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Baptism: Why did Paul baptize so few? 

Gary Googe Jan 03

One would think that with all the evangelistic work the apostle Paul did, he would have baptized many.  But that’s not what the Scriptures tell us about it. Most people don’t seem to wonder and understand why Paul spoke of water baptism as he did.

I Corinthians 1:14-17

14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;

15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.

16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.

It is this next verse in this passage that gets ignored in “religious” circles today.

17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. [Emphasis added]

How many preachers have you known who would thank God they had baptized so few or who would claim they were not sent to baptize, meaning it was not a part of the commission given to them?  They may immediately point to another commission, claiming it is theirs and ours to comply with today.  Let’s look at it.

Matthew 28:19-20

19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

Then He tells them what they’re to be teaching.

20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. [Emphasis added]

And what exactly was it that they were commanded by our Lord to teach? We have the record of that.

Matthew 23:1-3

1 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,

2 Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:

3 All therefore whatsoever they [the scribes and the Pharisees] bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. [Emphasis added]

It was the Mosaic Law that they were commanded to teach.  Is that what we’re to teach and be living by today? What does the apostle Paul tell us about this?

Romans 6:13-15

13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

Then we have the answer to this question in these next two verses.

14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. [Emphasis added]

What does he mean when he says “we are not under the law but under grace” today? How are we to apply that? What he is speaking of here is the message of grace he [Paul] was commissioned to introduce and teach.

Ephesians 3:1-3

1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,

2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:

3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, [Emphasis added]

Please note that this information was first revealed to Paul, not the twelve apostles.  The twelve apostles knew nothing about it until Paul was later sent to reveal it to them.

Galatians 2:1-2

1 Then fourteen years after [after he received his commission] I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.

2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. [Emphasis added]

What is “that gospel” he taught? If it was the same as theirs, why would he need to go to them and communicate it to them? 

2 Timothy 2:8 

8 Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: [Emphasis added] 

Much of Christendom would have us believe that Paul went to Jerusalem to be taught by themBut the Scriptures tell us it was just the opposite! They knew Jesus had risen from the grave and that He was their prophesied Messiah, but they did not know what had been accomplished on the cross until Paul revealed it to them.  Paul went there to explain to them what Scripture speaks of as his [Paul’s] gospel.

Galatians 2:5-8

5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel [that new and different gospel Christ revealed to him] might continue with you.

6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:

7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;

Yes, it was a new and different gospel and commission that had been given to Paul that was not yet known to the others.

8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me [Paul] toward the Gentiles) [Emphasis added]

Some Bible translations even mistranslate this passage, trying to make it conform to their false understanding of all this.  They want it to say that they all communicated the same gospel.  That is not true!  Peter’s gospel included the continuation of the Mosaic Law, water baptism, and more.  Paul’s gospel did not! If you want to step into “a hornet’s nest,” just bring up the subject of water baptism among a bunch of pastors from different church denominations.  There you’ll find an abundance of controversy and conflict about its meaning and the mode in which it is to be administered.

We looked at Matthew’s account of the giving of this gospel of the circumcision. Now let’s look at Mark’s account of it.

Mark 16:14-16

14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. [Emphasis added]

This is the same gospel that was later preached by Peter on the Acts 2 Day of Pentecost.

Acts 2:38-39

38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Please notice that the statement he made about it wasn’t a suggestion but a command.

39 For the promise [what had been prophesied about it] is unto you [Israelites], and to your children, and to all that are afar off [scattered Israelites in other nations], even as many as the Lord our God shall call. [Emphasis added]

But this commission also included the performance of miracles.

Mark 16:17-20

17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils [demons]; they shall speak with new tongues [foreign languages in which they had no training];

18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.

20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. [Emphasis added]

Do we have people doing these things today? Is this our commission today?  It is not! Some want to claim that the last section of Mark’s account is not in “the best Bible manuscripts.”  I completely disagree with that but even if such is true, the things mentioned in Mark’s account were all things being done by those under that commission in that time frame.  The book of Acts provides us with the record of all that.

Our commission today came to us through the separate and special revelation given to the apostle Paul. It doesn’t include any of these things, including some form of water baptism.

1 Corinthians 1:17

17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. [Emphasis added]

Paul was “sent” or commissioned with a dry baptism.  Today, we have just one baptism in place.

Ephesians 4:5

5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, [Emphasis added]

I often want to ask people what there is about “one” that they don’t understand. How could he make it any clearer? Today people debate and argue about the mode of baptism when what they should be talking about is how water baptism now has no place at all in God’s program for His people. And, yes, you’ll be in a small minority if you believe this, but such has always been the case concerning the teachings of God’s Word.  In fact, I have multiple articles about all this on this website.  Here are the names of some of those articles.

Minority:  Are you in God’s minority?

Minority:  Who is The Real Minority?

Baptism:  What are we to believe about it?

Bible:  What are we to think of Mark 16?

Gospels:  Did Peter and Paul preach the same gospel?

Bible:  What are The Two Programs?

The “one baptism” we have today is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  It is one where, by a work of the Holy Spirit, believers are entered into union with Christ and His body the moment they are saved.  Hence, this is a dry baptism.  There’s no water involved in it at all.

I Corinthians 12:13

13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. [Emphasis added]

Now that we have some background for this, why was it that Paul baptized so few? The answer to that is that the revelation Paul received came over a period of time.  He obviously didn’t get it all in just one sitting.  It appears that in the earlier part of his ministry there were some things that had not yet been revealed to him.  There were some things he did in this which we speak of as a transition period that are not a part of God’s program for us today.  This includes not only water baptism, but performing miracles of healing, speaking in tongues [foreign languages that had been unknown to them], and more.  All these things had been set aside by the end of the time frame of the book of Acts.  Paul mentions this situation in his first letter to the Corinthian church.

1 Corinthians 13:9-10

9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. [Emphasis added]

This “perfect” thing he speaks of is the completion of the Scriptures, the complete revelation of all that God would have us to know regarding our time today.  Such is the case with the subject of water baptism.  It remained in place until Paul was given the revelation of information we have now through his writing that tells us it was to be set aside.

As you’ll read in other articles I’ve written, there is no clear majority position today on the subject of water baptism.  No matter what you believe about it, you are in a minority position. What confusion we now have! Again, you’ll find information about all this in other articles I’ve written for this website.


Today, no preacher who practices any form of water baptism would make a statement like the one Paul makes about it—

Again, 1 Corinthians 1:17

17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. [Emphasis added]

Nearly everyone today assumes that some form of water baptism is a part of God’s will for every believer.  But as you’ve seen in this article, that is not the case.  Just remember that if you want to grow and reach spiritual maturity, you’re going to find yourself in a minority position on many things, not just this. Today, there’s just one baptism, the one baptism performed by the Holy Spirit when someone gets saved by accepting the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as the sole basis for their salvation.

Again, Ephesians 4:5

5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, [Emphasis added]

Today, most preachers and most church denominations teach that there’s at least two baptisms in place today.  But how can they possibly be correct on this? No, as the Scripture plainly tells us, there’s just one baptism for us today—the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

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