Jews for Jesus is not a church, but an evangelistic agency that serves various congregations in their gospel outreach to Jewish people. We usually do not perform baptisms ourselves, although we are qualified to do so. When someone comes to know the Lord, we direct the individual to a congregation where we feel he or she will be encouraged to grow in faith. Then that congregation has the duty to baptize and formally welcome the new Jewish believer into the body of Christ according to its own tradition.
Occasionally, however, Jewish believers ask us to baptize them in a more "Jewish" setting. For this purpose we have designed a special ceremony. It helps the invited family and friends of new Jewish believers to understand that baptism symbolizes the believer’s entrance into Messiah and cleansing from past sin, not the washing away of that person’s Jewishness.
Recently our Chicago (Skokie) branch celebrated seven such baptisms of new Jewish believers. Since they were already renting the facilities of a Baptist church for their Friday night Bible studies, they were able to conduct the baptisms during that regularly scheduled time. That added a special dimension to the occasion, as the baptismal candidates were surrounded by their believing Jewish friends in the messianic Jewish community.
For our Newsletter friends who might take interest in such a messianic baptismal service, here is a predominant part of the liturgy formulated and used by our Chicago branch:
Congregation : from Psalm 16 (NASB).
Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in thee.
I have said to the LORD, "Thou art my Lord;
I have no good besides thee."
As for the saints who are in the earth,
They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.
The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
Thou dost support my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.
I will bless the LORD who has counseled me;
Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.
I have set the LORD continually before me;
Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will dwell securely.
For thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol;
Neither wilt thou allow thy Holy One to undergo decay.
Thou wilt make known to me the path of life;
In thy presence is fullness of joy;
In thy right hand there are pleasures forever.
Leader : In the book of the prophet Ezekiel, God describes a spiritual renewal which our
Jewish people will experience in the end of days. As it is written:
For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will be careful to observe my ordinances. And you will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be my people, and I will be your God. ( Ezekiel 36:24-28 )
The prophet Zechariah makes it clear that the water that will cleanse the Jewish people is the Holy Spirit of God. As he says:
And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications, so that they will look on me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for him, as one mourns for an only son …. in that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity. (Zechariah 12:10,13:1).
The prophets of the Hebrew scriptures speak of the day when our people will turn to then Lord and recognize the Pierced One, the Messiah. This profound repentance will be brought about by God’s Spirit, and the prophets use the image of our people going through a mikvah (a ceremonial bath symbolizing rebirth).
But even today when, by the grace of God and the power of his Spirit, a person turns from sin toward the Lord, and recognizes the Pierced One, we are commanded to perform t’vilah (a ritual immersion) symbolizing our formal commitment to the kingdom of God, and to its King, the Messiah.
The symbolism of baptism is described in these words:
All of us who have been baptized into Messiah Jesus have been baptized into his death. Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that as Messiah was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection …. For the death that he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life that he lives, he lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Messiah Jesus. (Romans 6:3-5,10-11).
The ceremony of t’vilah is a vivid picture of death and resurrection. This portrays both our present experience and our hope for the future: our present experience inasmuch as we have been spiritually reborn, redeemed from the futility of living our sinful lives apart from God and given new life by the Messiah, a life filled with the beauty of knowing God; our future hope inasmuch as God has promised that when we die physically we will one day be resurrected, as the Messiah was, and we will live forever with the Lord because of what Yeshua has done for us in atoning for our sins and conquering death.
Therefore, we now prepare to fulfill the command of our Creator, as our Messiah taught us: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age". (Matthew 28:19-20).
[Prayer commending the candidate(s) to God.]
[The leader and those to be baptized now go to their places at the mikvah (baptistry).]
The congregation sings:
Create In Me A Clean Heart * by Mitch Glaser
Leader’s Charge to the Candidate(s)
Since we believe that the true washing of spiritual rebirth is the work of the Holy Spirit performed in a person’s heart, and that the outward ceremony of t’vilah should be a public sign of what God does inwardly, I am going to ask you to testify to your faith in the Messiah in the presence of these witnesses.
You have heard in the passages we read from the Scriptures, that t’vilah symbolizes a commitment we make to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. It symbolizes the burial of our old sinful nature and our new life in Messiah.
Leader : ( Name of candidate ), do you believe in Yeshua, our Messiah, that he died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures? Do you believe that he will come again to judge the living and the dead? Do you entrust yourself completely to him, to save, keep and lead you throughout your lifetime and eternity?
Candidate(s): I believe in him with all my heart.
[At this point the candidate may offer a brief story of his/her faith.]
Leader : Will you live as a disciple of the Messiah Yeshua, seeking to know him better in public and private study of his Word, through worship both in private and in the fellowship of other believers? Will you seek to serve him through telling others of your faith, and caring for your neighbor? Will you strive to imitate Messiah through living a holy life according to the instructions in the Scriptures? And when you fail, will you confess your sins to him, and receive his forgiveness, continuing to walk with him?
Candidate : With God as my help, I will.
[Prayer for the candidate(s) to receive grace to fulfill his or her promises.]
Leader: ( Name of Candidate ), I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
[After each candidate is baptized,the congregation sings
May All Who Live Believe In You…* by Stuart Dauermann.]
When all the immersions are complete, additional songs are sung as the leader and those who were baptized regather in front of the congregation.
Leader’s Charge to the Congregation
Since these, our brothers and sisters, have promised in our presence to renounce the evil of this world, to believe in the Messiah, and to serve God in his name, we must remember that it is our duty to do all that we can to help them grow in grace and in the knowledge of God’s Word, and to become more and more like our Master, the Messiah Yeshua, and to live holy lives while we wait together for his coming.
[Prayer to thank God for those baptized and to ask for God’s grace for the congregation in fulfilling its duty to them.]
Yvarechha adonai v’yishm’recha
Ya’eir adonai panav eileicha vichuneicha.
Yisa adonai panav eileicha,
V’yaseim l’cha shalom.
May the Lord bless you, and keep you.
May the Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you.
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
Let Us Exalt His Name… * by Stuart Dauermann
*The music and lyrics for all the songs in this liturgy can be found in the Jews for Jesus songbook Yeshua, Let Us Exalt His Name Together.