First Corinthians - Part 3


Last week we discussed the problem of divisions that developed in the Corinthian assembly under the context of a ministry began by the Lord and continued into the Acts period. How could "the Mystery" of Eph 3 or Col 1 have been revealed and expounded in Acts when the apostles were not to be interpreted as teaching different things? Surely the summary evidence of 1:10-13 is that the Corinthians were to be of one mind and Judgment because Christ's doctrine was also Peter's and  Paul's and that this originated in the gospels and continued into the time of the Acts. Christ could not be divided, Peter and Paul were cardinally in agreement. While Paul called them alongside himself -- it was done by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. When Paul said be ye followers of me he also added "even as I also am of Christ"  1 Corinthians 11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. (1Co 11:1 KJV)
It is within the context of begetting them through the gospel and his work "in Christ Jesus" Paul exhorts them: KJV  1 Corinthians 4:16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. (1Co 4:16 KJV)

Chapter 1:14-17

Paul says "Now this I say" and conveys "I mean this" and shows how Christ was divided due to the divisions in the assembly. He mentions four groups, Paul, Apollos, Cephas and Christ. There is no contextual development of what distinctive beliefs were held by those who felt the need to belong to one of these groups. We could guess only and it would be fun to overlay the modern Christian context on this -- which I will resist for now. 

12 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.
13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

After the first question we supply "yes", after the second and third "no". This splintering into groups divided Christ and this was to be repudiated. Paul was mentioned first and he is also the subject again but this time from the perspective of crucifixion and Baptism. Clearly, Paul was not crucified for the Corinthians but the accusation could well be made by those who wanted to promote divisions and specifically that believers were baptized in the name of Paul. There are many who believe and hold to water baptism today and so this is a good opportunity to look at it.

 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;

We know little of these two people, Crispus in Acts 18:18 

KJV  Acts 18:8 And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. (Act 18:8 KJV)

and "Gaius" mentioned four times and could be a name associated with different people. Why did Paul thank God that he baptized so few? He answers this in the next verse:

15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.

TBT  1 Corinthians 1:15 ἵνα μή τις εἴπῃ ὅτι εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα ἐβάπτισα. (1Co 1:15 TBT)

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.

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.


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.