1 Corinthians 1:12–17 (AV)
12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; 15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. 16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.
17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
Yesterday we found out there were contentions among the church in Corinth. Today, we discover what the problem is. There is division in the church over loyalties to men based on who baptized whom.
Paul started the church in Corinth by baptizing Crispus (Acts 18:8), Gaius (Acts 19:29), and Stephanas‘ household (1 Corinthians 16:15). He may have baptized others, but he doesn’t recall as he penned this letter.
Crispus was the chief ruler of the synagogue (succeeded by Sosthenes, vs. 1). He was not the rabbi. His job was to select the readers and teachers in the synagogue and to ensure the traditions were being upheld. Through Paul’s ministry in Corinth, Crispus and his entire household became believers in Jesus.
Assuming he is the same Gaius, he is mentioned as a traveling companion of Paul and later in Romans 16:23 as Paul’s host which we may assume could indicate he had the church of Rome meeting in his home.
Stephanas’ household is mentioned in 1 Corinthinans 16:15 as being the firstfruits of Achaia, that is, some of the first believers. It would hold then that Paul baptized the household of Stephanas first, and yet in verse 16 he mentions them sort of as an afterthought, deemphasizing the importance of baptism.
Nonetheless, the church members in Corinth were boasting about who baptized them! Paul is straightening them out, I thank God that I baptized none of you except… He is not against baptizing others, he simply didn’t want anyone attaching his name to their baptism, Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.
What does Paul mean by, For Christ sent me not to baptize…? This creates a dilemma since Jesus said clearly, “Go and make disciples…baptizing them…”
- John came baptizing (John 1:31,33).
- The twelve were commissioned to go and baptize (Matthew 28:19).
- But, Paul was not sent to baptize (1 Corinthians 1:17).
How do we solve this dilemma? The solution is that there has been a change in dispensations. The dispensation of grace has alleviated the ordinance of baptism. Baptism is good to do, but it may be that churches today, in the age of grace, put too much emphasis on baptism, at least for the wrong reasons.
This is why we get confused with passages like Mark 16:16 where it says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” In the dispensation of the Law, which preceded grace, that was certainly the case. Repentance, Jewish baptism, etc, were all part of the Law that had to be obeyed. But in the dispensation of grace, baptism and evangelism do not go hand in hand. Baptism has a different role in the dispensation of grace, as it can be a wonderful testimony of a believer’s desire to show his friends, family, and his church that he wants to live his life for Christ, but is not commanded for the believer today. Salvation is by grace through faith alone.
In a sense Paul is saying preach the gospel don’t worry about baptism. In other words, evangelism and baptism do not go together.
Christ sent me not to baptize >< Christ sent me to preach the gospel.
The important thing is the gospel. Yet we are not to preach the gospel in our own wisdom, not with wisdom of words. We need to use words in order to preach the gospel, but they must not be manipulative words–they must be the word of the Lord and they must not water down the cross of Christ (it cannot be an emotional appeal) because once the emotion is gone our message will be powerless, of none effect.
This division over baptism has been ongoing for 2,000 years.
When we read the Bible dispensationally, it all begins to make more sense.