Christ Sent Me Not to Baptize

1 Corinthians 1:17
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.

Paul's words are here wrested in a manner that illustrates only too well what Peter says : "Our beloved brother Paul ... hath written ... some things ... which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction" (2 Pet. 3:15,16). Some of "the unlearned and unstable" quote the above words in the endeavour to show that Paul made light of baptism, and that men can be saved without it! If they would but learn Paul's doctrine from the New Testament they would be saved from so great a mistake. A popular preacher makes it a matter of complaint that "Christadelphians teach that baptism by immersion is essential to salvation." We admit that the charge is true. We teach that that is essential which God commands.

God's Commands.— God commanded Adam not to eat of a certain tree. Obedience was essential to him for life. He ate and died. God commanded Noah to build an ark. Obedience was essential to him for salvation. He obeyed, and was saved in the ark; "the like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us" (1 Pet. 3:21). God has commanded baptism by Christ: "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:19,20) "Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I have commanded you" (John 15:14). "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). "Ye must be born again." "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." "Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3).

Paul's Doctrine.— In view of the foregoing and what follows, how can we reasonably construe Paul's words in 1 Cor. 1:14,17 as an excuse for disobedience? Paul says, "I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius, lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the house of Stephanus; besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel." Here is Paul's reason for his words. What he made light of was, not baptism in the abstract, but his own personal act in the administration thereof. Some said, "I am of Paul." Hence his indignant enquiry: "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" (verse 13). If baptism did not matter, why did Paul baptize Crispus and Gaius, and the household of Stephanus? Paul himself taught that baptism was essential. When he preached "the word of the Lord" to the Philippian jailor and his household, the jailor" was baptized, he and all his, straightway" (Acts 16:33). When he preached the gospel to the Corinthians, "Many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized" (Acts 18:8). When he found "certain disciples" at Ephesus, whose faith was defective because they knew only the baptism of John, he enlightened them concerning Christ Jesus. And "when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 19:5). To the Galatians he said, "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27). And there is no other way of putting on Christ, than by belief of the gospel and baptism. And apart from Christ there is no salvation.

More New Testament Examples.— Even the Lord Jesus Christ was baptized, though John the Baptist "forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? But Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness" (Matt. 3:15). Jesus was "made manifest" to Israel in baptism; and John said, God "sent me to baptize with water" for this purpose (John 1:33). If Jesus, who was sinless, was thus careful to "fulfil all righteousness," surely we, who so much need forgiveness, ought to follow in his steps. Paul did so; he was baptized (Acts 9:18), to "wash away his sins" (Acts 22:16). There is no other provision for "the remission of sins." On the day of Pentecost three thousand were baptized (Acts 2:41). The Samaritans, "when they believed Philip, were baptized, both men and women" (Acts 8:12). The Ethiopian eunuch likewise, when he believed Philip, was baptized (Acts 8:38). All believers were "baptized into Christ" (Rom. 6:3; Col. 2:12), and such a thing as an unbaptized Christian is quite unknown to the New Testament.

What Baptism Is.— As concerning the external form, it is a burial in water and a resurrection therefrom of a believer of the gospel, for the remission of sins, and a union with the name of Christ. John baptized in Jordan (Matt. 3:6), and also "in &Aelig;non near to Salim, because there was much water there" (John 3 : 23). The eunuch said, "See, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized? ... and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him" (Acts 8:38). "We are buried with him (Christ) by baptism into death ... planted together in the likeness of his death" (Rom. 6:3-5). "Ye are buried with him (Christ) in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him, through the faith of the operation of God who hath raised him from the dead" (Col. 2:12). All Israel "were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (1 Cor. 10:2). Christ's baptism of suffering overwhelmed him in death (Mark 10:38).

As concerning the inner meaning of baptism, it signifies a fellowshipping of Christ's sufferings, as he himself declares in the passage last cited. Christ, having "died unto sin once" (Rom. 6:10), and having been buried, was raised by God on the third day to a new and glorious divine life, in which "death hath no more dominion over him." "Therefore," says Paul, "we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). "Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (verse 11). Now, in view of all this, where are we if we do not believe, and are not baptized? In that case, not having the spirit of Christ, we are "none of his" (Rom. 8:9).

Under the law of Moses, which was "a shadow of good things to come," the substance of which is Christ, there was a laver made of brass, at which the priests had to wash when they came near the altar to minister in the worship of God. "They shall wash with water that they die not" (Exod. 30:20,21). Christ is the antitypical "altar" (Heb. 13:10), and baptism is the antitypical "laver of regeneration" (Titus 3:5, R.V., marg.). It is that "washing of water by the word" (Eph. 5:26), by which the church of Christ is "sanctified and cleansed"; and, however "uncharitable" it may sound to say it, it is obvious divine truth that it is death to attempt to approach God in any other way. Except men believe the gospel and obey it in baptism they cannot be saved. How great then a wresting of the scripture is it to try to make an inspired apostle teach the contrary!

But Baptism is Not All That is Required.— When a believer of the gospel has been "begotten with the word of God's truth " (Jas. 1:18), and obeys it in baptism, he is therein "born of water" (John 3:5), and becomes a "babe in Christ" (1 Cor. 3:1). His spiritual life is all before him; he may develop, or he may pine and die. Peter's fatherly exhortation to such is, "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby" (1 Pet. 2:2). Those who are truly such do not "stumble at the word, being disobedient" (verse 8). They do not dream of setting the apostles against themselves by "wresting" their words, but endeavour to harmonize all their sayings with each other, and with the other scriptures. By "patient continuance in well doing," they "seek for glory, honour, and immortality" (Rom. 2:7), looking for eternal life at Christ's hands in the day of his coming, and remembering that he himself has said, "He that endureth unto the end, the same shall be saved." "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love."

Reproduced from: The Christadelphian Shield: Papers Explanatory of Wrested Scriptures