OT Water Ceremonies and Forgiveness of Sin


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There’s a continuing discussion on how water is related to a God-given process of cleansing and the forgiveness of sins. One side says, water is not related to God’s process, while the other side says it is a God-given requirement. This lesson helps to clarify this debate.

Propostion: Water ceremony is a God-given element in the process of cleansing and forgiveness of sin, therefore it is essentially related to the forgiveness of man’s sins.

In this study, we continually ask the questions: (1) Were the uncleanness and the penalty threat pronounced for not heeding the process of cleansing taken off a person before or after the water ceremony? (2) Did the power of forgiveness reside in God Himself or in the water in itself? (3) Did God forgive if His command or process of cleansing was not obeyed? (4) Where water element was commanded as part of the cleansing process, did people in the Mosaical Dispensation have the right to disregard water and be cleansed of the uncleanness? (5) If you were there in the Wilderness of Sinai, would you have debated with Moses about the essentiality of washing in water for your cleansing and freedom from penalty? (Quotations are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible).

Awesome Glory and Authority of the LORD.

In our relationship with God, we should recognized the awesome and majestic glory and sovereignty of God. Those who want to disregard water in baptism in the Christian dispensation as an essential element in obeying God want to reduce God and Christ Jesus as confused and ignorant Rulers. But if we recognize Christ Jesus as Sovereign Lord, Master and one who knows all things including Greek Grammar, then we should not argue with him. We should meekly and humbly obey His command.

We submit a study on the use of water in the Mosaical Dispensation. This will help us understand the background of the Christ Great Commission Baptism in water.

Exodus 40:34-35. “Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.”

Leviticus 27:34. “These are the commandments which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel on Mount Sinai.”

Numbers 36:13. These are the commandments and the judgments which the LORD commanded the children of Israel by the hand of Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho.”

Joshua 1:6-8. “Be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

Book of Exodus– Use of Water in OT Religious Ceremonies

Exodus 29:4. “Present Aaron and his sons at the entrance of the Tabernacle, and wash them with water.”

40:12. “Bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the Tabernacle, and wash them with water.”

Book of Leviticus—Use of Water in OT Religious Ceremonies

Leviticus 1:9. “But he shall wash its entrails and its legs with water. And the priest shall burn all on the altar as a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire as sweet aroma to the LORD.”

6:27,28. “… And when its blood is sprinkled on any garment, you shall wash that on which it was sprinkled, in a holy place. But the earthen vessel in which it is boiled shall be broken. And if it is boiled in a bronze pot, it shall be both scoured and rinsed in water.”

8:6. “Then Moses brought Aaron and his sons and washed them with water.”

11:32. “Anything on which any of them falls, when they are dead shall be unclean…it must be put in water. And it shall be unclean until evening; then it shall be clean.”

14:5-9. “And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water…that was killed over the running water. And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed from the leprosy, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose in the open field. He who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes…wash himself in water, that he maybe clean…He shall wash his clothes and wash his body in water, and he shall be clean.

16:4. “He shall put the holy linen tunic and the linen trousers on his body; he shall be girded with a linen sash, and with the linen turban he shall be attired. These are holy garments. Therefore he shall wash his body in water, and put on them.”

16:24, 26, 28. “And he shall wash his body with water in a holy place, put on his garments, come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people and make atonement for himself and for the people…And he who released the goat as the scapegoat shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water and afterward he may come into the camp…Then he who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.”

Book of Numbers – Use of Water in OT Religious Ceremonies

17:15-16. “And every person who eats what died naturally or what was torn by beasts, whether he is a native of your own country or a stranger, he shall both wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. Then he shall be clean. But if he does not wash them or bathe his body, then he shall bear his guilt.”

Num. 19:7,8,13. “Then the priest shall wash his clothes, he shall bathe in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp; the priest shall be unclean until evening. And the one who burns it shall wash his clothes in water, bathe in water, and shall be unclean until evening…Whoever touches the body of anyone who has died, and does not purify himself, defiles the tabernacle of the LORD. That person shall be cut off from Israel. He shall be unclean, because the water of purification was not sprinkled on him; his uncleanness is still on him.”

19:17-21. “And for an unclean person they shall take some of the ashes of the heifer burnt for purification from sin, and running water shall be put on them in a vessel. A clean person shall take hyssop and dip it in the water, sprinkle it on the tent, on all the vessels, on the persons who were there, or on the one who touched a bone, the slain, the dead, or a grave. The clean person shall sprinkle the unclean …and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, wash his clothes, and bathe in water, and at evening he shall be clean. But the man who is unclean and does not purify himself, that person shall be cut off from among the assembly, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the LORD. The water of purification has not been sprinkled on him; he is unclean…He who sprinkles the water of purification shall wash his clothes; and he who touches the water of purification shall be unclean until evening. Whatever the unclean person touches shall be unclean; and the person who touches it shall be unclean until evening.”

Book of Deuteronomy –Use of Water in OT Religious Ceremonies

31:21-24. “…This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD commanded Moses: Only the gold, the silver, the bronze, the iron, the tin, and the lead, everything that can endure fire, you shall put through the fire, and it shall be clean; and it shall be purified with the water of purification. But all that cannot endure fire you shall put through water. And you shall wash your clothes on the seventh day and be clean, and afterward you may come into the camp”

23:9-11. “When the army goes out against your enemies, them keep yourself from every wicked thing. If there is any man among you who becomes unclean by some occurrence in the night, then he shall go outside the camp; he shall not come inside the camp. But it shall be, when evening comes, that he shall wash with water; and when the sun sets, he may come into the camp.”

Question: Do the above verses give you any hint that any Israelite had the privilege to disregard water as an essential element in his cleansing and forgiveness of sin?

John the Baptist and Water Ceremony

The ministry of John the Baptist was a transitory period from the Mosaical Dispensation to the Christian Dispensation. Whereas, during the Mosaical period, the external aspect of life was given focus and the ceremony of water was included but repentance was not mentioned; on the other hand, in the Christian Dispensation, emphasis is in the internal aspect—the heart, and the water ceremony remains. John the Baptist combines the external and the internal: the water ceremony and the change of the heart through repentance and fruit of repentance which is the change of attitude and way of life before the water ceremony took place.

In analyzing the verses below, ask these two questions: (1) Did God forgive the sins of the people before or after they were baptized by John? (2) If you were alive in the days of John the Baptist, would you have dared to debate John about the essentiality of water baptism for the remission of your sins?

Matt. 3:2, 5, 6. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand…and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan confessing their sins”

Mark 1:4, 5 “John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.”

Luke 3:3 7, 8, 21. “And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins…Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him ‘Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance,…’ When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened.”‘

Do you believe that some people debated with John the Baptist by taking the negative side and expounded that water baptism was not essential to the forgiveness of their sins? ©

One Comment to “OT Water Ceremonies and Forgiveness of Sin”

  1. Excellent Blog. I’ve been reading along and just wanted to say hi. I will be reading more of your posts in the future.

    – Jason.

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