Focus on Jesus Series
by Ed Vasicek
“Baptism” comes from the Greek word “baptizo,” meaning “to immerse or dip.” We understand the Scriptures to teach that believers in Christ are to be immersed in “the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Although baptism may be the formalizing of conversion, we believe individuals are saved at the point of belief.
Here is some interesting material from Brad Young’s book, Jesus, the Jewish Theologian, pp.15-16:
“In the Jewish teachings of the Mishnah, living water—defined as rivers or seas—was the highest grade of cleansing for ritual immersion (m. Mikvaot 1:6). The person was required to be immersed in living water which could be collected from rain or rivers.... It is...significant that the Dead Sea sect required religious purity before baptism. The individual seeking baptism was required to turn from wickedness before entering the waters of ritual immersion. Repentance preceded baptism in the Dead Sea community.
John the Baptist employed the same standard. The one who desired baptism was required first to turn from sin and then approach the waters with a pure heart.... Josephus explains that in John’s teachings repentance purified the soul while baptism cleansed the body. Josephus remarks concerning John the Baptist:
For Herod had put him (John the Baptist) to death, though he was a good man and had exhorted the Jews to lead righteous lives, to practice justice towards their fellows and piety towards God, and so doing to join in baptism. In his view this was a necessary preliminary if baptism was to be acceptable to God. They must not employ it to gain pardon for whatever sins they committed, but as a consecration of the body implying that the soul was already thoroughly cleansed by right behavior.
John called on the people to practice piety and pursue a lifestyle of right conduct. The center of John the Baptist’s activities was located close to the geographical area of Tel Qumran and near the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Moreover, John’s theological understanding of baptism seems to be similar to the approach taken to the ritual immersion practiced by the Dead Sea sect. Was John a member of the Dead Sea community?... No.... He did not stipulate that they sell all their possessions and join his group of disciples who waited for the last days in the wilderness. Instead his prophetic message implored the people to live a holy life in the mainstream of society. The religious mindset at Qumran could not tolerate John’s approach.”
Highland Park Church
516 West Sycamore Street
Kokomo, Indiana, USA