Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Baptized Into Moses"

When Paul wrote his first epistle to the Corinthian church, one of the warnings he issued was the danger of backsliding. He was writing to Christians, many of whom had left paganism and worldliness to follow Christ (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Within his discussion on the possibility of forfeiting liberty (1 Cor. 10:1-13), there is a gem worth keeping.

The first four verses read, "Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ."

The idea of the Israelites being "baptized into Moses" is fascinating. Why have we missed this in our efforts to teach the truth about what constitutes salvation today? When one studies what Paul is implying, there can be no argument about the necessity of baptism for salvation in the Christian age. Consider the following:

1. Paul was not exalting Moses. He had already dealt with the issue of those who were bragging about who baptized them (1 Cor. 1:10-17).

2. Paul was reminding the Corinthians about their commitment. Matthew Henry wrote that the Israelites being baptized into Moses was another way of saying the Jews were "brought under obligation to Moses’s law and covenant, as we are by baptism under the Christian law and covenant."

3. Paul was discussing how God saved His people. How did they leave the slavery of Egypt? What moment initiated their freedom from bondage? It was when they were "baptized into Moses" through the waters of the Red Sea!

4. Paul was explaining how Moses was the vehicle. "Baptized into Moses" indicates that Moses was the man God chose to deliver His people. Moses was a type of Christ in the Old Testament. Peter also made this connection (Deut. 18:15-18; Acts 3:20-26). Today, we are "baptized into Christ" to receive the remission of our sins and obtain a spiritual hope. "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27).

5. Paul was telling these Corinthian Christians that they needed to stay faithful. He alluded to their baptism as their pinnacle moment, and yet reminded them that the Israelites did not receive the land of promise just because they had a similar baptism. Those who died without the inheritance serve as examples for the need of endurance.

There is more to be said about this passage. But the main point is to ask ourselves the question, "Why did Paul choose the imagery of baptism to make his point?" He did so because people in the first century knew when they had entered into the new covenant with Christ! It was when they were baptized into Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins!

"For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free - and have all been made to drink into one Spirit" ~(1 Cor. 12:13).

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