Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Baptism and the Gospel (1 Corinthians 1:14-17)

"For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel" (1 Cor. 1:17).

Although it was Paul’s duty to baptize (Matt. 28:19), he was thankful that he had administered the ordinance only to a few people in Corinth. False teachers were already accusing him of making disciples for himself, and a large number of baptisms would have only added fuel to the fire. Paul did not consider this a matter of chance, but of providence, for which he gave thanks to God.

Paul baptized Crispus (Acts 18:8), Gaius (Rom. 16:23), and the household of Stephanas, a practice not opposed by in the early church. “Under the old dispensation, whenever any one professed Judaism or entered into covenant with God as one of His people, all his children and dependents, that is, all to whom he stood in a representative relation, were included in the covenant and received circumcision as its sign,” Hodge wrote. “In like manner under the gospel, when Jew or Gentile joined the Christian church, his children received baptism and were recognized as members of the Christian church.”

After listing those whom he had baptized, Paul goes on to emphasize that the goal of his ministry was not baptism, but declaration of the Gospel. The commission given to Paul was to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. This does not mean that baptism was not important, but it does mean that baptism was secondary to preaching. The commission given to the disciples by Christ proves its subordination: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them …” The goal was to make disciples, and baptism was subordinate in the process.

“Baptism was a work which the apostles seem to have generally left to others, Acts 10:48,” Hodge wrote. “During the apostolic age, and in the apostolic form of religion, truth stood immeasurably above external rites. The apostasy of the church consisted in making rites more important than truth. The apostle’s manner of speaking of baptism in this connection as subordinate to preaching is, therefore, a wonder to those who are disposed unduly to exalt the sacraments.… We must not infer from this that baptism is of little importance.… While it is unscriptural to make baptism essential to salvation or a certain means of regeneration, it is nevertheless a dangerous act of disobedience to undervalue or neglect it.”

Read Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:20–21. How do you reconcile these passages with Paul’s treatment of baptism? Read Rom. 2:25–29; 3:21–4:4; 5:1; 10:17; Gal. 5:6; and Phil. 3:9. How do these passages support Paul’s treatment of baptism? Using today’s study and verses, formulate a biblical argument against salvation by baptism.