The Text: For Christ sent
me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel...
The Meaning Given To It: In
correspondence with a Baptist preacher a few years ago he made the argument
that since Paul said "Christ sent me not to baptize" that meant
baptism was insignificant and unnecessary in regard to salvation. Since
many people use this verse to make that point, we need to put it in its
context and give it its true meaning.
The Context: Paul writes
to a church beset with problems---
Vss. 10-11---An entreaty to be united based upon the report given
Paul by the household of Chloe regading divisions within the congregation.
Vss. 12-13---The nature of the division: some were aligning themselves
with various preachers and Paul asks them three rhetorical questions.
Vss. 14-16---Paul is thankful he had baptized only a few of them,
lest they call themselves by his (Paul's) name.
The Meaning: This verse involves
a figure of speech (the use of not...but...) that we see clearly
in other verses and need to understand in this text. Whenever we find this
"not...but..." construction we need to place the emphasis on
the phrase after the word "but", not after the word "not".
For instance, in Jo. 6:27 Jesus said, "Work not for the food which
perisheth, but for the food which abideth unto eternal life." Are
we to conclude, based upon the interpretation given to 1 Cor. 1:17, that
Christ is saying men are not to work for the food which they eat? Certainly
not. Jesus is simply stressing the greater importance of working for "food"
which could give eternal life. When comparing the two, one is far more
important than the other.
So in our text. Paul is not denying the role of baptism in salvation.
That would violate what he was told in Acts 22:16 and what Peter said in
Acts 2:38 and 1 Pet. 3:21. Paul intends, with this "not to baptize
but to preach" statement, to let the Corinthians know that it really doesn't
matter who does the baptizing. What is important is the preaching
the precedes it; who does it matters not at all.