Come to the water

January 8th, 2019

Many Christians tend to think baptism originated with John the Baptist. However, the idea of baptism stems from the Old Testament practice known as tevilah, an act of immersion in natural sourced water for purification rituals called a mikvah. It was customary for Jews to participate in this holy bath after doing something that would label them as spiritually unclean. There were many strange rules that could result in someone being labeled as unclean! For example, in Leviticus 16, Moses’ brother, Aaron, had to use a mikvah for cleansing after having contact with his dead sons’ bodies.

A vehicle of grace

In the New Testament, John introduced an adaptation of the mikvah known as baptism. John the Baptist invited people to repent and be baptized as a way to be cleansed from their sins. Because of Jesus’ baptism, we now recognize baptism as an outward sign of an inward spiritual union with Christ. The United Methodist Church defines baptism as a sacrament. “In a sacrament, God uses common elements — in this case, water — as means or vehicles of divine grace. Baptism is administered by the church as the Body of Christ. It is the act of God through the grace of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit.”

United with Christ

Baptism is a sign and public recognition of the presence of God’s grace in our lives. Through baptism we begin the journey of living out God’s grace. It’s important to realize baptism does not equate to our salvation. The thief on the cross was not baptized, yet Jesus assured him they would be in heaven together (see Luke 23:43). Our salvation comes through our faith in Jesus Christ and our acceptance of God’s grace. However, for Christians, baptism is essential for obedience to Jesus’ command that those who believe in him should be baptized (see Matthew 28:19; Acts 16:30-33).

Focal scriptures: Matthew 3:11-17; Romans 6:1-11; Acts 8:26-40 

For a complete lesson on this topic visit LinC.

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