Tuesday, July 15

The Cloud and Pillar of Fire: Part I

Living By Faith

In our last message, we learned that God deliberately led Israel from slavery in Egypt to a barren desert. At a place called Succoth (Exodus 13:20), there was a fork in the road (Exodus 13:17-18). The left way was well-watered and had plenty of food. It was an easy paved route to the Promised Land. But God led Israel the right way for a reason. They were not prepared for war. So he took them to boot camp.

We live in a culture of “ease”. We do not like nor want anything that involves discomfort, sacrifice, or trouble. Unfortunately, this plague afflicts the 21st century church and to some extent may actually be a product of the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel proclaimed by false teachers who have crept into the church. They promote this line of thinking and encourage the hedonistic philosophy of the world that comfort is the ultimate goal of life.

In reality, nothing ever achieves its potential without some struggle. The least happy are those born with a silver spoon, or those who find life so easy that there is no challenge. Such individuals waste away in boredom, unable to find purpose or meaning to their existence.

On the other hand, when we must work and toil to achieve a goal, there is a deep seated satisfaction at attainment. This satisfaction then translates to happiness. The struggle is necessary to that end.

Some fear that too much struggle will lead to failure and discouragement at our effort. They say that this will irreparably harm our self–esteem. We will be branded or will brand ourselves as incompetent losers. Therefore, we should never try ourselves beyond what some test assures us that we can do.

This fatalistic philosophy dooms us to mediocrity and fails to account for the growth that occurs through struggle. Little Johnny’s IQ may seem to be inadequate in grade school for him to become a doctor. Should we then discourage his desire or should we encourage him to work harder? Through hard work he may sufficiently develop his mind for the rigors of med school, but he will never know without trying. Even if he fails in that goal, there is no doubt he will be far more capable for whatever he does do.

Studies have shown that birds that are helped from the egg are far more prone to disease and are far weaker than those that must struggle to exit the eggshell.

God fully understands this principle and takes us to the wilderness to allow our struggles to fully develop us. This is the direction that He led Israel and it is the course He wants to lead us. The real question is “How did He lead them, and how will He lead us?”

I.) God’s Leading:

Scripture: Exodus 13:21-22

21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: 22 He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

God led Israel via a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Typology is the study of biblical types, or pictures. The Old Testament is filled with activities and occurrences which picture some aspect of Christ, His ministry, or the Christian life. There are also pictures which represent the Holy Spirit, such as the cloud and pillar of fire (See Acts 2:2-3). The service provided is the same. What the cloud and fire did for Israel, the Holy Spirit does for us today. One aspect of that ministry is His leading.

Before we move on and look at this ministry, though, we want to point out an important truth revealed in the wilderness. The cloud and pillar of fire first appeared at the very moment that Israel left Egypt. This is not chance, but inspiration (II Timothy 3:16).

II.) Two Baptisms:

Scripture: I Corinthians 10:1-2

1 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; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;

Notice that there are two baptisms in this verse. First, there is the baptism in the cloud. Secondly, there is that in the sea. The former pictures the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the latter pictures water baptism, or what we refer to as believer’s baptism.

Many people are confused about both. Some think that being baptized in water is a means of salvation. Others believe that the Holy Spirit is some “second blessing” kind of experience, where we are supposed to receive Him after salvation and become sinless. The Wilderness clarifies these issues. We have already established that Israel’s deliverance from bondage in Egypt is a picture of our salvation experience. Now notice that as soon as they leave, they immediately receive the cloud and fire. This agrees with the New Testament.

III.) Old and New Agree:

Scripture: Romans 8:9

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

Our text, speaking of and to Christians, says that we are not in the flesh but in the Spirit. It adds, “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” We are not saved without the Holy Spirit. If we are saved, we have Him. We receive Him instantaneously at our new birth.

IV.) Holy Spirit Baptism:

Scripture: I Corinthians 12:13

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

This verse is addressed to believers (I Corinthians 1:2). It says that we are all baptized into one body by the Holy Spirit. This is the baptism of the Spirit. It occurs at the very moment of salvation, when the Holy Spirit comes to indwell and seal us (Ephesians 1:13-14). At the same time, we become part of the body of Christ—baptized into Him.

V.) Baptism vs. Filling:

Part of the difficulty here stems from a muddling of baptism with filling. There is a difference between the two. We are baptized into Christ at the moment of salvation. We receive the Spirit then. He indwells us and assures us of our eternal destiny with an unbreakable seal. The command after salvation is not “be baptized with the Spirit” but “be filled.”

Scripture: Ephesians 5:18

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

In Ephesians chapter one, we trust in Christ after hearing the gospel. We receive the Spirit, who becomes the down payment on our inheritance in Christ. Then in chapter five we are told to “be filled.” These are two separate and distinct occurrences. Spirit baptism makes us part of the body. Filling has to do with our walk (Ephesians 4:1, 17: 5:1-2, 8, 15). We are to walk like we belong to Christ and are under the influence of the Holy Spirit, instead of being under the influence of alcohol or any other intoxicating influence of this world.

VI.) Spirit vs. Water:

At the moment of salvation from Egypt, Israel was baptized in the cloud and fire. Days later, they were baptized in the sea, which pictures water baptism. Again, this agrees with the New Testament. We are baptized into the body of Christ as the instant of salvation. Later as our first feeble step of faith, we go through the waters of baptism as believers already born again. Water baptism expresses our wish to obey Christ’s command (Matthew 28:19-20) and tells the world of our desire to identify with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:3-4).

If water baptism was the means of salvation, the Red Sea would have to be moved miles inland. The Jews would step from slavery to beachfront condos.

VII.) Instant vs. Second:

By the same token, if Holy Spirit baptism was a “second blessing” or sanctification experience, the cloud and fire would not occur for days, weeks, months, and perhaps years. The Red Sea would occur first. Based upon Israel’s experience, the cloud and fire would never appear, because they never became sinless, and neither do we.

Scripture: Compare I John 1:8 and John 17:17

If we say we are sinless, then we cannot be sanctified. Why? Because the truth is not in us, and it is the truth which sanctifies.


All Scripture is given by inspiration of the Holy Ghost (II Timothy 3:16). There are no mistakes. All Scripture must be considered within the context of the whole (II Peter 1:20). I Corinthians 10:1-13 indicates that the Wilderness is a complete type or pattern of our Christian experience.

Thus there is agreement between the old and new. Holy Spirit baptism occurs at the very moment of salvation.

Next time: The Cloud and Pillar of Fire: Part II

What is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to Israel and to us? Next time, we will look at three ministries.

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