The Rite of Baptism Past and Present

Matthew 28:19, Baptizing. Let’s define some terms first. Mikveh (or mikvah) in Hebrew means “a gathering of waters.” Tevilah means “immersion/baptism in water.” So technically, we do tevilah at a mikvah.

Tevilah is an ancient custom that goes back to the levitical priesthood when YHVH required the priests to be cleaned in water (the bronze laver in the tabernacle) before they could even serve him. In fact, when consecrating the priests for service, Elohim instructed Moses to wash the priests (Aaron and his sons) before they could even begin to serve him. In fact, it was the third of seven steps in their consecration process (Exod 29:4). After that, they confessed their sins over a bull which was then sacrificed (Exod 29:10–11, the fifth step), then Moses anointed them with oil (the sixth step, Exod 29:21). These seven steps are a prophetic picture showing how one is “born again,” or spiritually regenerated when one comes into a relationship with Elohim through faith in Yeshua.

Baptism 2

What the priests went through is a picture of what we as believers must go through. This is elucidated in various places in the Testimony of Yeshua.

The Bible contains prophetic shadows of baptism even before the consecrating of the priests. Paul talks about the children of Israel being baptized into Moses when they went through the Red Sea (1 Cor 10:2). In a sense, the whole nation was consecrated to YHVH’s service through faith in the lamb’s blood on the doorposts at Passover, through baptism in the Red Sea so that they could become YHVH’s peculiar treasure, a kingdom of priests and his set-apart nation (Exod 19:5–6). They also washed their garments (another picture of ritual immersion) before coming into the presence of YHVH to receive the 10 Words at Mount Sinai (Exod 19:10). Additionally, throughout the Torah, there are numerous ritual washings for both the priests and the people of Israel associated with various sin-cleansing rites.

Now we come down to John the Baptist who came in the spirit of Elijah to prepare the way for Messiah. He was the son of a priest, thus a priest himself, who practiced the ritual of immersion, which he associated with the repentance of sins. Yeshua validated his ministry, set us the example for water baptism, and was himself baptized in the Spirit of Elohim at that very time.

Of course, on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, this was one of the very first things that the apostles realized they needed to have the people do. This was in accordance with Yeshua’s command to preach the gospel and to baptize new converts making them disciples of his (Matt 28:19).

As you can see, the idea of immersion is one that has long precedence with the people of YHVH. He instructed them to do it. It is an outward action that helps physical man to understand spiritual realities (see Rom 6:3ff). In a sense, like a lot of things in the Bible, it is a way for the human to connect with or relate to the spiritual dimension.

Now in Hebrews 6:1–2, the writer lists the foundational doctrines of Messiah for the congregation of believers including the doctrine of baptisms (plural). The writer recognizes that the concept of immersions (plural) is a central part of the redeemed believer’s spiritual walk with regard to his relationship with Yeshua.

Baptisms is in the plural. Several baptisms are revealed in the Testimony of Yeshua (e.g. Rev 1:2, 9). There is the baptism of John unto repentance, the baptism of fire (which seems to be a baptism of spiritual refinement to burn out of one’s life the spiritual wood, hay and stubble, Matt 3:11), then there’s the baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), and then there’s the baptism of the  Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). The latter two baptisms ideally should happen at the same time, but the apostolic record shows that this isn’t always the case.

People often ask me if their baptism for the remission of sins that they did when they were “saved” in their Christian church is valid. I ask them if they were changed spiritually when they did it? Did Yeshua come into your life? Did you repent of your sins—or at least as much as you knew to do at the time? Did you put you faith in Yeshua? Did you receive the Spirit of Elohim? Did the fruits of the Spirit begin to manifest in you life? Were you converted at that time into the kingdom of light from darkness, and do you know for sure that Yeshua is alive and at work in your life? Did you fall in love with Yeshua and his Word? If the answer is yes, then you baptism was valid regardless of the exact rituals and terminologies used. YHVH honored your baptism, for he heard your heart cry out to him and he answered you. Period. If those things didn’t happen, then you weren’t saved, and so you need to be baptized for the remission of sins and this time get it right.

I see no precedence for getting baptized again if the first baptism was valid and the spiritual fruits have been evident in one’s life to validate it.

Some are concerned that they were baptized in the name of “Jesus” instead of Yeshua, or that in some way, the formula was off. In all the decades that I’ve been studying the Bible and getting to know the heart and mind of Elohim, including several decades as a Torah-obedient believer in Yeshua, I’m convinced that YHVH is more concerned about the state of our heart more than the exact formula and ritual.

However, if someone is convinced in their heart that they need to be baptized in the name of YHVH and Yeshua instead of God and Jesus, then do it, if it will help one to draw closer to the Father. What’s the harm?

People ask me what name do we get baptized in? Matthew 28 says to do it in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I ask them what is the name of God? It’s YHVH. I’m convinced at this time that it’s pronounced as “Yehovah,” but some people prefer “Yahweh.” Go with what you’re comfortable with. Acts 2:38 says to be baptized in the name of Yeshua. Some people see that these two passages are opposed to each other. One says one thing and the other another. Actually, if you put them together, there’s no conflict: His name is YHVH-Yeshua. Baptize in that name. Yeshua is YHVH and he’s part of the Elohim “God-head,” so say “Yehovah Elohim Yeshua” and all your bases are covered.

Being baptized in living waters is preferable, however a nice mountain stream may not always be available to you. If someone wants to get baptized, the Book of Acts examples are not to wait, but to do it immediately (e.g., Acts 16:31–33). If you can’t find good, clean living waters, or it’s in the middle of winter and the water is frozen or it’s snowing, do like I did and use a hot tub or a swimming pool. Do the best that you can do to fulfill the command to be baptized and do it with a good heart. YHVH will honor that.


2 thoughts on “The Rite of Baptism Past and Present

  1. Shalom Natan, you have clarified several points to me in this blog. I was baptised some time after putting my faith in Yeshua, and have often wondered if it was valid.
    Thank you.

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