by Perry Hall
"For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel" (I Corinthians 1:17 CSB).
When people today use this passage to discredit the place and importance of baptism, ironically they make the same mistake as the Corinthians but for a different reason.
Paul's actual defense of baptism shows that the Corinthians had placed who baptized them above their baptism. They placed what man was doing above what God was doing in their baptism (I Corinthians 12:13). That's why, ironically, Paul is thankful he had not baptized many:
"I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say you were baptized in my name. I did, in fact, baptize the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t recall if I baptized anyone else" (I Corinthians 1:14-16 CSB).
The Corinthians mistake is downplaying the importance of baptism by emphasizing what is not important - the preacher who baptized them. Paul is thankful his lack of physically putting people under the water did not contribute to their division. Again, ironically, what should have united them, divided them (I Corinthians 12:13).
But notice what is implicit in how important baptism should have been to the Corinthians:
"What I am saying is this: One of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in Paul’s name?" (I Corinthians 1:12-13 CSB)
If they are dividing into groups based upon who baptized them ... then every one of them had been baptized!
Today, people still downplay baptism, even if they are baptized, but for a different reason. Is it because they are putting preachers above baptism? Sadly, that answer is still yes. So this downplaying is not being done in the same way as the Corinthians who were obviously all baptized.
Then how are people today diminishing baptism by emphasizing preachers? The answer is found in putting more emphasis on what uninspired preachers say than what is written by inspired preachers in the Bible.
Anytime preachers are put above baptism, in some form or fashion, the Corinthian error is committed.