There is no greater step in our spiritual walk as believers than baptism. Yahshua the Messiah was immersed by John the Baptist as an example for us. Immersion is also the one single act that confirms our discipleship to the Messiah.
Considering the magnitude of baptism, it’s crucial that we get it right. So what does the Bible say about baptism or immersion? What name or names should we be baptized into? Is anything required before we undergo this commitment? Who is qualified to baptize? And what is the consequence if we forego this step or if we are not properly immersed?
Let’s begin the inquiry with some basics.
Acts 2:38 is an early account of baptism. Before discussing what Peter reveals here, let’s first consider the events that led up to this pivotal moment. A large group of people just witnessed the outpouring of Yahweh’s Holy Spirit and heard Peter’s dynamic Pentecost message on the death and resurrection of Yahshua the Messiah. As a result, many were pricked in their hearts.
Once the people realized what they had done in putting the Messiah to death, they were in complete remorse for their transgression. They asked Peter what they should do now. Peter replied, “…repent and be baptized.” These are some of the most important words in all of Scripture.
The first step to baptism begins with repentance. Repentance comes from the Greek metanoeo and means “to think differently or afterwards, i.e. reconsider,” Strong’s.
Before entering the waters of baptism we must reconsider our past ways and commit to a new way of life. In essence, repentance is acknowledging that we cannot live as we did before and that we must change our ways and begin living according to Yahweh’s Word.
The word “baptism” comes from the Greek baptizo and means “to immerse, submerge; or to overwhelm (i.e. to be fully wet),” Strong’s. This is why baptism is a full immersion into water and not just a sprinkling. As we’ll see later, baptism also represents a burial.
Baptism first and foremost is for the remission of sins. Baptism is the only way to find forgiveness, i.e. a washing away of our past sins. To be cleansed from our previous sins and be justified we must seek water baptism into Yahshua’s Name.
We also find here that the Holy Spirit is given at baptism with the laying on of hands. Contrary to what many theologians teach, the Holy Spirit is not the third person of a “Holy Trinity.” Instead, it represents the power and influence emanating from our Heavenly Father that guides us into deeper truth.
Yahshua’s Name Alone for Immersion
Based on the biblical record, baptism was done into the singular name of Yahshua the Messiah. This is the only form of baptism used by the apostles in the New Testament. Besides Acts 2:38, there are several more accounts to consider:
“For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Master Yahshua” (Acts 8:16).
“And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Yahshua. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days” (Acts 10:48).
“When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Sovereign Yahshua” (Acts 19:5).
“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Yahshua Messiah were baptized into his death?” (Rom. 6:3).
“For as many of you as have been baptized into Messiah have put on Messiah” (Gal. 3:27).
From these passages we find that baptism was always done into the singular Name of Yahshua the Messiah. As Peter relates in Acts 4:12, there is only one name whereby we find salvation, i.e., Yahshua. This is why we exclusively immerse into Yahshua’s Name. This is also the reason we advocate re-baptism for those who were immersed into a different name or form. As Paul states in Ephesians 4:5, there is only “one Master, one faith, one baptism.”
This includes baptism into the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as seen in Matthew 28:19. Besides the fact that this formula was never used by the apostles, there are serious questions regarding this passage’s legitimacy.
As we note in the Restoration Study Bible, “This Trinitarian formula is highly suspect. According to the Jerusalem Bible, ‘It may be that this formula ‘Father…Son…Holy Spirit,’ so far as the fullness of its expression is concerned, is a reflection of the liturgical usage established later in the primitive community.
“It will be remembered that Acts speaks of baptizing ‘in the name of Yahshua only.’ Equally important is Eusebius’ omission of this phrase: ‘The facts are, in summary, that Eusebius quotes Matthew 28:19, 21 times, either omitting everything between “nations” and “teaching,” or in the form “make disciples of all nations in my name,” the latter form being the more frequent’” (Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics).”
Baptism and the Presbytery
Being there is only one baptism, as believers we must ensure that we follow the example of Yahweh’s Word. If not, Yahweh may not honor our baptism. For this reason it’s also important that the baptism be performed by someone who has the authority to immerse.
As we find in Scripture, the presbytery or body of elders was given the sanction to baptize and lay on hands. The only exception is that deacons too can baptize, but they must not lay on hands. As seen in the eighth chapter of Acts, while Deacon Philip was able to baptize, only Peter and John could lay on hands for the Spirit.
“Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of Elohim, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Master Yahshua.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit,” Acts 8:14-17.
Peter in Acts 10:45-46 baptized Cornelius and his household (adults only). Also, Paul in Acts 19:5-6 baptized, followed by the laying on of hands. Not only were Peter and Paul apostles, but they were also elders, 1Peter 5:1.
Baptism is also a type of anointing, similar to ordination or praying for the sick. Why is this important? Because in every instance of anointing, whether for a priest or king in the Old Testament or ordaining an elder or deacon in the New Testament, it was always by a member of the priesthood or someone already appointed to the office of minister. For more, see “Authority to Baptize and Anoint” sidebar on p. 9.
Minimum Age for Immersion
A question many ask is, what is the appropriate age for baptism? Assuming the mother or father is in the faith, should we baptize infants or those in their teens or near it? Does the Bible provide any insight to this question?
It does, and that age is 20 years old. We call this the “age of accountability.” Several situations show that this is the age Yahweh determines that a person is answerable for their actions. Consider the following:
- “When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto Yahweh, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them. This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of Yahweh. Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto Yahweh,” Exodus 30:12-14.
- “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When a man shall make a singular vow, the persons shall be for Yahweh by thy estimation. And thy estimation shall be of the male from twenty years old even unto sixty years old, even thy estimation shall be fifty shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary,” Leviticus 27:2-3.
- “From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: thou and Aaron shall number them by their armies,” Numbers 1:3.
- “This is it that belongeth unto the Levites: from twenty and five years old and upward they shall go in to wait upon the service of the tabernacle of the congregation: And from the age of fifty years they shall cease waiting upon the service thereof, and shall serve no more,” Numbers 8:24-25.
- “Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith Yahweh, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me,” Numbers 14:28-29.
- “And Yahweh’s anger was kindled the same time, and he sware, saying, Surely none of the men that came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob; because they have not wholly followed me,” Numbers 32:1-11.
- “For by the last words of David the Levites were numbered from twenty years old and above: Because their office was to wait on the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of Yahweh, in the courts, and in the chambers, and in the purifying of all holy things, and the work of the service of the house of Elohim,” 1Chronicles 23:27.
- “Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of Elohim at Jerusalem, in the second month, began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of Yahweh,” Ezra 3:8.
While each one of these accounts is important, perhaps the most notable are those describing Yahweh’s judgment of Israel in the wilderness. Because of their rebellion, all those 20 years and older and considered mature and accountable died in the wilderness!
Repentance is key
Peter in Acts 3:28 told the people first to “repent.” The word repent means to think differently or to reconsider. In essence, it’s recognizing our past sins and committing to live a better way according to Yahweh’s commandments. We also know from the Word that those who backslide from this covenant promise will be judged harshly.
Realizing the awesome gravity and commitment in baptism, it is essential that the person who obligates himself to this crucial step is of a responsible age and accountable for their actions going forward. Scripture unquestionably teaches this age to be 20 years old.
Some might argue that their teenager is ready. While this may be true of a very small portion of teens, most in this stage of life are not experienced enough in life, committed, and mature in heart and mind to grasp such a life-altering promise to Yahweh. They cannot appreciate the profound significance of repentance in our lives.
Once committed to the “burial” water Yahweh will hold the person to their decision for life and there is no turning back; there are no “do-overs” when we pledge our life to Yahweh. Any minister who would baptize an immature youth has no regard for the magnitude of his actions. Consider that Yahshua held off His own baptism and the beginning His ministry until 30 years of age. While we don’t believe this requires us to wait until 30 for baptism, it shows that waiting at least until 20 is minimal, even for the most advanced and mature teen.
Dying A Spiritual Death
Baptism symbolically represents a death of our old nature. Paul in Romans 6:3 states, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Yahshua Messiah were baptized into his death?”
Paul explains that baptism represents a type of burial. The death that it represents is something special; it symbolizes the death of Yahshua the Messiah. When we’re immersed into Yahshua’s Name we emblematically take part in His death.
By dying to Him through baptism we put to death our old man and essentially become part of Him. It should be remembered that a sinner cannot enter into Yahweh’s Kingdom, 1Corinthians 6:9-11, and that only those in Messiah will be resurrected at His Second Coming, 1Corinthians 15:23.
Paul goes on to say, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Messiah 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,” verses 4-5.
Paul confirms here that baptism represents a death; the death of Yahshua the Messiah. He also explains that after baptism we are to walk in newness of life. The word “newness” comes from the Greek kainotes and refers to a “renewal.”
At baptism, we start over as a new person with a new life and aspirations, and goals that make Yahweh and His Word the center of our lives. We become dead to our old man and walk in a new and better way. This is what it means to walk in newness of life.
We find here a third reason that baptism into Yahshua’s Name is necessary for salvation. In verse 5 Paul explains that as we were buried with Yahshua at baptism, we will also be resurrected in His likeness at His coming. Therefore, to be resurrected in Messiah we must first die to Messiah through baptism. Without baptism into Yahshua’s Name we are none of His and cannot partake in His resurrection.
Starting in verse 6, Paul explains the need of removing sin: “Knowing this, that our old man is impaled 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…. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto Elohim, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto Elohim,” verses 6-7, 12-13.
Paul stated that at baptism our old man is impaled with Yahshua the Messiah. We impale the flesh so that our carnal, sinful nature might be destroyed. After baptism we can no longer justifiably live a life of sin. This is why Scripture describes baptism as a death to our old person. If something is dead it no longer exists. For example, Scripture says that the dead cannot praise Yahweh.
Baptism works the same way regarding sin. Those immersed into Yahshua’s Name have an obligation to abstain from sin and the breaking of Yahweh’s commandments, 1John 3:4. Have those immersed into Yahshua’s Name become complacent? Do we find ourselves compromising His Word? The commitment that we made at baptism holds as true today as it did the day of our baptism.
In verse 13 Paul says that we should yield our members as instruments of righteousness unto Elohim. The word “righteousness” here comes from the Greek dikaiosune. The Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines this word: “(1) the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain a state approved of G-d and (2) integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting.”
These are the characteristics and values that believers in the Messiah must exhibit in their own lives. How do we measure up? Are we fulfilling the commitment we made when we underwent immersion into Yahshua’s Name? Are we displaying integrity and righteousness in our lives?
If Yahshua returned today, would we have the confidence to stand boldly before Him knowing that we faithfully served Him? If the answer is “yes,” praise Yahweh. However, if we are uncertain or the answer is “no,” then let us better serve Him. Scripture states that we were bought with a price and that we no longer belong to ourselves, but to our Savior. This commitment occurred at baptism.
If you have not yet been immersed into Yahshua’s Name, but desire this crucial step, then we encourage you to contact the Ministry or seek out a congregation following the truths of Scripture, including calling on the Names of Yahweh and Yahshua along with observing the Sabbath and Feast days.
As long as we are committed to our Heavenly Father, Yahweh, and to our Savior, Yahshua the Messiah, then there’s no reason to wait. A person does not need to be perfect for baptism but only possess a resolute faith and a humble heart to faithfully obey the One they worship.
For more information on this subject please check out our free booklet! http://yrm.org/if-you-seek-baptism/