How to conduct a Bible Study that leads to Baptism – Part 2 – Study 2020/42
“Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching.”—1 TIM. 4:16
[Study 42 from ws 10/20 p.14 December 14 – December 20, 2020]
The first paragraph launches into persuading the readers that baptism is vital for salvation when it says “What do we know about the importance of baptism? It is a requirement for those seeking salvation.”
Is that really the case? What does the Bible teach?
What follows are the scriptures relevant to this topic, found in the Bible as opposed to the Watchtower article:
There is no teaching about salvation in the books of Matthew, Mark, and John. (There is only 1 use of the word in each of those books in other contexts).
In Luke 1:68 we find the prophecy of Zechariah the father of John the Baptist where he said “he [Jehovah God] has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David his servant, just as he, through the mouth of his prophets from of old, has spoken of a salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all those hating us, …”. This was a prophecy referring to Jesus who was at this time, now an unborn fetus in the womb of Mary his mother. The emphasis is on Jesus as the means of salvation.
During his ministry, Jesus commented about Zacchaeus who had just repented of his sins as a chief tax collector saying “At this Jesus said to him: “This day salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and save what was lost.”. You will note, however, that there is no mention of baptism, just salvation, and by the description of Zacchaeus’ attitude, there had also been repentance on his part.
We have to move beyond the 4 gospels to the book of Acts to find our next mention of salvation. This is in Acts 4:12 when the Apostle Peter addressing the rulers and older men in Jerusalem stated about Jesus, whom they had just impaled, “Furthermore, there is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.”. Again, the emphasis is on Jesus as the means to obtain salvation.
In Romans 1:16-17, the apostle Paul stated, “For I am not ashamed of the good news; it is, in fact, God’s power for salvation to everyone having faith, … for in it God’s righteousness is being revealed by reason of faith and toward faith, just as it is written: ‘But the righteous one – by means of faith he will live.’”. The quote Paul uses is from Habakkuk 2:4. The good news was the good news of the kingdom ruled by Christ Jesus. You will note that faith [in Jesus] is the requirement for salvation.
Further in Romans 10:9-10 the apostle Paul said, “For if you publicly declare that ‘word in your own mouth,’ that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.”. In context, what was the public declaration for salvation? The preaching work? No. It was the public declaration acknowledging and accepting that Jesus is Lord, along with faith that God had raised him from the dead.
In 2 Corinthians 7:10, the apostle Paul wrote “For sadness in a godly way makes for repentance to salvation that is not to be regretted; but the sadness of the world produces death.”. This scripture mentions repentance [from former sins] as vital.
In Philippians 2:12 Paul encouraged the Philippians to “… keep working out YOUR own salvation with fear and trembling;” and in 1 Thessalonians 5:8 he talked about “the hope of salvation … to the acquiring of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”.
Further in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, he wrote “However, we are obligated to thank God always for YOU, brothers loved by Jehovah, because God selected YOU from [the] beginning for salvation by sanctifying YOU with spirit and by YOUR faith in the truth. 14 To this very destiny he called YOU through the good news we declare, for the purpose of acquiring the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”. Here he talked about being selected for salvation, sanctified by the spirit and by their faith in the truth.
He mentioned how Timothy had become wise for salvation through faith in connections with Christ Jesus because of knowing the holy writings (2 Timothy 3:14-15).
How does one get salvation? In the apostle Paul’s letter to Titus in Titus 2:11, he categorically states “For the undeserved kindness of God which brings salvation to all sorts of men has been manifested …” when referring to “… the Saviour of us, Christ Jesus, … ”.
To the Hebrews, the apostle Paul wrote about “… the Chief Agent [Jesus Christ] of their salvation …” (Hebrews 1:10).
In contrast, therefore, to the claim made in the Watchtower article in paragraph 1, there is not one scripture I could find that even hinted that baptism was required for salvation.
So, what did the apostle Peter mean in 1 Peter 3:21? This scripture is partially quoted in the study article (para.1) with “Baptism [is] now saving your … through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” putting the emphasis on the baptism. However, a closer examination of this verse in context reveals the following. The baptism only saves us because it is a symbol of the desire to have a clean conscience toward God, by putting faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that through him we can gain salvation. The emphasis is on faith in Jesus and his resurrection. The baptism is a symbol of that faith. It is not the physical action of baptism that will save us as the study article suggests. After all, one can ask to be baptized because of pressure, from friends, parents, elders, and Watchtower study articles like this, rather than because of wanting to demonstrate one’s faith.
Paragraph 2 rightfully states that “To make disciples, we need to develop the “art of teaching””. Yet, the Watchtower study article does not have “the art of teaching”, at least, in teaching truth.
In conclusion, is baptism “a requirement for those seeking salvation” as claimed in the study article?
In light of the evidence found in the scriptures and presented above, NO, Baptism is not a requirement per se. Most importantly there is no obvious scriptural requirement stated that it is required. The Organization places too much emphasis on the baptism, rather than on the faith in the resurrected Jesus. Without true faith in the resurrected Jesus, salvation is not possible, baptized or not. However, it is reasonable to conclude that someone who wants to serve Jesus and God would want to get baptized, not to save themselves, but as a means of symbolizing that desire of serving Jesus and God to other like-minded Christians. We must remember that just as the Apostle Paul wrote in Titus 2:11, it is “… the undeserved kindness of God which brings salvation …”, not the act of baptism itself.
One thing it is clear baptism should not do is to bind the one being baptized to a man-made Organization, no matter what claims are made by that Organization.
For a more in-depth examination of the Watchtower Organization’s changing stance on baptism during its existence, please see this article “Christian Baptism, In Whose Name – Part 3”