1 Corinthians 1:17 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

1 Corinthians 1:17, NIV: 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 1:17, ESV: 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, KJV: For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

1 Corinthians 1:17, NASB: For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made of no effect.

1 Corinthians 1:17, NLT: For Christ didn't send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News--and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power.

1 Corinthians 1:17, CSB: For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel--not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ will not be emptied of its effect.

What does 1 Corinthians 1:17 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Paul was in the unique position as an apostle of having been sent by Christ Himself to complete a specific mission with his life. Christ sent Paul to preach the gospel, especially to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; 22:21).

Holding clearly to this mission meant that Paul also understood what Christ had not sent him to do. He was not called to baptize those who had believed the gospel. He was an evangelist and a missionary. He relied on others to baptize new believers and to participate directly in pastoring and teaching them.

We can take two things from this statement. First, Paul makes it crystal clear that baptism is not the gospel. In other words, baptism is not required for a person to be saved. Paul's teaching of the gospel is utterly clear that faith in Christ is the only path to God's grace and eternal salvation from sin (Ephesians 2:8–9).

Second, Paul is not dismissing baptism as unnecessary. He expected that all who came to Christ would be baptized, and Christ commanded His followers to both make disciples and baptize all who believed (Matthew 28:19). Baptism is a step of obedience and a public declaration that a believer belongs to Christ.

Paul adds that Christ did not send him to preach the gospel with words of eloquent wisdom. To preach in this way, Paul says, risks emptying the cross of Christ of its power.

As a writer of course, Paul was often quite eloquent and certainly wise in his presentation of the gospel. One of the values of this era was rhetoric, speeches that were recognized for their brilliant use of words and phrasing to wow an audience and overwhelm a debate opponent on a given topic. We still use that term, today, in reference to the use of words intended to elicit certain responses.

Though Paul was clearly skillful in his use of words, he did not want to persuade anyone to come to faith in Christ because of dazzling wordplay. Instead, he wanted to present the gospel as clearly as possible and allow his listeners to be persuaded by the simple, compelling fact that the Son of God died to pay the penalty for their own sin. That powerful message should not require dazzling packaging to make an impact.