1 Corinthians 10 and Paedo-Baptism

Here is the text (verses 1-4): “I want you to know, brothers, 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, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.”

The phrase I wish to examine is that phrase “baptized into Moses.” Obviously, all the Israelites passed through the Red Sea. Therefore, they were all baptized into Moses. It didn’t matter what age they were, they were baptized into Moses. Infants are included in this. What we have here is an indisputable example of “baptizo” being referred to infants. However, some of the details could use some elucidation.

Moses here is a type of Christ. This is proved by verse 6, which speaks of these things as “types” for us to follow. The Baptists might wish to argue here that the word only functions on a typological or figurative level. However, the question still remains, “Why did Paul use that word here?” By the way, this passage also forms part of the argument against “baptizo” always meaning “to immerse,” since the Israelites were not immersed. They went through on dry ground. It was the Egyptians who were immersed! However, this is a side issue, which could be dealt with in another post.

To be baptized into Moses surely functions on a typological level to point us to being baptized into Christ. If this is the case, then we have rock (vs. 4!)-solid evidence of paedo-baptism in the NT. We must be careful here in distinguishing and noting the sign and the thing signified. Remember that sacramental language sometimes ascribes the effects of the thing signified to the sign. Here we have the thing signified (escape from the Egyptians by the grace of God in the Red Sea), and a sign (the word “baptizo”) closely conjoined. They can be distinguished, though not violently separated. This is not to say that baptism saves, unless by that we mean that that to which baptism points saves us. The language must be extremely careful to not ascribe too much or too little to baptism. The fathers had their baptism in the sea. God was saving them. That is a type for us. Verse 6 absolutely and finally prohibits us from relegating verses 1-4 to the interesting but irrelevant solely typological level. These types are for our benefit. Therefore, the baptism of the fathers in verses 1-4 has reference to our baptism in Christ. Notice the parallel of baptism into Moses with baptism into Christ. Surely, Paul has the latter in mind in speaking about the former. In short, this passage is extremely strong in favor of paedo-baptism.


  1. John said,

    November 28, 2006 at 6:25 pm

    I agree: They were ALL baptized includes the children, who certainly weren’t left behind in Egypt, and therefore this is one NT passage that speaks clearly about infant baptism.

    But, Lane, what about “all ate … and all drank”? That includes the children, too, right? As soon as they were eating, they were eating manna. As soon as they could drink something other than their mothers’ milk, they were drinking from the Rock. And Paul is here linking eating manna and drinking from the Rock with the Lord’s Supper.

    In other words, if “they were all baptized” is support for infant baptism, “they all ate … and all drank” is support for paedocommunion.

  2. Seth McBee said,

    November 28, 2006 at 11:20 pm

    Can this not be the same that is spoken in Galatians 3:27 when it says:

    For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ

    This passage is not indicating the actual physical baptism but rather the spiritual baptism that relates to spiritual identification with Christ just as it speaks in 1 Cor with Moses, the people were spiritually identified with Moses, God’s appointed.

    Neither of these indications of being “baptized into Moses in the cloud and the sea” reference an actual baptism, since like you said they walked over to dry land and the clouds were the Shekinah cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. So there is no reference to an actual physical baptism and neither is the baptism that is seen in Galatians 3:27

    Again, I don’t see this as overarching proof of paedo baptism

  3. John said,

    November 29, 2006 at 2:49 am

    Seth, I’d actually take Galatians 3:27 to be referring to water baptism. Those who have been baptized have put on Christ. What’s the evidence in the text to indicate that it’s talking about “spiritual baptism”?

  4. November 29, 2006 at 9:14 am


    I believe that is an excellent point. It follows the same hermenenutic I’ve been trying to demonstrate concerning Passover. The same arguments that give us paedobaptism apply to paedocommunmion. They are not seperated in the OT, they’re not abrogated in the NT, therefore they should still be in effect today. Hinging an opposing argument on one word in the NT that can be reasonably dealt with doesn’t seem like sound thinking. Personally, I had no problem coming to embrace paedocommunion because of how obviously both paedobaptism and paedocommunion stand or fall together in God’s covenant plan. It has since boggled my mind to wonder why other Reformers can’t see it.

    BTW, I have one post already up and am going to put up a few posts defending paedocommunion on my blog.

  5. greenbaggins said,

    November 29, 2006 at 11:01 am

    John and David, 1 Cor 10 would be support for paedo-communion if it were not for 1 Cor 11. Do we argue that the Lord’s Supper confers benefits regardless of whether the person acknowledges it or not? That is what you have to say, John and David, in order to hold to your position. And that is a Roman Catholic belief.

    Here I would bring in the active/passive distinction between Lord’s Supper and baptism. I think it can be defended. What are the words of baptism? “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The pastor is the one baptizing. Even in an adult, he is baptized, passive voice. However, it is people who partake (active) in the Lord’s Supper. This distinction is thereore helpful in understanding the difference between the two Sacraments. In fact, the Sacraments follow the pattern of salvation, in a way. We are initiated by God into salvation, and our wills have nothing to do with it. However, when we are saved, then God changes our wills, such that we can then will do to good. Then we do become active, even if it is still God’s strength in which we must act. The question then becomes this: how are the Sacraments God’s means of grace? In baptism, the grace may be conferred at any time during or after the baptism. In the Lord’s Supper, the Lord acts through our hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit. Our hearts and minds must therefore be active.

  6. November 29, 2006 at 12:31 pm

    The Lord’s Supper is a means of grace. Is is not subjective but objective. It is either received by faith for what it is or it is rejected by a lack of faith. But it doesn’t change the objectivity of the sacrament. You ask,

    “Do we argue that the Lord’s Supper confers benefits regardless of whether the person acknowledges it or not?”

    The WCF teaches us the benefits of the sacraments do not depend upon us but upon the Spirit working in and through them: WCF 27.3 reads

    “The grace which is exhibited in or by the sacraments rightly used, is not conferred by any power in them; neither does the efficacy of a sacrament depend upon the piety or intention of him that does administer it:but upon the work of the Spirit, and the word of institution, which contains, together with a precept authorizing the use thereof, a promise of benefit to worthy receivers” (bolding mine)

    So to say God can and does confer benefits to the recipent by the Spirit and not based upon our “piety” or “intention” is certainly not Roman Catholic. In addtion the Confession goes on to say in Sec. 4;

    “The sacraments of the Old Testament in regard to the spiritual things thereby signified and exhibited, were, for substance, the same with those of the new”

    So here we have an admission by the Confession that the sum and substance of the sacraments are the same in the OT and the NT. The OT adminstered both sacraments to young chilren with no regard for an active or passive component. Not to mention the active/passive argument is one of deductive rationalization, not biblical interpretation. Again, the argument you hold is based purely on intepretation of one NT word that gives it a purely subjective meaning and intent. And it can and has been reasonalby explained not to nessecarily apply to every who partakes. Paul was dealing with real people in an objective situation, giving them solid practical and biblical instruction. We can certainly say those that are capable should do some sort of “examining” and we can say as our children grow in the faith, they should be taught to as well. But we don’t expect an “act of faith” on the part of an infant in order to baptize them even though the NT clearly says “repent and be baptized” and “believe and you shall be saved”. Yet we turn right around and demand infants cannot partake of the Table because they are not capable of “examining themselves” in the same manner or degree as Paul gives to those quarrelling in Corinth. I’m sorry, this is not consistent biblical interpretation.

  7. Seth McBee said,

    November 29, 2006 at 12:32 pm

    John and David.
    Galatians 3:25,26 lead up to this verse and these two verses are speaking of being saved, baptism does not save us. As Romans 6 is NOT speaking of water baptism but is speaking of the actual inner baptism of the Spirit so this is speaking to the same point. So that when we see Romans 8:9 saying that those who the Spirit of God dwells belongs to Christ. I take both Romans 6 and Galatians 3 speaking of the baptism of Christ that John the Baptist was speaking about when he said that Christ will baptize us with the Spirit. Now, don’t me wrong, I am not saying that there is a second baptism of the Spirit after conversion, as charismatics would say, I am just speaking of what is actually happening at the moment of conversion.

  8. greenbaggins said,

    November 29, 2006 at 12:56 pm

    You forgot to emphasize the last phrase, “a promise of benefit to worthy receivers.” This vitiates your entire objective/subjective point, David. Only worthy receivers receive any benefit from the Sacraments. Should we not examine ourselves to see if we are worthy receivers? This backlash against subjective examination really attacks the entire Puritan way of thinking, which is the WCF’s viewpoint. Now, maybe the Puritans went too far in this subjective examination thing. But to say that it is invalid altogether is definitely unscriptural. We are to make our calling and election sure. We are to took to see if the Spirit is working in us. In the chapter on assurance (18.2), the WCF says explicitly “the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing ***with our spirits*** that we are the children of God.” the Sacraments are not wholly objective. There most certainly is a subjective element present. I am not denying that there is some objective element to the Sacraments. However, to relegate it entirely to the objective sphere is to go into the realm of ex opere operato, because then you could administer the Sacrament to anyone who is baptized but living in gross sin. As long as the church has not disciplined him, then he gets the grace, according to your theology.

    Deductive reasoning from Scripture is just as binding as exegesis itself. I wouldn’t be using the WCF to defend your position of paedo-communion, by the way.

    BOQ So to say God can and does confer benefits to the recipent by the Spirit and not based upon our “piety” or “intention” is certainly not Roman Catholic.EOQ That is not what I said. What I said was that saying the Lord’s Supper confers grace without the person acknowledging it is Roman Catholic. I didn’t use the words “piety” or “intention.” I used the word “acknowledgment.” The Holy Spirit works on us as an entire person. No grace comes to us without working on our person. The Lord’s Supper, therefore, cannot confer grace on ignorant recipients. Such are not worthy recipients, as the WCF says. I have already stated why I believe the active/passive distinction holds for baptism and communion.

  9. November 29, 2006 at 1:06 pm

    Lane, I must have said this three or four times now and I hope you read it this time: I DO NOT DENY THE NEED FOR EXAMINING OURSELVES. You keep bringing this up. The Puritans we right in saying we need this. Some went too far. My contention is “worthy recipents” include all the Scriptures teach should come, i.e. baptized infants. As a result the issue of who is a worthy recipent really depends on this debate, hence my leaving it off.

    If it is really true that the sacraments should only be administered to those who can “acknowledge” whats going on then you can’t say we should baptize infants. You can’t have it both ways. I’m saying the sacraments are both objective and subjective. And as with baptism, infants grow in thier understanding of this subjective aspect, partly through the means of grace they rpovide and partly through instruction. And just as with baptism, when we expect children to grow up confessing faith, affirming what was done at baptism we should expect the same through particiapting in Communion. And with communion as their able to experiecne the subjective side more we expect them to grow in thier inward conviction and faith. This is Covenant Theology.

  10. Todd said,

    November 29, 2006 at 1:09 pm

    Lane, have you read Jeff Meyers’ article on this?


    Seth shouldn’t miss the Leithart article at the bottom, although it will be a good one for Lane as well.

  11. greenbaggins said,

    November 29, 2006 at 1:19 pm

    The difficulty with trying to put baptism and the Lord’s Supper in the same category on this is that the efficacy of baptism is not tied to the moment of its administration. It could come later. How do we know? How can the elders tell, if they are to fence the table? They don’t know whether the infant has received the grace offered in baptism until the child can make a profession of faith. The question then is how the elders are going to fence the table, which it is certainly their responsibility to do. Profession of faith is the most natural answer to this. If a six-year old can do it, and shows that he can take the Supper as seriously as is needed, then he should not be barred from the table.

  12. greenbaggins said,

    November 29, 2006 at 1:25 pm

    Todd, did you forget that you had already posted this on the other thread?

  13. greenbaggins said,

    November 29, 2006 at 1:29 pm

    Seth I agree completely with your position on Galatians 3. John, the problem here is that faith is mentioned in the context at least four or five times. The baptism in verse 27 must therefore be conditioned by the faith in the preceding verses. Therefore, the baptism in vs. 27 is the faith-conditioned baptism, or the baptism as it is the thing signified, not the bare sign. You prejudice the question when you say “spiritual baptism.” All we’re talking about is the reality to which baptism points. That is what Galatians 3:27 is referring to.

  14. November 29, 2006 at 1:34 pm

    Lane, your argument is falling apart. A “natural answer”? Look, if we followed the bibilical prescription would would have no need to look for natural answers. The answer is clear. Covenant children belong at the covenant Table. We don’t know when the grace of the sacraments are conferred in either case. To suggest we do, as you are with Communion, is Roman Catholic. Even after a profession of faith, we aren’t certain about the spirutal condition of an individual. Your using baptistic arguments to defend you view. We might as well not baptize them until they make a profession of faith.

  15. Seth McBee said,

    November 29, 2006 at 1:41 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more on your last sentence of post 14…hehehehe

  16. greenbaggins said,

    November 29, 2006 at 2:32 pm

    If you don’t like the word “natural,” then I will replace it with “logical.” I hope that you won’t deny good and necessary consequence here, which is how I am arguing. We cannot use biblicistic arguments in this debate.

    I am not for one moment suggesting that we know when the grace of the Sacraments are conferred. I never said that, not even once. However, we do know that the grace of the Sacraments cannot be bestowed unless they are observed. The elders, therefore, in fencing the table from the ignorant (both infants and senile elderly folk) prevent anyone from taking judgment on himself. This is an act of love.

    I cannot possibly be accused of being baptistic. I baptize infants. What I am suggesting here (and what the WCF suggests) is that the proper interpretation of the words of institution (both the Lord’s version and Paul’s version) imply an intelligent participation. Baptism does not require that. It is really very simple in that regard. Not Baptistic.

  17. November 29, 2006 at 3:57 pm

    The Bible doesn’t teach the Lord’s Supper should be refused to the ignorant. A 30 yr old man, a new convert, is “ignorant” of much of the meaning and significance of the sacraments, but I wouldn’t refuse him from partaking. An unworthy manner, according to Paul is a manner which sows discord and division in the Body of Christ. This is the context in which the exhortation is given. It has nothing to do with ignoranance or intellectual assent to biblical propostion. It has everything to do with honoring God though out conduct towards our fellow man.

    It is interesting that in a passage where Paul is rebuking the Corinthians “divisions” within the Body, and exhorting them towards unity, we have taken the text in this passage and made it a proof text for one of the most significant divisions in the Church today.

    Lane, it is this type of surmising that has lead us so far from what this text actually teaches.

  18. greenbaggins said,

    November 29, 2006 at 4:11 pm

    BOQ It has nothing to do with ignoranance or intellectual assent to biblical propostion. It has everything to do with honoring God though out conduct towards our fellow man. EOQ So, we are not to have any intelligent knowledge of our conduct towards our fellow man? We can just be ignorant of it? I am surely not denying that knowledge of whether our actions are unifying or disunifying forms part and parcel of Paul’s concern here. I just cannot see how the requirements for participation here and in the Lord’s version can be read in any other way than that they preclude infants from participating. I obviously do not think that I have departed from Paul’s teaching here. I consider myself to be right in line with it. I’m not sure that we are adding anything more to the discussion at this point. I’ll let you have the last word, David (unless you bring up a new point that hasn’t been considered before).

  19. November 29, 2006 at 4:35 pm

    I suppose I might have not made myself clear in my last post. I wasn’t referring to having intelligent knowledge of our conduct towards our fellow man. The reference, which I thought was plain enough, was towards the Supper. My point being, a new convert, no matter the age, doesn’t have a systematic, theological understanding of the Lord’s Supper. Neither does an infant. Does this mean we need to bar a new convert from partaking? I wouldn’t. Therefore a simply absence of knowledge is not a good argument against giving it to infants.

    You say,

    ” I just cannot see how the requirements for participation here and in the Lord’s version can be read in any other way than that they preclude infants from participating.”

    The answer lies in the same way the “sacraments” were approached for thousands of years prior to Christ coming. Children participated in both sacraments. They were included in the types. The NT does not abrogate them in the NT. Therefore the traditional reformed hermeneutic requires they remain attached. The bottom line is, if your going to argue for paedobaptism consistently, you have to have paedocommunion too. The New Covenant is the fuller and greater covenant. It blessings are revealed even more than in the old. Why then would the nature of the Covenant regress towards covenant children? Why would they be included in the type, and left out of the reality? It goes against the very historical redemptive nature of the covenant iteself.

    You have avoided several points I have made during the course of this dicussion. Maybe not intentionlly. I’d suggest if you want to persue it further and maybe consider a better laid our argument in favor of paedocommunion, take a look at my discussion of it on my blog over the next sereval days and give me your thoughts.

  20. greenbaggins said,

    November 29, 2006 at 4:57 pm

    I wouldn’t let anyone to the table who hadn’t gone through a new members class, and had therefore received thorough instruction not only on what the Supper meant, but also on the various errors associated with RCC and the Lutheran view, and the earlier Zwinglian view. I instruct them myself, teaching the new members class.

    My answer to the hermeneutical question has always been that since the passages in the NT require something that corresponding baptism passages don’t, that they are treated differently.

    I am reading your blog posts on this, and when you finish, I will comment. I do prefer to interact with complete arguments.

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