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This question has arisen from answers to a question I recently asked about the Lutheran Church and what they teach about salvation (they call it justification) and whether or not they think water baptism is essential to salvation. A comment was left suggesting that Lutherans, Presbyterians, most Reformed Protestants and Catholics promote infant baptism and that they recognize the baptisms of other Trinitarian denominations.

However, Baptists and Jehovah’s Witnesses reject infant baptism and advocate full water immersion of adults who fully understand what they are doing and what baptism means. Many Catholics and Protestants who become Jehovah’s Witnesses have already been baptised (sprinkling) as infants. What is the official position of the organisation – do they then have to undergo full water immersion in order to be accepted and recognised as Jehovah’s Witnesses?

After a period of intensive study with a U.K. Baptist church, I was baptised by full water immersion as an adult “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). The U.K. Baptist Church has never believed that baptism is essential to salvation. Neither does their baptism mean you have become “a Baptist”. Rather, baptism is understood as an outward symbol of having come to saving faith in Christ Jesus. If I now wanted to become a Jehovah’s Witness would I have to be re-baptised, or would my earlier baptism be valid? I ask because of what I read in the Watchtower Study Edition April 2017 article ‘What You Vow Pay’:

“11 Have you dedicated your life to Jehovah and symbolized your dedication by water baptism? If so, that is wonderful! Recall that on your baptism day, before eyewitnesses, you were asked whether you had dedicated yourself to Jehovah and understood that “your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in association with God’s spirit-directed organization.” Your affirmative answers served as a public declaration of your unreserved dedication and showed that you were qualified for baptism as an ordained minister of Jehovah. You must have made Jehovah very happy! Source: https://www.jw.org/en/library/magazines/watchtower-study-april-2017/what-you-vow-pay/

To sum up: Do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe adult water baptism (full immersion) is essential to salvation, and would they recognise the baptism of a person from another denomination who wanted to become a Jehovah’s Witness as valid or would they have to be re-baptised? This question is not about “right or wrong” but is seeking clarification on how Jehovah’s Witnesses view baptism in relation to salvation.

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You are correct that Jehovah’s Witnesses reject infant baptism. We believe a person must be old enough to be a disciple. A disciple is a learner or taught one. Baptism is meaningless unless one is old enough to be a disciple. (Matt.28:19-20)

We also teach that full immersion is necessary to follow the manner in which our exemplar Jesus was baptized. In fact the Greek words translated baptize or baptism refer to immersing,dipping, or plunging under the water.

As far as the part of your question about a previous baptism in another religion being valid for Jehovah’s Witnesses, the answer is no.

Being baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is preceded by an extensive teaching program and a person will have to demonstrate that they have a basic understanding of bible teachings, live in harmony with them and give an affirmative response to the question “ Do you really want to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?”

Additionally there are over 100 other questions that are discussed to ascertain that a person meets the scriptural requirements for baptism.

Also as you point out in your question on the day of a new JWs baptism they answer yes to the question do you recognize that “your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in association with God’s spirit-directed organization.?”

Is baptism essential for salvation?

It is expected that a person who “comes to an accurate knowledge of Jehovah and the one He sent forth Jesus Christ” would be moved to dedicate their lives to Jehovah and symbolize it by being baptized.

Still we understand that baptism itself is not what saves. Salvation is possible only because God’s Son died a sacrificial death and was resurrected. Added to that is the requirement to maintain a good conscience before God by continuing to conform to His standards. Baptism only saves us if we remain faithful as witnesses of Jehovah.

  • Thank you, Kris and I agree with you that only adult baptism is biblical. Also, I agree that baptism itself is not what saves. However, the March Watchtower article (see link given by 4-castle) says (in paragraph 8) “Jesus thus revealed that baptism would be a requirement”. From my copy of the Bible Teach book I found this: “Baptism is a requirement of all who want to have a relationship with Jehovah God” (Chapter 18, p. 175). So, although baptism is not essential for salvation, it is an organisational requirement? Just seeking clarification here. – Lesley Nov 27 at 14:57
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    The point is that baptism is required in order for a person to enter into an approved relationship with Jehovah. That marks them for salvation but baptism is not an inoculation that saves a person from the very real possibility that sin could again overtake them and make them fall out of that approved standing with Jehovah. So an adult who comes to an accurate knowledge repents of their sins, converts or turns away from sinful conduct but then never moves on to making a dedication to Jehovah and symbolizing that by baptism has not completed the biblical steps necessary for salvation. – Kris Nov 27 at 15:25
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The Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that if you were previously baptized into a different group, that baptism would be invalid. See para. 16 in this ‘Watchtower’ link, where they explained how they reasoned with a lady in her late 70s to get re-baptised in order to become a Jehovah’s Witness : https://www.jw.org/en/library/magazines/watchtower-study-march-2018/baptism-requirement-for-christians/

15, 16. (a) Is there a certain age at which one should get baptized? Explain. (b) Why must a Bible student get baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses even if he was previously baptized in another religion? 15 There is no set age at which one should get baptized. Each student grows and matures at a different rate. Many get baptized at a young age, and they go on to be faithful to Jehovah. Other students see the importance of getting baptized after learning Bible truth when advanced in years—some being over 100 years of age! 16 One elderly Bible student asked her teacher if it was really necessary to get baptized again; she had previously been baptized in different religions over the years. The student and her teacher reviewed pertinent scriptures from the Bible. The student now understood the Bible’s requirement and got baptized soon thereafter. Although in her late 70’s, she did not feel that baptism was unnecessary for her. Yes, valid baptism is based on an accurate knowledge of Jehovah’s will. Hence, new disciples must get baptized even if they previously were baptized in another religion.—Read Acts 19:3-5.

If they claim that only their form of baptism is valid, then that is akin to saying, “Our form of baptism is essential, because no other can stand alongside it as equal, and we believe that Jesus commands water baptism if you are to become a Christian so you must submit to the Jehovah’s Witness form of baptism if you are to become a Christian.” Now, if I am reading more into that matter than is warranted, I hope some Jehovah’s Witnesses will put me right.I know that that exact wording is not found anywhere in any of their literature!This is just me paraphrasing what that article seems to be effectively saying – that only Jehovah’s Witness baptism is valid.

The rest of that article in the link says more about their views on baptism, which is only ever brief immersion under a body of water. Relevant to your question is paragraph 4 in that article, which states,

“A person who needlessly delays getting baptized endangers his prospects for everlasting life.”

This is based upon their understanding of 1 Peter 3:20-21, Mark 13:10 and Revelation 7:9-10. If I am not much mistaken, Jehovah’s Witnesses equate ‘everlasting life’ with salvation.

The two questions asked of their baptismal candidates show what is viewed as essential:

“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? Having answered yes to these questions, candidates are in a right heart condition to undergo Christian baptism."

Only the first question was given in the March 2018 link above, but both can be found in their 1st June 1985 ‘Watchtower’ magazine, page 30.

  • See my response to a similar question posed by OP under my answer. – Kris Dec 2 at 13:12
  • Also answer space is reserved for answering the op question not for raising additional questions (ask a new one) or seeking clarification on another answer (use comments for this) – Kris Dec 2 at 13:17
  • Thank you, Kris. I have removed the points you mentioned but will not put them into my comments as I do not wish to enter into any kind of discussion about them. A fresh question would be the best way of exploring those matters further. – Anne Dec 2 at 13:29
  • There is still the paragraph starting with”if they claim” which is an attempt to restate JW teaching in a more provocative way than what is stated plainly in the last part of paragraph 16 in the watchtower you quote from. – Kris Dec 2 at 13:50
  • I’m sorry if that bit provokes you, it’s just that I am not a JW so if that point in my answer is wrong or misleading, you could just say so in a comment, e.g. “You’ve read too much into that thus you should not conclude that JWs say only their form of baptism is valid.” But given that your answer stated, “Baptism only saves us if we remain faithful as witnesses of Jehovah,” it’s logical to conclude that such a baptism DOES save the faithful witness of Jehovah, therefore I said that JWs believe "that only Jehovah’s Witness baptism is valid". – Anne Dec 2 at 14:02

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