Why is water baptism necessary in Israel’s program?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Water baptism is not exclusive to the “New Testament” Scriptures. In fact, water baptism first appears in the so-called “Old Testament” Scriptures. Water baptism was nothing new for Israel when John the Baptist began to practice it. But, why was water baptism necessary in Israel’s program? As always, we let the Bible speak for itself. We do not appeal to church tradition or preconceived notions.
In Exodus 19:5-6, the LORD commanded Moses to tell the nation Israel: “ Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:  And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.” This is why believing Israel is called “a royal priesthood, an holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9), and this is why believing Jews are called “priests” (Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10).
When the sons of Aaron, the Levitical priests of Israel, were ordained into the priesthood, they had to first wash with water. The Mosaic Law said in Exodus 29:1,4: “ And this is the thing that thou shalt do unto them to hallow them, to minister unto me in the priest’s office: Take one young bullock, and two rams without blemish, …  And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water.” Leviticus 8:6 says, “And Moses brought Aaron and his sons, and washed them with water.”
Water baptism is necessary to prepare believing Jews to become a “kingdom of priests.” Each Jew must wash with water like the Old Testament priests washed with water before entering their ministry. The Jews must be water baptized, or they cannot be a kingdom of priests: thus, water baptism is necessary for salvation in Israel’s program.
Read Mark 16:16: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” And Acts 2:38: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” And 1 Peter 3:21: “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Speaking of Israel’s salvation and restoration, the LORD said to the nation Israel, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you” (Ezekiel 36:25). Israel needed spiritual cleansing, and water baptism was a sign to them that they needed that cleansing. Evidently, water baptism is the sign of the Davidic Covenant, God’s promise to establish an earthly kingdom using a descendant of King David—the King, Jesus Christ—and the nation Israel (2 Samuel 7:12-17; 1 Chronicles 17:11-15).
Although John the Baptist and Israel’s 12 apostles began to perform this water baptism during Christ’s earthly ministry and the early Acts period, that program was interrupted, and God will return to doing this with Israel in the last days (after our Dispensation of Grace has ended, but just before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the institution of His earthly kingdom).
However, do not misunderstand. In Israel’s program, water baptism is not limited to Jews—Gentiles in Israel’s program also needed water baptism. Jesus Christ commissioned His 12 apostles, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). God told Israel, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you” (Ezekiel 36:25). Matthew 28:19 refers to believing Gentiles in Christ’s millennial kingdom (verse 20), and based on Ezekiel 36:25 that water baptism is necessary for believing Gentiles in Israel’s program because they also need to be cleansed from their pagan idolatry (and thus they will embrace the triune Godhead, the only true God).
» Why did Paul water baptize?
» Why was Jesus water baptized?
» Do I need to be water baptized—for a testimony, for salvation, or not at all?