In 1 Corinthians 1:17, Paul wrote, “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.” The context in which Paul wrote this statement begins in 1 Corinthians 1:10. Paul had received a report from the church at Corinth that there was division among the church. This division occurred along the lines of the names of the men who were influential in teaching the Christians in Corinth the gospel and quite possibly, baptizing them. The people there were saying that they were followers of the one’s who, evidently, had been instrumental in baptizing them. Some were claiming to be followers of Paul; others of Peter; and yet others of Apollos. In verses 13-16 Paul writes, “Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.” Paul was thankful that he hadn’t baptized more for fear that more would be claiming to be Paulites rather than Christians. In other words, it isn’t the person who baptizes you who counts, it’s the fact that you’ve been baptized into Christ that counts.
This is a charge that gets leveled against many preachers of the gospel, namely, that we teach that one must be baptized by a preacher in order to be baptized properly. Such is not the case. This passage, in fact, teaches just the opposite. Paul says that it really doesn’t matter who baptizes you so long as you believe the gospel before you are baptized. We note that Paul’s statement that Christ sent him not to baptize, didn’t mean that Paul never baptized anyone. If it was the case that Paul wasn’t supposed to baptize anyone, then he wouldn’t have baptized Crispus and Gaius who he directly states in the context that he did indeed baptize. So the passage couldn’t mean that Christ didn’t send Paul to baptize at all.
There is another point in this verse too. The word “baptize” in this verse, may merely mean “to dunk.” That is, Christ didn’t send Paul merely to dunk people in the water (without believing the gospel), but rather, to teach them the gospel and upon their belief of that gospel to baptize them according to Christ’s command in the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15,16). So with these two points in mind, we understand that it wasn’t Christ’s will that one be baptized by any special person, nor was it Christ’s will that one be dunked without believing the gospel. For someone to be baptized without believing the gospel or believing that it is the person who is baptizing them that is of significance isn’t to submit to Christian baptism at all. When one does such, one simply gets wet.