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Baptism​—A Requirement for Christians

Baptism​—A Requirement for Christians

“Baptism . . . is also now saving you.”​—1 PET. 3:21.

SONGS: 52, 41

1, 2. (a) How do some Christian parents respond when their child asks to get baptized? (b) Why are baptism candidates asked if they have made a dedication to Jehovah? (See opening picture.)

AS HER Christian parents looked on, a young girl, whom we will call Maria, stood up with the other baptism candidates. In a loud, clear voice, she answered two questions that the speaker posed. Shortly afterward, she got baptized.

2 Maria’s parents were proud of their daughter’s decision to make an unreserved dedication to Jehovah and to get baptized. Even so, earlier her mother had some lingering questions. She had asked herself: ‘Is Maria too young to get baptized? Does she really understand the seriousness of what she is doing? Would it be better to have her wait before getting baptized?’ These are questions that many loving parents ask themselves when a child expresses the desire to get baptized. (Eccl. 5:5) After all, dedication and baptism are the most important steps in a Christian’s life.​—See the box “ Have You Dedicated Yourself to Jehovah?

3, 4. (a) How did the apostle Peter illustrate the importance of baptism? (b) Why can baptism be likened to constructing the ark in Noah’s day?

 3 In discussing baptism, the apostle Peter referred to Noah’s constructing of the ark: “Baptism, which corresponds to this, is also now saving you.” (Read 1 Peter 3:20, 21.) The ark was a physical structure that provided undeniable visible evidence that Noah was devoted to the doing of God’s will. Noah faithfully fulfilled the work assignment that Jehovah had given him. Yes, visible acts of faith led to the preservation of Noah and his family through the Flood. What is the point of Peter’s illustration?

4 Just as the ark amounted to evidence of Noah’s faith, baptism before onlookers provides visible evidence. What does it show? That a Christian disciple has dedicated himself to Jehovah on the basis of faith in the resurrected Christ. Like Noah, dedicated disciples obediently carry on in the work that God has assigned them to do. Just as Noah was preserved through the Flood, loyal baptized ones will be preserved when the present wicked world meets its end. (Mark 13:10; Rev. 7:9, 10) This makes dedication and baptism very important. A person who needlessly delays getting baptized endangers his prospects for everlasting life.

5. What will we consider in this article?

5 In view of how serious baptism is, three questions deserve our attention. What does the Bible say about baptism? What steps must a person take before getting baptized? Why should a Christian teacher have the importance of baptism clearly in mind when teaching his child or another Bible student?

 BAPTISM IN THE BIBLE

6, 7. (a) Explain the significance of John’s baptism. (b) What unique baptism did John perform?

6 We first read of baptism in the Bible in reference to that performed by John the Baptist. (Matt. 3:1-6) Those submitting to John’s baptism did so as evidence of their repentance over sins against the Mosaic Law. It is noteworthy, however, that the most important baptism that John performed had nothing to do with repentance. John had the unique privilege of baptizing Jesus, the perfect human Son of God. (Matt. 3:13-17) Jesus was without sin, so he did not need to repent. (1 Pet. 2:22) His baptism symbolized the presenting of himself to do God’s will.​—Heb. 10:7.

7 During the course of Jesus’ earthly ministry, his disciples also performed baptisms. (John 3:22; 4:1, 2) Like those performed by John, these baptisms symbolized the individuals’ repentance over sins against the Mosaic Law. However, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, baptism would take on a much different meaning for his followers.

8. (a) After his resurrection, Jesus gave what command to his followers? (b) Explain the significance of Christian baptism.

8 In 33 C.E., the resurrected Jesus appeared to a crowd of more than 500 men, women, and possibly even children. It may have been on that occasion that he said: “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.” (Matt. 28:19, 20; 1 Cor. 15:6) Yes, it seems that hundreds of his followers were present when Jesus gave the commission to make disciples. Jesus thus revealed that baptism would be a requirement for those who accept the yoke of Christian discipleship. (Matt. 11:29, 30) Anyone who wished to serve God acceptably would have to acknowledge and accept Jesus’ role in the outworking of Jehovah’s purpose. After doing so, that person could get baptized. This would be the only water baptism having God’s approval. The Bible record provides abundant evidence that in the first century, new disciples of Christ understood the significance of baptism. And they did not unnecessarily delay getting baptized.​—Acts 2:41; 9:18; 16:14, 15, 32, 33.

DO NOT DELAY

9, 10. What can we learn about baptism from the Ethiopian proselyte and from the apostle Paul?

9 Read Acts 8:35, 36. Consider the example of the Ethiopian proselyte who was returning home after going to Jerusalem to worship. Prompted by Jehovah’s angel, Philip approached the Ethiopian and “declared to him the good news about Jesus.” What was the Ethiopian’s response? What he did next gave clear evidence of his heartfelt appreciation for the truths he had learned. He desired to work in harmony with Jehovah’s arrangement, so he got baptized without delay.

10 A second example is that of a Jewish man who was persecuting Christians. He was born in a nation that was dedicated to God. However, the Jews had lost their special relationship with Jehovah. That man was zealous for the traditions of Judaism, but he learned a better way. He  received a personal witness from the resurrected and glorified Jesus Christ. What was the man’s response? He welcomed assistance from the Christian disciple Ananias. Regarding that man the Bible tells us: “He then got up and was baptized.” (Acts 9:17, 18; Gal. 1:14) You certainly recognize that Jewish man as the one who came to be known as the apostle Paul. But reflect on the fact that once he gained appreciation for the truth about Jesus’ role in the outworking of God’s purpose, Paul acted. He got baptized without delay.​—Read Acts 22:12-16.

11. (a) What motivates Bible students today to get baptized? (b) How are we affected when we see newly dedicated ones get baptized?

11 It is much the same with Bible students today, whether young or old. Those who have faith and genuine appreciation for Bible truth are eager to make a personal dedication and get baptized. The talk presented especially for such ones is a highlight of every assembly and convention. Jehovah’s Witnesses rejoice when a Bible student accepts the truth and progresses to the point of water baptism. Do not Christian parents delight to see their children among the other new disciples getting baptized? During the 2017 service year, more than 284,000 “rightly disposed” individuals symbolized their dedication to Jehovah by water baptism. (Acts 13:48) Clearly, those new disciples understood that baptism is a requirement for Christians. What steps led up to their baptism?

12. What steps must a Bible student take before baptism?

12 Before a student can get baptized, he must cultivate faith based on accurate knowledge of God, His purpose, and His arrangement for salvation. (1 Tim. 2:3-6) Such faith moves the student to reject conduct that is displeasing to God and to come in line with Jehovah’s righteous standards. (Acts 3:19) Understandably, an individual could not make a valid dedication to God while engaging in any conduct that would exclude him from the Kingdom. (1 Cor. 6:9, 10) But more is needed than adhering to Jehovah’s elevated moral standards. One who is pursuing righteousness would also be present at congregation meetings and have a meaningful share in the lifesaving preaching and disciple-making work. Jesus said that this work would be carried out by his true disciples. (Acts 1:8) Only after taking such steps can a new disciple make a valid dedication to Jehovah in private prayer and then publicly symbolize this dedication by getting baptized before onlookers.

A GOAL FOR BIBLE STUDENTS

Do you bear in mind the importance of baptism, conveying that to your student? (See paragraph 13)

13. Why must Bible teachers bear in mind that baptism is a Christian requirement?

13 As we assist our children and other Bible students to take the essential steps, we should bear in mind that genuine discipleship includes baptism. If we keep that clearly in mind, we will communicate more effectively with our students. We will not hold back from discussing at appropriate times the importance of dedication and baptism. Yes, we want our children and other Bible students to progress to the point of baptism!

14. Why do we not pressure anyone to get baptized?

14 Certainly, no one should feel pressured by a parent, a Bible teacher, or anyone else in the congregation to get  baptized. That is not Jehovah’s way. (1 John 4:8) Rather, as we teach such ones, we ought to emphasize the importance of building a personal relationship with God. It is the student’s heartfelt appreciation for the truth and his desire to shoulder the yoke of Christian discipleship that will move him to get baptized.​—2 Cor. 5:14, 15.

15, 16. (a) Is there a certain age at which one should get baptized? Explain. (b) Why must a Bible student get baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses even if he was previously baptized in another religion?

15 There is no set age at which one should get baptized. Each student grows and matures at a different rate. Many get baptized at a young age, and they go on to be faithful to Jehovah. Other students see the importance of getting baptized after learning Bible truth when advanced in years​—some being over 100 years of age!

16 One elderly Bible student asked her teacher if it was really necessary to get baptized again; she had previously been baptized in different religions over the years. The student and her teacher reviewed pertinent scriptures from the Bible. The student now understood the Bible’s requirement and got baptized soon thereafter. Although in her late 70’s, she did not feel that baptism was unnecessary for her. Yes, valid baptism is based on an accurate knowledge of Jehovah’s will. Hence, new disciples must get baptized even if they previously were baptized in another religion.​—Read Acts 19:3-5.

17. What is it appropriate to contemplate on the day of one’s baptism?

17 The day of one’s baptism is a time for genuine rejoicing. It is also a time for sober reflection. Living up to one’s dedication involves hard work. That is why Jesus compared Christian discipleship to a yoke. Jesus’ disciples must “live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised up.”​—2 Cor. 5:15; Matt. 16:24.

18. What questions will we consider in the next article?

18 Maria’s mother had such thoughts in mind when she asked the questions mentioned in the introduction. If you are a parent, you may have asked yourself: ‘Is my child really ready to get baptized? Does he or she have adequate knowledge to make a valid dedication? What about secular goals associated with education and a career? What if my child gets baptized and then falls into serious sin?’ In the next article, we will consider these matters and discuss how Christian parents can maintain a balanced view of baptism.