There are few topics that divide Christians with such ferocity as baptism. This sacrament – necessary to the Christian faith – is modeled in Scripture by Jesus as well as His disciples in the early church. But when it comes to how we practice baptism, Christians are divided. Some churches practice infant baptism (paedobaptism) while others practice believer’s baptism (credo-baptism). Some believe you are saved through baptism, others believe it is a symbol of salvation, and others think it is somewhere between.
In this episode we break down four of these views and where they are found in Scripture to encourage greater understanding and unity in the church.
- Lutheran Views: https://www.lcms.org/about/beliefs/faqs/doctrine#baptism
- Reformed Baptist Views: https://www.challies.com/articles/whats-the-purpose-of-baptism/
- Six Views of Baptism: http://studies.travisechols.com/Six%20views%20on%20Baptism.pdf
- Craig Blomberg on Baptism: https://denverseminary.edu/article/baptism-three-views/
- Messianic View of Mikvah and Baptism: https://free.messianicbible.com/feature/mikvah-baptism-the-connection-between-immersion-conversion-and-being-born-again/
- Catholic View: http://shamelesspopery.com/the-case-for-infant-baptism/
- 1689 Baptist Confession: https://www.arbca.com/1689-chapter29
- Westminster Confession on Baptism: https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/westminster-confession-faith/
- PCA Statement: https://pcahistory.org/pca/digest/studies/2-079.html
- Churches of Christ on Baptism: https://www.bufordcoc.com/the-why-series-why-does-the-church-of-christ-believe-that-baptism-is-essential-to-salvation/
- Apologetics and Churches of Christ: https://www.namb.net/apologetics/resource/churches-of-christ/
- Baptist Distinctives on Baptism: https://www.baptistdistinctives.org/resource
- Catholic Catechism: https://www.usccb.org/sites/default/files/flipbooks/catechism/314/#zoom=z
- Catholic: Baptism Saves You – https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/baptism-saves-you
Welcome to Verity. I’m your host, Phylicia Masonheimer, an author, speaker and Bible teacher. This podcast will help you embrace the history and depth of the Christian faith. Ask questions, seek answers, and devote yourself to becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to settle for watered-down Christian teaching. And if you’re ready to go deeper, God is just as ready to take you there. This is Verity where every woman is a theologian.
Well, friends, we are back with a new episode in the Ask Anything Theology series. Thanks for your patience in our couple of weeks break there. I needed to do some research for these episodes and get everything ready to go for the next couple of weeks. There’s a lot of research that goes into these, so I appreciate your patience with that process. In this episode, you might also hear Ivan, he’s hanging with me in my office, and possibly a lawnmower because it’s Saturday, and we don’t have snow on the ground anymore. Yes, that is an actual concern in Michigan in May.
Without further ado, we are jumping in to discuss four views of baptism. This has been a top request both on Ask Anything Monday, and via email, and on the blog, and so, I thought this would be the fastest and most effective way to educate on some of the different views of baptism throughout the Christian church. We’re going to be looking at four different views, but they are housed within two sections or two different, I would say categories.
The first category is pedobaptism or infant baptism. The second category is credobaptism or believer’s baptism. So, pedo means child, credo indicates creed or testament. So, you are basing the baptism off someone’s personal testimony, and they have to be an adult in order to do that. The two main categories being pedobaptism and credobaptism. Underneath those categories are different ways of understanding what baptism accomplishes, and how it should work. So, we’re going to look at two subgroups within pedobaptism and then we’re going to look at two subgroups within credobaptism.
All right, so paedobaptism or Infant baptism, obviously, this kind of baptism is not going to be by immersion. It’s not going to be dunking because we don’t want to be dunking a baby in a baptismal font. [laughs] This is also called sprinkling, and there are a couple different ways to view it. One of the terms for this kind of baptism or this view of how Infant baptism works is called baptismal regeneration. We’re going to look at both the Catholic and the Lutheran views of this particular take on infant baptism, because Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and also Lutherans baptize infants. We’re going to start with the Roman Catholic view.
The Latin phrase, ex opere operato, basically, means that baptism in the Catholic tradition confers grace. I believe all of the sacraments in the Catholic Church, there is a measure of grace that is conferred upon the individual as they participate in that sacrament. It’s not just symbolic. Something is actually happening there. God is using a physical action of participating in a sacrament to administer grace to His people. This is a pretty fundamental doctrine within Catholicism and in more liturgical traditions. So, this is from the Roman Catholic catechism, which is explaining kind of what happens in baptism. It says, “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the Word. This sacrament is also called the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit, for it signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one can enter the kingdom of God.” So, clearly, baptism is a very important part of being a believer in the Catholic tradition.
I have a bunch of sources that will be in the show notes on the blog. A couple of them will be in the show notes on iTunes, but most of the show notes, and links, and articles will be on my blog, phyliciamasonheimer.com, and that is where I pull this information including directly from the Roman Catholic catechism. As always, and I say this every time I talk about a topic, when I want to know what the Catholic Church believes about something, I go to the Catholic Church. If I want to know what a Lutheran believes, I go to the Lutheran Church. I go directly to the source to get my information on these things rather than listen to somebody who just opposes them. So, I think that’s a really important part of good research and reporting, basically, the information correctly is to go directly to the source. What I’m about to share with you is a Catholic perspective on some of the fundamentals of baptism, and what it accomplishes.
First, baptism ushers people into the kingdom of God. It is the means of bringing people into the family and kingdom of God. I read, actually, a Lutheran text a couple years ago about the purpose of baptism being the beginning of discipleship and bringing people into the family of God, kind of a transition from their old family apart from God to this new family of God. Since these are infants who are being raised by Catholic parents, it’s really a serious thing, and the parents and the godparents need to be ready and equipped to be educating this child in the truths of the church and Scripture. So, ushers people into the kingdom of God.
Secondly, it represents the new circumcision, and the promise to bring the child up as a Christian and as a Catholic. This is really significant and this carries over to the other views of infant baptism as well, that baptism represents the same thing that circumcision represented for old covenant Israelites. It was a sign of being in the family of God. The understanding here is that circumcision is represented through baptism under the new covenant. So, for the Israelites, it was actual circumcision and then and under the new covenant of Christ, it is baptism.
This sets us up to understanding what we’re going to talk about regarding the necessity of baptism, because that baptism is a necessary condition of salvation. There are a couple different reasons that the church supports this and I’m going to read a couple verses. John 3:5, Jesus talking, says, “Truly, truly I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” Then, Paul later says that, “God’s saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” in Titus 3:5. Peter says, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you” in 1 Peter 3. Jesus also says, “He, who believes and is baptized will be saved” in Mark 16:16. Using these verses and others, the church believes that baptism saves. We’ll talk a little bit about what that means as far as implications in a little bit.
Now, this also is seen in church history, particularly the practice of infant baptism goes all the way back to the early church. One church father in particular, Cyprian in 253 said, “In respect of the case of infants, would you say ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, and that the law of ancient circumcision should be regarded, so that you think that one who’s just born should not be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day. We all thought very differently in our counsel. For in this course, which you thought was to be taken, no one agreed. But we all rather judge that the mercy and grace of God is not to be refused to anyone born of man. For as the Lord says in His gospel, the Son of Man has not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” Luke 4, “For as far as we can, we must strive that, if possible, no soul will be lost.”
What he’s talking about here is that, there’s a debate among the council on whether to baptize infants on the second day, or third day, or on the eighth day. Not that they should be not baptized at all, but that it’s accepted that infants were being baptized. The debate was over whether it’s earlier or later, and he’s saying we think we should do it as quickly as possible. So, this is just one example, but the early church was practicing Infant baptism fairly early.
Another point regarding Catholic baptism is that, it’s necessary for discipleship and oftentimes the church will look at passages like Ezekiel 36, which talks about this, saying, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall be clean from your uncleannesses and I will give you a new Spirit that I will put within you, and I will take out of your flesh the hardest stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.” This is a launching point, baptism is this launching point for discipleship by the parents ideally, and then within the family of God in the church, representing the new circumcision, the new circumcision of the heart, and being brought up as a part of the family of God.
Now, here is where things get sticky. If an infant is being baptized, and it signifies the conferring of grace, the conferring of the Holy Spirit upon the child, and the beginning of faith in that child’s heart, does that mean that the child is saved without ever having to make any testament of faith, ever having to actually follow Christ personally? Is there salvation permanent? What do we do with that? I think a lot of Protestants, non-Catholics, have that question. What happens then is this infant that was baptized into the Catholic Church literally grow up and believe, “I’m saved without ever having to actually walk in holiness,” or understand what they believe and have a personal relationship with Christ.
Here’s the important thing to note. This baptism is not magical. It actually does have to be walked out. The faith that is put into the heart of the child has to be nurtured and affirmed in order for salvation to be worked out in that individual. This is where the importance of confirmation comes in. That confirmation you’re confirming your faith in Christ. Hopefully, the parents of the child have raised him, and discipled him, and taught him the truth of Scripture so that they can make that educated decision to be confirmed within the church. So, this really emphasizes that combination of God’s gracious work in the heart of the believer, alongside the response of man to God, which is really fundamental to Catholic theology that in order to make grace effectual, man must actually interact with that grace, actually work out their salvation with fear and trembling.
Infants that are baptized, and have that seed of faith planted in the Catholic church, and have that seed of faith planted by the Holy Spirit can eventually reject the Holy Spirit as they age, as they grow up. Although, and my Catholic followers can correct me if I’m wrong, I believe their membership in the Catholic church is permanent, unless, they submit a statement requesting to be removed from the records. So, they’re still considered a baptized member of the church even if they are nonobservant, and not actually saved.
So, in the Catholic view, you’re baptizing the child into the discipleship of the family, into the covenant Family of God, and you’re going to be walking out your salvation as you grow older, and are educated in the truths of Scripture. So, the Holy Spirit basically can grow in his influence over your life or you can reject Him. You can quench the Spirit and you can walk away from your salvation.
Now, we’re going to look at another branch within that baptismal regeneration view. This is the Lutheran view. This is according to Lutheran scholar, Robert Cole, who says, “Baptism fulfills what God promised to His Old Testament people. It gives salvation, new life in Christ to those who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. Although, baptism saves, according to Lutheran theology, baptism is God’s action and action of His word.” So, it’s important to note here especially, because of Luther’s perspective on salvation by grace alone that baptism as a work is not saving you. It’s God’s action through baptism.
Similar to the Catholic church, the Lutheran church holds that baptism is one of the miraculous means of grace. So, it’s conferring grace. Another example would be the Word of God that is written and spoken, and that God creates or strengthens the gift of faith in a person’s heart. The sources for this are Acts 2, Acts 22, 1 Peter 3, Galatians 3, Romans 6, Colossians 2, and 1 Corinthians 12. When the Bible talks about the beginning of faith, it includes terms like conversion and regeneration. The Lutherans don’t claim to understand fully how this happens. They believe that when the infant is baptized, God creates faith in the heart of the infant, again, similar to the Catholic view, and this is because, citing Matthew 18:6, they say, the Bible says that infant can believe and that regeneration happens in baptism, according to John 3 once again. So, of course, the infant can’t actually make any kind of response. Ivan here is trying to give some responses and thoughts but obviously, he’s not intellectually capable of responding to this type of ritual. The faith that is in the child is considered real and present even though the child cannot verbally express or fully understand it. But once again, the faith of the child must be nurtured by God’s word and discipleship or it will die. It will quench the Holy Spirit and they will not actually be walking in salvation.
So, the traditional Lutheran approach and also the Catholic approach are similar, although, slightly different, because in some of my research that I was reading the LCMS at the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church does not believe that baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation. So, a little difference here. All true believers in the Old Testament era were saved without baptism, is their reasoning. They also indicate that Mark 16 implies that, it is not the absence of baptism that condemns a person, but the absence of faith. So, there are other ways of coming to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit. So, baptism is very, very important. It does confer grace. When it’s available, it would be the proposed mode of experiencing that grace for infant children, but God can save people apart from baptism.
We’re still in paedobaptism world, we’re still in infant baptism category. We’ve talked about baptismal regeneration with Catholics and Lutherans under that label. Now, we’re going to move over to covenantal baptism. This is also a sprinkling infant baptism version, but it has a different reasoning, and a different way it’s understood and how it’s practiced. Once again, the thought process with covenantal baptism is that it is the sign and seal of the New Covenant replacing circumcision. All of those who are baptizing infants are looking to the parallels between circumcision and baptism, even as they disagree on exactly how it works out. So, not only is baptism replacing circumcision as a sign of being in this Christian home, but it also is a seal of future faith. This particular practice of covenantal baptism is common in your more Reformed churches. Not all of them, such as Reformed Baptists would disagree, but more of your CREC, Dutch Reformed, Presbyterian-type churches. In this Reformed theology view, baptism is what’s effective. Divine grace is really conferred by the Holy Ghost through baptism. So, this is a mystery, it’s not completely understood, but this is what God has decided to do, according to Richard Pratt. Very similarly to circumcision, baptism serves as an entrance into the covenant community or family of God. So, the child is baptized into the family of God, but once again, that child as they grow up, must actually express faith in God and repentance as he or she gets older. This is just as God required His people to circumcise their hearts as Tim Challies describes it. Now, Sinclair Ferguson is a scholar who holds to the covenantal view and he describes this form of baptism as a sign and seal of the covenant of grace. It in itself is not regenerating. So, the children who are baptized in the covenantal model are still responsible for owning faith for themselves. And this practice of owning faith moving towards a confirmation-style rite is a very important part of that process.
So, now, I’m going to read to you from the Westminster Confession about baptism. Because this is going to better express exactly what I’m describing here. This is what it says. “Baptism is a sacrament of the new testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church, but also, to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life. Which sacrament is, by Christ’s own appointment, to be continued in His Church until the end of the world. Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary, but baptism is rightly administered by pouring, or sprinkling water upon the person. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one or both believing parents, are to be baptized. The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered, yet not\withstanding by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such whether of age or infants as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in His appointed time.”
So, this last portion connects to the Reformed theology of election. If you haven’t listened to the Calvinistic versus Arminianism episode, I highly recommend doing so, because that will help explain what is being said here in this last portion, that essentially those who God has elected to be saved will experience His grace through baptism. If they were not elected to be saved, then that baptism would not be effective, essentially.
This view, just in summary is again, that baptism is the sign and seal of the new covenant. It’s ushering people into the church, infants included. It can be adults, but it can also be infants of believing parents and the commitment to raise them in the covenant Family of God. But once again, they do have to actually walk out that Holy Ghost impartation at baptism or eventually reject it. In the case of rejecting it, that would be because they were not elected. That’s the difference between this Reformed covenantal approach, and the Catholic or Lutheran approach. Actually, I would say the Catholic approach more so than Lutheran, because Luther was a reformer. But the Catholic approach where man actually does have a part in responding to God’s salvation, whereas in the Reformed view, it is all by God’s grace and man does not have a part in working out his salvation in regard to partnering with the salvation process.
We’ve talked about paedobaptism and some different perspectives within that view. Now, we’re going to turn to credobaptism, believer’s baptism. Where paedobaptism often involves pouring or sprinkling most of the time, credobaptism or baptism of the believer, believing adult, is by immersion. So, [chuckles] the dunk tank model of baptism. Within this immersion view, there are two sub categories. One, we’re going to call salvation occasion baptism. So, baptism is the occasion of salvation. It’s when salvation habits they can’t be separated. Then, believer’s baptism in which baptism is a symbol of personal faith. But is not the actual act of salvation.
Let’s start with salvation occasion baptism. In this belief, baptism is the culminating act of salvation, and is necessary to complete it. So, even though you’re baptizing an adult who’s making a confession of faith in Jesus Christ, it is absolutely necessary to be baptized in order for that salvation to be complete. So, this is based on the fact that baptism and salvation are linked throughout Scripture. A person who holds to salvation occasion baptism uses all the same passages that Catholics and Lutherans use in regard to baptism. 1 Peter 3, Colossians 2, Mark 16:16, where salvation and baptism are connected. Peter, comparing baptism to the water that saved Noah said, “Baptism now saves you.” Paul compared baptism to circumcision under the Mosaic law and then Jesus said, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” Based on these texts, similarly to the Catholic view, those who hold the salvation occasion baptism believe that baptism is an essential part of salvation. However, it’s important that the person be an adult who is making that confession of faith. Based on those passages, baptism is essential to salvation because it is when someone sins are forgiven and when someone receives the Holy Spirit. It’s not that baptism is the grace of God or that it’s a work accomplished to earn the grace of God. It’s that it is the occasion on which God dispenses the grace of salvation. So, it is the point of actual salvation. That’s what baptism is, the time and place that God forgives and saves.
So, salvation is given at baptism. The two are linked, salvation and baptism. And once again, similar to what we’ve talked about before under the pedobaptist umbrella, baptism has a threefold purpose. It’s necessary for salvation, it places the believer in Christ, and it places the believer in the church starts the discipleship process. Salvation occasion baptism is particularly common in churches of Christ, which came out of the denomination, Disciples of Christ, which is somewhat descended from the Baptists. So, if you grew up in a church of Christ denomination, then this would be very familiar to you. It’d also explain why baptism was considered so vitally important that you cannot be saved if you are not baptized, because of salvation occasion baptism.
Moving on to our last point within credobaptism or baptism of adults by immersion, we’re going to talk about believer’s baptism. This is what you’d be familiar with if you grew up in most Baptist, Southern Baptist, or nondenominational churches as well as some Anabaptist churches. In this view, baptism is an outward symbol of personal faith by an adult or a child. Scholar, Bruce Ware, is one of the foremost defenders of the believer’s baptism position. He says, “The parallel between circumcision, and baptism, and the new covenant is not between physical circumcision and Infant baptism. Rather, the parallel is between spiritual circumcision of the heart and baptism, which signifies regeneration, faith, and union with Christ. Infant baptism may even give false assurance and add confusion about who is a member of God’s family.” What Ware his saying is that people who are baptized as infants may actually misconstrue the teachings on baptism to mean that they are saved when they actually are not, when they have not actually owned their faith, walked out their faith, and continue to walk in personal relationship with Christ in continued Holiness. So, in the believer’s baptist position, it’s all symbolic. Baptism itself does not save you. It is a representation of a spiritual state of the heart, and it is only performed for confessing adults and children who can actually make the choice or response to Christ. Now, even if someone is Reformed, they may hold to a believer’s Baptist position. Even if they think that, man can’t respond to God of his own free will, the Reformed Baptist physician would still say that the Believers baptism is the correct way to go about baptism.
Bruce Ware and Craig Blomberg have written extensively about this, but Blomberg says in an article for Denver Seminary, “The parallels between the old and new covenants in Colossians 2:12 are between circumcision and faith, not circumcision and baptism. Both of the latter are initiation rites to be sure, but circumcision was an initiation rite, not just spiritually, but ethnically for ancient Israelites. Hence, appropriate for babies whose ethnicity was assured even if their later spirituality wasn’t. Since Christians are not limited to any particular ethnicity, it is not appropriate to baptize infants in new covenant times.”
A few other prooftexts that are used for this are in Acts 2, Acts 8, and Acts 16, baptism was followed a conversion. It never preceded it and it was not necessary for salvation. Baptists look to the Bible as their authority for faith and practice, and argue that because there was a conversion prior to baptism, then therefore we should not be baptizing infants. Now, I hope at this point, you can see that the other traditions are actually looking to the Bible as well as the foundation for their position. So, we have to be very careful with saying, “Well, the Bible is clear about this particular thing,” because so far in the four different denominations we’ve looked at, we have seen that each one used Scripture to support their point.
Because of what Baptists see in Scripture, they do not baptize infants. Now, at first, this refusal resulted in persecution. For instance, even in America, Henry Dunster, the first president of Harvard University, was forced not only from his office, but also banished from Cambridge for refusing to have his infant children baptized in the state-supported church. This is from Baptist Distinctives which will be in the show notes. So, it’s very interesting to see how the Anabaptists and the Baptists were both persecuted for not complying with infant baptism, which was the norm in the church at that time. That’s a shame, because they were arriving at their conclusions from their study of Scripture just as the other churches had arrived at theirs.
So, to the Baptists, or those who hold to the believer’s baptism, not even just the denomination Baptist, baptism is symbolic and it’s not sacramental. The Bible is teaching to someone who holds to Believers baptism, that baptism symbolizes that a person has been saved. It’s not a means of salvation in itself. So, it’s not imparting grace, it’s just testifying to the saving grace that has been given. So, it’s not actually washing away sin. It symbolizes the inner transformation and forgiveness of sin that Christ has brought about.
I wanted to read from the articles of the First London Confession by Baptists. This was written in 1644. This is how they said it. “Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament given by Christ to be dispensed only upon persons professing faith, or that are disciples, or taught who upon professional faith ought to be baptized. The way and manner of the dispensing of this ordinance the Scripture holds out to be dipping or plunging the whole body under water.” About 40 years later, in the 1689 Baptist Confession, this was written about baptism. “Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of positive and sovereign institution appointed by the Lord Jesus, the only Lawgiver to be continued in His turf to the end of the world. These Holy appointments are to be administered by those only who are qualified and called according to the commission of Christ. Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament ordained by Jesus to be unto the party baptized a sign of His fellowship with Jesus in His death and resurrection, of the Christians being engrafted into Jesus, of remission of sins, and of giving up into God through Jesus Christ to live and walk in newness of life. Those who do actually profess repentance towards God, faith in and obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ are the only proper subjects of this ordinance. The outward element to be used in this ordinance is water, where in the party is to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Immersion or dipping of the person in water is necessary to the due administration of this ordinance.” Once again, to recap, this is not a sacramental or covenantal thing. It is symbolic of an inner transformation and salvation is distinct from baptism and must precede the baptism process. Also, it is of course by full immersion. It is not sprinkling or pouring.
Having talked about these different views, the pedobaptist and credobaptist overarching approaches and then within those the subcategories, looking at baptismal regeneration, covenantal baptism, salvation occasion baptism, and believer’s baptism, we can see that the church unites around baptism as a sacramental act, as an act that shows what Christ has done or what Christ is doing in the life of the believer. That’s what we unite around. Baptism is a first-tier doctrine. It’s an essential because Jesus Himself implemented it and gave us the example. But how that actually works out in individual churches and individual believers’ lives will probably look very different. That’s when that becomes secondary. We do not get to say that someone is not a Christian because they practice baptism differently or that they have looked at Scripture and said, “I think this is how it works.” What we want to see is that they are practicing baptism, and that they are holding to those essential core doctrines of Christianity.
The last thing I want to talk about is something that in all of my research for this episode, I did not see mentioned even once. I think it’s interesting that in all the discussion of what baptism is and how we should practice it, so many of the scholars I was reading did not refer back to the Jewish precedent for baptism, and maybe what it would have looked like at that time. Of course, I know that there are scholars who have referenced this, but the ones I was reading simply did not. So, I want to bring it up as I conclude this episode.
It’s helpful sometimes to look at the Jewish context in which baptism was practiced. When Jesus was baptized or immersed by John, what was that about? Because the church did not exist yet, why would Jesus do that? What was the significance? Why would He go to John and have Him immersed in the Jordan river? Well, this points back to the Jewish concept of mikvah. Mikvah existed both prior to Christian baptism, but also alongside circumcision. It was for ritual cleansing before weddings, after menstruation for women, before going into the temple, and before attending festivals. There’s indication that Jesus was baptized in the fall right before many of the holy festivals, and it could be related to his baptism at the beginning of his ministry.
The mikvah is a pool of water, has to be living water, whether rainwater or a natural spring, that represents both the womb and also death and resurrection. When a gentile wanted to convert to Judaism, they had to undergo both circumcision and immersion in a mikvah. For women, it was only immersion. So, when they went through this process, the Talmud says that, that person, that gentile becomes an Israelite in all respects as soon as they come out of the water. In John 3, when Jesus is telling Nicodemus that he must be born again, and he says,” How can I be born again when I am old?”, Nicodemus was really referencing his understanding of the mikvah and of that process of being born again. He’s saying, “How can I become Jewish again, when I’m already a Jew?” Jesus then says that, “You must have a spiritual transformation. You must be born of water and the Spirit, not just be of Jewish heritage to be a part of the kingdom of God.” This context is very important in our understanding of baptism. I think it should at least make us think if mikvah ritual cleansing existed alongside circumcision, why would then circumcision be replaced by baptism? Could it not be that baptism and circumcision already coexisted? So, then why would one be replacing the other? We also have to consider what was meant by the mikvah and the practice of baptism among the Jews that Jesus Himself practiced. What did it mean to them? What did it mean for Jesus? And then, how do we translate that theological principle to today? I will have a link from a messianic perspective on the mikvah, what it meant, some pictures of ancient mikvahs what they looked like, so that you can learn a little bit more about it, and maybe think this through, and consider the perspective that this might add to the conversation.
I hope, this episode was helpful and gave you a little bit more light shed on the different views of baptism in the churches that we know today. I hope that it also improves our conversations across the aisle with those who hold to either pedobaptism or credobaptism depending on which side you’re on. I hope you’ll join me next week as we talk about dispensationalism.