Prescriptions for the use of immersion are not laid out all that clearly in the Tanakh but we are assured by Rabbis and Scholars of Judaism alike that the tevillah service and immersion in a mikvah or ritual bath was commonplace and understood by all, so elaboration was not necessary, though we do find some pre-Talmudic references to the practice. Baptism actually stems from the ancient Jewish practice of the Tevillah service, during which either persons or things are immersed in a mikvah (a bath), for various purposes and intents. It was instituted by YHVH. It is not about being cleaned physically because in most cases one must be clean before participating. Immersion is rooted very deeply in His people Israel from many centuries before either John the Baptist or Jesus ever appeared on the eschatological scene. Those who came to John did not think they were experiencing something new. On the contrary they were quite familiar with the practice and understood totally what he was doing and what he was offering (this is why they came). One general principle comes to us from Leviticus 22:6 where the Torah implies that that which is unclean must be washed with water. This was why the Israelites always required full body immersion in either a mikvah (pool or bath) or in a body of “living water” (river, lake, sea, etc.,) by any proselyte who wished to convert. Through such an initiatory process a gentile could be allowed into the community of faith. This not only washed away their possible ceremonial uncleanness, but also represented a death to their old life and a rebirth into a new one. Much like Christianity, the waters were first prayed over and sanctified, that is, consecrated for this purpose, and they believed YHVH overseeing this bestowed the necessary blessings whereby He sanctified the individual recipients. The priests not only had to be immersed before Yom Kippur. and the other yearly festivals, but the High Priest had to also be immersed again after sending off the scape goat (Azazel). Many individuals also practiced ritual immersion in preparation for Shabbat. It was a holy ritual not a cleaning of the skin. Likewise, if one wanted to dedicate themselves to service, such as s Nazarite, they also had to be immersed as a sign of intended repentance. They would be as dead to their old life, and for the time of their vow lived in newness of life. Women also were instructed to ceremonially immerse in the mikvah following their menstrual cycle, and not for the obvious hygienic benefits, but to remove the ceremonial uncleanness assigned under the Law. This was required under the Law before a woman could resume intimate relations with her husband. Then finally (but not exclusively as you will see) there is the Taharah (purification) service or the washing of the dead before burial. They did not for one moment believe the person was being cleaned for the afterlife. It was a matter of what it represented. So because of all this, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan in his book, Waters of Life, describes this practice in Israel preceding at least Hillel and that this immersion in a mikvah is a type of womb as well as a tomb. The waters of life are reminiscent of Creation where the waters above separated from the waters below brought forth the ground from which Adam was made. Brides and grooms are immersed symbolizing the newness of life they would now share as one. These are all great times of transformation, rebirth, elevation into a higher order, higher union with and before God, and so on. In Mikvah:The Art of Transition, scholar Avraham Trugman tells us they baptized “in order to become ritually pure after a temporary state of ritual impurity, or when a person or object changes status…! The same rule applies when an instrument or vessel is dedicated to the Lord. When immersed in living waters (like rivers and streams) life “swallows up death.” When a plate or a bowl were washed in the waters of purification it ceased to be what it once was and now was forever something other. Baptism into the Shem (name) of Messiah for the remission of sins is an immersion with and by the Holy Spirit of God into His presence and His authority. We are now identified with Him and as one of His. This imparts not only a new significance (new status) to its recipient in terms of ones relationship with the faith community, but when coupled with genuine faith there is an impartation of a new nature poured forth into the recipient. A new spirit person is born. The Old is as if it is passed away. We are now a new kind of creature after the order of the last Adam, Jesus Christ. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which born of the Spirit is spirit! Hallelujah! We are made into a new creature. We become partakers of the Divine nature He alone can impart (not just symbolically). For the time being, the physical part remains the same, and the soul aspect is still habitually impressed with the habits of the old nature with all of its ways and thoughts. But if you have been born from above, you have become a living spirit again, with a new nature made in His image awakened in you. You now have two natures in one person. This is the Jihad. When He returns at the Second Advent (the parousia), the body shall also be renewed and glorified in and by Messiah. Oh Glory to God! Praise His mighty name! Immersion done with the wrong attitude or from an incorrect motive makes the ritual is meaningless. This is why baptized babies must be raised to have faith (parents and God-parents take an oath to do so) and later when the child confesses Christ at their time of confirmation, their baptism is made effectual. Until then it is somewhat in-potentia. The ritual alone is not effectual or else everyone who ever took a bath would be saved and this of course is absurd! For example, Simon Magi in Acts 8 is said to have believed and was baptized but he believed for his own sake that he could wield such power as he had seen and then he would be exalted. His heart was wrong before God. He sought to gain the Holy Spirit to exploit it for purposes of fame and wealth (as some do even to this day). When the heart of the one being baptized is not right before the Lord, or is harboring false or impure motives, God knows this, in which case, all the dipping, sprinkling, or plunging in the world cannot, and will not, effect the rebirth of the person’s sin-deadened human spirit. Such concession by a family’s traditional Church community, or even by mere outward profession, does not make one a child of God. Those who teach that all you have to do is repeat this prayer are not telling the truth. Yes such a confession is important but it must be sincere, from the heart that seeks to be made right with God, not a free pass magical formula. If you are really in contrition over your sinful condition and you with a sincere heart fall before God seeking His grace, He will give it. The infilling received is eternal Life, and this can only happen through faith in the Lord’s gracious work in Messiah Jesus. The Holy Spirit within is the seal, or guarantee or down payment of that promise, and we are sealed until the day of redemption (the parousia) when that which is so promised is fulfilled. The Holy Spirit is our blessed assurance. Those of the school of Hillel were baptized into the traditions, understandings, roles, and responsibilities, prescribed by Rabbi Hillel. They readily and willfully adopted and practiced these. The same was true for the followers/disciples of Rabbi Shammai. In Qumran, the men there had to be immersed into the traditions, understandings, and roles prescribed by the Zadokite Priests. So it is with the followers of Jesus to this day! I just want you to realize that this was not at all peculiar or uncommon in that time or culture, and that it was not something new, something “Christian”, but it was always something ordained by God. Notice how in all these cases the recipient is entering into a renewed or new order of relationship, or is restored or graduated to a greater oneness in relation to or with something or someone other. In addition to the consecration function, and ceremonial cleansing, the attainment of conversion and a new identity was forthcoming. It was also a service of dedication to a Holy Office and/or for engaging in Holy Service! Whenever a person entered a life of leadership in the Holy Community, such as a priest, a King, or an officiating prophet, there was always a confession or profession, there was an immersion (sometimes simply into the role, or in the word, or in the Holy Spirit) and there was always an anointing! Sometimes the anointing preceded sometimes followed. In the Old Covenant a pouring out of oil upon the person symbolized the spiritual action taking place, but in the new covenant the Father pours out the Holy Spirit upon us. Are we any less then priests and kings? Nay! Indeed we are a nation of priests and kings (1 Peter 2:9; Revelations 20:6). Aaron and his sons had to be immersed into their priestly office (Exodus 29:4). Their garments were likewise immersed (Leviticus 6:27). The laver of washing always stood between the congregation and God’s presence (Exodus 30:18) and it is written “they shall wash with water so they will not die.” See also Psalm 51. Every plate and utensil being made Holy by God to be used for service in the Temple had to be immersed first. So now you can see it was likewise, the lawful and logical thing for Jesus to do (to be baptized by John the Baptist who actually was not only God’s prophet, but a priest as well) in order to officiate His public ministry as Messiah. Every person or item sprinkled with the blood was to be washed. In Judaism, just as in Christianity, certain prayers were said over the water before immersion, and thanks and praise followed. With the benediction, supplication, and prayers God sets them apart for Holy or Sacred purpose. Holy water therefore, is water that has been “set apart” or sanctified for the Rites of the Holy Community of Faith, and has no special power in and of itself, as one might think from watching some of today's popular movies, or so-called deliverance ministers. This idea of passing through the waters to enter into a new life goes way back. Did not Noah and his family have to pass through the waters to have a new life? When Moses led the children of Israel though the Red Sea they were leaving their old self, held in bondage behind and entering a new Holy covenant life with God. Before Joshua and the consecrated generation could enter the promised land they had to pass though the rushing Jordan. Spirit motivated baptism is the way into Messiah (Galatians 3:27). It is a baptism of faith. The mysterious transformation by grace is performed by the Holy Spirit, and in most cases, but not all (see Simon Magi in Acts 8, versus the Centurion’s household in Acts 10), this accompanies the temporal immersion, which is representative of the gospel itself. It is a form of death (repentant death to unbelief and intentional sin), burial (immersion with Him), a being lifted up, a resurrection (justified regeneration upon rising from the mock watery grave, or womb, to walk in newness of life). However, the Spirit can immerse a faith filled believer into Messiah before any ritual (but in the Biblke these are immediately called to be immersed), and even void of the temporal ritual if it cannot be performed (like the thief on the cross), and finally in some cases there are those who are baptized but do not receive the Spirit until later. So in light of this I can see where Jesus questioning Nicodemus says to him, “Are you not a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not know of these things?” The question was a rhetorical one. Of course Nicodemus knew what He was saying only he could not admit it yet. So for us, to say “I am saved already because I believe, therefore I do not need to be baptized” is in grave error! God designed that all that He was setting apart (making Holy), should be immersed in the waters. Now if you have confessed Christ go and be baptized…it is indeed essential. Not for the reasonableness of one theological argument versus another, but because God made this to be the way. Your argument is with Him. Any who says “I’m already saved so I won’t be baptized” should examine their faith, for may not be saved and are still children of disobedience.