Jehovah’s Witnesses and Baptism
|By: Lorri MacGregor; ©July 2003|
|What does baptism mean for a Jehovah’s Witness? What must a Jehovah’s Witness do before he can be baptized? What does the Bible say about baptism? Lorri MacGregor explores these questions.|
In the Watchtower Society of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a public baptism at one of their conventions marks the recruit’s decision to be one of them. The candidate is made a big fuss over, with congratulations and handshakes all around. The person is now officially “one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
It is no easy matter to be baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The recruit must have previously shown his willingness to study, attended meetings, trained for the field service, and actually gone house-to-house, before baptism is considered a possibility for him. Usually, he is urged to seek baptism. Many report feeling pressured to be baptized into the group. Numbers are important to Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Once a recruit bows to the pressure to be baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness, he must embark on further study of the subject. He has to be sure he can respond well to the questions he will be asked. He will face a long list of questions regarding his loyalty to the organization and its doctrines. Only upon completion of this grilling by the elders is he issued a certificate indicating that he is a candidate for baptism. He is then registered at the convention as a baptismal candidate, and undergoes the actual baptism by immersion in water. Truly, a long and involved process.
The Watchtower magazine of June 1, 1985, page 30, says of baptism,
- Before reaching this point of baptism, all candidates have carefully reviewed with the congregation elders the Bible’s principal doctrines and guidelines for Christian conduct to make sure they really qualify for baptism. Thus the decision to be baptized is by no means a sudden emotional reaction. Rather, each one has “proved for himself the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” and wishes to submit to that will (Romans 12:2).
Of course, prior to baptism, the elders make sure that the candidate understands that “the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” is nothing less than absolute obedience to the Watchtower Organization.
In fact, after all this, just prior to the actual baptism, each candidate answers two more questions. The first question is, “On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?” The candidate answers “yes,” understanding this to mean that he is dedicated to Jehovah God through his organization.
The second question the baptismal candidate must answer is very revealing: “Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in association with God’s spirit-directed organization?”
The Watchtower article from which these questions are taken (WT June 1/85 p. 30) then goes on to state, “Having answered yes to these questions, candidates are in a right heart condition to undergo Christian baptism.” The immersion in water now takes place.
What a long, drawn-out ordeal to be baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses! Rather than being baptized because of repentance of sins and belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, as were all examples in the Bible, Jehovah’s Witnesses must be baptized in the name of the organization and thereafter submit to it!
In contrast, let’s consider these Bible examples of baptism, and how different they are from the baptismal instructions of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Bible tells us about a eunuch who was preached to by Philip as they traveled along together in a chariot. Acts 8:36-38 records:
And as they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may. And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God”.) And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch; and he baptized him.
The account goes on to record that the “Spirit of the Lord” was present at the baptism. No long, drawn-out preparations here, nor any declaration of dedication to an organization, just belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. All this apparently happened within the space of a few hours. How different from the months or even years of painstaking preparation required by the Jehovah’s Witnesses!
Likewise, Lydia heard the gospel and was baptized the same day as she “…opened her heart.” (See Acts 16:14,15.) The Jailer and his household believed in the Lord Jesus, and verse 33 of Acts, Chapter 16 records that their baptism occurred “immediately”: “…and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household” (Acts 16:33).
Yes, the Bible examples of baptism bear no resemblance to the tedious process of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Baptism is a joyous occasion in the believer’s life. Emotions are involved, namely the good emotion of the committing of one’s heart to the Lord Jesus Christ, and the inviting of Him to be the Lord of one’s life, followed by baptism. In this way one becomes a member of the true body of Christ. It is not just membership in some organization, but a real relationship with the Lord. What a difference!