3. BAPTISM IN WATER:
Gateway to the Kingdom of Yahweh
(a) The Scriptural Meaning of Baptism
When we come to Yah'shua (Jesus) and repent of our sins, we enter into what the Bible calls the "born again" experience and receive a new heart. Yah'shua (Jesus) comes to dwell in our hearts by faith. We become partakers of eternal life, for eternal life is in the Son. When we depart from this life, we shall go to be with Yah'shua (Jesus).
3.1. What are the three vital elements of the Christian life? (Acts 2:38)
In our previous studies we have discussed the atonement of Yah'shua (Jesus) and Yahweh's provision for man's sins. We come now to our next truth, water baptism (immersion), in which we experience a burial of our old nature and a rising to walk with the Messiah (Christ) in newness of life. Water baptism (immersion) is in itself not effectual for salvation. It is an outward, symbolic ordinance of what Yahweh supernaturally does within us and what we must retain.
3.2. What did Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself say? (Matt.28:19)
Let us now examine additional Scriptures concerning the significance of water baptism (immersion).
3.3. For what purpose was our old sin-loving nature crucified with Him? (Rom.6:6)
"We know that our old (unrenewed) self was nailed
to the cross with Him in order that (our) body
(which is the instrument) of sin, might be made
ineffective and inactive for evil, that we might
no longer be the slaves of sin."
(Romans 6:6, Amplified Version)
3.4. What provision did Yah'shua (Jesus) make for the putting off of the sin-loving nature? (Col.2:11)
3.5. What is the circumcision of the Messiah (Christ)? (Col.2:11-12)
This circumcision, made without hands, is a supernatural work of Yahweh. In a sense, in the waters of baptism (immersion), Yahweh supernaturally takes his "scalpel" and cuts away from our life the bondage to sin and buries it. A tremendous deliverance and victory takes place.
3.6. What was circumcision a sign of under the Old Covenant? (Gen.17:10-11)
3.7. What happened to those who were not circumcised and why? (Gen.17:13-14)
Thus we see that the outward ordinance of circumcision was given as a sign of obedience to Yahweh and was a condition of coming under covenant. By the same token, to be baptised by immersion is a sign of obedience to Yahweh and is a condition of coming under the New Covenant and His grace. Willfull disobedience of this commandment is to reject Yahweh's sovereignty over a believer's life. To willfully reject Yahweh's sovereignty is to cut oneself off from grace and the fullness of the ministry of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit).
3.8. With whom did Yahweh establish this covenant of circumcision? (Gen.17:19)
3.9. From whom are we descended as the children of promise? (Rom.9:6-8)
3.10. Whom does Paul (Sha'ul) say were the true circumcision? (Phil.3:3)
3.11. How did Moses (Moshe), prophetically speaking of the New Covenant, describe this true circumcision? (Deut.30:6)
Let us look at another Old Testament example. After 40 years of wandering, the generation of disobedient Israelites, whom Yahweh had originally brought out of Egypt, died in the wilderness. When Yahweh rolled back the waters of the Jordan (Yarden) River just as He had done at the Red Sea (actually, the Yam Suph, or Sea of Reeds), this new generation walked through the Jordan (Yarden) River and into the promised land.
3.12. What was the first thing that they did? (Josh.5:2)
3.13. Why did they do it? (Josh.5:5-7)
3.14. What did Yahweh say that He did when they were circumcised? (Josh.5:9)
Before the Israelites could go up and possess the promised land, they had to be circumcised so that the reproach of Egypt might be rolled away from them. That circumcision was a sign in their flesh of their covenant with Yahweh. So also, under the New Covenant before we can go and possess our promised inheritance, we must receive the circumcision of Yah'shua (Jesus), made without hands, in putting off the "body of the sins of the flesh". Through this circumcision we are uprooted from the world, of which Egypt is a picture, and the reproach of the world is rolled away from us.
3.15. What then is circumcision in the New Covenant? (Col.2:11-13)
Circumcision in the natural or outer sense is the cutting away of the unclean part, the foreskin of the man. In the inner or spiritual sense, circumcision is a cutting away of the whole body of sins, the sin-loving nature. Even more, baptism is a burial and a resurrection, a total dying of the old self by union with Christ, a real and present rising again by participation in His risen life.
Another beautiful picture of water baptism is found in the Old Testament. It is a type and shadow of the meaning of baptism under the New Covenant. The Israelites had been held in bondage in Egypt for many years. They had been enslaved to Pharaoh, the cruel king. When Yahweh brought them forth from bondage in the Exodus, He parted the Red Sea (Sea of Reeds) before them. The water was like a wall on either side of them as the Israelites passed through to the other side. Pharaoh and his armies, who were pursuing Israel, followed them into the water. Yahweh, however, caused the water to roll back together cutting the Egyptians off and causing them to drown.
The ones who held Israel in bondage and slavery in Egypt, who were pursuing her in her new relationship with Yahweh, were buried in the waters of the Red Sea just as our sinful nature is buried or "crucified" when, through an act of faith, we accept Yah'shua (Jesus) as our Deliverer, and enter into the depths of Yahweh's love and care, which protects us as we leave our old life and our pursuing sinful nature behind us.
Israel was left on the other side of the water free from slavery, free to be servants of their God. If the sea had not buried the Egyptians, the threat of slavery would have followed them into the Promised Land. Not only would Israel have to fight her enemies in the Promised Land, but she would have to fight the one who was trying to bring her back into bondage. Those who have truly come to faith in the Messiah (Christ) and are identified with Him through water baptism have been made free from the power and bondage of sin and have pressed on into the Promised Land able to meet and conquer their enemies head on.
3.16. In fact, what does Paul (Sha'ul) say about Israel's experience at the Red Sea (Sea of Reeds)? (1 Cor.10:1-2)
It is very important to note that Israel had not one but two baptismal events -- a major baptism and a minor one. The major baptism was the departure from bondage through the Red Sea (Sea of Reeds) and the minor one was the actual entry into the Promised Land across the River Jordan (Yarden). Inbetween was a period of wandering.
The first or major baptism (immersion) corresponds to the Christian accepting Yah'shua (Jesus) as personal Saviour or Deliverer. The second or minor baptism (immersion) corresponds to the Christian entering into a Covenant Community relationship with Yah'shua (Jesus). The first is purely personal, the second involves the whole community of believers. We see that after Israel entered the Promised land that they were blessed or cursed as a community, as in the case of Achan's sin (Josh.7).
Water baptism (immersion), therefore, has two aspects: (1) The Red Sea or Exodus from Egypt aspect; and (2) The Jordan (Yarden) River or Entry into Zion (Tsiyon) aspect. The first baptism aspect is experienced by all born-again Christians. The second involves entering into a community of believers, or a church/assembly under a particular theocratic régime.
You will notice that circumcision was not administered until Israel had crossed from the east side of the Jordan (Yarden) to the west. Although the tribes on the east side of the Jordan (Yarden), namely Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh, were a covenant part of Israel, they did not technically inhabit the "Promised Land" which in the Bible is defined as lying between Dan and Beersheba on the west side.
Modern Christian born-again fellowships and churches are therefore essentially divided into two types: (1) Those on the "east side" of the Baptism of Jordan and (2) those on the "west side". The two halves of Israel, though having a common history, had rather different experiences. The tribes in the east were frequently overwhelmed by foreign invaders whereas those in the west were pressed by the indiginous inhabitants whom they failed to cleanse out of the land.
The New Covenant Church of God / B'rit Chadashah Assembly of Yahweh represents the ideal "west-side" or Theocratic Kingdom of God. Unlike most "east-side" Christian churches who simply baptise (immerse) "into Christ", New Covenant Christians also baptise into the "theocratic kingdom of Christ". Both aspects of this baptism are most important even though the first baptism is certainly the greater. Nevertheless the greater is not without the lesser. In the same manner, Paul (Sha'ul) pictures the Kingdom like a marriage where the "man is not without the woman" nor the "woman without the man" even though the man presides or rules in the marriage relationship (Eph.5:22-24). Here Paul likens the husband to Christ and the wife to the Church or Covenant Community.
True baptism, then, is both a baptism into Christ (likened to a death of the old "Egyptian" self and resurrection to a new "Christ" self) and a baptism into the New Covenant Church of God / B'rit Chadashah Assembly of Yahweh or community of believers. This is explained more fully in the next lesson, "4. Baptism and Confirmation in the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit)".
3.17. When believers are baptised, in what experience of Yah'shua (Jesus) are they following? (Rom.6:4)
3.18. If we have been united with Him in the likeness of His death, what shall we also be? (Rom.6:5)
3.19. Yah'shua (Jesus) partook of our flesh and blood and died. Why did He do this? (Heb.2:14-15)
As He hung on the cross, Yah'shua (Jesus) became sin on our behalf. The purpose of this was to bring us to Yahweh, our Father. Yah'shua (Jesus) died on the cross to make a perfect atonement for man's sinful and lost condition. On the third day He arose from the dead and triumphed over Satan, thereby providing for man's salvation. Because we receive His life when we make Yah'shua (Jesus) Lord or Master of our life, our relationship to Yahweh is made alive and we also live in fellowship with Yahweh. Likewise, as we partake in water baptism, we share Yah'shua's (Jesus') burial and resurrection. Because we now share the resurrection life of Yah'shua (Jesus), sin no longer has dominion over us.
(b) The Scriptural Application of Baptism (Immersion)
Now that we have established the scriptural meaning of baptism (immersion), let us look into the scriptural application of it.
3.20. How did people act who received the Word of Yahweh? (Acts 2:41)
3.21. What did the people of Samaria do after they believed Philip's teaching? (Acts 8:12)
3.22. What did the Ethiopian believer* desire after he had heard the message of Philip about the Messiah? (Acts 8:35-36)
[*Note: The Ethiopian was not a eunuch but a believer in the Hebrew faith making the Torah-required pilgrimage to Jerusalem (Dt.16:16). The Torah forbids a eunuch both from being a proselyte Jew and from worshipping in the Temple (Dt.23:1ff). All eunuchs were excluded from the Assembly of Israel. The Aramaic word for "eunuch" in v.27 is m'haimna which can either mean eunuch, believer, or faithful one. Clearly 'faithful one' or 'believer' is the correct meaning here as also in Matt.19:12. See the Hebrew-roots Version for the correct translation].
3.23. In what way, or by what method, was the Ethiopian baptised? (Acts 8:38-39)
The baptisms throughout the New Testament, including the baptism of John (Yochanan), were all done by complete immersion -- the people all went down into the water and came up again. The water represents the grave where the burial takes place. Other forms of baptism, such as by sprinkling or pouring, are not only historically invalid but also distort the meaning of the symbolism of baptism. We are not to be "sprinkled" or "poured" into the Messiah's (Christ's) death but to be totally immersed in it. Repentance and the death of the old self must be complete, not partial.
3.24. What did the Philppian jailer do after believing Paul's (Sha'ul's) message? (Acts 16:29-33)
3.25. When was he baptised (immersed)? (Acts 16:33)
3.26. When were those who heard Paul's message baptised? (Acts 2:41)
Notice the immediacy of all the baptisms (immersions) recorded in the Book of Acts. Likewise, there should be as little delay as possible in the baptism of believers today. In NCCG/BCAY, new believers are baptised as soon as they have understood and accepted the Apostles' Creed.
3.27. In what Name did Yah'shua (Jesus) tell the disciples to baptise? (Matt.28:19)
3.28. In what Name did the disciples baptise? (Acts 2:38; 8:14-16; 10:45-48; 19:5)
We read in Colossians 2:9: "For in Him all the fullness of Deity (Godhead) dwells in bodily form" (NIV). Yah'shua's (Jesus') disciples understood this; for having His commandment, they went everywhere baptising new believers by immersion. They were baptising in the Name which was above all Names, in the Name which all authority of heaven and earth is invested, and that Name is Yah'shua (Jesus). In the Name of Yah'shua (Jesus), demons are cast out, the sick are healed, and the lame walk.
3.29. Into Whom are we baptised (immersed)? (Rom.6:3)
New Covenant Christians are therefore baptised in this fashion: An elder, standing in the water with the baptismal candidate, prays to Yahweh, and then, with upraised right hand, says: "Having been commissioned by Yah'shua the Messiah, I baptise you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Ruach haQodesh. Amen." He then fully immerses the candidate. Baptism in white clothing is preferred to ordinary clothing if this can be obtained in order to symbolise the holiness of this ordinance. (See the latest Constitution of NCCG/BCAY, for the current protocol).
3.30. Many believers have gone through the motions of baptism (immersion), yet have not experienced a genuine New Testament baptism. What have they experienced? (Acts 19:3-4)
In the Old Testament, an account is given of Naaman (Na'aman), the captain of the army of the King of Syria, who had leprosy. He went to Elisha, the prophet of Yahweh, to ask for healing. Leprosy in the Scriptures is a type of the "body of sins of the flesh" or of the bondage of the power of sin because there is no cure for this disease apart from the mercy of Yahweh. The whole flesh is infected, and the end of it is death.
3.31. What did Elisha tell him to do? (2 Kings 5:9-10)
3.32. What was his response? (2 Kings 5:11-12)
Likewise, many people are insulted by Yahweh's command for water baptism, thinking it is silly and ridiculous. (Note, incidentally, this special "seven-fold" baptism which we shall meet again at another time).
3.33. What was the servant's advice to him, and what did he do? (2 Kings 5:13-15)
Likewise, we must become as little children and obey the simple things that Yahweh asks us to do. His ways are far above our ways. We must lean not to our own understanding. We must be careful lest we only desire to do great feats for Yahweh yet are not willing to humble ourselves to His way of doing things.
Write and memorise the following scripture: Colossians 2:11-12
Next Bible Study in the Series | Parallel Sermon to this Study