[From ws12/17 p. 23 – February 19-25]
“Just as you have always obeyed, … keep working out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Philippians 2:12
Paragraph 1 opens with “Each year thousands of Bible students get baptized. Many are young people—teenagers and preteens.” As discussed in last week’s article, this is the problem. It is totally without scriptural precedent. What do the Scriptures say about young people? In 1 Corinthians 13:11, when Paul was discussing manifesting love and gifts of the spirit, he had this to say: “When I was a babe, I used to speak as a babe, to think as a babe, to reason as a babe; but now that I have become a man, I have done away with the traits of a babe.” (bold ours). How can a babe or a child reason in a way that allows him or her to properly understand the step of baptism being taken?
Based on 1 Corinthians 13:11 alone, those “young people” should not be allowed to get baptized and more importantly the Organization, congregation elders and parents should not be encouraging child baptism as they have been in last and this week’s Watchtower study articles.
The overt and subtle pressure and commendation of child baptism coerces and encourages many young people to get baptized. Of course, we are really talking about those brought up by parents who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. This pressure did not exist 30 years ago. Back then it was unusual to get baptised unless you were in your late teens or older. This promotion of near-infant baptism on the part of the Governing Body comes across as a desperate attempt to bolster diminishing numbers?
It can be argued successfully that no youth truly can understand the nature of Christ’s ransom and man’s inherited imperfections. Just ask some young baptized ones in your congregation what they understand about those subjects. So how can any young child truthfully answer this first question asked at the end of the baptism talk? “On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?”
The next subtle pressure is the suggestion in paragraph 2 that if one is not baptised as a witness then one is living apart from Jehovah. Surely we show we are living with or without Jehovah by the way we act in our lives and how we treat others, not by getting a label of ‘baptised publisher’. (See Matthew 7:20-23)
How many youngsters getting baptised truly understand salvation, let alone realise they are now responsible for working out their own salvation? Their lack of maturity and reasoning ability is born out by what is said next in paragraph 4. When quoting a teenage sister it reads: “In a few years when the urge to have sex becomes stronger, he or she needs to be thoroughly convinced that obeying Jehovah’s laws is always the best choice.” The time to be thoroughly convinced is before baptism not afterward. Yes, Jehovah’s laws are always the best choice, but getting baptised as a child or youth will not change how they feel about Jehovah’s laws and will not give them the power of reason, nor the conviction that what they believe is actually right.
The article finally gets on to something that will help them have the power of reason: Bible study. However, it is spoilt by saying “Jehovah wants you to be his friend”. It further compounds this error when paragraph 8 opens with “Friendship with Jehovah involves two-way communication—listening and talking.” (Abraham was the only one called “God’s friend”—see Isaiah 41:8 and James 2:23.)
Search as you may for the phrases ‘friend(s) of God’ in the NWT reference edition you will only find the two scriptures cited above. Search instead for “Sons of God” and “Children of God”, you will find many references, such as Matthew 5:9; Romans 8:19; 9:26; Galatians 3:26; 6,7; and others.
So what do the Scriptures teach? Are we “sons of God” or “friends of God”?
“Personal study of the Bible is the prime way we listen to Jehovah”, paragraph 8 goes on to say. Amen to this statement. Sadly though most of us can testify to the fact that time for personal study of the Bible can be very limited, or non-existent, due to congregation responsibilities, meeting preparation, studying of literature, pioneering, etc.
When the article then states “the study guide What Does the Bible Really Teach? can help you to build your conviction about your beliefs”. We need to be careful that any study tools we use help build up our faith in the teachings of the Bible rather than those based on the teaching of men.
Paragraphs 10 & 11 are good reminders about personal study and prayer, but are marred by another endorsement of child baptism: “A teenager named Abigail, who got baptized at age 12, says”.
After quoting from John 6:44 the article then says “Do you feel that those words apply to you? A youth might reason, ‘Jehovah drew my parents, and I merely followed.’ But when you dedicated yourself to Jehovah and got baptized, you showed that you had come into a privileged relationship with him. Now you are truly known by him. The Bible assures us: “If anyone loves God, this one is known by him.” (1 Cor. 8:3)”
Do you notice how they do not address the youth’s valid reasoning? No attempt is made to justify or show that Jehovah draws children. The reasoning of the youth “I merely followed” is accurate. They are following the religion of their parents, just as most of the world’s children do. A minority make the effort to properly evaluate the religion in which they were raised.
The reason that no attempt is made to show that Jehovah draws children is because the idea simply does not have any scriptural backing. The writer then goes on to undermine his own agenda and argument by quoting 1 Corinthians 8:3. Yes, God knows all those who love him. That is not the same as ‘God knows all those who dedicate themselves to him or make a show of being repentant and get baptized.’ Love of God is not the same as compliance with peer pressure, parent pressure, nor Organization pressure.
Paragraph 14 goes on to show the challenges youths face in sharing their faith in God and Jesus with others in the very way it is worded. It says: “as you share your faith with others. You can do that in the ministry as well as at school. Some find it difficult to preach to their peers at school.”
Immediately, two unnecessary barriers are raised. Is it not better to speak to one’s peers individually, especially with one’s school friends? They can witness and talk about their beliefs instead of preaching, or going from door to door where they may face embarrassment when they call on the home of their schoolmates. Did Jesus ever send out children with their parents to preach? Again there is no record of this. However, there are records of adults (the apostles) being sent to preach.
Once again paragraph 16 plugs the Organization’s promotion of child baptism by quoting an 18-year-old sister, mentioning that she was “baptized when she was 13”. The rest of the paragraph concentrates on the young sister’s views on how other young ones can preach. Once again, nothing on how they can develop the fruits of the spirit which will make them desirable to both God and man.
Finally, we come to the subtitle: “Keep working out your own salvation”. For all of us “working out our own salvation is a serious responsibility”. Let us not abdicate it to a body of men and blindly obey them, but rather work out our own salvation by our own study of God’s Word, implementing what we learn.