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For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should be made void.  (1 Corinthians 1: 17)

 In his on-line book, Born of Water, Jay Guin states. “there is no explaining of this passage in light of what we have traditionally taught.”  Perhaps foolishly then, Plain Talk has undertaken an impossible task. You be the judge.


 Plain Talk will attempt to address this issue from standpoint of:

·        Context

·        Inadvertent misrepresentation

·        Purpose of Paul’s epistles



 This first epistle to the Corinthians was written to a seriously divided church; some said , “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.”  Paul said he was thankful that he had baptized only Crispus and Gaius  and the household of Stephanas lest some claim that they were baptized in the name.  Paul states that Christ sent him to preach the gospel and not to baptize.  How should we understand this statement?  Was Paul saying that baptism was secondary to preaching and that baptism was really not necessary or was he saying the one who performed the baptizing was secondary, his primary task was to preach?  His statement should be taken in the sense that he did not wish to contribute to the division.  We do not have anything that would lead us to conclude that baptism is unnecessary or perhaps God really did not mean what he said.  Certainly we do not have sufficient reason to overthrow the counsel of God.  (Luke 7: 30)

·        John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

·        Jesus, Himself was baptized with John’s baptism.

·        Jesus and his disciples baptized more than John

·        Jesus said that one must be born of the water and the Spirit to enter the kingdom

·        Jesus instructed His apostles to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit

·        Jesus said that he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.  We may argue the canonicity of this passage, but not the truth.

·        Peter said to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This promise is for all.

 In the 10th chapter Paul makes the point that all Israel was baptized under the cloud and the sea into Moses, and they all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink which came from the spiritual rock, Christ.  Do we all not do  the same today?

 In the 12th chapter Paul tells us that in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.  This is a big deal!  There is no hint that some should be baptized and others may not if they are a little confused about the issue.  I am afraid that brother Guin may be reading his own uncertainties into the issue.


Inadvertent misrepresentation

 Brother Guin states, “Plainly Paul’s point is that baptism is secondary to faith.”  Really?  Plain Talk suggests that baptism is secondary to faith but that faith without the obedience of faith is dead and ineffective.

 Through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name’s sake.  (Romans 1; 5)

 This verse does not give the impression that Paul took the obedience of faith (including baptism ?) lightly.  Bringing the Gentiles to the obedience of faith was the purpose of receiving grace and apostleship.   Romans is the great epistle in which Paul elucidates the great doctrine of justification by faith.  Paul tells us that justification is by faith, not by works of the Law or any other kind of works done to be righteous before God.  (Titus 3: 5)  But Paul together with James recognized the insufficiency of faith alone in regard to salvation and justification.

And if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  (1 Corinthians 13: 2)

 Faith without works (obedience of faith) is useless.  (James 1: 20)

 You see that a man is justified by works (obedience of faith), and not by faith alone.  (James 2: 24)

 Faith without works (the obedience of faith) is dead.  (James 2: 26)

 Obedience proceeds from faith and in that sense faith takes precedent over obedience, but faith without obedience is dead and ineffective and faith without love is  nothing.  This is the perspective we must have to properly understand the relationship among faith and obedience and love.  Faith when combined with love will produce obedience; faith is perfected (made complete) by obedience.  Love motivates, activates and energizes faith.  Jesus said if you love Me keep My commandments.  Is baptism secondary to faith?  Clearly love is the summum bonum and biblical faith and obedience exist in an unbreakable union; faith precedes obedience but obedience is indispensable to faith.  (1 Corinthians 13: 13)


Purpose of Paul’s epistles

 Brother Guin apparently believes that Paul’s epistles should be replete with references to baptism.  Paul’s epistles are written to churches and individuals who had been baptized.  Often they addressed specific problems in many different areas.  I for one, who endured a Sunday morning sermon on baptism for many years, find nothing worthy of criticism of his and the Holy Spirits decision to not mention baptism with every sentence.  The letters were not written as a systematic theology; but thank God for Romans 6 which gives the most complete explanation of baptism or Galatians 3, which stresses the relationship between baptism and faith.  Plain Talk finds Brother Guin’s  attempt to second guess the Holy Spirit extraordinarily strange.. 

Now I would have been surprised if Luke in the Acts of the Apostles had not mentioned baptism often as the first part of the epistle is a record of conversions.  But there they are.

 “The gospel is the ‘gospel of Christ’ for example (1 Corinthians 9: 12), not the gospel of baptism.”  Plain Talks agrees that we are to convert to Jesus not baptism.  But the gospel of Christ cannot be disassociated from our Lords death, burial and resurrection.  (1Corinthians 15: 1-4)  Baptism is our death, burial and resurrection in which we are baptized into and united with Christ.  Baptism cannot be separated from the gospel of Christ but of course Christ’s death, burial and resurrection give meaning to baptism and without them baptism would be an empty ritual.  Not only must we believe the gospel but we must also obey the gospel.  (1 Corinthians 15: 1-4; 2 Thessalonians 1: 7-9)  Plain Talk suggests that one obeys the gospel of Christ when he is baptized.

“Paul did not preach baptism---he preached Christ and him crucified.”  (! Corinthians 2: 3)  Neither did Philip preach baptism, he preached Jesus.  (Acts 8: 35)  Yet the first recorded statement form the Ethiopian was, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?”  Plain Talk suggests that preaching Christ will inevitably bring one to baptism.  At Pentecost Peter preached Christ and ended with repentance and baptism.  (Acts 2: 14- 41)

 Brother Guin states it is worthy to note that Paul’s mention of baptism is always incidental.  Worthy to note?  Now incidental in this regard means happening as a chance or undersigned feature.  Does this mean that baptism is an incidental?   Hardly!  The Holy Spirit says that faith without works (obedience of faith) is dead and ineffective.  Does that sound incidental?  The Spirit chose not to reveal God’s will in the form of a systematic theology or codified laws.  Jesus taught in parables.  Is that too indirect?

 Plain Talk is appreciative of the opportunity to address some of these issues because Brother Guin is not alone.  Many raise the same objection.  Plain Talk also shares Brother Guin’s concern that the church of Christ has to often taken a legalistic stance.  I believe that we can inappropriately make baptism a work of righteousness instead of the obedience of faith, that it is.  The answer is not to disavow the obedience of faith but to properly understand biblical faith.

 Plain Talk holds that salvation is by the grace of God through faith, which obeys in love, not of works.


God Bless.

Arland  Pafford  


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Last Update   09/26/12