“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” (I Cor. 1:17).
Many have ignorantly used this verse to deny the necessity of baptism; however Paul taught the necessity of baptism often (See Romans 6). He taught that baptism puts one into Christ (Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3); and he taught that “in Christ” is where “all spiritual blessings” are found (Eph. 1:3). He taught that obedience to the Gospel of Christ included dying to sin, being buried in baptism, and being raised to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:1-8). He declared that it was when they “obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you” that they were “then made free from sin” (Rom. 6:17-18). “Of course, what Paul referred to here was the administration of the rite of baptism, there being nothing here to the effect that Paul preached salvation without baptism. He, like all the apostles had been commanded to ‘make disciples of all nations, baptizing them’ (Matthew 28:19).” [James Burton Coffman; Commentary on Romans]
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (I Cor. 1:18). Those who reject the Word of God will use any excuse they can come up with for refusing to accept the Truth of the Bible. In Romans 1:16 Paul declared, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” And again in this verse Paul speaks of the “preaching of the cross.” and declares it to be “the power of God unto us which are saved.”
The Greeks of Paul’s day were much like men today. They thought it foolishness to preach a Saviour that died in order to save men. When Paul said “not with wisdom of words” it is clear that he used the word "wisdom" in a satirical sense in this phrase. The intellectuals of Paul’s day were much like those who are sold on themselves today. “They croak like frogs in a marsh; they are the most wretched of men, though ignorant, they think themselves wise” [William Barclay quoting Chrysostom].
When atheistic professors and philosophers elevate themselves, in their own minds, and deny the God who made them, reject the wonderful news of the Gospel, they are simply announcing to the world that they have become fools (Rom. 1:22).
“Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world” (I Cor. 1:20)? The “wise” refers to the worldly wise, such as the Greek philosophers. The scribe denotes the expert in Jewish religion. The disputer of this world includes both the others as well as all others who rely upon their own intelligence and do not trust in God. When one believes that he is above God, he is deceiving himself and falling victim to one of the wiles of the devil (Eph. 6:11). [continued next week]
Paul M. Wilmoth