Does I Cor 1:17 Say Baptism Is Not Part of the Gospel?


Some preachers claim I Corinthians 1:17 (“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel) proves baptism is not part of the gospel, and therefore is not necessary to salvation.

But this passage is actually making a contrast between the physical act of baptizing and preaching, not baptizing and the gospel. Of course when we preach we are not baptizing, but scriptural gospel preaching includes preaching the necessity of baptism:

· Mark 16:15-16 “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel … He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved …”

· Acts 8:35-36 preaching Jesus included preaching baptism

I Cor 1:17 is a “not/but” passage. A “not/but” passage emphasizes one thing over another thing, but does not necessarily exclude the other entirely. John 6:27 (“Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life”) is another good illustration of such. It isn’t teaching we shouldn’t labor for physical food at all (II Thess 3:10), but is emphasizing that labor for spiritual food is more important than labor for physical food. Likewise, I Cor 1:17 is not excluding Paul baptizing entirely (that would contradict verses 14, 16, etc. that says he did baptize). It is emphasizing Paul’s preaching work over his baptizing work (which others could do just as well as he could).

In the context, the Corinthians were dividing up over (and following) who baptized them (verse 10ff). Paul’s contextual point then in verse 17 is that it doesn’t matter who baptizes you; that it only matters that you were baptized in the name (by the authority) of Christ.

So actually the context of I Corinthians 1 proves baptism is necessary:

· Paul teaches in verses 12-13 that for a person to be “of Paul,” (i.e., a follower of Paul), Paul must have been crucified for him, and that person would have had to have been baptized in the name of Paul.

· This necessarily implies that for a person to be “of Christ” (i.e., a follower of Christ, a Christian), Christ must have been crucified for him, and that person would have to be BAPTIZED in the name of Christ.

I Pet 3:21 says “… baptism doth also now save us …” – there is no way to get around that.

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Patrick Donahue