Let’s Talk About Baptism

Warning: the following content discusses adult content. 

Where does Baptism come from?

In early Judaism around the first century BCE little pools began popping up called a “mikveh” that one enters for ritual washing and purity called “Tevilah.” Even to this day, Jews enter into the mikveh for various reasons. Some enter the mikveh before Shabbat every Friday and others need to immerse themselves for conversion to Judaism. However, there are many other reasons for entering the mikveh, such as: 

  • Women achieving ritual purity after menstruation or child birth.
  • Men who need ritual purity after ejaculation.
  • Some choose to enter in before surgery, in the ninth month of pregnancy, for celebrations like a wedding, and also during times of grief. (Reform JudaismMy Jewish Learning, and Chabad all have great articles on the mikveh as well. 

Entering the mikveh and ritually cleansing yourself is a change from being unclean and impure to becoming clean. In other words, becoming a new creation. 

During the first century CE, we see John the Baptist start baptizing people. There is wide speculation as to whether he was a part of the Essenes or was involved with the community at Qumran. In a nutshell, the Essenes were a group that strictly observed Torah, Sabbath, and ritual purity (Here’s an overview on the Essenes). Regardless of how involved John the Baptist was in this group, Tevilah and the Mikveh were still an inherent part of John the Baptist’s cultural milieu.

So when John begins baptizing people along the Jordan River, he is essentially taking this ritual washing to a new level. He’s keeping the immersion as the main part so that the whole body will be renewed and begins calling people to repentance. John is known as the Forerunner of Jesus. We believe that he is the one Isaiah prophesies about saying, “A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'” John was establishing – in the wilderness along the Jordan River – a Messianic group that would turn from their sinful ways and be ready to follow the Messiah when the time came.

If one truly wants to repent of their sins, as Jesus would later confirm, they must be reborn of the water and of the Spirit (John 3). Therefore, John was setting up this practice of rebirth through baptism so that people would be able to not simply ritually wash themselves, but symbolically put to death their old life and live in the new life offered through the Messiah (Romans 6, 2 Corinthians 5:17, 1 Peter 3, Acts 19, Colossians 2, Galatians 3).

mikveh at migdal
mikveh at migdal

This is the traditional site of where many believe John the Baptist was baptizing people, including Jesus.

Can I Be Baptized A Second Time?

Unlike the mikveh which one enters repeatedly to gain ritual purity, you only need to be baptized once. However, many denominations offer child and infant baptism. I won’t argue that doctrine here but I will say this: If you were baptized as a child but not as an adult and you want to be baptized again, this time making the conscious decision of following Jesus and putting your life of sin to death, then I absolutely encourage you to be baptized again. As a baby or child, you (1) don’t remember your baptism and so you cannot appreciate it and (2) you did not have the understanding of your fallen nature and sinful lifestyle. I highly doubt you’re going to get to Heaven and Jesus be upset with you for getting baptized again. There is so much beautiful symbolism that is missed when you can’t remember your own baptism. So by all means, go for it!

Now, if you were baptized as an adult and have already made the conscious decision to follow Jesus, then you do not need to be baptized again. However, I know many people who are baptized “again” in the Jordan River for the experience or for rededication purposes and I think those are absolutely okay as long as you understand that you don’t need to be baptized again. Once again, I can’t imagine you get to Heaven and Jesus being upset because you were baptized more than once.

Finally, Ephesians 4:4-6 isn’t even talking about only being baptized once or twice. This entire pericope from Ephesians 4:1-16 is all about unity and maturity among the Ephesian Church and calling the believers there to remember that they are all baptized under one Lord – that is Jesus the Messiah. So many take Paul’s words here out of context and condemn people who get baptized multiple times. Baptism is your act of dying to your old self and being raised to your new life with Jesus (Romans 6). If you don’t remember your baptism and getting into those waters will help you grow closer to Jesus, then by all means, get into those waters and begin your new life!

My video of our Jordan River baptisms from 2010.

baptism site

This is the baptismal site, Yardenit, on the Jordan River where many pilgrims go to get baptized. Photo by Justin Boothby.

Can I Be Baptized During A Pandemic?

The real question here lies not with the pandemic so much as it does with someone “baptizing you.” If you haven’t watched the video above yet, I highly encourage you to do so. In it, I explain how when you go into the mikveh, you essentially go into a fetal position. In fact, that’s how I was baptized as an adult in the Jordan River. You can see that to the right. So if you’re by yourself, you can just go under like I did. However, I still encourage you to have someone there with you either in person or via a phone/facetime.

If you want to be baptized but can’t be baptized in a church right now, here is what I suggest:

  1. Find a Christian leader, or any Christian (you can even message me or sign up below), who is willing to walk you through the baptism process. If you can’t have anyone with you, let me know and I will definitely Facetime you and walk you through it.
  2. Find a pool, river, lake, or even your bathtub that you’d like to do this in.
  3. Set up a camera or have someone film it. We want the world to see the life-changing event that Jesus has on those who follow him! If you’re doing this during COVID, when you post the video make sure to use the hashtag #COVIDBaptism2020 so we can see it.
  4. Take 1-2 minutes to share your testimony. There is power in your testimony and what Jesus has done and is doing through you.
  5. Finally, before you enter the waters, say the following: “I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I believe that through His resurrection I have been given a new life to live. Today I announce that I am forgiven for everything, past, present, and future, and I love Jesus. To show it, I am being baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Then proceed into the waters. 

My baptism in 2010 when I went under like they did during ancient times in the mikveh. Photo by Veraliz Jordan.

Where does Baptism come from?

In early Judaism around the first century BCE little pools began popping up called a “mikveh” that one enters for ritual washing and purity called “Tevilah.” Even to this day, Jews enter into the mikveh for various reasons. Some enter the mikveh before Shabbat every Friday and others need to immerse themselves for conversion to Judaism. However, there are many other reasons for entering the mikveh, such as: 

  • Women achieving ritual purity after menstruation or child birth.
  • Men who need ritual purity after ejaculation.
  • Some choose to enter in before surgery, in the ninth month of pregnancy, for celebrations like a wedding, and also during times of grief. (Reform JudaismMy Jewish Learning, and Chabad all have great articles on the mikveh as well. 

Entering the mikveh and ritually cleansing yourself is a change from being unclean and impure to becoming clean. In other words, becoming a new creation. 

During the first century CE, we see John the Baptist start baptizing people. There is wide speculation as to whether he was a part of the Essenes or was involved with the community at Qumran. In a nutshell, the Essenes were a group that strictly observed Torah, Sabbath, and ritual purity (Here’s an overview on the Essenes). Regardless of how involved John the Baptist was in this group, Tevilah and the Mikveh were still an inherent part of John the Baptist’s cultural milieu.

So when John begins baptizing people along the Jordan River, he is essentially taking this ritual washing to a new level. He’s keeping the immersion as the main part so that the whole body will be renewed and begins calling people to repentance. John is known as the Forerunner of Jesus. We believe that he is the one Isaiah prophesies about saying, “A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'” John was establishing – in the wilderness along the Jordan River – a Messianic group that would turn from their sinful ways and be ready to follow the Messiah when the time came.

If one truly wants to repent of their sins, as Jesus would later confirm, they must be reborn of the water and of the Spirit (John 3). Therefore, John was setting up this practice of rebirth through baptism so that people would be able to not simply ritually wash themselves, but symbolically put to death their old life and live in the new life offered through the Messiah (Romans 6, 2 Corinthians 5:17, 1 Peter 3, Acts 19, Colossians 2, Galatians 3).

mikveh at migdal
mikveh at migdal

This is the traditional site of where many believe John the Baptist was baptizing people, including Jesus.

Can I Be Baptized A Second Time?

Unlike the mikveh which one enters repeatedly to gain ritual purity, you only need to be baptized once. However, many denominations offer child and infant baptism. I won’t argue that doctrine here but I will say this: If you were baptized as a child but not as an adult and you want to be baptized again, this time making the conscious decision of following Jesus and putting your life of sin to death, then I absolutely encourage you to be baptized again. As a baby or child, you (1) don’t remember your baptism and so you cannot appreciate it and (2) you did not have the understanding of your fallen nature and sinful lifestyle. I highly doubt you’re going to get to Heaven and Jesus be upset with you for getting baptized again. There is so much beautiful symbolism that is missed when you can’t remember your own baptism. So by all means, go for it!

Now, if you were baptized as an adult and have already made the conscious decision to follow Jesus, then you do not need to be baptized again. However, I know many people who are baptized “again” in the Jordan River for the experience or for rededication purposes and I think those are absolutely okay as long as you understand that you don’t need to be baptized again. Once again, I can’t imagine you get to Heaven and Jesus being upset because you were baptized more than once.

Finally, Ephesians 4:4-6 isn’t even talking about only being baptized once or twice. This entire pericope from Ephesians 4:1-16 is all about unity and maturity among the Ephesian Church and calling the believers there to remember that they are all baptized under one Lord – that is Jesus the Messiah. So many take Paul’s words here out of context and condemn people who get baptized multiple times. Baptism is your act of dying to your old self and being raised to your new life with Jesus (Romans 6). If you don’t remember your baptism and getting into those waters will help you grow closer to Jesus, then by all means, get into those waters and begin your new life!

My video of our Jordan River baptisms from 2010.

baptism site

This is the baptismal site, Yardenit, on the Jordan River where many pilgrims go to get baptized. Photo by Justin Boothby.

Can I Be Baptized During A Pandemic?

The real question here lies not with the pandemic so much as it does with someone “baptizing you.” If you haven’t watched the video above yet, I highly encourage you to do so. In it, I explain how when you go into the mikveh, you essentially go into a fetal position. In fact, that’s how I was baptized as an adult in the Jordan River. You can see that below. So if you’re by yourself, you can just go under like I did. However, I still encourage you to have someone there with you either in person or via a phone/facetime.

If you want to be baptized but can’t be baptized in a church right now, here is what I suggest:

  1. Find a Christian leader, or any Christian (you can even message me or sign up below), who is willing to walk you through the baptism process. If you can’t have anyone with you, let me know and I will definitely Facetime you and walk you through it.
  2. Find a pool, river, lake, or even your bathtub that you’d like to do this in.
  3. Set up a camera or have someone film it. We want the world to see the life-changing event that Jesus has on those who follow him! If you’re doing this during COVID, when you post the video make sure to use the hashtag #COVIDBaptism2020 so we can see it.
  4. Take 1-2 minutes to share your testimony. There is power in your testimony and what Jesus has done and is doing through you.
  5. Finally, before you enter the waters, say the following: “I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I believe that through His resurrection I have been given a new life to live. Today I announce that I am forgiven for everything, past, present, and future, and I love Jesus. To show it, I am being baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Then proceed into the waters. 

My baptism in 2010 when I went under like they did during ancient times in the mikveh. Photo by Veraliz Jordan.

Would you like me to help you get baptized?

I would love to help you get baptized or even find someone near you that could be there to walk you through and celebrate with you. If you’d like my help, go ahead and fill out this form and I’ll be sure to get back to you as soon as I can!

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About The Author

Justin is a lifelong student who loves to speak, travel, film, write, and coach. He has a goal of empowering others to grow closer to Jesus in practical and unique ways. After acquiring two degrees in Practical Theology and then studying in Israel for two years, Justin has a passion to help people read the Bible with a deeper appreciation in its original, ancient context.

M.A. Hebrew University of Jerusalem
M.Div. Regent University
B.S. Southeastern University

About Justin

Justin is a lifelong student who loves to speak, travel, film, write, and coach. He has a goal of empowering others to grow closer to Jesus in practical and unique ways. After acquiring two degrees in Practical Theology and then studying in Israel for two years, Justin has a passion to help people read the Bible with a deeper appreciation in its original, ancient context. He would not be where he is today without his incredible wife, Lauren! While he's a pastor at heart, he's also an avid pizza lover, metalcore listener, and shot glass collector.

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