on 1-corinthians 1 :17
For Christ sent me not to baptize - Bp. Pearce translates thus: For Christ sent me, not so much to baptize as to preach the Gospel: and he supports his version thus - "The writers of the Old and New Testaments do, almost every where (agreeably to the Hebrew idiom) express a preference given to one thing beyond another by an affirmation of that which is preferred, and a negation of that which is contrary to it: and so it must be understood here, for if St. Paul was not sent at all to baptize, he baptized without a commission; but if he was sent, not only to baptize but to preach also, or to preach rather than baptize, he did in fact discharge his duty aright." It appears sufficiently evident that baptizing was considered to be an inferior office, and though every minister of Christ might administer it, yet apostles had more important work. Preparing these adult heathens for baptism by the continual preaching of the word was of much greater consequence than baptizing them when thus prepared to receive and profit by it.
Not with wisdom of words - Ουκ εν σοφιᾳ λογου. In several places in the New Testament the term λογος is taken not only to express a word, a speech, a saying, etc., but doctrine, or the matter of teaching. Here, and in 1 Thessalonians 1:5, and in several other places, it seems to signify reason, or that mode of rhetorical argumentation so highly prized among the Greeks. The apostle was sent not to pursue this mode of conduct, but simply to announce the truth; to proclaim Christ crucified for the sin of the world; and to do this in the plainest and simplest manner possible, lest the numerous conversions which followed might be attributed to the power of the apostle's eloquence, and not to the demonstration of the Spirit of God. It is worthy of remark that, in all the revivals of religion with which we are acquainted, God appears to have made very little use of human eloquence, even when possessed by pious men. His own nervous truths, announced by plain common sense, though in homely phrase, have been the general means of the conviction and conversion of sinners. Human eloquence and learning have often been successfully employed in defending the outworks of Christianity; but simplicity and truth have preserved the citadel.
It is farther worthy of remark, that when God was about to promulgate his laws he chose Moses as the instrument, who appears to have labored under some natural impediment in his speech, so that Aaron his brother was obliged to be his spokesman to Pharaoh; and that, when God had purposed to publish the Gospel to the Gentile world - to Athens, Ephesus, Corinth, and Rome, he was pleased to use Saul of Tarsus as the principal instrument; a man whose bodily presence was weak, and his speech contemptible, 2 Corinthians 10:1, 2 Corinthians 10:10. And thus it was proved that God sent him to preach, not with human eloquence, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect but with the demonstration and power of his own Spirit; and thus the excellence of the power appeared to be of God, and not of man.
on 1-corinthians 1 :17
For Christ sent me not to baptize - That is, not to baptize as my main business. Baptism was not his principal employment, though be had a commission in common with others to administer the ordinance, and occasionally did it. The same thing was true of the Saviour, that he did not personally baptize, John 4:2. It is probable that the business of baptism was entrusted to the ministers of the church of inferior talents, or to those who were connected with the churches permanently, and not to those who were engaged chiefly in traveling from place to place. The reasons of this may have been:
(1) That which Paul here suggests, that if the apostles had themselves baptized, it might have given occasion to strifes, and the formation of parties, as those who had been baptized by the apostles might claim some superiority over those who were not.
(2) it is probable that the rite of baptism was preceded or followed by a course of instruction adapted to it, and as the apostles were traveling from place to place, this could be better entrusted to those who were to be with them as their ordinary religious teachers. It was an advantage that those who imparted this instruction should also administer this ordinance.
(3) it is not improbable, as Doddridge supposes, that the administration of this ordinance was entrusted to inferiors, because it was commonly practiced by immersion, and was attended with some trouble and inconvenience, while the time of the apostles might be more directly occupied in their main work.
But to preach the gospel - As his main business; as the leading, grand purpose of his ministry. This is the grand object of all ministers. It is not to build up a sect or party; it is not to secure simply the baptism of people in this or that communion; it is to make known the glad tidings of salvation, and call people to repentance and to God.
Not with wisdom of words - (οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου ouk en sophia logou). Not in wisdom of speech, margin. The expression here is a Hebraism, or a form of speech common in the Hebrew writings, where a noun is used to express the meaning of an adjective, and means "not in wise words or discourse." The wisdom mentioned here, refers, doubtless, to that which was common among the Greeks, and which was so highly valued. It included the following things:
(1) Their subtle and learned mode of disputation, or that which was practiced in their schools of philosophy.
(2) a graceful and winning eloquence; the arts by which they sought to commend their sentiments, and to win others to their opinions. On this also the Greek rhetoricians greatly valued themselves, and this, probably, the false teachers endeavored to imitate.
(3) that which is elegant and finished in literature, in style and composition. On this the Greeks greatly valued themselves, as the Jews did on miracles and wonders; compare 1 Corinthians 1:22. The apostle means to say, that the success of the gospel did not depend on these things; that he had not sought them; nor had he exhibited them in his preaching. His doctrine and his manner had not been such as to appear wise to the Greeks; and he had not depended on eloquence or philosophy for his success. Longinus (on the Sublime) enumerates Paul among people distinguished for eloquence; but it is probable that he was not distinguished for the graces of manner (compare 2 Corinthians 10:1, 2 Corinthians 10:10), so much as the strength and power of his reasoning.
Paul here introduces a new subject of discourse, which he pursues through this and the two following chapters - the effect of philosophy on the gospel, or the estimate which ought to be formed in regard to it. The reasons why he introduces this topic, and dwells upon it at such a length, are not perfectly apparent. They are supposed to have been the following:
(1) He had incidentally mentioned his own preaching, and his having been set apart particularly to that; 1 Corinthians 1:17.
(2) his authority, it is probable, had been called in question by the false teachers at Corinth.
(3) the ground of this, or the reason why they undervalued him, had been probably, that he had not, evinced the eloquence of manner and the graces of oratory on which they so much valued themselves.
(4) they had depended for their success on captivating the Greeks by the charms of graceful rhetoric and the refinements of subtle argumentation.
on 1-corinthians 1 :17
1:17 For God did not send me to baptize - That was not my chief errand: those of inferior rank and abilities could do