REPENTANCE AND BAPTISM
This articlet is written with the idea of providing a means to get started on this study. It is by no means an effort to answer every question or give you all the answers. To truly understand, you need to do some research on your own and spend some time on your knees. Most of the Scriptures quoted are wording from The Interlinear Bible by Jay P. Green, Sr., as general editor and translator.
When people start attending church and seeking their Creator, one of the first things they wonder about is baptism. It is a rite of most churches and expected of all members. But what is it? Why is it done? What is the purpose? What does it mean? Are there requirements to be met first? Are there precedents of it in the Old Testament?
The word “baptize” means to immerse; to make whelmed or fully wet; to dip. It indicates that every square inch of an individual should be fully submerged for a few seconds.
Why? We find references to it early in the Gospel accounts, baptisms were being done by John the Baptist – or John the Immerser. People were going to him and being immersed in the Jordan River.
Mark 1:5 – “And all the Judean country, and those of Jerusalem went out to him, and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.”
Why were they confessing their sins? John had been telling them to repent and be baptized. He was also telling them about the Savior to come.
Matthew 3:1 – “Now in those days, John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea.” Verse 2 – “And saying, repent, for the kingdom of heaven has drawn near.” Verse 3 – “For this is he spoken of by Isaiah the prophet, saying, the voice of one crying in the wilderness. Prepare the way of the Master. Make his paths straight.”
But he told them there was more they needed to do.
Matthew 3:8 – “Therefore, bring forth fruits worthy of repentance.”
They weren’t to be baptized just because it was the thing to do. Or because everyone else was doing it. It involved more than just saying, “I’m sorry.” There were to exhibit evidence of their repentance.
While this was going on, before Yahshua ever began His ministry, He came down to the river to be baptized as well. At first, John did not want to do it – he felt unworthy. But Yahshua prevailed upon him.
Matthew 3:15 – “But answering, Yahshua said to him, allow it for now, for it is becoming to us this way to fulfill all righteous.”
Yahshua wanted to do everything in an orderly way and leave nothing out. He had nothing to repent of, but was leaving an example for us to follow.
SACRIFICES AND FORGIVENESS
Are there precedents for this in ancient Israel? We don’t find baptism as we know it today in the Old Testament. What we do find is ritual cleansings. In the Law there were stringent rules of cleanliness – specific times for the people to wash themselves, clothes or other objects. The high priest had to do specific washings before and after offering sacrifices and so did the people.
The people walked almost everywhere they went. They would get hot and dirty doing so. There were places around the temple for them to do these cleansings. They became known as mikvehs. Note that it was connected with uncleanness and/or sin, repentance and forgiveness, just as baptism is.
In the Old Testament when an individual sinned, there were instructions they had to follow. They were to offer an unblemished animal. They were to take it to the priest, lay their hands on it, confess their sins, and then kill it, with the assistance of the priest. The lesson was that sin necessitated the shedding of blood. They were required to kill an innocent animal because of what they had done. It might possibly make them think twice before committing a sin. It was going to cost them something – the life of an animal. Maybe they had seen the creature born, watched it grow and even observed their children playing with it. Repeated sinning could get expensive, too! But even that didn’t totally absolve them.
Hebrews 10:4 – “For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”
Those people were learning lessons and picturing the one sacrifice that would come to erase and forgive sins. That One did come. Yahshua came as a human, was tempted as a human, and lived a sinless, unblemished life, to qualify as a sacrifice in our stead.
I Peter 2:21 – “For you were called to this, for even Messiah suffered on our behalf, leaving behind an example for us, that you should follow His steps.” Verse 22 – “Who did not sin nor was guile found in his mouth.” Verse 23 – “Who, having been reviled, did not revile in return; suffering, he did not threaten, but gave himself up to him who was judging righteously.”Verse 24 – “Who himself bore in his body our sins onto the tree; that dying to sins, we might live to righteousness; of whom, by his wound, you were healed.”
Hebrews 4:15 – “For we do not have a high priest not being able to sympathize with our infirmities, but one having been tried in all respects according to our likeness, apart from sin.”
Hebrews 9:14 – “By how much more the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal spirit offered himself without spot to Yahweh, will purify your conscience from dead works for the serving of the living Yahweh.”
Yahshua was perfect. He qualified to be that offering in our place, like the lambs that were slaughtered.
John 1:29 – “On the morrow, John saw Yahshua coming toward him and said, behold, the lamb of Yahweh who takes away the sin of the world.”
Galatians 1:3 – “Grace to you, and peace, from Yahweh the Father and our Master Yahshua Messiah.” Verse 4 – “Who gave himself for our sins, so that he might deliver us out of the present evil age, according to the will of our Yahweh and Father.”
Yahshua made that ultimate sacrifice, willingly, so that we would not have to. He did it for everyone, no matter who they are or were.
John 3:16 – “For Yahshua so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten son that everyone believing into him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Yahweh gave His only Son. He was willing for Him to die so that others might receive salvation. We must be willing to accept that sacrifice.
But first we must repent. What does that involve? It means to change one’s mind; a change of heart and mind away from self and sin and towards Yahweh and righteousness. It means for us to look at our lives; to see where we have failed to follow Yahweh’s laws and statutes; to be willing to admit we have done wrong and be sorry for it; and to be willing to change. We need a change of heart that will lead us to follow Yahshua, no matter what; no matter how tempting the world around us appears and to look at Him and His Word for guidance; to be willing to be identified as His and serve Him.
We must be willing to confess our sins. Not to another human, as some churches practice, but to our Father in heaven. Our Savior is at His right hand and is the High Priest and intercessor for us. He can plead our case and tell the Father that He understands and knows what it is like to be a human and to suffer the pulls of the flesh.
BUT WHAT IS SIN?
I John 3:4 – “Everyone practicing sin also practices lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.”
Which law? Most churches teach that the law was done away. But this was written 50-60 years after Yahshua died! So was the law still in effect?
Matthew 5:17 – “Do not think that I came to annul, but to fulfill.” Verse 18 – “Truly I say to you, until the heavens and the earth pass away, in no way shall one iota or one tittle pass away from the law until all comes to pass.”
It could be that it is time for us to look at Yahweh’s law and see what it involves. But it isn’t found in the New Testament where the instructions on baptism are. The law is found, believe it or not, in the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah. That is what Yahshua was referring to in Matthew 5:17. In the New Englishman’s Greek Concordance and Lexicon, it is listed as Strong’s #3551 and specifically says “law: Mosaic.”
Hebrews 10:12 – “But he, offering but one sacrifice for sins, sat down in perpetuity at the right hands of Yahweh.”
Romans 8:34 – “Who is condemning? Messiah is the one who has died, but rather also is raised, who also is at the right hand of Yahweh, who also intercedes for us.”
I John 2:1 – “My little children, these things write I unto you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Yahshua Messiah the righteous.” Verse 2 – “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
Repentance must be the first step. Before we can be baptized, we must understand why we need it. We repent because we are seeking forgiveness. Before we can be forgiven, we must acknowledge our wrongs and ask for forgiveness.
Acts 2:38 – “And Peter said to them, repent and be baptized each of you on the name of Yahshua Messiah to forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the set-apart spirit.”
Acts 3:19 – “Therefore, repent, and convert, for the blotting out of your sins so that times of refreshing may come from the face of Yahweh.”
Acts 17:30 – “Truly then, Yahweh overlooking the times of ignorance, now strictly charges all men everywhere to repent.” Verse 31 – “Because he set a day in which He is going to judge the habitable world in righteousness by a man whom he appointed, having given proof to all by raising him from the dead.”
II Peter 3:9 – “Yahweh is not slow as to the promise, as some deem slowness, but is long-suffering toward us, not having purposed any of us to perish, but all of us to come to repentance.”
COUNTING THE COST
Once we repent, we are a step closer to baptism. But we first need to consider the seriousness of what we are doing. This is not something to be taken lightly. It is not something to dabble in and then drift off to something more exciting.
Luke 9:62 – “But Yahshua said to him, no one putting his hand on the plow, and looking at the things behind, is fir for the kingdom of Yahweh.”
Luke 14:26 – “If any one comes to me and does not hate his father, and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and also his own soul too, he cannot be my disciple.” Verse 27 – And whosoever does not bear his cross and does not come after me, he is not able to be my disciple.” Verse 28 – “For which of you, desiring to build a tower does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has the things to finish.” Verse 33 – “So then everyone of you who does not abandon all his possessions is not able to be my disciple.”
That is really asking a lot, isn’t it? He means that we need to set our priorities. He is not asking us today, at baptism, to walk away from everything we own and everyone we love. What He is asking is that we be willing to do so immediately, if He were to demand it. He must come first in our life – no matter what. Without Him, we are nothing.
So now it’s time for baptism. The next step is to let someone know – a minister, an elder, or someone who can advise and assist. They will discuss the process briefly first. There needs to be a lake, ocean, river, pond, pool, etc with enough water in which a person can totally immerse their body.
We do not baptize people by laying them backwards in the water as the majority of churches do. We allow the individuals to go into the water and submerge themselves under their own power. Sometimes it may be necessary to provide a little assistance to be sure of total submersion. But this is an individual decision to do this, so the individual needs to be the one to carry it out. The other person is there to be a witness and to carry out the second part of the event.
LAYING ON OF HANDS
Once the immersed person comes out of the water, the other lays hands on them, and praying, asks Yahweh to provide the gift of the set-apart spirit that has been promised.
Acts 8:12 – “But when they believed Philip preaching the gospel, the things concerning the kingdom of Yahweh, and the name of Yahshua Messiah, they were baptized, both men and women.” Verse 14 – “And the apostles in Jerusalem hearing that Samaria had received the word of Yahweh, they sent Peter and John to them.” Verse 15 – “Who going down prayed concerning them, so that they might receive the set-apart spirit.” Verse 16 – “For he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized into the name of the Messiah Yahshua.” Verse 17 – “Then they laid hands on them, and they received the set-apart spirit.”
Even here it requires more than a simple desire. The set-apart spirit is a gift; Yahweh demands something from us, too.
Acts 5:32 – “And we are His witnesses of these things; and also the set-apart spirit, whom Yahweh gave to those obeying him.”
It is a wonderful experience – to come out of that water knowing all your past sins have been forgiven and washed away; you have a clean slate to work with and Yahweh’s spirit to help you, dwelling inside you.
Once baptism takes place, many people seem to experience more trials and testing than before. As long as we live, we should learn, and grow and become more like Yahshua. But we still have human nature within us. The pulls of the world still tug at us. The Apostle Paul understood that.
Romans 7:18 – “For I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good. For to desire is present with me, but to work out the good I do not find.” Verse 19 – “For what good I desire, I do not. But the evil I do not desire, this I do.” Verse 20 – “But if I do what I do not desire, it is no longer I working it out, but the sin dwelling in me.”
Romans 8:6 – “For the mind of flesh is death; but the mind of the spirit is life and peace.” Verse 7 – “Because of this the mind of the flesh is enmity towards Yahweh, for it is not subject to the law of Yahweh, for neither can it be.” Verse 8 – “And those being in the flesh are not able to please Yahweh.” Verse 9 – “But you are not in the flesh, but in spirit, since the spirit of Yahweh dwells in you. But if anyone has not the spirit of Messiah, this one is not his.”
This says that our natural human mind has no desire to obey Yahweh. No one can say they have reached perfection and no longer sin.
I John 1:8 – “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves; and the truth is not in us.” Verse 10 – “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.”
So what do we do? He doesn’t want us to sin – but it’s built into our nature.
I John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
All we have to do is call on Him. Repent and ask forgiveness. He will forgive, but expects us to try harder.