1Co 1:14-17 “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 household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. 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.”
In our way of thinking today, Paul’s comment in verse 14 is almost shocking. We who have the privilege of administering baptism rejoice in seeing God’s children manifest the answer of a good conscience toward God (1Pe 3:21). Paul was making a point here that he was not keeping a tally of those he had baptized. This was important to Paul considering the division that existed in the church at Corinth at the time of Paul’s letter.
Apparently there were some who were trying to give Paul and others credit for their conversion and being added to the church. He was making sure that the brethren understood that he did not deserve the credit for their belief in Jesus or for being members of His body. Paul, Apollos, and Peter did not come baptizing any in their own name. The very idea that the church should consider anyone other than Jesus as the author and finisher of their faith was distressing.
As ministers, we often think of baptizing people as a seal of approval on our ministry. We understand fully that for any local congregation (such as the church at Corinth) to continue requires that members be added to that body. It is painfully apparent to many of us today what happens if members are not added to a local congregation. Meeting houses sitting empty or being used as storage sheds and hay barns is an all too frequent reminder of local congregations that have vanished.
Surely, with this sobering picture before us, we should rightly be focused on baptizing more people. While this would seem the logical conclusion, it is not the Biblical one. We are not sent to baptize, but to preach the gospel. While we should be concerned about our dwindling congregations, the answer is not to become focused on persuading people to be baptized. The answer is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus did not (Strong’s defines the word rendered as “not” to be “the absolutely negative adverb”) set us apart for the purpose of administering baptism. While this is a joy and a privilege, it is not what He called us to be focused on. He absolutely did not set us apart to apply our own reasoning (not with words of wisdom) to why we preach the gospel. We are called to preach the gospel for the gospel’s sake: the preaching of the truth needs no other purpose. To give it any other meaning makes the cross of Christ vain (of none effect) and gives rise to division.
May God give us the grace and courage to boldly preach the unifying truth of the cross of Jesus Christ in power and in love!