Right Division Blogs

Paul, Baptism and Mid-Acts

Should we water baptize today and is the mid-Acts position logically right?

The answers are No and No.

Though a conclusion is affirmed correct this does not mean that the logical process used to attain the result is correct. It is not simply good enough to have a correct conclusion we must have correct argumentation. A mid-acts view of the scriptures will lead to some incorrect conclusions and ultimately to faith that is shipwrecked. Lets look at the subject of baptism and statements Paul has made in 1 Corinthians.

The logic goes something like this:

  1. Christ sent Paul NOT to baptize 1Cor. 1:17
  2. We should follow Paul 1Cor.4:16, 11:1
  3. Therefore we should NOT baptize

Lets examine this "logic" and test it by looking at other acts that Paul did in the Acts, take for example the speaking in "tongues":

1Co 12:10  To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
1Co 12:28  And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
1Co 12:30  Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
1Co 13:1  Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
1Co 13:8  Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
1Co 14:5  I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.
1Co 14:6  Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?
1Co 14:18  I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:
1Co 14:21  In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.
1Co 14:22  Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.
1Co 14:23  If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?
1Co 14:39  Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
 

We will apply the same "logic" as before

  1. Paul spoke with tongues 1Cor.14:18
  2. We should follow Paul 1Cor. 4:16; 11:1
  3. Therefore we should speak in tongues

Well how is the "logic" serving you? Clearly there is a problem! There are two major problems with this thinking in relation to baptism.

  1. Immediate context
  2. Economical context (larger context)

Immediate context

What do I mean by these two contextual problems mentioned above? Well lest look at the immediate context first. Here is the passage from 1Cor. 1:11-19

11  (AV) For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
11  (TR) εδηλωθη γαρ μοι περι υμων αδελφοι μου υπο των χλοης οτι εριδες εν υμιν εισιν

The members of the house of Chloe informed Paul that the corinthian church had various contentions.
 
12  (AV) Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
12  (TR) λεγω δε τουτο οτι εκαστος υμων λεγει εγω μεν ειμι παυλου εγω δε απολλω εγω δε κηφα εγω δε χριστου
 
Paul shows the basis of the contentions and names four factions.
 
13  (AV) Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
13  (TR) μεμερισται ο χριστος μη παυλος εσταυρωθη υπερ υμων η εις το ονομα παυλου εβαπτισθητε
 
The answer to these questions is NO! The issue then is that the congregation should be united around the completed work of Christ. Any intrusion into this is a usurpation of the place Christ should have. 
 
14 ¶  (AV) I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;
14  (TR) ευχαριστω τω θεω οτι ουδενα υμων εβαπτισα ει μη κρισπον και γαιον
 
Paul then is thankful that in the face of his ministry he only  baptized Crispus and Gaius. No one should be baptized in the name of Paul. Is he saying that baptism is wrong? Not at all, he merely wants Christ and his work to be pre-eminent and to take the rightful place. Clearly he is thankful that there is no real basis that he baptized in his own name because so few were baptized by him. The idea or claim that baptism is wrong would be another intrusion into the ministry -- it is the dividing of Christ and how people could use an act performed by Paul to factionalize and make false conclusions that is the issue.
 
15  (AV) Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.
15  (TR) ινα μη τις ειπη οτι εις το εμον ονομα εβαπτισα
 
If someone claimed that Paul  baptized in his own name there would be only a few people to check up on to verify the claim. Its not like there were thousands who were personally baptized by Paul. If Paul was baptizing in his own name it would be a usurpation of Christ's place and we would expect that such a person would gather as many as he could around his own faction. Clearly Paul did not do this. No one could say therefore that he baptized in his own name -- why? Becasue only a small number were personally baptized by him.  In summary this means:
  • Pauls actions were checkable (so few)
  • Paul was not interested in dividing his ministry off from the others 
16  (AV) And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.
16  (TR) εβαπτισα δε και τον στεφανα οικον λοιπον ουκ οιδα ει τινα αλλον εβαπτισα
 
So he did baptize at least four (household would be Stephanas and at least another). Paul's knowledge of these events went this far only -- he may have baptized others. Do you think he sinned in baptizing these people? He either did or didn't. I for one do not believe that he sinned in this regard -- but was thankful only that his baptismal interactions were few enough to halt the claim that he baptized in his own name.
 
17 ¶  (AV) 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.
17  (TR) ου γαρ απεστειλεν με χριστος βαπτιζειν αλλ ευαγγελιζεσθαι ουκ εν σοφια λογου ινα μη κενωθη ο σταυρος του χριστου
 
That is the preaching of the gospel was the focus of what Christ sent him to perform and by limiting the usage of shadows and being careful even in his words not to take away from Chrst so he could fulfil his mission. If believers were water baptized in the name of Jesus and this was manifestly and clearly observed there would be nothing in 1Corinthains 1 that would be contradicted.
 

The economical context

The reasoning that states that we should not baptize because Paul was sent NOT to baptize is faulty because of the immediate context (see above). But there is also a problem in the second part of the argument. Because to follow Paul while he ministered in the Acts period is to deny what happened at the end of the book of Acts, where the salvation of God was sent to the Gentiles after a final and national judgment was pronounced on Israel (Acts 28:25-28).

Clearly in the Acts period Paul had a ministry to the Jew first Rom 1:17, and proclaimed a prophetical hope Rom 15:13 that Isaiah prophesied and showed that the Gentiles were unnaturally graft into the olive to provoke Israel to jealousy, Christ's second coming was imminent (see Acts 3: 19-26; I Cor. 7: 29; 10: 11; 16: 22; I Thess. 1: 9, 10; 4: 15-17; II Thess. 1: 7; Heb. 10: 37; I Pet. 4: 7; James 5: 7-9; I John 2: 18).
To follow Paul in many aspects of his Acts ministry would be an attempt to resurrect the promises given to Israel and manifest those gifts used to impress Israel 1Cor12-14. This is the mid acts problem.

AFTER ACTS 28 

PAul says after the great divide of Acts 28:

2Ti 2:7  Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.

And concerning baptism PAul says:

Eph 4:5  One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
Col 2:12  Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

There is only ONE baptism that we should keep and that is the one performed by the operation of God. It is spiritually accomplished and has nothing to do with water.

Should we baptize with water today -- No! We need to follow God and listen to the instructions of the risen Lord consequent to the defection of Israel on this matter. 

Logic matters and to preserve a sane, true and consistent theology we must rightly divide the word of truth.