Wash/Bathe: a person's desire separated.
All we have spoken of thus far, being cut to the heart, being cut free from the false vine and being circumcised in heart, are all matters to do with spiritual cleansing i.e. separation from sin and being set apart for God.
As we have observed, this is a painful experience, which brings humiliation to our flesh and a separation from those things we once clung to so dearly.
We have looked at the spiritual, but what is the physical demonstration of these events taking place in the heart?
All these things are summed-up in the natural aspects of water baptism.
To fully understand water baptism, we must at this point recognise God’s purpose and calling upon all those who would be disciples of Jesus.
1Peter 2: 9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light;
Did you notice that Peter says plainly that we are called to be part of a “royal priesthood”? Therefore, our entering into that royal priesthood should be patterned on the way in which the priests of the OT entered their calling as priests.
The first step in preparation for the consecration of Aaron and his sons as priests is recorded in Leviticus 8:6
Then Moses brought Aaron and his sons and washed them with water.
There is a close connection between the word “washed” and the word “baptism”.
In Hebrew the word washed means: to lave (the whole or a part of a thing): bathe (self), wash (self).
In the Greek the word baptism means: to make whelmed (i.e. fully wet) to wash.
If you read Leviticus 8 you will note that this washing, or baptism, took place before Aaron and his sons could be dressed in the Holy garments of the High Priest and priests and before they could be anointed and sprinkled with the blood and the oil. This washing or baptism was the first step in their consecration as priests.
Remember that principal we learned from the Apostle Paul:
1Corinthians 15: 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.
I believe that water baptism is the natural manifestation of the spiritual truths regarding a believer being cut to the heart, cut free from the false vine, being circumcised in heart and grafted into the True Vine. But, according to the Apostle Paul’s principle the natural must come before we can enter the fullness of the spiritual truth regarding these things.
What I am saying is this: you can have a great deal of information about being “cut to the heart”, being cut free from the false vine, being circumcised in heart and being grafted into the True Vine; but, the full revelation of these things can only be realised in us after we have fulfilled the natural requirement of the Word. Water baptism brings us into a place where the information we have becomes divinely formed in us as spiritual life.
The word “consecration” is vital in understanding this natural pattern, laid out for us in the OT, which precedes the spiritual reality of the NT.
Leviticus 8: 22 And he (Moses) brought the other ram, the ram of consecration: and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the ram.
The word consecration, as used here means: a setting (of gems), or dedicatory sacrifice, be set.
The significance of this is clearly apparent when we relate it back to the reality of being grafted into Christ, the True Vine. Being grafted into Christ is like a jewel being set into a ring or a crown.
Zechariah 9: 16 The LORD their God will save them in that day, as the flock of His people. For they shall be like the jewels of a crown, Lifted like a banner over His land;
Malachi 3: 17 “They shall be Mine," says the LORD of hosts, "On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him."
This establishes the fact that water baptism should be the first step in our consecration, our setting, or being grafted into the royal priesthood that Peter spoke of.
It is also worthy of note that it was the blood of the consecration lamb that was applied to the right ear, the right thumb and the right big toe of Aaron and his sons. It was also the blood from this animal that was mixed with the anointing oil and sprinkled upon them and upon the holy garments.
Also, as the Consecration Lamb, Jesus during His crucifixion, had His own blood applied to His head, His hands and His feet, just as Aaron and his sons had the blood applied at their consecration. You see, the crucifixion of Jesus and the reality of baptism are inseparable.
Romans6: 3-11 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise, you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jesus Christ became our Consecration Lamb on Calvary and through water baptism we are introduced into His death. That is, we know the application of His blood as surely as Aaron and his sons knew the application of the blood from the consecration lamb to their bodies.
We are quick to acknowledge the truth of Scripture when Jesus tells us that He is the Way. Yet, we rarely seek to understand the practical application of that truth. If Jesus is the Way then He has already walked where He calls His disciples to follow Him.
This fact is reflected in our habit of viewing water baptism in isolation from Priesthood.
Most of us do not realise that John the Baptist was a direct descendant of Aaron, the first High Priest to serve in the Tabernacle of the OT.
Luke 1:5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
The “course of Abia” represented the descendants of Abijah who served as High Priest during the time of David. Abijah was a direct descendant of Aaron. So both of John’s parents were of the direct lineage of Aaron. This means that by birthright John the Baptist was qualified to serve in the office of High Priest.
The reason John did not serve as the High Priest was due to the fact that Israel was under Roman rule and the Romans had made their own political appointment (i.e. Caiaphas), to the powerful position of High Priest.
Nevertheless, as far as God was concerned, only John was qualified to baptise Jesus into the priesthood, and thus to transfer the priesthood forever from Aaron to the new priesthood of Melchizedek, who is Jesus the King of Righteousness and the King of Peace.
The writer of the Book of Hebrews explains all these things in detail and I would urge you to study that Book carefully.
Jesus’ baptism was the physical announcement of His consecration to God as a Priest under the new order of Melchizedek, King of Righteousness. Not one of the priests consecrated under the order of Aaron was able to walk in true righteousness, hence the need for Jesus to come and establish a new order of priests and it is into this order of priesthood that we are to be consecrated through water baptism.
We are called to stand before God and minister as priests of righteousness under the High Priesthood of Christ. But, we can only do this if we are grafted into Christ, our High Priest, and if we are maintaining a living communion with Him as the True Vine.
The next important issue about Priesthood, is the reality that every High Priest and every Priest requires a Temple or Tabernacle in which to minister.
In relation to this issue I have grave doubts as to whether Christendom has, yet, broken free from the provisions of the old covenant.
2Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Hebrews 9:11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.
Hebrews 9:24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;
The means of access to understanding this great truth is to realise that the word tabernacle always indicates the place where God dwells. We know that God dwells in Heaven, hence there is a Heavenly Tabernacle. But God’s purpose has always been to dwell amongst His people. He did this in respect to Israel by establishing the OT Tabernacle, and later the Temple, as the designated place of His dwelling here on earth. But this was only a copy of the greater truth yet to be revealed in Christ.
Unfortunately, due to our lack of understanding, we have used this OT truth as a means of putting “God in a box”, as a means of confining Him to our set of boundaries. We have placed unbiblical emphasis upon our church buildings to the point where we have tried to re-create the OT tabernacle. This we have done to our detriment.
Acts 7:48-51 "However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says: 'Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the LORD, or what is the place of My rest? Has My hand not made all these things?' "You stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.
Acts 17:24-25 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. "Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.
Under the new covenant a new tabernacle was established.
1Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
In our bodies we serve as Priests in the Temple of God. We serve under the Great High Priesthood of Jesus Christ. As surely as Jesus has entered the Holy of Holies in Heaven He has entered the Holy of Holies in the bodily Temple of every saint; every branch grafted into the True Vine, and He has done this through the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit.
Not only should this heighten our understanding of water baptism, it should also increase our desire to experience the fullness of what it means to be grafted into and to be found abiding in the life of Christ.
Grafted: to prick in, i.e. in graft; position (in place, time or state), into a relationship of rest; to give oneself wholly to, to be one.
A clear understanding of the above meaning of the word “grafted”, as it is used for instance by Paul in Romans 11, is essential to our study of this topic.
Please note very carefully these key words in the definition: “in”, “rest”, and “one”, “give self wholly to”.
Before the circumcised branch can be grafted into the vine, that vine must be cut, or wounded. And so it was prophesied of Christ the True Vine:
Isaiah 53:1-5 Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.
Notice that it says here: “Smitten by God”. Back in John 15:1 you will recall that Jesus said:
"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
God the Father is the Vinedresser; God the Father is the Sovereign Gardener. He is not a gardener like we are; He is truly sovereign, controlling every aspect of the environment in which His Vineyard grows. He determines if there is rain or sunshine, clouds or clear sunny skies. He determines the nutrients in the soil and He determines those branches that He will cut free from the false vine to be grafted-in, by His Hand, into Christ the True Vine. Also, as the Sovereign Gardener He wounded His Son Jesus to enable that grafting-in of the branches to take place.
Look for a moment at the meaning of the word “smitten” in the Hebrew: to strike (lightly or severely,); give wounds to, kill, wound.
God used the hands of sinful men to accomplish this Divine purpose.
Given this understanding it is worth noting what John saw and recorded in Revelation 5: 6
And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.
John was seeing Jesus as He is in Heaven right now, “a Lamb as it had been slain”. In other words, there are still open wounds visible in Christ the True Vine, waiting to receive those branches, which have yet to be grafted in by the Divine Vinedresser.
John 6: 44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.
Having been grafted into Christ, the True Vine, by God the Father, the Divine Vinedresser, we enter a place that the Scriptures refer to as being “in Christ”. In John 15 Jesus refers to it as that place of “abiding”.
We will be looking at both these terms in greater detail in future chapters, but before doing so we must consider the Importance of Water Baptism.
Heart: what controls the inside
In the last chapter we looked at the symptoms of hardness of heart. Now we need to turn our attention to this question: what are the hallmarks of that condition which is the direct opposite of hardness of heart?
We are going to look at two verses in Scripture, which describe the reverse of hardness of heart.
Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.
The meaning of the word “delight” in Hebrew is somewhat surprising; it means to be soft or pliable.
When I first stumbled across this truth I thought immediately of the references in Scripture to the potter and the clay. If the clay isn’t soft and pliable then, regardless of the potters’ efforts, the vessel that is formed will be faulty.
Jeremiah 18: 4- 6 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?" says the LORD. "Look, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!
When the Sword of the Spirit, the Living Word of God, cut into the hearts of the people on the Day of Pentecost, 3,000 of those hearts were found to be soft and pliable. They were willing to be cut and shaped. Consequently, as Peter continued to “solemnly testify and exhort with many other words” the result was freedom from the false vine.
Psalm 51:17 is another verse that describes what we might term “softness of heart”:
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart; These, O God, You will not despise.
Take a moment to reflect on the Hebrew meaning of the key words in this verse.
Broken: to break down or break off, or in pieces, to bring to the birth, to crush, destroy, to hurt, or tear.
Contrite: to collapse physically or mentally to crouch; to be crushed, injured:--afflicted, oppressed.
Heart: means the feelings, the will and even the intellect; the centre of anything
So, the hallmarks of a soft heart are a willingness to have your feelings, your will and your intellect cut, broken, crushed, bruised and humbled in order that they might be reborn, or reshaped, into that which is determined by the Divine Potter, the Divine Gardener, God the Father.
I have pondered for a long time on the question of how Scripture describes the cutting-through of the second half of the “branch”, and furthermore, the cutting that takes place to create a tapered end on the branch which can slide easily into the wound of the new parent vine.
My conclusion is that “Circumcision” is the term used in Scripture to describe these events.
We need now to look at the use of this word “circumcision” in Scripture in order that we might see the necessary groundwork that is required before a branch can be grafted in.
Genesis 17:11 “and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.
Circumcision was, first and foremost, a physical outward sign of the inward spiritual covenant, or promise, between God and Abraham. Here are the meanings of the word “covenant” from the Hebrew: to create, to choose (as one would choose a tree or a branch to cut down), to feed, to nourish and sustain
Again, note the key words that describe circumcision: cut, choose, and create.
As we have seen with the vine and the branch there must be a cutting, but how far this cutting goes, in a spiritual sense, is a choice of the human heart. When the human heart is soft and pliable in response to the Word of God then a new life is created because of the covenant, the centrepiece of which is circumcision.
In the NT circumcision continues to be central to the covenant relationship between the Godhead and believers.
Romans 2:28-29 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
No longer is circumcision a physical act, but rather, something that occurs in the realm of the spirit of men and women, in their hearts. It is entering a covenant with God where you willingly choose to be cut, separated from sin and set apart and made holy to God. This again is a painful process. Physical circumcision involved the physical cutting away of flesh. If you study circumcision in Genesis 34 and the account of Hamor and his son you will note that it says in Verse 25:
Now it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, each took his sword and came boldly upon the city and killed all the males.
In the Hebrew the word pain means that they were very sore and very sorry for themselves three days after they had been circumcised. We are unwise to assume that our spiritual circumcision is meant to be painless, to be an experience of pleasure, when it is a cutting away of the things of the flesh that are so precious to us.
Circumcision of the heart is not optional. Unless we willingly submit to it we cannot be grafted into the True Vine and be considered as members of the Kingdom of God. Unless a Jew willingly submitted to physical circumcision they were never considered as being part of the nation of Israel.
Romans 4:9-13 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised. For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
Heart circumcision is the hallmark of faith; it is a seal of the righteousness of faith.
So, in summary, softness of heart is demonstrated in the exact opposite symptoms which accompany hardness of heart:
1. We hear with an intention and willingness to obey what we hear;
2. We are ready and willing to let go of anything that poses itself as controlling our destiny apart from God;
3. We avoid the vicious circle of sinning yet more in hardening our hearts by being quick to confess to God the slightest evidence of hardness of heart creeping into our lives.