Baptism & The Crossing Of The Red Sea
Previously to this, we have covered two types, or foreshadowings, of baptism in the Old Testament – The Great Deluge, and the story of Naaman. Both these types contained irrefutable connections to salvation’s inseparable role in our salvation. We now go on to another type, which is the story of Israel’s escape from Egypt across the Red Sea.
Most are familiar with the account. The Hebrew nation Israel, now numbering about 600,000, not counting the women and children, was enslaved by Egypt, forced to work for them building cities and otherwise being oppressed. Then Moses, raised up by God Himself, came announcing that God wanted His people free. Pharaoh stubbornly refused to comply, even after nine miraculous plagues God delivered through Moses. At last, after Egypt’s firstborn were struck down, Pharaoh released Israel. But as Israel approached the Red Sea, Pharaoh changed his mind and sent out his army to bring them back.
Israel, with the Red Sea before them and Pharaoh’s army behind them, despaired for the first of many, many times during their journey. But Moses declared, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which he will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.” – (Exodus 14:13-14) At this point, the pillar of cloud, which contained the archangel who led them (Christ), moved from before the children of Israel and positioned itself between them and the pursuing army. To the Egyptian army it was a cloud of blackness, preventing them from falling upon Israel while God worked His miracle.
God then sent a strong east wind to blow all that night on the sea. It blew all night, until the sea divided and the water piled on either side like a wall, with dry land where Israel could walk across. And walk across they did. The Egyptians resumed their pursuit, but while Israel reached the other side in safety, God allowed the water to fall back into place while the army was yet in the middle of the sea. They all died, man and horse – in the words of Scripture, “not even one of them remained.” (Exodus 14:28)
One of the features to notice is Moses’ wording in his reassurance to Israel: “Stand by and see the SALVATION of the Lord.” – Exodus 14:13
Immediately we see that this is a story of salvation. Afterward, in the famous Song of Moses, we read,
The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my SALVATION [emphasis mine]. . . – Exodus 15:2
In Your lovingkindness You have led the people who You have REDEEMED [emphasis mine]; in Your strength You have guided them to Your holy habitation. – Exodus 15:13
Terror and dread fall upon them; by the greatness of Your arm they are motionless as stone; until Your people pass over, O Lord, until the people pass over whom You have PURCHASED [emphasis mine]. – Exodus 15:16
So we see a prevalent theme of salvation and redemption in this story. These words immediately bring to mind the salvation and redemption enjoyed by God’s spiritual Israel, Christianity. How are the two connected?
First of all, keep in mind that Israel was never once considered free from Egyptian slavery until they crossed the Red Sea and their pursuers were killed. Only after the Red Sea did they mention being truly free, being saved, being redeemed. God reminds them at Mount Sinai just as He gives them the Ten Commandments, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” – Exodus 20:2. And again in Leviticus 26:13 – “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so that you would not be their slaves, and I broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.” The Red Sea was the defining event that made the Hebrews a free nation.
In comparison, all mankind are held by another slavery – the slavery of sin. Romans 6:6 says:
. . . our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.
Moses led the Hebrews out of slavery to Egypt. Jesus leads us out of slavery to sin. Already, we see one out of many types between Moses and Jesus. Throughout the wanderings of Israel, Moses remained a foreshadowing of Jesus, as a leader and mediator.
So where does baptism come in?
Paul tells the Corinthian assembly in I Corinthians 10:1-2,
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.
How were they baptized INTO Moses?
Once they crossed the Red Sea, they had only one choice for survival – to unite under Moses’ leadership. Turning back to Egypt was no longer an option, and the power of Egypt’s hold over them had been effectually destroyed. They were all now one body with Moses as the head.
Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:5,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
On the day of Pentacost, Peter told the multitude to “be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” — Acts 2:38
When Jesus was baptized, the Spirit of God descended as a dove and lit upon Him (Matthew 3:16).
When God made it clear that Gentiles were accepted in His kingdom by sending the Holy Spirit upon Cornelius and his household just as he had the apostles, Peter exclaimed,
“Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ . . . – Acts 10:47-48
Baptism and the Holy Spirit are intertwined in the process of our salvation.
Israel was baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. Christians are born of water and the Spirit. Do you begin to see the connection here?
The cloud that led Israel signifies the Spirit. The cloud led Israel to the Sea, then stood between them and their enemies until the Sea parted – it separated them from the Egyptian army and protected them. It set them apart, i.e., sanctified them. It led them through the wilderness. In the same way, the Holy Spirit (also referred to as the spirit of truth) leads Christians through the spiritual wasteland. John 14:17, John 15:26, John 16:13, and I John 4:6 all use the term “the spirit of truth. The truth sets us free (John 8:32). Paul says in Romans 8:21 that God hopes that we should be set free of our slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Jesus is the truth, the way, and the life (John 14:6). Jesus led the Hebrews and protected them from their enemies by means of the cloud. Romans 8:14 says,
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.
Israel was led by the cloud (Jesus). Christians are led by the Holy Spirit, which is one and the same as God and/or Jesus. This settles the question of the connection between the cloud that led Israel and the spirit that renews us as Christians – the cloud and the Holy Spirit are one and the same.
The Red Sea signifies the water of baptism. Israel passed through safely, leaving their enslavers behind to die. They were at last free and fully under the leadership of God and Moses.
When we are baptized, we undergo a likeness of Jesus’ burial and resurrection (Romans 6:3). Paul goes on to say in Romans 6:4,
[Speaking of baptism] For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
Read this verse carefully, keeping in mind several themes this passage holds in common with the crossing of the Red Sea:
- “We have become united with him.” Christians are united with Jesus upon their baptism, Jesus being the head (Colossians 1:18). Israel was united with Moses upon crossing the Red Sea, Moses being their head, or leader (Isaiah 63:11-14).
- “. . . in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin . . .” God did away with the Egyptian forces, effectually setting Israel free. Christians have put off the “old man” and his fleshly desires (Romans 6:6, Ephesians 4:22, Colossians 3:9). We are set free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2) and brought to the law of grace through Jesus (John 1:17, Romans 3:24, Romans 5:1-2, Romans 6:14).
- “. . . have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” Jesus, in the form of the cloud, and through the leadership of Moses, led Israel through the Red Sea. They entered an enslaved nation, were “buried”, so to speak, in the sea, and emerged, leaving their wicked enslavers to drown behind them. They came to the eastern shore a free nation. In the same way, we are cleansed of our fleshly selves and its condemnation through baptism and the blood of Jesus, who underwent the punishment intended for us. We are buried with Him in the baptismal water and raised a new man, free, with Christ, and not the lusts of our flesh, as our head.
Moses led Israel through the Red Sea, thus undergoing the “baptism” first; Israel followed. Jesus underwent His death, burial, and resurrection first, and we follow in its likeness through baptism.
“But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!” – Luke 12:50
Paul tells the Colossian assembly that they have been circumcised, not in a fleshly manner, but in the “removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” — Colossians 2:11-12
But once we have been circumcised of our flesh, what then? Paul tells the Galatians,
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. – Galatians 3:27
Christ refers to righteousness as a garment in Revelation 3:4 and 16:15. Jesus is righteousness. With Jesus as our head and our garment, as our light and our sword, as our rock and our bread and water of life, baptized believers set out upon an exodus into the wilderness of the world, free from the burden of sin and death, to seek out the Promised Land that awaits at the end of our journey.