Christian Baptism

by The Rt. Rev. Daniel R. Morse 

Introduction— The Flood of Noah and the Exodus are both called baptisms— but not in the Old Testament. Encouragement to persevere since will be victorious, and warning based on privilege and responsibility. 

I. The Meaning Of Baptism 

A. There was plenty of water, but the Israelites were not dunked. Yet they were baptized in the sea. As they passed through the waters threatened them, but God held the waters back. They did destroy Pharaoh. Moses and Israel were saved through the same water that meant the destruction of others. 

B. The important thing about baptism is not the amount of water or the mode, but that water symbolizes impending destruction. Baptism is the sign and seal of God’s grace to take us safely through well-deserved judgment. 

II. Baptism In A Cloud 

A. Israel was constantly in the presence of God. The cloud led them— Ps 78:14— and it covered and protected them— Ps 105:39. It concealed them from the Egyptians. 

B. Most of all the cloud was indicative of the presence of the Angel of the Lord— Nu 14:14, Ex 13:21, 22. The Lord himself is the leader and protector of his people. More particularly it is the presence of God’s Spirit— Isa 4:4ff— cleansing by the Holy Spirit of judgment and fire— canopy to protect. Holy Spirit leads, protects, and judges ungodly— Acts 5— Ananias and Sapphira. At the Exodus there is baptism in the water and the Spirit which corresponds exactly to Christian baptism— Jn 3. 

III. Baptism Into Moses 

A. Moses was the Savior of Israel— Ex 3:10. He was the mediator between God and man— Gal 3:19, Jn 5:46. Baptism forever separated Israel from Egypt— Ex 14:13. Some thought they would be better back in Egypt, but at their baptism they were definitively marked off as the people of God, identified with Moses. 

B. This means that they must stay with Moses to make it safely through the desert and come to the promised land. Baptism into Moses is parallel to baptism into Christ— Ro 6:3, Gal 3:27, Mt 28:19, Acts 8:16, 19:5, 1 Cor 1:13ff. Union with Moses meant the salvation of Israel, and our union with Christ means our salvation. Central to the meaning of baptism in the Red Sea was union with Christ, with Moses, so that the analogy does not mean getting wet, but sharing the destiny of our leader. As Moses goes, so goes the nation. In him we have safe passage. The Egyptians tried to pass through baptism on their own without identification with Moses (John 15:4). Baptism is God’s sign and seal of salvation to those who are in Christ and remain in him. 

IV. All Israel Participated in Baptism 

A. All Israel participated in both the privilege and responsibility of baptism. St. Paul emphasizes “all.” The Jews were not fathers according to the flesh of the Corinthians. Notice that no difference is made between believers and unbelievers— all made it safely to the other side. This is not to say that there is no difference, but only that the difference doesn’t come into play in the Exodus. Moses doesn’t stand on the beach to take their spiritual temperature before he allows them to go through the sea. The people as a whole move into baptism. The hypocrites soon make themselves known and God judges them. This is a cause of great sadness. 

B. The crowd was not made up of adult believers only. There were all kinds of people— fat, thin, old— even infants. This is an infant baptism. It happened in the Old Testament, but it is described in the NT using a NT term, which means that Paul did not conceive of baptism as excluding infants. If the exclusion of infants is the significant difference between circumcision and baptism, then it was very injudicious of St. Paul to speak this way. The Great Commission is the command to baptize nations— not just the nation of Israel. Nations include infants— there are no nations without infants. At first Pharaoh didn’t want the infants to go (Ex 10:9-11), but he changed his mind (Ex 10:24, 12:37). 

C. The Exodus is the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, which included infants— those who were 8 days old were circumcised. The promise to Abraham is not fulfilled unless it includes infants (Ps 105:37-45). 

D. Infants are baptized into Moses. How else could they pass safely through the Red Sea. When they got older they were taught not to wander from the path of righteousness, but to follow Moses. They belong to Jesus, and so we teach them to love and trust Jesus. Notice the proper order. The sequence is at the end of Ps 105—Sinai comes after the Red Sea—“that they might keep my law.” The sequence of the Exodus is the same as the Great Commission. Make disciples. How? Baptizing and then teaching. 

E. Children, obey your parents in the Lord— not outside the Lord. We seek to conform our children to the pattern of sound words. If we neglect that training— neglect to teach them that they belong to Jesus— they won’t hear the promise of eternal life, and their faith will have nothing to rest on. 

F. Our children are to be evangelized, but not as enemies of God, or strangers and aliens to the grace of God, as second-class citizens, potential people of God— but as those who have been baptized into Jesus. That baptism is the foundation for warning them against apostasy. 

G. Baptism is no dead letter. Can you imagine an Israelite thinking of the passage through the Red Sea as a dead letter? Oh yeah, I was baptized in the Red Sea, but it didn’t mean anything. 


1 Corinthians 10:1-13 

Here we have an example of another Old Testament event (1 Pet 3) the New Testament calls baptism. Paul mentions baptism to instruct the Church and we need to hear instructions. First see passage as a whole and then focus in particular on what is said about baptism and the implications for Christian baptism. The whole passage can be summarized by “privilege and responsibility.” 

I. Privilege  

A. Vs 12— to stand before God as redeemed people is a great privilege— Israel enjoyed this— coming out of Egypt and going to the promised land. Same privilege we have. Also responsibility. Not automatic like having blue eyes—born with them and can’t do anything about it. Just as in 1 Peter 3 baptism is mentioned in the context of exhortation to faithfulness—grounded in the assurance of victory and vindication as motivation in 1 Pet 3, but here grounded in warning (vs 11). The warning is that we will lose out—be destroyed—if we don’t remain faithful.  

B. Israel benefited from a great privilege—deliverance—father carrying son in desert. Think they would never forget—water piled up—but they didn’t persevere—most fell in wilderness. Those are written as a warning for us (vs 6). They left their first love, forsook allegiance to their Redeemer and Creator and so perished. Their example is relevant to us in that the privilege Israel enjoyed is identical to ours. 

II. Responsibility  

A. The Old Testament stories are not like Aesop’s fables—a crow has cheese, a dog compliments the crow’s voice, the crow opens his mouth and loses cheese. Did that ever happen? No and it needed not happen for the moral to apply. But Old Testament history is not written for a moral lesson, but the history of God’s dealings with his people as warnings. Not even an analogy—but Israel actually baptized. Christians should reflect on their baptisms in light of what happened to Israel— Israel was baptized as we have been. The word is not used in the Old Testament regarding the Red Sea—Paul chooses it to explain to the Corinthians that baptism has certain consequences. 

B. Every covenant has two sides—grace and obligation. Baptism summons us to renounce the world, flesh and the devil—all his works, vain pomp and glory of the world. Some think that to stress this side of covenant is to make salvation dependent on what we do—left only with the sovereign grace of God—fatalism. What do we do with the warnings? Some say they are only hypothetical. 1 Cor 10:11-12. Can you imagine an Israelite saying that being faithful to God day after day didn’t matter since they had been through the Red Sea? 

C. Everything we have is by God’s sovereign grace, but it puts us in covenant relationship with obligations. Col. 1:21-23— Paul does not say that it doesn’t make any difference if we persevere, or how we respond, and he does not say you will be reconciled if you do persevere. He says you have been reconciled, therefore continue in the faith. We can’t use responsibility to argue against election and we can’t use election to argue against responsibility. These are reconciled only in the covenant. Because we have been reconciled to God— married to him— we must love and obey him.