Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 18: Notes on Scriptural Messages (2), by Watchman Nee


I was saved in the spring of 1920. During the first year following my conversion, I was unclear regarding the truths of the church, except that the sister who led me to the Lord had told me that unfortunately there were too many nominal Christians in the church today. Also, I felt the character of the pastors I knew was too poor, for one did not ordinarily see them except when they came to ask for donations. Before my family was revived we frequently had several mahjong games going on at home. When the pastor would come for donations, we conveniently handed him money from the mahjong table. Although he knew quite well where the money came from, he still accepted it. From this observation, I felt the character of the pastors was very poor, for as long as they had money all was well. Besides this, it seemed that so many members in the church were merely nominal.


In March 1921 the Lord showed me the truth of baptism. I saw that baptism by sprinkling as practiced by the denominations was not scriptural. As I studied the Bible in those weeks, I found that when the Lord Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, He came up out of the water. In the denominations, however, when a person was baptized, a small bowl was used to contain the water. How then could one come up out of the water? When I was young, I was baptized by a bishop of the Methodist Church. He sprinkled cold water on my head and pressed it down with his two big hands. I became impatient and cried, wishing he would get it over with quickly. After being sprinkled, I received a certificate of baptism, which bore my name and the bishop’s signature. This certificate I considered absolutely meaningless. If I had not come to believe in the Lord, even though I had that certificate, I would still dare to do anything. Fortunately, I was later saved and my life was changed. My mother had arranged for me to be sprinkled before I had believed in the Lord. About a year after I was saved, I realized that the baptism I had received was wrong and that according to the Scriptures baptism should be by immersion.

On the morning of March 28, 1921, my mother asked, "If I were to be baptized by immersion, how would you feel?" I replied, "That is just what I have been waiting for." She asked, "Where can we go to be baptized by immersion?" I answered, "I inquired about it quite some time ago. We can go to Mawei (which is two hours away from Foochow by small steamer) and find out from Miss Barber. When Dora Yu came to Fukien, she was baptized by immersion at Miss Barber’s place." We felt that rather than choose a date, it was better to do it that same day. So my mother and I decided to depart that very same day. Upon arriving at Miss Barber’s, we told her of our intention and she fully agreed. Thus, on the same day we went hurriedly to the countryside of Yangchi and were immersed there.

When I was baptized by immersion, I experienced a great turn in my life. The first thing I did was tell my friend Leland Wang. I came to know him during the first year after my salvation through a Bible study class held in our home. Since most of the attendants were elderly folk, and I was a young kid, I was unable to find anyone my age to talk to. Two or three weeks later, Brother Wang came. Since he was closer to my age, I began to communicate with him. So on the following day after being baptized by immersion, I went and told him, "I went to Yangchi yesterday and was immersed there." He said, "Very good, very good. Formerly, I was also baptized by sprinkling in Nanking, but later in Amoy I met a brother who told me the truth concerning baptism. Due to this further light I was baptized by immersion in Kulangsu." We were quite happy because we had both seen the same light.

The second thing I did was tell the old pastor who led our Bible study. In Foochow he was the most advanced in knowing the Bible. I especially desired to tell him because he had taught us that we should do everything according to the Scriptures. However, though I was quite excited when I told him, his attitude was quite cold. So I asked, "Is baptism by immersion scriptural or not?" He replied, "Yes, it is scriptural, but do not be so legal." I thought this was peculiar. Having taught us the Bible for a year, he continually said that as long as it is the teaching of the Scriptures, it should be followed. Since baptism by immersion was scriptural, why did he say, "Do not be so legal?" I had obeyed the truth, yet he said, "Do not be so legal." I realized then that in his teaching there was compromise. If concerning this matter he would say do not be so legal, it was unlikely he would be bold to say that any other truth concerning the church should be obeyed. From that point on, I began to have doubts regarding the truths of the church which he taught. I also realized that I must put man’s authority aside, and I determined that from then on I would carefully study the Bible.

(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 18: Notes on Scriptural Messages (2), Chapter 8, by Watchman Nee)