by Terry Wane Benton
What did Paul mean by this statement in I Corinthians 1:17?
Preaching the gospel is what leads to people being baptized (Mark 16:15-16). You could read the whole Old Testament, including the Law of Moses, and it will not command you to be baptized. Only the gospel will lead people to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:36-41).
Peter preached the gospel in Acts 2. Three thousand were baptized, but Peter himself did not have to do the baptizing.
You don't baptize people and then preach the gospel to them. You preach the gospel to them so that they can and will be "baptized into Christ," but after preaching of the gospel it was not Paul's obligation to make sure he did the baptizing. Anyone could carry out the baptizing. Paul was sent to get the message of the gospel into hearts. When people want to be "united together" with Christ after hearing the gospel they will seek to be "buried with Christ" and "raised to walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:3-6). That obligation is on the hearer of the gospel. Paul was not sent to dunk people in the water against their will. He was sent to preach the gospel and let the gospel convince people that they need to seek from their own heart to "obey that form of doctrine to which they were delivered" (Romans 6:17-18). People only "obey from the heart" when they have the gospel in their heart motivating them.
Thus, Paul's mission was to get the gospel in hearts so that people will seek to "obey from the heart." At this point, it does not matter who does the baptizing. What matters is that they are seeking to be united together with Christ in the way Christ said.