The Waters of Immersion

POSTED 23 OCTOBER, 2017

How do today’s Messianic people approach the issue of water immersion? There are varied Jewish and Christian traditions and customs we have doubtlessly been affected by, in both direct and indirect ways, when approaching this. In Judaism, water immersion, or the usage of the mikveh bath, is rooted within Torah instructions regarding ritual purity, for both the Levitical priests and the people in general. In Christianity, the process of being baptized has normally been employed to signify an outward identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), and often takes place after a public commitment of trust in Him has been made. In Judaism, water immersion of some kind is often a regular process for the faithful. In Protestant Christianity, baptism is considered a sacrament, and as such tends to only be a one-time or singular practice.

Where does today’s Messianic community stand? We stand somewhere in-between the recognition of water immersion or mikveh as a regular, important practice for the people of God, as well as recognizing that what is commonly known as “Believer’s baptism” is also quite significant for men and women of faith. Too frequently, however, Messianic people have not adequately explored some of the particulars of water immersion. For much of today’s Messianic community, our understanding of water baptism is cosmetic: we speak more in terms of “immersion” or “mikveh,” and a surface-level comprehension of various evangelical Christian cultures of baptism are given a Messianic veneer. While appreciating many Christian emphases present surrounding water immersion for those who have made a confession of faith in the Messiah is important, there is much more about the waters of immersion, often represented by today’s Messianics as mikveh, to be considered.

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reproduced from Torah In the Balance, Volume II

The views expressed and practices witnessed, regarding the place of God’s Torah in the life of contemporary Messianic Believers, are more likely to cause tension for far too many people—than facilitate any sense of spiritual fulfillment, much less relief. There is little doubting the fact that as a widely mixed group of people, from both Jewish and Christian backgrounds, that each man and woman within the Messianic community brings both positive and negative things into the assembly. When it comes to the issue of Torah observance, the spectrum of views and practices has been too often polarized between an Orthodox Jewish, hyper-traditional style—and some anti-traditional, quasi-Karaite style. Much of this has come about because there is an entire array of issues, which need some preliminary handling, and which has yet to receive it.

Torah In the Balance, Volume II is a book which recognizes that the Torah does regulate many physical actions to be performed by God’s people. Faith in the Lord is hardly just a series of abstract mental beliefs or doctrines; it is also something which is to be demonstrated in concrete works. But when we consider the importance of external works as a manifestation of our trust in Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), what is some of the variance seen in on-the-ground Messianic settings? How do people keep the seventh-day Sabbath/Shabbat, eat kosher, or sanctify the appointed times? What about our physical dress and appearance? What about issues like circumcision or water immersion (baptism)? What about various religious symbols like the cross or Star of David? Even when Messianic people have been theologically convinced that Moses’ Teaching remains valid instruction for God’s people today, there is going to be variance, and even internal disagreement, about how it is to be implemented for those living in the Twenty-First Century.

This publication has been long anticipated in addressing some of the finer-issues of Torah observance witnessed within the Messianic movement. It takes into consideration the theological and spiritual developments of the 2000s-2010s to be sure, but more importantly tries to present the necessary third way which must emerge for our Torah observance. This is crucial, as we steadily develop into a force of holiness and righteousness in the world, and strive to commit ourselves to further obedience.

364 pages