“What prevents me from getting baptized?”—Acts 8:36
[From ws 03/20 p.2 May 04 – May 10]
Paragraph 1: “Do you want to get baptized as a disciple of Christ! Love and appreciation have motivated many to make that choice.”
This is such a pertinent statement. Appreciation and Love should be the motivating factor that moves you to make that choice.
We are then encouraged by the writer to consider the example of an official who served the queen of Ethiopia.
For a moment take a step back and try to remember what motivated you to get baptized.
Likely you also felt a sense of love and appreciation for what you had learned. However, is it not true that for a significant number of people in Christendom and among Jehovah’s Witnesses, family ties, friendships, and other social pressures may have also played a role?
The preview to this week’s article says the following:
“Some who love Jehovah are unsure if they are ready to get baptized as one of his Witnesses. If you feel that way, this article will help you to review some of the practical things you can do that will lead you to baptism.”
What are the main themes which will be considered in this article?
- Learn about Jehovah through his creation.
- Learn to appreciate God’s Word, the Bible.
- Learn to love Jesus, and your love for Jehovah will grow.
- Learn to love Jehovah’s family
- Learn to appreciate and apply Jehovah’s standards.
- Learn to love and support Jehovah’s organization
- Help others learn to love Jehovah.
Keeping an open mind let us see what we can learn from this week’s article about love and appreciation moving us to get baptized.
Let us measure the counsel given in the article against the example of the Ethiopian official.
The account is in Acts 8. We will consider all the verses from verse 26 – 40, in order to get the context:
“26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:
“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.”
34And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. – (Acts 8: 26 – 40) English Standard Version
Before we continue with the review let us take a moment to reflect on the quoted verses;
- An Angel appears to Phillip and instructs him to go toward the south: This was a divine instruction. The reference to “angel of the Lord” indicates that this was likely sanctioned by Jesus Christ.
- The Ethiopian Eunuch may have been Jewish or a Jewish proselyte but there is no evidence he had spent time associating with Christians
- Initially did not fully understand the words of Isaiah which Phillip explained to him and how they applied to Jesus
- The Eunuch then proceeded to get baptized on the same day:
- No period of time was required for him to prove himself
- He did not have to preach or explain his beliefs to anyone
- There was no formal event or forum that was required for him to get baptized
- There is no evidence he was required to study any further with Phillip and complete a set format of material
- No evidence that he had to answer a set number of questions asked by Phillip
- He began to preach to others after he was baptized and not before
- Phillip did not request him to belong to a specific organization or acknowledge a body called the “The Governing Body”
The words in paragraph 2 are somewhat true when it says: “But why had the official traveled to Jerusalem? Because he had already developed a love for Jehovah. How do we know? He had just been worshipping Jehovah in Jerusalem.”
The writer does not expand on what he/she means by “worshipping Jehovah in Jerusalem”. If he was worshipping according to Jewish custom (which is likely the case given that he had not come to fully appreciate that the words in Isaiah referred to Jesus) then this would have been a futile form of worship because Jesus had rejected the Jewish faith.
Clearly one would not conclude that all those Pharisees and Jews who were in Jerusalem and rejected Jesus had “already developed a love for Jehovah”. We can likely conclude that he had developed a love for Jehovah, based on the fact that an angel instructed Phillip to go to him and also based on his immediate desire to get baptized after he came to a clearer understanding of the scriptures. Clearly, the angel must have seen something desirable in this man.
Paragraph 3 says the following:
“Love for Jehovah can motivate you to get baptized. But love might also prevent you from doing so. How? Note just some examples. You may love your unbelieving family and friends deeply, and you may worry that if you get baptized, they will hate you”
Many have been rejected by their families for taking a stand for what they believe to be true. Family ties and friends often make it difficult to take such bold steps.
This of course is also applicable to Jehovah’s Witnesses. If you openly expressed your viewpoint regarding unscriptural teachings common among Jehovah’s Witnesses, they would be the first to cast you aside and ostracize you.
The Box “What Is in Your Heart?” is worth considering given the interpretation provided by the writer of what the different types of soil in Luke 8 represent
This is the parable of the sower is found in Luke 8 from verse 4:
4And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, 5“A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” – (Luke 8:4-8) English Standard Version
The meaning of the seed: “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. (Luke 8:4-8) English Standard Version
Watchtower: “This person finds little time to prepare for his Bible study session. He often cancels his Bible study or misses meetings because he is busy doing other things.”
Jesus in Luke 8:12: “The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.”
Watchtower: “This person allows pressure or opposition from his peers or family to prevent him from obeying Jehovah and living by His standards.”
Jesus in Luke 8:13: “And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.”
Soil with thorns
Watchtower: “This person likes what he learns about Jehovah, but he feels that having money and possessions will make him feel happy and secure. He often misses his personal Bible study sessions because he is working or is engaging in some kind of recreation.”
Jesus in Luke 8:14: “And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.”
Watchtower: “This person regularly studies the Bible and tries to apply what he learns. His priority in life is that of pleasing Jehovah. Despite trials and opposition, he persists in telling others what he knows about Jehovah.”
Jesus in Luke 8:15: “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”
Luke 8:16 “No one lights a lamp and covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he sets it on a lampstand, so those who enter can see the light.”
Romans 2:7 “To those who by perseverance in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, He will give eternal life.”
Luke 6:45 “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh”
The verses are clear and interpret themselves. Since Jesus does not provide further details regarding the different types of soil, we cannot add our own interpretation to these words. The cross-references to verse 15 provide us with an idea of the focus of Jesus’ illustration. Specifically, when referring to Luke 6:45 we see that the focus was really on the fact that the fine soil refers to those who have a good heart and that is what allows God’s word to bear fruit in them.
The attempt by the writer to add his interpretation is again a way of channeling the thinking of the reader into thinking in terms of JW doctrine. For instance, the reference to “Despite trials and opposition, he persists in telling others what he knows about Jehovah.” is simply another way of moving Witnesses to spend their time preaching for the Organization.
THE MOST IMPORTANT LOVE
Paragraph 4 says: “When you love Jehovah more than all else, you will not let anything or anyone prevent you from serving him” This should be true even if the Organization becomes the stumbling block in our worship. However, If you do express your reservations regarding various issues relating to JW doctrine, you likely to be labeled as an apostate.
Paragraph 5 tells us that in the following paragraphs we will learn how we can “love Jehovah with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength” as Jesus commanded in Mark 12:30.
Learn about Jehovah through his creation –the main point in paragraph 6 is that as we reflect on creation, our respect for Jehovah will deepen. This is True.
Paragraph 7 in an attempt to make witnesses feel that Jehovah cares about them personally the writer says the following: In fact, the reason you are now studying the Bible is that, as Jehovah says, “I have drawn you to me.” (Jer. 31:3) While there is no dispute that Jehovah cares about his servants, is there any evidence that only those studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses are drawn by Jehovah? Does this apply to those who are not Witnesses?
Who were the words in Jeremiah directed to?
“At that time, declares the LORD, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.” This is what the LORD says: “The people who survive the sword will find favor in the wilderness; I will come to give rest to Israel.” The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. (Jeremiah 31:1-3) English Standard Version
It is clear that the scripture only has application to the Israelites. The Lord has not appeared to Modern Christians or Jehovah’s Witnesses for that fact. Any claim that these words apply to a group of people today is a deliberate misapplication of the scripture to make the reader believe that studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses is part of some divine calling.
Paragraph 8 has very good counsel that can be applied. Get closer to Jehovah by talking to him in Prayer. Gain knowledge and understanding of his ways through studying his Word, the Bible.
Paragraph 9 says “Only the Bible contains the truth about Jehovah and his purpose for you.” Again such a powerful statement. Why then, you might ask, do Witnesses continue to say that they are the only ones in the “Truth”? Why does the Governing Body claim that they are God’s chosen spokespeople on earth? Where is the evidence from the Bible that they can interpret and change interpretations of the words in the Bible when their “light gets brighter”? Most witnesses would never claim that Jehovah speaks to the Governing Body directly as individuals, however, through some convoluted explanation they are somehow able to claim they have a monopoly over revelations and interpretations relating to the Bible and world events.
How this never raised a question in my mind for all these years is in itself surprising. How exactly does this divine revelation work? No one among the rank and file Witnesses would have any idea. What you are likely to hear is that questioning that this happens is tantamount to blasphemy in the eyes of the Organization.
Paragraph 10 finally makes reference to Jesus Christ as another reason why we should read the Bible. Yet, Jesus is the very basis on which all baptisms for Christians become valid.
Paragraph 11 “Learn to love Jesus, and your love for Jehovah will grow. Why? Because Jesus reflects his Father’s qualities perfectly So the more you learn about Jesus, the better you will understand and appreciate Jehovah.” This is perhaps an even greater reason to make Jesus the focus of this discussion. There is no better example of what the Love of God means than Jesus who obeyed even to the point of death to accomplish Jehovah’s purpose. Jesus reflected Jehovah’s personality more than any other being that has ever inhabited the earth (Colossians 1:15). The big problem is that the Organization focuses on trying to teach us to love Jehovah, but sidelines Jesus Christ, the best example we have of how to do that.
Paragraph 13 “Learn to love Jehovah’s family. Your unbelieving family and former friends may not understand why you want to dedicate yourself to Jehovah. They may even oppose you. Jehovah will help you by providing a spiritual family. If you stay close to that spiritual family, you will find the love and support you need.” Again another question one should ask is in what sense are they “unbelieving family”. Could it be that they believe in Christ and perhaps they may belong to a different denomination and therefore there is a difference in doctrine rather than scriptural principles? What are their reasons for opposing you? Could their reason be because generally JWs are intolerant to other Christian denominations?
When the writer says, learn to love “Jehovah’s family” what they actually mean is learn to love “Jehovah’s [Witnesses]” [bold ours].
Paragraph 15 again reinforces the Organization’s position as God’s spokesman by saying “At times, you may find it difficult to know how to apply the Bible principles you are learning. That is why Jehovah uses his organization to provide you with Bible-based material that can help you to discern right from wrong.” Where is the support for such an assertion? Where is proof that Jehovah uses one Organization or any organization for that matter? Have Jehovah’s witnesses made a comprehensive comparison of all religious groups, their beliefs, and growth patterns to be able to say this with certainty? The simple answer is No! Witnesses have very limited discussions with other denominations unless when they are trying to convert those people to JWs and do not attend or listen to any non-Witness religious discussions or ceremonies.
Paragraph 16 says “Learn to love and support Jehovah’s organization Jehovah has organized his people into congregations; his Son, Jesus, is the head over them all. (Eph. 1:22; 5:23) Jesus has appointed a small group of anointed men to take the lead in organizing the work that he wants done today. Jesus referred to this group of men as “the faithful and discreet slave,” and they take seriously their responsibility to feed and protect you spiritually. (Matt. 24:45-47)”.
Again another wild claim, are we meant to imagine Jehovah sitting there and arranging people into small congregations? One would never expect the CEO of a company to organize employees into their individual teams, yet the writer wants us to believe Jehovah is busy deciding how many publishers should be in a congregation. But it serves another purpose, that of trying to quiet any dissent over the worldwide merging of congregations so that Kingdom halls can be sold off.
Neither of the cited scriptures supports any of these claims. For a more comprehensive discussion on Matthew 24 refer to the following articles:
Perhaps like me at this point you may actually have forgotten that the theme of this Watchtower article is Love and appreciation lead to Baptism. You could be forgiven for doing so. Very little in the article is actually about Baptism. In between discussions around building a love for Jehovah through nature, prayer, and the Bible and reflecting on Jesus, there is very little mentioned about baptism except for the Eunuch at the beginning of the discussion. The next article will deal with whether one is ready for Baptism. We will review that article and then discuss some scriptural thoughts from the Bible regarding this very important subject.