In sounding the bell of caution and attempting to realign the spiritual lives of the Corinthians, Paul writes, “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;” (I Cor. 10:1-2). The Corinthians had become lackadaisical in their spiritual lives. They were haughty concerning their spirituality and had forgotten some very important principles for Christian conduct and worship. To correct these errors, the apostle brings to remembrance one of the greatest events the Israelites ever experienced. In recalling the remarkable and miraculous divide of the Red Sea, the escape from the Egyptians, and the Jews’ new found freedom, Paul undoubtedly conjured up fond memories for the Corinthians. The story of God delivering Israel from Egyptian bondage through the ten plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea is one of the most inspiring stories in all of history. The Christians at Corinth knew well how the events transpired and the deep meaning they held for those longing to find freedom.
In 1 Corinthians 10:1-2, Paul establishes some important parallels for the Corinthian’s consideration:
- Just as the children of Israel were baptized unto “Moses in the cloud and in the sea,” the Corinthians were baptized in water into Christ.
- Just as the children of Israel ate “spiritual meat” and drank “spiritual drink” (I Cor. 10:3-4), the Corinthians communed on the Lord’s day, partaking of the bread and cup.
Paul’s point is that although the Corinthians had been baptized and observed the Lord ’s Supper, they were not eternally saved without any fear. They had taken some significant steps by obeying the gospel and remembering the sacrifice of Christ through a very important memorial, however it was necessary for them to continue living a faithful life.
The Israelites had taken similar steps in their journey. One would assume all was well with the spiritual lives of the Israelites. They had been delivered from the Egyptians, baptized unto Moses, given the Ten Commandments. Certainly they would know how to properly conduct their lives, yet “with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness” (I Cor. 10:5).
In like fashion, the Corinthians were on a dangerous path. They had divisions in the congregation (1:10-16), were carnally minded (3:1-4), were tolerating unimaginable fornication (5:1), had to be reminded of unrighteous living (6:9-11), and demonstrated intolerance toward the consciences of others (8:4-13). The list continued to grow of the immoral, intolerable, perverse unchristian behavior in their midst. Here Paul uses the story of the fallen Jews to warn the Corinthians to “take heed” lest they fall (I Cor. 10:12). The eternal conditions of their souls were at stake.
The baptism of Moses is a unique event that is often overlooked. The story itself is recorded in Exodus 14 and is worthy of our time and attention.
Deliverance From Bondage / Sin
God selected a leader to guide the Israelites from the heavy hand of Pharaoh. With God’s providential guidance, Moses led the Israelites from bondage to freedom. Exodus 13:17-18 records, “And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt. The entire Israelite nation had known nothing of life or freedom. Their entire existence consisted of serving the Egyptians, yet things changed when God delivered His people from the cruelty of slavery.
Just as the Israelites were able to escape from bondage to enjoy freedom, today we have the opportunity to take advantage of God’s grace. God has provided any who desire to obey Him with the opportunity to find the forgiveness of sin–baptism is the means. On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached a heart-pricking sermon. His audience realized the need to do something with their lives because their spiritual state was lacking. In response to the wonderful question, “What shall we do?” Peter proclaims, “…repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:37-38). When an individual submits themselves to the gospel call through baptism, they find the remission (forgiveness) of sins.
On the dusty road leading to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus had an encounter with the Lord. Obeying the Lord’s command, he went into the city and soon met the acquaintance of Ananias. The words of Ananias were quick, powerful and to the point, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Saul was simply told to be baptized to “wash away thy sins.” We could go to great lengths discussing the theological implications of these two passages as well as defining terms in the original Greek; however, it is easier to let the scriptures speak for themselves. The Bible very plainly teaches baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
Not long after the Israelites left the land of Egypt and started their journey, Pharaoh had a change of heart. He sent his army to bring the children of Israel back. It would be difficult to imagine the abrupt emotional change of the Israelites as they looked over their shoulders and saw the world’s most powerful army in pursuit. Excitement was suddenly replaced by fear. However, God would not allow the army to conquer His people, and so their salvation occurred that very day. Moses writes, “But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore” (Exodus 14:29-30). God led His children safely across the dry sea bed while the Egyptians were met with death.
When an individual is willing to submit to the watery grave of baptism, they find salvation. Jesus teaches the importance of baptism in connection with salvation: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). Jesus’ words are unerring. Jesus is providing His disciples the necessary information to go into the entire world proclaiming the gospel. When they began evangelizing, they taught the precious death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the culminating act of baptism to those they came into contact with.
In Acts 8 we have the record of the Eunuch reading and studying the scriptures. When Phillip arrived, he “began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus” (Acts 8:35). As they traveled along they came across a certain body of water and the Eunuch asked, “What doth hinder me to be baptized?” (Acts 8:36). In Philip’s explanation of Jesus, he included the critical subject of baptism. The Eunuch realized the importance of baptism to his salvation and made no haste. Verse 38 tells the conclusion, “And they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.”
Peter proclaims salvation in the act of baptism, “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:” (I Peter 3:21). Considering all that the scriptures record concerning baptism, it is undeniable its connection to salvation. The ramblings of television and radio personalities do not change God’s word. Baptism is a necessary step in order to be saved.
Saved – Not Once and Always
It is difficult to understand why the Israelites turned from God. Paul explains, “But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness” (I Cor. 10:5). They were eyewitnesses to some of the greatest miracles ever performed in history. They were the ones who walked across the dry sea bed. Yet many lived in a way that was contrary to God’s commands.
People often erringly conclude that once someone is baptized, there is nothing left that must be done to obtain salvation. The Bible, however, teaches that the battle is not finished when one is baptized. Indeed, that is when it begins! After baptism there is still a faithful life to live for the Lord. That opportunity also brings the possibility of falling away and losing one’s salvation. The Hebrew author states, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end” (Heb 3:12-14). It is possible for a person who has a relationship with God to leave that relationship. It is the deceitfulness of sin which brings an end to such a relationship. It is the decision of the one in the saved condition to turn from God and His ways. This is a terrible tragedy.
Peter describes the true state of believers who fall away when he says, “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (2 Pet 2:20-21). Peter points out the possibility of how one, after escaping the pollutions of the world, can become entangled again therein. A truly sad state of affairs when one knows the truth yet turns from a holy life to ungodly living. The proverb is so true, “The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Pet. 2:22).
Paul’s brief parallel of the Corinthian condition with that of the Jews during Exodus serves as a warning to all Christians. Although we begin on the path of salvation through baptism, God demands that we remain faithful to Him and His laws in order to make it into the Promised Land.
Article by: Brad Shockley