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Baptism of Crispus (and Assuming Evidence)
Preface for Baptisms Article Series
Baptisms: Introduction and Historical
Original Proclamations about Baptism
Two Baptisms Occurring Separately
Baptizo: Two Baptisms, One Greek
Synonymous Phrases: Baptism in the
Water Baptism in Jesus' Name
No Record of Paul's Water Baptism
Is Baptism Essential to Salvation?
Acts 1: Parallel Account of the Great
Necessity of Water Baptism: 3 Common
Survey 1: Baptisms in Acts
The Baptism of Crispus (and Assuming
Survey 2: Baptism from Romans to
Baptism and Hebrews 10:22
Conclusions: When and How Are We
Survey 3: Baptism and the Ante-Nicene
Closing: Water Baptism for the Right Reasons
Before we move on to our surveys of baptism from Romans to
Revelation and baptism in the writings of the Ante-Nicene
authors, there are a few loose ends left to tie up.
First, when we surveyed the baptisms in Acts, we finished our survey with 3 unresolved baptisms. The text surrounding those baptisms does not indicate which form of baptism was taking place. At this point, we want to turn our attention to 1 Corinthians 1:12-17, in which Paul states that Christ sent him to preach the Gospel, not to baptize.
1 Corinthians 1:14 I thank God that I baptized
none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; 15 Lest any should
say that I had baptized in mine own name. 16 And I
baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides,
I know not whether I baptized any other. 17 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.
Paul cannot here be indicating that no baptism was essential
to salvation because that would directly conflict with Matthew
28, Mark 16, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 3, just to name a few.
These passages clearly demonstrate the necessity of one form
of baptism in the salvation process. And based on the parallel
between Paul's words here and Jesus' words in the Great Commission
(Matthew 28 and Mark 16) there can be no doubt that getting
people saved is inherent to Paul's mission to preach the Gospel.
When we compare this passage to 1 Corinthians 15, we find that people were saved as a result of Paul's preaching ministry despite the fact that “baptism” was not a part of that ministry.
1 Corinthians 15:1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto
you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also
ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also
ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto
you, unless ye have believed in vain.
This passage tells us that people were saved as a result of Paul's preaching even though he was not sent to “baptize” as he preached. This further demonstrates that baptism (of one form) was not necessary to salvation.
So, Paul indicates in this passage that one form of baptism
was not essential to preaching the Gospel, but he does not
specify which baptism he means. Because of the divisions that
are arising, Paul thanks God that he baptized only a few.
One of those men is Crispus. Crispus just so happens to be
one of the unresolved baptisms found in Acts, and, yes, Paul
is involved in that baptism.
Acts 18:5 And when Silas and Timotheus were come from
Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified
to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. 6 And when they opposed
themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said
unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean;
from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. 7 And he departed
thence, and entered into a certain man's house, named Justus,
one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue.
8 And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed
on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians
hearing believed, and were baptized.
The problem is this. The description of this baptism is very
generic, using only the bare minimum terminology. It simply
says "baptized" with no mention of either water or the Holy
Spirit. In that regard it parallels our other two unresolved
baptisms from Acts.
Acts 16:14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller
of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God,
heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended
unto the things which were spoken of Paul. 15 And when
she was baptized, and her household, she besought us,
saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come
into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.
Acts 16:29 Then he called for a light, and sprang in,
and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, 30
And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to
be saved? 31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus
Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. 32 And
they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that
were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the
night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and
all his, straightway.
So, if we interpret the occurrence of just the term "baptized"
in Acts 18:8 to indicate either form of baptism, then we would
lose any objection to categorizing the baptisms in Acts 16
as the very same form of baptism. If we say "baptized" in
Acts 18 refers to water baptism, then we cannot object to
interpreting "baptized" in Acts 16:15 and 33 as water baptism
as well, for the sake of consistency.
For obvious reasons, at this point the proponents of water baptism will probably want to deny that Crispus was water baptized in Acts 18. On one hand, if Acts 18 describes water baptism, then we can indeed add 3 more water baptisms (Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33, and Acts 18:8) to our total number of water baptisms. Now our totals would be 7 water baptisms in Acts, 6 baptisms in the Holy Spirit. This is too close to a tie to determine which was more prominent. On the other hand, to interpret Acts 18:8 as water baptism would be tantamount to admitting that water baptism was baptism which Paul said he was not sent to do. So, according to Paul, water baptism would not be essential to the mission of preaching the Gospel.
This is why 1 Corinthians 1 and Acts 18 are a catch-22 for
water baptism proponents. It puts them in a bind. Since they
clearly cannot interpret Acts 18 as water baptism without
making it nonessential according to Paul in 1 Corinthians
1, they must interpret Acts 18 as a reference to baptism in
the Holy Spirit. They would rather make Paul's statement in
1 Corinthians 1 apply to baptism of the Holy Spirit, thereby
making it nonessential.
However, by categorizing Acts 18 as baptism in the Holy Spirit,
they loose any objection to classifying Acts 16:15 and 16:33
in the same category. This would shift the total number of
baptisms to 9 to 4 in favor of baptism in the Holy Spirit.
And, it would hardly stand to reason that the unessential
form of baptism would be practiced more prominently in the
early church by a ratio of over 2 to 1.
Furthermore, by assigning Acts 16:15, 16:33, and 18:8 to baptism in the Holy Spirit, there would be no water baptisms after the first Gentile converts in Acts 10, while there would be 4 more baptisms in the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:15, 16:33, 18:8, and 19:5-6.) Interpreting the rather generic language of Acts 16:15, 16:33, and 18:8 as a reference to baptism in the Holy Spirit would further substantiate that non-descriptive uses of the term should be generally associated with baptism in the Holy Spirit by default. The last of these 4 baptisms in the Holy Spirit involves Paul's insistence on baptizing 12 men from Ephesus who were already water baptized. This is hardly a case for the supremacy of water baptism. Furthermore, Paul's insistence that these 12 men be baptized in the Holy Spirit also makes it difficult to interpret Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 1 to be indicating that he was not sent to baptize in the Holy Spirit.
So, either way water baptism proponents try to reconcile Acts
18 and 1 Corinthians 1, they end up invalidating their claim
that water baptism was considered more essential than baptism
in the Holy Spirit.
On the other hand, we are quite content with assigning not only Acts 18:8, but 16:15 and 16:33 into the water baptism category. This brings our totals to 7 (water) and 6 (Holy Spirit), which indicates nothing in regard to which form of baptism was more prominent. And by assigning Acts 18:8 to the category of water baptism, we apply Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 1 to it. The result would be that according to Paul, water baptisms (such as the one he performed on Crispus) were not something Jesus sent him to do, were not essential to spreading the Gospel, and therefore, by extension were not essential to salvation.
Now, we have already demonstrated that we have no record of
Paul ever being water baptized. This premise is based on two
proofs. First, Ananias has two stated objectives for coming
to Paul. He tells us these two objectives in Acts 9:17. They
are 1) for Paul to receive his sight and 2) for Paul to receive
the Holy Spirit. Acts 9:18 immediately continues that Paul's
sight was restored to him and he arose and was baptized. There
is no reason to assume that the two objectives in verse 17
do not correspond directly to the two events in verse 18.
Verse 18 records the fulfillment of both of Ananias' objectives.
The most logical interpretation of the term "baptized" in
verse 18, is the baptism of the Holy Spirit spoken of by Ananias
in the previous verse.
Second, in Acts 22, Paul briefly retells his baptism. The
only difference between this second account and the first
is Paul's application of the phrase "wash away thy sins" in
regard to his baptism. When we look up this word "washed"
in the Greek we find that it occurs only one other time in
the New Testament. This other occurrence is in 1 Corinthians
6:11 where it clearly states that we are washed with the Holy
Spirit. This therefore equates the washing away of our sins
to baptism in the Holy Spirit. So there is no hint in the
New Testament that Paul was ever baptized with water.
To this water baptism proponents might point out that according
to our model of interpretation we would have no record in
the New Testament to the Eunuch in Acts 8:37-39. And they
would be correct. We would have no record for the Eunuch ever
being baptized in the Holy Spirit.
And furthermore, if we assign Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33, and Acts 18:8 into the category of water baptisms, we would not have any record of those individuals ever being baptized with the Holy Spirit either. We openly admit this. The scripture does not tell us what happened to them in this regard and we should not make assumptions based upon our preconceived biases and suppositions. Of course, that does not mean that these men did not receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or that they were not saved. It simply means that we cannot assume into evidence what the scripture does not tell us. (For instance, it is one thing to assume that men were baptized in the Holy Spirit without it being seen or mentioned. It is quite another to assume that Jesus Christ re-baptized in water the apostles and the rest of the 120 in his own name after the resurrection without it being recorded in scripture – which would be necessary if water baptism in Jesus’ name was considered distinct from John’s baptism.) Ultimately, we can only evaluate and establish doctrines and theories based upon the information presented to us in the scripture. It would not make sense to build doctrines upon what scripture does not tell us.