[From ws3/18 p. 3 – April 30 – May 6]

“Baptism … is also now saving you.” 1 Peter 3:21

In the first two paragraphs we are treated to another suggested ‘good example’, that of “a young girl” getting baptized and her “parents were proud of their daughter’s decision to make an unreserved dedication to Jehovah and to get baptized.”

We have recently dealt with this troubling aspect of current organization teaching in which children of brothers and sisters are pushed to get baptized at earlier and earlier ages. Please see these reviews:

Keep Working Out Your Own Salvation (WT 2018)

Parents Help Your Children become Wise for Salvation (WT 2018)

The emphasis in this article is the theme scripture 1 Peter 3:20-21 where baptism is compared to the ark carrying Noah and his family through the water. This fact is then extrapolated to the teaching that “just as Noah was preserved through the Flood, loyal baptized ones will be preserved when the present wicked world meets its end. (Mark 13:10, Revelation 7:9-10).”  You will notice that neither of the cited scriptures support that teaching. Mark 13:10 is the requirement to preach as previously discussed likely only for the first century Christians, before Jerusalem’s destruction by the Romans. Revelation 7:9-10 shows a great crowd that survives, but not why they survive and how they survive.

Next, we find the further extrapolation (again unsupported scripturally) being made that “a person who needlessly delays getting baptized endangers his prospects for everlasting life.” This is misleading scaremongering. How so?

Now based on the extract of 1 Peter 3:21 as the theme, one could easily without thought accept this extrapolation. However, what does the rest of verse 21 say? It says that “baptism, [is] (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, [because we are all imperfect and sin many times], but the request made to God for a good conscience,) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

So according to Peter, does the act of baptism save us? Peter says, “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”. So the prerequisite is faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and faith in the ransom paid that his death and resurrection made possible. It is because of this faith that we are able to make “the request made to God for a good conscience.” Clearly, the shortened phrase “Baptism … is also now saving you.” is misleading.

The point Peter was making was simple. Noah put faith in God and followed his instructions, which led to the saving of himself and his family. For the early Christians, it was their faith in Jesus Christ and his ransom that drove their desire to get baptised, and it was that faith symbolised and publicly shown by baptism that would save them and put them in line to receive the gift of everlasting life, not the baptism itself.

It was their putting faith in Jesus that would save them, not the mere act of baptism.

Thinking about this point further, is water baptism a prerequisite before Holy Spirit can come upon someone? In preChristian times the answer was clearly, ‘No’. Exodus 31:1-3 is one such example of this. Numbers 24:2 is very interesting situation where it came upon Balaam, an opposer of God. Nehemiah 9:30 shows God’s spirit was upon the prophets sent to Israel and Judah.

Was the situation different in Christian times? Please read the account at Acts 10:44-48. So did the absence of baptism endanger the prospects of Cornelius and his family for everlasting life? Clearly not! The Holy Spirit came upon them before they were baptized. Furthermore, the account states they then got baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, with no mention of ‘in association with God’s spirit-directed organization’.

It seems that baptism is yet another symbol where the organization puts more emphasis on the symbol rather than what that symbol actually means. (Another example is where more emphasis is put on blood as a symbol of life than on the life itself that it represents.)

The article then discusses briefly the baptism of John the Baptist. As the cited scripture, Matthew 3:1-6, shows those baptized by John did so to signify their repentance of sins [against the Mosaic Law], openly confessing their sins at that time.

Then we get speculation as Hebrews 10:7 is cited in support of what Jesus’ baptism by John symbolised. Given the context of Hebrews 10:5-9, if Paul was quoting in chronological order, it is likely he was referring to Luke 4:17-21 when Jesus read from Isaiah 61:1-2 in the synagogue, rather than it being his prayer at his baptism. [This does not exclude Jesus from saying it in prayer at his baptism, merely that there is no scriptural evidence that he did. Again, it is organization speculation taken as fact.] (Paul also was referring to Matthew 9:13 and Matthew 12:7 where Jesus was referencing Psalms 40:6-8.)

The article is correct when it states that those who became early Christians did not delay getting baptized. However, in none of the cited scriptures (Acts 2:41, Acts 9:18, Acts 16:14-15, 32-33) were their children mentioned. In most cases they were Jews, who realised that Jesus was the Messiah they had been waiting for and it required little on their part to adjust and have sufficient faith to desire to be baptized.

Paragraphs 9 and 10 discuss the examples of the Ethiopian proselyte and Paul, and how once they had “gained appreciation for the truth about Jesus’ role in the outworking of God’s purpose they acted.”

There then follows another statement to encourage parents to encourage their children to get baptized, by appealing to their sense of pride and joy when it says “Do not Christian parents delight to see their children among the other new disciples getting baptized.”

Paragraph 12 discusses what the organization views as requirements for baptism, and as we will see, it differs from the earlier paragraphs of this article where first century examples of rapid baptism were used to encourage quick baptism today, particularly among the children.

Requirements for Baptism to take place according to the Organization:

  1. Faith based on accurate knowledge
    1. Scripture cited: 1 Timothy 2:3-6
    2. Scriptural Requirement? Yes. The difficulty today is, what is the accurate knowledge? It can be easily proven that much of what the organization teaches is not scripturally accurate knowledge. The knowledge is only partially accurate.
    3. Required in 1st Century? Yes, however, the amount of accurate knowledge could be limited at time of baptism.
  2. Reject conduct displeasing to God
    1. Scripture cited: Acts 3:19
    2. Scriptural Requirement? No. A requirement after Baptism but not necessarily prior to baptism.
    3. Required in 1st Century? At Baptism and afterwards. Rejection of conduct displeasing to God often occurred at time of baptism.
  3. Stop engaging in bad conduct
    1. Scripture cited: 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
    2. Scriptural Requirement? No. A requirement after Baptism but not necessarily prior to baptism.
    3. Required in 1st Century? After, Yes. Not Before. The change in conduct often occurred from the time of baptism.
  4. Present at congregation meetings
    1. Scripture cited : None supplied
    2. Scriptural Requirement? No.
    3. Required in 1st Century? No.
  5. Share in preaching work
    1. Scripture cited : Acts 1:8
    2. Scriptural Requirement? No. Holy Spirit would help after baptism. A requirement after Baptism but not necessarily prior to baptism.
    3. Required in 1st Century? No. The scriptures show the desire to share in the preaching work came after baptism.
  6. Four sessions of questions with local elders
    1. Scripture cited : None supplied [Requirement from Organized Book, not article]
    2. Scriptural Requirement? No.
    3. Required in 1st Century? No.
  7. Decision by Service Committee
    1. Scripture cited : None supplied [Requirement from Organized Book, not article]
    2. Scriptural Requirement? No.
    3. Required in 1st Century? No.
  8. Private dedication in prayer to Jehovah
    1. Scripture cited : None supplied
    2. Scriptural Requirement? No.
    3. Required in 1st Century?
  9. Baptized before onlookers
    1. Scripture cited : None supplied
    2. Scriptural Requirement? No.
    3. Required in 1st Century? The Ethiopian Eunuch only had Philip (the baptizer) as onlooker.

After all this pressure exerted to get those not yet baptized and attending meetings to not delay and get baptized, including the threat that anyone “who needlessly delays getting baptized endangers his prospects for everlasting life”, the article turns around and calmly asks question 14 “Why do we not pressure anyone to get baptized?” and goes on to say “That is not Jehovah’s way (1 John 4:8)”.

Yes, it is certainly not Jehovah’s way to pressure anyone to serve him. He wants it to be of their free will. So why does the organization pressure children in one paragraph and in the very next claim that they do not?

The next paragraph opens saying “There is no set age at which one should get baptized. Each student grows and matures at a different rate.” That is at least accurate. Then comes the push for child baptism again, giving it their blessing by saying “Many get baptized at a young age, and they go on to be faithful to Jehovah”. However, that statement is just as accurate as saying ‘Many get baptized at a young age and they go on to leave the organization’. The latter is actually a more correct statement. According to the facts shown here, retention rates of JW youths are among the lowest for all large Christian denominations, so ‘many go on to leave’ is likely to be a more accurate reflection of what actually happens.

As to the requirement for an “accurate knowledge of Jehovah’s will” before baptism, “hence, new disciples must get baptized even if they previously were baptized in another religion. (Acts 19:3-5).”

  • Firstly the baptism referred to in Acts 19 was the baptism of John. According to the scriptures this baptism was as a symbol of their repentance of sins, not baptism in the name of Jesus in any Christian faith.
  • Secondly, the reviews on this site show clearly from the scriptures that while we would never claim to have complete accurate knowledge of God’s will, (rather it is a goal to which we are all working), definitely neither can the organization make that claim. The teaching in this article that youths should be getting baptized is a case in point.

In the final paragraph, parents are asked to answer these questions:“

  1. Is my child really ready to get baptized?
  2. Does he or she have adequate knowledge to make a valid dedication?
  3. What about secular goals associated with education and a career?
  4. What if my child gets baptized and then falls into serious sin?”

These are to be discussed in the next Watchtower study article and will be examined in our next Watchtower review.

In conclusion, is “Baptism…now saving you” ?

We have highlighted that baptism is a symbol of what has already taken place in one’s own heart. It is the putting of faith in Jesus and his ransom sacrifice. The baptism is merely an outward demonstration of that. The mere act of baptism will not save us, but it is the putting of faith in Jesus that will.