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Baptism - Coerced or Not Coerced?

A definition of the word Coerce is to cause to do through pressure or necessity, by physical, moral or intellectual means. i.e. to force someone to to do something that they are not comfortable with. Some of the language used by the Watchtower in it publications are very coercive.

Do the following quotes suggest some form of coercion? Please also see Baptism Questions.

Watchtower April 1, 2002: p13, paragraph 17, 19

[Paragraph 17]…Jehovah's Witnesses never coerce anyone into baptism.

[parapgraph 19, subheading]Is Something Holding You Back?

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1989 Jan 15 p.10 What Prevents You From Getting Baptized?

What Prevents You From Getting Baptized?

[…]

Why Some Hold Back

22 Since being a dedicated witness of Jehovah is such a blessed privilege, why do some hold back from getting baptized? Lack of true love is one reason why some do not obey God's Word, follow Jesus' lead, and get baptized. (1 John 5:3) Of course, unbaptized persons usually do not say that they will not follow Jesus' example or obey God. Rather, they remain so involved in worldly affairs that they have little time for spiritual pursuits. If this could be your problem, would it not be wise to change your affections, interests, and aspirations? Those who really love God cannot also be loving this world. (1 John 2:15-17) And do not allow yourself to be lulled into a false sense of security through "the deceptive power of riches." (Matthew 13:22) True security is found only in a dedicated relationship with Jehovah God.-Psalm 4:8.

23 Others claim to love God but hold back from making a dedication because they feel that they thus avoid responsibility and will not be held accountable. They would like to live in Paradise, but so far they are doing little or nothing about it. (Proverbs 13:4) Such individuals cannot avoid accountability because responsibility came upon them when they heard the word of Jehovah. (Ezekiel 33:7-9) If they were to make a dedication, they would demonstrate that they understand God's will and are eager to do it. Instead of placing a heavier load upon them, such obedience would call forth Jehovah's blessing and would result in joy because they would be living up to their claim that they love him.

24 A feeling that they do not know enough to explain the Scriptures causes still others to avoid baptism. But the Ethiopian eunuch was ready to symbolize his dedication to God after a discussion with Philip during a chariot ride. Surely, the Ethiopian could not initially answer all the questions of those to whom he spoke the truth. But his heart overflowed with gratitude for what he had heard, and he did not hold back in fear. "There is no fear in love, but perfect love throws fear outside." (1 John 4:18) Not a head full of answers but a heart full of love moves a person to make a dedication to God and get baptized.-Luke 10:25-28.

25 If you are not yet baptized, ask yourself: What does God expect of those who say they love him? He wants exclusive devotion and is looking for those who will worship him "with spirit and truth." (John 4:23, 24; Exodus 20:4, 5; Luke 4:8) The Ethiopian eunuch rendered that kind of worship, and he did not delay when afforded an opportunity to undergo baptism. Should you not make dedication to Jehovah a matter of earnest prayer right now and ask yourself: "What prevents me from getting baptized?"

[Study Questions]

[…]

22. Why do some hold back from getting baptized?

23. Why do others refrain from making a dedication to Jehovah and symbolizing it by water immersion?

24. For what reason do still others hold back from getting baptized?

25. What does Jehovah God expect of those professing to love him?

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1989 January 15 p.15 How Baptism Can Save Us

How Baptism Can Save Us

"Immersion . . . saves us."-1 PETER 3:21, The Emphatic Diaglott.

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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?

[...]

How can baptism save us?

[Study Questions]

[...]

20, 21. (a) In what way are slaves of Jehovah 'marked'? (b) What is this "mark," and possessing it means what?

[Picture on page 16]

Do you know how baptism corresponds to the preservation of Noah and his family in the ark?

[Picture on page 18]

Dedication and baptism benefit young persons. Do you know how?

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1990 August 1 p.15 Do You Appreciate What God Has Done?

Do You Appreciate What God Has Done?

"If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake day after day and follow me continually."-LUKE 9:23.

WE OWE our lives to God. If he had not created humankind, we would never have been born. But God created more than life. He made us so that we could enjoy many things: the flavor of food, the warmth of sunlight, the sound of music, the freshness of a spring day, the tenderness of love. Even more, God gave us a mind and the desire to learn about him. He inspired the Bible, which gives us sound guidance, shows us how to live happier lives, and provides the hope of living forever in his righteous new world. God also provides his holy spirit, the support of a local congregation, and loving older men and women who can help us to remain strong in his service.-Genesis 1:1, 26-28; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 10:24, 25; James 5:14, 15.

2 In addition to all of that, God sent his own firstborn Son to tell us more about what the Father expects of us and to provide a "release by ransom" for everyone who will accept it. (Ephesians 1:7; Romans 5:18) That son, Jesus Christ, said: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16, King James Version) The salvation made possible by that ransom is of such superlative value that there is absolutely no way that anyone could do works to earn it, certainly not works formerly done under the Mosaic Law. Thus, Paul wrote: "A man is declared righteous, not due to works of law, but only through faith toward Christ Jesus."-Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:20-24.

Faith and Works

3 Salvation comes by faith, but faith and appreciation for all that God has done should move us to action. It should motivate us to do things that show our faith. Jesus' half brother James wrote: "Faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself." He further said: "Show me your faith apart from the works, and I shall show you my faith by my works." James pointed out that even the demons "believe and shudder," but obviously demons do not do godly works. Abraham, on the other hand, had both faith and works. "His faith worked along with his works and by his works his faith was perfected." James repeated: "Faith without works is dead."-James 2:17-26.

4 Jesus also showed the importance of right works, saying: "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens." "If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake day after day and follow me continually." If we "disown" ourselves, we give up many of our personal choices. We recognize that we owe everything to God, so we give ourselves to him as his slaves, seeking to learn and to do his will, as Jesus did.-Matthew 5:16; Luke 9:23; John 6:38.

Lives Are Affected

5 Peter pointed out that Christ's "precious blood," given in our behalf, is of such excelling value that our appreciation for it should be evident in our entire way of life. The apostle listed many things that our appreciation should prompt us to do. He counseled: "Put away all badness." "Form a longing for the unadulterated milk belonging to the word." "Declare abroad the excellencies of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." "Turn away from what is bad and do what is good." "Make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you." "Live the remainder of [your] time in the flesh, no more for the desires of men, but for God's will."-1 Peter 1:19; 2:1, 2, 9; 3:11, 15; 4:2.

6 First-century Christians lived their faith. It changed their outlook and their personalities, motivating them to bring their lives into harmony with God's will. They suffered exile, stonings, beatings, imprisonment, and even death rather than violate their faith. (Acts 7:58-60; 8:1; 14:19; 16:22; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 4:3; Philemon 9, 10) The noted Roman historian Tacitus, born about 56 C.E., says that the Christians "were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired." Yet they did not waver!-The Annals, Book XV, paragraph 44.

7 In some congregations you may find people who have attended the meetings for years. They love Jehovah's organization, think his people are the finest people they have ever met, make fine comments about the truth, and defend the truth to outsiders. But something stands in their way, something holds them back. They have never taken the fine step that the 3,000 did on the day of Pentecost, that the believing Ethiopian asked about, or that Ananias urged Saul to take as soon as that former persecutor had realized that Jesus really was the Messiah. (Acts 2:41; 8:36; 22:16) What is lacking in such ones today? Why have they not taken the step that the Bible calls "the request made to God for a good conscience"? (1 Peter 3:21) If you find yourself in this situation-knowing the truth but hesitating to do something about it-view this article as prepared out of special love for you.

Overcoming Obstacles to Baptism

8 What could stand in your way? The preceding article showed that some might find personal study to be a problem. God gave us wonderful minds, and he expects us to use them in serving him. Some people who had not even learned to read applied themselves to that task in order to learn more about God and his purposes. What about you? If you already know how to read, do you really study, as the Beroeans did, "carefully examining the Scriptures daily" to see if these things are so? Have you explored "the breadth and length and height and depth" of the truth? Have you dug deeply enough into God's Word? Have you found out how exciting it really is? Have you developed a real desire to know God's will? Do you have a genuine hunger for the truth?-Acts 17:10, 11; Ephesians 3:18.

9 Sometimes people hold back because of a real or imagined problem that they have had with someone in the congregation. Has someone seriously offended you? Then follow the guideline indicated by Jesus' words: "Go lay bare his fault between you and him alone." (Matthew 18:15) You may be surprised to find that the person did not even know that you were offended. But even if he does know, you may still 'gain your brother,' as Jesus said. You may also help him avoid stumbling someone else. Moreover, when you think about it, who are you really serving-that person or God? Is your love for God so limited that you would let any imperfect human's mistake interfere with your love for Him?

10 A secret sin may hold a person back from baptism. This could be something that happened in the past, or it might be a continuing wrong pattern. If this is a problem for you, is it not time to correct the matter? (1 Corinthians 7:29-31) Many of Jehovah's people have had to make changes in their lives. The Bible says: "Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the person of Jehovah."-Acts 3:19.

11 No matter what you may have done in the past, you can repent, change, and ask for God's forgiveness. "Deaden, therefore, your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire . . . Strip off the old personality, with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality, which through accurate knowledge is being made new according to the image of the One who created it." You can bring your life into harmony with his ways, enjoy a clean conscience, and have the hope of everlasting life in his righteous new world. Is that not worth whatever effort it may take?-Colossians 3:5-10; Isaiah 1:16, 18; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Hebrews 9:14.

12 Does tobacco use, alcohol abuse, or addiction to drugs stand between you and a clean conscience? Do not such life-threatening habits show disrespect for God's marvelous gift of life? If such habits stand in your way, surely it is time to correct them. Are these habits worth your life? Paul said: "Let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in God's fear." Do you appreciate God's clean and righteous ways enough to do that?-2 Corinthians 7:1.

Material Things

13 Today's world puts success and "the showy display of one's means of life" ahead of almost everything else. But Jesus likened "the anxieties of this system of things and the deceptive power of riches" to "thorns" that choke out the word of God. He also asked: "What benefit will it be to a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul?"-1 John 2:16; Mark 4:2-8, 18, 19; Matthew 16:26.

14 Jesus pointed out that God arranged for the birds to find food and the lilies to blossom splendidly. Then he asked: "Of how much more worth are you than birds? . . . How much rather will [God] clothe you!" Wisely, Jesus told us to "quit being anxious" about material things. He said: "Seek continually [God's] kingdom, and these things will be added to you." He pointed out that we should put heavenly things first because 'where our treasure is, there our heart would be also.'-Luke 12:22-31; Matthew 6:20, 21.

Godly Service With God's Help

15 Does witnessing to others seem to present a problem for you? Does shyness cause you to hold back? If so, it is important to remember that first-century Christians had the same kind of feelings that we have today. God did not choose many wise and powerful ones, but he chose "the weak things of the world, that he might put the strong things to shame." (1 Corinthians 1:26-29) Powerful religious leaders opposed these "ordinary" people and ordered them to stop preaching. What did the Christians do? They prayed. They asked God for boldness, and he gave it to them. As a result, their message filled Jerusalem and later shook the whole world!-Acts 4:1-4, 13, 17, 23, 24, 29-31; 5:28, 29; Colossians 1:23.

16 Thus, fear of men should never stand between us and service to God. Hebrews chapter 11 tells of a great "cloud of witnesses" who feared, not men, but God. We should show similar faith. The apostle wrote: "Because we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also put off every weight and the sin that easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."-Hebrews 12:1.

17 God can provide his servants tremendous help. The Creator of the universe told Isaiah: "Those who are hoping in Jehovah will regain power. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not tire out."-Isaiah 40:31.

18 The courageous and happy Witnesses that you see in the local congregation are only a small portion of more than three and a half million zealous servants earth wide. They rejoice to have a part in the work that Jesus Christ himself foretold in these words: "This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come." If participating in Kingdom preaching presents a problem for you even though you qualify to do so, why not ask a Witness who does well in the ministry to let you go along with him or her to share in the preaching work? God really does provide "power beyond what is normal," and you may be surprised to find out what a joy this godly service really is.-Matthew 24:14; 2 Corinthians 4:7; see also Psalm 56:11; Matthew 5:11, 12; Philippians 4:13.

19 Jesus expects those who appreciate the Kingdom message to act on it. 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."-Matthew 28:19, 20.

20 Does your appreciation for God's blessings, for the "precious blood" of Jesus, and for the marvelous hope of everlasting life move you to action? (1 Peter 1:19) Have you brought your life into harmony with God's righteous requirements? Do you share regularly in making disciples? Have you disowned yourself and dedicated your life to God? If the answer to all these questions is a definite yes, it may be time to ask one of the elders in the congregation you attend the same question that the believing Ethiopian asked Philip: "What prevents me from getting baptized?"-Acts 8:36.

[Footnotes]

The Jerusalem Bible renders this "renounce himself." The version by J. B. Phillips says "give up all right to himself." The New English Bible says "leave self behind."

For information on quitting such habits, see The Watchtower, February 1, 1981, pages 3-12; June 1, 1973, pages 336-43; and Awake!, July 8, 1982, pages 3-12; May 22, 1981, pages 3-11. These may be available in the library at the local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Do You Remember?

• What special reasons do we have for being thankful to God?

• What should faith and appreciation motivate us to do?

• What problems may stand between us and obedience to God, and what could we do about them?

• What questions may persons who are not yet baptized ask themselves?

[Study Questions]

1. What are some of the wonderful gifts that God has provided?

2. (a) What is the most outstanding thing that God has done for us? (b) Can we earn salvation through works?

3. What did James say about faith and works?

4. What did Jesus say those who want to follow him should do?

5. (a) What did Peter show should affect our entire way of life? (b) What fine works did he recommend?

6. (a) How did first-century Christians demonstrate their faith? (b) What example should this set for us?

7. In what situation might some people find themselves?

8. If you have never been a good student, what would be the wise course to take now?

9. What is the right thing to do if you have a problem with someone in the congregation?

10, 11. What should you do if some secret sin has been holding you back?

12. What should you do if tobacco, alcohol abuse, or addictive drugs stand between you and a clean conscience?

13, 14. (a) What do the Scriptures say about material goals? (b) Why is it important to put heavenly things first?

15. What fine encouragement does the example of first-century Christians give us?

16. What do we learn from the great "cloud of witnesses" described in Hebrews chapter 11?

17. What encouragement did God give through Isaiah?

18. How might you overcome timidity in order to share in the Kingdom preaching?

19. What teaching work did Jesus command his followers to do?

20. If you are moving ahead spiritually, what question may soon be appropriate?

[Box on page 18]

'What kind of "soil" am I?'

Jesus gave an illustration of a man who went out to sow seed. Some seed fell alongside the road and were eaten by birds. Others fell on rocky places without much soil. These sprouted, but when the sun came up, they withered and died. Still other seed fell among thorns and were choked. Jesus said that these three groups represented: first, the person who "hears the word of the kingdom but does not get the sense of it"; second, one who accepts the word but is turned away by the heat of "tribulation or persecution"; and third, the person for whom "the anxiety of this system of things and the deceptive power of riches choke the word."

But Jesus also told of other seed that fell on fine soil. He said: "This is the one hearing the word and getting the sense of it, who really does bear fruit."-Matthew 13:3-8, 18-23.

It might be well to ask ourselves: 'What kind of "soil" am I?'

[Box on page 19]

They died for their faith

Do you know anyone who would rather die than violate his faith? Thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses have done that. In The Nazi State and the New Religions: Five Case Studies in Non-Conformity, Dr. Christine E. King wrote: "One out of every two German Witnesses was imprisoned, one in four lost their lives."

When the horror of the camps finally ended in 1945, "the Witnesses' numbers had increased and no compromises had been made." In The Nazi Persecution of the Churches, J. S. Conway wrote of the Witnesses: "No other sect displayed anything like the same determination in the face of the full force of Gestapo terrorism."

Jehovah's Witnesses were not persecuted because of politics or race. Rather, they suffered entirely because of their love of God and their refusal to violate their Bible-trained consciences.

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1987 April 15 pp.10-15 Gaining Peace With God Through Dedication and Baptism

Gaining Peace With God Through Dedication and Baptism

"Jehovah went on to say: ' . . . Any man upon whom there is the mark do not go near.'"-EZEKIEL 9:4, 6.

GAINING peace with God? But why? Few persons consider themselves in conflict with God. Is it possible, however, to be an actual enemy of God and not be aware of it? The apostle Paul explained to Christians in the first century: "We all at one time conducted ourselves in harmony with the desires of our flesh, doing the things willed by the flesh and the thoughts, and we were naturally children of wrath even as the rest."-Ephesians 2:3.

2 Likewise today, though you may be interested in pleasing God, sin inherited from Adam affects your outlook and can cause you to pursue "the things willed by the flesh." Even if you are a person studying the Bible with Jehovah's Witnesses or an unbaptized youth whose parents are Witnesses, a self-centered do-as-I-please attitude may characterize much of your life and continue to alienate you from God. A person who maintains such a course is 'storing up wrath for himself.' (Romans 2:5; Colossians 1:21; 3:5-8) God will express his anger completely during the fast-approaching "day of wrath and of the revealing of God's righteous judgment." (Romans 1:28-2:6) How can you gain peace with God and survive this "day of wrath"?

The Foundation for Peace

3 Jehovah took the initiative to help. "He loved us and sent forth his Son as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:10) Jesus' sacrificial death propitiates, that is, appeases or satisfies Jehovah's justice. This provides a legal basis for the forgiveness of sins and, eventually, for the complete removal of the enmity between God and man. Yes, it is possible to become "reconciled to God through the death of his Son," as the apostle Paul wrote.-Romans 5:8-10.

4 But to benefit personally from Christ's sacrifice, we must take certain steps. These are indicated in a dramatic vision given to the prophet Ezekiel, a vision that is fulfilled during our time when God's "day of wrath" is imminent. God's executional forces are pictured in the vision by six armed men. Before these express God's wrath, a seventh man, carrying a secretary's inkhorn, is told: "'Pass through the midst of the city, . . . and you must put a mark on the foreheads of the men that are sighing and groaning over all the detestable things that are being done in the midst of it.' And to [the six armed men] he said in my ears: 'Pass through the city after him and strike. . . . But to any man upon whom there is the mark do not go near.'"-Ezekiel 9:1-6.

5 These protectively 'marked' ones were sickened because persons claiming to worship the true God had 'filled the land with violence' and had engaged in sexual immorality, idolatry, and all manner of other wrong conduct. (Ezekiel 8:5-18; Jeremiah 7:9) Likewise today, those who would be 'marked' must first learn, through a study of the Bible, to value God's standards and become grieved at heart, yes, to 'sigh and groan,' over teachings and practices that dishonor him. Perhaps because of ignorance some engaged in wrongdoing or consented to such by giving their support. Yet, now they begin to view such activities as God views them-with disgust! (Romans 1:24-32; Isaiah 2:4; Revelation 18:4; John 15:19) This increased appreciation leads to one of the first steps to gain peace with God: repentance. The apostle Peter urged: "Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out, that seasons of refreshing [rather than wrath] may come from the person of Jehovah." (Acts 3:19) How refreshing such forgiveness is!

Getting the "Mark"

6 To be spared from God's wrath, those who 'sighed and groaned' had to be marked on their forehead. (Ezekiel 9:4) In ancient times slaves were often marked on the forehead to be clearly identified. Distinctive marks on the forehead and elsewhere might also show that a person worshiped a certain deity. (Compare Isaiah 44:5.) So, in our day, what is the distinctive, lifesaving mark that clearly identifies its bearers as true worshipers and slaves of Jehovah?

7 The symbolic mark is the evidence, as if displayed on your uncovered forehead, (1) that you are a dedicated, baptized disciple of Jesus Christ and (2) that you have put on the Christlike new personality. (Ephesians 4:20-24) Since those thus 'marked' must first make a dedication, we need to know what this involves. Jesus explains: "If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and follow me continually."-Mark 8:34.

8 The Greek word translated "disown" means "to deny utterly" or "renounce." Therefore, to 'disown yourself' means more than denying yourself a certain pleasure or indulgence now and then. Rather, it means being willing to say no to yourself when it comes to letting your life be dominated by your personal desires and ambitions. We are helped to see the scope of Jesus' words by noting how this concept is translated into different languages: "To stop doing what one's own heart wants" (Tzeltal, Mexico), "to not belong to oneself any longer" (K'anjobal, Guatemala), and "to turn his back on himself" (Javanese, Indonesia). Yes, this means an exclusive dedication, not just a commitment that could be made to a number of things.

9 A Christian named Susan, who formerly was quite independent, explains what dedication meant to her: "I was surrendering my whole self to someone else. Jehovah now determines my course, tells me what to do, and sets my priorities." Are you willing to make the same exclusive dedication to Jehovah God? Remember, the symbolic mark identifies you as 'belonging' to God, as a happy slave to his Master.-Compare Exodus 21:5, 6; Romans 14:8.

10 "Who of you that wants to build a tower does not first sit down and calculate the expense, to see if he has enough to complete it?" asked Jesus. (Luke 14:28) So are you willing to: Attend Christian meetings regularly? (Hebrews 10:25) Maintain the high moral standard set by God for his servants? (1 Thessalonians 4:3, 4, 7) Have as full a share in the Kingdom preaching work as you can? Put God's will first when choosing a career or setting goals in life? (Matthew 6:33; Ecclesiastes 12:1) Care for your family obligations? (Ephesians 5:22-6:4; 1 Timothy 5:8) Once you have made a personal dedication in prayer, a further step lets others know this officially.

Baptism-For Whom?

11 Jesus commanded that his followers be baptized. (Matthew 28:19, 20) They were to be totally immersed in water and raised out of it. Like a burial and a resurrection, this well pictures a person's dying to a self-centered way of life and being made alive to do God's will. By baptism you identify yourself as one of Jehovah's Witnesses in association with God's worldwide congregation. Baptism validates a solemn agreement made with God. (Compare Exodus 19:3-8.) Your life must be in harmony with his laws. (Psalm 15; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Baptism, which ordains you as a minister of God, reflects also a "request made to God for a good conscience" because you know that you are at peace with God.-1 Peter 3:21.

12 Should even youths consider baptism? Well, recall that Jehovah told the six armed men in the vision: "Old man, young man and virgin and little child and women you should kill off-to a ruination. But to any man upon whom there is the mark do not go near." (Ezekiel 9:6) Of course, children too young to make a dedication would be protected by a parent's "mark" if that parent is striving to bring the children up to love Jehovah and if they are obediently responding. (1 Corinthians 7:14) Yet, if a child is intelligent enough to make a personal decision and has reached the point where he "knows how to do what is right," do not presume that he will continue indefinitely under the merit of his parent's "mark."-James 4:17.

13 Before making a dedication, a youth should have adequate knowledge to comprehend what is involved and should be seeking a personal relationship with God. He should understand and be adhering to Bible principles, knowing that he will be held accountable for any infraction thereof. He should also have sufficient experience in sharing his faith with others and know that this is a vital part of true worship; he should truly want to serve God. Naturally, he would not be expected to show the maturity of an adult, but his spiritual progress should be reasonably steady.

14 If one has 'counted the cost,' it places one at no disadvantage to make a dedication as a youth. With almost all new Christians, after baptism appreciation deepens. "Getting baptized as a youngster was a protection for me," explained David. "As I got older, I noticed how some unbaptized teenagers in the congregation felt free of the authority of the elders and as a consequence veered into bad conduct. But I always remembered that I had dedicated my life to God. My life was already taken, so I could not follow such teenagers."

15 'What, though, if my son or daughter gets baptized when young and then cools off?' some parents wonder. Certainly, a youth should not get baptized just to please a parent or because some friends do. Yet Joseph, Samuel, King Josiah, and Jesus when teenagers all had a serious view of the worship of God and held to it. (Genesis 37:2; 39:1-3; 1 Samuel 1:24-28; 2:18-21; 2 Chronicles 34:3; Luke 2:42-49) In modern times, a Christian named Jean was baptized when she was only ten years old. When asked years later if she really understood the step, Jean replied: "I knew I loved Jehovah, I appreciated what Jesus did for us, and I wanted to serve Jehovah." She has served faithfully for some 40 years since her baptism. Each youth is an individual; no one can set a standard age limit. Parents should strive to reach their child's heart, helping him or her to develop godly devotion. They should not only keep before their children the privilege of dedication and baptism but also fortify them to be steadfast worshipers.

Overcoming Obstacles

16 While Bible knowledge is essential, the "mark" involves more than head knowledge. For instance, in the vision given to Ezekiel, likely the elders executed for offering up incense to false gods had extensive knowledge of Jehovah's written Word. But their behavior behind closed doors showed that they were not true worshipers. (Ezekiel 8:7-12; 9:6) So, to be 'marked' for survival requires putting on "the new personality which was created according to God's will in true righteousness and loyalty."-Ephesians 4:22-24.

17 A formidable obstacle is the influence of your sinful flesh. (Romans 8:7, 8) Some even hold back from baptism because of not controlling some serious fleshly weakness or because of wanting to indulge in illicit worldly pleasures. (James 4:1, 4) Such ones are missing a precious relationship. God's Word advises: "Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you indecisive ones." (James 4:8) Decisive action is required. As an example, one man who began to study the Bible had abused alcohol and drugs for 16 years and was deathly sick because of this. With determination he overcame these bad habits. "But just as I was progressing toward dedication, a woman began begging me to have an affair with her. It was a real temptation," he admitted. "Though the woman thought I was crazy, I told her: 'I'm studying the Bible with Jehovah's Witnesses, and I cannot.'" What prompted his response? "I had seen what Jehovah did for my life by helping me to get off the alcohol. He helped me in other ways too. This kept drawing me closer to him. I could not disappoint him." This man had grown close to God.

18 What counts is not how much you know but how much you love what you know. Psalm 119:165 says: "Abundant peace belongs to those loving [not just knowing] your law, and for them there is no stumbling block." The key is loving God's law, deeply appreciating its value in your life.-Isaiah 48:17, 18.

19 Of course, other obstacles or stumbling blocks may arise. "The hardest one for me," said the brother mentioned above, "was fear of men. I had some worldly 'friends' that I used to drink with. It was the most difficult thing for me to tell them that I was cutting off my association because I was going to dedicate my life to God." (Proverbs 29:25) Others have faced the scorn of family members. One newly baptized Witness, who overcame her husband's opposition, observed: "Rather than one major hurdle, there were a lot of little hurdles I had to get over one at a time." Faithfully overcoming each obstacle as it comes will fortify your heart. Be assured that there is no obstacle that cannot be overcome by those loving God's law!-Luke 16:10.

20 As you prevail over each stumbling block, you will gain "abundant peace." (Psalm 119:165) Yes, "you will walk in security on your way . . . Your sleep must be pleasurable. You will not need to be afraid of any sudden dreadful thing, nor of the storm upon the wicked ones, because it is coming. For Jehovah himself will prove to be, in effect, your confidence."-Proverbs 3:23-26.

[Footnotes]

About 150 years after Ezekiel's vision, the Greek historian Herodotus, noting that the marks on devotees of the god Hercules afforded them protection, wrote: "If the slave of any person whatsoever takes refuge [in Hercules' temple], and has sacred marks impressed on him, so devoting himself to the god, it is not lawful to lay hands on him."

Recently the two questions addressed to baptismal candidates were simplified so that candidates could answer with full comprehension of what is involved in coming into intimate relationship with God and his earthly organization.

See "Train Your Child to Develop Godly Devotion" in our issue of August 15, 1985.

Points for Review

• How does God help us to gain peace with him?

• What is the symbolic lifesaving mark?

• What is the significance of dedication and baptism?

• What sort of obstacles must be faced, and how can these be overcome?

[Study Questions]

1, 2. (a) Why are people in general not at peace with God? (b) Why is it vital for all to gain such peace?

3. How did God provide the basis for reconciliation?

4. What relevant vision was given to Ezekiel, and why is it of importance to us?

5. What leads to repentance?

6. For what reasons were some people marked during ancient times?

7. What is the symbolic mark?

8, 9. (a) What does it mean to 'disown yourself'? (b) How can what dedication requires be illustrated?

10. What matters should one consider before making a dedication?

11. What does baptism symbolize, and what is accomplished by it?

12. When are children protected by their parent's "mark"?

13. What are some considerations in determining a youth's readiness for baptism?

14. Why did one youngster consider his baptism a protection?

15. (a) How do we know that it is possible for youths to maintain a serious view of true worship? (b) How can parents best assist?

16. Why is more than head knowledge required?

17. (a) What obstacle holds some back from baptism? (b) How can the counsel of James 4:8 be applied?

18. What is a key to overcoming obstacles?

19, 20. (a) What obstacles must be overcome, and what assurance do we have? (b) Successfully overcoming all obstacles will result in what?

[Box on page 13]

Immersion or Sprinkling?

The account of Jesus' baptism mentions his "coming up out of the water." (Mark 1:10) That Jesus was immersed is consistent with the meaning of the Greek word translated baptism (ba'pti·sma). This comes from the word ba·pti'zo, which means "dip, immerse." It was sometimes used to describe the sinking of a ship. The second-century writer Lucian uses a related word to describe one person's drowning another: "Plunging him down so deep [ba·pti'zon·ta] that he cannot come up again." The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology concludes: "Despite assertions to the contrary, it seems that baptiz"o, both in Jewish and Christian contexts, normally meant 'immerse', and that even when it became a technical term for baptism, the thought of immersion remains."

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1987 March 15 p.15 How You Can Experience Divine Peace More Fully

How You Can Experience Divine Peace More Fully

[…]

Do Any of These Matters Need Your Attention?

4 Have you recently begun studying the Bible with Jehovah's Witnesses? Or have you perhaps been associating with the local congregation for a number of months or even years? If so, you have undoubtedly found joy in having a knowledge of God's purposes open up before you. But the fact that a person enjoys a home Bible study or finds pleasure in going to the Kingdom Hall does not prove that he is at peace with God. We were all born in sin, and peace with God is possible for us only through Jesus Christ. (Isaiah 53:5; Acts 10:36) A mere passive belief in Jesus does not bring that peace. It is necessary to appreciate personally our need of the ransom, to exercise faith in the value of Jesus' sacrifice, and then to give evidence of that faith by obeying his commandments. (James 2:26) One of the commands that Jesus gave while on earth was that those who would become his disciples should be baptized in water. (Matthew 28:19, 20) Have you been immersed in symbol of your dedication to Jehovah through Jesus Christ?

5 Is there anything in your life that disqualifies you for baptism? If you know that there is, or if during the course of your study you learn that this is the case, do not delay to set matters straight. Realize that any attitude or conduct that would disqualify a person for baptism is also an obstacle to his being at peace with God. Act with urgency while there is still the opportunity. As indicated at 1 Peter 3:21, those who are granted a good conscience by Jehovah God first dedicate themselves to him on the basis of faith in the sacrifice of Christ, get baptized in symbol of that dedication, and do God's will. Then the peace that goes with a good conscience because of having an approved standing before God becomes theirs; it is possible in no other way. Of course, it is only a beginning.

[…]

[Study Questions]

3. What aspects of our lives must be brought into harmony with Jehovah's ways if we truly are to have abundant peace?

4. (a) Why does having a home Bible study or going to the Kingdom Hall not guarantee that we are at peace with God? (b) What is included in exercising faith in Jesus Christ? (John 3:36)

5. Why are dedication and baptism important to our being at peace with God?

[…]

[Picture on page 16]

Baptism

[Pictures on page 17]

Regular meeting attendance

Applying what we learn

[Pictures on page 18]

Sharing fully in the field ministry

Throwing our burdens on Jehovah

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1988 November 15 p.10 Who Will Become Approved by Jehovah?

Who Will Become Approved by Jehovah?

"Keep working out your own salvation . . . ; for God is the one that, for the sake of his good pleasure, is acting within you in order for you both to will and to act."-PHILIPPIANS 2:12, 13.

IT WAS a turning point in history. John the Baptizer had been preaching God's message and immersing repentant ones in water. Then a man approached whom John knew to be righteous; he was Jesus. He had no sin for which he needed to repent, yet he asked to be baptized 'to carry out all that was righteous.'-Matthew 3:1-15.

2 After John modestly complied, and Jesus came out of the water, "the heavens were opened up, and he saw descending like a dove God's spirit." More than that, "there was a voice from the heavens that said: 'This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.'" (Matthew 3:16, 17; Mark 1:11) What a pronouncement! All of us enjoy pleasing someone whom we respect. (Acts 6:3-6; 16:1, 2; Philippians 2:19-22; Matthew 25:21) Imagine, then, how you would feel if the almighty God announced, 'I have approved you!'

3 Is it possible for a person to become approved by God today? For example, take a man who 'has no hope and is without God in the world,' being "alienated from the life that belongs to God." (Ephesians 2:12; 4:18) Can he move from that situation to the blessed state of being approved by Jehovah? If so, how? Let us see.

What Did His Words Mean?

4 The Gospel records of God's words "I have approved [Jesus]" employ the Greek verb eu·do·ke'o. (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22) It means "be well pleased, regard favorably, take delight in," and its noun form has the sense of "good will, good pleasure, favor, wish, desire." Eu·do·ke'o is not limited to divine approval. For instance, Christians in Macedonia 'were pleased' to share financially with others. (Romans 10:1; 15:26; 2 Corinthians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 2:8; 3:1) Still, the approval Jesus received was expressed by God, not by men. This term is used with reference to Jesus only after he was baptized. (Matthew 17:5; 2 Peter 1:17) Interestingly, Luke 2:52 uses a different word-kha'ris-in speaking of Jesus as an unbaptized youth who received "favor" from God and men.

5 Is it possible also for imperfect humans like us to gain God's approval? Happily, the answer is yes. When Jesus was born, angels announced: "Glory in the heights above to God, and upon earth peace among men of goodwill [eu·do·ki'as]." (Luke 2:14) In the literal Greek, the angels were singing of a coming blessing to "men of well thinking" or "men whom God approves." Professor Hans Bietenhard writes of this use of en an·thro'pois eu·do·ki'as: "The phrase refers to the men of God's good pleasure . . . We are not, therefore, dealing here with the good will of men . . . We are dealing with God's sovereign and gracious will, which elects for itself a people for salvation." Thus, as Jehovah's Witnesses have long explained, Luke 2:14 indicates that through dedication and baptism, it is possible for imperfect humans to become men of goodwill, men approved by God!

6 You may realize, however, what a difference there is between being 'enemies of God with minds on the works that are wicked' and being approved as associates of our just and wise God. (Colossians 1:21; Psalm 15:1-5) Hence, though you may be relieved to hear that humans can become approved, you may want to know what is involved. We can learn much about this from God's past dealings.

He Welcomed People

7 For centuries before the announcement of Luke 2:14, Jehovah welcomed people to come and worship him. Of course, God was dealing exclusively with the nation of Israel, which was dedicated to him. (Exodus 19:5-8; 31:16, 17) Recall, though, that when Israel marched out of Egyptian bondage, "a vast mixed company also went up with them." (Exodus 12:38) These non-Israelites who may have had dealings with God's people and witnessed the plagues on Egypt now chose to go with Israel. Some likely became full proselytes.

8 The Law covenant acknowledged the situation of non-Israelites in relation to God and his people. Some aliens were settlers who simply resided in the land of Israel, where they had to obey fundamental laws, such as those against murder and requiring observance of the Sabbath. (Nehemiah 13:16-21) Rather than embracing these settlers as brothers, an Israelite exercised reasonable caution when speaking or dealing with them, for they were not yet part of God's nation. For example, while an Israelite was not allowed to buy and eat the unbled carcass of an animal that had died of itself, such aliens who were not proselytes might do so. (Deuteronomy 14:21; Ezekiel 4:14) In time some of these alien settlers might follow the course of other aliens who became circumcised proselytes. Only then were they treated as brothers in true worship, accountable to keep the entire Law. (Leviticus 16:29; 17:10; 19:33, 34; 24:22) Ruth, the Moabitess, and Naaman, the Syrian leper, were non-Israelites whom God accepted.-Matthew 1:5; Luke 4:27.

9 In the days of King Solomon, we also see God's welcoming attitude toward non-Israelites. When inaugurating the temple, Solomon prayed: "To the foreigner, who is no part of your people Israel and who actually comes from a distant land by reason of your name . . . and prays toward this house, may you yourself listen from the heavens, . . . in order that all the peoples of the earth may get to know your name so as to fear you the same as your people Israel do." (1 Kings 8:41-43) Yes, Jehovah welcomed the prayers of sincere foreigners who searched for him. Perhaps these too would learn his laws, submit to the act of circumcision, and become accepted members of his blessed people.

10 One man who did this in later times was the treasurer for Queen Candace in distant Ethiopia. Likely, when he first heard of the Jews and their worship, his life-style or religious ways were unacceptable to Jehovah. So the Jews would have had to show a measure of tolerance while this foreign man among them was studying the Law to learn God's requirements. He evidently progressed and made the needed changes to qualify for circumcision. Acts 8:27 tells us that "he had gone to Jerusalem to worship." (Exodus 12:48, 49) This would indicate that he was then a full proselyte. He thus was in position to accept the Messiah and become his baptized disciple, thereby coming in line with God's progressive will.

Unbelievers and the Christian Congregation

11 Jesus told his followers: "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 Ethiopian proselyte just mentioned already had knowledge of Jehovah and of the holy spirit. So once Philip helped him to understand and accept Jesus as the messianic Son of God, he could be baptized. He would thus become an approved member of Jehovah's people who were following Christ. Naturally, he would be accountable to God, required 'to observe all the things commanded' for Christians. But with this accountability came a marvelous prospect: salvation!

12 Later, Paul wrote that all Christians need to 'keep working out their own salvation with fear and trembling.' Yet, it was possible to do that, "for God is the one that, for the sake of his good pleasure [eu·do·ki'as], is acting within you in order for you both to will and to act."-Philippians 2:12, 13.

13 Not all who came in contact with true Christians were as ready and qualified as that Ethiopian to move quickly to baptism. Some, not being Jews or proselytes, had little or no knowledge of Jehovah and his ways; nor were their morals guided by his standards. How would they be dealt with? Christians were to follow Jesus' example. He certainly did not encourage or even condone sin. (John 5:14) Still, he was tolerant toward sinners who were drawn to him and who desired to bring their ways into line with those of God.-Luke 15:1-7.

14 That Christians dealt tolerantly with those who were learning about God is clear from Paul's comments about meetings in Corinth. In discussing the use of miraculous gifts of the spirit that initially marked Christianity as having God's blessing, Paul mentioned "believers" and "unbelievers." (1 Corinthians 14:22) "Believers" were those who accepted Christ and were baptized. (Acts 8:13; 16:31-34) "Many of the Corinthians that heard began to believe and be baptized."-Acts 18:8.

15 According to 1 Corinthians 14:24, 'unbelievers or ordinary people' also came to the meetings in Corinth and were welcomed there. Likely, they varied as to their progress in studying and applying God's Word. Some might still have been committing sin. Others might have gained a measure of faith, already made some changes in their lives, and, even before baptism, have begun telling others what they had learned.

16 Of course, none of such unbaptized ones were "in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 7:39) If their past involved serious moral and spiritual faults, it understandably could have taken them time to conform to God's standards. Meanwhile, as long as they did not maliciously try to subvert the faith and cleanness of the congregation, they were welcome. What they saw and heard at the meetings could 'reprove them' as the 'secrets of their hearts became manifest.'-1 Corinthians 14:23-25; 2 Corinthians 6:14.

Staying Approved by God for Salvation

17 Through the public preaching by baptized Christians in the first century, thousands heard the good news. They put faith in what they heard, repented of their past course, and were baptized, making "public declaration for salvation." (Romans 10:10-15; Acts 2:41-44; 5:14; Colossians 1:23) There was no doubt that baptized ones back then had Jehovah's approval, for he anointed them with holy spirit, adopting them as spiritual sons. The apostle Paul wrote: "He foreordained us to the adoption through Jesus Christ as sons to himself, according to the good pleasure [eu·do·ki'an] of his will." (Ephesians 1:5) Thus, within that century what was predicted by the angels at Jesus' birth began to prove true: "Peace among men of goodwill [or, men having God's approval]."-Luke 2:14.

18 To maintain that peace, it was necessary for those "men of goodwill" to "keep working out [their] own salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12) That was not easy, for they were still imperfect humans. They would face temptations and pressures to do wrong. If they gave in to wrongdoing, they would lose God's approval. Thus, Jehovah lovingly arranged for spiritual shepherds who would both help and protect the congregations.-1 Peter 5:2, 3.

19 Such congregation elders would take to heart Paul's advice: "Even though a man takes some false step before he is aware of it, you who have spiritual qualifications try to readjust such a man in a spirit of mildness, as you each keep an eye on yourself, for fear you also may be tempted." (Galatians 6:1) As we can understand, a person who took the important step of baptism would have greater accountability, even as was true of an alien who became a circumcised proselyte in Israel. Nonetheless, if a baptized Christian erred, he could find loving help within the congregation.

20 A group of elders in the congregation could offer help to one who fell into serious wrongdoing. Jude wrote: "Continue showing mercy to some that have doubts; save them by snatching them out of the fire. But continue showing mercy to others, doing so with fear, while you hate even the inner garment that has been stained by the flesh." (Jude 22, 23) A baptized member of the congregation who was helped in this way could continue to enjoy Jehovah's approval and the peace of which the angels had spoken at Jesus' birth.

21 Though uncommon, there were some instances where the wrongdoer was not repentant. Then the elders would have to expel him to protect the clean congregation from contamination. That occurred with a baptized man in Corinth who persisted in an immoral relationship. Paul advised the congregation: "Quit mixing in company with fornicators, not meaning entirely with the fornicators of this world or the greedy persons and extortioners or idolaters. Otherwise, you would actually have to get out of the world. But now I am writing you to quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man."-1 Corinthians 5:9-11.

22 Since the Corinthian man had taken the important step of baptism, becoming approved by God and a member of the congregation, his being expelled was a serious matter. Paul indicated that Christians were not to keep company with him, for he had rejected his approved standing with God. (Compare 2 John 10, 11.) Peter wrote of such expelled ones: "It would have been better for them not to have accurately known the path of righteousness than after knowing it accurately to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them. The saying of the true proverb has happened to them: 'The dog has returned to its own vomit.'"-2 Peter 2:21, 22.

23 Jehovah obviously could no longer view such individuals as approved, for they had been expelled for being unrepentant wrongdoers. (Hebrews 10:38; compare 1 Corinthians 10:5.) Evidently, only a minority was disfellowshipped. Most who gained "undeserved kindness and peace from God" and were 'adopted as sons according to the good pleasure of his will' stayed faithful.-Ephesians 1:2, 5, 8-10.

24 That is basically so in our time too. Let us consider, though, how 'unbelievers or ordinary people' can be helped to become approved by God today and what can be done to help them if they err along the way. The following article will deal with these matters.

[Footnotes]

Compare "men-whom-he-approves," New Testament, by George Swann; "men with whom he is pleased," The Revised Standard Version.

See The Watchtower of October 15, 1964, pages 629-33.

"The [Greek lettering] (apistos, 'unbeliever') and [Greek lettering] (idi"ot"es, 'one without understanding,' the 'inquirer') are both in the unbeliever class in contrast to the saved of the Christian church."-The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Volume 10, page 275.

Do You Recall?

• According to the Scriptures, since when and in what way can humans be approved by God?

• What was God's view of foreigners among his people, but why did the Israelites need to balance caution with tolerance?

• What can we conclude from the fact that "unbelievers" came to Christian meetings in Corinth?

•How has God made provision to help baptized Christians remain his approved servants?

[Study Questions]

1, 2. In what situation did Jesus receive a declaration of divine approval, and why should this interest us?

3. What should we be concerned about as regards God's approval?

4. (a) What is the sense of the Greek word for "approved" in God's declaration? (b) Why is the usage in this case of special interest?

5. (a) How is it evident that imperfect humans can be approved by God? (b) Who are "men of goodwill"?

6. What do we still need to learn about God's approval?

7. Exodus 12:38 gives what indication as to God's attitude?

8. What two types of aliens resided in Israel, and why was there a difference in how Israelites dealt with them?

9. How did Solomon confirm God's attitude toward foreigners?

10. How would the Jews have dealt with the Ethiopian eunuch, and why did circumcision benefit him?

11, 12. (a) What further change occurred when the Ethiopian got baptized? (b) How was this in accord with Philippians 2:12, 13?

13. How would Christians have dealt with those who were not as quick to get baptized as the Ethiopian eunuch?

14, 15. Aside from anointed Christians, what types of persons attended meetings in Corinth, and how might they have varied as to spiritual progress?

16. How could such persons benefit from being among Christians at congregation meetings?

17. Luke 2:14 had what fulfillment in the first century?

18. Why could anointed Christians not take for granted their approved standing with God?

19, 20. What provisions did God make so that baptized Christians could continue to be his approved servants?

21, 22. What would result if someone became an unrepentant sinner, and how would loyal members of the congregation react?

23. In the first century, what was the general situation among Christians as to retaining God's approval?

24. What aspect of this subject merits our further attention?

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1988 March 15 p.13 Trust in Jehovah Leads to Dedication and Baptism

Trust in Jehovah Leads to Dedication and Baptism

"Trust in Jehovah and do good; reside in the earth, and deal with faithfulness."-PSALM 37:3.

IN WHOM can we trust? In human leaders? Their record shows that it is folly to trust in imperfect humans. Why, even worldly-wise men recognize that fact! Thus, the European business magazine Vision once said that what is "worst about the current situation is that no one can see a way out of it." And economic historian Robert Heilbroner noted: "There's something else that's gnawing at us. It's the suspicion that nobody is in charge, that nobody is equipped to deal with the problems that are rushing in on us."

2 True, men have made much progress in various fields of science. But has all of this been beneficial? No, it has not. As pointed out by author Lewis Mumford: "The notion that mechanical and scientific progress guaranteed parallel human benefits . . . now has become completely untenable." A case in point is acid rain, which is polluting lakes and rivers and is helping to destroy trees by the millions. Moreover, the sorry state of the world-the increase in crime, violence, and terrorism, in drug and alcohol addiction, and in sexually transmitted diseases, and the precarious economic situation-all bear testimony that it is useless to put our trust in human leaders.

3 God's Word most fittingly counsels us: "Do not put your trust in nobles, nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs. His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts do perish." (Psalm 146:3, 4) If not in men, then in whom can we put our trust? We can put our trust in the Creator of heaven and earth, as we read: "Blessed is the able-bodied man who puts his trust in Jehovah, and whose confidence Jehovah has become."-Jeremiah 17:7.

Why Trust in Jehovah?

4 We can trust in Jehovah for sound reasons. First of all, we can put our trust in him because of his cardinal attributes-love, wisdom, justice, and power-and other marvelous qualities. His Word assures us that he is omnipotent, one of his titles being "God Almighty." (Genesis 28:3) What a basis for trust that is! No one can successfully resist Jehovah, and no one can thwart his purposes. He is also the Omniscient One. Not only does he know the end from the beginning, the future being an open book to him, but in him also resides all knowledge and wisdom, as seen by his wonderful works of creation. Never in any of his dealings has he made a single mistake. (Isaiah 46:10; Romans 11:33-35) More than that, Jehovah is perfectly trustworthy, a God of righteousness and faithfulness. It is impossible for him to lie. (Deuteronomy 32:4; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18) Above all, since unselfish love is his predominant quality, it is fittingly said: "God is love."-1 John 4:8, 16.

5 Jehovah's dealings with mankind bear further testimony to his being a trustworthy God of almightiness, wisdom, justice, and love. Moses assured the Israelites that Jehovah keeps covenant and loving-kindness with those who love him and keep his commandments. (Deuteronomy 7:9) Earlier, Jehovah preserved God-fearing Noah and his family through the great Deluge. God delivered righteous Lot and his two daughters from the fiery destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Later, God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and gave them the land of Canaan in keeping with his promise to Abraham. (Genesis 7:23; 17:8; 19:15-26) And did Jehovah not deliver the three Hebrews who were cast into the fiery furnace, as well as Daniel from the lions' pit?-Daniel 3:27; 6:23.

6 That Jehovah is one in whom we can place our trust has also been borne out by the experiences of his modern-day Witnesses. For example, Adolf Hitler boasted that he would exterminate the "brood" of Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany. But instead Hitler and his Nazi party were exterminated, and today that band of Witnesses has multiplied many times over to upwards of 119,000. Moreover, literally hundreds of life stories of Jehovah's Witnesses published in The Watchtower and its companion magazine Awake! bear eloquent testimony to the fact that Jehovah is indeed the God in whom we can trust.

Why Some Do Not Trust in Jehovah

7 Yet, how few today put their trust in Jehovah! Even many who have learned of his qualities and exploits fail to place their trust in him. An article appearing in the journal U.S. Catholic (January 1979) says of one such person: "When the pollster asked the man his religious preference, he replied, 'I guess I'm a Jehovah's Bystander.' Invited to elaborate he explained, 'I believe pretty much what Jehovah's Witnesses believe-but I don't want to get involved.'" The magazine commented: "A dedicated Jehovah's Witness has no choice but to get deeply involved."

8 Why is it that some do not want to get involved? Because they do not have the right heart condition. A person must be "rightly disposed for everlasting life." (Acts 13:48) As Jesus noted in his parable of the sower, those bringing forth fruit receive the word of truth into 'fine and good hearts.' (Luke 8:15) Yes, the truth does not appeal to insincere ones. A basic requirement is an honest heart. The truth of God's Word also does not appeal to those who are proud. A humble attitude is needed. (James 4:6) Moreover, the truth does not appeal to self-satisfied, self-righteous ones. But it does appeal to those who are conscious of their spiritual need, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and who sigh and groan over all the detestable things they see taking place in the world today.-Matthew 5:3, 6; Ezekiel 9:4.

Trust in Jehovah Leads to Dedication

9 Before a person can put trust in Jehovah, he must hear about Him. But "how will they call on him in whom they have not put faith? How, in turn, will they put faith in him of whom they have not heard? How, in turn, will they hear without someone to preach?" (Romans 10:14) As Jehovah's servants preach, those with the right heart condition respond, as did many in ancient Thessalonica. Concerning these, Paul wrote: "When you received God's word, which you heard from us, you accepted it, not as the word of men, but, just as it truthfully is, as the word of God, which is also at work in you believers."-1 Thessalonians 2:13.

10 Learning about Jehovah, such good-hearted ones exercise faith in him. This is vital, for "without faith it is impossible to please him well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him." (Hebrews 11:6) Also essential is the exercising of faith in God's Son. "There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved"-yes, no other name than that of Jesus Christ.-Acts 4:12.

11 Trusting in God's Word, in Jehovah, and in his Son Jesus Christ will move a person to heed the apostle Peter's counsel to the Jews of his day: "Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the person of Jehovah." (Acts 3:19) By taking in knowledge of Jehovah and His requirements, an individual learns that God's will is for him to become a follower of Jesus Christ. As Peter expressed it: "To this course you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely." (1 Peter 2:21) Jesus made clear what was involved when he said: "If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and continually follow me." (Matthew 16:24) That means dedicating oneself to Jehovah God to do his will and to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.

Dedication Not Just Another Commitment

12 In Christendom the term "commitment" is repeatedly used with regard to becoming a Christian. Thus we are told that Evangelicals of the United States "stress a personal commitment to Jesus." A Roman Catholic cleric spoke of a "Catholic religious commitment." In defending his political involvement, a Catholic priest once said: "Going into politics was an extension of my (priestly) commitment." And business firms advertise "Our Commitment to Our Customers." Actually, then, a person can have ever so many commitments at the same time: business commitments, social commitments, political commitments, and religious commitments.

13 However, a dedication to Jehovah God is not just another commitment. A commitment is simply "an agreement or pledge to do something in the future." But to make a dedication means 'to devote oneself exclusively to the service or worship of a divine being or to sacred uses.' Most people are content to make a commitment rather than a dedication. This no doubt accounts for the fact that their religion is simply like so much background music. It is pleasant to listen to but does not interfere with anything a person really wants to do.

14 A dedication to God makes the doing of his will the most important thing in life. It requires that an individual observe the first and greatest commandment, cited by Jesus when he said: "You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength." Jesus emphasized the exclusive nature of serving God when he stated: "No one can slave for two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other. You cannot slave for God and for Riches." (Mark 12:30; Matthew 6:24) Clearly, then, a mere commitment is not acceptable to Jehovah.

Why Water Immersion?

15 Why symbolize a dedication to God by being baptized? If a person wants to be one of Jehovah's Witnesses, he has no alternative. The same is true if he desires to be known as a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. Jehovah's "Faithful Witness," Jesus, set the pattern for this, for he was baptized in the Jordan River. Since John was baptizing repentant sinners, he could not understand why Jesus wanted to be baptized, but Jesus told him: "Let it be, this time, for in that way it is suitable for us to carry out all that is righteous." (Revelation 1:5; Matthew 3:13-17) God's Son thus made a public expression of his faith by presenting himself to Jehovah, setting an example for all those desiring to do the divine will.

16 More than that, shortly before returning to his Father in the heavens, Jesus commanded his followers: "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 record in the book of Acts shows that Jesus' disciples zealously obeyed that command.-Acts 2:40, 41; 8:12; 9:17, 18; 19:5.

17 How were these baptized? Merely by having water sprinkled upon them, as is the custom in most churches of Christendom? By no means! Jesus 'came up out of the water' after being baptized. This clearly indicates that he was immersed in water. (Mark 1:9, 10) In fact, nothing else would be a baptism, for the Greek word rendered "baptize" means to "dip, plunge."-Acts 8:36-39.

18 Such a baptism is a most fitting symbol of dedication. Going under the water well illustrates a person's dying to his former course of conduct. His being lifted up out of the water pictures his being raised to a new way of life. Even as a wedding ceremony helps to impress their wedded state on a bride and groom, so water immersion before witnesses is likely to make a lasting impression on the baptism candidate. There is no question about it: By the act of being baptized, one's dedication to Jehovah should be indelibly fixed in one's mind and memory as the most important event in one's life. It marks the turning point from serving self to serving Jehovah God.

19 Let us not overlook the fact that water baptism is a prerequisite for obtaining a good conscience with Jehovah. This is made clear at 1 Peter 3:21, which reads: "That which corresponds to this is also now saving you, namely, baptism, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the request made to God for a good conscience,) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

Baptized at What Age?

20 Jesus' words at Matthew 28:19, 20 show that it is those who have been made his disciples that should be baptized. Hence, it follows that no infant or small child could meet the Scriptural requirements for baptism. An infant could not exercise faith in God's Word, in God the Creator, and in his Son Jesus Christ. An infant could not understand that the holy spirit is God's active force; nor could it repent of past sins and make a solemn vow to do God's will.

21 But it seems that some among Jehovah's people have gone to the other extreme. Many Christian parents let their children wait until they are in their late teens before broaching the subject of baptism. Time and again, we hear of youngsters making a valid dedication solely on their own initiative. For example, the preteen son of an elder sincerely wanted to get baptized. So his father had three other elders discuss with the youngster the questions designed for those contemplating baptism. Their conclusion was that, though quite young, he qualified to be baptized as an ordained minister of Jehovah God. Why, attending the Pioneer Service School in the Bahamas recently was a ten-year-old baptized girl, the daughter of two full-time ministers!

22 In this regard, it seems that some parents are falling short. To what extent are they using 'fire-resistant materials' to build Christian personalities in their children? (1 Corinthians 3:10-15) First of all, doing so requires that the pure worship of Jehovah be the most important thing in the parents' lives. Additionally, the parents must be heeding the fine counsel given at Deuteronomy 6:6, 7 and Ephesians 6:4. The result of this may be that the parents will need to restrain their children from getting baptized too early, rather than needing to coach them later.

23 Once a person has demonstrated trust in Jehovah by means of dedication and water baptism, he must continue to demonstrate that trust. The succeeding article, "Serving as Jehovah's Trusting Fellow Workers," will help us to appreciate what this involves.

[Footnotes]

The series of questions to be answered by all who wish to be baptized as Jehovah's Witnesses are found in the book Organized to Accomplish Our Ministry. It is made available to those preparing for baptism.

How Would You Respond?

• What facts highlight the folly of putting our trust in humans?

• Why do Jehovah's attributes and dealings give us sound reasons for trusting in him?

• Why does putting trust in Jehovah require dedication and not mere commitment?

•How can parents instill in their children the desire to dedicate themselves to Jehovah at an early age?

[Study Questions]

1. What testimony by worldly-wise men shows that it is folly to trust in human leaders?

2. What can be said about the benefits of modern science?

3. God's Word gives what counsel as to where we should place our trust?

4. What are Jehovah's cardinal attributes, and how do they give us sound reasons for putting our trust in him?

5. What record does God's Word contain, testifying to his trustworthiness?

6. What modern-day evidence do we have that trust in Jehovah is not misplaced?

7. Why did one individual say he was "a Jehovah's Bystander"?

8. What basic characteristics make a person want to get involved in serving Jehovah?

9, 10. (a) What is necessary before a person can put trust in Jehovah, and how do those with the right heart condition respond? (b) In whom do such persons exercise faith?

11. Trust in Jehovah will cause a person to follow what counsel given by the apostle Peter?

12. How is the word "commitment" often used in Christendom?

13. What is involved in a dedication to Jehovah?

14. Why is a mere commitment not acceptable to Jehovah God?

15. What example did Jesus set as to making a public expression of faith in God?

16. What command did Jesus give his followers regarding baptism, and what shows that his disciples obeyed that command?

17. Why can a mere sprinkling not be a valid baptism?

18. Why is immersion such a fitting symbol of a person's dedication to God?

19. What is a further reason to get baptized?

20. Why could infants not be eligible for baptism?

21. Is it fitting for youths to get baptized?

22. When parents build Christian personalities in their children, what can they expect of their youngsters?

23. Once a person has reached the point of dedication and baptism, what else is required?

[Picture on page 10]

We can place our trust in Jehovah as the Great Deliverer

[Emphasis Added]

Awake! 1990 March 22 pp.25-27 Should I Get Baptized?

Young People Ask . . .

Should I Get Baptized?

THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD Susana was in the final stages of cancer when she attended her last convention of Jehovah's Witnesses. She did not know that she would die within just ten days. However, not even cancer could stop her from fulfilling her most cherished desire: to be baptized as a dedicated Witness of Jehovah and a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Susana was just one of thousands of young people among Jehovah's Witnesses in recent years who have cherished the privilege of being baptized. But perhaps you find the prospect of taking such a bold stand rather frightening. Not that you do not believe the Bible-based truths you have been taught. You may be a regular attender [sic] at Christian meetings and you may regularly participate in sharing the Bible's truths with others. Yet, when it comes to dedicating your life to God, you may hesitate. How important, then, is baptism? And why do so many youths shy away from it?

Religion Without Dedication

In Christendom, the question of baptism is often answered for youths by their parents. Some sects encourage parents to have their children baptized as infants. And even when the baptism rite is reserved for adulthood, youths are usually expected to follow their parents' religion as a matter of course, not choice.

Interestingly, though, a Gallup survey in the United States revealed that while "nearly all teens (96 percent) believe there is a God," only 39 percent prayed frequently. And only 52 percent had confidence in organized religion. Young Diane is thus typical in saying: "I believe in God and all that, but I believe more in just trying to be a good person than reading every line of the Bible."

Yes, religion can be a feeble force, indeed, when it has been imposed upon a youth by his parents. A study made of a group of Catholic juvenile delinquents further illustrates this. Half of them attended church. Most knew the basic doctrines of their faith. And almost 90 percent of them did not approve of stealing. Yet, over two thirds were thieves! Observed the book The Adolescent: "One reason may be that the boys' religious commitment was marginal. All were born Catholics; their initial commitment was made for them by their parents. Their religion was not their own."

Baptism-Why a Christian Requirement

For good reason, then, the Bible requires that you-not your parents-make a personal dedication to God. 'Well and good,' you might say, 'but if dedication is personal, something between God and me, why do I have to get baptized?'

Because baptism involves 'the salvation of your soul.' (1 Peter 1:9) God has in mind bringing "vengeance upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus. These very ones will undergo the judicial punishment of everlasting destruction." (2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9) All indications are that this destruction will come in our day.

Yet, God's will is that "all sorts of men should be saved." (1 Timothy 2:4) He wants you to escape the end of this system of things and live forever in Paradise on earth! (Revelation 21:3, 4) But how can you identify yourself as one obeying the good news? It is not enough simply to believe the Bible truths you have been taught, nor is it enough simply to tag along with your parents to Christian meetings. (Compare James 2:19.) Those desiring salvation must dedicate themselves to God and do his will. Says the apostle Paul at Romans 12:1: "Consequently I entreat you by the compassions of God, brothers, to present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, ["dedicated," The New English Bible] acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason."

But dedication cannot remain a strictly private matter. After all, how devoted, how dedicated, could a secret disciple really be? (Compare John 19:38.) Would you trust a friend who wanted to keep your friendship secret? Wisely, then, God requires all to 'make public declaration for salvation.' (Romans 10:10) This begins at baptism. At that time, one makes verbal declaration of one's faith. Then, baptism in water follows. (Matthew 28:19, 20) What value could there be, though, in being plunged into water?

Baptism is not a mere bath; it is a symbolic burial. When you go beneath the baptismal waters, it impresses upon you that you have died to your former life course. Previously, your personal ambitions, goals, and desires took first place in your life. But Jesus said that his disciples would 'disown themselves.' (Mark 8:34) So when you are raised up, you are reminded that you are now alive to do the will of God. This bold, public act is a vital part of the marking that identifies you for salvation!-Ezekiel 9:4-6; compare 1 Peter 3:21.

'I'm Afraid I'll Get Disfellowshipped'

If baptism is so important, why, then, do some youths hold back from it? Awake! asked that very question to a number of Christian youths. One girl said: "A lot feel that they will have more freedom if they're not baptized. They feel that if they get into trouble, they won't be as responsible." A youth named Robert echoed this comment by saying: "I think a lot of young people hesitate to get baptized because they fear it's a final step that they can't back out of. They feel that if they do something wrong, they'll be put out of the congregation."

It is true that one cannot back out of a dedication to God. (Compare Ecclesiastes 5:4.) A person dedicating himself to God takes on a serious responsibility. He or she is obliged to "walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him." (Colossians 1:10) One engaging in gross wrongdoing even risks being expelled from the Christian congregation.-1 Corinthians 5:11-13.

Yet, one cannot reason that as long as one is not baptized, anything goes. For "if one knows how to do what is right and yet does not do it, it is a sin for him"-baptized or unbaptized! (James 4:17) One may avert formal expulsion from the congregation, but one cannot escape Jehovah's judgment. "Make no mistake," warns Paul, "there is no thumbing your nose at God; for a man will reap just the same that he sows."-Galatians 6:7, Byington.

Often a fear of getting disfellowshipped really masks a secret desire to practice wrongdoing. A young woman named Natalie candidly observed: "I was raised in Satan's world and know what it is like. But a lot of young people want to get out and experience what's out there." Rather than letting wrong desires hold you back from baptism-or letting them develop into wrong acts-why not get some help, perhaps talking matters over with a parent or a mature Christian?-James 1:14, 15.

Really, the freedom Satan's world offers is a mere illusion. As the apostle Peter said of some who were misled in his day: "While they are promising them freedom, they themselves are existing as slaves of corruption. For whoever is overcome by another is enslaved by this one." (2 Peter 2:19) Is it really freedom to have your thinking, conduct, and morals controlled by others? Is it really freedom to engage in acts that lead to disease, disgrace, and, ultimately, to death?-Proverbs 5:8-14.

A Japanese youth named Hitoshi faced those very questions. He was raised by Christian parents and recalls: "While others played, I had to go to meetings. I wanted more freedom. I thought I was missing out on something." Yes, like the psalmist Asaph, he became "envious" of wrongdoers. (Psalm 73:2, 3) But after giving sober thought to the matter, Hitoshi's feelings changed. He says: "I realized what my life would be without the truth-I could see myself living 70 or 80 years and then dying. But Jehovah holds out everlasting life!" Hitoshi thus made a dedication to God and was baptized.-Compare Psalm 73:19-28.

Are you moved to do likewise? A youth named David was. He recalls: "Getting baptized as a youngster was a protection for me. . . . Some unbaptized teenagers in the congregation felt free of the authority of the elders and as a consequence veered into bad conduct. But I always remembered that I had dedicated my life to God." Perhaps, though, you are not sure if you are really ready to take this step. Information to help you will be presented in a future article.

[Footnotes]

The folly of infant baptism is discussed in the article "Should Babies Be Baptized" in The Watchtower of March 15, 1986.

See the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, (published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.), chapter 18.

[Pictures on page 26]

The decision to serve God is one that only you can make. Baptism identifies one as a dedicated disciple of Christ Jesus

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1970 January 15 p.37 Which Comes First—Your Church or God?

Which Comes First—Your Church or God?

MOST believers are concerned about the crisis presently experienced by the Catholic Church and also by the Protestant religions. Their reactions differ, however, according to the type of believer they happen to be. With some, God comes first and their church is merely a means used to worship him. With others, their church has become an end in itself, taking priority over God and his Word, the Bible. Where do you stand? In your own heart and mind, which comes first—your church or God?

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1966 October 1 pp.603-4 Serving with Everlasting Life in View

HOW YOU MAY KEEP EVERLASTING LIFE IN VIEW

14 Jehovah is the giver of life. "For with you is the source of life." (Ps. 36:9) We cannot keep everlasting life in view without staying close to Jehovah, the source of life. Zephaniah highlighted this, putting Jehovah first, when he said: "Seek Jehovah, all you meek ones of the earth." (Zeph. 2:3) David expressed this same important truth, putting Jehovah first, at Psalm 16:8: "I have placed Jehovah in front of me constantly."

15 This is what we mean when we dedicate our lives to Jehovah. We do not dedicate ourselves to a religion, nor to a man, nor to an organization. No, we dedicate ourselves to the Supreme Sovereign of the Universe, our Creator, Jehovah God himself. This makes dedication a very personal relationship between us and Jehovah. For this reason, all dedicated ones are not only privileged but obligated to draw near to Jehovah in prayer. James 4:8 tells us: "Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you." If we do not constantly put Jehovah before us in prayer we cannot fulfill our dedication vows, because it just is not possible to have a close, warm, personal relationship with someone unless you constantly talk to him. We all know what happens when family members stop talking to each other. Their relationship breaks up. If we were ever to allow this to happen to our relationship to Jehovah it would be fatal to our hopes of everlasting life.

[Emphasis Added

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