There are two sides in the argument as to whether baptism is necessary for salvation. One side claims it is necessary, the other side claims it is not. The latter points to a passage in 1 Corinthians as a proof text for their position. They say, “Baptism can’t be important because Paul minimizes it”
Here’s their proof text.
1 Corinthians 1:13-17
“Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel–not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”
The argument here is, “Paul minimizes baptism.” He says, “He was not sent to baptize,” so it must not be all that important.
Finally, here’s a scripture which actually mentions water baptism, but, this scripture is still not about baptism. Let’s go back and put this into context. What is this scripture about?
Getting the Context
When we are studying out a topic, it is vital to make sure we have the right context. This typically means we need to go back just a little further in the text to see what might have been happening right before the writer makes a claim. Listen carefully to the actual context of Paul’s statements and the content of his heart. He is talking about a serious problem in the Corinthian church. People were beginning to follow a leader such as Apollos or Paul. If you had been baptized by one of these famous figures, that somehow made you more spiritual or special than if you had been baptized by a friend or neighbor.
This is the context:
1 Corinthians 1:10-13
“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas’”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
“Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name.”
When we put this into context, it’s easy to see the real issue Paul addresses when he makes his comments about baptism. Paul’s concern is for the divisions this arrogant practice was causing. He states he is happy he personally did not baptize anyone else since it would give them a reason to be boastful or proud! He is not minimizing the importance of baptism. He is scolding the Corinthian church.
But wait… there’s more!
Now… there is an extremely interesting and and very powerful message about baptism in this passage, if we will just think it through.
In truth, this entire issue is actually a backhanded reference to the importance of baptism. Think about it. What was happening? The people were pointing back to their own personal baptism and claiming that because they were baptized by a more influential leader, this somehow meant their baptism was more significant.
In reality, by their own claim, these people are attaching real importance to baptism. If baptism was not important, why would it matter who baptized you? Baptism was a person’s connection to a “more important” baptizer and pointing back to your own baptism being done by a more influential person somehow made you greater. Paul challenges that arrogant notion, not the issue of baptism itself. The Corinthian’s, by their misbehavior, are actually demonstrating their belief that baptism is important!
Paul closes his comments by refocusing the church on the real reason for his preaching, the cross of Christ.
One more thing…
And… there is one more thing! This might have a profound impact on everything we have been studying here at A Faith that Obeys. Look again at his closing statement.
1 Corinthians 1:17
“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel–not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”
Paul’s heart is to preach the Gospel. He does not want to do this with words of human wisdom. When we preach with words of human wisdom, the cross of Christ is emptied of its power. May that never be!
The notion of the cross of Christ being emptied of its power is a terrible and sad thought. The power of the cross should never be tarnished in such a fashion. The cross is beyond measure a holy and sanctified core concept and reality of our Christian faith. When we preach the Gospel, we must never do it with words of human wisdom. It’s simply not acceptable. I think we can all agree on this, right? We should never, for any reason, even a seemingly good reasons, use human wisdom when presenting the Gospel.
So, with this in mind, just exactly how did we come up with “The Sinner’s Prayer?”Enjoy!