How Baptism Can Save Us
“Immersion . . . saves us.”—1 PETER 3:21, The Emphatic Diaglott.
1, 2. What is required before a person undergoes water baptism?
JEHOVAH has specific requirements for those seeking salvation. They must acquire accurate knowledge, exercise faith, repent of their sins, be converted, make a dedication to God, and undergo baptism as believers. (John 3:16; 17:3; Acts 3:19; 18:8) Baptismal candidates must acknowledge publicly that on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice they have repented of their sins and have dedicated themselves to Jehovah. They must also understand that dedication and baptism identify them as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
2 The entire baptismal arrangement, including this public expression of faith, is essential for salvation. (Romans 10:10) This was confirmed when the apostle Peter wrote: “Immersion . . . saves us.” (1 Peter 3:21, ED) But exactly how should we understand these words? What does the context show?
How Baptism Saves
3. In your own words, how would you summarize 1 Peter 3:18-21?
3 Peter indicated that as a resurrected spirit, Jesus preached a condemnatory message to the wicked spirits in prison, demons reserved in eternal bonds for the judgment of Jehovah’s great day. They disobeyed by materializing fleshly bodies and cohabiting with women “when the patience of God was waiting in Noah’s days, while the ark was being constructed, in which a few people, that is, eight souls [Noah, his wife, his sons, and their wives], were carried safely through the water.” Peter added: “That which corresponds to this is also now saving you, namely, baptism, (not [just the necessary] putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the request made to God for a good conscience,) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”—1 Peter 3:18-21; Genesis 6:1, 2; 2 Peter 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:1.
4. To what was Peter referring when he said, “That which corresponds to this”?
4 What did Peter mean when he said, “That which corresponds to this”? He meant that baptism founded on faith corresponds to the preservation of Noah and his family, who were carried safely through the floodwaters that destroyed those outside the ark. As Noah needed faith to build the ark, all who become baptized disciples of Jesus Christ and witnesses of Jehovah must have faith to withstand pressures brought against them by this faithless world and its god, Satan the Devil.—Hebrews 11:6, 7; 1 John 5:19.
5. How is it that salvation is “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”?
5 Baptism itself is not what saves. And though we must ‘put away the filth of the flesh,’ that alone does not save us. Rather, salvation is “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Baptismal candidates must have faith that salvation is possible only because God’s Son died a sacrificial death and was resurrected. They must also accept Jesus as their Lord having authority to judge the living and the dead. “He is at God’s right hand,” said Peter, “for he went his way to heaven; and angels and authorities and powers were made subject to him.”—1 Peter 3:22.
6. To acquire a good conscience, what must a baptismal candidate have done?
6 Peter also associated baptism with “the request made to God for a good conscience.” To acquire a good conscience, an immersion candidate must repent of his sins, turn around from a wrong course, and make an unreserved dedication to Jehovah God in prayer through Jesus Christ. If a baptized person maintains that good conscience by conforming to God’s standards, he remains in a saved condition that does not call for Jehovah’s condemnatory judgment.
Qualifying for Baptism
7. As to baptism, what have Christendom’s missionaries done?
7 When Jesus commissioned his followers to baptize disciples, he did not tell them to sprinkle unbelievers by the thousands. But what have Christendom’s missionaries done? Regarding India, Jesuit Francis Xavier wrote in 1545: “In the kingdom of Travancore . . . in the space of a few months I have baptized more than ten thousand men, women, and children. . . . I went from village to village and made Christians of them.” That is not Jesus’ way to ‘make Christians.’ People must qualify for baptism.
8. What did the so-called canons of Paul say about those presenting themselves for baptism?
8 Even certain professed Christians of the post-apostolic period believed that those presenting themselves for baptism had to meet strict requirements. Concerning such baptismal candidates, non-Biblical canons, erroneously ascribed to the apostle Paul, say: “Let their manners and their life be inquired into . . . If they be unmarried, let them learn not to commit fornication, but to enter into lawful marriage. . . . If a harlot come, let her leave off whoredom, or else let her be rejected. If a maker of idols come, let him either leave off his employment, or let him be rejected. . . . He that is guilty of sins not to be named, . . . a magician, an enchanter, an astrologer, a diviner, an user of magic verses, . . . one that makes amulets, a charmer, a soothsayer, a fortune-teller, an observer of palmistry . . . , let these be proved for some time . . . and if they leave off those practices, let them be received; but if they will not agree to that, let them be rejected.”
9. Why do congregation elders hold discussions with a person desiring to be baptized?
9 Jehovah’s Witnesses do not follow unscriptural writings, such as that just quoted, but elders do hold discussions with those desiring to be baptized. Why? To make sure that these persons are believers who meet divine requirements and who have made a dedication to Jehovah. (Acts 4:4; 18:8; 2 Thessalonians 3:2) Discussing questions in the book Organized to Accomplish Our Ministry helps to determine whether a person qualifies for baptism. If some points are not clear to him, or he has not brought his life into harmony with divine standards, the elders are pleased to render spiritual assistance.
10. If we wish to be baptized, what attitude should we have?
10 If we appreciate God’s kindness in helping us to learn about his purposes, we will be like people to whom Paul preached in Antioch, Asia Minor. Despite Jewish opposition, “when those of the nations [Gentiles] heard [of the opportunity to be accepted by God], they began to rejoice and to glorify the word of Jehovah, and all those who were rightly disposed for everlasting life became believers.” (Acts 13:48) Such believers got baptized.
Baptism in Youth
11. Is it proper to make a dedication to God as a young person, and why do you so answer?
11 Those “rightly disposed for everlasting life” include some young people. It may be noted that although Samuel and John the Baptizer were devoted to God before birth, parents cannot make a dedication for their children. (1 Samuel 1:11, 24-28; 2:11, 18, 19; Luke 1:15, 66) But as a result of good Bible training, many young people progress to baptism. A missionary sister baptized as a teenager wrote: “It seems to me that I was dedicated to serve my Creator from the very age of realization that he existed, but with the acquisition of some accurate knowledge of him and his purposes, I wanted to be baptized in outward testimony of that fact. Nevertheless, Mother doubted that I knew what I was doing, so she suggested that I wait until someone else was ready to be baptized.” A woman desiring baptism was found, and the sister adds: “There were no classes of special instruction for the candidates in those days, although the Society-appointed Service Director . . . did talk to me kindly about the seriousness of the step I was taking. I eagerly agreed to all the terms laid down, and on a bright Sunday morning in May 1921 [the woman] and I were baptized.”
12. How did Brother Russell view dedication by a minor?
12 In 1914, C. T. Russell (then president of the Watch Tower Society) received a letter in which a fellow Christian asked if his 12-year-old son should be urged to make a dedication to God. “If I were you,” Russell responded, “I would not press consecration [dedication] upon him, but I would hold it up before his mind as the only proper course for all intelligent people who have come to a knowledge of God and his gracious purposes . . . Without consecration none will ever gain everlasting life . . . Your son cannot be injured by consecration, but may be greatly helped. . . . Who shall say that a child of ten may not very fully and completely come to an appreciation of full consecration in thought and word and act? Looking back I can see that my whole consecration was first made at a little advance—beyond twelve years of age.”
13. What did this journal say to young ones some 94 years ago?
13 Zion’s Watch Tower of July 1, 1894, said: “To all the dear children and young people who have given their hearts to God, and who are trying daily to follow Jesus, the WATCH TOWER sends its greeting. We know some of the very little ones who love Jesus, and who are not ashamed to stand up for Jesus among other children who do not love him or try to please him; and who are brave and true to God, even when laughed at and thought peculiar by their schoolmates to whom they tell the good news of the kingdom. And we are rejoiced to see some young people, who have bravely renounced the world and its ambitions and pleasures, among the most faithful of those who have [dedicated] their lives to the Lord. Some of our office helpers, as well as many of the successful colporteurs, are still young in years.” Even if you are still young, why not talk to your parents about dedication to Jehovah God?
The Role of Parents
14. What benefits are enjoyed by young people who make a dedication to Jehovah?
14 Consider benefits enjoyed by children who receive parental guidance that leads to baptism. (Ephesians 6:4) Thinking on spiritual matters helps them to escape worldly snares and entanglements. (1 John 2:15-17) They do not reap the bitter harvest that results from ‘sowing with a view to the flesh.’ (Galatians 6:7, 8) Since they have been taught to live a godly life, they display the fruits of God’s spirit. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Being dedicated to God, they enjoy a close relationship with him. And because they have learned to “trust in Jehovah,” they are guided by heavenly wisdom and walk in ways of pleasantness and peace.—Proverbs 3:5, 6, 13, 17.
15. What can Christian parents do to shape the lives of their children?
15 Since dedication to Jehovah is so beneficial to young people, Christian parents should do all they can to shape the lives of their children. Like Timothy, young ones can be taught the Scriptures from infancy so that they ‘continue in the things they have learned and were persuaded to believe.’ (2 Timothy 3:14, 15) Godly parents can surround their offspring with the influence of their own exemplary lives, imparting to their young ones such knowledge as their own relationship with God, experience, and mature judgment can provide. When properly directed, these efforts are not lost on the young.—Proverbs 22:6.
16. What should your children see in your example and teaching?
16 By example and teaching, help your children to see how clearly the line is drawn between Jehovah’s organization and that of Satan. Show them that there can be no compromising with this world, that Christians must renounce its underhanded things, godless pleasures, ambitions, and associations. (1 Corinthians 15:33; 2 Corinthians 4:2) By your attitude, as well as your teaching and example, let your young ones see how hollow worldly pleasures are, how deluded people of the world are when compared with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Explain how God has led you by means of his holy spirit, has kept you from straying onto paths that would lead to distress, has sustained you in times of affliction and sorrow. Never make the mistake of thinking that if your young ones are allowed to run in worldly paths of pride, ambition, frivolity, and folly, they will become believers. Before this world can ensnare your children, shield them from its vile influences and help them to center their affections and hopes in Jehovah.
Looking Beyond Baptism
17. (a) Why do some baptized Christians suffer a spiritual relapse? (b) How should we view our dedication?
17 Whether young or old, undoubtedly a baptismal candidate wants to remain faithful to Jehovah. So why do some baptized Christians experience a spiritual relapse? Though various factors may be involved, there seems to be one fundamental cause—a failure to understand all that is meant by dedication. It is not a matter of dedicating ourselves to a work. That would keep us busy but would not make us spiritual persons. We need to remember that we are dedicated not to a work but to a Person—Jehovah God. This helps us to avoid the mistake of viewing our dedication as a perfunctory step we had to take before getting on with the work. Making a dedication should be viewed as entering into a vital relationship that must always be guarded and maintained. In this respect, we have the example of Jesus Christ. Expressing his heartfelt attitude when presenting himself to Jehovah are the prophetic words: “I have come . . . To do your will, O my God, I have delighted, and your law is within my inward parts.”—Psalm 40:6-8; Hebrews 10:5-10.
18. How was God’s law within Jesus’ “inward parts”?
18 How was it that Jehovah’s law was within Jesus’ “inward parts”? He told a Jewish scribe that Jehovah our God is one and there is no other, thus stressing Jehovah’s supremacy. Then Jesus showed that the essence of God’s law consists of loving Jehovah with our whole heart, understanding, and strength, while loving our neighbor as ourselves. (Mark 12:28-34) That is the basic reason why Jesus could say, ‘I delight to do God’s will.’ He was able to stick to his course faithfully despite the greatest tests and sufferings, not just because he saw this as a good work but because he had a close relationship with Jehovah God. If we similarly acknowledge Jehovah’s supremacy and love him with unbreakable attachment, we will live up to our dedication and baptism.
19. What connection is there between our relationship with Jehovah and the work we do?
19 There is, of course, a connection between our relationship with God and the work we do. We manifest love for Jehovah by doing the Kingdom-preaching work. In this regard, the late Grant Suiter, a former member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, once wrote: “As I listened to [a certain traveling overseer] speak of the privileges of serving Jehovah and the responsibility to do so, I realized what I should do and what I wanted to do. Thus I made a personal dedication to Jehovah, and about the same time the other members of my family did also. On October 10, 1926, in San Jose, California, all of us together symbolized our dedication to Jehovah God by undergoing water immersion. . . . After the baptism . . . my father said to the elder overseeing the baptism: ‘You folks go out with the literature, don’t you? We want to do that work, too, now.’ So our family started out in the field ministry.” Today, qualified persons begin to have a meaningful share in field service even before getting baptized.
Baptism Can Save Us
20, 21. (a) In what way are slaves of Jehovah ‘marked’? (b) What is this “mark,” and possessing it means what?
20 By our works, we can show that “we belong to Jehovah.” Why, salvation depends on working faithfully as his dedicated slaves! (Romans 6:20-23; 14:7, 8) In ancient times, slaves were often marked on the forehead. By the preaching work today, the antitypical ‘man clothed in linen’—the remnant of Jesus’ anointed followers—is ‘marking’ those who will survive the end of this system. In this work the anointed are assisted by their associates, the “other sheep.” (Ezekiel 9:1-7; John 10:16) And what is the “mark”? It is the evidence that we are dedicated to Jehovah and are Jesus’ baptized disciples who have a Christlike personality.
21 Especially now is it vital that we have the “mark” and retain it, for we are deep into “the time of the end.” (Daniel 12:4) To be saved we must ‘endure to the end’ of our present life or of this system. (Matthew 24:13) Only if we thus remain faithful as witnesses of Jehovah will baptism save us.
Questions for Review
□ To be saved, what is required of us?
□ Why do elders hold discussions with those wishing to be baptized?
□ What can parents do to give their children spiritual guidance that leads to baptism?
□ Do we make a dedication to a work?
□ How can baptism save us?
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Do you know how baptism corresponds to the preservation of Noah and his family in the ark?
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Dedication and baptism benefit young persons. Do you know how?