Did Paul Rescind Baptism?
Do you believe that the command of Christ to baptize (Matt. 28:19) was rescinded by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:17?
At Matthew 28:19, Christ gave His disciples a command that has come to be known as the “Great Commission.” He said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” The wording of the command is such that it appears to be intended universally, for all Christians in all times and circumstances. Historically, the church has regarded it as being so, and as a result, Christianity has always been an evangelizing religion.
At 1 Corinthians 1:17, Paul wrote, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel-not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” Some have wondered whether Paul was here saying that baptism is unnecessary for Christians. The immediate context of this verse does not seem to indicate that Paul’s intent was to rescind Christ’s command regarding baptism. Paul was discussing the matter of factions that had arisen in the church, with some professing to be followers of Paul, Apollos, Cephas, etc. He is making the point that all Christians should be followers of Christ, and not of any man. It was Christ, he argues, Who died for them and in Whose name they were baptized. He expresses gratitude that he did not baptize very many, so that no one could claim that they were baptized in Paul’s name. The issue was not whether Christians should be baptized, but in whose name. When Paul writes, “Christ did not send me to baptize,” he is not saying that baptism should not be done, but that Paul’s primary work was that of preaching Christ, not particularly of baptizing. Because of this, his desire was to lead men to Christ – not to any human teacher. When people who had received Christ were baptized, they would become His followers, not followers of the one who had preached to them.
That Paul did not intend to do away with baptism is also evident in that he speaks of baptism, including his own, in a positive way in other texts, giving no indication that the practice might be discontinued (Romans 6:3,4; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:5; Colossians 2:12). Finally, the testimony of history is that baptism continued in the early church, and has never been abandoned, even up to the present day. Had Paul truly intended to rescind the command to baptize, no such continuity of practice would be evident.