The Watchtower of March 15, 1998 page 19, par 4, says:
In order to avoid misunderstandings, Jehovah’s Witnesses try to be careful about how they express themselves. Instead of saying, "the Society teaches," many Witnesses prefer to use such expressions as, "the Bible says" or, "I understand the Bible to teach." In this way they emphasize the personal decision that each Witness has made in accepting Bible teachings and also avoid giving the false impression that Witnesses are somehow bound to the dictates of some religious sect.
In harmony with this directive, in telling your listener, "the Bible says," what scriptures would you refer to when discussing the matter of our dedication to God? Can you quote specific Bible texts as to why we get baptized, or do you have to say, "the Society teaches?" Our teaching on Dedication, although seemingly noble, must be the most reprehensible doctrine we have, from Jehovah's standpoint. By it we diminish the love God has for us, we belittle the value of Christ's ransom sacrifice, and we teach that we must earn our salvation by "living up to our dedication." It is also the means by which we judge each other and measure each others spirituality. And we even break up marriages on the pretext that our dedication to God comes ahead of our marriage vow.
Was the nation of Israel dedicated to god?
Does God require his people to dedicate themselves to him? Is your relationship with God, and your salvation dependent on your dedication to him? What is more important, your dedication to God or your marriage vow? Is our baptism about dedication? How would you answer those questions without going “beyond the things that are written,” as we are admonished not to do. (1 Corinthians 4:6) We have build a whole doctrine around the teaching of dedication. It has been so ingrained in us that we have just naturally come to accept it. And, after all, what can possibly be wrong with something that is so obviously noble and righteous? Let us examine this most important question, and compare what we have been taught on the subject of dedication with what Jehovah tells us in his written word. After all, it is Jehovah’s view on matters that really counts.
Let us begin by examining the claim that the nation of Israel was a dedicated people to Jehovah. Concerning this The Watchtower of 1998 says:
Note in the above how the terms “dedicated” and “covenant” are used in the same context. But those two words do not mean the same. They are not interchangeable. Jehovah never referred to his people as being dedicated to him. He never accused them of breaking their dedication to him or not living up to it. Not even in a figurative sense. They did however break their covenant with him. Notice how any scripture mentioning dedication is lacking.
Also notice a couple of things that contradict our understanding of what dedication is about. It says, “In making the Israelites his dedicated people, Jehovah was not being partial.” Did Jehovah make the Israelites his dedicated people, or did they dedicate themselves to God willingly? According to our understanding, does God dedicate us or do we ourselves?
It also states: “Note, too, that being God’s dedicated people was conditional.” Is dedication conditional? or was the covenant conditional? It further says:
Dedication to “the God of Israel”
In 1513 B.C.E., God delivered the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. Shortly thereafter, he set them apart as his special people, taking them into a covenant relationship with himself. They were told: “Now if you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property out of all other peoples, because the whole earth belongs to me.” (Exodus 19:5; Psalm 135:4) Having made the Israelites his special property, Jehovah could rightfully be called “the God of Israel.” – Joshua 24:23.
In making the Israelites his dedicated people, Jehovah was not being partial, for he also lovingly thought of non-Israelites… (Leviticus 19:33-34) Centuries later, God’s standpoint was forcefully impressed upon the apostle Peter, who acknowledged: “For a certainty I perceive that God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.” – Acts 10:34-35.
Note, too, that being God’s dedicated people was conditional. Only if they strictly obeyed God’s voice and kept his covenant would they be his “special property.” Sadly, the Israelites failed to meet these requirements. After rejecting the Messiah sent by God in the first century C.E., they lost their privileged position. Jehovah was no longer “the God of Israel.” And the natural Israelites were no longer God’s dedicated people. – Compare Matthew 23:23. – w98 3/15 12, Dedication and Freedom of Choice. (Italics mine)
Unlike natural Israel of old, to this day the Israel of God has strictly obeyed the requirements of its dedication. This should not be surprising because its members freely chose to obey. Whereas members of natural Israel became dedicated by reason of birth, members of the Israel of God became such by choice. The Christian arrangement thus stood in contrast with the Jewish Law covenant, which imposed dedication upon individuals without allowing them the freedom of choice.
The prophet Jeremiah foretold a change with regard to dedication when he wrote: “‘Look! There are days coming,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and I will conclude with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant; not one like the covenant that I concluded with their forefathers in the day of my taking hold of their hand to bring them forth out of the land of Egypt, “which covenant of mine they themselves broke, although I myself had husbandly ownership of them,” is the utterance of Jehovah.’ ‘For this is the covenant that I shall conclude with the house of Israel after those days,’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘I will put my law within them, and in their heart I shall write it. And I will become their God, and they themselves will become my people.’” – Jeremiah 31:31-33.
God created humans to treasure freedom. He granted them the capacity of free will. The first human couple made use of their freedom of choice. However, they unwisely and unlovingly made a choice that led to disaster both for them and for their offspring. Still, this clearly demonstrates that Jehovah never forces intelligent creatures to take a course contrary to their inner motives or desires. And since “God loves a cheerful giver,” the only dedication acceptable to him is one based on love, one made willingly with cheerfulness, one founded on freedom of choice. (2 Corinthians 9:7) Any other kind is unacceptable. – w98 3/15 13 Dedication and Freedom of Choice. (Italics mine)
Again, notice how the word dedication and covenant are used interchangeably. Do they mean the same? Did natural Israel fail to live up to the strict requirements of their dedication? Did Jehovah promise by means of his prophet Jeremiah to conclude with the house of Israel and the house of Judah a new dedication?
Also, please consider: since the Watchtower claims that Jehovah made the nation of Israel his dedicated people, and successive generations were born into the dedicated relationship without any “choice” in the matter, having it “imposed” on them, and if any dedication not made based on love and cheerful willingness is “unacceptable,” then just how were they dedicated to him? Why all the contradictory statements? Because there is not a single scripture that tells us that God’s people were “dedicated” to him, but rather that they were in a covenant with him.
But what about us today? How does this “strongly entrenched” idea affect us, and more importantly, how does Jehovah view it?
Is dedication a requirement to have one's prayers heard?
We have been taught that, in order for us to have a relationship with God and have our prayers favourably heard, we must be dedicated to him.
Here are some examples of what The Watchtower said regarding this (Italics mine):
One such first-century individual was the devout Gentile Cornelius. He believed that God is, and he was earnestly seeking him. What did Cornelius do upon gaining accurate knowledge? Why, he wholeheartedly dedicated himself to Jehovah God and was baptized to symbolize that dedication. Thereafter, Cornelius apparently had a close relationship with God, and this would have had a positive effect on his prayers. – Acts 10:1-44.
Before Cornelius was baptized, his prayers only “ascended as a remembrance before God.” (Acts 10:4) However, by making a dedication to God on the basis of his belief in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice, and being baptized, Cornelius unreservedly gave himself to Jehovah. This established a wonderful closeness between God and this devout man – a relationship giving Cornelius the unrestricted privilege of prayer. (James 4:8) He could approach his heavenly Father through Christ Jesus with the expectation of being heard. That is what happens to all who dedicate themselves to God through Christ and get baptized. They too have the unrestricted privilege of prayer. Surely, you desire to have your prayers answered. Therefore, if you are not now serving Jehovah as one of his dedicated worshipers, how wise to seek him earnestly! Pursue a course like that of Cornelius, and God will answer your prayers. – w90 1/15 6 Whose Prayers Are Answered?
Some who were at one time progressing toward dedication later may seem to be holding back. If they do not have enough love for God in their heart to make an unreserved dedication to him, they ought to ask themselves whether they still have the wonderful privilege of prayer. Apparently not, because those approaching God must be earnestly seeking him and also righteousness and meekness. (Zephaniah 2:3) Everyone who really fears Jehovah is a believer who makes a dedication to God and symbolizes it by getting baptized. (Acts 8:13; 18:8) And only baptized believers have an unrestricted privilege of approaching the King Eternal in prayer. – w90 5/15 12 Fear Jehovah, the Hearer of Prayer.
Does the Bible really teach that unless a person unreservedly dedicates himself to God his prayers are not heard? We know that the Watchtower acknowledges that a person must approach God in Jesus’ name; but are they actually telling us that the emphasis is on dedication? (John 14:13-14) Paul says, “according to the eternal purpose that he formed in connection with the Christ, Jesus our Lord, by means of whom we have this freedom of speech and an approach with confidence through our faith in him.” – Ephesians 3:11-12
The apostle Paul explains that it is because of our faith in Jesus that God hears our prayers, not because of any “unreserved dedication to him.” How does Jehovah view anyone who would restrict our “freedom of speech and an approach with confidence [to him] through our faith in [Jesus],” by making additions to his Word, something that he has definitely warned us against? – see Proverbs 30:5-6; Deuteronomy 4:2
Another point: Did Cornelius’ prayers, before he was baptized, only “ascend as a remembrance before God”? Did Cornelius dedicate himself to God and then symbolize that dedication by baptism? Is that what your Bible says? Here is the reasoning behind that claim:
In the year 36 C.E., when God’s time of special favor to the Jews expired, Jehovah God turned his attention to the uncircumcised non-Israelites, the Gentiles, “to take out of them a people for his name.” (Acts 15:14-18) Using another of the “keys,” Peter was sent to the household of the Roman centurion named Cornelius, who was Kindly disposed to the Jewish people. These Gentiles must have accepted the witness about Jehovah God and his glorified Messiah, for the holy spirit fell upon them and they began speaking in tongues. God had mercifully begun to grant “repentance for the purpose of life to people of the nations also,” through Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” (Acts 11:18; John 1:29) Jehovah had accepted them, too, into his spiritual nation on the basis of the dedication made to him in their hearts. Holy spirit confirmed this. So none of the Christianized Jews who accompanied Peter could find objection to his command that they get “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” That started off “the conversion of people of the nations.” (Acts 10:1-48; 15:3) Since then all who have desired to serve God, whether Jew or Gentile, have had to make a dedication in their hearts to Jehovah. And, in connection with their baptism in water, they present themselves for the doing of God’s will for them, in imitation of Jesus.
But how important is dedication, of which water baptism is a symbol? How is this connected with salvation, especially in view of God’s day of wrath just ahead? Must those who are not part of Jehovah’s spiritual nation, but who hope to live on earth forever, get baptized? – w82 2/15 20-1 Dedication-To Whom? Why? (Italics mine)
Did the holy spirit confirm that Cornelius had made a “dedication” of himself, and that Jehovah had accepted him “into his spiritual nation on the basis of the dedication,” and that we too must dedicate ourselves to God since Cornelius’ time? Did he set the example for us? Any scriptural support for that claim? Notice how our thinking is manipulated by the obvious being presented first, which is supported by scripture. Yes, Peter was sent to the household of Cornelius; and yes, the holy spirit fell upon them; and yes, again, they were baptized. But where is there any mention of a dedication which the holy spirit is claimed to have confirmed? (Also, were people of the nations accepted into God’s spiritual nation “on the basis of the dedication made to him in their hearts,” or was it on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice, the benefits of which were now also extended to the Gentiles?) The reasoning is that if we accept the first part as correct then our minds will naturally accept the unsubstantiated claim of dedication as well. Is this not what we accuse other religions and politicians of doing in manipulating the hearers?
Now that they have convinced you that the holy spirit confirmed Cornelius’ dedication, made in his heart, it is a simple matter to also convince you that you too must dedicate yourself in order to have your prayers heard and gain salvation. Is salvation dependent on our dedication? We will consider this next.
Is dedication necessary for salvation?
Studying the Bible, applying what is learned, dedication, and baptism are steps leading to salvation. – w97 8/15 7 Salvation-What It Really Means
There are some Bible subjects that evoke strong emotions in their believers. Christendom has its Trinity. To question the Trinity is to question the very identity of God himself and to deny Jesus. To them, accepting the Trinity is necessary for salvation. Is it taught in the Scriptures? We argue that it is not; that neither the word nor the idea is found in the Bible, and that those who teach it are twisting the Scriptures. But we have our own “Trinity.”
The apostle Paul asks, “Do you, however, the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself?…” (Romans 2:21) If we find fault with the Trinity teaching because of its lack of clear scriptural support, then why are we just as zealous about our own teaching on Dedication, when we have even less Scriptures to point to? Look at the following Watchtower quote regarding the purpose of our baptism:
How many Scriptures will you find to support the above statement from the 1993 Watchtower? What Scriptures do you use when you teach your bible study as to WHY they must get baptized?
Acts 2:37, 38 simply says: “Now when they heard this they were stabbed to the heart, and they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Men, brothers, what shall we do?” Peter [said] to them: “Repent, and let each one of YOU be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of YOUR sins, and YOU will receive the free gift of the holy spirit.”
By our “Dedication and the symbolizing of it by baptism” are we not teaching that we must EARN salvation? That is what the following Watchtower articles say:
For What Purpose?
Why did Jesus require that his disciples be baptized? Well, it was a fitting symbol of their wholehearted dedication to God…
Being dipped under the water showed that those being baptized had died to a life course that had centered on themselves. Their being raised up out of the water symbolized that they were now alive to the doing of God’s will and were putting it first in their lives, as Jesus had done. (Matthew 16:24)
What Will You Do?
A person who truly has such love and wants a special relationship with Jehovah God would not hold back from freely dedicating his life to him. Baptism is but an outward symbol of that dedication. It is a necessary step toward salvation. – w93 4/1 5-7 Should You Be Baptized? (Italics mine)
The articles offer no Scriptures that mention the necessity for any dedication. Neither will you find any at all. Like Christendom with its Trinity, we cite a scripture and then stretch it a bit here and there to make it fit just what we want it to say. And we fully expect faithful servants of Jehovah to accept that. But, just as we tell others, if it is not found in the Bible it is not from God. And somewhere along the line it will conflict with God's Word.
Dedication and Our Obligation to God
Some baptized Christians need to pray earnestly because they are not living up to the ministerial obligations they assumed when they made a dedication to God. – w99 11/15 19 Are You Fulfilling Your Whole Obligation to God? (Italics mine)
Therefore, regardless of how many years we may eagerly have awaited the end of this wicked, unjust, and violent world, we must zealously live up to our dedication in accord with our circumstances. – w98 6/15 21 Jehovah’s Organization Supports Your Ministry.
May we therefore fulfill our dedication to Jehovah and not “shrink back to destruction.” – Hebrews 10:39. – w98 7/15 19 Have You Entered Into God’s Rest? (Italics mine)
Are we declared righteous due to our Dedication?
Teaching that we gain salvation due to our dedication contradicts what the Bible teaches.
”But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, made us alive together with the Christ, even when we were dead in trespasses – by undeserved kindness YOU have been saved – and he raised us up together and seated us together in the heavenly places in union with Christ Jesus, that in the coming systems of things there might be demonstrated the surpassing riches of his undeserved kindness in his graciousness toward us in union with Christ Jesus.”
”but we behold Jesus, who has been made a little lower than angels, crowned with glory and honor for having suffered death, that he by God’s undeserved kindness might taste death for every [man].”
”I do not shove aside the undeserved kindness of God; for if righteousness is through law, (or works of law) Christ actually died for nothing.”
”YOU are parted from Christ, whoever YOU are that try to be declared righteous by means of law; YOU have fallen away from his undeserved kindness. For our part we by spirit are eagerly waiting for the hoped-for righteousness as a result of faith.”
”If, for instance, Abraham were declared righteous as a result of works, he would have ground for boasting; but not with God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham exercised faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the man that works the pay is counted, not as an undeserved kindness, but as a debt. On the other hand, to the man that does not work but puts faith in him who declares the ungodly one righteous, his faith is counted as righteousness.”
Are we not "parted from Christ… fallen away from his undeserved kindness," by our insistence that we can receive everlasting life only through works by living up to our dedication? Are we not also robbing Jehovah by emphasizing our dedication rather than his undeserved kindness? Does Jehovah owe us anything? Must we earn everlasting life? As Paul clearly explains, if we were to be "declared righteous as a result of works," then we would have ground for boasting, because we had earned it as payment of a debt, and not as a result of God's undeserved kindness. By teaching that we must "live up to our ministerial obligations" that we assumed when we made a dedication to God, we have placed a heavy burden on all who want to please God. And, of course, those in responsible positions are free to define, by means of their many publications, what living up to our dedication involves. (Matthew 11:30; 23:4) Note how they boast about doing this:
Each year, printing plants of the Watch Tower Society and similar legal bodies supply Jehovah’s Witnesses with millions of Bibles, books, brochures, and magazines for use in their worldwide preaching activity. These legal entities are therefore invaluable in helping dedicated servants of God to live up to their dedication to him. – w98 3/15 18 Living Up to Christian Dedication in Freedom.
If they agree that the unbaptized publisher has a reasonable understanding of Bible teachings and qualifies in other ways, they will tell him that he may be baptized. As a result of his dedication and baptism, he becomes ‘marked’ for salvation. – Ezekiel 9:4-6. – w96 1/15 17 Jehovah’s Sheep Need Tender Care. (Italics mine)
Interestingly, the Daily Text for Thursday, January 14, 2010, noted the following in contrast to the above quotes: “Sinful humans cannot earn everlasting life by their imperfect efforts to do what is right. (Isa. 64:6) Gaining everlasting life is possible only by putting faith in God’s loving provision of salvation through Jesus Christ. Let us do all that we can to show our appreciation for that undeserved kindness of God! – w08 6/15 2:2, 3”.
Why the contradiction? If we cannot “earn everlasting life by [our] imperfect efforts to do what is right,” and that our salvation is due to the “undeserved kindness of God,” then why the insistence on living up to our dedication? We may not be confused about the identity of Jesus and GOD, but when it comes to the ransom and salvation we ARE confused, and for the same reason that Christendom is about their Trinity; we have broken “the rule” about not going beyond what is written. (1 Corinthians 4:6; Deuteronomy 12:32) Whereas Christendom’s Trinity deflects honor from Jehovah and bestows it upon his Son, our “Dedication” deflects the honor from Jehovah and his Son and bestows it upon ourselves.
Proverbs 30:5,6 also says, “Every saying of God is refined … Add nothing to his words, that he may not reprove you, and that you may not have to be proved a liar.”
Teaching that we gain salvation due to our “dedication to God” is tantamount to denying the ransom. (Galatians 2:21)
The time is fast approaching when Jehovah will clear up any false teaching among his people about our salvation, for "the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him." (John 4:23,24) No, we cannot earn salvation due to works by means of our unreserved dedication. But rather, we will gain everlasting life by exercising faith in the ransom provision, Jesus' shed blood. This will include all who will come back in the resurrection. But the Watchtower insists that they too must earn their future salvation by means of their dedication:
All these resurrected ones must do something in order for their resurrection to turn out to be one of life and not one of adverse judgment. They must come to the earthly courtyards of Jehovah’s temple and bow down in dedication to God through Jesus Christ. Any resurrected ones who refuse to do this will suffer the same scourge that befalls the present-day nations. (Zechariah 14:18). – w96 7/1 22-3 The Triumph of True Worship Draws Near. (Italics mine)
Our trinity of dedication, baptism, and salvation has caused a great deal of suffering. It is the means by which we are judged by our brothers, and we judge them. (Matthew 7:1,2; Romans 14:4) We measure and compare each other’s spirituality by it, seeing how well everyone is living up to their dedication; publishers within the congregations, congregations within their circuit, and the circuits with the national average. And yet, it is not from God, for it is nowhere taught in the Scriptures. What is taught though, is that we must NOT judge, measure, or compare. (Romans 14:10; Galatians 5:26; 6:4) And so we have made God’s Word invalid by our traditions. Now that is something to worry about! (Matthew 15:6-9)
Can we dedicate to God what already belongs to him?
We do not belong to ourselves. We belong to God because he purchased us with a price. See how the Society makes that point (Italics added):
Part of this repenting and turning around includes what Jesus called ‘disowning ourselves.’ (Matthew 16:24) That is, we no longer live according to just our own selfish desires with no concern for God’s will and purposes. Instead, we recognize that Jehovah God actually has full claim on our lives as our Creator and our Purchaser through his Son’s ransom sacrifice. As the Bible expresses it, we ‘do not belong to ourselves, for we were bought with a price.’ (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20) – tp 179-80 16 The Choice Assuring Life in True Peace and Security
Since it is acknowledged that we already belong to God, "for we were bought with a price," and he has "full claim on our lives," how can we then go ahead and dedicate to God what no longer belongs to us but already belongs to him anyways? I am emphasizing this point because the Watchtower seems to have beclouded the issue by the teaching on Dedication. Some examples (Italics mine):
Due to our having made a dedication to Jehovah God we belong to him, being either his adopted sons or prospective grandsons. Jehovah God and we have mutual interests, chief of which is the vindication of Jehovah’s name, and, secondary, our own salvation. We are concerned with God’s vindication and he with our salvation. – w63 2/15 113 Talking with God
From all the foregoing it can be seen that the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses has been very careful to have all baptismal candidates understand that they were being immersed in water only because they had previously, whether shortly before or a long time before, decided to belong to Jehovah God and accordingly had deliberately and intelligently dedicated themselves to God through faith in Jesus Christ. – w64 2/15 126 Did You Make an Acceptable Dedication to God?
However, you must do more than privately tell Jehovah that you want to belong to him. You need to show before others that you have made a dedication to serve God. How do you do this? By getting baptized in water. Such water baptism is a public demonstration that a person has dedicated his life to Jehovah and is presenting himself to do His will. – pe 251-2 30 What You Must Do to Live Forever
The above quotes (and there are many more) teach that we belong to God because of our dedication. But are we not dedicating to God what already belongs to him, if indeed we were bought with a price? Even more reprehensible: Are we not at the same time denying the value of Jesus’ sacrifice, if we teach that it is on account of our dedication that we belong to God? Another important point: We are robbing Jehovah by minimizing what HE has done – bought us with a price; in favor of what WE are doing – dedicating ourselves. Are we not emphasizing OUR own love for God, rather than HIS love for us? (Malachi 3:8,9) How different this attitude is from that expressed by the apostle John: “By this the love of God was made manifest in our case, because God sent forth his only-begotten Son into the world that we might gain life through him. The love is in this respect, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent forth his Son as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins.”―1 John 4:9,10
Please consider also how we have made God’s word invalid by our Dedication doctrine when it comes to the sanctity of marriage. (Matthew 15:3-9) Let us consider this next.
Is your marriage second in importance to your dedication?
There was one occasion where Jesus referred to something as being dedicated to God. Let's read about that at Matthew 15:3-6:
In reply he said to them: “Why is it YOU also overstep the commandment of God because of YOUR tradition? For example, God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Let him that reviles father or mother end up in death.’ But YOU say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother: “Whatever I have by which you might get benefit from me is a gift dedicated to God,” he must not honor his father at all.’ And so YOU have made the word of God invalid because of YOUR tradition.”
The Jews had the tradition that a person could dedicate things to God by giving it as a gift to the temple. Jehovah did not require it but neither was there anything wrong with it. What was wrong, though, was the overstepping of God's own commandments in the process, as Jesus pointed out. The fourth commandment said: "Honor your father and your mother…" (Exodus 20:12) The religious leaders taught that God should come first in a person's life and thus ahead of one's parents. Therefore, dedicating something to God by which the parents could have benefited was viewed as a good thing. Putting God ahead of ones parents sounds noble, doesn't it? Yet Jesus condemned them for it. He told them "you have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition." And then he went on to say:
”YOU hypocrites, Isaiah aptly prophesied about YOU, when he said, ‘This people honors me with their lips, yet their heart is far removed from me. It is in vain that they keep worshiping me, because they teach commands of men as doctrines.’”―Matthew 15:7-9
God viewed them as hypocrites because they were breaking his commandments in order to keep their own. Their worship was in vain because they were “teaching commands of men as doctrines.” How could they expect Jehovah to accept that?
Look at how we have made things even worse than the example Jesus used above, by our doctrine of Dedication. A husband’s and wife’s relationship is much closer than that of a man and his parents. Concerning this Jesus said: “For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh.”―Matthew 19:5
This is what the Awake! magazine said on this:
Jesus made clear that marriage was to be permanent when he answered a question put to him about the propriety of divorce. He stated: “Did you not read that [God] who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh”? So that they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has yoked together let no man put apart. –Matthew 19:4-6
Immediately after the above paragraph, though, it goes on to say:
It has rightly been said that in the life of a Christian, marriage is second in importance only to his or her dedication to God. The latter binds one to the Creator forever, and baptism makes that publicly manifest. Marriage is the public declaration of commitment to another person – forever. It is unthinkable either to dedicate oneself to God or to forge a marriage bond while having serious reservations. Therefore, those contemplating marriage do well to examine carefully the prospective mate’s beliefs, goals, attitudes, and disposition. – Awake! 2/8, 2002 Marriage Should Be A Permanent Bond, page 9. (Italics mine)
Is that true? Is marriage second in importance only to his or her dedication to God? It sounds noble! But is that what Jehovah says, or any of the Bible writers? It is more likely the personal opinion of some single brother on the Governing Body, because it definitely contradicts God’s own view on marriage, which is expressed at Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6; Ephesians 5:28-31, 33; besides many other scriptures on the relationship of a husband and wife. Jehovah has clearly expressed his view on the marriage arrangement, but where does he say anything about a dedication to him?
Have we made something that is NOT taught in the Scriptures more important than something that IS clearly taught? Is that not the very thing Jesus condemned the religious leaders of doing? They taught that God should come first in a person’s life, even if it meant breaking God’s law, and is that not what we are doing by means of our dedication? It is our doctrine, our tradition. Let us see how we have made God’s word invalid by means of it:
Absolute endangerment of spirituality also provides a basis for separation. The believer in a religiously divided home should do everything possible to take advantage of God’s spiritual provisions. But separation is allowable if an unbelieving mate’s opposition (perhaps including physical restraint) makes it genuinely impossible to pursue true worship and actually imperils the believer’s spirituality. Yet, what if a very unhealthy spiritual state exists where both mates are believers? The elders should render assistance, but especially should the baptized husband work diligently to remedy the situation. Of course, if a baptized marriage partner acts like an apostate and tries to prevent his mate from serving Jehovah, the elders should handle matters according to the Scriptures. If disfellowshipping takes place in a case involving absolute endangerment of spirituality, willful nonsupport, or extreme physical abuse, the faithful Christian who seeks a legal separation would not be going against Paul’s counsel about taking a believer to court. – 1 Corinthians 6:1-8. – w88 11/1 22-3 When Marital Peace Is Threatened. (Italics mine)
In addition, the Bible’s words at 1 Corinthians 7:10-16, while encouraging marriage mates to stay together, allow for separation. Some, after trying very hard to preserve their marriage, feel they have no choice but to separate. What can be acceptable Scriptural grounds for such a step? … One is willful nonsupport … (1 Timothy 5:8) Another is extreme physical abuse… (Galatians 5:19-21; Titus 1:7; Psalm 11:5) … Another ground for separation is the absolute endangerment of a believer’s spirituality – – one’s relationship with God. When a mate’s opposition, perhaps including physical restraint, has made it impossible to pursue true worship and has imperiled the believer’s spirituality, then some believers have found it necessary to separate. –Matthew 22:37; Acts 5:27-32. – g02 2/8 10 Marriage Should Be A Permanent Bond, [Box, Heading: Divorce and Separation]
We are taught that we have “scriptural grounds” for breaking up a marriage if our spirituality is endangered, because “our marriage is second in importance only to his or her dedication to God.” And do we actually believe that Jehovah is pleased with this? This is much worse than what Jesus condemned the Pharisees for in Matthew 15.
Do you know of any marriage break-ups over this issue? I know some who are doing “better in the truth” after they split up. Others have used this as an excuse to get out of an unhappy marriage. Is that what pleases Jehovah? It was in connection with something dedicated to God that Jesus uttered these words:
You cancel God’s command by your rules. Frauds! Isaiah’s prophecy of you hit the bull’s-eye: These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their heart isn’t in it. They act like they’re worshiping me, but they don’t mean it. They just use me as a cover for teaching whatever suits their fancy.” – Matthew 15:6-9 MSG
Is baptism about dedication?
To know Jehovah is to love him. He is everything we could imagine our father and best friend to be like. As you become better acquainted with him you will come to the point where you want to do something about your love for him. But what? We feel so inadequate. What can we actually give to God? How can we show in a positive way just how much we love him? If you had someone help you come to know Jehovah through a study of the Bible you will soon be told that you must dedicate yourself to God. Ah, isn’t that a positive way of demonstrating your love for your Creator? Once you have made a dedication of yourself to God you are then instructed to symbolize that dedication by water baptism. But first you are required to review what you have learned with a couple of elders in your congregation, for they want to discern if you are ready for the commitment that dedication to God entails. You must also be already busy in the witnessing work. Once they are satisfied of your qualification you are ready to be baptized at the next assembly. All those presenting themselves to be baptized will be asked two questions:
From then on you will be expected to live up to your dedication and all the responsibilities that go with it that you willingly accepted, and by doing so you understand that God will bless you with everlasting life.
Says The Watchtower of 1956, July 1, page 399, paragraph 14, under the study article, “What Dedication Means to Me”: “It is true that dedication places a heavy load of responsibility upon one. And faithfulness in carrying that load is mandatory!”
And as you carry that heavy load you believe that you are following the example that Jesus set for us.
There are those, however, who have studied the Bible and have come to know and love Jehovah, but feel they are not in a position to take on such a “heavy load of responsibility” that comes with making a dedication. (compare Matthew 11:28-30) I have met quite a number over the years who have been faithful meeting attenders for as long as twenty years or more without taking the step of baptism. They feel that it is better not to make a vow than to make one and break it. – Ecclesiastes 5:5
How different this was in the first century. Those who listened to Peter at Pentecost and “embraced his words heartily were baptized,” as many as three thousand on that one occasion. (Acts 2:41) There was no delaying. Consider some other examples:
On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?
Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in association with God’s spirit-directed organization?
But when they believed Philip, who was declaring the good news of the kingdom of God and of the name of Jesus Christ, they proceeded to be baptized, both men and women. – Acts 8:12.
In answer the eunuch said to Philip: “I beg you, About whom does the prophet say this? About himself or about some other man?” Philip opened his mouth and, starting with this Scripture, he declared to him the good news about Jesus. Now as they were going over the road, they came to a certain body of water, and the eunuch said: “Look! A body of water; what prevents me from getting baptized?” – Acts 8:34-36
And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira and a worshiper of God, was listening, and Jehovah opened her heart wide to pay attention to the things being spoken by Paul. Now when she and her household got baptized, she said with entreaty: “If YOU men have judged me to be faithful to Jehovah, enter into my house and stay.” And she just made us come. – Acts 16:14, 15
And he brought them outside and said: “Sirs, what must I do to get saved?” They said: “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will get saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of Jehovah to him together with all those in his house. And he took them along in that hour of the night and bathed their stripes; and, one and all, he and his were baptized without delay. And he brought them into his house and set a table before them, and he rejoiced greatly with all his household now that he had believed God. – Acts 16:30-34
Do you notice in the above scriptural examples that the believers were baptized without delay? Do you see any mention of them having to “dedicate” themselves first to God and having to weigh the responsibilities that go with such a dedication? Is water baptism about dedication? What does the Bible say on this matter?
Let us consider a few scriptures on how water was used in connection with the sin offering in the law covenant.
“And Jehovah spoke further to Moses, saying: “Take the Levites from among the sons of Israel, and you must cleanse them. And this is what you should do to them to cleanse them: Spatter sin-cleansing water upon them, and they must have a razor pass over all their flesh and must wash their garments and cleanse themselves.” (Numbers 8:5-7)
And a clean man must gather up the ashes of the cow and deposit them outside the camp in a clean place; and they must serve the assembly of the sons of Israel as something to be kept for the water for cleansing. It is a sin offering… Everyone touching a corpse, the soul of whatever man may die, and who will not purify himself, has defiled Jehovah’s tabernacle, and that soul must be cut off from Israel. Because the water for cleansing has not been sprinkled upon him, he continues unclean. His uncleanness is still upon him. … And everyone who on the open field may touch someone slain with the sword or a corpse or a bone of a man or a burial place will be unclean seven days. And they must take for the unclean one some of the dust of the burning of the sin offering and put running water upon it in a vessel. Then a clean man must take hyssop and dip it into the water and spatter it upon the tent and all the vessels and the souls that happened to be there and upon the one who touched the bone or the slain one or the corpse or the burial place. And the clean person must spatter it upon the unclean one on the third day and on the seventh day and must purify him from sin on the seventh day; and he must wash his garments and bathe in water, and he must be clean in the evening. … But the man who may be unclean and who will not purify himself, well, that soul must be cut off from the midst of the congregation, because it is Jehovah’s sanctuary that he has defiled. The water for cleansing was not sprinkled upon him. He is unclean. … And it must serve as a statute to time indefinite for them, that the one spattering the water for cleansing should wash his garments, also the one touching the water for cleansing. He will be unclean until the evening. (Numbers 19:9, 13, 16-21)
Why did Jehovah require such an elaborate ceremonial cleansing with water? We are told that the law was only “a shadow of the good things to come, but not the very substance of the things,” for “the reality belongs to the Christ.” (Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 10:1) – For more information see the box
“Is it necessary to be baptized to survive Armageddon?”
Did you notice in the above scriptures that the “sin-cleansing water” was meant to make a person clean in God’s eyes? That it was a clean man who was used to administer the sin-cleansing water upon the unclean person and thus the unclean man became purified? Note also the part the “sin offering” played in this.
In view of the above, can we see why Saul, who became the apostle Paul, was told by Ananias: “And now why are you delaying? Rise, get baptized and wash your sins away by calling upon his name.” – Acts 22:16.
Consider another scripture that shows how Jehovah viewed the use of water as cleansing his wayward people. Isaiah 1:16, 18: “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the badness of your dealings from in front of my eyes; cease to do bad… ‘Come, now, you people, and let us set matters straight between us,’ says Jehovah. ‘Though the sins of you people should prove to be as scarlet, they will be made white just like snow.’”
The figurative “washing” of themselves symbolized their removing “the badness of their dealings,” “ceasing to do bad,” and would result in their sins being forgiven and being viewed as clean in God’s eyes. This is further illustrated in Revelation 7:14 where the great crowd, that comes out of the great tribulation, is pictured as having washed their robes and made them white (“just like snow’) in the blood of the Lamb, thus having their sins forgiven and enjoying an acceptable and clean standing before God.
Jesus also illustrated how water cleanses the person when he washed the feet of his disciples as a lesson in humility. “And so he came to Simon Peter. He said to him: ‘Lord, are you washing my feet?’ In answer Jesus said to him: ‘What I am doing you do not understand at present, but you will understand after these things.’ Peter said to him: ‘You will certainly never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered him: ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’ Simon Peter said to him: ‘Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.’ Jesus said to him: ‘He that has bathed does not need to have more than his feet washed, but is wholly clean. And you men are clean, but not all.’ He knew, indeed, the man betraying him. This is why he said: ‘Not all of you are clean.’” – John 13:6-11.
Here Jesus was not talking about them having had a bath, but rather to the baptism they had by John the Baptist, who “appeared in the wilderness (desert), preaching a baptism [obligating] repentance (a change of one’s mind for the better, heartily amending one’s ways, with abhorrence of his past sins) in order to obtain forgiveness of and release from sins.” (Mark 1:4,5; Amplified Bible). To Jehovah they were clean because of their repentance and baptism, but not all, as Jesus said, referring to Judas. Judas had been baptized also but he was no longer clean as he had become a thief and was about to betray Jesus. – see Exodus 40:30-32
Concerning John the Baptist we are told that he “came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying: ‘REPENT, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’ Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the country around the Jordan made their way out to him, and people were baptized by him in the Jordan River, openly confessing their sins.” To the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to him, he said, “YOU offspring of vipers, who has intimated to YOU to flee from the coming wrath? So then produce fruit that befits repentance … I, for my part, baptize YOU with water because of YOUR repentance…” – Matthew 3:12, 5-8, 11
Please note, John’s baptism was for repentance of sins, not for the forgiveness of them. Repentance comes before forgiveness. Indeed, without repentance there is no forgiveness. (Luke 13:3, 5; 2 Peter 3:9) That is why John the Baptist was sent by Jehovah to prepare the way, to have a cleansed repentant people whose sins would be forgiven once the ransom was paid by the blood of God’s own Son, and their exercising faith in that blood. (Mark 1:2-4; Acts 13:24; Hebrews 9:11-14; 10:21-22) After Jesus’ death, baptism was no longer just for repentance of sins but also for forgiveness of them. That is why John’s baptism was no longer valid after Jesus’ death. Those who had been baptized by John did not need to get baptized again as Jehovah accepted their repentance and viewed them as clean, as symbolized by the water, and forgave their sins upon the death of his Son. Baptism since Jesus’ death is for repentance and forgiveness of one’s sins. (Acts 2:38; 19:3-5; Hebrews 9:22)
So, we see that water baptism is an appropriate symbol of our heartfelt repentance and being cleansed of our sins. It is true that we gain forgiveness of our sins only by exercising faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice (washing our robes in “the blood of the Lamb,” Revelation 7:14), but it is at the moment of our baptism that the benefits of the ransom are applied to us. Water baptism is a requirement from God. Submitting to it demonstrates obedience, humility, faith and the desire to have a clean conscience toward our Creator. (Hebrews 10:19-22) Without baptism there is no cleansing and thus no forgiveness of sins. (see Numbers 19:20) “Peter [said] to them: “Repent, and let each one of YOU be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of YOUR sins…” – Acts 2:38.
Hence the command to baptize and be baptized. (Matthew 28:19) “That which corresponds to this is also now saving YOU, namely, baptism, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the request made to God for a good conscience,) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 3:21
Baptism is not about dedication. Dedication is not mentioned, nor defined, anywhere in the Scriptures.
But, if baptism has to do with forgiveness of sins, then why was Jesus baptized since he committed no sins, and therefore had nothing of which to repent? The apostle Peter tells us, “In fact, to this [course] YOU were called, because even Christ suffered for YOU, leaving YOU a model for YOU to follow his steps closely… He committed no sin, nor was deception found in his mouth… He himself bore our sins in his own body upon the stake, in order that we might be done with sins and live to righteousness. And ‘by his stripes YOU were healed.’” – 1 Peter 2:21-24.>
Yes, Jesus “bore our sins in his own body.” Since “Christ died for our sins,” suffered for our sins, he also was baptized for our sins, which he bore in his own body. (Isaiah 53:2-12; 1 Corinthians 15:3) This fulfilled all the requirements of the Law according to the covenant. The Tabernacle, the anointed high priest, the sacrifices at the temple and all the necessary requirements regarding the offering of the sacrifices, including their being cleansed with water, were “our tutor leading to Christ.” (Galatians 3:19, 24-25; Hebrews 8:1-6; 9:6-14) Does it seem reasonable that his baptism, at which time he was anointed and became the Messiah, and with which he started his ministry and the fulfilling of the law, was not foreshadowed anywhere in the Law? Jesus’ baptism prepared him for the sacrifice of his perfect human body, the sin offering on behalf of mankind.
Another point to consider: When we are baptized, should the emphasis not be on God’s love for us, and the love of his Son, and the ransom provision whereby we gain forgiveness of sins and a relationship with our heavenly father; rather than emphasizing our love for God and what we are doing, and will be doing, as is the case with Dedication. As The Message Bible (MSG) so aptly puts Galatians 3:11: “Doing things for God is the opposite of entering into what God does for you.”
“We do not find the word dedication in the greek scriptures”
The concept of dedication, or consecration, to the Divine is not unique to Jehovah’s witnesses. This is what the Catholic Encyclopedia, under “Consecration” writes:
Consecration, in general, is an act by which a thing is separated from a common and profane to a sacred use, or by which a person or thing is dedicated to the service and worship of God by prayers, rites, and ceremonies. The custom of consecrating persons to the Divine service and things to serve in the worship of God may be traced to the remotest times. We find rites of consecration mentioned in the early cult of the Egyptians and other pagan nations. Among the Semitic tribes it consisted in the threefold act of separating, sanctifying, or purifying, and devoting or offering to the Deity. (bold mine)
The Encyclopedia claims that Moses designated the nation of Israel as the People of God “by a solemn act of consecration.” Concerning Aaron’s priesthood and that of the Levites it says:
Later on we read of the consecration of the priests – Aaron and his sons (Exodus 29) – who had been previously elected (Exodus 28). Here we have the act of consecration consisting of purifying, investing, and anointing (Leviticus 8) as a preparation for their offering public sacrifice… Distinct from the priestly consecration is that of the Levites (Numbers 3:6) who represent the first-born of all the tribes. The rite of their consecration is described in Numbers, viii…
Concerning the pagan Romans the Encyclopedia goes on to say:
Among the Romans whatever was devoted to the worship of their gods (fields, animals, etc.) was said to be consecrated, and the objects which pertained intimately to their worship (temples, altars, etc.) were said to be dedicated. These words were, however, often used indiscriminately, and in both cases it was understood that the object once consecrated or dedicated remained sacred in perpetuum.
Based on their own teaching of dedication and consecration, the Catholic Church has adopted a variety of customs in connection with it.
The Church distinguishes consecration from blessing, both in regard to persons and to things. Hence the Roman Pontifical treats of the consecration of a bishop and of the blessing of an abbot, of the blessing of a corner-stone and the consecration of a church or altar. In both, the persons or things pass from a common, or profane, order to a new state, and become the subjects or the instruments of Divine protection. At a consecration the ceremonies are more solemn and elaborate than at a blessing. The ordinary minister of a consecration is a bishop, whilst the ordinary minister of a blessing is a priest. At every consecration the holy oils are used; at a blessing customarily on holy water. The new state to which consecration elevates persons or things is permanent, and the rite can never be repeated, which is not the case at a blessing; the graces attached to consecration are more numerous and efficacious than those attached to a blessing; the profanation of a consecrated person or thing carries with it a new species of sin, namely sacrilege, which the profanation of a blessed person or thing does not always do. Of consecration proper the Roman Pontifical contains one of persons, that is of a bishop, and four of things, that is, of a fixed altar, of an altar-stone, of a church, and of a chalice and paten. The consecration of a church is also called its dedication (q.v.) in accordance with the distinction between consecration and dedication among the ancient Romans pointed out above.
Charles Taze Russell also held to the idea that we must be consecrated to God. This is what the Watchtower of January 15, 1989, page 18, wrote under the heading, “How Baptism Can Save Us”:
In 1914, C. T. Russell (then president of the Watch Tower Society) received a letter in which a fellow Christian asked if his 12-year-old son should be urged to make a dedication to God. “If I were you,” Russell responded, “I would not press consecration [dedication] upon him, but I would hold it up before his mind as the only proper course for all intelligent people who have come to a knowledge of God and his gracious purposes … Without consecration none will ever gain everlasting life … Your son cannot be injured by consecration, but may be greatly helped… Who shall say that a child of ten may not very fully and completely come to an appreciation of full consecration in thought and word and act? Looking back I can see that my whole consecration was first made at a little advance – beyond twelve years of age.” (Italics mine)
In 1952 the Watchtower Society re-examined the matter of consecration and more fully defined what it involved. This is how it was explained:
What this water baptism symbolized has always been clearly understood and explained by Jehovah’s witnesses, although there has been a change in terminology. In times past what we now call “dedication” used to be called “consecration.” It was called consecration, for instance, in the book by Charles Taze Russell entitled “The New Creation,” in which book the meaning of water baptism is explained, particularly with reference to those who make up the symbolic body of Christ, those who have the hope of heavenly life. In due time, however, in The Watchtower of May 15, 1952, two articles appeared on this subject. The leading article was entitled “Dedication to God and Consecration,” and the subsidiary article was entitled “Dedication for Life in the New World.” These articles showed that what was once called “consecration” was more properly termed “dedication.” Since that time the term “dedication” has been used. – w64 2/15 p. 122, Did You Make an Acceptable Dedication to God?
It is interesting to note that in the past the Watchtower has acknowledged that the word “dedication” in connection with giving of oneself exclusively to God is not found in the Scriptures. And that it is neither tied in with baptism nor becoming a disciple of Christ. The Watchtower, May 15, 1952, page 315, under the study article “Dedication for Life in the New World” says (Italics mine):
Searching through the Christian Greek Scriptures we do not find either the word dedication or the word consecration used to designate this step of giving oneself exclusively to God through Jesus Christ. When reading of the early adopters of Christianity we merely find it said that they believed or exercised faith. The formula that those used who urged people to adopt Christianity was, “Repent and be converted,” or, “Repent and turn around.” Also, “Repent and be baptized.”
On the day of Pentecost, when the perplexed people asked Christ’s apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter answered: “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the free gift of the holy spirit… . Get saved from this crooked generation.” Some days later at the temple Peter said to another crowd: “Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the person of Jehovah and that he may send forth the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.” (Acts 2:37-40; 3:19, 20, NW) When the conscience-stricken jailer at Philippi, Macedonia, asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to get saved?” they replied: “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will get saved, you and your household.” Then they “spoke the word of Jehovah to him together with all those in his house”, after which “one and all, he and his were baptized without delay”. – Acts 16:30-33, NW
How, then, does the inspired record say they became true Christians and a people for God’s name? By consecrating themselves? No! It was by believing or becoming believers, by exercising faith and resting their faith in God’s revealed purpose and arrangement. Read for yourself: After Pentecost, “all those who became believers were together in having all things in common.” “More than that, believers in the Lord kept on being added, multitudes both of men and of women.” “To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone putting faith in him gets forgiveness of sins through his name.” “Furthermore, the hand of Jehovah was with them, and a great number that became believers turned to the Lord.” “When those of the nations heard this, they began to rejoice and to glorify the word of Jehovah, and all those who were rightly disposed for everlasting life became believers.” “Thus Paul left their midst, but some men joined themselves to him and became believers.” “But Crispus the presiding officer of the synagogue became a believer in the Lord, and so did all his household. And many of the Corinthians that heard began to believe and be baptized.” “And many of those who had become believers would come and confess and report their practices openly.” So such taking up of belief or faith according to God’s newly revealed purpose and will was what made them Christians, God’s people. – Acts 2:44; 4:4; 5:14; 10:43; 11:21; 13:48; 17:33; 18:8; 19:18, NW.
Although the Watchtower acknowledges that in the Christian Greek Scriptures “we do not find either the word dedication or the word consecration used to designate this step of giving oneself exclusively to God through Jesus Christ,” and that which made the early Christians God’s people was their “faith according to God’s newly revealed purpose and will,” and not dedication; and also, “the formula that those used who urged people to adopt Christianity was, “Repent and be converted,” or “Repent and be baptized,” rather than the need to dedicate themselves to God, nevertheless, the self-appointed “Faithful and Discreet Slave”, the Governing Body, has taken it upon themselves to define our dedication to God in any way they have seen fit, no different from what the Catholic Church has done, even going so far as making it a basic requirement for salvation. The article, on page 316, goes on to show how they have used the Scripture at James 2:17, 24 to define this doctrine of dedication:
Where, then, is the dedication of self to God through Jesus? It is included in such belief or exercise of faith. James 2:17, 24 (NW) tells us: “Faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself. You see that a man is to be declared righteous by works, and not by faith alone.” Dedication to God through Christ is one’s putting life into his faith, activating it, making it a producer of works, and leading to the practice of righteousness. As we note from the record above quoted, those who exercised faith or became believers performed works. They submitted to water baptism so as to give a symbolic testimony to their faith, and thus they imitated Jesus. They turned away from the world and turned to him as Jehovah’s Anointed One or Messiah, whom Jehovah had made their heavenly Lord. They joined themselves to Jehovah’s visible organization and kept together as a united congregation. They confessed and reported their past practices openly and showed they had repented or changed their minds about such things and that they had converted or turned around and were now going in God’s way in the footsteps of Jesus. This was how they showed that they were “rightly disposed for everlasting life” in the new world.
The Bible writer James nowhere mentions dedication. That is not what he was discussing. But, the Watchtower has gone beyond James’ words to help define all the things that dedication is supposed to entail, teaching us how we can put ”life into [our] faith, activating it, making it a producer of works,” by our holding to their definition of living up to our dedication, whatever they say that involves, and then claiming that baptism is a symbol of that which is not even taught in the Scriptures. Is this not a matter of going “beyond the things written”? Yes, and what is more, they actually acknowledge it! (1 Corinthians 4:6) They would do well to heed James’ other words, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment.” – James 3:1
What in reality is the origin of our practice of dedication since, admittedly, it is not mentioned in the Scriptures? Consider the similarity of our dedication and that of others:
When we prayerfully, either silently or audibly to ourselves, dedicate ourselves to him to do his will from then on and forever in whatever realm of life God may choose for us, does God in the high heavens really hear us or pay attention? His Word assures us that he does, and we must exercise faith that he does, so as to hold us to our decision …
So after dedicating yourself in faith to God hold your word sacred, inviolable, untouchable by any change. Your vow to be his and do his will is forever binding. – The Watchtower, May 15, 1952, page 317, “Dedication for Life in the New World”
How similar to the Roman practice of dedication where “it was understood that the object once consecrated or dedicated remained sacred in perpetuum.” And that of the Catholic Church: “… the persons or things pass from a common, or profane, order to a new state, and become the subjects or the instruments of Divine protection… The new state to which consecration elevates persons or things is permanent, and the rite can never be repeated.”
Please remember, it was Jehovah who chose and anointed (“consecrated” according to the Catholic Encyclopedia) Aaron and his sons as priests, and likewise the Levites. No one could “consecrate” themselves to God. (Hebrews 5:4) The custom of consecrating or dedicating persons to the Divine service and things to serve in the worship of God may be traced to the remotest times, to “the early cult of the Egyptians and other pagan nations,” including the Romans.
What we apply to other religions we must first of all apply to ourselves, namely, that ‘we are not acceptable to God if our sincerity is not based on accurate information.’ (The Watchtower 2003, February 15, p 32)
I have attempted to show from the Scriptures and quotes from the Society that:
I have not researched and posted this with the goal of stumbling anyone. My aim is to show why we have so many problems that have stumbled many of Jehovah’s precious sheep; why so many feel unworthy, falling short of their dedication responsibilities, and do not expect to survive into the new system. And only Jehovah knows how many others have never taken the necessary step of baptism, fearing they could not live up to all the requirements involved in a personal dedication to God. The problem is that we have gone ”beyond the things that are written.” No one on the face of this earth has the authority to do that! – 1 Corinthians 4:6
We have made God’s word invalid by some of our teachings which have become strongly entrenched. (2 Corinthians 10:4) But, rather than being discouraged by this information, it should fill us with hope that Jehovah will soon set matters straight. That our heavy burden of living up to our dedication will soon be lifted off us. Then we will be able to submit to the kindly yoke Jesus offered us, “Come to me, all YOU who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh YOU. Take my yoke upon YOU and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and YOU will find refreshment for YOUR souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
The nation of Israel was not dedicated to God, but rather was in a covenant with him. Those two are not the same; the terms are not interchangeable.
Dedication has nothing to do with having one’s prayers heard by God. Did Cornelius dedicate himself to God in order for his prayers to be heard?
It is not due to any “dedication” to God on our part that we inherit everlasting life. By teaching this, we actually deny the ransom, although paying lip service to it.
We have robbed Jehovah by emphasizing our love for him, rather than his love for us.
Because of our doctrine of Dedication we have made God’s word invalid in that we are able to judge our brothers’ and sisters’ spirituality, compare our activity against others, and even have given “scriptural grounds” for marriage partners to separate. These are all things the Scriptures tell us not to do. – Matthew 7:1-2; Romans 14:4, 10, 13; 2 Corinthians 10:12; Galatians 6:4; 1 Corinthians 7:10-11
Baptism is not about any dedication vow. It is interesting how The Watchtower agrees with this point:
It should also be noted that vows were something spontaneous, and hence unrequested, unsolicited. They were not something set forth as a general requirement for all who would enjoy a certain privilege or enter into a certain relationship. Hence, one’s becoming a disciple of Christ Jesus and fulfilling the requirements that are set for all persons, including repenting and turning around and making public declaration of one’s faith, and being baptized, do not involve a “vow” in the Scriptural sense. (w73 10/1 p. 607 Questions from Readers)
Also of note, the Watchtower acknowledges that “searching through the Christian Greek Scriptures we do not find either the word dedication or the word consecration used to designate this step of giving oneself exclusively to God through Jesus Christ.” Obviously, this step of “giving oneself exclusively to God through Jesus Christ” is not a requirement for everlasting life. It has nothing to do with Baptism.
You may wonder:
Is our baptism even valid? If our baptism is not about dedication, and we have made God’s word invalid in connection with this tradition of ours, then where do we stand with Jehovah?
Please consider: We do believe in the ransom. We exercise faith in it and teach others to do likewise. We have repented of our former course of life and know that we get forgiveness of sins and gain life because of Jesus’ shed blood. We are baptized in obedience to the command to do so. Those are God’s requirements and therefore Jehovah accepts our baptism and we are able to enjoy a relationship with him. He does not take into consideration any other requirements that we have attached to this. But because of going “beyond what is written” we have caused serious problems that Jehovah will address in his own due time. – 1 Corinthians 4:6
The nation of Israel became God’s covenant people at Mt Sinai where Jehovah gave them the Law through Moses. He told them: “You must not add to the word that I am commanding you, neither must you take away from it, so as to keep the commandments of Jehovah your God that I am commanding you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32) By the time Jesus came the religious leaders had added considerably to God’s law. Jesus said that they had “seated themselves in the seat of Moses” and thus had placed “heavy loads” on the people. In so doing they had also made the word of God invalid. (Mathew 23:2-5; 15:3-9) Yet, they were still his people.
We have become guilty of the same sin. Some of those who were given the responsibility to feed God’s household, have also seated themselves in “the seat of Moses” (now Jesus’ seat, the greater Moses). They have added to God’s word, placed heavy loads upon the sheep, and made God’s word invalid in so many different ways. We can be certain that if Jehovah and his Son condemned that in the first century they still condemn it today.
Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. – 2 Corinthians 9:7
In posting this information I have no intention of discouraging anyone from dedicating or devoting himself to Jehovah. It is good when we want to and can demonstrate to God how much we love him,―like the Nazirites of old or the pioneers today. As Jesus encouraged us at Matthew 6:33, we ought to keep seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and we are assured that Jehovah will take care of our needs if we do. I am sure many have found that promise to be faithful. Many successful people dedicate themselves to all sorts of different causes or careers, such as doctors, lawyers, politicians, armed forces, sports, music, the arts, hobbies, to name just a few. So why can we not likewise dedicate or devote ourselves to God’s service by making it the most important feature of our lives. But as I set out to explain, that is not what our baptism is about and neither has Jehovah demanded that we must dedicate ourselves to him. Nor is he threatening anyone for failing to do so. We are told in his Word that baptism is necessary for salvation, but nowhere is there any mention of dedication. By adding just one word to God’s Word we can find ourselves redefining important teachings and get caught up in our own traditions, making God’s word invalid. That is never to our lasting benefit. – Proverbs 30:6; Zephaniah 2:3
We cannot earn everlasting life by our works, and I think every elder will acknowledge that. The Daily Text for Thursday, January 14, 2010 noted: “Sinful humans cannot earn everlasting life by their imperfect efforts to do what is right. (Isa. 64:6) Gaining everlasting life is possible only by putting faith in God’s loving provision of salvation through Jesus Christ. Let us do all that we can to show our appreciation for that undeserved kindness of God! w08 6/15 2:2, 3.”
If they admit the obvious, then why is it not taught? (compare Galatians 2:16, 21; 3:10-11 MSG) Why the contradiction? Why the unnecessary heavy yoke and hardships on the brothers? Because the “noble” teaching of Dedication is a valuable tool in the hands of those who have set themselves up as governors over God’s household. It allows them to dictate to the flock. It also allows them to define law not defined in the Scriptures. It enables them to go beyond the things written without being challenged. Do we not all try hard to live up to our dedication as taught by them? Is there any danger in doing so? Consider the consequences!
Why is there such an epidemic of divorces and broken marriages among God’s people? Should we be surprised at this situation when we emphasize that our dedication to God, which includes attending the meetings and being active in the preaching work, is the most important thing in our life by which we gain salvation? No wonder the adulterers, the pedophiles, the unscrupulous business partner, who also happens to be an elder, the drunkards, etc. among us are also trying to “live up to their dedication.” – compare 2 Timoty 3:1-5
And those who genuinely love their Creator, but suffer from ill health, financial burdens, advanced age, family responsibilities, or opposition, besides other problems, may eventually burn out and give up because of feelings of unworthiness. The kindly yoke that our Master invited us to accept becomes oppressive when the load has become heavy. – Matthew 11:29,30; 23:2-5; Acts 15:10,11; Galatians 5:1.
But there is hope! God’s promise assures us: “And they will have to know that I am Jehovah when I break the bars of their yoke and I have delivered them out of the hand of those who had been using them as slaves.” This will be fulfilled at the time when Jehovah holds the shepherds of his sheep accountable, asking his sheep back from their hand, “in the day of clouds and thick gloom.” – Ezekiel 34:10-12, 27, 31
With what shall I confront Jehovah? [With what] shall I bow myself to God on high? He has told you, O earthling man, what is good. And what is Jehovah asking back from you but to exercise justice and to love kindness and to be modest in walking with your God? – Micah 6:6, 8.
Is it necessary to be baptized to survive Armageddon?
That’s a very good question as to whether it is necessary to be baptized in order to survive Armageddon. It might be good to consider what baptism is really about, and why Jehovah requires it.
This is what Insight on the Scriptures, volume 1, pp. 248-249 under Baptism, says about the origin of baptism:
The first human authorized by God to perform water baptism was John the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. (Lu 1:5-7, 57) The very fact that he was known as “John the Baptist” or “the baptizer” (Mt 3:1; Mr 1:4) implies that baptism or water immersion came to the attention of the people especially through John, and the Scriptures prove that his ministry and baptism came from God; they were not of John’s origin. His works were foretold by the angel Gabriel as from God (Lu 1:13-17), and Zechariah prophesied by holy spirit that John would be a prophet of the Most High to make Jehovah’s ways ready. (Lu 1:68-79) Jesus confirmed that John’s ministry and baptism were from God. (Lu 7:26-28)
We see that it was God who introduced baptism. For what purpose? We can learn the significance and importance of water baptism by what was included in the Law given through Moses, which became “our tutor leading to Christ.” (Galatians 3:24) According to the Law the Levites were cleansed, and also anyone who had become unclean, by spattering “sin-cleansing water” upon them. (Numbers 8:7; Exodus 30:17-21) Insight on the Scriptures, volume 1, page 1084, says:
In Israel a person who … was unclean … was required to undergo a specified cleansing procedure on pain of being “cut off from the midst of the congregation.” In this procedure the ashes of a sound red cow on which no yoke had come were used. Water in which some of these ashes had been mixed was sprinkled on the unclean one. — Numbers 19:1-22
Note what it says in the book of Numbers concerning the law that Jehovah gave his people, of the offering of the red cow “on which no yoke had come,” and which had no physical defects:
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Here is another ritual law required by the LORD: Tell the people of Israel to bring you a red heifer that has no physical defects and has never been yoked to a plow. Give it to Eleazar the priest, and it will be taken outside the camp and slaughtered in his presence. Eleazar will take some of its blood on his finger and sprinkle it seven times toward the front of the Tabernacle. As Eleazar watches, the heifer must be burned--its hide, meat, blood, and dung. Eleazar the priest must then take cedarwood, a hyssop branch, and scarlet thread and throw them into the fire where the heifer is burning. Then the priest must wash his clothes and bathe himself in water. Afterward he may return to the camp, though he will remain ceremonially unclean until evening. The man who burns the animal must also wash his clothes and bathe in water, and he, too, will remain unclean until evening. Then someone who is ceremonially clean will gather up the ashes of the heifer and place them in a purified place outside the camp. They will be kept there for the people of Israel to use in the water for the purification ceremony. This ceremony is performed for the removal of sin. The man who gathers up the ashes of the heifer must also wash his clothes, and he will remain ceremonially unclean until evening. This is a permanent law for the people of Israel and any foreigners who live among them”. —Numbers 19:1-10 (New Living Translation)
This purification ceremony with water, mixed with the ashes of the sacrificial red cow, a sin offering, was, as it says, “for the removal of sin” [“the ceremony to wash away sin”; Contemporary English Version; “the water of cleansing; it is for purification from sin,” New International Version – UK; “The water will be used to make people pure from their sin,” New International Reader’s Version], and it has meaning for us. Note what The Watchtower, April 15, 1984, on page 30, says regarding this:
A valuable link in the record leading to the establishment of God’s Kingdom is provided by the book of Numbers. It also points to Jesus Christ. For instance, the animal sacrifices and use of the red-cow ashes pointed to the far greater provision for cleansing through Jesus’ sacrifice. (Numbers 19:2-9; Hebrews 9:13, 14) (Bold mine)
Further on this, Insight on the Scriptures, volume 1, page 191, says:
According to Numbers chapter 19, a sound red cow without defect and upon which no yoke had come was also slaughtered and burned outside the camp. The ashes of this “sin offering” were deposited in a clean place outside the camp (Nu 19:9) and thus a portion was available for mixing with water to be sprinkled on unclean persons or things to purify them. (Nu 19:17) The apostle Paul referred to the figurative cleansing of the flesh by “the ashes [Gr., spo·dos´] of a heifer” to highlight the far greater cleansing of “consciences from dead works” possible through “the blood of the Christ.” (Hebrews 9:13, 14) (Bold mine)
The scriptures help us to understand the significance and importance of baptism, how “the blood of the Christ,” the sin offering provided by Jehovah, has far greater value in purifying us from our sins when we are baptized than did the “water for the removal of sin,” under the law covenant. Having repented of our sins, baptism symbolizes our being washed or cleansed from them, made possible by “the blood of the Christ.” For that reason we are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. (Acts 2:38; 10:48) It is upon our baptism that Jehovah forgives us our sins—which grants us a clean conscience—and we are then symbolically dressed in white robes, such as in the case of the “great crowd” in Revelation. (Revelation 7:9, 13,14; 3:4,5; Isaiah 1:16; Ezekiel 16:9) That is why the converted Saul, who became the apostle Paul, was told by Ananias: “And now why are you delaying? Rise, get baptized and wash your sins away by your calling upon his name.” (Acts 22:16)
Under the Law covenant, anyone who refused to comply with the water cleansing regulation was to “be cut off from the midst of the congregation, because it is Jehovah’s sanctuary that he has defiled.” (Numbers 19:20) It is really at the moment of baptism that a person has the benefits of Christ’s ransom applied to him. This was pictured by mixing the ashes of the “sin offering” (the whole red cow, which included the blood) with the sin-cleansing waters. (Numbers 19:5, 9) Anyone unwilling to get baptized fails to benefit from the ransom, and remains unclean in God’s eyes. (1 Peter 3:21)
We might compare baptism to the wedding ceremony, for the marriage is not official, legal, until after the ceremony. When Peter explained to the crowd, that had come running on account of the amazing event that occurred at Pentecost, many of them responded and asked what they needed to do. Peter answered them by saying, “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the free gift of the holy spirit.” The account says that “those who embraced his word heartily were baptized, and on that day about three thousand souls were added.” You see, a person becomes a member of God’s household upon his baptism. He then receives the holy spirit and is now a son or daughter belonging to Jehovah, having him as his Father. That is also what Jesus meant when telling Nicodemus, “unless anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” A person cannot receive God’s spirit without baptism. (Acts 2:37-41; John 3:5; 1 Cor. 3:16,17; 2 Cor. 6:18; 1 Tim. 3:15)
We see that baptism is a command from Jehovah. Jesus commissioned his disciples to “go and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them,” and “teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19,20) For that reason, we do not need anyone’s permission to obey that divine directive. To forbid or hinder someone from getting baptized through man-made conditions, restrictions, or qualifications, would be a serious matter, putting oneself in opposition to God. (Acts 5:29, 38,39; Revelation22:18,19) Every elder in his congregation has the responsibility to encourage and help the brothers to obey Jehovah in carrying out all his requirements. It is not his business to want to determine whether or not a person, who wants to get baptized, is ready to do so. (Romans 14:4)
If the elders in your congregation feel that you are not ready for baptism and thus try to discourage you, or even prevent you from doing so, what might you want to do? (Acts 8:36; 10:47; 16:33) In my own case, when I was sixteen years old I got to know Jehovah and came to love him. Therefore I was determined to get baptized. I waited for the upcoming District Convention, took my bathing suit and towel with me and was baptized along with six hundred five others. I had not met with any elders or servants to seek their permission. I felt that this was something very personal between me and Jehovah. From what followed immediately after provided me with evidence that Jehovah had indeed accepted my baptism. I am sure others have done the same, and Jehovah has blessed their obedience. If there is no convention where you might join in with others to get baptized; or it is impossible to get baptized on account of your elders not including your name on their approved list for baptism candidates, then you can keep in mind that any baptized brother is qualified to do baptizing, in any suitable body of water where you can be immersed. (2 Cor. 3:1, 4-6) The Society often likes to remind us that we do not have a clergy class among God’s people; so why should we subject ourselves to fleshly men who themselves do not subject themselves to God? (1 Cor. 3:1-9)
What about a person who wants to get baptized but is unable on account of some physical disability, perhaps being confined to a bed, or even hooked up to a mechanical device that keeps him alive; or even due to a mental inability to understand God’s requirements and therefore being unable to obey. In circumstances where a person truly does not have the ability to obey Jehovah, we can be sure that Jehovah understands. He is the maker of his laws, and it is up to him whether he enforces them or decides to make exceptions. That is not something for us to determine. (Matt. 12:1-5) However, Jesus warned that God will hold accountable and punish the leaders among his people who have made God’s word invalid by their own traditions and doctrines, such as substituting the “sin-cleansing water” with a “water of dedication,” and preventing a person from obeying God accordingly. (Matt. 15:6-9)
The “great crowd” that “comes out of the great tribulation,” are all of them baptized, for they “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation7:9, 14) There are no other survivors of the great tribulation mentioned in the Scriptures. Don’t allow anyone to hinder you from getting baptized. (1 Peter 3:21)
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