[this article is contributed by Alex Rover]
Jesus command was simple:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age. – Mat 28:16-20
In case Jesus’ commission applies to us as individuals, then we have the obligation both to teach and baptize. If it applies to the Church as a body, then we may do either so long it is in union with the Church.
Practically speaking, we could ask: “Based on this command, if my daughter came to me and expressed the wish to be baptized, could I baptize her myself?”[i] Also, am I under a personal command to teach?
If I were a Baptist, the answer to the first question would typically be “No”. Stephen M. Young, a Baptist missionary living in Brazil blogged about an experience where one student had led another to faith in Jesus and subsequently baptized her in a fountain. As he put it; “this ruffled feathers everywhere”[ii]. An excellent debate between Dave Miller and Robin Foster entitled “Is Church Oversight Essential for Baptism?” explores the pros-and-cons. Also, explore rebuttals by Foster and Miller.
If I were a Catholic, the answer to the first question may surprise you (Hint: Although uncommon, it’s yes). In fact, the Catholic Church recognizes any baptism that uses water and in which the baptized was baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.[iii]
My initial position and argument is that you cannot separate the commission to teach from the commission to baptize. Either both commissions apply to the Church, or they both apply to ‘all members’ of the Church.
Denominational Divisions in the Body of Christ.
A disciple is a personal follower; an adherent; a student of a teacher. Making disciples is done on a daily basis all over the world. But where there is a student, there is a teacher also. Christ said we had to teach our students all that he had commanded us—his commandments, not ours.
When Christ’s commandments became flavored with the commands of men, divisions started to arise in the congregation. This is illustrated by the Christian denomination that does not accept the baptism of a Jehovah’s Witness, and vice-versa.
To paraphrase Paul’s words: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree together to end your divisions, and to be united by the same mind and purpose. For it has come to my attention that there are quarrels among you.
Now I mean this, that each of you is saying, “I am Jehovah’s Witness”, or “I am Baptist”, or “I am with Meleti”, or “I am with Christ.” Is Christ divided? The Governing Body wasn’t crucified for you, or were they? Or were you in fact baptized in the name of the Organization?”
(Compare 1 Co 1:10-17)
Baptism in association with a Baptist body or a Jehovah’s Witnesses body or another denominational body is contrary to Scripture! Notice the expression “I am with Christ” is listed by Paul along with the others. We even see denominations who call themselves “Church of Christ” and require baptism in association with their denomination whilst rejecting other denominations also named “Church of Christ”. Just one example is the Iglesia Ni Cristo, a religion which is eerily similar to Jehovah’s Witnesses and believes they are the one true Church body. (Matthew 24:49).
As articles on Beroean Pickets have so often demonstrated, it is Christ who judges his Church. It is not up to us. Surprisingly, Jehovah’s Witnesses have recognized this requirement! That’s why Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Christ inspected and approved the organization in 1919. While they want us to take their word for it, many articles on this blog and others have demonstrated the self-deception.
So if we baptize, let us baptize in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Spirit.
And if we teach, let us teach all that Christ has commanded, so that we may glorify him and not our own religious organization.
Am I Allowed to Baptize?
Earlier in the article, I proposed that in regards to the commission we cannot separate the teaching from the baptizing. Either they are both commissioned to the Church, or they are both commissioned to each individual member of the Church.
I will now propose further that both teaching and baptizing are commissioned to the Church. A reason why I think this is so, can be found in Paul saying:
“I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius [..] For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel” – 1 Cor 1: 14-17
If the obligation existed in each individual member of the Church to preach and also baptize, then how could Paul state that Christ did not send him to baptize?
Also we can observe that while Paul was not commissioned to baptize, he did in fact baptize Crispus and Gaius. This indicates that even though we may not have an express individual commission to preach and baptize, it is in fact something we are “allowed” to do because it harmonizes with God’s purpose that all may hear the Good News and come to Christ.
Who then, is commissioned to baptize, or preach, or teach? Notice the following Scripture:
“So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophecy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” – Romans 12: 5-8
What was the gift of Paul? It was teaching and evangelizing. Paul did not have an exclusive right to these gifts. Neither does any member of the body or a ‘small group of anointed’ have an exclusive right to giving encouragement. Baptism is a commission to the entire Church body. So any member of the Church can baptize, as long as he or she does not baptize in their own name.
In other words, I could baptize my daughter and the baptism could be valid. But I could also choose to have another mature member of the body of Christ, perform the baptism. The goal of baptism is to enable the disciple to attain grace and peace through Christ, not to draw them after ourselves. But even if we have never personally baptized someone else, we did not disobey Christ if we did our part by contributing our gifts.
Am I Personally Under Command to Teach?
Since I’ve taken a position that the commission is to the Church, and not the individual, who then in the Church is to teach? Romans 12:5-8 pointed out that some of us have the gift of teaching and others the gift of prophesying. That these things are a gift from Christ is clear also from Ephesians:
“It was he himself who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and still others as pastors and teachers.” – Ephesians 4:11
But for what purpose? To be ministers in the Body of Christ. We are all under a command to be ministers. This means ‘attending to the needs of someone’.
“[His gifts were] for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry for the building up of the body of Christ.” – Ephesians 4:12
Depending on the gift you have received, as evangelist, pastor or teacher, charity, etc. The church as a body is under command to teach. The church members individually are under command to be ministers according to their gift.
We must have faith that our head, Christ, is in control of his body and directs the members under his control through Holy Spirit to accomplish the purpose of the body.
Until 2013, the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses believed all anointed were part of the Faithful Slave and thus could share in the gift of teaching. In practice however, teaching became the exclusive privilege of the teaching committee for the sake of unity. While under direction of anointed members of the Governing Body, the antitypical “Nethinim”– non-anointed helpers of the Governing Body[iv] – did not receive the confirmation sacrament. One has to question: How can they have the Spirit’s gift or direction if they supposedly are not even part of the Body of Christ?
What if you feel like you have not received the gift of evangelizing or other gifts? Notice the following scripture:
“Pursue love, yet earnestly desire spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” – 1 Co 14: 1
The Christian attitude toward evangelism, teaching or baptism is thus not one of complacency or waiting for a sign. We each express our love by the gifts we are given, and we desire these spiritual gifts because they open in us more ways to express our love for our fellow man.
The question under this subheading can thus only be answered by each of us for ourselves (Compare Mat 25:14-30). How are you using the talents the master has entrusted you with?
What is clear from this article is that no religious organization or man can prevent members of the Body of Christ from baptizing others.
It appears that we are not individually under command to teach and baptize, but that the command applies to the entire Body of Christ. Instead the individual members are personally commanded to be ministers according to their gifts. They are also urged to pursue love and earnestly desire spiritual gifts.
Teaching is not the same as preaching. Our ministry could be acts of charity according to our gift. Through this display of love we may win over someone to Christ, thus effectively preaching without teaching.
Perhaps someone else in the body is more qualified as a teacher through a gift of spirit and can help the person to progress, even though another member of the Body of Christ may baptize.
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function” – Ro 12:4
Should one be declared inactive if he or she had not gone out evangelizing but instead spent 70 hours a month caring for elderly brothers and sisters in the congregation, volunteering at a center for widows and orphans and caring for the needs of your household?
“This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.” – John 15:12
Jehovah’s Witnesses place so much emphasis on field service that the other gifts are neglected and not recognized on our time slips. If we had a time slip with a single field “hours spent following the command of Christ to love one another”. Then we could fill out 730 hours each month, because with every breath we take we are Christians.
LOVE is the only individual commandment, and our ministry is to display love in the best way we can, according to our gifts, and at every opportunity.
[i] Assuming she is of age, loves God’s Word and demonstrates love for God in all her conduct.
[ii] From http://sbcvoices.com/who-is-authorized-to-baptize-by-stephen-m-young/
[iii] See http://www.aboutcatholics.com/beliefs/a-guide-to-catholic-baptism/
[iv] See WT April 15 1992