Church of God, New World Ministries

Bible Q & A

Q. There doesn’t seem to be any reference to baptism in the Old Testament. Where did John the Baptist get the authority or example of baptism? Was this a specific revelation for him?
A. One of the greatest miracles of the Old Testament is a forerunner and type of what true baptism pictures today. It is the exodus of Israel out of Egypt! Much of the confusion concerning baptism, its meaning and method, comes as a direct result of the ignorance of the Old Testament example and what it represents.

In I Corinthians 10:11, God reveals why these Old Testament events occurred. Notice, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples (examples) and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

That includes us! Now read I Corinthians 10:1-2, 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 of the sea.”

Now the word used here for “baptized” means “dipped in,” “immersed,” and “plunged into.”

So let’s turn now to the Old Testament example in Exodus 14 and 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 with strange customs and evil ways. So God sent Moses to deliver them from their bondage. To bring them up out of the land of sin (Egypt is a type of sin, {Heb. 11:24-25}).

Now after Israel’s exodus from Egypt, God brought them to encamp “beside” Pi-hahiroth, before Baal-zephon” (Ex. 14:9). Much to Israel’s amazement, they found themselves in a box-canyon. The only way of escape was through the Red Sea. When Israel saw Pharaoh’s army pursuing them, they became filled with fear (v. 10). But Moses assured them, saying, “Fear ye not, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea” (Ex. 14:13, 21-22).

God had purposely led Israel to this situation for a special reason, to fulfill a phase of His plan. Israel was plunged into the Red Sea. Its waters were a wall on either side. Except for the mercy and grace of God, they all would have perished. This type of “immersion” was a veritable grave! Pharaoh and his men all perished in that grave! For Pharaoh was still in sin and therefore his escape was doomed (Rom. 6:23). Israel went through the Red Sea symbolically picturing the death of that former way of life by coming up out of that grave by the grace of God, they were to enter a new way of life a promised land.

And so in the New Testament God also requires Christians, in like manner to crucify the old man, the former way of life, to bury that way, and to come up out of a watery grave on to a better way of life (Col. 2:12).

The example of the baptism of Israel was only a type and forerunner. That baptism was under the Old Covenant a physical covenant 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, said the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them” (Heb. 10:16).

But what about John? Where did he get his authority? How did he know and understand the principle of baptism?

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. Any people that had to repent as the Jews did, needed to prove that 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 is a type of what each individual ought to do, be immersed, or baptized, in water “unto repentance.” All through the Old Testament many “diverse washings” are recorded as types of baptism to wash away, figuratively our past sins.
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