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Baptism and the Gospel

1 Corinthians 1:14-17
I thank God that I did not baptise any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptised in my name. (Yes, I also baptised the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptised anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the gospel – not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (NIVUK)

Paul had heard that baptism had become a cause of disunity amongst the believers in Corinth.  Some people wrongly believed that baptism made people more special or holy, depending on who had done the baptising.  So Paul was glad that he had only baptised two men and one family.  He did not want people to think that they had been baptised in his name.  It was the name of Jesus which mattered because He was their Saviour, not Paul.

The apostolic call was primarily to make disciples through preaching the gospel.  Baptism followed as a witness to the fact that the new believer identified with Jesus Christ, and had become His disciple by responding to the gospel message in repentance and faith (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:38).  And yet Paul's apostolic credentials were being doubted because he allowed the local church leaders to baptise.

Paul's commission was to tell the truth about Jesus so that people might believe in Him as Saviour and Lord.  His message was focussed on the cross of Christ, and Paul did not want to dilute its importance by giving the impression that baptism saves people.  That gospel message is uniquely powerful to stir people's hearts and God uses it to open spiritually blind eyes and bring people to salvation.

Baptism is very important, but it cannot save people.  It is an act of obedience marking those who have repented of their sins and put their trust in the Lord Jesus.  Whoever baptises is always unimportant compared to the supremely important Jesus.  Also, the gospel message is always more important than the messenger.  Yet how Christians seem to delight in exalting Christian celebrities!  Instead of worshipping the Lord they give such great honour to His servant, who brings the message or baptises, that it becomes idolatry.  Satan delights in diluting the gospel and enhancing the status of the church or its leaders.  Do not be distracted from Jesus by the apparent popularity of a powerful Christian personality.  Your salvation is dependent on Christ alone. 

Lord of all. Thank You that the gospel message is Your appointed way of communicating the crucial importance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I am sorry when I have allowed other good parts of church life to take priority over the proclamation of the gospel. Please help me to always ensure that Jesus is bigger to my heart than any of His servants. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams