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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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Abraham’s Moral Weakness

Abraham n Sarah 2Although Abraham distinguished himself in Bible history as a man of great faith, he was not without fault. Like all believers in the true and living God, he made some mistakes, which he had to repent of, and receive God’s forgiveness.

There was one occasion in particular when Abraham failed to trust in Yahovah God’s protection and took matters into his own hands. When his life was endangered, Abraham put his wife Sarah in a position to be sexually defiled by another man in order to save his own skin.

The incident occurs in Egypt where Abraham had to take his family to find food (Genesis 12:10-20). At the time, there was a grievous famine in the land of Canaan where Abraham lived, and he was forced to travel to Egypt which had plenty.

Sarah’s Beauty

Even at 65 years of age, Sarah was still a beautiful woman and Abraham became fearful that the Egyptians would murder him in order to take his wife (a habit not uncommon in the Middle East). Therefore, Abraham asked Sarah to lie for him and tell the Egyptians she was his sister.

“Say, I pray thee, you are my sister; that it may be well with me for your sake; and my soul shall live because of you.” – Genesis 12:13

Unfortunately, the king of Egypt himself (Pharaoh) took an interest in Sarah’s beauty and brought her into his harem of many wives. But before he could have sexual relations with her, God stepped in to correct Abraham’s mistake. He sent a plague on Pharaoh and his household. When Pharaoh realized what was happening – that he was under a curse, he called for Abraham and confronted him with his deceit.

“What is it you have done to me? Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’? so that I might have taken her [sexually] to be my wife?” Now therefore, here is your wife back; take her and go your way.” – Genesis 12:18-19

Abraham’s failure to trust God to deliver him out of any trouble and resort to dishonoring his own wife shows us that Abraham’s  faith  was not yet fully developed; he was still morally weak. However, Abraham did much better as he grew older and wiser in his latter years.  As a matter of fact, Abraham became known as the “Father of our faith” because of his overall exemplary accomplishments (Hebrews 11:8-12).

We can certainly relate to Abraham, when we examine our own lives.

How often have we made mistakes of our own? How many times have we made fools of ourselves for making wrong choices, or failing to trust God as we should? But despite these early setbacks, we can hopefully look back on our own lives and see how much better we are today than yesterday, by the grace of God. How much stronger is our faith today than it used to be, how we have spiritually grown since we first believed.

Praise be to God for never giving up on us; His mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23). Stop punishing yourself for the mistakes of the past, and keep looking forward to the glorious future that God has destined for you. Remember that Jesus our Lord, is the “author” and “finisher” of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). He will never give up on us until He has completed his work in us. It’s not how you start the race that matters most, but how you finish.

– Luis Josephus

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Never Forget To Lie

"Never Forget To Lie" by Marian Marzynski.

“Never Forget To Lie” by Marian Marzynski.

MOVIES

In Never Forget to Lie, Emmy-award-winning filmmaker and director Marian Marzynski journeys back to Poland to explore the story of his childhood and those of other Jewish child survivors of the Holocaust. Their parents changed their Jewish names, taught them to make the sign of the Catholic cross, and instructed them to lie about their Jewish identities in order to avoid Nazi persecution. They candidly discuss their feelings about Poland, the Catholic Church and the long-term ramifications of hiding their true identities.

Marzynski was on WBUR Radio’s “Here & Now” program today to discuss why he decided to make this film now, the vivid memories of other child survivors and the unfinished business of his own Holocaust story.

Marian Marzynski

Listen to Marian Marzynski interview by clicking on link at right.

Click the link below to listen to the interview courtesy of PBS.org:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/biographies/never-forget-to-lie/training-a-camera-on-the-children-of-the-holocaust

Stay tuned for the FRONTLINE broadcast on April 30, 2013.

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The Messianic Judaism Controversy

www.RealJesus.netDear Brother Luis:

Lately I’ve been intrigued as to the why, and or the appropriateness of, the increasing popularity of Christians celebrating Jewish high holy days, and why some seem to identify very strongly with Judaism. I’ve been researching how it seems Jewish people really feel about Christians (not good), the messianic synagogue “controversy” and various other aspects of this subject. Because you are a messianic Jew I would be very interested in what you think about this. If you have time I would value it greatly (and promise not to quote you without permission). I can only imagine what you’ve been through!

Thanks and blessings always to you my Brother In Christ!

JEFF BROWN

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Hello Jeff:

I too am concerned about the legalistic theology of many Messianic believers (both Jewish and Gentiles) and their self-imposed isolation from the rest of Christianity. Recently I have decided to distance myself from this movement to avoid being associated with their errant beliefs. These days I prefer to call myself a “Judeo-Christian” rather than “Messianic”.

Although I still believe in learning all the good we possibly can  about Christianity’s Jewish roots and keeping the original holy days of the Bible (including the original Saturday sabbath), I don’t believe we can “earn” our salvation by the keeping of the Old Testament Laws. Salvation is by grace through faith, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Eph. 2:8-9).

The Sabbath and OT Holy Days have to be re-interpreted in light of what Jesus did in the New Testament to fulfill them – such as Passover, Unleavened Bread, Pentecost (First Fruits), and the Day of Atonement. Other Holy Days such as the Feast of Trumpets and Tabernacles are yet to be fulfilled at the Rapture and Second Coming of Messiah.

A good book I have read, which you may want to read is, “Messianic Judaism Is Not Christianity” by Stan Telchin. Stan is a believing Jew who also came out of the Messianic Movement and wrote some good biblical insights on the subject. He has also distanced himself from Messianic churches. As a result, He has received a lot of criticism for doing so, but I believe he was led of the Holy Spirit.

You are free to reprint this message if you like. You can also read a short devotional I wrote on this subject by going to:

https://yehudafm.wordpress.com/2010/09/22/justified-by-grace-through-faith-not-by-the-law/

Blessings to you and your wife Donna!

Pastor Luis Yosefus

Real Jesus Ministries
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