Let’s make our first topic of discussion baptism. What is Christian Baptism? I am not just asking when and how baptism should be done, but also why. I believe the why along with the Jewish understanding of baptism, called the mikvah, will help us learn much of the answer to this question. Remember, we are doing this in prayer, humility, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Have fun.
I have noticed that no one has said anything about what a mikvah is and I understand that this is a new term. A mikvah is a Jewish ritual washing. They would go through a mikvah for several different reasons and would even mikvah household items. A mikvah is an immersion of the individual or item in question.
For a Jew the mikvah must be done in living waters such as a stream or pool with access to flowing water. The reason for this is because these waters are seen as connected to the river that flowed out of Eden. To immerse oneself in such water is a picture of a new birth. It symbolizes leaving behind one life and being born a new.
The Jew would go through a mikvah for some of the following reasons:
1. If one had been ceremonially unclean they would immerse themselves in a mikvah to symbolize they are now ceremonially clean.
2. The High Priest would immerse in a mikvah before entering the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement each year.
3. Those coming up to sacrifice on the Temple mount would immerse in a mikvah as they came up into the Temple.
4. A women would immerse in a mikvah after her monthly symbolizing a new time with her husband.
5. A bride and sometimes even a bridegroom would go through a mikvah before entering the sacred institution of marriage. It symbolized leaving the old life of singleness behind and entering the new life of marriage.
It is this last one that interests us the most. It begins with Jesus’ baptism or mikvah. It is interesting to note that the only time Jesus is directly referred to as the Bridegroom is by John the Baptist (or Baptizer) and by Jesus Himself when speaking to the disciples of the Pharisees and also the disciples of John the Baptist. There seemed to be an understanding between John and Jesus that what occurred between them, Jesus’ baptism, was an act of The Bridegroom.
This leads us to the baptism that we as the Bride of Christ have been commanded to participate in. This not only ties to the mikvah of the bride in Jewish culture, but also to what would take place when a non-Jew sought to convert and become a Jew. In this instance whether male or female a mikvah or immersion in the living waters was required. They would undergo a new birth from being a Gentile, a non believer in the One true God, to being born again as a Jew, one who placed their trust in the One true God. This makes the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus take on a whole new light.
When Jesus referred to being “born again” the mikvah is the practice he would have been referring to. He was a Jew and everything He did came from that perspective and the perspective of the Jewish Scriptures and traditions (although He definitely did have harsh words about the traditions of the elders within Jewish culture, but to be sure there were traditions within their culture that He upheld and practiced Himself that were not in the Scriptures. An example of this is when Jesus celebrated the Feast of Dedication or Hanukkah in the book of John.) The book of Hebrews in referring to the elementary truths speaks of washings, plural. The washings it is referring to are the different reasons for going through a mikvah.
It is interesting to note that I read recently that for a Messianic Jew a baptism or mikvah may not just be a one time occurrence, but done at the time of faith in Christ and again upon maturity of the faith. In other words, the second mikvah would take place when one leaves the adolescent stage of the faith and things begin to become more clear to them as a grown up in the faith so to speak.
I hope this explanation of a mikvah has helped and I look forward to reading your thoughts.
In His New Life,