St Paul and Baptusm


#1

I am grateful to CAF for help and support, so I hesitate to raise a concern, since we are here to support, encourage and build up each other, but where else can I get a wide range of solid Catholic views?

My current concern is about baptism and St Paul. As usual I checked CAF and note catholic.com/magazine/articles/baptism-saves-you
But Fr Dwight Longenecker’s post did not resolve my problem.

I see:

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning. (1 Cor. 1:17 NAB)

Also:

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:13 NAB)

Thus there seems a problem. For Paul are we made a Christian, a member of the People of God, by baptism or my accepting Christ by responding to prevenient grace?


#2

I believe what Paul is referring to is that he was a missionary of the Word. His mission was to spread the Gospel, not administer the Sacraments and staying in residence wherever. That is why he appointed Bishops like Timothy and others before he left an area that was converted. :wink:

It would be a mistake to suppose that Paul was making a statement about Baptism vs. hearing the Gospel. He makes constant references to the importance of Baptism.


#3

The two texts from 1 Corinthians you have brought together are not speaking of baptism in the same light.

The first, from 1:17, is speaking about making disciples and how members of the Corinthian congregation are creating division by specially adhering to the one who brought them into the faith. Basically they are arguing, “my godparent is better than yours” while some are saying “mine is” and others are saying “godparents don’t matter as much as Christ.” A rivalry is occurring based on who got baptized by whom, and it seems it has to do with how eloquent a speaker the “godparents” are as well.

The term “baptism” here is a synonym for “making a disciple” since a person officially becomes a member of the congregational family, the Church, with their baptism. But Paul states that this rivalry is dividing the Corinthians’ parish, and that he is thankful he is only the godparent of a few members therein, lest his name be a greater cause for division than it already is. Paul is saying that he was not sent to make followers of himself ("to baptize’) but to preach the Gospel of Christ (that which makes people become disciples in the first place).

In 12:13, Paul is not speaking of the Sacrament of Baptism at all, but of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Today most receive this through the Sacrament of Confirmation, but it was not a separate sacramental act in the first century. Paul states that God has made all people one by baptizing them in the “one Spirit” despite ethnic or national origins.

Neither text is speaking of the actual act of water baptism, as in making a reference to what it does for the believer, when it does this and how it does it. One cannot therefore decipher a Pauline teaching from these texts that defines through what act a person performs, submits to or undergoes that makes them a member of the actually Body of Christ.

In fact, no Scripture teaches that any action a person can take by their own power makes them a member of the Body of Christ. This is done by God’s grace. Does it happen when you get baptized with water? Receive the Sacrament of Confirmation? Does it happen when you respond to the Gospel? These Scriptures you quote inform us of none of that, nor are there definitive rules one can state God follows and never veers from in these matters.

For instance, not all Catholics receive Baptism and Confirmation separately. Adults who come into the Church at the Easter Vigil Mass will receive these together, and First Communion shortly thereafter. This will come in stages in a child’s life over the course of several years for Catholic children in the United States. When does God make either a full member of the Church? Not something you can easily pinpoint, can you?

Nor should we try. God does not dwell in the limits of time and space. God is transcendent and is not limited by procedures we must take, nor are we to view separate sacramental actions as necessarily separate from God’s view.

Paul was not saying in either text that baptism made us a full Christian or didn’t do this. He also did not say that it was when we heard the Gospel or responded to God’s grace here either. These are wonderful mysteries we are not likely to have the answer to this side of Heaven, anyway. The best thing to do is to embrace the mystery of God’s grace and its working in and through us as it likely is too grand a matter for us to unravel in the here and now.

Remember the word’s of David:

Lord, my heart is not proud;
nor are my eyes haughty.
I do not busy myself with great matters,
with things too sublime for me.–Psalm 131:1.


#4

Very good answer. :thumbsup:


#5

The theme of preaching and baptizing in 1 Cor 1 seems to be taken up again a little later in 1 Cor 3, under the figure of planting and watering.
5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Cor 3:5-9)

Here St Paul shows that preaching and baptizing are complementary and are both ordinarily necessary. Of course, God is certainly free to intervene in an extraordinary manner in people’s lives apart from his human preachers by private revelation, as he did with St Paul on the road to Damascus, and apart from his human baptizers by so-called baptism of desire.


#6

Hi AmbroseSJ,
Thanks for your reply. I will soon reply in detail when I have considered your post more.
I feel we are old friends, as you have replied so constructively to previous posts from me. But I do consider you a Jesuit as you are an SJ, rather than and Oratorian.

I agree with you when you claim I am confused - it is true.


#7

Thanks for all replies. I find Paul difficult to understand, so please excuse my confusion.

AmbroseSJ,
You wrote ‘He makes constant references to the importance of Baptism.’ Paul used words associated with baptism 13 times, 10 times in 1 Cor, mainly in 1:13-16, 2 time in Romans (6:3) and once in Gal (3:27). This is hardly ‘constant references’.


#8

CeelosDeznos

  1. You mention that Paul is speaking about making disciples. In fact Paul condemns this approach ‘Whenever someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?’ (1 Cor. 3:4 NAB). I disagree with ‘a person officially becomes a member of the congregational family’. We become all one in Christ.

  2. You wrote that 1 Cor 12:13 - ‘For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit’ (1 Cor. 12:13 NAB) – does not refer to the sacrament of baptism. If this is so it supports the idea that Paul places little emphasis on sacramental baptism.

  3. You discuss how sacraments work. A discussion on this would be beyond this thread, considering ‘ex opera operato’ and other technical concepts.

  4. Finally, what is a Hebrew Christian’?


#9

Todd977,
Sorry to disagree with you also. You seem to claim that baptism and preaching ‘are both ordinarily necessary’ for membership of the Church/People of God/Mystical Body of Christ. Over sixty five years ago I learned that Baptism makes us members. Have things changed?

Your reference to 1 Cor 3 has no mention of baptism.


#10

D-R Bible, Haydock Commentary:

1 Cor 1: Ver. 17. &c. Not to baptize. That is, the first and principal intent, in my vocation to the apostleship, was to preach the gospel, before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. (Acts chap. ix. 15.) To baptize is common to all, but to preach is peculiarly the function of an apostle. (Estius; Menochius; Grotius) — I was sent to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of speech, and as he says in the next chapter, (ver. 13.) not in the persuasive words of human wisdom, &c. The Spirit of God, which guided the thoughts and pen of St. Paul, and the other sacred writers, inspired them to deliver the gospel-truths with great simplicity, without the ornaments of an artificial human eloquence, lest the cross of Christ should be made void, lest the conversion of the world might be attributed to any human means, and not to the power of God, and of Christ crucified. (Witham)

1 Cor 12: Ver. 12-14. &c. As the body is one, &c. From this comparison of the mystical body of Christ, that is, of his Church, to a man’s natural body, he brings excellent instructions. 1. That as all members and parts, make up the same body, so also is Christ; that is, so it is in the Church of Christ, which is his mystical body. 2. As all the parts of man’s body are enlivened by the same soul, so all in the Church have their life from the same Spirit of God in baptism, and in the sacraments instituted by our Saviour, Christ; in which we are made to drink of the same spirit. 3. As all the members, that have such different offices and functions, do but constitute one complete body, so is it in the Church of Christ. 4. As those that seem the less considerable parts of the human body, are no less necessary for the subsistence and harmony of the whole, and stand in need of one another, (for example, the head stands in need of the feet) so in the Church, &c. 5. He takes notice, that in a natural body, the less honourable, the baser, and as they are called, the uncomely parts, are clothed with greater care and decency, Literally, have a more abundant honour bestowed upon them, so in the mystical body, no less, but even a greater care is to be taken of the weaker, and more infirm members, of the poor, the weak, the ignorant; and in the spirit of charity and love, that there may be no divisions or schisms, but a brotherly union: that if one suffer, another compassionate and assist him, &c. (Witham)


#11

Thistle,

The key points raised in your reply to me are “To baptize is common to all, but to preach is peculiarly the function of an apostle”
and
“all in the Church have their life from the same Spirit of God in baptism”.

I asked “For Paul are we made a Christian, a member of the People of God, by baptism or my accepting Christ by responding to prevenient grace?” does you post answer this?


#12

Hi, Noel!
The exegesis that St. Paul is rejecting/ignoring/minimizing Baptism is wrong. St. Paul is not rejecting Baptism nor refusing Christ’s own Teaching:

Jesus saith to them: Amen I say to you, that the publicans and the harlots shall go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of justice, and you did not believe him. But the publicans and the harlots believed him: but you, seeing it, did not even afterwards repent, that you might believe him. (St. Matthew 21:31b-32)

29 And all the people hearing, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with John’s baptism. 30 But the Pharisees and the lawyers **[size=]despised the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized **[/size]by him. (St. Luke 7:29-30)

1 Cor. 1:17 – St. Paul is addressing dissension that is developing in the Body of Christ and he emphasizes that Christ did not send him to Baptize (that is to say bring others into the Faith as in the form of siring–forming a bond that would create a perceived preference for his person); hence, no once can claim him as their progenitors (though he does backtracks as he acknowledges that he in deed Baptized two persons: v. 14).

1 Cor. 12:13 – Here St. Paul is emphasizing the Unity and Singularity of the Faith: everything exists, in God, in One Spirit; making the Church One Body (Christ); all her members receiving the Water of Life, the Holy Spirit, regardless of their human origin/condition (ethnic, financial, intellectual, etc. backgrounds).

You can read through the Church Fathers and the CCC for a greater understanding of the Sacrament of Baptism.

Maran atha!

Angel


#13

Jcrichton,
thanks for your reply. Paul may have kept some part of his past as a Pharisee after his conversion.
I note he was baptized immediately after his conversion (Acts).
Some may consider that for us baptism has replaced circumcision as a badge of membership of God’s people.
My concern is not about baptism per se, but about Paul’s view of baptism.


#14

Hi, Noel!
I understand your views; rather than asking for what is not there we must understand what is there; that is to say, St. Paul, as the rest of the Apostles, preached that Baptism Saves (1 St. Peter 3:21). St. Paul’s Epistles are directed to specific issues (the Catholic Church calls them heresies) which arises right from the inception of the Church. When Scriptures are silent about things, for the most part, we can understand that it is because there is no question in the heart and mind of the Apostles. If St. Paul were to relegate Baptism to a “symbolic gesture” he would be directly contradicting Christ Whom he claimed as His Lord and Teacher:

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: (1 Corinthians 11:23a)

1 Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father,

11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being.

18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. (Galatians 1:1a, 11-12, 15-16, 18-20)

Maran atha!

Angel


#15

…sorry, post was truncated so I had to repost:

Hi, Noel!
I understand your views; rather than asking for what is not there we must understand what is there; that is to say, St. Paul, as the rest of the Apostles, preached that Baptism Saves (1 St. Peter 3:21). St. Paul’s Epistles are directed to specific issues (the Catholic Church calls them heresies) which arises right from the inception of the Church. When Scriptures are silent about things, for the most part, we can understand that it is because there is no question in the heart and mind of the Apostles. If St. Paul were to relegate Baptism to a “symbolic gesture” he would be directly contradicting Christ Whom he claimed as His Lord and Teacher:

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: (1 Corinthians 11:23a)

1 Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father,

11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being.

18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. (Galatians 1:1a, 11-12, 15-16, 18-20)

…as for replacement of circumcision and badge (symbol), here’s the Apostles’ understanding:

2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. (Galatians 5:2-4)

3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:3-4)

11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11-12)

21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (1 St. Peter 3:21)

13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)

It is through Baptism that we gain access to God’s Saving Grace in Christ Jesus!

Maran atha!

Angel


#16

Hi Jcrichton,

Your answer is very profound, and merits deep reflection.

But reading it am reminded of the saying “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”.

I also consider that it was not heresy to hold as view that has been later condemned. Thus Thomas Aquinas would not have been considered a heretic if he denied the Immaculate Conception, and Paul (of Tarsus, not Samosata) would not be a heretic if he was an Adoptionist (cf. forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=268245)

[This is not our topic, but I do see “ he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, (Phil. 2:8-9 NAB). do not want this considered now].

Also, as I wrote before, I do not want to get into an argument about the theology of baptism.

It used to be claimed that “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” i.e. no one not baptized can be saved. There are baptisms of water, blood and desire, so it may be considered that everyone gets at least baptism of desire. This may be so. But I am no theologian, just an ordinary Catholic, who wants to remain a member in good standing of the People of God. So many topics are beyond me.

I think the discussion can be ended, as views have been aired with charity and courtesy, even if I am still a bit confused.

Perhaps raising ‘circumcision’ as an issue is not helpful – “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6 NAB). Are we saved, as our Lutheran friend hold by faith alone?

I note you have “it is through Baptism that we gain access to God’s Saving Grace in Christ Jesus!”. This seems to show you hold that outside the Church there is no salvation “extra eccclesiam…”

The initial problem was Thus there seems a problem “For Paul are we made a Christian, a member of the People of God, by baptism or my accepting Christ by responding to prevenient grace?”

I think for Paul we become a Christian by prevenient grace, responding to God’s invitation, as shown by e.g. “For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus”. (Gal. 3:26 NAB). However, as can be seen, I am still a bit confused and need study and prayer.


#17

I think you misunderstood me. You are correct; it is the reception of the graces of baptism that makes a person a Christian and that ordinarily occurs when an infant of believing parents receives the sacrament of baptism or when a believing adult receives the sacrament of baptism, though God is free to give those graces apart from the sacrament, as in the case of so-called baptism by desire.

Concerning adults who become Christians, hearing the Gospel preached is ordinarily a necessary prerequisite because we are not ordinarily born with knowledge of the Gospel, though God is free to give that knowledge to us apart from the preaching of human agents, as in the case of St Paul on the road to Damascus. St Mark says, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” (Mark 16:16a) And, St Paul says:
And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? … So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.(Romans 10:14b,17)

Your reference to 1 Cor 3 has no mention of baptism.

I could be wrong but it seems to me, in 1 Cor 3, St Paul uses the figure of planting to refer to his preaching of the Gospel, as Jesus did in the parable of the sower (Matt 13), and St Paul uses the figure of watering to refer to the administration the sacrament of baptism. Is my association of watering and baptizing such a leap? Is not water the matter used in the sacrament of baptism? With reference to baptism, did not Jesus say, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God"? (John 3:5) Does it not say in Acts:
And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him? (Acts 8:36,38)


#18

Todd977,
at this stage I think I am misunderstanding myself. I believe that I am being excessively picky. Paul is difficult, but maybe I am making him too complicated.

I should remember what Micah wrote:
“You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Mic. 6:8 NAB)


#19

I believe that he realized that some people were comparing his baptisms with the baptisms of other Christian leaders and claiming that their baptism was better. I think Paul side stepped that problem by letting other leaders do the baptizing.


#20

It kept people from saying, “Well,** I** was baptized by Paul. So there.”


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