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Chapter 1 The Red Sea Baptism
Only by grasping the whole plan of God can we more fully understand any single part. An understanding of the overall plan of God will equip us to better understand the time in which we live and our own part in it. The greater our understanding of "the big picture," the more confidence we will have to fulfill our own mandate. This is the second book in a planned seven-volume series. When completed, this series will provide a comprehensive biblical overview of God’s plan for this present age, as well as a biblical perspective of the age to come. This series is not written just for serious Bible students, but for serious Christians-- those committed to making their lives count by doing the will of God. The primary purpose of this series is to impart faith and confidence for the courageous and bold advance the church is destined to make at the end of this age. Every Christian is meant to be a light in this world, to give illumination that reveals the glory of our God. The better we know His ways, the more boldly we will proclaim them. My prayer for this work is that it will stir every reader to sink his roots deeper into the Scriptures, seeking to know the Lord’s ways because he loves the truth. The first book in the series ends with the deliverance of the people of God from bondage in Egypt and the beginning of their corporate walk with God after the Passover. This second volume starts as the journey begins, and continues through the wilderness experiences meant to prepare Israel for the presence of God. In this volume we will seek a deeper understanding of our God and of all that must be accomplished in His people to prepare us for the conquest of our Promised Land.
Out of Slavery
After more than four hundred years of slavery, Israel departed Egypt as a free people. Without a single weapon this humble band of slaves defeated the greatest nation on earth and carried away its treasure. Even recognizing the dramatic changes taking place at the end of the twentieth century, there has never been a political reversal in human history to equal Israel’s liberation from Egypt. Just days earlier these slaves were without hope; then suddenly they were not only free but wealthier than even the most optimistic could have imagined. A truly marvelous God had considered their grief and had come to set them free. Naturally, there was great rejoicing. The seed chosen to bring forth the Messiah had faced the seed of Cain in the most dramatic confrontation yet, and the victory had been overwhelming. But the victory was not yet complete. Pharaoh still had his army and he would use it to make one last bold attack upon the children of Israel. In Pharaoh, we have one of the great biblical archetypes of Satan. Satan’s highest priority continues to be keeping God’s people in bondage. If he cannot keep us in bondage, he will try to destroy us. Our victory over him will not be complete until, like the Israelites who fled from Pharaoh, we have passed through the Red Sea. The Red Sea is a type, or biblical model, of baptism. It is through baptism that our Enemy is to be utterly destroyed. Through baptism we are to be forever separated from the domain that has kept us in bondage. The apostle Paul explained this in the following passage:
For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. (1 Cor. 10:1-2)
"Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?" (Rom. 6:3). As Pharaoh was a biblical type of Satan who seeks to keep us in bondage, Moses was the type of Christ who came to set us free. As stated in First Corinthians, the Israelites were symbolically baptized into Moses by their experience at the Red Sea, as a prophecy of how we are to be baptized into Christ Jesus.
What does it mean to be baptized into Christ? The word baptize literally means to be immersed. Paul said that Israel had been baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea and that in the same way we are baptized into Christ. To move into something is to be transferred from a position outside to a position inside. This is not a change of substance but a change of position. It is through baptism that we move from a position outside of Christ to a position of abiding in Him. The Bible records how Israel was delivered from Egypt by the Passover, but it was through the Red Sea and being under the cloud in the wilderness that they were truly joined to Moses. Likewise, it is the cross that delivers us from bondage to the world, but it is through baptism and through following the cloud of God’s presence that we are truly joined to Christ. Through baptism we move to a position in Him. Paul further elaborated on this in Romans 6:4-5:
Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.
Note that in this key passage on baptism, there is no mention of water! Israel’s passage through the Red Sea is a type of water baptism, which is a symbolic ritual that represents the true baptism. Baptism is being united with Christ in the very likeness of His death in order to live in the power of His resurrection. We can immerse a person in water as many times as we like-- in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or in the name of Jesus-- but it will never, by itself, make us partakers of the Lord’s death. Water baptism is a ritual that represents a commitment we are making to live in union with Christ. Just as a wedding ceremony is not the actual marriage but rather a ceremonial commitment to marriage, water baptism is a ceremonial commitment to what is supposed to become a reality in our lives. The baptism that Paul was declaring to the Roman Christians was the actual commitment to union with the Lord in His death. This is a day-by-day commitment to take up our crosses and lay down our own lives and self-interests for the sake of the Gospel. This baptism is a total reality, not just the comprehension of a doctrine or a submission to a ritual. This is the true baptism, daily laying down our own lives and interests to serve Him. Our immersion in water is a ceremonial ritual that symbolizes our pledge to make our total commitment to Jesus a reality, testifying that we will no longer live for ourselves but for Him. This is not in any way to belittle the importance of water baptism. God-ordained ceremonies are important, just as a wedding ceremony is important for the proper beginning of a marriage. Water baptism is given far more importance in the New Testament than most contemporary churches have recognized. The first Christians did not practice the modern invention known as "the altar call." Immediately after conversion the new believers were baptized by immersion in water. They did this just as quickly as they could find water. The practice of taking new converts immediately to the water is often inconvenient, but that is one of the important reasons for it. We must begin our walk with Christ with the commitment not to be ruled by convenience, but by His will. Our submission to convenience is possibly the greatest foe to our entering into the true baptism-- laying down our lives for His sake. How much more meaningful would the conversion experience be if we laid aside our modern substitutes for water baptism and returned to the scriptural mandate? How many more people would begin their spiritual walks on a firmer footing, understanding the essential commitment to lay down their lives and sacrifice their own convenience? If we connected conversion with an immediate demonstration of how important the church considers obedience to God’s mandate in His Word, wouldn’t our converts gain a much more solid foundation? Even science has proven that the quality of our birth can powerfully affect our whole lives. When the birth procedure described as "drug them and tug them" was implemented-- which meant drugging the mother and tugging out the baby-- that generation grew up in the 1960s and 1970s and released a drug culture that has swept the world. Likewise, the quality of our conversion can have an impact on the quality of our entire spiritual lives. Our worship of convenience is a terrible enemy of the true faith. It is one of the first idols that must be destroyed in our lives if we are going to abide in Christ. Therefore, it is important that we return to the biblical practice of sealing the new birth with baptism-- and quickly! In doing this we must also impart a clear understanding of what this baptism represents. Making Ritual Reality
Again, as important as water baptism is, we must understand that fulfilling the ritual is not necessarily the same as fulfilling the covenant; it is merely the equivalent of signing of the covenant. Better off is the one who, though never accomplishing the ritual, fulfills the covenant, than the one who religiously fulfills the ritual but fails to lay down his life. Water baptism does not save us; it does not cleanse us; it causes no one to partake of the Lord’s death, which is the true baptism. Yet, the reality of what water baptism symbolizes does accomplish all these things, as Peter explained:
For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you-- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience-- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.(1 Pet. 3:17-21)
True baptism does save us. But the baptism ritual of being immersed in water is only symbolic of a greater reality. We are submersed to represent laying down our own lives to share His death with Him, and then rising out of the water to represent that we are also partaking of His resurrection. "For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection" (Rom. 6:5).