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Baptism and 1 Corinthians 1:14-17

November 29, 2012

John Allan

In 1 Corinthians 1, while combating the problem of divisions among Christians at Corinth, the apostle Paul said:

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 1:14-17, NKJV).

The question comes: “How could baptism possibly be essential and yet Paul say what he did?”

It should prove helpful in answering our question to consider something that was said of Jesus Christ during his ministry. In John 4:1-3 we read that Jesus “left Judea and departed again to Galilee” because the Pharisees had heard that Jesus “made and baptized more disciples than John.” Verse two is of particular interest to us here: “(though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples),”

The purpose of citing that verse is to show that baptism was occurring and being attributed to Jesus, but Jesus himself was not physically lowering people beneath the water and raising them back out. His disciples were doing that.

With the establishment of the Church in Acts 2 and the apostles carrying out the Great Commission (Mark 16:15-16, Matthew 28:18-19) there is no doubt that they preached baptism (Acts 2:38). This does not mean that every person who converted to Jesus Christ was baptized by an apostle; Acts 8:12 and 8:38 provide sufficient proof of this fact.

Just because Paul did not physically immerse them does not mean that he viewed baptism as unnecessary. It is clear in the passage we are considering that the Christians at Corinth had indeed been baptized. Paul merely stated that with the exception of a few, he had not been the one performing the physical act.

It is also worth our observation that Paul did not say he was glad he only baptized a few of the Corinthian Christians because baptism was not important. Instead, he said “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.” (emphasis mine -JA)

There were contentions in the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:11). Paul was grateful that he had not contributed unnecessarily to these contentions. Paul wanted unity, not division (1 Corinthians 1:10).

While accepting that the Corinthian Christians were baptized, some might still think that baptism cannot be essential in light of verse 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.”

Surely these words cannot be understood to mean that Jesus Christ attached no significance to baptism. After all, Jesus is the one who commanded the apostles that people should be baptized (Mark 16:16)! What, then, could it mean?

In Acts 6 we learn that in the church at Jerusalem there had been a complaint that Hellenist widows among the disciples were being neglected in the daily distribution. Was this an important matter? Absolutely. But notice what the apostles did:

Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

That work was important, and needed to be done. But it was not work that the apostles should have taken upon themselves at the expense of carrying out the Great Commission. In like manner, baptism was important, but Paul’s primary concern was preaching the gospel: there were other able-bodied people who could physically baptize people.

Our conclusion, then, is this:

  1. Paul was not always the person who physically baptized people into Christ.
  2. Paul was grateful that because of this, the Corinthians could not use him as ammunition for their divisions.
  3. Paul’s primary focus was to preach the gospel: there were other people who could perform the physical act of baptizing converts.

When Paul’s comments are properly understood in light of their context and additional biblical evidence, there is no reason to conclude that Paul viewed baptism as insignificant.

Posted in Bible Reading Notes

Saul’s Conversion

November 28, 2012

John Allan

The book of Acts contains three accounts of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (better known as Saul of Tarsus): Acts 9, Acts 22, and Acts 26. The latter two were accounts given by Paul himself as he defended his actions in front of Jews (Acts 22) and King Agrippa (Acts 26).

Through the years many have contended that Saul was saved (had his sins forgiven) when he saw that “great light from heaven” (Acts 22:6) that was “brighter than the sun” (Acts 26:13) and conversed with Jesus on the road to Damascus. The force of this position seems to be the presumption that his having a conversation with the Lord must mean that he was saved at that point.

When studying a Bible topic it is proper to gather all the available information on a topic and draw conclusions based on the evidence the Bible provides. Our question is this: “Was Saul of Tarsus saved on the road to Damascus concurrent with his conversation with the Lord?” By using the method we described a few sentences ago, the evidence gives a definitive answer to our question.

First, notice when you read all three accounts there is simply no clear indication that Saul’s conversation with the Lord meant that he was saved. You will not find wording to that effect and therefore we cannot make that assertion based on the evidence. The assertion that Saul was saved at that time is not based on a presumption, and that presumption cannot be validated by the biblical record.

If Saul was not saved on the road to Damascus, then when were his sins taken away? As we read the information the Bible makes available to us we are drawn to Acts 22:16. In that place Ananias, having just explained God’s plan for Saul, urges “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.'”

The presumption that Saul was saved prior to this moment is indefensible in light of the plain words of the Bible. If Saul were already saved, there would have been no need for Ananias to instruct him “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”

If we permit the Bible to be the authority on the matter we find that Saul’s sins were not taken away on the road to Damascus. Instead, he was instructed by Ananias that he was to be obedient to the gospel. This is perfectly consistent with the instructions Jesus gave the apostles in The Great Commission (Mark 16:15-16) and with the declaration made by Peter in Acts 2:38.

Posted in Bible Reading Notes

The Deity of Jesus Christ

November 13, 2012

John Allan

Our Bible reading schedule has moved into the New Testament. It has rightly been said that the Old Testament points toward Jesus Christ, and now that we have arrived in the New Testament we see the arrival of Jesus Christ and his redemptive work. The gospel had been foretold and now we read as it unfolds!

The fundamental fact on which the Church is built is that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God (Matthew 16:16 etc.). The gospel message is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Yet, in spite of such things there are those who deny that Jesus is the Christ.

There are even some who recognize that Christians believe in the deity of Christ, but deny that Jesus ever made that claim himself. As you read through the gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) there is sufficient evidence to refute that. Since our reading schedule has us in John this week let us consider a few verses from that book which prove that Jesus did (in spite of what some might say) claim to be divine.

As John 8 comes toward a close, Jesus told the Jews that “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” This prompted the Jews to press Jesus on the matter: “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”

Jesus’ reply in John 8:58 is testimony of the fact that Jesus had always existed: “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

Jesus used unmistakable language to show the Jews that he had always been. The Jews knew the force of what Jesus said, because in the next verse we read that they took up stones to throw at him. This clearly indicates that they understood what Jesus was saying, and they refused to believe him.

Consider a similar occurrence just a few chapters later (John 10):

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and My Father are one. (John 10:27-30, NKJV)

On this occasion the reaction of the Jews was, once again, to pick up stones to throw at him. Why would they do such a thing? They explain it themselves in John 10:33. “The Jews answered Him, saying, ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God” (NKJV).

Once again, the Jews knew the force of what Jesus had said. They knew the implications of his words, and took those claims seriously.

These are not all the references that could be considered. These are sufficient, however, to show that Jesus Christ did claim divinity for himself. That means Jesus has always existed, but there came a time when he became flesh and dwelt among men. This is perfectly consistent with the biblical record and John’s inspired testimony in John 1.

All Bible quotes in this article are from the New King James Version. If you have any Bible questions, please feel free to submit them to us through the “Contact Us” feature of this web site.

Posted in Bible Reading Notes

The Friendship of David and Jonathan

March 26, 2012

John Allan

From time to time throughout the year, in keeping with our daily Bible reading schedule, articles and brief thoughts will be posted that might be helpful to those who are reading. Please accept the following thoughts as one installment to this category.

In 1 Samuel we read about David and Jonathan and a wonderful friendship that they enjoyed. Let us consider a few characteristics of their friendship that can be instructive for us, too.

1. Their friendship obeyed “The Golden Rule.” What we refer to as The Golden Rule has been stated in various ways, but is probably most commonly worded “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Jesus said it this way: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

1 Samuel 18:1-3 says that Jonathan loved David “as his own soul.” When we love somebody as much as we love ourselves we will seek their good. This was true of Jonathan and David.

When Jonathan knew that his father, king Saul, wanted to kill David, the Bible says “So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, and ate no food the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, because his father had treated him shamefully.” Jonathan also informed David of his father’s intent, allowing him the opportunity to flee.


2. Their friendship was deep.

The Bible says “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” Some have attempted to pervert the friendship these two men had, but the reality is their friendship was wholesome and good. Jonathan and David were friends in spite of the fact that Jonathan’s father came to despise David. Saul, in spite of being told that the kingdom would be taken from him and given to another, tried fiercely to hang on to his kingdom and pass it along to Jonathan.

Jonathan did not allow politics to get in the way. Instead of betraying his friend in hopes of being king one day, Jonathan maintained his loyalty to David.

The depth of their friendship is demonstrated in 1 Samuel 20:41-42. David and Jonathan shared a tearful goodbye as David was forced to flee from the presence of King Saul.

May we all be blessed to have at least one friendship in our lives that is strong like the one shared by Jonathan and David.

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” -Proverbs 18:24 (NKJV)

Posted in Bible Reading Notes

Does Genesis 27 Endorse Deceit, Lying?

January 11, 2012

John Allan

As you read Genesis 27 you probably noticed that there is lying and deceit involved as Jacob secures for himself a blessing that his father Isaac had intended for Esau. In light of this, some could come to the conclusion that this means God approves of lies and deceit in some instances.

Before jumping to that conclusion a few things ought to be considered.

It seems to me that it is more accurate to say that God’s will was accomplished in spite of this mess created by Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Esau instead of it happening because of it. Before Jacob and Esau were born God declared that the older would serve the younger. No amount of effort to resist this would stop it from happening. Esau did not have the birthright, he sold it to his brother Jacob. Thus it can be argued that Esau was not worthy of a blessing that would give him rule over his brother; yet Isaac was attempting to give him such a blessing (see Genesis 27:29).

Humans are often used by God in the Bible to accomplish His will. Yet, humans are not perfect. God can assure that His will is accomplished in spite of the unrighteous acts of men. That does not at all make God evil nor constitute an endorsement from God of the unrighteous acts men commit.

Nowhere in Genesis 27 does the Bible suggest that God commanded the lying and deceit. We also do not find any language in Genesis 27 that tells us God approved of it. There are many actions recorded in the Bible of which God does not approve. Sometimes those actions are even performed by people who were otherwise righteous and pleasing to God.

Since God cannot lie (Titus 1:2) and since Satan is described as the father of lies (John 8:44) it follows that God would not, did not and does not endorse lying. To do so would be contrary to His very nature.

Posted in Bible Reading Notes

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