One of the greatest miracles of the Old Testament was a forerunner and type of what true baptism pictures today. It was the Exodus of Israel out of Egypt.
In I Corinthians 10:11, God reveals that these Old Testament events occurred to be examples to Christians. Now read verses 1-2: “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, and were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”
The word here translated “baptized” means “immersed” or “plunged into.” Let’s understand the full meaning of this event.
Israel had just come out of captivity in Egypt. God said that He was going to bring them up out of that land of oppression — that pagan land of strange customs and evil ways. So God sent Moses to deliver them from their bondage in that land of sin.
Israel was in sin, living the wrong way. And God set His hand to deliver them.
After Israel’s Exodus from Egypt, God brought them to encamp “beside Pi Hahiroth, before Baal Zephon” (Exodus 14:9). To Israel’s amazement, they found themselves trapped, with the Egyptians closing in on them. The only way of escape was through the Red Sea.
When Israel saw Pharaoh’s army pursuing them, they became filled with fear (verse 10). But Moses assured them, saying: ” ‘Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord….’ Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back… and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea” (Exodus 14:13, 21-22). This type of “immersion” was a veritable grave, and Pharaoh and his men all perished in it. For Pharaoh was still in sin and therefore was doomed (Romans 6:23).
Israel went through the Red Sea, picturing the death of that former way of life — then, coming up out of that grave by God’s grace, they were to enter a new way of life, a promised land.
And so in the New Testament God also requires Christians to crucify the old man, the former way, and to come up out of a watery grave and into a better way of life (Colossians 2:12).
Israel’s baptism was only a type. That baptism was under the Old Covenant, a physical agreement with physical ordinances and material rewards. But notice what God says about the New Covenant: “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them” (Hebrews 10:16).
But what about John? Where did he get his authority? How did he know and understand the principle of baptism?
Answer: John had been taught those examples from childhood, for his parents were righteous before God (Luke 1:6). God, through the power of His Spirit, revealed to John the principle of baptism — that a people had to be prepared to hear the message of the soon-coming Messiah.
Repentant sinners needed to prove their repentance by an outward sign, as Israel did under Moses. That’s why John saw in Scripture that the original crossing of the Red Sea by a whole nation was a type of what each individual ought to do — be immersed, or baptized, in water.
Source: The Good News, May 1985