In his first letter to Corinth, Paul notes that he is thankful he did not have to baptize some individuals.

14: I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius

15: so no one can say that you were baptized in my name.

16: (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember if I baptized anyone else.)

17: 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. - 1 Corinthians 1:14-17

Why is Paul glad of such a thing if in the book of Mark Jesus commands:

'Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.' - Mark 16:16

And Peter:

Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. - Acts 2:38

Does this mean:

  1. Paul didn't want to be glorified (v.15)

  2. Their faith was so strong that Paul did not need to baptize them? (i.e. is baptism considered a work in this context? ('lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.' or Ephesians 2:18))

  3. They would get baptized later because of their strong faith & commitment to Christ

  4. Something else? How should this verse be interpreted?

In-other words, Is Paul fulfilling his duty as a disciple?

  • 2
    This question may be a better fit on our sister site, BH.SE. – Dick Harfield Apr 2 '16 at 0:40

The First Epistle to the Corinthians opens with an expanded address (1 Corinthians 1:1-7), identifying its writer as the apostle Paul who, with Sosthenes, was writing to the church community in Corinth. After a warm opening address, Paul urges the Corinthians to agree in what they say, and to be united in the same mind and in the same purpose. The reason for this is that Chloe's people had reported to Paul that were rivalries among them. This rivalry seems to originate from divisions among the Corinthians as to whether their chief loyalties were to Paul, Apollos, Cephas or Christ. By this, the reason for the unusually expanded opening address becomes apparent, because in that address Paul is emphasising the primacy of Jesus.

Paul subtly nullifies these allegiances, first by saying he is thankful that he baptised none of the Corinthians except Crispus, Gaius and the household of Stephanas, so that no one involved in these disputes can say they were baptised in Paul's name. Then, in 1 Corinthians 1:31, he concludes his demolition of any self-importance his rivals may feel, by citing an Old Testament saying, "Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord."

Paul does not regret the baptism of the Corinthians. Instead, he recognises that the divisions and contentions of which he speaks in 1:10-11 originated because sectarian loyalties to individual apostles were taking precedence over faith in Jesus, and he does not want to be part of that. He also recognises, as we can see in 1:31, that these apostles were encouraging sectarian divisions among the Christians in Corinth.


The church of Corinth had a problem: it was split up into quarrelling factions. The people were more focused on the differences between them, such as which apostles they identified with, than the unity they should have had as fellow members of the body of Christ. Many people "followed Paul", but evidently few had been personally baptised by him.

Paul is thankful that he didn't baptise many of them not because he thought they shouldn't have been baptised, but because it might have made this factionalism even worse. If a large number had been personally baptised by Paul then they surely would've been lording it over the others.

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