‘Go and Make Disciples, Baptizing Them’
“Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them . . . , teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.”—Matthew 28:19, 20.
1. What decision did the nation of Israel make at the foot of Mount Sinai?
SOME 3,500 years ago, a whole nation made a vow to God. Assembled at the foot of Mount Sinai, the Israelites declared publicly: “All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do.” From that moment on, Israel became a people dedicated to God, his “special property.” (Exodus 19:5, 8; 24:3) They looked forward to receiving his protection and living generation after generation in a land “flowing with milk and honey.”—Leviticus 20:24.
2. What relationship with God can people today enjoy?
2 As the psalmist Asaph acknowledged, however, the Israelites “did not keep the covenant of God, and in his law they refused to walk.” (Psalm 78:10) They failed to keep the vow that their forefathers had made to Jehovah. Eventually, the nation lost that unique relationship with God. (Ecclesiastes 5:4; Matthew 23:37, 38) God, therefore, “turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name.” (Acts 15:14) And in these last days, he is gathering together “a great crowd, which no man [is] able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues,” who joyfully acknowledge: “Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.”—Revelation 7:9, 10.
3. What steps must one take to enjoy a personal relationship with God?
3 To be among those who enjoy that precious relationship with God, one must make a dedication to Jehovah and symbolize it publicly by water baptism. This is in obedience to Jesus’ direct command to his disciples: “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.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) The Israelites listened to a reading of “the book of the covenant.” (Exodus 24:3, 7, 8) Thus, they understood their obligations toward Jehovah. Likewise today, an accurate knowledge of God’s will as found in his Word, the Bible, is essential before one takes the step of baptism.
4. What must one do to qualify for baptism? (Include the box above.)
4 Clearly, Jesus intended for his disciples to have a solid foundation for their faith before they would get baptized. He instructed his followers not only to go and make disciples but also to teach them ‘to observe all the things he had commanded.’ (Matthew 7:24, 25; Ephesians 3:17-19) Therefore, those who qualify for baptism have usually studied the Bible for months or even a year or two, so that their decision is neither hasty nor ill-informed. At the baptism itself, the candidates answer yes to two key questions. Since Jesus emphasized that ‘our Yes should mean Yes, our No, No,’ it will be helpful for all of us to review carefully the significance of these two baptismal questions.—Matthew 5:37.
Repentance and Dedication
5. What two fundamental steps does the first baptismal question emphasize?
5 The first baptismal question asks the candidate if he has repented of his former life course and dedicated his life to Jehovah to do his will. This question emphasizes two vital steps that must be taken prior to baptism, namely repentance and dedication.
6, 7. (a) Why is repentance necessary for all baptismal candidates? (b) What changes must be made after one has repented?
6 Why must a person repent before presenting himself for baptism? The apostle Paul explains: “We all at one time conducted ourselves in harmony with the desires of our flesh.” (Ephesians 2:3) Before we came to an accurate knowledge of God’s will, we lived in harmony with the world, according to its values and standards. Our life course was under the control of the god of this system, Satan. (2 Corinthians 4:4) Having come to know God’s will, however, we resolve to live “no more for the desires of men, but for God’s will.”—1 Peter 4:2.
7 This new course brings many rewards. Above all, it opens the way to a precious relationship with Jehovah, which David compared to an invitation to enter into God’s “tent” and “holy mountain”—a grand privilege indeed. (Psalm 15:1) Logically, Jehovah would invite not just anyone but only those “walking faultlessly and practicing righteousness and speaking the truth in [their] heart.” (Psalm 15:2) Depending on our circumstances before we learned the truth, meeting these requirements may mean that we must make certain changes—both in conduct and in personality. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Colossians 3:5-10) The motivation for such changes is repentance—deep regret over our former life course and a strong determination to please Jehovah. This leads to a complete turnabout—abandoning a selfish, worldly way of life and pursuing a course pleasing to God.—Acts 3:19.
8. How do we make our dedication, and what connection does it have with baptism?
8 The second part of the first baptismal question asks the candidates if they have dedicated themselves to Jehovah to do his will. Dedication is an essential step that must precede baptism. It is made in prayer, in which we express the desire to give our life to Jehovah through Christ. (Romans 14:7, 8; 2 Corinthians 5:15) Jehovah then becomes our Master and Owner, and like Jesus we delight to do God’s will. (Psalm 40:8; Ephesians 6:6) This solemn promise to Jehovah is made only once. Since we make our dedication in private, however, a public declaration on the day of baptism serves to let everyone know that we have made this solemn dedication to our heavenly Father.—Romans 10:10.
9, 10. (a) What does doing God’s will involve? (b) How did even Nazi officials recognize our dedication?
9 What does following Jesus’ example in doing God’s will involve? Jesus said to his disciples: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and continually follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) Here he outlined three things that we must do. First, we “disown” ourselves. In other words, we say no to our selfish, imperfect inclinations and yes to God’s counsel and direction. Second, we ‘pick up our torture stake.’ In Jesus’ day a torture stake was a symbol of shame and suffering. As Christians, we accept our part in suffering for the sake of the good news. (2 Timothy 1:8) Although the world may ridicule or reproach us, like Christ we ‘despise shame,’ happy in the knowledge that we are pleasing God. (Hebrews 12:2) Finally, we follow Jesus “continually.”—Psalm 73:26; 119:44; 145:2.
10 Interestingly, even some opposers recognize the dedication that Jehovah’s Witnesses have made to God to serve him unreservedly. For example, in the Buchenwald concentration camp of Nazi Germany, Witnesses who refused to renounce their faith were required to sign the following printed statement: “I am still a committed Bible Student and will never break the oath I have sworn to Jehovah.” Surely this well expresses the attitude of all dedicated, faithful servants of God!—Acts 5:32.
Identified as One of Jehovah’s Witnesses
11. What privilege comes to one who gets baptized?
11 The second question asks the candidate, first of all, if he understands that his baptism serves to identify him as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. After undergoing immersion, he becomes an ordained minister who bears Jehovah’s name. This is both a great privilege and a serious responsibility. It also puts the one baptized in line for eternal salvation, provided he remains faithful to Jehovah.—Matthew 24:13.
12. What obligation accompanies the honor of bearing Jehovah’s name?
12 Certainly, it is a singular honor to bear the name of the almighty God, Jehovah. The prophet Micah said: “All the peoples, for their part, will walk each one in the name of its god; but we, for our part, shall walk in the name of Jehovah our God to time indefinite, even forever.” (Micah 4:5) Nevertheless, an obligation accompanies this honor. We must strive to live our life in a way that brings honor to the name we bear. As Paul reminded the Christians in Rome, if one does not practice what one preaches, the name of God is “blasphemed,” or brought into disrepute.—Romans 2:21-24.
13. Why do dedicated servants of Jehovah have the responsibility to witness about their God?
13 When a person becomes one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, he also assumes the responsibility to witness about his God. Jehovah invited the dedicated nation of Israel to be his witnesses in order to testify to his eternal Godship. (Isaiah 43:10-12, 21) But the nation failed to fulfill this role, and they eventually lost Jehovah’s favor completely. Today, true Christians are proud to have the privilege of bearing witness to Jehovah. We do so because we love him and long for his name to be sanctified. How can we be silent when we know the truth about our heavenly Father and his purpose? We feel as did the apostle Paul when he said: “Necessity is laid upon me. Really, woe is me if I did not declare the good news!”—1 Corinthians 9:16.
14, 15. (a) What role does Jehovah’s organization play in our spiritual growth? (b) What provisions are available to help us spiritually?
14 The second question also reminds the candidate of his responsibility to work with Jehovah’s spirit-directed organization. We are not alone in serving God, and we need the help, support, and encouragement of “the whole association of brothers.” (1 Peter 2:17; 1 Corinthians 12:12, 13) God’s organization plays a vital role in our spiritual growth. It provides a wealth of Bible publications that help us to grow in accurate knowledge, to act wisely when we are faced with problems, and to cultivate a close relationship with God. Like a mother who makes sure that her child is well-fed and cared for, “the faithful and discreet slave” provides an abundance of timely spiritual food for our spiritual advancement.—Matthew 24:45-47; 1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8.
15 At weekly meetings, Jehovah’s people receive the needed training and encouragement to be faithful Witnesses of Jehovah. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) The Theocratic Ministry School teaches us to speak in public, and the Service Meeting trains us to present our message effectively. Both at our meetings and through our personal study of Bible publications, we can see Jehovah’s spirit at work, directing his organization. By means of these regular provisions, God alerts us to dangers, trains us to be effective ministers, and helps us to keep spiritually awake.—Psalm 19:7, 8, 11; 1 Thessalonians 5:6, 11; 1 Timothy 4:13.
The Motivation Behind the Decision
16. What motivates us to dedicate ourselves to Jehovah?
16 The two baptismal questions thus remind the candidates of the significance of water baptism and the responsibilities it brings. What, then, should motivate them to make the decision to get baptized? We become baptized disciples, not because someone forces us, but because Jehovah “draws” us. (John 6:44) Since “God is love,” he rules the universe by love, not by force. (1 John 4:8) We are drawn to Jehovah by his kind qualities and by the way he deals with us. Jehovah gave his only-begotten Son for us and offers us the best possible future. (John 3:16) In turn, we are moved to offer him—to dedicate to him—our life.—Proverbs 3:9; 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15.
17. To what have we not dedicated ourselves?
17 We dedicate ourselves, not to a cause or to a work, but to Jehovah himself. The work that God has for his people will change, but their dedication to him remains the same. For example, what he told Abraham to do was very different from what he told Jeremiah to do. (Genesis 13:17, 18; Jeremiah 1:6, 7) Yet, both of them carried out the specific task God gave them to do because they loved Jehovah and desired to do his will faithfully. During this time of the end, all baptized followers of Christ strive to carry out Christ’s command to preach the Kingdom good news and to make disciples. (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) Doing that work wholeheartedly is a fine way to show that we love our heavenly Father and that we are truly dedicated to him.—1 John 5:3.
18, 19. (a) What public statement do we make by means of our baptism? (b) What will be considered in the following article?
18 Without a doubt, baptism opens up the way to many blessings, but it is not a step to be taken lightly. (Luke 14:26-33) It expresses a resolve that takes priority over every other responsibility. (Luke 9:62) When we get baptized, we are really making the public statement: “This God is our God to time indefinite, even forever. He himself will guide us until we die.”—Psalm 48:14.
19 The following article will examine further questions that may arise in connection with water baptism. Might there be valid reasons for a person to hold back from getting baptized? Should age be a factor? How can all contribute to the dignity of the occasion of baptism?
Can You Explain?
• Why does each Christian need to repent before baptism?
• What does dedication to God involve?
• What responsibilities come with the honor of bearing Jehovah’s name?
• What should motivate us to make the decision to be baptized?
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The Two Baptismal Questions
On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?
Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in association with God’s spirit-directed organization?
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Dedication is a solemn promise made to Jehovah in prayer
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Our preaching work demonstrates our dedication to God