“Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.”—ACTS 8:38
[From ws 3/19 Study Article 10: p.2 May 6 -12, 2019]
From the outset, the author would like to make clear that water baptism is supported by scripture. In fact, Jesus said in Matthew 28:19 “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”.
What is not supported by the scriptures nor by the author is baptism identifying one with any particular organization rather than directly with God and Christ. This particularly includes the baptism of Jehovah’s Witnesses which identifies one as part of their particular brand of Religion, and makes one part of their ‘club’ from which it is difficult to leave without emotionally costly decisions that should not have to be made.
Also, dedication to Jehovah is not a scriptural requirement although it is a requirement of the Organization before baptism can take place. (See comment below on Paragraph 12)
A “lack of confidence” in oneself is one of the reasons supplied in paragraphs 4 & 5 as to why some may hold back from baptism.
The fact that two experiences are given about lack of confidence due to different causes, suggests that a lack of confidence among Witnesses or Witness youths is a common problem. Many adult Witnesses born to Witness parents often still suffer from a lack of confidence for most, if not all, of their lives.
In the author’s experience, it is caused by the type of negative teaching received at meetings, whereby one is conditioned to think of oneself as a sinner unworthy of life and that everlasting life will only be possible by being the very best witness one can be according to the Organization’s standards. These standards (as opposed to Christ’s standards, of course) include pioneering at any personal cost, not missing any meetings, not getting an education (that would allow one to have an enjoyable job and fulfilling job such as a doctor or nurse or engineer). It causes most sincere Witnesses to get on a treadmill from which it is difficult to leave.
Paragraph 6 then touches on another perceived issue: “influence of friends”. This is definitely an issue cause by the Organization. The article takes the opportunity to reinforce subtly the encouragement for baptised Witnesses not to have associations or friendships with non-baptised persons. It says, “I had a really good friend whom I had known for almost a decade.” However, Vanessa’s friend did not support Vanessa in her goal of getting baptized. That hurt Vanessa, and she says, “I find it hard to make friends, and I was worried that if I ended that relationship, I would never have another close friend.”
Scripturally, there is no requirement to ditch friends who do not desire to do everything you do. If one’s friends are not bad association right now, then why would they suddenly become bad association after getting baptised. The issue with this view from the Organization’s standpoint, of course, is that an unbaptised person may discourage the now baptised Witness from following all of the Organization’s rules and instructions. The Organization wants people’s whole allegiance.
Paragraph 7 highlights “fear of failure” which is really fear of punishment by the Organization in the form of disfellowshipping because of falling fowl of the myriads of Pharisaical rules enforced by the elders on behalf of the Organization.
Today, there is no way of being even 95% sure that one has a correct understanding of all the original teachings of the Bible. Therefore, how can anyone classify any other Christian as an apostate. Neither Christ nor the Apostles gave a long list of circumstances in which one should be disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation. Nor was the first century withdrawing of fellowship draconian like that of the Organization today, which is like punishment, rather than a protection of the congregation.[i]
“Fear of opposition” is highlighted in paragraph 8 as another issue. The Organization should not be surprised when non-Witness family and friends oppose their friend or relative from committing their life to the Organization rather than to God. Most Witnesses cut themselves off from or have very limited contact with non-Witness relatives or friends. Only when the Witness wakes up wholeheartedly regretting this attitude as a very unChristian action is it possible to try to repair such relationships. Repairing these relationships might take a long time or indeed never be fully repairable and never become as close as they could have been.
Paragraphs 9-16 cover suggestions as to how to overcome the highlighted issues in the article.
Paragraph 10 suggests, “Continue learning about Jehovah. The more you learn about Jehovah, the more confident you will become that you can serve him successfully”. Certainly, this is commendable, but there is nothing about learning about Christ. As John 14:6 reminds us “Jesus said to him: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” We cannot learn about Jehovah if we do not learn about his son Jesus.
Paragraph 11 confirms that the young woman dropped her friend who did not want to commit her own life to the Organization. This makes it much more difficult to leave in the future when she may awaken to the lies she has been taught by the Organization as she will have no one outside the Organization and all those staying within it will surely drop her as their friend even as she did her friend on becoming a baptised Witness.
Paragraph 12 continues to promote the unscriptural requirement of dedication when it says “A primary way we show faith is by dedicating our life to God and getting baptized. 1 Peter 3:21”. As you will see 1 Peter 3 only talks about baptism.
In fact, in the NWT Reference Bible the word “dedication” can only be found 5 times. 4 times are in relation to the high priest of Israel and once relating to the festival of dedication which was a festival introduced less than 200 years before. It was not a festival commanded by Jehovah in the Mosaic Law. The word “dedicate” is used once in Hosea in relation to dedicating themselves to false worship.
The majority of the remaining paragraphs are devoted to how those with the feelings discussed in the initial paragraphs made the decision to be baptised as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The penultimate paragraph (18) slips in the claim that the Organization is Jehovah’s Organization and as such that we should always listen to the advice given through it, when it says, “When you make decisions, listen to the advice Jehovah gives you through his Word and his organization. (Isaiah 30:21) Then all you do will be successful. Proverbs 16:3, 20.”
However, in the experience of the author while listening to Jehovah’s advice through his word has always helped make wise decisions, the same cannot be said about listening to the advice of the Organization. For instance, not getting a higher education qualification makes it very stressful when raising a family. Putting off doing things because of being advised by the Organization as to how close Armageddon allegedly was, also causes unnecessary stress and in the long run, more time consuming problems.
What does the fact that belatedly ignoring the advice of the Organization on further education enables a reduction in stress and increased ability to care reasonably for one’s family, actually being able to work less hours secularly than before, tell one about the Organization’s claim that following their advice will make one successful in everything one does? Or that taking the decisions when required rather than putting them off because, according to the Organization, Armageddon is imminent, also reduces stress and ensures that the effects of those decisions is timely?
Yes, we do want to “continue to recognize how much you benefit from Jehovah’s guidance,” and that “your love for him and his standards will grow”.
However, whether we will achieve these goals fully will likely not be greatly assisted by being baptised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
By all means, be “baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, but in no way, be baptized to be recognised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
[i] Please see other articles on the site that deal more comprehensively with the subject of disfellowshipping.