Q&A: Did Jesus and Paul disagree on baptism?

Did Jesus and Paul disagree on baptism?

Question

Jesus instructed us to baptize (Matt 28:19), but Paul does not seem to believe this (1 Cor. 1:17).

Answer

Matthew 28:19 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.

1 Corinthians 1:17-18 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel - not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

At first glance these texts may seem in opposition to one another. However, they are actually speaking about two separate but related issues.

First, Paul believed in baptism. He himself was baptized (Acts 9:18; 22:16). He baptized others (Acts 16:31-33; 1 Cor. 1:14, 16). He taught on baptism (Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:1-12). Paul was not opposed to baptism.

Second, in 1 Corinthians 1:17 Paul is clarifying his ministry and mission given to him by the Lord (Acts 26:16-18; Rom. 1:1; 15:15-16; Gal. 1:16). Paul's primary duty was to preach (1 Cor. 1:17-18), not baptize. His calling was to preach the gospel and bring men to Christ, not in baptizing to create a faction around himself (1 Cor. 1:12).

Additionally, Paul was simply following the example Jesus set during his earthly ministry; Christ proclaimed the gospel and the disciples baptized the believers (John 4:1-2). The texts reveal a unity of thought.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).