Thursday, November 15, 2007

Paul the Non-baptist?

There is an interesting statement in 1 Corinthians 1:17:

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel--not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Paul had one task in mind when he ministered: Preach the gospel. Let's expand on this thought for a moment.

1. Paul didn't assume the Great Commission to be something he had to carry out by himself. He did the "Go into all the world" part, but not the "baptizing them" part. Why? Because it isn't the call on any one person's life to carry out all of the Great Commission alone. It is a call to the entire church body working in one accord. Paul preached the gospel, and other than a few people, let someone else do the baptizing and the "Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded" (discipling) parts.

2. Paul didn't try to impress the lost with his human insights - he simply spoke of the power of the cross. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. Jesus is that Savior. Without Him, we are all condemned. On the cross He took that condemnation on Himself; we are no longer condemned. If you believe in Jesus' sacrifice as the efficient full-payment for your sins, and choose to obey Him out of love and thanksgiving, you are no longer a sinner, but now are a saint.

3. Paul believed using human wisdom emptied the cross of its power. Some might say that Jesus used parables to help illustrate the message He has for the world. Since His stories helped people understand His gospel, we should use human wisdom and stories to help them understand, too. Actually, though, Jesus didn't use parables to help them understand. Mark 4:11-12 tells us why Jesus spoke in parables:

He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that,
" `they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!' "

The parables are clear to those who believe, but confound those who do not. Why? Because we depend on the Holy Spirit to make the word clear to us.

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. - 1 Cor. 2:14

So Paul was saying that trying to help people change because of human reasoning defies the message of the cross. If people could understand and change just because of human wisdom, Jesus would not have had to die. Therefore the cross was unnecessary and is "emptied of its power".

Therefore, we must pray for lost people, that God, by His Spirit, would give them understanding of the very basic truth we are teaching them. The gospel that saves stands on its own merit. You and I cannot make it better - more interesting, more effective or more acceptable.

For what part of the Great Commission do you believe you are especially gifted? To what calling is your life directed? Do you pray for your lost friends and family? Lost enemies? Do you speak the gospel truth when the opportunity arises?

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