponding ransom.” (1 Timothy 2:5, 6) After Jesus’ death as an integrity keeper, “God exalted him to a superior position,” and those desiring baptism must acknowledge Christ as “Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11) They must also accept Jesus as Jehovah’s “Faithful Witness” and as the “King of kings.”—Revelation 1:5; 19:16.
14. Baptism ‘in the name of the holy spirit’ requires what?
14 An individual must also be baptized ‘in the name of the holy spirit.’ He must realize that the holy spirit is not a person but is God’s active force, used in creation, to inspire Bible writers, and so forth. (Genesis 1:2; 2 Samuel 23:1, 2; 2 Peter 1:21) Jehovah’s spirit must be recognized as being vital if we are to comprehend “the deep things of God” and display the godly fruitage of “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” (1 Corinthians 2:10; Galatians 5:22, 23) It must also be acknowledged that God’s spirit is needed to carry on the Kingdom-preaching work.—Joel 2:28, 29.
What Baptism Symbolizes
15. Why is it that Christian baptism does not wash away sins?
15 It was with the backing of the holy spirit that John the Baptizer immersed people. (Acts 13:24) He baptized them, not to wash away their sins, but in symbol of their repentance. (Acts 19:4) John also baptized Jesus, who “committed no sin.” (1 Peter 2:22) And Ananias urged Saul of Tarsus: “Rise, get baptized and wash your sins away by your calling upon [Jesus’] name.” (Acts 22:12-16) Hence, Christian water immersion does not wash away sins. Not baptism but the pouring out of Jesus’ blood and “calling upon his name” make forgiveness possible.—Hebrews 9:22; 1 John 1:7.
16. (a) Since baptism does not wash sins away, what does it symbolize? (b) Figuratively, what happens when a person is baptized?
16 Although Christian baptism does not wash sins away, it is a symbol indicating that the individual being immersed in water has made an unconditional dedication to Jehovah God through Jesus Christ. (Compare Matthew 16:24.) To dedicate means “to declare, to affirm, to devote.” Dedication to God refers to the act whereby a person is unreservedly set apart by an agreement to do God’s will through Christ. Figuratively, when the baptismal candidate is temporarily “buried” under the water and then lifted out of it, he dies to his previous course and is raised to a new way of life, to do Jehovah’s will unreservedly.—Compare Romans 6:4-6.
17. Why is infant baptism improper?
17 Clearly, baptism is a serious step. Baptizing an infant is wrong because a baby cannot understand, make a decision, and become a disciple. (Matthew 28:19, 20) Those baptized during Philip’s ministry in Samaria were “men and women,” not mere infants. (Acts 8:4-8, 12) Baptism is for those old enough to learn, believe, and exercise faith. (John 17:3; Acts 5:14; 18:8; Hebrews 11:6) In this regard, historian Augustus Neander wrote: “Faith and baptism were always connected with one another; and thus it is in the highest degree probable . . . that the practice of infant baptism was unknown [in the first century C.E.]. . . . That it first became recognised as an apostolic tradition in the course of the third century, is evidence rather against than for the admission of its apostolic origin.”—History of the Planting and Training of the Christian Church by the Apostles (New York, 1864), page 162.
18. (a) Scripturally, what is required to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses? (b) What evidence of faith would indicate that a person may be baptized? (c) How is faith in the ransom emphasized for baptismal candidates?
18 The Scriptures repeatedly mention the baptism of believers. (Acts 4:4; 5:14; 8:13; 16:27-34; 18:8; 19:1-7) To become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, then, a person must be a believer—one who exercises faith and gets baptized. Even before baptism, such faith manifests itself in godly conduct, trust in Jehovah, participation in the Kingdom-preaching work, and acceptance of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. Faith in the ransom is emphasized for baptismal candidates, for the first of two questions the speaker asks them is: “On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?” Only if the individual answers in the affirmative and also understands that his dedication and baptism identify him as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in association with God’s spirit-directed organization can he acceptably undergo water immersion.
Dedication in Prayer
19. Why make a dedication to Jehovah in prayer?
19 Those undergoing baptism must have faith in God and Christ. But why do Jehovah’s Witnesses say that a dedication to God should be made in prayer? Because it is fitting to express to Jehovah in prayer our decision to give him the exclusive devotion he deserves. (Deuteronomy 5:8, 9; 1 Chronicles 29:10-13) It was evidently in prayer that Jesus made known his desire to render sacred service exclusively to his heavenly Father. (Hebrews 10:7-9) Why, Jesus “was praying” even while being baptized! (Luke 3:21, 22) So it is clear that a dedication to God should be made in prayer.
20. Why is it likely that the early Christians urged new disciples to make a dedication to God in prayer?
20 Early Christians apparently urged new disciples to make a dedication in prayer, for even later Tertullian said: “They who are about to enter baptism ought to pray with repeated prayers, fasts, and bendings of the knee.” Earlier, Justin Martyr (c. 100-165 C.E.) wrote: “I will also relate the manner in which we dedicated ourselves to God when we had been made new through Christ . . . As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them.”
21. What is probable, even if making a dedication in prayer was not stressed when you were baptized some years ago?
21 If making a dedication in prayer was not stressed when you were baptized years ago, that does not necessarily invalidate your baptism. Even in those days, doubtless many were like one man who vividly recalls kneeling and making his dedication to Jehovah in earnest prayer while still a mere lad more than 40 years ago. And at that time, even if a person had not made a dedication in a formal prayer earlier, he did make it a prayerful matter as baptismal candidates and others prayed together when the baptism talk was given on the day of his immersion.
Why Some Hold Back
22. Why do some hold back from getting baptized?
22 Since being a dedicated witness of Jehovah is such a blessed privilege, why do some hold back from getting baptized? Lack of true love is one reason why some do not obey God’s Word, follow Jesus’ lead, and get baptized. (1 John 5:3) Of course, unbaptized persons usually do not say that they will not follow Jesus’ example or obey God. Rather, they remain so involved in worldly affairs that they have little time for spiritual pursuits. If this could be your problem, would it not be wise to change your affections, interests, and aspirations? Those who really love God cannot also be loving this world. (1 John 2:15-17) And do not allow yourself to be lulled into a false sense of security through “the deceptive power of riches.” (Matthew 13:22) True security is found only in a dedicated relationship with Jehovah God.—Psalm 4:8.
23. Why do others refrain from making a dedication to Jehovah and symbolizing it by water immersion?
23 Others claim to love God but hold back from making a dedication because they feel that they thus avoid responsibility and will not be held accountable. They would like to live in Paradise, but so far they are doing little or nothing about it. (Proverbs 13:4) Such individuals cannot avoid accountability because responsibility came upon them when they heard the word of Jehovah. (Ezekiel 33:7-9) If they were to make a dedication, they would demonstrate that they understand God’s will and are eager to do it. Instead of placing a heavier load upon them, such obedience would call forth Jehovah’s blessing and would result in joy because they would be living up to their claim that they love him.
24. For what reason do still others hold back from getting baptized?
24 A feeling that they do not know enough to explain the Scriptures causes still others to avoid baptism. But the Ethiopian eunuch was ready to symbolize his dedication to God after a discussion with Philip during a chariot ride. Surely, the Ethiopian could not initially answer all the questions of those to whom he spoke the truth. But his heart overflowed with gratitude for what he had heard, and he did not hold back in fear. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love throws fear outside.” (1 John 4:18) Not a head full of answers but a heart full of love moves a person to make a dedication to God and get baptized.—Luke 10:25-28.
25. What does Jehovah God expect of those professing to love him?
25 If you are not yet baptized, ask yourself: What does God expect of those who say they love him? He wants exclusive devotion and is looking for those who will worship him “with spirit and truth.” (John 4:23, 24; Exodus 20:4, 5; Luke 4:8) The Ethiopian eunuch rendered that kind of worship, and he did not delay when afforded an opportunity to undergo baptism. Should you not make dedication to Jehovah a matter of earnest prayer right now and ask yourself: “What prevents me from getting baptized?”
Questions for Review
□ Why could the Ethiopian eunuch be baptized so soon?
□ What was the mode of baptism among the early Christians?
□ Being baptized ‘in the name of the Father, the Son, and the holy spirit’ means what?
□ What does Christian baptism symbolize?
□ Why make a dedication to Jehovah in prayer?
□ For what reasons do some hold back from dedication and baptism?