What is baptism all about?
“Bible Teach,” Chapter 18, paragraph 23 (p. 182) states that baptism “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit… means that a baptism candidate recognizes the authority of Jehovah God and of Jesus Christ. He also recognizes the function and activity of God’s holy spirit, or active force.”
This provides a good opportunity to use The Holy Spirit is God Approach from my book, Getting Through to Jehovah’s Witnesses: Approaching Bible Discussions in Unexpected Ways, especially pp. 193 and 197 regarding the “name” shared by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Paragraph 24 (p. 183) says, “Going beneath the water symbolizes that you have died to your former life course. Being raised up out of the water indicates that you are now alive to do the will of God.”
Using The New Birth Approach, pp. 131-138, show the Witnesses that a person can’t pass from spiritual death into spiritual life without a transforming new birth, which is a work of God. The flesh cannot by will-power and dedication overcome the flesh.
Paragraph 24 (p. 183) states, “Remember, too, that you have made a dedication to Jehovah God himself, not to a work, a cause, other humans, or an organization.”
In reality, the Watchtower doesn’t treat it that way.
Ask, “Are you saying that if I became a Jehovah’s Witness I wouldn’t be committing myself to loyal obedience to the Watchtower organization? For example, if I ever decided to leave the Watchtower organization, wouldn’t that be viewed the same as choosing to leave Jehovah?”
Paragraph 25 (p. 183) says, “Baptism does not guarantee salvation. The apostle Paul wrote: ‘Keep working out your own salvation with fear and trembling.’ (Philippians 2:12) Baptism is only a beginning.”
You can express agreement that baptism doesn’t guarantee salvation, but you should dispute what the book is implying by the use of Philippians 2:12.
I recommend that you respond based on what I said on pp. 100-101 of The Faith and Works Approach:
Jehovah’s Witnesses often quote from Philippians 2:12: “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…” By using that partial quotation, the Watchtower gives the impression that we have to prove worthy of our salvation by our works and tremble in fear lest we fall short and get destroyed. But that is not what the passage is saying at all.
Have the Witnesses look at Philippians 2:12-13 in full context: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
Ask, “Are Christians to be in fear and trembling because they might not prove worthy of salvation by their works? Or are Christians to be in awe and tremble because they know God has transformed them from the inside out and that he himself is working inside them to produce righteous works that they could never produce on their own? I believe Paul is not saying that we have to work for our salvation and be afraid that we might not make it. He is saying that we need to work from our salvation that we receive solely by faith (as Abraham did) and be in awe knowing that God himself is now working in us to give us the desire and the power to live righteously.”
Watchtower baptism is not a matter of conscience between you and God.
It is dependent on receiving a favorable evaluation by congregation elders on many criteria.
It symbolizes your commitment to do things for Jehovah instead of being a testimony of what the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have done inside of you.
Rather than baptizing a person immediately after he or she places saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ—as happened repeatedly in the Bible—you must first show Watchtower elders that you have satisfactorily met 15 requirements.
By way of review, those requirements (with accompanying paragraph numbers) are:
- Coming to know Jehovah and Jesus (5)
- Regular Watchtower meeting attendance (5)
- Understanding about the condition of the dead and the importance of God’s name and his Kingdom (6)
- Faith in God’s Word, God’s promises, and Christ’s sacrifice (7)
- Desire to share in the Watchtower’s door-to-door preaching (9)
- Elders’ approval to become an “unbaptized publisher” (10)
- Lifestyle changes—if necessary to free you of “serious sins” (11)
- Repentance (12)
- Conversion (13)
- Dedication of yourself to exclusive devotion to Jehovah God (14-15)
- Disowning yourself (16)
- Making a public declaration (20)
- Correctly answering a list of Bible questions (21)
- Attending an annual Watchtower assembly or convention (21)
- Answering “two simple questions” at the time of your baptism (21)
Next week, we will move on to “Bible Teach”, Chapter 19—“Remain in God’s Love.”