home > changed teachings > baptism

Changing Baptism Arrangement

Jesus commanded to baptise in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Over time, Jehovah's Witnesses have changed this requirement to include the "spirit-directed organization." Scriptural precedence is ignored in order to elevate the Watchtower organization.

Bible - Matthew 28:19

"Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the holy spirit".

Watchtower - 1985 Jun 1 p.30

"The first question is:
On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?

The second is:
Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah's Witnesses in association with God's spirit-directed organization? Having answered yes to these questions, candidates are in a right heart condition to undergo Christian baptism."

At Matthew 28:19, Jesus outlined a simple yet powerful baptismal process. It was to be "in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the holy spirit". He made no mention of affiliation with any earthly organization. Whilst the Watchtower baptism arrangement originally followed the requirements set by Jesus, it has gradually deviated from his guidelines.

Baptismal exclusivism is a major symbolical sectarian feature and the changes outlined below represent the Watchtower Societies desire for stricter control and segregation of its members.

Christian baptism requires confession of faith in Jesus, followed by full water immersion. The simplicity of this ritual is attested to by multiple New Testament examples; the Ethiopian Eunuch, those that presented themselves to John the Baptist and the 3000 Peter baptised.

Acts 8:36 "The eunuch said: "Look! A body of water; what prevents me from getting baptized?""

At times followers were baptised in the name of Jesus alone. However, it was then necessary later to specifically pray to receive the holy spirit.

Acts 2:38 "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."
Acts 8:14-16 "When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Sa·mar´i·a had accepted the word of God, they dispatched Peter and John to them; 15 and these went down and prayed for them to get holy spirit. 16 For it had not yet fallen upon any one of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus."

Originally that was how baptism was conducted by the Watchtower Society. Over time a regimented pre-baptism approval procedure has developed, with the "baptismal candidate" answering numerous questions about Watchtower doctrine as part of a process of being judged worthy by 3 elders. Most significantly, since 1985 the candidate declares they are devoting themselves to an organization when answering the two pre-immersion questions.

As late as 1955, a person did not need to be baptised by the Watchtower Society to be considered a Jehovah's Witness. Baptism by another Christian denomination was considered valid, provided it was as an adult by full immersion. The Watchtower 1955 Jul 1 p.412 paragraph 20 explained that re-baptism was necessary only if the previous baptism was not in symbol of a dedication, or if it was not by immersion.

It was not until 1956 that baptism by the Watchtower Society became mandatory.

"Yes, one must be baptized again. Obviously, by any of such religious systems one was never in reality baptized "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit," because had he been so baptized he would have appreciated the authority and office of such true Higher Powers." Watchtower 1956 Jul 1 p.406

The rationale for the change was that though other religions baptise in the name of "The Father, and the Son, and the holy spirit", they do not recognise Jehovah and Jesus to represent the Higher Powers of Romans 13:1. The irony is that shortly after this, Watchtower also stopped recognising this passage as having reference to Jehovah and Jesus. This view of the Higher Powers was only held between 1928 and 1961.

More unusual, the Watchtower 1956 December 15 p.763 made the qualification that only those who had been baptised after 1918 needed to be re-baptised. Apparently that was the date when Christendom was officially rejected by Jehovah.

The pre-baptismal process continued to become more rigid. To qualify for baptism, it became necessary for an interested person to answer 80 questions in front of 3 different elders.

"All who do get baptized are first given thorough instruction in basic Bible teachings, and thereafter (especially since 1967) elders in the congregation review such teachings with each baptismal candidate." Proclaimers p.186

This was changed to 124 questions in the 1983 Organized to Accomplish Our Ministry and 104 questions in the 2005 Organized To Do Jehovah's Will pp.182-216.

There is no Biblical precedence that requires passing an exam prior to baptism. Watchtower claims Jews needed no such questions, as they already knew Jehovah's requirements and simply had to confess faith in Jesus to be baptised. This is nonsense. In Jesus day there were numerous Jewish Sects with a range of beliefs. Sadducees and Pharisees had diametrically opposing views of the resurrection. Other Jews had little knowledge of their religious teachings and the Mosaic Law. (John 7:49) In addition to this, Jesus revelation of the Sacred Secret did away with the Mosaic Law and its arrangement of animal sacrifices, making Christianity significantly different to Judaism. Despite this theological gulf between Jewish thinking and Christianity, baptism only required that a person such as the Ethiopian Eunuch profess faith in Jesus.

Baptism Questions

Under Russell, baptism candidates consecrated themselves to the Lord only, and it was specifically noted that baptism was not to any particular sect.

"What are the questions usually put by Brother Russell when receiving candidates for water immersion?
ANSWER.--You will notice that they are on broad lines--questions which any Christian, whatever his confession, should be able to answer in the affirmative without hesitation if he is suitable to be acknowledged as a member of the Church of Christ:
(1) Have you repented of sin with such restitution as you are able, and are you trusting in the merit of Christ's sacrifice for the forgiveness of your sins and the basis of your justification?
(2) Have you made a full consecration of yourself with all the powers that you possess--talent, money, time, influence--all to the Lord, to be used faithfully in His service, even unto death?
(3) On the basis of these confessions, we acknowledge you as a member of the Household of Faith, and give to you as such the right hand of fellowship, not in the name of any sect or party or creed, but in the name of the Redeemer, our glorified Lord, and His faithful followers." What Pastor Russell Said pp.35-36

Later, two questions developed containing reference to the God the Father, Jesus the son, and the holy spirit.

Watchtower 1944 February 1 page 44
Watchtower 1944 Feb 1 p.44

Watchtower continued to clarify that baptism is not in the name of any organisation.

"A Christian, therefore, cannot be baptized in the name of the one actually doing the immersing or in the name of any man, nor in the name of any organization, but in the name of the Father, the Son and the holy spirit." Watchtower 1955 Jul 1 p.411

Emphasis of baptism shifted from Jesus to Jehovah.

"We do not dedicate ourselves to a religion, nor to a man, nor to an organization. No, we dedicate ourselves to the Supreme Sovereign of the Universe, our Creator, Jehovah God himself. This makes dedication a very personal relationship between us and Jehovah." Watchtower 1966 Oct 1 pp.603-604

In 1985, a significant change was introduced. In total disregard to Biblical guidance, and Watchtower's previous comments, it became a requirement for the baptismal candidate to announce their desire to become associated with an Organization.

"At the close of the convention baptism talk, the baptism candidates will be in position to answer with depth of understanding and heartfelt appreciation two simple questions that serve to confirm that they recognize the implications of following Christ's example.

The first question is:
On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?

The second is:
Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah's Witnesses in association with God's spirit-directed organization? Having answered yes to these questions, candidates are in a right heart condition to undergo Christian baptism." Watchtower 1985 Jun 1 p.30

Rather than follow the Biblical example of confession in Christ prior to baptism, a Witness must prove they intricately know Watchtower doctrine and law, and then devote themselves to "God's spirit-directed organization" - the Watchtower Society.

Age of Baptism

Whilst Jesus set the example of being baptised at 30, Jehovah's Witness children will generally be baptised between 10 and 18, some even younger. Watchtower condemns Catholics for infant baptism, but then encourages teenagers to be baptised. Does a 16-year-old comprehend what they are devoting themselves to? The brain does not reach maturity until 25, which is why at 16 a person is legally too young to smoke, drink, drive a car, go to war, vote or get married. Yet, by that age, Watchtower expects dedication to an organisation that can disfellowship the person and force shunning if they ever change their mind, regardless of whether they are 17 or 70.

Image - Watchtower (study edition) Mar 2016

Watchtower Baptismal Requirements

Prior to 1951

Baptism as a Christian in any religion, provided by full water immersion. (What Pastor Russell Said pp.35,36)

1955 to 1985

Baptised by Watchtower Representative.
To Father, Son and Holy Spirit

1985 onwards

Baptised by Watchtower Representative.
To Father, Son and the Organization w85 6/1 p.30

Changing Baptismal Questions

On the day of baptism, the candidate is required to answer two questions publicly. The following traces these changes.

Baptismal questions from the Watchtower 1944 Feb 1 p.44:

Have you recognized yourself as a sinner and needing salvation from Jehovah God? and have you acknowledged that this salvation proceeds from Him and through his Ransomer Christ Jesus?

On the basis of this faith in God and in his provision for redemption, have you consecrated yourself unreservedly to do the will of God henceforth as that will is revealed to you through Christ Jesus and through God's Word as His holy spirit makes it plain?"

Baptismal questions from the Watchtower 1956 Jul 1 p.407:

(1) Have you recognized yourself before Jehovah God as a sinner who needs salvation, and have you acknowledged to him that this salvation proceeds from him the Father through his Son Jesus Christ?

(2) On the basis of this faith in God and in his provision for salvation, have you dedicated yourself unreservedly to God to do his will henceforth as he reveals it to you through Jesus Christ and through the Bible under the enlightenment of the holy spirit?"

Baptismal questions from the Watchtower 1966 Aug 1 p.465:

(1) Have you recognized yourself before Jehovah God as a sinner who needs salvation, and have you acknowledged to him that this salvation proceeds from him, the Father, through his Son Jesus Christ?

(2) On the basis of this faith in God and in his provision for salvation, have you dedicated yourself unreservedly to God to do his will henceforth as he reveals it to you through Jesus Christ and through the Bible under the enlightening power of the holy spirit?

Baptismal questions from the Watchtower 1970 May 15 p.309:

(1) Have you recognized yourself as a sinner and needing salvation from Jehovah God? And have you acknowledged that this salvation proceeds from him and through his ransomer, Christ Jesus?

(2) On the basis of this faith in God and in his provision for redemption have you dedicated yourself unreservedly to Jehovah God, to do his will henceforth as that will is revealed to you through Christ Jesus and through God's Word as his holy spirit makes it plain?

Baptismal questions from the Watchtower 1973 May 1 p.280:

(1) Have you repented of your sins and turned around, recognizing yourself before Jehovah God as a condemned sinner who needs salvation, and have you acknowledged to him that this salvation proceeds from him, the Father, through his Son Jesus Christ?

(2) On the basis of this faith in God and in his provision for salvation, have you dedicated yourself unreservedly to God to do his will henceforth as he reveals it to you through Jesus Christ and through the Bible under the enlightening power of the holy spirit?

Baptismal questions from the Watchtower 1985 Jun 1 p.30:

(1) On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?

(2) Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah's Witnesses in association with God's spirit-directed organization?

The 80 Questions

In order to gain approval for baptism, a series of questions require answering before three elders. These are the 80 from 1967. Each reincarnation of the Organized book slightly changed the number and substance of these questions.


1. Who is the true God?
2. What kind of God is Jehovah?
3. What does it mean to know God?
4. What does the Bible mean when it says that Jehovah requires our exclusive devotion?
5. How will Jehovah God sanctify his name? How can we have a share in it?
6. Who is Jesus Christ, and what is his position in relation to Jehovah God?
7. Why did Jesus die a sacrificial death?
8. How is the ransom an expression of God’s love for mankind?
9. How does the ransom affect us as individuals?
10. What is the holy spirit?
11. How can we benefit from the operation of that spirit today?
12. Whose ideas are recorded in the Bible? Does that mean that God personally spoke or wrote it all? Is all of it true?
13. Why should we pray, to whom, and how often?
14. About what is it proper to pray?
15. What is the kingdom of God?
16. What does it mean to “seek first the kingdom”?
17. When Christ returns, is it visibly as a man, or how?
18. How can people know when his second presence occurs?
19. What is God’s purpose for the earth?
20. How will this purpose be realized?
21. What conditions will prevail on earth in God’s new system of things?
22. Who is the Devil? What is his origin?
23. Against what spiritistic practices employed by the Devil and his demons does the Bible warn us?
24. How can we protect ourselves against the influence of these wicked spirits?
25. Why has God permitted wickedness to continue until now?
26. By what means will God destroy the wicked?
27. What is the human soul? Can it die?
28. What is sin, and how did we all become sinners?
29. What should be our attitude toward committing sins?
30. Do only those who have committed a gross sins or flagrant violations of God’s Word need to repent?
31. What is death?
32. Why do people die?
33. What future hope for life is there for one who dies?
34. How many from among mankind will be in heaven with Christ?
35. What will they do there?
36. Are Christians under the law covenant with its requirements of Sabbath keeping and sacrifice?
37. What Christian quality should outstandingly characterize our relationship with our spiritual brothers and with the members of our own families?
38. In God’s arrangement, who is head of a married woman?
39. How should a husband exercise his headship?
40. Is the wife whose husband is not a believer freed from his headship?
41. Who is responsible before God for the training and disciplining of children?
42. May a Christian have more than one living marriage mate?
43. What is the only Scriptural basis for divorce that frees one to remarry?
44. Must persons living together as husband and wife have their marriage legally registered with the government?
45. Why must lying be avoided?
46. What is the Christian view of stealing?
47. What is the Christian view of drunkenness?
48. What is God’s law concerning blood?
49. What does the Bible say about fornication, adultery, sexual relations with another person of the same sex and other loose conduct? May a person who is engaging in such practices be baptized?
50. Why is moral cleanness of all persons among Jehovah’s people important to every one of us?
51. When difficulties arise between individuals because of serious wrongs, what is the Christian way to handle the situation?
52. What action does the congregation take when a person in its midst proves to be a persistent and unrepentant violator of God’s commandments?
53. If a person in weakness commits a serious sin, but he wants to help to be restored to Jehovah’s favor, what action should he take?
54. What is the proper viewpoint to have when one is Scripturally reproved?
55. What is the fruitage of the spirit, and is it reasonable to expect a Christian to manifest this fruitage in his life?
56. How should Christians view the shortcomings of fellow believers?
57. What does the Bible say about sharing with other religius groups in worship or any of the other activities in which they engage?
58. What is the only religious celebration that Christians are commanded to observe?
59. What Bible principles should guide us in determining whether other celebrations that are popular in the community are acceptable for Christians?
60. Whom does the Bible identify as the “ruler of the world” and “the god of this system of things”?
61. What is the position of Christians as to this world alienated from God?
62. What was Jesus’ attitude toward all participation in the political affairs of the world?
63. How do Bible commands concerning idolatry affect a Christian in this modern world?
64. In the light of the following texts, what is the position of a true Christians in this world?
65. Is it necessary for a Christian to be subject to worldly rulers and to show them respect?
66. Must a Christian pay all the taxes demanded by the law?
67. Is there any circumstance under which a Christian would not obey the law?
68. Why are true Christians persecuted?
69. What are some factors to consider in determining whether certain types of employment are not proper for Christians?
70. What should always be our attitude toward the doing of Jehovah’s will?
71. Why are Christians called Jehovah’s witnesses?
72. Who or what is the “faithful and discreet slave?”
73. What is the governing body of the Christian congregation, and what purpose does it serve?
74. What attitude should Christians show toward those who serve as shepherds in the congregation?
75. Why is it beneficial to attending the meetings arranged by the congregation?
76. Why is personal study important in the life of a Christian?
77. What urgent work does the Bible set out for all Christians at this time?
78. In what various ways may this work be accomplished?
79. Is this work done in our own strength?
80. Why should one who has sincerely repented and turned around and chosen to be a disciple of Christ be baptized?

Written 2008, latest update February 2017.

creative commons copyright    Paul Grundy  2005 - 2017