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John_the_baptist : Stained glass in Catholic church in Dublin showing a John the Baptist The stained-glass windows are by the famous artist, William Early, who died during the commission

In the previous post we learned that John the Baptist’s baptism was a baptism (immersion) unto repentance. How is John the Baptist’s baptism different than from being baptized unto the name of Jesus Christ? Why is it important to know the difference? Perhaps the reason becomes evident as we look at Acts 19:1-7. Paul asked the people of Ephesus if they had received the Holy Spirit and they said that they had only been baptized into John’s baptism into repentance. They were then baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

So how do we know whether we are baptized into just John’s baptism of if we are baptized into the name of Jesus Christ? First, it is important to understand what it means to repent. In the Bible eight different words are translated into the English word “repent”. It is important to understand that each of them have different shades of meaning.

Four of the words are Hebrew words in the Old Testament. The first word is nacham which means to breathe hard because you are sorry. This word was used in Genesis 6:6, Exodus 13:17, Job 42:6, and Jonah 3:10. The next Hebrew word is shuwb which means to turn back . It is found in I Kings 8:47, Ezekiel 14:6. Another Hebrew word used in the Old Testament which is translated “repent is nocham which means regret. This word is used in Hosea 13:14. The final Hebrew word for repent is  nichum this word means compassion. This word is found in Hosea 11:8.

All of the four Greek words in the New Testament that mean repent come from the root word meta meaning change as in the word metamorphesis. metamellomai means to regret consequences of sin, not the cause Matthew 27:3, 2 Corinthians 7:8. metanoeo to change the the mind for the better morally, to change the attitude toward sin (See note Luke 13:3)  Metanoia a real change of mind and attitude toward sin and its cause, not merely the consequences of it Matthew 3:8, 11; 9:13, Luke 24:47.  Final word ametameletos irrevocable Romans 11:29; 2 Corinthians 7:10.

What we can get from this study of repentance as we look at John the Baptist’s baptism, we see that John’s baptism in Matthew 3:8 was Metanoia which meant that his baptism was toward a real change of mind and attitude toward sin and its cause, not merely the consequences. Baptism in the name of Christ is something else, something greater than merely recognizing that a person is repulsed by sin and the desire to turn from it. Baptism in the name of Christ requires something greater.

I look forward to continuing this study of Matthew and all of the gospels. I have enjoyed the comments that we have shared so far. I know I have already learned a lot during this study. What is your take on what we have studied so far?


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As we continue our study of Matthew, and our study of John the Baptist in particular, we learned yesterday that Christian baptism did not originate with John the Baptist, but had immersing in water had been part of several types of Jewish religious cleansing rituals.

The word Baptism however, is not a Hebrew word, but came from a Greek word bapto meaning “to dip”. in the New Testament there are seven different ways that the word baptism has been used and by understanding the context of each of these meanings, helps us to understand what baptism is and what it  isn’t.

1. 2. I Corinthians 10:2-11  Speaks of the Baptism of the cloud and in the sea where the children of Israel was more than just a type of our relationship with Christ.

2.  As studied yesterday, there is the baptism of John. His baptism is mentioned in many passages in the New Testament. Besides Matthew 3 there is also Mark 1, Luke 3:, 7:29-30, John 1:31-33; 3:23-26: 10:40, Acts 1:5; 11:16; 19:3.

3.    There was baptism of suffering as noted in Luke 12:50 where Jesus spoke of being dipped or experiencing for a short time the experience of death. In this passage Jesus also expressed that he was not looking forward to the occasion, but that he would be glad when the bapto was accomplished.

4.  In John 3:22 and 4:1-2 it speaks about Christ’s baptism in water. It is significant that Jesus was not the one who actually carried out the baptisms, but it was his disciples who did the actual baptizing. It is our duty as disciples of Jesus to immerse new converts in the good news of our Lord and Savior.

5. Christian baptism in water and the Baptism into Christ and His Body  (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38-41,:8:12-16; 9:18; 10:47-48; 16:15,33; 18:8; 19:5; 22:16; Romans 6:3-7; 1 Corinthians 1:13-17; 12: 13; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12;  Peter 3:21) is one of the cornerstones of Christian faith. This baptism brings the new believer into his body at repentance and the new birth. It is called “one baptism (Ephesians 4:5), because it is the only baptism that saves the soul and brings into the body of Christ. The immersion in water is not what saves a person, but the confession of the faith that precedes the immersion in water. The immersion in water is a symbol of the death of the old life and the Resurrection into becoming a new creation in Christ.

6. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a controversial subject in Christendom. (Matthew 3:11, 14:20-23; Mark 1:8; 10:38-39, Luke 3:16, John 1:33, 7:37-39; Acts 1:5; 11:16, 19:2-3.) Some say that the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs at the new birth, others say that it is a separate experience. For now, we will leave  the decision of when this occurs between you and your Creator.

I hope this study of the Gospels is helpful to you. This study, of course, I am not the final authority of the truth that Christ has for us as believers. I would not be so bold as to suggest that I were. What I would hope though, is that this study would help to open your eyes to how great our God is and how much he loves you. Please comment! Maybe you have a question I can help you with. Perhaps you have insights I don’t and we can learn together!


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In Matthew 3 we are introduced to John the Baptist. In Luke we will learn that John the Baptist was the son of Zacharias and Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-20, 39-80). John’s mother was cousin to Mary the mother of Jesus. John was a Levite and he was of the Priestly line, however God had other plans for John. As it says in Matthew 3:3: This is he that was spoken by the prophet Isaiah saying, “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” He fulfilled the prophecies of Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1.

Contrary to what many Christians think (especially Baptists), baptism did not originate with John. What we call baptism is actually the Jewish custom of “cleansing” as stated in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament.). Ceremonial cleansings have been part of the Jewish written law and oral traditions for millennia.

The Torah contains purification rituals relating to menstruation, childbirth, sexual relations, nocturnal emission, unusual bodily fluids, skin disease, death, and animal sacrifices. Modern mainstream Judaism is based on a combination of the Torah and Jewish oral law,  including the Mishnah and Gemarrah (together comprising the Talmud) as well as other rabbinic commentarie. This oral law specifies rules for ritual purity, including requirements relating to excretory functions, meals, and waking. These Biblical and oral laws generally require a water-based ritual washing or immersion in order to remove any  impurity. In some instances,simply washing hands is all that is required, but other instances require the full immersion of the head. When full immersion is required, an additional requirement of un-drawn water is used.  Un-drawn water is water either from a natural river/spring or is water from a special bath or Mikvah which contains rain water.

Jews consider the Tumat HaMet (“The impurity of death”), coming into contact with a human corpse,  the ultimate impurity,. This impurity cannot be purified through the waters of the mikvah. The impurity of Tumat HaMet can only be purified by sprinkling of the ashes of the Parah Adumah, the Red Heifer. since neither the Temple in Jerusalem nor the red heifer is currently in existence, this ritual cannot be performed. All are assumed to possess the impurity of death.] However,a Kohen of the priestly class cannot intentionally touch a dead body, nor come too near graves in a Jewish cemetery.

Ancient Israelites and contemporary Orthodox Jews, and some conservative Jews continue to observe these regulations, except of course the regulations associated with Temple sacrifice because the Temple in Jerusalem no longer exists. The most common observance of ceremonial cleansing is the hand washing rituals.

Unmarried women have immersed in the mikveh prior to their wedding. Of the full immersion rituals currently carried out, is the immersion rituals related to the nidda in which menstruating women are required to avoid contact with her husband until after she has immersed herself in a mikvah of living water seven days after her cycle has ceased. These ceremonial washings were used by women in the Jewish culture for 3500 years, but for a time were discontinued because women thought they were demeaning. Today however, these rituals are seen as a way that women are able to celebrate their femininity. In December 2006 the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of Conservative Judaism re-affirmed this traditional requirement that Conservative women ritually immerse following menstruation. In recent years a form of cleansing for women called Mikvah has returned to Jewish culture. Click here to learn more.

This Jewish tradition is the predecessor to Christian Baptism and gives us further insight into the baptism’s significance. Ritual immersion is the total submersion of the body in a pool of water.  Immersion, tevillah, is the common core component of every [traditional] Jewish conversion process, for male and female, adult and child, ignoramus and scholar. Without immersion a proselyte cannot be accepted into the Jewish religious community as a Jew.

Immersion serves several religious functions. In the days of the ancient temple, anyone who wanted to be included inside the Temple grounds had to be immersed in the mikveh. The law required every person inside the Temple grounds be spiritually pure for them to be part of the Temple.

A major function of immersion in the mikveh is for conversion to Judaism. The sages declared that for a gentile to become a Jew, he or she must undergo the identical process by which Jewish ancestors converted. As Jews performed immersion at Mt. Sinai to complete the conversion process they had begun with circumcision as they left Egypt, so converts in every age must immerse in a mikveh.

Symbol of New Birth

Immersion was not for the purpose  of using the water’s physical cleansing properties. The submersing in water  expressly symbolized the change-of-soul through the spirit. No other symbolic act can  embrace a person. In immersion water touches every part of the body just as God’s presence swallows up the old and gives new birth in the new.

In  the Jewish mikveh as well as the Christian baptism, immersion symbolizes a person’s cleansing of past deeds. The convert is like a newborn child. The spiritual cleansing  prepares the convert to confront God, life, and people with a fresh spirit and new eyes–it washes away the past, leaving only the future. .

In both the Jewish Mikveh and Christian baptism, there is something deeper than mere cleansing of the past.  It marks the beginning of the ascent to an elevated religious state.  Anthropologists call this threshold of higher social status as “liminality.” The liminal state is common to virtually all persons and societies, ancient and modern, and it marks a move to an altered status or to a life transition. Entering adulthood from adolescence, for example, requires a tunnel of time, a rite of passage, a liminal state that acknowledges by symbolic acts the stark changes taking place in one’s self-identity, behavior, and attitude.

If we in our immersion truly understood it’s power, we would, as Jesus tried to explain in John 3, truly be born again.

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