Here are my notes from the biannual CO visit. The notes are from the CO Meeting with Elders & MS 2006 Service Year outline. The topics from WTS are Sense of Urgency, Higher Education, Independent thinking, Marital Arrg, Invalid baptisms.
Sense of Urgency - Concern among FDS that some are losing their urgency, they don't believe we're in the last days. Some say, "When the end comes, it comes" speaking of Armageddon. Appointed men what can we do to maintain a sense of urgency? Preaching the good news zealously will help us keep a sense of urgency. Don't get sidetracked with secular work or material things. Don't take a laid back view of meeting attendance. Keep on the Watch brochure, pp 25 - 27: pray continually, be realistic in expectations (this system is going to be difficult), remember the key issue is Jehovah's sovreignty our issues aren't more important, and draw close to Jehovah. We're living deep in the time of the end, don't be focusing on "paneled houses" (reference to Haggai).
Avoid dangers of pursuing higher education - Divine education is superior. Since 1992 some JWs are saying it is okay to pursue higher education. The 1992 WT never said "higher education", it said "supplemental education". Many young people aren't becoming JWs because of higher/university education. Well-intentioned parents need to focus on divine education. Supplemental education (vocational/technical school, learning a trade) with the goal of pioneering is what the FDS would like us to pursue.
w92 11/1 p. 18, par. 12
12 A balanced view of education can help. For many young people of the world, education is a status symbol, something to help them climb the social ladder, the key to a prosperous, materialistic life-style. For others, schooling is a chore to be dispensed with as quickly as possible. Neither of these views is appropriate for true Christians. What, then, might be termed “a balanced view”? Christians should regard education as a means to an end. In these last days, their purpose is to serve Jehovah as much and as effectively as possible. If, in the country where they live, minimal or even high school education will only allow them to find jobs providing insufficient income to support themselves as pioneers, then supplementary education or training might be considered. This would be with the specific goal of full-time service.
Independent thinking manifests itself in being critical of the branch office, rather than trust in and be obedient to the GB and the ones they appoint. (Heb 13:7, 17)
Marital Arrangement - Many are separating and divorcing for invalid reasons. If a couple wants to separate what scriptures or examples can be shared? 8 Points in the Reasoning book under Marriage.
Invalid baptism/rebaptism - This point is for elders only. When dealing with a wrongdoer, the judicial committee members do not ask the person if he feels his baptism was valid. If the person brings this up direct him to w60 p. 159-60; w64 2/15 p.123-26.
*** w60 3/1 pp. 159-160 Questions From Readers ***
Questions From Readers
? What should a congregation committee do in the case of one who has committed acts deserving being put on probation or disfellowshiped and who now claims that in the light of what The Watchtower, August 1, 1958, had to say about valid and invalid baptisms, his baptism was not a valid one?
We well know that Christendom professes to be Jehovah’s organization and in the new covenant with him. It has never renounced that relationship, although it is a false claim and pretense. Yet because of the appearance that Christendom puts on before the world and the demands that it makes according to its boastful claims, Jehovah God will judge Christendom just the same as if she were in actual covenant relationship with him. She will be judged unfaithful and punished accordingly because she has acted hypocritically and brought reproach upon his name.
Likewise, if an individual who has made a profession of dedication to God through Christ and after the baptismal talk submits to water baptism and then continues to associate with the congregation, even though spasmodically, claiming to be a dedicated, baptized member of the congregation and never renouncing that relationship with the congregation, then that individual has to be judged by the congregation according to the appearance of things that is being offered by this person.
The congregation credits the individual with honesty and with having intelligently entered into a full membership in the congregation by virtue of dedication and baptism. The congregation is not God, who is able to read the heart, nor does it have supernatural gifts as did Peter and other apostles so as to know whether the individual is earnest and sincere and is not dishonest and hypocritical. If the individual permits himself to be accepted by the congregation upon the basis of the congregation’s own understanding and view of the matter, then this individual subjects himself to be judged and dealt with according to the standards that the congregation owns up to as found in the Word of God.
If, after the individual commits a wrong that deserves disfellowshiping, the individual first then disclaims having actually been what he has all along pretended to be and what he has let the congregation think he is, then he certainly is trying to take advantage of the congregation and is trying to crawl out from underneath responsibility and due consequences for his acts. He cannot now properly claim that he was not really dedicated and that his baptism was all a mistake and that in reality he never was a member of the congregation and of the New World society and so cannot be chastened by or expelled from it.
This particularly follows in the case of such a one’s making a confession. If inside himself he did not count himself a member of the congregation, then why make a confession to the congregation in the first place? An undedicated, unbaptized person is not obliged to confess all his sins and wickedness that he committed before dedication to the congregation and ask their forgiveness. All that is necessary is that he clean up his life, then make a dedication and act in harmony with that dedication and present himself for baptism.
But whether confessing or not, when a person is found guilty of misconduct he must be dealt with according to the appearance he gave those of the New World society and must therefore be put on probation or disfellowshiped as the situation may call for. If after he has been reinstated he still is convinced that he had not made a dedication before his baptism and it therefore was invalid, he should, if he has not already done so, make an intelligent, binding dedication to God now that he has repented and proved his repentance by works befitting such and then he should be baptized. We cannot trifle with Jehovah God. This is a serious matter and should be treated seriously.
*** w64 2/15 pp. 123-127 Did You Make an Acceptable Dedication to God? ***
QUESTIONS AT BAPTISM TALK
It may be that on some baptismal occasions in the past years specific questions that could be answered audibly were not asked of the baptismal candidates regarding their faith, obedience and dedication. Yet the failure of the speaker on baptism to pronounce such questions, and hence the failure of the baptismal candidates to answer audibly and affirmatively to such questions, do not undermine the validity of the baptism performed on such occasion. The deciding element in the matter is that the speaker correctly presented the significance of water baptism to the interested persons and they understood the matter, for which reason they went to the place of immersion, changed their clothing and submitted to being dipped beneath the waters.
There is no reason for persons today to think that because they have difficulty remembering what occurred a few or many years ago they did not know what they were doing on the occasion of their baptism. All their actions argue that they did understand and they did intelligently undergo water baptism in symbol of the dedication that they decisively made to Jehovah God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the October 1, 1942, issue of The Watchtower, on pages 300 to 302, an article entitled “Baptism” was published and this article concludes with the following statements: “Before proceeding with your baptism it is proper, first, that you answer affirmatively these questions to show you are taking this step with the Scriptural understanding thereof and are fit for baptism as a devoted servant of the Lord, fully responsible to Him: (1) Do you believe in Jehovah God the Father, that ‘salvation belongeth unto Jehovah,’ and that Christ Jesus is his Son in whose blood your sins are washed away and by whom salvation comes to you from God? (2) Have you therefore confessed your sins to God and asked for cleansing by Christ Jesus, and therefore turned away from sin and the world, and consecrated yourself without reservation to God to do his will? Your answer, being Yes, is testimony that you are worthy and in line for water baptism in obedience to God’s will.”
In the next issue of the Watchtower magazine, that of October 15, 1942, in the account of the assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses at Cleveland, Ohio, on September 18-20, 1942, it says on page 319 regarding Sunday morning, September 20: “The day was opened with a discourse on ‘Baptism’ at 8 a.m., and 459 presented themselves for water immersion in symbol of their complete consecration to the Lord; it was a pleasure to behold so many young persons thus ‘remembering their Creator in the days of their youth.’ These, immediately after baptism, joined their other companions in the field activities.”
The questions to be asked of the baptismal candidates before admitting them to water baptism were republished in a revised form in the February 1, 1945, issue of The Watchtower after the leading article on the subject “Baptism—Why?” namely, on page 44, under the heading “Questions.” The questions there printed are substantially the same questions that are asked of baptismal candidates at the present time and to which they are expected to answer affirmatively in an audible manner before being admitted to the immersion.
Yet, because such questions which were to be audibly answered may have been omitted at a baptism talk in times past, it does not mean that the information presented did not accurately inform the persons interested about what they were doing. The publications of the Watch Tower Society had long made the matter plain and the men representing the Society who would be giving the baptism talks would have thoroughly understood what was involved and would have made it clear to their listeners.
Some state that they do not remember saying a specific, private prayer at the time of their dedication and wonder if such failure renders their baptism invalid.
It must be appreciated that not all prayer offered to Jehovah God needs to be offered on bended knee in the privacy of one’s own personal room at home. Prayer can be offered up to Jehovah from the heart silently and unobserved by outsiders even while one is walking along the street or while one is standing in the presence of another person, as in the case of Nehemiah, who was the cupbearer for the king and was standing in his presence at the time he prayed. (Neh. 2:3-5) Consequently, just because one cannot recall a specific moment when he made a decision to be henceforth and forever Jehovah God’s and whether it was made in one specific, private prayer, it does not mean that he did not make a direct dedication of himself to the Most High God before he was immersed in water.
Certainly before a person would be immersed in water in symbol of dedication he would have to make a decision to undergo such immersion. The very reason for making such a decision would be an understanding of what the water immersion symbolized and the obligations under which he understood himself henceforth to be because of making such a decision to be immersed. No individual walks into a water immersion of Jehovah’s witnesses blindly just because he happens to be found in the crowd of candidates, being swept off his feet along with the crowd into the water and into the hands of the immerser.
Even while the individual is changing his clothing and is preparing himself to enter into the water to be immersed, he manifests to himself and to all observers that he has made a decision to be forever afterward dedicated to Jehovah God through Jesus Christ. Such a decision is a solemn thing and evidently it is made in a prayerful mood, with one’s thoughts on the God who can read the heart. So whether one made such a decision of dedication long before the actual baptizing in water, or it was made during or after the baptismal talk, the incontrovertible fact remains that the individual made a dedication of himself from the heart in the presence of the Most High God, and that is the thing of primary importance.
On the day of Pentecost when the apostle Peter told the Jews, who had been cut to the heart by the words that he preached to them, what to do, they followed his advice, repented, and were baptized on that day. (Acts 2:37-41) They had little time in advance of their actual water baptism to make the decision to follow in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus. This decision they did not make on bended knee in prayer in the privacy of their homes, which were located in scattered parts of the Roman Empire and even outside of it. They made their decision just prior to the water baptism that Peter encouraged them to undergo. They evidently made their decision standing up in the presence of the apostles, upon whom the holy spirit had been poured out that day.
So one’s physical attitude, or one’s location at the time of making the decision of dedication, or whether it was done in one well-remembered specific prayer, does not determine the validity of the dedication vow that is thus made. The essential thing is that the dedication must be understood to be made to the Most High God through his Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior.
LIVING UP TO DEDICATION
When one dedicates himself to Jehovah God, he solemnly vows, or promises, to do the will of God forever. At baptism, therefore, he symbolizes this vow or promise to continue progressing in the Christian way. The responsibility to continue in that way of life rests upon each one who dedicates his life to God. He must live up to that dedication by doing what God has outlined in his Word. “Offer thanksgiving as your sacrifice to God, and pay to the Most High your vows.”—Ps. 50:14.
However, because a person does not live up to his dedication, it does not mean that his dedication was invalid. What it does mean is that he is simply not living up to that dedication! It represents failure to fulfill his vow, his promise, and not a failure to make a correct dedication and baptism in the first place. How serious this is can be seen from God’s Word: “Whenever you vow a vow to God, do not hesitate to pay it, for there is no delight in the stupid ones. What you vow, pay.”—Eccl. 5:4.
Thus, if one has slipped away from the faith to a degree, or may have even committed a grievous sin after he was baptized, this cannot be taken as an indication that his baptism must have been invalid and hence he must be rebaptized. In all likelihood it was not his dedication and baptism that were at fault. The trouble is his failure to live up to his promise to do God’s will.
If any today find themselves practicing what is bad, or if they practiced badness some time after their dedication, they should not automatically look to rebaptism to correct the situation. The way to set oneself straight with Jehovah is to confess the wrongdoing to Jehovah in prayer and also to the judicial committee of the congregation, who will prayerfully and Scripturally handle the matter. (1 John 1:9; Jas. 5:16) Whatever correction is administered will work toward the good of the one who has confessed his wrongdoing, as well as toward the good of the entire congregation.
However, it is a different matter when a person was committing serious wrongdoing at the time of his “dedication” and baptism and even thereafter. If one was habitually sinning, practicing a grievous wrong during this time, even though ceasing from it some time after his baptism and making advancement in the service of Jehovah, he was in an unclean state before God at the time of his baptism. Such a baptism, since it did not follow a true dedication, would be invalid. If such a person has now forsaken that practice of sin, repented and made a sincere dedication of himself to Jehovah God, he should be rebaptized.
Therefore, if any individual who wants to be a baptized Christian is living a life that, if he were already dedicated, would result in his being cut off or disfellowshiped from the Christian congregation, he is not ready for baptism. First he must clean up his life in harmony with God’s righteous requirements before presenting himself to the Most High for dedication and baptism.—1 Cor. 6:9-11.
GROWTH IN APPRECIATION TO BE EXPECTED
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.
One therefore should not waver in his mind as to whether he had a correct understanding of the matter when he was immersed. In all probability, if he presented himself for baptism among the candidates he likely had sufficient knowledge to know what he was doing, which would mean that his dedication and baptism were valid.
With the passing of time Christians are expected to grow in knowledge and understanding of God’s purposes and requirements. It is therefore natural that at the time of water baptism one would not have the knowledge and understanding of matters that he would acquire after years of progressing toward Christian maturity. Even the Lord Jesus, after his baptism in the Jordan River and his receiving the holy spirit from heaven, went into the wilderness of Judea and spent forty days there to enlarge his understanding of what his dedication to God, symbolized by water baptism, really required of him. But the fact that he understood the matter of his dedication better at the close of the forty days does not mean that he did not make a valid dedication of himself to Jehovah God. When Jesus left his carpenter shop in Nazareth and went to John the Baptist at the Jordan River to symbolize his dedication, he knew the reason for this. But he also increased in knowledge and understanding with the passing of time.
We should be grateful for the increase in growth and understanding that God provides through his spirit, Word and organization. It helps us to carry out our dedication faithfully. But just because we were relatively poor in understanding and appreciating what dedication meant at the time of our baptism, we who are now possessed of a fuller, more accurate understanding of dedication and baptism should not feel it necessary to be rebaptized. We should, with mental equilibrium, remember all the information in printed and spoken form that has for many decades presented the matter clearly and should not let our faulty memories produce in us an unsettled state of mind and heart.
What we should appreciate more and more with the passing of time is the serious responsibility under which we have come by dedicating our lives to God. We should by all means sincerely and earnestly renew our determination to live up to that dedication to the Most High God Jehovah, and in this way imitate his faithful Son, Jesus Christ.—1 Pet. 2:21.