Questions From Readers
Why did The Watchtower of April 1, 2002, state on page 11, in paragraph 7, that water baptism of new Jewish believers at Pentecost 33 C.E. was in symbol of “their personal dedication to God through Christ,” whereas the previously held view was that immersion of the Jews from 33 C.E. until 36 C.E. did not require such a personal dedication?
In 1513 B.C.E., Jehovah God gave the Israelites an opportunity to become a holy nation to him on the condition that they ‘strictly obey his voice and keep his covenant.’ They answered: “All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do.”—Exodus 19:3-8; 24:1-8.
By agreeing to keep the Mosaic Law covenant, the Israelites dedicated themselves to God. Subsequent generations of Jews were born into this dedicated nation. However, the baptism of Jews who became followers of Jesus Christ from Pentecost 33 C.E. onward meant something other than presenting themselves to God as members of a dedicated nation. It symbolized their dedication to Jehovah God in a new relationship with him through Jesus Christ. How so?
Following the outpouring of holy spirit upon about 120 disciples gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem at Pentecost 33 C.E., the apostle Peter stood up and began preaching to the multitude of Jews and proselytes who had come together to see what had happened. After giving a thorough witness, he said to the conscience-stricken Jews: “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins.” In response to Peter’s further exhortation, “those who embraced his word heartily were baptized, and on that day about three thousand souls were added.”—Acts 2:1-41.
Were not those Jews baptized following Peter’s exhortation already members of a dedicated nation? Did they not enjoy a dedicated relationship with God? No. The apostle Paul wrote that ‘God had taken the Law out of the way by nailing it to the torture stake.’ (Colossians 2:14) By means of Christ’s death in 33 C.E., Jehovah God removed the Law covenant—the very basis for bringing the Israelites into a dedicated relationship with Him. The nation that rejected God’s Son was now rejected by God himself. ‘That which was Israel in a fleshly way’ could no longer claim to be a nation dedicated to God.—1 Corinthians 10:18; Matthew 21:43.
The Law covenant was abolished in 33 C.E., but God’s period of special favor and attention to the Jews did not end at that time.a That period was to continue until 36 C.E., when Peter preached to the devout Italian Cornelius and his household as well as to other Gentiles. (Acts 10:1-48) What was the basis for this extension of favor?
“[The Messiah] must keep the covenant in force for the many for one week,” states Daniel 9:27. The covenant that was kept in force for seven years, or “one week,” from Jesus’ baptism and the beginning of the Messiah’s public ministry in 29 C.E. was the Abrahamic covenant. To be in that covenant relationship, a person simply had to be one of Abraham’s Hebrew offspring. That unilateral covenant did not give the individual a dedicated relationship with Jehovah. Hence, the Jewish believers undergoing baptism after Peter’s speech at Pentecost 33 C.E., though recipients of special attention as natural Jews, had no claim to a dedicated relationship with God once the Law covenant had been removed. They personally needed to dedicate themselves to God.
A personal dedication on the part of Jews and proselytes presenting themselves for baptism on the day of Pentecost 33 C.E. was essential for yet another reason. The apostle Peter exhorted his listeners to repent and be baptized in Jesus’ name. Doing so required that they renounce the way of the world and acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Messiah, as High Priest, and as the one who sits at God’s right hand in heaven. They needed to call upon the name of Jehovah God for salvation through Christ Jesus, which involved exercising faith in Christ and recognizing him as their Leader. The entire basis for having a relationship with God and for gaining forgiveness of sins had now changed. As individuals, the believing Jews needed to accept this new arrangement. How? By making a dedication to God and by going on public record as having done so by being immersed in water in the name of Jesus Christ. Water baptism was a symbol of their dedication to God, bringing them into a new relationship with him through Jesus Christ.—Acts 2:21, 33-36; 3:19-23.
a When Jesus Christ ascended to heaven and presented the value of his sacrificed human life to Jehovah God, the Mosaic Law covenant was voided and the basis was laid for the foretold “new covenant.”—Jeremiah 31:31-34.