PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 1:13-17; The [Secondary] Importance of Baptism

02/10 1 Corinthians 1:13-17 The [Secondary] Importance of Baptism; Audio available at:

10 Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τοῦ ὀνόματος τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἵνα τὸ αὐτὸ λέγητε πάντες, καὶ μὴ ᾖ ἐν ὑμῖν σχίσματα, ἦτε δὲ κατηρτισμένοι ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ νοῒ καὶ ἐν τῇ αὐτῇ γνώμῃ. 11 ἐδηλώθη γάρ μοι περὶ ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί μου, ὑπὸ τῶν Χλόης ὅτι ἔριδες ἐν ὑμῖν εἰσιν. 12 λέγω δὲ τοῦτο ὅτι ἕκαστος ὑμῶν λέγει· Ἐγὼ μέν εἰμι Παύλου, Ἐγὼ δὲ Ἀπολλῶ, Ἐγὼ δὲ Κηφᾶ, Ἐγὼ δὲ Χριστοῦ. 13 μεμέρισται ὁ Χριστός; μὴ Παῦλος ἐσταυρώθη ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, ἢ εἰς τὸ ὄνομα Παύλου ἐβαπτίσθητε; 14 εὐχαριστῶ ὅτι οὐδένα ὑμῶν ἐβάπτισα εἰ μὴ Κρίσπον καὶ Γάϊον, 15 ἵνα μή τις εἴπῃ ὅτι εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα ἐβαπτίσθητε· 16 ἐβάπτισα δὲ καὶ τὸν Στεφανᾶ οἶκον· λοιπὸν οὐκ οἶδα εἴ τινα ἄλλον ἐβάπτισα. 17 οὐ γὰρ ἀπέστειλέν με Χριστὸς βαπτίζειν ἀλλὰ εὐαγγελίζεσθαι, οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου, ἵνα μὴ κενωθῇ ὁ σταυρὸς τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

After giving thanks to God for the evidences of grace that he sees at work in the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul begins to address their problems. The first issue on his list is quarreling. It had been reported to him that the Corinthians were dividing over non-essentials, aligning themselves behind their favorite teacher, creating competing fan clubs. Paul would have none of this. He points them back to Jesus and the the centrality of the cross.

1 Corinthians 1:13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Christ is not divided. When we divide up those who belong to Christ over trivial matters, we lie about Jesus and are not telling the truth. Jesus is one. His body is one. If you belong to Jesus, if you have been bought by his blood and transformed by trusting in him, then you are part of his one body, the church. If you belong to Christ, if you have been called by God into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, then you are a part of the larger body of Christ, in fellowship with his people, the church. We are one. Paul is not sacrificing truth on the altar of unity. Jesus prayed that his followers would be one, but he also taught that there would be some who claimed to follow him but in reality had no relationship with him. The people Paul is addressing knew and loved and believed the true gospel, or he would have attacked and dismantled their false teaching, as he does in other letters. But their conduct was not in line with the truth they believed. This is often our problem. We know the truth; we believe the truth, but so often our conduct, our daily life, our Christian walk is not in step with the truth of the gospel. We need daily to be reminded of the gospel, challenged by the gospel, transformed by the gospel. Moment by moment our conduct needs to be brought in step with what we believe. Paul takes their conduct and describes the belief that would go behind that conduct to help them see how incongruous their lives had become. You are acting like Jesus is chopped up into little pieces and each group clings to a piece over against the other group. Jesus is not divided! Don’t act like he is!

You are acting like your favorite teacher died on the cross for your sins. None of them believed this. But it was how they were acting. They were clinging so tenaciously to their preference, their favorite that you would think that Paul or Apollos or Cephas was their savior. The cross is central to all of the Christian life. Our life finds its source in Jesus Christ crucified for sinners. Jesus took our place, died in our place, bore our guilt and shame, so that we can now enjoy a healed relationship with the all-holy God. Focus on the one who was crucified in your place, not on your style or preference or favorite.


His third question introduces the subject of our study today. Were you baptized into the name of Paul? Today we will look at verses 14 – 17, where Paul gives us some insight on the significance of baptism.

This question, like the others is intended to show the readers how out of step their conduct is with what they believe. It is ludicrous to think that we were baptized into the name of Paul, because that is not what baptism is about. What is baptism about? What does baptism mean? It might be helpful to start with a simple definition of the word itself. Our English word ‘baptize’ comes straight over from the Greek word [βαπτιζω] ‘baptizo’. It is a transliteration, where Greek letters are replaced by English letters. The word ‘baptizo’ means to submerge or immerse, to soak. Around 200 BC Nicander used this word and a related word in a recipe for making pickles. He said the vegetable should first be dipped [bapto] into boiling water, then baptized [baptizo] or soaked in the vinegar solution. Both words refer to dipping or immersing into liquid, but the first is temporary, where the second, baptizing, produces a permanent change [Bible Study Magazine, James Montgomery Boice, May 1989; cited in Online Bible note on Strongs #907] What kind of change is produced will depend on what you are immersed into. Paul is outraged that some are acting like they have been immersed into Paul. Christian baptism is being immersed into Jesus, being saturated with Jesus, being changed and transformed by Jesus. Paul is saying ‘I don’t have the power to transform anyone. Don’t get immersed into who I am; get immersed into who Jesus is!’

John’s Baptism

John the baptizer pointed to the essential difference between his baptism and Jesus. He said:

Matthew 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

John’s baptism consisted in immersing people in water. John pointed to Jesus, who would immerse us in the Holy Spirit. John’s baptism was to prepare the way for Jesus, pointing people to Jesus. John’s baptism was for repentance; those who came to John to be baptized came confessing their sins, turning from their old way of living, from what they had been trusting in, from their dead works, and turning to the coming Messiah.

John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

John’s whole ministry was to prepare people for Jesus, to point people to Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is the one who would take away sins. Jesus is the one who would baptize us with the Holy Spirit. Paul highlighted this when he came across some disciples of John in Ephesus.

Acts 19:2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Who Baptized Whom?

Notice in this text that it doesn’t say that Paul baptized them into the name of the Lord Jesus. It doesn’t say who baptized them at all. It simply says that they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. That may seem like I’m making a big deal out of nothing, but that is the very thing Paul highlights in the next verses in 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 1:13 … Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Reflecting on his experience in Corinth, Paul gives thanks that in the providence of God he only baptized a very few of the first converts, probably before his co-workers Silas and Timothy arrived (Acts 18:5). Paul was eager to clear himself from the potential allegation that he was making disciples of Paul, baptizing converts into his own distinct form of Christianity. The point is it doesn’t make a hill of beans of difference who did the baptizing. What matters is who your were baptized into. We can see how people could make a big deal out of this. ‘I was baptized by the hands of the Apostle Paul himself. Oh yeah, well I was baptized by Peter, the first Pope! I don’t feel very special; I was only baptized by deacon Dan’. From this passage we see that Paul intentionally avoided baptizing people himself and delegated this responsibility to others, in order to avoid this very thing. This seems to be the practice of the early church. When Peter went to the home of the Gentile Cornelius and preached the gospel, proclaiming that everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins, and while he was still speaking the Holy Spirit fell on them, he said

Acts 10:47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

These Gentiles had believed in Jesus and had received the gift of the Holy Spirit. They had been baptized by Jesus with the Holy Spirit. Since they had already experienced the inward reality, they should also be allowed the outward sign. Baptism with water was the outward picture of what was an inward reality. And Peter commanded them to be baptized. He didn’t do the baptizing. Apparently, some of the brothers from Joppa who were with him did the baptizing. In John 4, we see that this was Jesus’ practice as well.

John 4:1 …Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples),

Believers are baptized into Jesus, immersed into a relationship with Jesus, saturated with, permeated by Jesus. Jesus makes all the difference. Who does the baptizing makes no difference. Paul is thankful to God that he didn’t baptize many in Corinth, so there would be no room for people running around with t-shirts that said ‘I was baptized by the Apostle Paul’.


From this passage, we can glean a beautiful insight into the process of the inspiration of scripture.

1 Corinthians 1:14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)

Paul is dictating this letter, as is his usual practice, maybe to Sosthenes, the former synagogue ruler. Paul dictates that he baptized no one but Crispus and Gaius, and Stephanus, who we know is with Paul at the end of the letter (16:17), starts waving his hands and says ‘Hey Paul, what about me? Have you forgotten?’ Or maybe Sosthenes politely reminded him. The bible tells us that all scripture is breathed out by God and that means it is without error. We do not believe that the authors of scripture were granted infallibility or omniscience or even fully understood everything they were writing (1Pet.1:10-12). But we believe that God was sovereignly at work in the writing of scripture, so that what was written was protected from error. God may have very naturally used one of the guys in the room to remind Paul of something he had forgotten and so preserve the text from error.

The (secondary) importance of Baptism

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Paul goes back to his commission as an apostle, and claims that Jesus sent him to evangelize, not to baptize. Paul recounts this in Acts 26

Acts 26:15 … the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles–to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Paul was appointed to be a witness, to open people’s eyes to the truth, so that they might believe, receive forgiveness of sins and enter the kingdom of God. There is no mention of baptism. In the commissioning of the twelve apostles at the end of Luke’s gospel, there is likewise no mention of baptism.

Luke 24:46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

The focus is on the message proclaimed; repentance and forgiveness of sins. The primary role of Apostle was that of eye-witness. That is why when they chose a replacement for Judas, the requirement was someone who had been an eye-witness with them from Jesus’ baptism by John up through his ascension (Acts 1:21-22).

Matthew’s account makes baptism an explicit part of their charge, but a secondary part.

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The primary command in this text is ‘make disciples’. ‘Going, baptizing, and teaching’ are all things that go along with the primary call to make disciples.

Baptism is important, but it is of secondary importance. Baptism is not essential to salvation, but the New Testament does not imagine an unbaptized believer. Jesus taught that whoever believes has eternal life. He never said ‘whoever believes and is baptized’. But when someone believed in Jesus, they were baptized. That was their public pledge of allegiance to Jesus Christ, and their public reception into the family of believers. Believing and being baptized went together. Baptism was looked at as a privilege, even a right for those who believed in Jesus. When Philip explained the good news about Jesus from Isaiah to the Ethiopian eunuch,

Acts 8:36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”

When Peter visited a Gentile’s house and proclaimed forgiveness of sins to all who believe in Jesus, when these Gentiles believed, Peter responded:

Acts 10:47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ….

The physical sign should follow the spiritual reality. Paul taught in Romans:

Romans 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Paul doesn’t undermine the importance of baptism; rather he brings our focus back to where it should be. The picture means nothing without the spiritual reality it is intended to represent.

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

The proclamation of the gospel is primary. The cross is central. Forgiveness of sins comes through the sacrifice of Christ as my substitute on the cross. Eternal life is given to everyone who believes, everyone who repents, turning from what they were trusting in, and clinging to Christ as their only hope for rescue from hell. Everyone who comes to Jesus, Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit. We are saturated with Jesus, who he is, everything he is. We are immersed into his death, burial, and resurrection. Water baptism is a beautiful picture of being immersed into all that Jesus is, being connected with Jesus. But it is a symbol that means nothing and accomplishes nothing apart from this spiritual reality. Don’t come to the symbol hoping to gain any spiritual benefit. Use the symbol to point to Jesus. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom.1:16). Come to Jesus, trust Jesus, be united to Jesus, immersed into Jesus, pledge your allegiance to Jesus, follow Jesus.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

February 10, 2013 - Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , ,

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