Why Baptism?

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Why Baptism?

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No doubt you have greatly anticipated various events in your life. Perhaps it was the day you received your driver’s license or the impending day or your graduation from high school or college. Maybe it was your wedding day or the day of the birth of your child. Indeed, there are many exciting days and times you may have looked forward to with great enthusiasm, or will in the future.

I have also personally waited expectantly for various stirring occasions, but there was one that I anticipated more than all the others. I’d like to tell you why it was so meaningful to me in the hope it may inspire those of you who have yet to experience this to look forward to it in your own life. What was the event I had anticipated most of all? It was the day of my baptism, which took place nearly 47 years ago on Oct. 21, 1972, when I was 23.

Now, you may be asking, why baptism? Well, for about 18 months prior to that day, I had studied and learned a tremendous amount from the Bible and Church of God literature, which included a highly illuminating Bible study course. I had also listened regularly to the Church’s radio program, which added still more information and inspiration to what I was discovering.

Throughout that period I was awakened to the critical realization that much of what I had been taught previously about Christianity was completely erroneous. Plus, I came to see that the self-absorbed way I was living was not only detrimental to me and others, but was profoundly displeasing to God.

God’s calling to repentance

How was I able to come to this understanding? It was due to the miraculous and merciful spiritual calling of God the Father (John 6:44 John 6:44No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
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). Through that He helped me to begin recognizing my need for repentance from sin—which is not only the violation of His holy laws but the cause of a separation from Him (John 5:17 John 5:17But Jesus answered them, My Father works till now, and I work.
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; 1 John 3:4 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
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; Isaiah 59:2 Isaiah 59:2But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
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). As to repentance, the Scriptures define it as deep, heartfelt regret and sorrow over one’s offenses against God and commitment to change (Psalms 51:4 Psalms 51:4Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight: that you might be justified when you speak, and be clear when you judge.
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; Acts 3:19 Acts 3:19Repent you therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
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; Acts 17:30 Acts 17:30And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent:
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).

Because of God’s generous calling and guidance, I slowly came to see that I required a spiritual overhaul—a complete turnaround in the direction of my life—from following my own ways to actively and consistently pursuing God’s priorities.

I also started realizing just how much I needed to become like Jesus Christ, who during His human life on earth set the perfect example of obedience to His Father and selflessly and willingly died for humanity’s sins (1 Corinthians 15:3 1 Corinthians 15:3For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
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; 1 Peter 1:18-19 1 Peter 1:18-19 18 For as much as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
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).

Besides this, I began learning how imperative it was for me to begin building a strong and enduring relationship with God the Father and Jesus, recognizing Christ as my cherished, personal Savior and spiritual brother (Romans 5:8-10 Romans 5:8-10 8 But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
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; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 18 And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them; and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be you reconciled to God.
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; Matthew 12:50 Matthew 12:50For whoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
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).

Furthermore, God offered me the enormous prospect of being fully reconciled to Him (Romans 5:8-10 Romans 5:8-10 8 But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
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; Isaiah 5:3 Isaiah 5:3And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, between me and my vineyard.
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). In addition to that great gift, He also provided me with wonderful understanding about His spectacular purpose for all humankind, which centers on eternal life in His divine family and Kingdom. Included in this was the knowledge of His astounding blueprint for the future of the earth and humanity following Jesus Christ’s second coming.

But this sparkling treasure trove of divine knowledge would have been utterly impossible for me to have known about, much less comprehend, unless God had taken the marvelous and merciful step of opening my mind. As one illuminating passage explains: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14 1 Corinthians 2:14But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
American King James Version×
, English Standard Version, emphasis added throughout).

Indeed it goes even deeper than that, because “the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it is unable to do so ” (Romans 8:7 Romans 8:7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
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, Christian Standard Bible).

The apostle Paul, in writing to members of the church congregation in Ephesus, described what their lives were like prior to their conversion, stating that they had “once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air [that is, Satan the devil], the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others ” (Ephesians 2:2-3 Ephesians 2:2-3 2 Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
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).

Yes, God graciously helped me to perceive my true inner sinful disposition. Without His intervention to help me understand spiritual things, I would have remained ensnared in a selfish, adversarial approach and attitude toward Him and His way of life. To be sure, this is true for all human beings. Therefore, until God proactively opens a person’s  heart and mind and grants him or her repentance—and, as Scripture vividly explains, even the willingness to do so —the  spiritual understanding we need is impossible (2 Timothy 2:25-26 2 Timothy 2:25-26 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
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).

Be baptized for forgiveness of sins

So I came to understand all this through God’s loving and generous calling. And, just as He did with me, perhaps God is calling you at this time. He may be helping you to understand your nature as a human being while granting you the divine grace and opportunity to repent of your sins and turn to Him in deep humility and obedience (see Proverbs 16:25 Proverbs 16:25There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
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; Jeremiah 17:9 Jeremiah 17:9The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
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). He may be leading you to follow a new, exciting divine pathway to formerly unseen and awesome blessings of boundless hope, joy and eternal life in His divine family (Romans 2:4 Romans 2:4Or despise you the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
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; Acts 11:18 Acts 11:18When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance to life.
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; James 1:25 James 1:25But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
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).

Let me return, now, to the day I anticipated so greatly. Why did I so look forward to this day I was to be baptized? It’s helpful to obtain some perspective by going back in biblical history to the amazing story of the beginning of the New Testament Church on the day of Pentecost, one of God’s annual festivals. On that remarkable day, 120 of Jesus Christ’s disciples were gathered in Jerusalem awaiting the fulfillment of the spectacular promise He made to them only 10 days earlier—that they would “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8 Acts 1:8But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come on you: and you shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth.
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).

When that tremendous event occurred on Pentecost, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4 Acts 2:4And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
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). On receiving this magnificent gift of God’s presence in their lives, these devoted disciples began generating immediate spiritual results.

Acts 2 records how the apostles began witnessing to crowds of people who were residents of Judea and pilgrims who had traveled to Jerusalem from around the known world to observe this holy festival. The apostle Peter stepped forward with the other apostles and began speaking passionately and convincingly about Jesus Christ to the multitudes.

Included in his inspired oration was this piercing assertion: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36 Acts 2:36Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God has made the same Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
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).

Hearing Peter’s stirring message, the listeners felt “cut to the heart” and pleaded with Peter and the other apostles by crying out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37 Acts 2:37Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brothers, what shall we do?
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). Peter answered by exclaiming, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
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).

Through Peter’s moving and convicting message, 3,000 people repented, were baptized and received God’s Spirit, which is the very essence of His nature and power (Acts 2:40-41 Acts 2:40-41 40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. 41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added to them about three thousand souls.
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).

From that crucial event in biblical history, the Holy Spirit has been made available to every person God calls who genuinely repents and is properly baptized (Matthew 22:14 Matthew 22:14For many are called, but few are chosen.
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; 2 Peter 1:10 2 Peter 1:10Why the rather, brothers, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if you do these things, you shall never fall:
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). It is important to note at this point that since baptism is such a serious, life-changing decision, it is reserved only for those who are mature enough to understand its true spiritual purpose and make the commitment involved.

Baptism’s wonderful spiritual imagery

The only form of baptism we find practiced in the Bible is being fully submerged in water. Why is that?

Baptism is actually a symbolic burial of a person’s “old self” (Romans 6:1-6 Romans 6:1-6 1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 3 Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that from now on we should not serve sin.
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; Ephesians 4:22-24 Ephesians 4:22-24 22 That you put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that you put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
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). As the baptized individual rises out of a figurative watery grave, it portrays a resurrection from death to a fresh, new, changed life. This is because, in a spiritual sense, the repentant person’s sins are totally washed away in the baptismal water through God’s overwhelming forgiveness and mercy.

The prophet Micah expressed this wonderful experience by writing, “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19 Micah 7:19He will turn again, he will have compassion on us; he will subdue our iniquities; and you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
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). King David further explained, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalms 103:12 Psalms 103:12As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
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).

God also inspired His prophet Isaiah to state: “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool” (Isaiah 1:18 Isaiah 1:18Come now, and let us reason together, said the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
American King James Version×
, New Living Translation).

Baptism symbolizes the complete removal of sin in a repentant person’s life, made possible through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of His own precious blood (Acts 22:16 Acts 22:16And now why tarry you? arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
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; 1 John 5:6 1 John 5:6This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that bears witness, because the Spirit is truth.
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; Revelation 1:5 Revelation 1:5And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. To him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
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). This allows the person to move forward in life with a renewed and dynamic spiritual purpose (1 Timothy 1:5 1 Timothy 1:5Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:
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). It also results in no longer needing to feel guilt over past sins. What remains is a wholly clean and clear conscience and a passionate and determined eagerness “to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14 Hebrews 9:14How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
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).

As for me, I came to see how baptism was an essential action that demonstrated my earnest desire to be thoroughly committed to Christ and the Father in full obedience and faith. It was also a tremendous opportunity for me to pledge to the Father, as Jesus did, “Not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 Luke 22:42Saying, Father, if you be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done.
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).

In addition, just as Jesus arose from the grave, baptism gives a repentant person complete assurance that the Father will resurrect him or her from death to everlasting life at Jesus’ second coming. Paul wrote: “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection” (Romans 6:4-5 Romans 6:4-5 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
American King James Version×
).

So when a person is called by the Father, responds energetically, repents, is baptized and receives God’s Spirit, he or she begins a new life of spiritual growth as the old, selfish human nature is gradually replaced with God’s selfless, loving divine nature (2 Timothy 1:6 2 Timothy 1:6Why I put you in remembrance that you stir up the gift of God, which is in you by the putting on of my hands.
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; 2 Peter 1:4 2 Peter 1:4Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
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).

How exciting and thrilling it is! Can you now see why I anticipated the day of my baptism so much? While baptism figuratively cleansed me from past sins (Acts 22:16 Acts 22:16And now why tarry you? arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
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), it also represented an exhilarating pathway to a transformed life of hope, happiness and purpose. Plus it opened the door to a wonderful and growing relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ (Romans 6:4 Romans 6:4Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
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; Romans 6:11 Romans 6:11Likewise reckon you also yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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).

Furthermore, it was the beginning of a thrilling journey toward eternal life in the Kingdom of God. The apostle Peter exclaimed, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5 1 Peter 1:3-5 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith to salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
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).

Committing yourself fully to God

Baptism was foundational to my conversion journey toward greater understanding of God’s Word and His plan. Now, decades later, He continues to guide me each day by His Spirit to help me overcome sin and serve Him faithfully and obediently.

Plus, through baptism God placed me into His Church, which He commissioned to “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20 Matthew 28:19-20 19 Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.
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). The Church is composed of repentant, baptized individuals from all nations, races and economic and cultural backgrounds. Everyone works together to carry out God’s work in this age and to love and serve one another as spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ (Romans 12:10 Romans 12:10Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another;
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; Galatians 6:10 Galatians 6:10As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to them who are of the household of faith.
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).

So, what about you? As I posed earlier, could God be calling you to a deeper understanding of Him and His Word? Are you coming to see yourself and your corrupted human nature as it really is and why you need to repent of your sins and begin anew while building a strong relationship with your Savior, Jesus Christ?

As I mentioned earlier, it took me about 18 months to come to the point where, after studying and learning, I felt ready to take the next step. That step, of course, was to be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit—which God gives immediately afterwards through the laying on of hands by a true minister of Jesus Christ (see Acts 8:17 Acts 8:17Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
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; Acts 19:6 Acts 19:6And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spoke with tongues, and prophesied.
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; 2 Timothy 1:6 2 Timothy 1:6Why I put you in remembrance that you stir up the gift of God, which is in you by the putting on of my hands.
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).

Considering all of this, I sincerely encourage you to continue studying the Bible. And there are many articles in Beyond Today magazine and numerous free study aids, including a 12-lesson Bible Study Course, produced by the United Church of God in print and on its website (at ucg.org/beyond-today ). There you can also find many compelling Beyond Today video programs to help you gain further knowledge.

Also, if you would like to discuss repentance, baptism, the Holy Spirit, attending services or other spiritual subjects, the United Church of God would be pleased to arrange a private appointment with one of our ministers.

Finally, if God is calling you and you are beginning to see your need for repentance, in due course you will be able to make a decision about committing yourself to God. When that time comes (and how long differs with each person), you will, as I did, greatly anticipate the day you will be baptized! May God bless and guide you on your spiritual journey!

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