Posts Tagged ‘mikweh’

How do you practice baptism?

January 5, 2010

Recently I spoke to a good (messianic) friend of mine about water baptism. 
He said baptism was a common ritual to purify yourself to be able to be holy and e.g. to enter the holy temple at Pesach or other feasts. In its original Jewish meaning it is quite different as in the Christian tradition. I would like to write down some of my thoughts about baptism. 

First I will distinguish two parts of the view on baptism.

1. the personal repentance view
2. the covenant view

Most interesting for me is to find out what the original meaning of baptism is. It was not a covenant matter, although it was not wholly apart from it. The covenant sign was definitely the circumcision. Also a bar mitzvah and other things like that belonged to entering or a renewal of the covenant. But baptism is a personal expression of purifying the body and soul for G-d in a most honestly repentance before G-d’s face. Baptism in the Jewish way is a private act. Three witnesses are there to watch. John 1:35-36 shows two disciples, besides John the Baptist, which makes three. Such a personal act is hardly comparable with the common church tradition. John was applying the baptism of water for faithful people to let them do a personal repentance. Then they were able to enter the covenant and the Messianic age, what was expected.

But there was more to say about that. It was a sign of the great Baptizer who was to come and would baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire. (Mat.3:11) To enable his people to enter the renewed temple. So there is a twofold dimension in it. A personal repentance and baptism which is showed to the public, and a personal baptism of fire which is mysterious for the public. So we can take a personal baptism or mikveh everytime we want or we think we need it, but a baptism of fire from Yeshua is once and forever. And hence, I think, the covenantal aspect comes in picture.

Along with the church tradition of (infant) water baptism, the covenant view came more and more in picture. This was given so much emphasis that infants were being baptized and hence baptism was merely a covenant matter. Presbyterian and Reformed Christians developed the Covenant Theology to base their case for infant baptism. This has put the church in such a difficult position, that, I can tell you, even only in the Netherlands it resulted in tens of divisions from the 19e century until now. And the end isn’t yet there. A men made church would be left because of it. Because men will let the true church appear, rather than G-d will do that. It’s true, we couldn’t keep the covenant. Even as the old people of Israel couldn’t do that. We always will fail. How sad! It’s true, only grace, grace from the G-d of the covenant of Israel will renew the covenant, the faith and the true love. When He is going to establish, then a new thing will be created which will glorify HaSjem and his Messiah Yeshua. That was done by John the baptist and it will be done in our days. A new covenant will be made personal. But that’s another thing then water baptism. It’s difficult for me to connect the covenant to water baptism.

My own Reformed Christian heritage gives me along the personal also the covenant view. Without that it wouldn’t be so difficult. Maybe you would say just let your covenant view go, it’s just church tradition and never taught by Yeshua or the disciples. Yes, that could be true. But it isn’t as easy as it seems. Because the covenant view has biblical support as well. Baptism fits perfectly in the model of Pesach. I showed that in my other post: we are baptized into Christ’s dead. In the New Testament however, there is no mention about the covenant but related to eucharist or the festival of commemorating Pesach. There Yeshua said “This is my blood of the New Testament (new covenant) which I shed for many”. So the connection of Pesach with Baptism will make the covenant view. But to say that every newborn child is automatically into the covenant, isn’t that too much said?

In the Reformed churches often is spoken of an inward part of the covenant and an outward part. The outward part means that you are baptized but not reborn. When an inward covenant belongs to you, you are saved. That distinction is seen both in baptism and eucharism.