Whose Baptism?
Monday after the Last Sunday in Church Year
27 November 2017
Those who despise baptism are delighted by Paul's apparently careless attitude about it in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians. He even appears to have forgotten whom he had baptized in Corinth. Baptism can't be all that important if the Apostle had such a cavalier attitude about it, can it? But Paul is not dealing with the doctrine of baptism as much as he is dealing with the puffed up attitude of the baptizers and their factions. The problem in Corinth was that the baptizers had become more important than the baptism. The ministers were overshadowing the ministry. The servants of Christ were serving their own interests. It had become a factional mark of identification. Baptism was employed in support of a heresy.
The Greek word, "heresy" simply means the factionalism that arises from disagreements about teaching. In the early church, it became identified with the teaching that causes the factionalism; so a false teaching intentionally delivered is called a heresy. The Corinthians had several heresies, parties committed to this or that teacher who had baptized them. In reply, Paul was simply saying that anyone is capable of baptizing. He was not suggesting that people should go around baptizing willy-nilly, but he was suggesting that it takes no great skill to perform the rite. At a very young age, my children were capable of performing the rite of baptism upon their ever-willing doll collection. So just about any bloke is capable of doing it. This should lead those who perform the rite for the church to have very little pride about it. No one should particularly remember me, if I had baptized him or her. The One whose name is set upon us in baptism is the One who ought to be remembered, thanked, and ever after invoked. There ought to be no factions where there is but One Name into which we have all been baptized.
Preparing adult catechumens for baptism, now that is difficult work. To lead the unbeliever out of his or her doubt that God has had mercy on sinners like him or her, that is labor that takes much prayer and must arise from the Word of God. Those who catechize must know the faith and be apt to teach (2Ti 2:24). Our most talented pastors and teachers should be committed to this labor. Therefore, we ought to treasure the seminary education that our church body has traditionally given to those who are called to the teaching office. Baptism is a great gift from God. It gives the gift of the triune God to the believer. It is pure grace from Christ. This is what we are teaching when we instruct those who are coming into the faith in baptism.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   John Chrysostom
"'I thank God that I baptized none of you but Crispus and Gaius' (1Co 1:14). 'Why are you elated at having baptized, when I, for my part, even give thanks that I have not done so!' By saying this, by a kind of divine art, he does away with their swelling pride upon this point. He does not question the efficacy of baptism, God forbid, but mocks the folly of those who were puffed up at having been baptizers. First, by showing that the gift is not theirs. Second, by thanking God for it. For baptism truly is a great thing, but its greatness is not the work of the person baptizing, but of Him who is invoked in the baptism. Since to baptize is nothing as regards man's labor, but is much less than preaching the gospel. Great indeed is baptism, and without baptism it is impossible to obtain the kingdom. Still a man of no great excellence is able to baptize, but to preach the gospel there is need of great labor.
"He also states the reason, why he gives thanks that he had baptized no one (1Co 1:15). What then is this reason? 'Lest anyone should say that you were baptized into my own name' Why, did he mean that they said this in those other cases? No, but he was afraid that the disease would proceed even to that. 'For if, when insignificant persons and of little worth baptize a heresy arises, had I, the first announcer of Baptism, baptized many, it would have been likely that they, forming a party, would not only call themselves by my name, but also ascribe the Baptism to me.' For if from the inferiors so great an evil arose, from those of higher order it would perhaps have gone on to something far more grievous.
"Then, having shamed those who were unsound in this respect and adding, 'I baptized also the house of Stephanas' (1Co 1:16), he again drags down their pride, saying besides, 'I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.' For by this he signifies that neither did he seek to enjoy the honor accruing from the multitude, nor did he set about this work for glory's sake. Not only by these words, but also by the next, he greatly represses their pride, and therefore it was that Paul had it put into his hand (1Co 1:17).
"And why, not being sent to baptize, did he baptize? Not in contention with Christ who sent him, but in this instance laboring beyond his task. For he does not say, 'I was forbidden,' but, 'I was not sent for this, but for that which was of the greatest necessity.' For preaching the Gospel is a work perhaps for one or two. But baptizing, is for everyone endowed with the ministry. For anyone could baptize a man having been instructed and convinced. For the rest, it is all effected by the confession of the person drawing near, and the grace of God. But when unbelievers are to be instructed, there must be great labor, great wisdom. And at that time there was danger also. In the former case, the whole thing is done, and he is convinced, who is on the point of initiation and it is no great thing when a man is convinced, to baptize him. But in the latter case, the labor is great, to change the deliberate will, to lead to repentance, to tear up error by the roots, and to plant the truth in its place.
"Therefore he was not baptizing in opposition to Him that sent him. But, as in the case of the widows, the apostles had said, 'It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables' (Acts 6:2). Yet, of him who discharged the office of a deacon, 'Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching' (1Ti 5:17). For as to teach the wrestlers in the games is the part of a spirited and skillful trainer, but to place the crown on the champion's head may be done by one who cannot even wrestle (although it be the crown which adds splendor to the champion), so also in Baptism. It is impossible to be saved without it, yet it is no great thing that the baptizer does, finding the catechumen already prepared."

John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 3.6
2 Peter 2:1-15

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.
Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. (ESV)
Almighty and eternal God, according to Your strict judgment You condemned the unbelieving world through the flood, yet according to Your great mercy You preserved believing Noah and his family, eight souls in all. Grant that we be kept secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, being separated from the multitude of unbelievers and serving Your name at all times with a fervent spirit and a joyful hope, so that, with all believers in your promise we would be declared worthy of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For Barb Dube, that the Lord would bring her the strength and healing that she needs
For pastors, who are being persecuted by church authorities, that they would be faithful in their confession of the Christ remembering that our enemies are often the members of our own household
For all those seeking gainful employment, that they would find labor that is in keeping with a God-pleasing vocation
Art: Jan van EYCK, The Adoration of the Lamb (1430s)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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