How is Christian baptism performed?
What steps do you need to take to qualify for baptism?
How does a person make a dedication to God?
What is the special reason for getting baptized?
“LOOK! A body of water; what prevents me from getting baptized?” That question was asked by an Ethiopian court official in the first century. A Christian named Philip had proved to him that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Touched to the heart by what he had learned from the Scriptures, the Ethiopian man took action. He showed that he wanted to be baptized!—Acts 8:26-36.
2 If you have carefully studied the earlier chapters of this book with one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you may feel ready to ask, ‘What prevents me from getting baptized?’ By now you have learned about the Bible’s promise of everlasting life in Paradise. (Luke 23:43; Revelation 21:3, 4) You have also learned about the true condition of the dead and the resurrection hope. (Ecclesiastes 9:5; John 5:28, 29) You have probably been associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses at their congregation meetings and have seen for yourself how they practice the true religion. (John 13:35) Most important, you have likely begun to develop a personal relationship with Jehovah God.
3 How can you show that you want to serve God? Jesus told his followers: “Go…and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them.” (Matthew 28:19) Jesus himself set the example by being baptized in water. He was not sprinkled with water, and he did not just have some water poured over his head. (Matthew 3:16) The word “baptize” comes from a Greek term meaning “dip.” Christian baptism therefore means being fully dipped, or immersed, in water.
4 Water baptism is a requirement for all who want to have a relationship with Jehovah God. Baptism publicly indicates your desire to serve God. It shows that you are delighted to do Jehovah’s will. (Psalm 40:7, 8) To qualify for baptism, however, you must take definite steps.
KNOWLEDGE AND FAITH NEEDED
5 You have already begun to take the first step. How? By taking in knowledge of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, perhaps by means of a systematic study of the Bible. (John 17:3) But there is more to learn. Christians want to be “filled with the accurate knowledge of [God’s] will.” (Colossians 1:9) Attending the congregation meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses is a big help in this regard. It is important to attend such meetings. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) Regular meeting attendance will help you increase your knowledge of God.
6 Of course, you do not need to know everything in the Bible in order to qualify for baptism. The Ethiopian court official had some knowledge, but he needed help to understand certain parts of the Scriptures. (Acts 8:30, 31) Likewise, you still have much to learn. In fact, you will never stop learning about God. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) Before you can be baptized, however, you need to know and accept at least the basic Bible teachings. (Hebrews 5:12) Such teachings include the truth about the condition of the dead and the importance of God’s name and his Kingdom.
7 Knowledge alone is not enough, though, for “without faith it is impossible to please [God] well.” (Hebrews 11:6) The Bible tells us that when some people in the ancient city of Corinth heard the Christian message, they “began to believe and be baptized.” (Acts 18:8) In a similar way, a study of the Bible should fill you with faith that it is the inspired Word of God. Bible study should help you to have faith in God’s promises and in the saving power of Jesus’ sacrifice.—Joshua 23:14; Acts 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
SHARING BIBLE TRUTH WITH OTHERS
8 As faith grows in your heart, you will find it hard to keep what you have learned to yourself. (Jeremiah 20:9) You will be strongly motivated to speak to others about God and his purposes.—2 Corinthians 4:13.
9 You might begin to share Bible truth with others by tactfully speaking about it to your relatives, friends, neighbors, and workmates. In time, you will want to share in the organized preaching work of Jehovah’s Witnesses. At that point, feel free to talk things over with the Witness who is teaching you the Bible. If it appears that you qualify for the public ministry, arrangements will be made for you and your teacher to meet with two of the congregation elders.
10 This will enable you to get better acquainted with some Christian elders, who shepherd the flock of God. (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2, 3) If these elders see that you understand and believe basic Bible teachings, are living in harmony with God’s principles, and truly want to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they will let you know that you qualify to share in the public ministry as an unbaptized publisher of the good news.
11 On the other hand, you may need to make some changes in your life-style and habits in order to qualify for the public ministry. This may include stopping some practices that have been kept secret from others. Hence, before you ask about becoming an unbaptized publisher, you need to be free of serious sins, such as sexual immorality, drunkenness, and drug abuse.—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Galatians 5:19-21.
REPENTANCE AND CONVERSION
12 Some other steps must be taken before you qualify for baptism. The apostle Peter said: “Repent…and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out.” (Acts 3:19) To repent is to feel sincere regret over something you have done. Repentance is clearly fitting if a person has lived an immoral life, but it is also necessary even if one has lived a relatively clean life morally. Why? Because all humans are sinners and need God’s forgiveness. (Romans 3:23; 5:12) Before studying the Bible, you did not know what God’s will was. So how could you have lived in full harmony with his will? Therefore, repentance is necessary.
13 Repentance must be followed by conversion, or ‘turning around.’ You must do more than feel regret. You need to reject your former way of life and be firmly determined that you will do what is right from now on. Repentance and conversion are steps that you must take before being baptized.
MAKING A PERSONAL DEDICATION
14 There is another important step to take before being baptized. You must dedicate yourself to Jehovah God.
15 When you dedicate yourself to Jehovah God in earnest prayer, you promise to give him your exclusive devotion forever. (Deuteronomy 6:15) Why, though, would someone want to do that? Well, suppose a man has begun to court a woman. The more he learns about her and sees that she has fine qualities, the more he finds himself drawn to her. In time, it is natural that he would ask her to marry him. True, getting married will mean taking on additional responsibilities. But love will move him to take that important step.
16 When you come to know and love Jehovah, you are moved to serve him without holding anything back or setting any limits in worshiping him. Anyone who wants to follow God’s Son, Jesus Christ, has to “disown himself.” (Mark 8:34) We disown ourselves by making sure that personal desires and goals do not stand in the way of our complete obedience to God. Before you can be baptized, then, doing Jehovah God’s will must be your main purpose in life.—1 Peter 4:2.
OVERCOMING FEAR OF FAILURE
17 Some hold back from making a dedication to Jehovah because they are somewhat afraid of taking such a serious step. They may fear being accountable to God as a dedicated Christian. Being afraid that they may fail and disappoint Jehovah, they think that it is best not to make a dedication to him.
18 As you learn to love Jehovah, you will be moved to make a dedication to him and to do your best to live up to it. (Ecclesiastes 5:4) After making a dedication, surely you will want to “walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him.” (Colossians 1:10) Because of your love for God, you will not think it is too hard to do his will. No doubt you will agree with the apostle John, who wrote: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.”—1 John 5:3.
19 You do not have to be perfect to make a dedication to God. Jehovah knows your limitations and never expects you to do more than you are able to do. (Psalm 103:14) He wants you to succeed and will support and help you. (Isaiah 41:10) You can be sure that if you trust in Jehovah with all your heart, he “will make your paths straight.”—Proverbs 3:5, 6.
SYMBOLIZING YOUR DEDICATION BY GETTING BAPTIZED
20 Thinking about the things we have just discussed may help you to make a personal dedication to Jehovah in prayer. Everyone who really loves God must also ‘make public declaration for salvation.’ (Romans 10:10) How do you go about doing that?
21 Let the coordinator of the body of elders of your congregation know that you want to get baptized. He will arrange for some elders to review with you a number of questions that cover the Bible’s basic teachings. If these elders agree that you qualify, they will tell you that you can be baptized at the next opportunity.* A talk reviewing the meaning of baptism is usually given on such occasions. The speaker then invites all baptism candidates to answer two simple questions as one way to make a verbal “public declaration” of their faith.
22 It is the baptism itself that publicly identifies you as a person who has made a dedication to God and is now one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Baptism candidates are fully immersed in water to show publicly that they have made a dedication to Jehovah.
THE MEANING OF YOUR BAPTISM
23 Jesus said that his disciples would be baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) This means that a baptism candidate recognizes the authority of Jehovah God and of Jesus Christ. (Psalm 83:18; Matthew 28:18) He also recognizes the function and activity of God’s holy spirit, or active force.—Galatians 5:22, 23; 2 Peter 1:21.
24 However, baptism is not a mere bath. It is a symbol of something very important. Going beneath the water symbolizes that you have died to your former life course. Being raised up out of the water indicates that you are now alive to do the will of God. Remember, too, that you have made a dedication to Jehovah God himself, not to a work, a cause, other humans, or an organization. Your dedication and baptism are the beginning of a very close friendship with God—an intimate relationship with him.—Psalm 25:14.
25 Baptism does not guarantee salvation. The apostle Paul wrote: “Keep working out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) Baptism is only a beginning. The question is, How can you remain in God’s love? Our final chapter will provide the answer.
WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES
- Christian baptism involves complete immersion in water, not just sprinkling.—Matthew 3:16.
- Steps leading to baptism begin with taking in knowledge and showing faith followed by repentance, conversion, and the dedicating of oneself to God.—John 17:3; Acts 3:19; 18:8.
- To make a dedication to Jehovah, you must disown yourself, even as people disowned themselves to follow Jesus.—Mark 8:34.
- Baptism symbolizes dying to one’s former way of life and becoming alive to do God’s will.—1 Peter 4:2.
* Baptisms are a regular feature of annual assemblies and conventions held by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
1. Why did an Ethiopian court official request baptism?
2. Why should you think seriously about baptism?
3. (a) What command did Jesus give his followers? (b) How is water baptism performed?
4. What does water baptism indicate?
5. (a) What is the first step in qualifying for baptism? (b) Why are Christian meetings important?
6. How much Bible knowledge must you have in order to qualify for baptism?
7. What effect should a study of the Bible have on you?
8. What will move you to share with others what you have learned?
9, 10. (a) With whom might you begin sharing Bible truth? (b) What should you do if you want to share in the organized preaching work of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
11. What changes might some have to make before they qualify for the public ministry?
12. Why is repentance necessary?
13. What is conversion?
14. What important step must you take before being baptized?
15, 16. What does it mean to dedicate yourself to God, and what moves a person to do this?
17. Why might some hold back from making a dedication to God?
18. What can move you to make a dedication to Jehovah?
19. Why do you not need to fear making a dedication to God?
20. Why can dedication to Jehovah not remain a private matter?
21, 22. How can you make “public declaration” of your faith?
23. What does it mean to be baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit”?
24, 25. (a) What does baptism symbolize? (b) What question needs to be answered?