Article - Baptism and 1 Corinthians 1:16-17

In 1 Corinthians 1:16-17 Paul maintains that baptism (immersion) is essential for salvation for the following reasons:

First, such is consistent with the fundamental facts about immersion: (1) you cannot preach the gospel/Christ without preaching the necessity of immersion, Mark 16:15-16; Acts 8:35-39; 10:48; 22:16; (2) it is essential for someone to administer the immersion in order to obey the Great Commission/make disciples, Matthew 28:18-20; (3) Saul/Paul was immersed to wash away his sins, Acts 9:6; 18; 22:16 (“be immersed” and “wash away” are imperatives); (4) Paul immersed others, including some Corinthians, Acts 18:8; 1 Corinthians 1:14, 16; (5) the conversions where Paul preached involved immersions, Acts 16:14-15, 33; 18:8; 19:4-5; (6) Paul wrote more on immersion into Christ than any other non-Gospel writer of the New Testament, Romans 6:3-4; 1 Corinthians 1:13-17; 12:13; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 5:26; Colossians 2:12; Titus 3:5.

Second, such is consistent with the fundamental facts of 1 Corinthians 1:13 where Paul teaches two actions which must occur before you can rightfully follow Jesus: (1) Jesus (not Paul or another) must be crucified for you; and (2) you must be immersed in the name of Jesus (not in the name of Paul or another), Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5; Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27.

Finally, the meaning of 1 Corinthians 1:16-17: Paul utilizes a figure of speech (ellipsis) where the first element in the sentence is not negated, but only toned down (by omitting an implied word) to put emphasis on the second element. The following are examples of “not...but” phrases that purposely omit the word “only” to emphasize the second element: John 6:27, “Do NOT [ONLY] work for the food which perishes, BUT for the food which endures to everlasting life”; John 12:44, “He who believes in Me (Jesus), believes NOT [ONLY] in Me, BUT in Him who sent Me”; 1 Corinthians 1:16-17, “Yes, I (Paul) also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did NOT [ONLY] send me to baptize, BUT to preach the gospel” (other passages: Acts 5:4; 1 Corinthians 15:10; 1 Timothy 5:23; 1 Peter 3:3-4). Keep in mind that the main emphasis of immersion is not on the one immersing (the administrator of the immersion) but the one being immersed so that his or her sins can be washed away in the blood of Jesus (Acts 2:38; 22:16; etc.).

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