When Jehovah’s Witnesses come to your door to offer you a home bible study, it is their hope to convert you to their faith through baptism into their organization. They do this with the best of intentions, not realizing that they are actually setting you up to fail by getting you to make a promise you can’t keep. Yes, indeed. Their baptism constitutes making an unscriptural promise to God that no one can keep.

I’m sure the average Jehovah’s Witness would disagree with me on this, but I’m equally sure that they’d do so because they don’t really understand what their baptism represents. I say this with authority because when I was one of them, a loyal Jehovah’s Witness, I didn’t understand how much JW baptism differed from what the Bible teaches. So before justifying my statement that JW baptism is about making a promise that cannot be kept, we should first establish what the Bible teaches about baptism.

The apostle Peter tells us that baptism is the means by which we form an intimate relationship with God as our heavenly Father. This is done through Jesus Christ, our savior. Peter explains that “baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 3:21 NASB)

How exactly can baptism result in our salvation though Jesus Christ? How is it that the simple act of being immersed in water can constitute an appeal to God for a clean conscience?

Those are good questions that deserve to be answered, and we’ll do just that before this video is over. For now, however, because the first question before us is how is a JW baptism different from what the Apostle Peter describes? Well, the difference will jump out at you once you read what the Watchtower says about baptism.

“We need to get baptized in symbol of our dedication to God. (1 Pet. 3:21)” (w20 May p. 16 par. 18)

“Despite his threat, she decided to go ahead and get baptized in symbol of her dedication to Jehovah God.” (w16 December p. 3)

“For example, in a recent ten-year period—during the service years of 2003 through 2012—more than 2,707,000 individuals were baptized in symbol of their dedication to God.” (w14 5/15 p. 28 par. 7—from an article titled, “Are You Moving Ahead With Jehovah’s Organization?”)

The Apostle Peter says nothing about baptism representing or symbolizing a person’s dedication to Jehovah God. In fact, if you do a search in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures on the word, “dedication” or “dedicate”, you’ll find no link whatsoever to the baptism Peter is referring to. What you will find is a very negative reference to the word dedication, but I’m getting ahead of myself again.  Don’t worry, we’ll circle back to that very soon. But first, we need to understand the full scope of baptism as practiced by Jehovah’s Witnesses. For that, we can go to a 2023 Gilead Graduation talk delivered by Governing Body member, Gage Fleegle.  Listen closely because everything he says in these few opening words is wrong:

“To whom do we belong? When was the last time you said to yourself, “I belong to Jehovah!” Maybe it was during the singing of Song #40 that we just concluded. It’s important for all of us to think about our dedication vow…”

Gage starts right out of the gate on the wrong foot by claiming that his audience belongs to Jehovah. They don’t seem to realize that he’s leaving someone very important out of the equation. To be honest, I never noticed that myself back when I was fully committed to the Organization. We all were taught to believe that we belonged to Jehovah, but Gage, as a member of the Governing Body and a leader and teacher of the entire JW establishment, has no excuse for getting that wrong.  He should know better because his own Bible says:

“So let no one boast in men; for all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things now here or things to come, all things belong to you; in turn you belong to Christ; Christ, in turn, belongs to God.” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23)

The problem for the Governing Body in admitting the truth of Paul’s words is that the idea of belonging to Christ doesn’t really factor into JW theology. Why? Because when they say, “we belong to Jehovah,” what they really mean is “we belong to a manmade Organization.” (They call it “Jehovah’s Organization, but it’s not. It’s the Organization run by the men of the Governing Body.)

The fact of the matter is that belonging to the Organization is built right into the Watch Tower’s baptismal ceremony, as we’re about to see. But before we can go there, there remains one more very important statement made by Gage which we’ve just heard, but which we need to hear one more time.

“It’s important for all of us to think about our dedication vow.

“It’s important for all of us to think about our dedication vow”???

What vow is Gage talking about? It’s this one as explained in the April 2017 Watchtower, pp. 5, 6 titled “What You Vow, Pay”:

YOUR DEDICATION VOW

10 The most important vow that a Christian can make is the one with which he dedicates his life to Jehovah. Why so? Because, in private prayer, he solemnly promises Jehovah that he will use his life to serve God forever, no matter what. To use Jesus’ words, a person thus ‘disowns himself,’ gives up all rights to himself, and vows to put God’s will above everything else in his life. (Matt. 16:24) From that day forward, ‘he belongs to Jehovah.’ (Rom. 14:8) Anyone who makes a dedication vow should take it very seriously, just as did the psalmist who spoke of the vows he had made to God: “With what will I repay Jehovah for all the good he has done for me? I will pay my vows to Jehovah in the presence of all his people.”—Ps. 116:12, 14.

11 Have you dedicated your life to Jehovah and symbolized your dedication by water baptism? (w17 April pp. 5, 6)

I’m sure that the audience of Gilead Graduates that Gage is addressing would have no problem accepting what this Watchtower says. They’d think that dedicating oneself to serve God forever is the most natural thing and what any Christian would want to do. They’d see that making a vow of dedication would be like signing an agreement that one is fully committed to God. They’d probably counter any objection by asking, “Why wouldn’t you want to make a solemn promise to God to dedicate your life to him?”

That attitude seems so logical, so spiritual, so selfless. What could be wrong with wanting to make a vow of dedication to serve God forever?

As right as that desire might seem to a mere human, it is not about what we want. It’s about what God wants.  And he doesn’t want us to make a dedication vow to him and symbolize it by water immersion. If he did, he would have said so, and he sure wouldn’t be using the pages of The Watchtower magazine to do so. He’d tell us by means of his only-begotten Son. And did he? Yes, he did! Jesus did tell us about making vows. But it seems the men at the top of the Watchtower leadership pyramid weren’t listening. But we are, so reason with me on these words from our Lord:

“Again you heard that it was said to those of ancient times: ‘You must not swear without performing, but you must pay your vows to Jehovah.’ However, I say to you: Do not swear at all, neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by earth, for it is the footstool of his feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, since you cannot turn one hair white or black. Just let your word ‘Yes’ mean yes, your ‘No,’ no, for what goes beyond these is from the wicked one.” (Matthew 5:33-37)

Jesus is telling his Jewish listeners to reject their common tradition of making a vow or swearing an oath. He goes so far as to say that making vows “is from the wicked one.” So, requiring people to make a vow of dedication before they get baptized is from Satan.

Wow! Think about that, Gage.  Those aren’t my words. They come from Jesus, which means they come from Jehovah.

Why would requiring people to make a dedication vow to Jehovah God be a bad thing? Well, let’s start with the fact that a vow, once broken, stays broken.

To illustrate, let’s consider what is commonly called the marriage vow. A couple will promise each other “to love and to cherish one another until death do us part.” But what happens if one of them sleeps around? The vow is broken and once broken cannot be unbroken. There may be repentance, even forgiveness, but the vow is no longer in force. A new vow must be made.  The guilty party can promise never to do it again, making in effect a new vow. But if they end up doing it again, that second vow is broken.

Now it is possible for a person to keep a marriage vow, but how can any of us keep a dedication vow? If we sin, and we sin every day, then we cannot say we are fully dedicated to God, can we? We have broken our dedication vow, and since that vow is symbolized by baptism according to Jehovah’s Witnesses, the baptism is now invalid. Or are we saying that the symbol—baptism—is more enduring than the thing it symbolizes—a dedication vow? That’s nonsense!

Why does the Governing Body require its followers to make a dedication vow to Jehovah and make their baptism merely a public demonstration of that vow?

By getting baptized, a Jehovah’s Witnesses is making a public declaration that they’ve made a vow of dedication to “Jehovah and to Jehovah’s Organization.”

Could it be that the Governing Body is utilizing the vow of dedication to guilt people into servitude to the Organization?

I can’t count the number of times I heard people comment at the end of a district convention that they felt guilty they weren’t doing enough for Jehovah.

How has the Organization accomplished this? Well, consider the two questions that are asked of all baptismal candidates, which they are expected to answer in the affirmative:

  1. Have you repented of your sins, dedicated yourself to Jehovah, and accepted his way of salvation through Jesus Christ?
  2. Do you understand that your baptism identifies you as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in association with Jehovah’s organization?

From the moment of baptism, being dedicated to Jehovah means being dedicated to his organization. The second stanza of Song #40 which Gage referred to in his opening words to the 2023 Gilead Class reads: “Which god do you now obey?” The God which those Gilead Graduates obey isn’t going to be Jehovah God, because if the Governing Body tells them to do something, they will obey the Governing Body, even if it conflicts with what Jehovah God tells them to do right in his word.

For instance, we’ve just seen that making a vow is condemned by Jehovah as coming from the wicked one, yet everyone of those Gilead Graduates hopes to make many disciples when they get to their assigned territory, and they will instruct them to make vow of dedication just as it is written in the Watch Tower publications, despite what the Bible says.

They will reason that way, because they have been taught to equate love for God with being dedicated to God, as if the two words—love and dedication—were synonymous. Once that idea is implanted, then it’s child’s play for men like Gage Fleegle to equate love for the Watch Tower Organization with love of God, and dedication to the Organization with dedication to God.

Don’t take my word for it. Let’s have Gage Fleegle tell you himself:

And why did we dedicate our life to Jehovah? Because we love him. We love his Organization. Because we learned about his beautiful personality. And during Gilead, you’ve learned many more reasons to love Jehovah and His Organization.

We are told to love Jehovah God.  We want to love Jehovah God. He is our Father after all, but He never tells us to love any organization.

If you’re well indoctrinated, as I once was, you’ll not even be aware that the word “organization” doesn’t appear in the Bible and that the word “dedication” or “dedicated” never appears in a positive connection with the way of life of a child of God.

Here’s the thing: We are called to be “God’s children.” As children, we don’t call God our friend, because He is our beloved Father! This is why Paul writes, “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15  NLT)

Then there’s this:

“And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:6 NLT)

When God pours his spirit through Christ into our hearts, are you, as a member of the JW Other Sheep class, moved to cry out “Abba, Father” or “Dear Friend”? Gage belongs to a select group created by Rutherford’s evil teaching that the “144,000” is a literal number, and too bad, so sad, but you’re just too late to be part of it. But don’t worry. You can still be called one of Jehovah’s good friends.” Isn’t that a nice consolation prize?

Does a father want his children to love him? Of course! And does a wise and loving father want his children to obey him? Of course! But why? Because he knows that by obeying him, they are taking advantage of his wisdom, and that will benefit them greatly in life. Does he want them to obey him as his servants, his slaves? No, that’s not the idea. So, a righteous Father who wants his children to grow into capable adults will love them and want them to love him, but he would not sit them down and say, “Since I gave birth to you, you must dedicate your lives to me and serve me.” They are his children, not his slaves.

That is one reason you never see God asking for us to dedicate our lives to him and demanding that we make a vow.

The fact is that the concept of being dedicated to God was used by another group of men who claimed, as does the Governing Body, to be God’s channel of communication. The Pharisees exploited the concept of a gift dedicated to God to justify disobeying God’s command to love and honor their parents.

“Further, he said to them: “You skillfully disregard the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. For example, Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Let the one who speaks abusively of his father or mother be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother: “Whatever I have that could benefit you is corban (that is, a gift dedicated to God),” you no longer let him do a single thing for his father or his mother. Thus you make the word of God invalid by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like this.”” (Mark 7:9-13)

Do the men of the Governing Body use their baptismal vow of dedication in a similar way to what the Pharisees did, to justify being unloving and so deny the love of God?

Yes, they do. Since, in the eyes of the Governing Body, being dedicated to Jehovah means being dedicated to the Organization, then if you disobey one of their laws, you have disobeyed Jehovah and violated your promise to serve him faithfully. So, if the Organization tells you to shun your son or daughter who just resigned as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, then to disobey them, is to break your vow of dedication. Loyalty to the Organization is now put above the law of God.  When asked by a Pharisee what was the greatest of the laws, Jesus put love of God above all other laws. But whether they’d admit it or not, the practice of the Organization would require us to reword Jesus’ reply this way: “You must love Jehovah’s Organization, your god, with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” (Matthew 22:37)

The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has truly gone way beyond what is written by perverting the purpose of baptism into a tool to pressure their flock into giving them the kind of obedience that only Jehovah God and his Son deserve.

So, what is the purpose of baptism? Remember, there is a new covenant between God and man. Paul calls this a covenant of the Spirit, and not of a written law.

“He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6 NLT)

God has promised to overlook our sinful nature, to wipe our sins clean. But every covenant has at least two parties. Jehovah God on one side and each of us on the other. What is our part?

Our part—your part—is to accept the anointing of the holy spirit, something which Gage Fleegle and his associates claim is denied to you. Therefore, according to those men on the Governing Body, you are not in any covenant relationship with God. You’re on your own, baby! God made no contract with you. Jesus is not your mediator. Therefore, you have no means for your salvation.

But God has always had a covenant relationship with his people, with those who are faithful and loyal to him as we see here:

“Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9:15 ESV)

That is God’s way of reassuring those faithful to Him that He will remain with them always. If we put faith in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, recognizing him as our savior, our redeemer, and committing to follow in his footsteps, then we can be counted as God’s children and as his children, we will have the basis for a clean conscience. Yes, we will still sin while in our fleshly bodies, but our Father will overlook our sins, because of our faith in his Son.

That’s what baptism is. It’s a public statement that we have accepted Jesus Christ as our redeemer, that we have picked up our cross (or torture stake, if you prefer) and that we will follow him wherever he leads. Essentially, we empty ourselves, we are no longer thinking fleshly, selfish thoughts, nor do we strive to exercise power over fellow believers.

There is no vow that gets broken every time we sin, but instead there is the sweet aroma of God’s love expressed through the holy spirit which is poured out upon us.

“For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:5 NLT)

“But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us.” (Galatians 5:5 NLT)

Thus, we are not God’s friends as the Watchtower claims, but God’s children. As his children, we cry out, “Abba, Father!”

If, after watching this, you feel the need to be rebaptized in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, all you need to do is find a fellow believer to perform the baptism. There is no reason to doubt that you are doing the right thing. In fact, to recognize the need and not avail yourself of the opportunity to get right with God would not be a good choice.

What we’ve learned from Scripture is that first you put faith in Jesus. That moves you to be baptized. There is no mention of belonging to a religion. In fact, Jesus words to the Samaritan woman indicate that religious affiliation was a thing of the past. All that is now needed is to worship in spirit and in truth. (See John 4:20-24) Through baptism, we receive the promised holy spirit, which leads us into all the truth through a personal study God’s word.

Do not be afraid to be on your own.  Pray for God’s help and spirit and trust that He will keep his word and support you for the rest of your life. Don’t be seduced back into slavery to manmade religion.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1 ESV)

Meleti Vivlon

Articles by Meleti Vivlon.
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