Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you wee baptized into my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else,) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—-not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (1st Corinthians 1:13-17)

The church members in Corinth were splitting into factions and claiming Paul, or Cephas, or Apollos, or even Christ as their leader. In so doing they were actually trying to divide the body of Christ. Paul appealed to the fact that all of them had been baptized in the name of Christ to demonstrated their unity. The name pronounced over them in baptism meant that they belonged to Jesus, not to some earthly leader. In a shocking comment, Paul expressed thanks that he did not baptize many of them lest they use this to claim a special status of being in Paul’s part. Paul even declared that Christ did not sent him to baptize but to preach the gospel. Paul did baptize and approved baptism, but only as a secondary step. The primary importance belonged to preaching and believing the gospel of Jesus Christ, because, without that, baptism would be meaningless.


Dear Abba, when we are set apart for baptism, it is a formal and public declaration of one’s holiness in preparation for that persons being cleansed in the process of baptism for all to see. That person is forever changed into one whom has been made holy and set apart to be baptized and counted among Christ’s own, from that point on in their lives. Bless all those who are hurting in body, mind, and/or spirit, that they might set aside their issues and let You deal with them on their behalf, and accept their humble repentance of their sins Abba. For those in conflicts around the world with wars and natural disasters, pour out an anointing upon them all, that they too, might feel You near them and take comfort in that knowledge. Amen.


An upright person is never a downright failure.”


Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him, ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we want you to do for us whatever we ask.’ ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked. They replied, ‘let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.’ ‘You don’t know what you are asking ,’ Jesus said. ‘Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?’ ‘We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, ‘You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.’” (Mark 10:35-40)

Suffering, humiliation, and humility mark the church. We are no better than Christ, our Master. As he served other people without seeking fame, power, or position, so must we. We cannot demand heavenly rewards. We can only offer earthly service. Jesus’ reference to baptism, in this passage, refers to His death. The cup (in the Lord’s Supper) and baptism (the ritual of confession and the symbol of death and resurrection) are the ordinances He gave and which He sealed by His death. Baptism, in this instance means a baptism of suffering. He knew His mission led to suffering. His disciples could expect the same. Jesus’ followers often must suffer for His sake. Tradition says that all of Jesus’ first apostles except John died a martyr’s death. An old saying makes this statement: ‘The blood of the martyr is the seed of the church.’ Contemporary Christians should not seek, martyrdom, but neither should they shun it. Courageous martyrs in all ages have shared Jesus’ baptism of blood and live on in our memories as witnesses to our Lord.


A man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin. He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi,’ we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are do if God were not with him.’ In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’ ‘How can a man be born when he is old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:1-6)

The words “born of water and the Spirit” have been a battleground of interpretation. Bible students have seen: 1) John baptism and Jesus; 2) baptism and Pentecost; 3) a demand for humble submission by a Jewish leader to water baptism before expecting to received God’s Spirit; 4) reception of Christ’s word or teaching as well as the Spirit; and 5) spiritual cleansing and the Spirit’s power. The immediate context compels us to see the primary contrast between the physical birth (which Nicodemus asked about) and the new birth (or birth from above) which Jesus said is essential in order to see the kingdom of God. There is also a contrast, just two chapter earlier in this same Gospel (1:26, 33), between John’s water baptism and Jesus’ Spirit baptism. These may be in the background of this saying, but it cannot refer to Christian baptism at this point in Jesus’ ministry because it had not been given or commanded yet! Probably both water and wind (spirit) symbolize the powerful activity of the Holy Spirit in the new birth. The main point is abundantly clear: physical birth is not enough; one must be born again spiritually to enter the kingdom of heaven!


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