“But Paul said he was not sent to baptize…”

(1Corinthians 1:17)


Let’s first look at the whole passage in question:

1Corinthians 1:10-17

10I 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. 11My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ."
13Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? 14I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. 16(Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17For 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 following quote is taken from Biblelessons.com :

“In 1 Corinthians 1:10ff, Paul condemns the Christians at Corinth for their division. Apparently many were holding an improper allegiance to the one who baptized them (verse 12). In verse 14, Paul stated that he was therefore thankful that he had baptized only a few there in Corinth. He did not seek any particular status in the minds of those who were baptized; it made no difference to him who actually did the baptizing. He says in verse 17 and in Acts 9:15 that Jesus had called him to preach. Others could do the baptizing as well as Paul, but not necessarily the preaching. Remember John 4:1-2 says that Jesus made and baptized many disciples, but it was His disciples that actually did the physical act of baptizing.

Was Paul saying that baptism is not important? Certainly not. Remember it was Paul who said that we put on Christ in baptism (Galations 3:27). Actually, the passage is very consistent in showing that baptism is very important. It is obvious that the Christians in Corinth had been baptized; this is inferred in 1 Corinthians 1:13 and stated in Acts 18:8. And Paul, in this passage, actually indicates that two things are required before a person may call himself after another person. First, Paul would have to die for that person; and second, that person would have to be baptized in the name of Paul. This actually parallels perfectly with Biblical teaching that Christ has died for us, and we rightfully call ourselves Christians when we put Christ on in baptism.”

The divisions that were occurring with the Corinthians apparently got started because they were placing improper importance and significance on who baptized them. Whether it was Paul or some other teacher, it did not matter.

But notice something very important about Paul’s words that actually demonstrate the necessity of baptism:

To re-state, according to verse 13, in order to be called after Christ, at least two things must happen:


1.) Christ must die for that person (which He did)

2.) That person must be baptized into the name of Christ!

If one has not been baptized into Christ, one cannot rightfully call themselves a Christian.

Even though Paul may have only baptized a few of the Corinthians himself, personally, they ALL were baptized!

1Corinthians 12:13

For we were ALL baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.



For additional consideration: When Paul says, “Not to baptize but to preach the gospel,” he is using a common element of Greek syntax, the “ou . . . alla (not . . . but) construction. There are a number of places in the NT where not… but does not negate one of the two items under consideration. Instead, it prioritizes them. For example, Peter tells Ananias, “You have not lied to men but to God. Of course He had lied to men, but most importantly he had lied to God.

In a similar way Paul is saying, “I came first and most importantly to preach the gospel, then to Baptize.” This further emphasizes that faith and repentance are to precede baptism.


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This page last updated: May 9, 2013