14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name. 16 Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17 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 1:14-17)
Before Paul began an extended discourse about Christ crucified being the wisdom of God and the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18-2:5), he first gave, what we might call, an interesting bit of thanksgiving. Having already given God thanks for the way His grace was at work in the Corinthian church (vs.4-9), he then thanked God that he hadn’t baptized any of the Corinthians except Crispus (vs.14c), the ruler of the synagogue in Corinth who “believed on the Lord with all his household” (Acts. 18:8b), Gaius (1 Cor. 1:14c), the Corinthian believer who hosted Paul while he wrote the epistle to Rome (Rom. 16:23), and “the household of Stephanas” (1 Cor. 1:16b). It’s not every day you hear someone give thanks for who they haven’t baptized. But Paul’s thanksgiving was not without a good explanation.
The reason why he was thankful that he hadn’t baptized anyone else was because it protected the Corinthians from saying that Paul baptized in his own name (vs.15). In other words, because the people were so given to sectarianism it was likely that they would have used Paul’s baptism as some kind of a distinguishing point that cemented the uniqueness of ‘the Paul group.’ Again we see how prone fallen man can be to the temptations of pride and self-exaltation by association. Today there are many who consider themselves committed listeners of Christ-honoring preachers to the detriment of their own spiritual well being. The problem – they do not only glory in the word that is preached, they glory that they are listeners! Don’t get me wrong, it is right and good to be thankful to God for the gift of such ministers, both in the present and the past, but it’s wrong to become spiritually prideful over such a blessed association.
Paul went on to emphasize that Christ commissioned him to preach the Gospel and not to baptize (vs.17a). Now, we shouldn’t think that Paul was speaking ill about the ordinance that Jesus instituted. Not at all! Rather, he appears to be placing a proper and greater emphasis on the Gospel that brings the good news of reconciliation to all who believe, as opposed to the Corinthians’ skewed view of baptism and their affiliation with the baptizer. Baptism is great; but the Gospel is greater; and Paul was commissioned to “preach the Gospel” (vs.17b), not with reliance on words of human wisdom but with confidence in its intrinsic power (vs.17c).
In light of today’s passage may we be exhorted to resist the temptation of self-exaltation by association and see ourselves as those who have been graciously commissioned to preach the Gospel to those around us, not with reliance on human wisdom, but with confidence that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16).