New Testament Teachings - Baptisms or Mikvehs For Today


New Testament Teachings
Baptisms or Mikvehs For Today

by Randy Schroeder

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and resurerction of dead, and of eternal judgement. (Hebrews 6:1-2)



As we grow in our Christian faith we have a tendency to stand entrenched upon the fundamental doctrines of the faith as taught by the church elders. This is good, unless the doctrines of our elders only allowed partial understanding. I entered into my promise of salvation and was baptized at the ripe old age of ten years old. By the time I was thirty with three children, I had become a youth minister, part time teacher and deacon of a large Baptist church.

Thus, when this verse was referenced, as a Baptist, I was confident that I knew the doctrine of baptisms (I subconsciously overlooked the plurality of the "baptisms."). I recall that my thoughts echoed an old hamburger commercial, "Where's the beef? Give me the beef [meat]," that I might go on to perfection. It didn't take very long for me to know that I was in a lifelong pursuit for "perfection." However, it wasn't until many years later that the Holy Spirit began to open my eyes and gave more revelation to the significance of the plurality I had overlooked as well as the blessings I had not enjoyed because of my theological blockages.

Theologically, I rationalized the baptisms as three different elements as described by John the baptizer:

I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: (Matthew 3:11, and Luke 3:13)

Thus, I believed in three baptisms: water, Holy Ghost (Ruach HaKodesh) and fire. Remember, I held the Baptist theology so:

1. Water was strictly unto repentance and identification with Christ's burial and resurrection. (Gal 3:27, Col 2:12, etc.)

2. Holy Ghost baptism was the story of Pentecost as represented by the sealing of the Holy Spirit unto the promise (Eph 1:13-14, 4:30, etc.). He was our teacher, but not operating in tongues, gifts, nor the charismatic and healing manifestations of the Spirit.

3. Fire was the instrument used to try our faith and bring forth righteousness (Luke 12:49, 1 Pe 1:7, Rev 3:18). It was an intellectual application for the sufferings of believers - not the reality of its presence. I had no understanding of the fire of heart circumcision (Deut 30:6, Jer 4:4), nor the fire of his burning, cleansing upon my body, nor the anguish of my soul because of the sin within me (Isa 33:14-17). After all, I was forgiven through faith by Messiah's atoning sacrifice and God no longer saw my former sin. (Which is true, but then there is the flesh...)

In other words, by the revelation of the Spirit, many readers might understand that I was deficient in my knowledge and theology on each one of even these three recognized "baptisms." It is not my purpose to present or argue a theological treatise for each, but rather to present my testimony about a deeper revelation about water "baptism" which took many years of pastoring, before I could see what was right in front of my eyes - both in the scriptures and in the moving of the Spirit.

Romans 10:14 poses the question of how we can have faith and believe in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ) if we have not heard:

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:14)

Likewise, I present this teaching so that you may hear and believe upon the Word as the Spirit of God has revealed it to me. Not everyone who hears and even obeys will truly receive this teaching or partake of the effect of this teaching. Both (obedience and receiving) are measured by faith and the purposes of God at any given time in our lives. All I ask is that you consider this testimony, and then seek the Lord for your own revelation.

Water Baptism

First, let's recap the general understanding about water baptism. According to the scriptures water baptism is an act of being joined to Christ in his death, that we are arisen with Him in the newness of life as conquerors over sin. Summarized:

1. Buried with Christ in death

2. Risen with Him in newness of life

3. Victorious over sin.

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  (Romans 6:1-11) (emphasis mine)

The word baptize only occurs in the New Testament writings. However, the practice has its roots in the scriptures of the Tanach (Old Testament) as we shall discuss shortly. According to Strong's Concordance the Greek word "baptize" (G907) means "to make whelm (that is, fully wet)". From this definition and the Jewish temple traditions, many Christian denominations practice full immersion as opposed to sprinkling. While I believe there is precedent for the practice of full immersion, rather than debate the method of baptism, I simply want to point out the importance of baptism following our believing in Christ.

1. Baptism is Christ's commandment that we are to obediently follow. Yeshua said,

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: .. (Matthew 28:19-20)

2. Without baptism, which is our identification with Christ's death and resurrection, where is the believer's promise that he has the power to overcome sin? Doesn't the passage we just read in Romans 6:1-11 clearly state that after receiving the grace given through Messiah's blood sacrifice, it is by the baptism unto His death that we are raised in resurrection power to overcome sin?

For he that is dead is freed from sin. (Romans 6:7)

3. With our belief we are sealed with the Holy Spirit as token of our earnest inheritance of eternal life in Christ:

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

4. We have the privilege or "right" through the act of obedience in baptism to "receive" the gift of Holy Ghost baptism (remember: baptism = full immersion).

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)

There are two things we must recognize in this passage.

First this is not the seal of the Holy Spirit spoken of which we received upon our acceptance of Christ's sacrifice. This is a gift of the Holy Spirit to be "received" upon our baptism in the name of Yeshua, the Christ.

Secondly, the key word in this passage is the word translated "receive," - "ye shall receive the gift.." The Greek word used here is lambano - a very active verb meaning to get or take hold of, to seize, to obtain, to attain, etc. (Strong's G2983) In other words, it has a different connotation than to simply "accept"- (G1209: dechomai). In receiving the Holy Ghost there is a pursuit or an apprehension to be accomplished. The same active verb (lambano) is used in Mark 11:24. Its understanding may give the body of Christ further insight into why prayers are not always answered:

Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. (Mark 11:24)

Following Pentecost the most general "reception" of the Holy Ghost was in the laying on of hands as exampled by:

When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. (Acts 19:5-6)

In this second example, also notice that these Samaritan Christians, who had been baptized in the name of Yeshua, had not yet received the Holy Ghost:

Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. (Acts 8:14-17)

However, there are many even today who have "received" the Holy Ghost either through their active pursuit or the sovereign will of God, just as did Cornelius (Peter speaking):

While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. (Acts 10:44-48)

In summary, the believer's baptism is crucial and with great promise to the identification with Christ and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit so that we might be able to walk as victorious overcomers to our sin and the enemies of our soul.

The Roots of Baptism

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. (Mark 1:1-4)

Here we see John the baptizer, son of the priest, Zacharias, preaching the preparing the way of the people to meet their Lord through the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. There are two elements in this verse to recognize:

1. Preparation to meet the Lord.

2. Repentance for the remission of sins.

We are summarily introduced to these truths as if we should understand their foundations. And yet, many Christians have never thought about or recognized the origins of baptism into Christ or baptism for the repentance of sins due to a lack of understanding from their Hebraic foundations. Even the early church fathers and modern scholars attribute Christian Baptism to the Jews. Dr. Merrill Tenney, the editor of the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible said, "Baptism as a rite of immersion was not begun by Christians but was taken by them from Jewish and pagan forms.."

The mikveh "washings" can be understood as the foundation for Christian baptisms. The first scriptural reference to the root word from which mikveh is derived can be found in Genesis:

And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together (miqveh) of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:10)

Therefore, the Hebrew definition of a mikveh is a gathering of waters, such as a pool, lake, bath or even the sea. However, is taking a mikveh simply a "ritual immersion" as most define it (including Wikipedia), or is there purpose whose understanding has been lost to not only the world, but the church as well?

The early church consisted of many Jewish believers in Christ who ascribed to daily bathing before prayer or study of the scriptures - a practice attributed to Ezra when Jerusalem became known as "the holy city." Not only did the Essenes and other "dawn bathers" (tovelei shaharit) follow this practice in preparation for the Messiah, the Hemerobaptists (Greek for daily bathers.) and others practiced daily immersion as part of their purification after Christ's resurrection. Water immersion was the primary way of spiritual purification from defilement. In other words, once one was sanctified by the blood, defilement from unclean things was accomplished through water immersion.

To the ancient Jews, taking a mikveh was a devoutly serious process of spiritual purification and cleansing. It was performed in the presence of one or more witness. From this "verifying" witness we get "in the name of", which is to say, "I baptize you in the name of "the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." In this way we are instructed to call upon the triune godhead to witness the act of the baptism being performed. Preparations of both the body (cutting nails, undressing) and the soul (profession of faith) were of primary importance.

The participant stood with feet apart, hands held out in front, and would then totally immerse themselves by squatting in the water. The baptizer or witness usually did not assist the one taking the mikveh in order that all areas of the flesh could be purified by the water. Just like our proclamation of accepting Christ, the devotee would affirm (or reaffirm) his acceptance of the Torah (The Word - John 1:1) and the forsaking of his unrighteous deeds.

The devotee ascribed to being fully immersed (i.e. the Greek word baptizo) according to the commandment that "all his flesh" should be washed in water. (e.g. Lev 15:16) Throughout the Tanach (Old Testament), and especially in Leviticus, the people and priests were often commanded to wash their flesh without specifying "all" the flesh. Although these references applied to a specific area of defilement, the Rabbi's interpreted that nothing was exempt from this pattern of full immersion when repentance for defilement from sin was involved.

Rabbinical literature refers to the baptismal waters as "the womb of the world." Consequently, when a convert came out of the water it was considered a "new birth" - a birth into Elohim and a separation from the old pagan world. He would be called a "little child just born," or "a child of one day." The New Testament uses similar terminology such as "born anew," "new creation" and "born from above."

The purpose of mikveh immersion was for spiritual purity and awakening. Ron Moseley, Ph. D. ("The Jewish Background of Christian Baptism") states that recent archeological finds have discovered 48 different mikveh pools leading to the temple. There were mikveh pools for different classes; the priests, people, those with skin adhesions, etc. Additionally, pools for the high priest, Sanhedrin, and Levitical order were located within the temple.

My Mikveh Introduction

My experience with a mikveh actually began shortly after I was ordained into the ministry. We had joined with our church's former worship leader in a bimonthly, in-home, praise and worship meeting, begun a men's bible study and a weekly woman's fellowship (led by my wife). We were ministering mostly to people who attended an Evangelical Presbyterian Church, but were seeking the reality of the Holy Spirit in their lives. The powerful demonstration and presence of the Holy Spirit were rich in our fellowship meetings and we were finding our way to be attuned to His every move.

One of the men, who was married and father of two children, told me that he was never baptized and asked that if we could find the opportunity, he'd like to be obedient in baptism! (It was truly a divine appointment that he asked me, and not our church's pastor to baptize him.) Since we were meeting in our homes and it was the fall, the availability of a baptistry, pool or lake wasn't readily handy. As I began pondering the alternatives and praying about the problem, I became impressed to "keep this at home" and undertook building a baptistery - in our back yard!

So with plywood, 2x4's, and a heavy black plastic garden sheeting for a liner I built a baptistery that looked more like a 2' wide x 6' long x 4' deep coffin - top and all. (We needed the top to keep the water warm.) What could be a more appropriate looking baptismal for the symbolic representation of dying to the old self and rising to life in Jesus Christ?

Then, as we approached the day selected for the baptism more and more of the fellowship asked to partake as well. We even had an English lady who couldn't be baptized in the Anglican Church who was thrilled at the opportunity. Before the evening came to pass some fifteen to sixteen people wanted to be baptized - many for the first time, but for some it was a second or third time. Then, when I asked my wife's co-leader of the women's fellowship if she was going to get baptized, she said, "You mean take a mikveh don't you?" A mikveh? - I hadn't heard that word since college. "Yeah," I responded, "a mikveh."

We planned the meeting for a Thursday evening, the first week of October. We had it choreographed that after we emptied our home's hot water tank into the baptismal, we'd have a short teaching on baptism to be held in the family room. Then, the ladies would be immersed first, exiting through the patio door wall, receiving baptism, and go around the house through the garage and into the basement to change. Then we would minister to the three or four men, and conclude with a short praise and worship time before dismissal. I thought it was a good, orderly plan estimated to accomplish the assignment in about an hour or so.

All but one couple (the women's co-leader who first said "mikveh") showed up promptly, the teaching was simple and direct and we were proceeding as planned until about the third person (a third timer) came up from out of the water and God showed up to change the plan. An awesome weight of the Spirit came down in that back yard, the Spirit of Prophecy fell upon me and an Egyptian missionary. The heavens opened with visions of angelic presence.

As people came up from the water great joy and lightness of spirit lit up on them. Laughter and elation followed the stream of "drunken," wet believers staggering back into the house under the Spirit's touch. It became more and more difficult for the people to arise from and get out of the baptismal. The "mikveh" lady and her husband arrived just as we were finishing the last one. By this time the water had cooled considerably in the brisk October night air. Never the less they wanted to take their mikveh.

He went first and came out of the water aglow with prophetic words being spoken over him. She went in believing in her cleansing and could not get out. This charismatic lady "gasped" at the weight of His presence and collapsed back into the baptismal "coffin" time and time again until her husband and I had to lift her out. She was limp as the dead, but laughing wholeheartedly.

Meanwhile, inside the house, the English visitor, who had already been immersed and gotten redressed, leaned against the patio door to see better. Just then, someone slid the heavy door wall open directly upon her forehead. It left a bleeding gash in her forehead - and she was a hemophiliac. When I came in, another man and I prayed for her. The bleeding instantly stopped and by the end of the evening the only evidence was a slight mark - no gash! By the following day - barely a trace!

Nearly everyone rejoiced saying they felt so refreshed and lighter in spirit. We counted it all joy, but at the time we didn't understand the message which God was demonstrating to us concerning a mikveh.

The Continuing Message

Over the next 14 years, the Lord repeatedly manifested Himself whenever we answered the urging of the Holy Spirit to have a mikveh. Not everyone, every time experienced the physical "touch" of the Holy Spirit's moving. However, every time someone experienced the Lord's presence in a supernatural way.

Once, after nearly my entire family (14 people) participated in one such urging, seemingly nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. Then, when I stepped up and my son was praying over me, I was immersed by the force of the Holy Spirit's "push" three different times before I could be helped to stand back up! Wonderful! And although it was a confirmation of our obedience, I did not get the fuller understanding. It didn't come until several years later when once again my family had gathered from all directions of the compass for the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) and we had another mikveh.

At that time, the Sprit of the Lord spoke to my understanding about difference between water baptism unto Christ (our traditional understanding) and baptism for the cleansing of the flesh. One is for the identification/proclamation of the redemption of the soul, the other is for the purifying washing away of sin from the flesh. One is for eternal completion and the other for temporal continuance in holiness.

Once we have believed/received the sacrificial blood sacrifice of Yeshua, we are commanded to be water baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. (Mathew 28:19) This is baptism into the godhead by the heavenly witness to our eternal salvation. If we were baptized "unto John's baptism" (Acts 19:3), it would have been for a temporary, temporal or earthly repentance - looking for our salvation (Yeshua) to yet come. But, since we are baptized unto the godhead, it is a witness of an eternal entrance unto the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Cleansing of the flesh: John's baptism unto repentance - temporal.

Cleansing of the soul: Christ's baptism - eternal life.

The New Testament clearly teaches that Yeshua came for the saving of our soul (resulting in a final transformation to an undefiled body). The writer of Hebrews says plainly that we are,

"of them that believe (through faith) to the saving of the soul." (Heb 10:39)

This difference is clearly delineated by the following passage:

For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:13-14)

The soul is the mind, will, and emotions of man. The conscience is of the soul. In other words, the old temporal sacrifices could not purify the conscience of sin. (Heb 10:2) As partakers of Yeshua's eternal, once forever sacrifice, we receive the purification of our soul. This is the gospel into which we are baptized - an eternal purification before and of God.

Purifying the Flesh

As described in the background to this teaching, we now understand that Israel, including the devout Jews, recognized the importance of baptism for the cleansing of sin from the flesh. It was part of sanctification in the preparation to meet God. Both the flesh and that which was put on or touched the flesh was to be purified by the washing/baptism of water. From all the ensuing references to "sanctification" we can even safely surmise that even the first time Israel met Elohim, they washed their bodies and their clothes:

And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes, And be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai. (Exodus 19:10, 11)

And when they were repentant, desiring the Lord's hearing and blessing, Israel was commanded:

Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; (Isaiah 1:16)

What about us?

Do we, as blood-bought New Testament believers of Messiah, Yeshua, then not need to partake of a baptisms/mikvehs that put off of the filth of our flesh after we have repented and asked forgiveness? Does our baptism into Christ cleanse our flesh once and for all so that we are exempt?

Annanias, upon instructing Paul, seems to say that the purification of both the soul and the flesh are initially accomplished when we are baptized into Christ:

Annanias speaking to Paul,

"And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16)

The apostle Peter stated that the washing of the flesh certainly does not save us, but acknowledges that it is still valid.

The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: (1 Peter 3:21)

The writer of Hebrews states that both the cleansing of our hearts "sprinkled" (like the priest's holy water) from an evil conscience, AND bodies washed with clean water are necessary ingredients to hold fast to the profession of our faith.

And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) (Hebrews 10:21-23)


I know of no specific New Testament commandment that instructs the scheduled, repeated practice of baptisms (i.e. mikvehs) for the cleansing of our flesh. However, it continued to be a common practice among the Jewish converts (i.e. Paul - Acts 21:24) to Christ. Was it such a part of the Jewish religious understanding that we might conclude that the apostles found it unnecessary to specifically command it?

As the disciples of Christ walk in this world, we too become defiled by the forbidden things around us and the sins we commit. We have forgiveness through repentance and confession to Messiah. However, might we ask how our flesh is cleansed for the walk in front of us?

My testimony to the importance of renewing this practice of cleansing our flesh, in faith, is:

1. the rhema word given to me by the Holy Spirit and

2. the seeming repeated moves of the Spirit in confirmation as we have observed the tradition - even without full understanding.

The joy, "lightness," and light that has followed every mikveh is the testimony of the truth the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh) is trying to teach us.

Just as we are commanded to walk in the faith of our salvation, I am of the belief that faith in the cleansing waters of the pool is as necessary as the faith in the cleansing of the "washing of water by the word."

That he might sanctify (the church) and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word (rhema: utterance), (Ephesians 5:26)

This verse is one that our Western mindset has received more as an illustration rather than the literal truth contained in its understanding. Quite simply the apostle Paul is saying that we are sanctified and cleansed by the washing of the water THROUGH or BECAUSE OF, or BY the rhema (uttered) word of God. Without faith in The Word, there is no sanctification. But, can we also understand that sanctification comes through the waters of the mikveh. Limiting this truth to only a figurative illustration has allowed the church to only apprehend part of the message.

Therefore, let us at least allow the Holy Spirit to show us how to apprehend a greater measure of the fullness of the Word of our Lord. Psalms 100:5 says that, "His truth endureth to all generations". If God ordered it so that water could wash away sins of the flesh throughout history up until the completion of the apostles' writings, how can that truth not endure to all generations? It is God's truth and Word. Yeshua said, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." (John 17:17)

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25)

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Gateway To Freedom Ministries