|Volume 20 Number 10 October 2018||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Plainly, the apostle Paul acknowledged that he personally baptized some individuals.
Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name. Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. (1 Corinthians 1:12-17 NKJV)
The reason that Paul stated that he was reluctant to personally baptize people was to avoid criticism that he was baptizing persons into his name or making disciples for himself instead of for Jesus Christ. It was the apostle’s purpose in the passage cited above to dispel rather than to propel a sectarian spirit among members of the Lord’s church.
Paul was not minimizing the essentiality of New Testament baptism but merely diffusing the party spirit that had arisen in the first-century church at Corinth. After all, our Lord Himself taught that belief + baptism = salvation. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved…” (Mark 16:16). Likewise, the apostle Peter emphasized the necessity of being baptized to be saved. “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21 KJV). In addition, the apostle Paul taught about the relationship between baptism and salvation. Baptism places one into Christ and imitates the death, burial, resurrection and newness of life that Jesus Christ experienced (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12). Paul wrote that those “baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).
Paul made a valid point when he wrote that “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 1:17). The natural result of preaching the Gospel (Mark 16:16) when it is obeyed by non-Christians is baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). This was precisely the response to the Gospel that Saul of Tarsus (better known later as the apostle Paul) made. “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16NKJV).
Since baptism is the point at which a non-Christian’s sins are forgiven, preachers too often preach baptism instead of preaching the cross of Christ—appealing to the “wisdom of words” whereby they ‘make the cross of Christ of no effect’ (1 Corinthians 1:17). They say things like “The water is warm, and we have clothes into which you can change.” Of course, warm water and a change of clothes are agreeable circumstances, but they are not reasons to be baptized. Especially missionaries sometimes entice audiences with gifts of clothing, eyeglasses, medical attention, Bibles or other giveaways, and yet none of these things are sufficient reasons to be baptized. Instead of begging candidates for conversion to be baptized or bribing them to go down into the waters of baptism, prospective converts ought to be pleading with us to baptize them into Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins—as the Ethiopian treasurer beseeched Philip to baptize him (Acts 8:36).
The problem with many baptisms is that they have been reduced to a benchmark to gauge success and to raise money for more defective evangelism. Preaching baptism results in supposed conversions without conviction, which becomes evident by the extremely poor retention of such converts. People motivated to go down into the water to receive gifts will happily be baptized again next year when the Americans return with more giveaways. It’s no wonder, then, that the apostle Paul emphasized that Christ did not send him to baptize but to preach the Gospel. We ought to do the same, preaching the Gospel and baptizing those who are motivated by the Word of God.
There is a second way in which the apostle Paul doubtlessly baptized people—indirectly through the hands of others. For instance, Jesus Christ baptized a great number of persons, howbeit indirectly and not with His own hands. “…Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples)” (John 4:1-2). Some missionaries forbid nationals to baptize anyone who responds in the presence of the missionary, but other missionaries expect foreign brethren to do the baptizing—in part, for the same reason Paul mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1. Baptism is the desired result, but we are supposed to realize that goal not by preaching baptism but by preaching the cross of Christ—for which those who wish to obey that Gospel request to be baptized.
Yes, Paul certainly baptized people—some with his own hands and others indirectly, no doubt. Baptism is essential to salvation (Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21), but it follows acquaintance with and a proper response to the preaching the Gospel of Christ.
Why Was the Law Given Only
to the Jews and Not to the Gentiles?
Louis Rushmore, Editor
“Why was the Law given only to the Jews and not to the Gentiles?” The Master’s master plan for the redemption of humanity unfolded over 4,000 years from creation and the Garden of Eden through the ministry of Jesus Christ, His death, His resurrection, His Ascension and the establishment of His church. In those 4,000 years, God introduced three successive religious law systems—Patriarchy, Judaism and Christianity. Patriarchy was a family-type religion; Judaism was a national religion; Christianity is a universal religion. The first two law systems were preparatory for and foreshadowed the third law system—Christianity—which has been in place for nearly 2,000 additional years so far. Especially Judaism was ‘wiped out, taken out of the way and nailed to the cross of Christ’ (Colossians 2:14), being “…a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Colossians 2:17 NKJV; cf., Hebrews 8:5; 9:9; 10:1). The three law systems were related to one another and progressive toward the unveiling of the Messiah, through whom actual forgiveness of sins is possible.
Regarding Judaism or the Law of Moses, the Master’s master plan for human redemption began with one man—Abraham—to whom God made promises (Genesis 12:1-3; 18:18; 28:18) and through his descendants the Messiah was to come. Between Abraham and the coming of Jesus Christ into the world the promises were repeated to Abraham’s son Isaac (Genesis 26:4) and grandson Jacob (Genesis 28:14), also called Israel, (Genesis 32:28). Ultimately, the children of Jacob or Israel became a nation on the move after they exited Egyptian captivity and trekked to Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:6; 32:10). God inaugurated Judaism or gave the Law of Moses beginning at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5). Jacob’s son Judah, great-grandson of Abraham, headed the tribe through which the Messiah was to descend (Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38). “For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood” (Hebrews 7:14).
Specific prophecies regarding the lineage through which the Messiah would come necessitated details such as are contained in God’s master plan for human redemption, coming down to the selection of Abraham and his descendants, as well as inaugurating a complementary law system to foreshadow the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Initially, that kingdom was manifested in the church (Acts 2:47), but it will be removed finally to Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:24-28). God chose to unfold His plan for human redemption in this narrow, logical fashion, which through comprehensive prophecy and minute fulfillment of itself contributed to proof regarding the Master’s redemptive plan and His Redeemer.
The Letter Killeth
Louis Rushmore, Editor
What does it mean that the “letter killeth”? The biblical reference is to 2 Corinthians 3:6, which reads, “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (KJV). The NKJV reads similarly with “who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” Scripture in this context contrasts the Old Law of Judaism with the New Law of Christianity—the Gospel of Christ.
But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious. (2 Corinthians 3:7-11)
The New Testament or Gospel of Christ is superior to the Old Testament Law of Judaism, which has passed away (Romans 7:6-7; Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14). Since the Old Testament Law had no provision for the complete forgiveness of sins, it could only condemn in as much as all persons responsible for their actions have committed sins (Romans 3:10, 23). The New Testament or Gospel of Christ contains within it the provision of the forgiveness of sins for those who obey it, that is all who obey Jesus Christ (Hebrews 5:9). All who do not obey the Gospel of Christ remain lost (2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17).
Therefore, it is in the sense of the contrast between the Old Testament and the New Testament, the former that cannot save and can only condemn contrasted with the New Testament that can save from sin, that the Old Testament kills spiritually whereas the New Testament makes alive spiritually. The 2 Corinthians 3 context represents the Old Testament by reference to “engraved on stone.” The context distinguishes the New Testament from the Old Testament as being “the ministry of the Spirit.”