Monday, October 12, 2015

Preaching the Gospel: A Clear Connection to Baptism

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. (1 Corinthians 1:17)

It is not Paul’s point to suggest that baptism is not essential or unimportant. How could that be, especially in light of his masterful connection of our baptism to the death burial and resurrection of Jesus our Lord in Romans 6:3-4? "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” In addition, just a casual look at the context of 1 Corinthians 1 reminds us of Paul’s own admission, "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.)” (see 1 Corinthians 1:14-16). 

Paul is emphasizing the message of the gospel of which baptism is clearly a part. It is much like reading the narrative of Acts 8:26-40, where Philip joined the Eunuch’s chariot and heard him reading from Isaiah. It is here we identify Isaiah 53 as the place of the Eunuch’s reading. The eunuch asks Philip who is the prophet talking about. All we are told from that point is, “beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus." It is at some point later, when they had come upon a body of water, the Eunuch responds, "See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (vs. 36) So, there are two clear inferences that we draw from the narrative, if we are to understand it properly. In the first place, introducing one to Jesus as the crucified Messiah,  via the Scriptures, (which is the only way to know Jesus) evokes the response in an honest heart, what must I do (Acts 2:36-38; 16:25-34). Secondly, a proper introduction to Jesus includes His death, burial and resurrection with the invitation for one to spiritually participate with Jesus in that event for the remission of their sins. For Jesus was ever the living, dying and resurrected invitation of God to "come to me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest...” (Matthew 11:28-30) 

There are a lot of theological terms that scholarship likes to throw around, which most of us don’t understand and I wonder sometimes if they do themselves, about preaching the gospel. However, it seems pretty clear that preaching the gospel is a speech-event. Namely, “the word of the cross.” Clearly, a language is born and renewed that centers around that historic event, in which people (especially in the First Century) saw, experienced and talked about things, in a way prior to that event, they never had done before. Even today, one grows up in the Western World hearing or reading words on signs like “church,” “resurrection,” “spiritual,” etc., whether they properly understand those words or not. Yet, when we come to Jesus, via the Scriptures, we experience that language in a totally different way because of the “word of the cross.”

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