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Why did John the Baptist baptize with water?

In today’s Bible study, I want to teach on the true significance of water baptism in light of Hebraic thought and history, as well as the practice of the early Christian Church.

The Ministry of John the Baptizer

John was called “John the Baptist” – not because he was a member of the Baptist church, nor was he ordained in the Baptist denomination (thank God Christianity wasn’t divided into  denominations in those days), but because he practiced water baptism as an outward demonstration of a person’s repentance from sin and committing their lives to God.

John the Baptizer preaches by the River Jordan

John was a direct male descendant of Aaron, brother of Moses. He was a Kohen (or Cohen) the distinct priestly line of Kohenim that were only permitted to minister in the Old Testament Temple. Although John was raised in traditional Judaism and his father Zachariah (also a Kohan) served as a priest in the Jerusalem temple, John chose not to follow his priestly heritage. It was God’s will that John not be contaminated by the corrupt religious system of his day. He was a Nazarite from birth and was filled with the Holy Spirit while still in the womb (Luke 1:15). Instead, he obeyed God’s call to be a prophet to the nation of Israel (The prophet Jeremiah was also a Kohenim and expected to serve as a priest after his father, but later became a prophet in obedience to God’s calling). But, John was not just a prophet; he was distinguished with the great honor of being the forerunner of Jesus Christ the Messiah.

John’s greatness cannot be denied. Every one of the four Gospels begins their account of the ministry of our Lord by recording some of John’s words of introduction. Jesus Himself spoke very highly of John in this manner:

“I tell you the truth, among those born of women, no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is”  – Matthew 11:11.

Water Baptism in the Early Church

The early church was first comprised of all Jewish believers in Jesus (Yeshua in Aramaic-Hebrew). The first apostles and their growing number of disciples were but one of many Jewish sects at that time (such as the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, etc.) In fact, the first disciples of Jesus did not call themselves “Christians” (only years later was this term coined), but simply followers of “The Way” – a shortened version of “the true way” or “the right way” in comparison to traditional Judaism and other religions. These early believers in Jesus continued to worship in the Jerusalem temple and observe the laws of Judaism.

However, these early followers of The Way differed greatly from other Jewish sects in that they believed that Jesus is the Messiah, that He had died for the remission of our sins (as the Holy Lamb of God), and that His resurrection from the dead ushered in a new age of God’s kingdom rule in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Everywhere, they preached in Jesus’ name and water baptized all new converts into The Way. They grew into a community of believers in Jerusalem devoted to practicing Jesus’ teachings, prayer and fellowship.

Water baptism (by full immersion in living water) was not a new concept to Jews. It was actually a common practice in those times. All pious Jews frequently immersed themselves in ritual pools known as “Mikveh’s”* to spiritually purify themselves. So the idea of water purification was not foreign to most Jews when John the Baptist came on the scene. They understood his message of repentance from sin and the corresponding outward act of purification by washing and immersion in a pool of water or river.

The Forerunner of Messiah.

Jesus is baptized by John to fulfill all righteousness.

John the Baptizer began his prophetic ministry around A.D. 28. His body was lean and hardened by years of solitary desert life. His hair and beard was long and unkempt, and he dressed in a single garment made of rough camel’s hair bound by a leather belt. He traveled the land preaching a passionate message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Many responded to John’s call for repentance and spiritual renewal. They would immediately wade out with John into the Jordan River, and he would baptize them as an outward demonstration of death to the old life of sin and resurrection to a new life of righteousness in Christ. Unlike the frequent Jewish Mikveh washings, John’s baptism was a one-time event for a renewed people of God.

John was God’s true prophet who led the way for the beginning of the Christian Church. Although he admitted that he was not the Messiah, the prophet Isaiah had long ago declared him to be the forerunner of Jesus the Messiah: “[John was] the one crying in the wilderness, making straight the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3)

John the Baptizer’s prophetic message struck conviction of sin and fear of God’s judgment among his hearers, so much so that even the religious Pharisees and Sadducees came to be baptized by him. On one occasion he thundered at these religious leaders, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come! Bear fruit that befits repentance, and do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’…” John dispelled their false sense of security: neither their birthright as Jews nor their religious heritage nor their important leadership positions, would save them from God’s wrath to come if they did not open their hearts in true repentance; they were just as spiritually condemned as non-Jews.

Jesus the Messiah was greater than John.

John himself admitted he was not the Messiah, but a humble messenger of God. When questioned about whether he was Elijah, or “The Prophet” (spoken of by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:18-19), he told them “I am not.” “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he [Jesus the Messiah] is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3:16).

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He came to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. One day while John was preaching, he saw a figure approaching him and immediately stopped and cried aloud, “This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who is mightier that I, for he was before me” (John 1:15) When Jesus asked John to baptize Him, he was astonished and said, “I need to be baptized by You!” But Jesus insisted, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:13-14).

So John obeyed Jesus and baptized Him (even though Jesus should be the one baptizing John). As soon as Jesus emerged from the water, everyone saw the heavens open up and the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus “like a dove” (not an actual dove, but the Spirit’s gentle presence), and a voice came from heaven, saying, “You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16).

The Christian Rite of Baptism

Water baptism by full immersion is the correct method.

John the Baptizer pioneered the rite of water baptism practiced in most Christian churches today. Although certain churches practice a “sprinkling” type of baptism, the correct way has always been by full immersion. The proper manner of baptism as performed by John, the twelve apostles, and the early Christians is the complete dunking method. The penitent sinner should acknowledge his repentance from sin and accept Jesus as his Savior while another believer or minister of God stands beside him or her, and extend God’s forgiveness and acceptance into the Christian family. According to Jesus’ command, the words should be spoken over the new convert, “I now baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for the remission of your sins” (Matthew 28:18-19)

When I was a baby I was baptized by a Roman Catholic priest with the sprinkling of water on my forehead. But after I left the Roman Catholic Church and became a Born-Again Christian, I was baptized again. This second time it was by full immersion in a pool of water – just as Jesus and His disciples did.

If you have accepted Jesus the Messiah as your Savior and Lord and have never been water baptized (by full immersion), it’s time that you did so. You can be water baptized in a church baptismal, a swimming pool, a river, or even a spa – as long as you do it prayerfully with a repented heart towards God. Make sure you are able to go completely under the water; that’s how true believers have done it from the very beginning of the Christian church.

If water baptism was important to Jesus, it should be important to us. Don’t keep putting it off. I know God will bless you in a special way for honoring His Word.

–         Luis Josephus

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* The Jewish rite of water purifification in a Mikvah (pool) was known as Tevilah. Tevilah was by full body immersion with “living” water from a Spring. The Mikvah had the proportions 3 cubits long & 1 cubits deep and 1 cubit wide. This was done for purifications before certain events such as spiritual cleansing, coming into the presence of God, marriage, and also after certain events such as childbirth and disease. Tevilah was also one of three requirements for conversion of the Gentiles to Judaism. The washing of hands & feet commonly practiced was a miniature Tevilah.

FOR FURTHER STUDY:
“Do I need to be baptized to be saved?”


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Continuing In The Son And The Father

“Therefore let that abide in you, which you have heard from the beginning. If that which you have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, you also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.” – 1 John 2:24

Pastor Luis Yosefus

More than ever before in Christian history, the true gospel of Jesus Christ [Messiah] is being distorted by anti-Christ’s who have entered the church and are deceiving many. The apostle John warned that some would even deny the divinity of Jesus as the Son of God:

“Whoever denies the Son, the same has not the Father…” – 1 John 2:23

Attacks on the Trinity.

You cannot have the assurance of true saving faith unless you accept the unalterable fact that Jesus was God in the flesh. Jesus spoke of His divinity over-and-over again when He declared that “the Father [God] and I are One.”

The foundational Christian doctrine of the Trinity the mysterious triune nature of God (i.e. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit being One) has been attacked by anti-Christs almost since the inception of the church. Satan knows how vital this belief is to the faith of the New Testament believer. You cannot have the assurance of true saving faith unless you accept the unalterable fact that Jesus was God in the flesh. Jesus spoke of His divinity over-and-over again when He declared that “the Father [God] and I are One.” In fact, the religious leaders of His day found these statements of our Lord so offensive that they wanted to kill Jesus for speaking blasphemy, and making Himself equal with God. Nevertheless, Jesus spoke the truth. If the religious crowd had not been so blinded by their man-made traditions, they would have understood.

In order for us Christians to “continue in the Son and the Father”, we must remain in the original teachings of Jesus and the early apostles who taught the foundational doctrine of the Trinity. We don’t worship three Gods, as some accuse us of, but one God in three persons. Christians are monotheistic in their beliefs, just as Jews and Muslims are monotheistic. One of the differences between Christians and Jews, for instance, is that we have a better understanding of God. We believe that God in the person of Jesus Christ came down from heaven and died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. To follow preachers and churches who have abandoned this important truth of the original gospel is spiritually fatal and separates one from God.

False prophets and preachers abound.

Beware of many today who are preaching “another Jesus, and another gospel”
(2 Corinthians 11:4); they have neither the Son, nor the Father because they have not continued in the original teachings of Messiah. Instead, they are preaching a compromised version of the gospel being motivated by their desire to increase their popularity and financial support. Do not be fooled by the apparent success and size of their mega-churches and ministries, God will eventually judge these anti-Christs and their ministries will come tumbling down. True believers must remain loyal to Jesus Christ and the true gospel at all costs. Our very souls and eternal destinies depend on it.

For this reason, it is crucial that every believer study the Holy Scriptures for themselves and allow the Holy Spirit, “The Spirit of Truth”, to guide you into all truth (1 John 2:27).

  • Pastor Luis Yosefus

REAL JESUS MINISTRIES
www.RealJesus.net

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Free Booklet “Grace For Today.”

Grace For TodayOrder your free devotional booklet “Grace For Today” by Pastor Luis Yosefus, which contains many more inspirational messages written to encourage your life and enhance your understanding of God’s Word. Simply email us your postal address and we will mail it to you free of charge at no obligation.


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What was the original church like?

Today, there are many churches with many names, different traditions and even different ideas of Christianity. I have often thought to myself, “Is this really what Jesus had in mind when he was preaching to his followers?” I’m sure the all-knowing God knew that one day the church would take on identity that is completely different from its original form, and it begs me to ask the question, “What was the church like back then?”

Pastor Yosefus may be better at answering this question than me, but from my readings, I have come to imagine that the original followers of Christ were not well-organized and were dispersed amongst individual villages and homes. I also believe that they were forced to hide their worship for fear of persecution. These two things seem to deduce that the church was not a designated building, as so many believe it is today, but rather a group of people who had been spiritually changed by Jesus’ teachings.

The Called-Out Ones

From my studies, I have found that the original version of the New Testament (which was
written in Koine Greek) actually used the term “ecclesia” when referring to “the church.” When translated, “ecclesia” literally means “called-out ones.”

Once Jesus was crucified, it was up to the disciples, mainly Peter and Paul, to continue spreading the message of Jesus Christ. When I read all the letters that were written to the churches, I get the idea that “church” was not about a denomination, tradition or ceremony that took place in a building but about a new standard of living that was guided by Jesus’ teachings of love, peace, understanding and equality.

There are some verses, however, that instructs “the called out ones” to be baptized for the washing away of sins, to rejoice in song, pray for thanksgiving and to gather to
remember Jesus and to take in communion. Other than these things, I haven’t read anything else that makes me think we must gather as a titled group in a designated building to worship the Lord.

For me, Christianity is a simple religion that is about living by example. It’s not about being pushy or commanding others to be a certain way. Jesus preached that we should not judge others unless we wish to be judged, and I feel that many church-goers judge those who do not attend traditional churches. I don’t think this is what Jesus had in mind when he called out for us to follow him.

Even with all these findings, I am still quite concerned as to what Jesus really had in mind when he established his church. Perhaps he just wanted in to be a loose gathering where people were instructed and fellowshipped around the ideals of Jesus Christ and where people also testified of the blessings given to us by God. I’m not sure if we really need stained glass windows, musical entertainment and beautiful architecture. In fact, these things may actually distract us from the truth.

This guest post was written by Whitney Reed

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Whitney Reed owns and manages www.ChristianColleges.org. A stay-at-home mom, Whitney is also involved in volunteer and charity work. In her spare time, she enjoys reading books and writing guest blog posts on several different topics of interest.

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Barnabas the Encourager

Grace For Today“…and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all…” – Acts 11:22-23

As the early church began to grow in numbers, comprised mostly of Jewish followers of Jesus, the apostles and elders in Jerusalem sent out Barnabas to visit the new believers in Antioch. He was a righteous man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. His name in Hebrew “Bar” (son) and “Nabas” (encouragement) means “Son of Encouragement”. It was a fitting name for this man who encouraged others everywhere he went.

Are you the type of person who is an encourager to others?

Too many people focus only on what’s wrong with others around them instead of what’s right. Granted, there is a time and place for loving correction, but in the majority of cases most people need to be encouraged, rather than be discouraged. They don’t need to have their faults and inconsistencies pointed out to them. My own biological father was very critical of me and for many years I suffered from low self-esteem and many insecurities as a result. Today I can say, I am much more confident and secure of who I am in Christ: A child of God who is loved, forgiven and never rejected by my Heavenly Father.

Pray and ask the Lord to help you overcome any critical tendencies in your personality. Ask Jesus to help you to become a “son” or “daughter” of encouragement to others. 

– Pastor Luis Yosefus

www.RealJesus.netREAL JESUS MINISTRIES
http://www.RealJesus.net
realjesusministries@gmail.com

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COMMENT FROM JEFF BROWN: “Amen Brother Luis! It’s a wonderful gift to be able to see the gifts in others!”

COMMENT FROM PASTOR LUIS: “Thanks Jeff…The Christian Church needs more encouragers and less critics. True Christian love builds up – not tears down.”