I smiled imagining what it would be like to stand before the Junior High students on a Sunday morning and say, “I thank God that I didn’t baptize any of you at last September’s outdoor baptism service.” How would they receive that statement? Does it sound hurtful? How could it be helpful to make that claim? I smiled because I cannot imagine saying that. First of all, I baptized students last fall.

This photo was taken right after Nicole Jiles and I baptized Abraham while his little brother, who would be next to get baptized, watched from the water. Abraham trusted Jesus at summer camp and he wanted to profess his love for and trust in Jesus. I love the privilege of baptizing students.

So, it struck me as odd to read Paul write, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.  (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)” 1 Cor 1:14-16. It hit me as a strange thing to put in writing and I had to wonder what it would take for me to tell students, or anyone at EFCC, that I was thankful to God that I had not baptized them.

In Paul’s case, writing to the believers in Corinth, apparently, they were putting so much stock in the person that baptized them and taught them that they were following personalities more than the gospel. Some followed Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas over following Christ. So, Paul asks in verse 13, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” Somehow, the teacher was being elevated over the teaching, the messenger over the message, the baptizer over the baptism. The good that came through Paul’s example of, and teaching about, the gospel became secondary to the preference for, or the fondness of, the teacher, baptizer, or mentor himself.

This happens in our church too via our personal preferences for, or fondness of, certain pastors, politicians, or media personalities that become bigger in our minds and conversations than the gospel and Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.

Paul finishes this section with verse 17, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” Pray that the gospel and the cross of Christ will be your primary source of power, fondness, and allegiance.

Pastor John Riley
Jr. High Pastor

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