Why did Paul water baptize?
by Shawn Brasseaux
In 1 Corinthians 1:17, Paul wrote, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel….” Unlike the 12 apostles in Matthew 28:19, Jesus Christ did not send Paul to water baptize, and yet, Paul did water baptize in Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33, and Acts 18:8 (1 Corinthians 1:15-17). If Paul was not sent to water baptize, then why did he water baptize at all? A related question is, Why was Paul water baptized if water baptism has no place in our Dispensation of Grace? These are very good questions, and the Bible certainly has the answers. Will we be Berean Bible students and search the Scriptures for ourselves?
The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 1:15-17 that Paul water baptized Crispus, Gaius, and Stephanus’ household. In Acts 18:1,7,8, which is where Paul first came to Corinth, the Bible says some of the Corinthian believers were Jews (this is what 1 Corinthians 1 is discussing). Crispus was the “chief ruler of the synagogue;” he and his household believed and were water baptized (Acts 18:8). Why Paul water baptized is best answered by considering the follow facts in Scripture:
- The signs, miracles, and wonders of Israel’s program were carried over into Paul’s ministry. In doing so, God was demonstrating to Israel that her program was falling away, and Paul’s ministry was replacing Peter’s (Romans 11:11-13; 2 Corinthians 12:12).
- Peter water baptized (Acts 2:41; Acts 10:46-48), so Paul also water baptized.
- Paul spoke with tongues, performed healing miracles, et cetera, just like Peter did: healing—Acts 3:6-8 cf. Acts 14:8-10, raising the dead—Acts 9:36-42 cf. Acts 20:9-11, laying on hands to give the Holy Ghost—Acts 8:14-20 cf. Acts 19:6.
To validate Paul’s ministry for the Jews’ sake, God temporarily granted Paul the gift of miracle-working. Lest the Jews discredit Paul for not water baptizing, he also water baptized—that is, they could have said, “Paul does not water baptize… we should not follow him.” Paul water baptizing (and performing miracles) provoked the Jews to jealousy (Romans 11:11). Eventually, water baptism became divisive within the Corinthian church, and so Paul quit water baptizing.
Actually, the contents of 1 Corinthians indicate that Paul wrote it before Acts 28. By the time we get to Paul’s latter epistles (his prison epistles of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Titus, Philemon, et cetera), Paul makes no more references to water baptism. By Acts 28, Israel’s program had ceased and she had fallen. The Acts transition period was over, and so Paul’s prison epistles such as Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, make no references to water baptism.
As a side-note, Paul was water baptized of Ananias because of Ananias’ benefit, not for Paul’s benefit (Acts 9:18; Acts 22:16). Paul was saved apart from his water baptism. Ananias knew that, up to that point, believers of Jesus Christ were water baptized. Had Paul not been water baptized, it would have been a stumbling block to those believing Jews who had been water baptized. Paul being water baptized was another instance of his ministry and apostleship replacing Peter’s. Paul being water baptized safeguarded against his critics from claiming that he was not a legitimate apostle for having not been baptized.