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Mikvah and Baptism

Ron Elkin
Ammi Ministry

Outline of this Study

  1. How could a person become unclean in the O.T.?
  2. Why was it a problem being unclean?
  3. What is the purpose of the Jewish Mikvah (ritual purification washings)?
  4. Is there a connection between Christian baptism and the Mikvah?
  5. What new ideas are shown by the Christian Mikvah
  6. Why should those who believe in Jesus be publicly baptized?

How could a person become unclean in the O.T.?

The Hebrew word for "unclean" is (טָמֵא, tum'ah, pronounced "toom'-aw"). An Israelite could become unclean in a number of ways.

  1. Touching a dead body or going into a tomb of a dead person (Num. 19:18-19).
  2. A woman’s monthly menstrual period/bleeding (Lev. 15:19-24).
  3. Touching a dead animal that was killed or died naturally (Lev. 17:15-16). If the person does not obey God he will be guilty of sin (vs. 16).
  4. After sexual activity (Lev. 15:16-18).
  5. After a sickness, particularly leprosy, or a rash (Lev. 13:1-3).
  6. Sin also makes us unclean. The way we had to wash away our sins was through the sacrifice of an animal.

Why Was It a Problem Being Unclean?

Law of Moses insisted that all Jewish people go through purification because uncleanness offended God. Disobedience to God’s law was punished by death or separation from the community of Israel.

For example, lepers had to live apart from the rest of the Jews, and when they walked anywhere near people who did not have this disease they had to cry out very loudly, "Unclean, unclean!" (Numbers 5:1-4).

If a leper became clean, he was to go to the priest, and the priest would sacrifice a bird and let another bird go free. The leper also had to sacrifice animals as described in Leviticus chapter 14. This chapter is dedicated to explaining how a leper who becomes healed is to go through his purification ceremony (shave head, bathe, sacrifice animals, go outside of the camp for 7 days, etc.).

The problem was that leprosy was rarely if ever cured until Jesus (Luke 5:12-14).

Unclean people could make others unclean:

Any bed the man with a discharge lies on will be unclean, and anything he sits on will be unclean. Anyone who touches his bed must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening. Whoever sits on anything that the man with a discharge sat on must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening (Lev. 15:4-6).

Unclean people could not enter into God’s Temple/Tabernacle and worship Him:

He also stationed doorkeepers at the gates of the LORD's temple so that no-one who was in any way unclean might enter (2 Chr. 23:19).

According to the book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, sinners will not be allowed in God’s presence or anywhere in the world to come (heaven):

Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life (Rev. 21:27).

God despises anything unclean, because he is pure.

What is the spiritual significance of uncleanness? Sin makes us unclean before God.

What Is the Purpose of the Jewish Mikvah (ritual purification washings)?

These purification washings were required because God is perfectly clean. He will not allow anything unclean in his presence. The Mikvah reminded the Jews of God’s holiness and was an outward sign of an inward attitude of obedience and respect.

Is There a Connection between Christian Baptism and the Mikvah?

What New Ideas Are Shown by the Christian Mikvah?

Why Should Those Who Believe in Jesus Be Publicly Baptized?

  1. Jesus went through the Mikvah ritual, even though he was without sin. He set the example by coming to John for water baptism.

    Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. (Matt. 3:13-16, ESV)

  2. It is a testimony to your unsaved family and friends that your faith in Jesus is sincere. It is one thing to verbally say that you believe in Jesus, but it is another thing to publically show your faith by being willing to identify with Him. If you believe in Jesus and have not been baptized, what is keeping you from obeying him? Are you afraid of what people will think? Are you putting sinners above the holy and righteous God of all creation?
  3. Jesus said in Mark 8:38, "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."
  4. Rabbi Paul said in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Gentiles."
  5. Our baptism should be a time of rejoicing. A party should follow, and we should invite our family and friends to witness our faith in Messiah Jesus.

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