Baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea
Paul, writing to the church in Corinth, and referring to Israel said, "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 baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (1 Cor 10.1-2).
The meaning of the expression "All baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea" is that, through the faithfulness of Moses, God was pleased to overshadow the nation of Israel with the cloud of His love and protection both day and night as they journeyed through the wilderness. Furthermore, they were guided by Jehovah under the faithful leadership of Moses on their successful passage through the Red Sea, where they were delivered from the power of death. However, being baptised in the cloud and in the Red Sea was no guarantee the people would be carried through to the Promised Land - all would depend on their faithfulness to God.
While both events were likened to baptism, it was the Lord who took the initiative. In Christian baptism, it is the individual who obeys the call of the Lord to be baptised. From the time Israel left Egypt they were beneficiaries of the love, mercy and power of Jehovah, yet, so very soon, they forgot the Lords sovereign goodness to them and turned to idolatry, were disobedient, and discontented. When Israel reached Kadesh-barnea their unbelief in Jehovah was so patent that the Lord declared: "Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me...save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun" (Num 14.29-30).
The Apostle Paul was anxious to convey to the saints at Corinth that the observance of institutions such as baptism and the Breaking of Bread are not in themselves evidence that an individuals walk is pleasing to God. We might add that neither can the keeping of such institutions alone give an individual the assurance of eternal life in heaven; such assurance can only be known when a soul has repented before God and put his faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The apostle is highlighting the fact that a person may, from all outward appearances, be the recipient of divine blessings, having been baptised and partaken of the Lords Supper, yet not be walking in accord with the will of God. Clearly, God will in His time deal governmentally with professing Christians whose walk does not accord with His will (1 Cor 11.30), just as He did with Israel. May our gracious God help us daily to be sensitive to the cloud of His presence in our lives, to move when the cloud moves, to be still when the cloud is still. Such a disposition will help us - as another has said, "Never go before your faith, and never lag behind your conscience". What happened to Israel is recorded for our admonition that we should not lose out during our earthly pathway, nor at the time of rewards (2 Jn v.8).
Baptised for the dead
The Apostle Paul wrote, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable Else what shall they do which are baptised for (in place of) the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptised for (in place of) the dead?" (1 Cor 15.19,29). In the JND translation, note "f" at v.29 gives "in place of", and this is great help in understanding the meaning of the text.
1 Corinthians 15 is the affirmation of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul gives unimpeachable evidence of the fact, and details its truth and consequences. In summary, speaking of the Lord Jesus, the apostle said that if there was no resurrection we have no viable gospel to preach, there is no possible hope of eternal life for man, all who have fallen asleep believing in Christ are perished, our faith is vain, and as living Christian believers we are of all people the most miserable.
However, in v.20 we have the beginning of a parenthesis where the apostle details what he had received by divine revelation (vv.20-28). He begins by using the most powerful and emphatic co-ordinating conjunction to be found in all his writings, the word "But", and completes his affirmation by saying, " now is Christ risen from the dead". He goes on to set out the tremendous consequences of Christs resurrection and its unquestionable connection with the coming Kingdom (the millennial age), taking us on to the end of time, "that God may be all in all" (v.28). Verse 29 of our chapter follows on from verse 19, where the apostle raises a pertinent question: "Else what shall they do which are baptised for (in place of) the dead?".
An expansion of the expression "in place of" would be "filling the gaps in the ranks of the Lords army occasioned by the home-call of faithful servants". There was absolutely no thought in the apostles mind of vicarious baptisms for unsaved souls who have died, or that such might be saved if another is baptised in their stead. What he had in mind was that the ranks of the Lords servants were becoming thin due to the home-call of so many, and that other newborn souls were willingly coming forward to fill the gaps in the ranks of the Lords servants, testifying by baptism to their faith in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. In this, they were exposing themselves to all manner of persecutions, even death, for testifying to the resurrection of Christ, for such teaching was anathema to the orthodox Jew, the Pharisee and Sadducee.
What was the point of others joining the ranks of the Lords servants if there is no resurrection; and why, Paul asks, should we daily stand in jeopardy of our lives if Christ be not risen. What a wonderful and powerful statement comes forth from the apostle, a statement that is the sure and eternal anchor of our faith: "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Cor 15.20).
For now, we await with patient expectation the day when our blessed Lord will come to the clouds to rapture all the redeemed to glory, and then, in less than a nanosecond of time, He will "change our vile body (body of humiliation) that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body" (Phil 3.21), "and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thess 4.17).
Meanwhile, with the Lord Jesus ever before us, we can sing from our hearts:
We wait for Thee; Thou wilt arise, whilst hope her watch is keeping;
Forgotten then, in glad surprise, shall be our years of weeping.
Our hearts beat high, the dawn is nigh, that ends our pilgrim story,
In Thine eternal glory.
-J N Darby