OceanSide church of Christ

 Previous Return to Articles Next 

“Not” Isn’t Always a Prohibition
by: Dalton Gilreath

This title comes from a common argument used to teach against the necessity of baptism. In 1 Corinthians 1:17, Paul states, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel…” (KJV). Many believe that since Paul used the term “not” he must have been prohibited from baptizing. Therefore, they teach that baptism is not essential to salvation since Paul was supposedly discouraged from baptizing others. This line of thought could not be farther from the truth.

The New Testament writers often use the term “not” before the term “but” to emphasize the latter. For example, Jesus said, “Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life…” (John 6:27). Jesus was not prohibiting man from working to eat, which would contradict other passages in scripture, but was emphasizing the food that leads man to eternal life. Another example is found in Matthew when Jesus said, “For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (10:20). No one would suggest Jesus is condemning speech, but rather that He is emphasizing the Father’s words.

In conclusion, when Paul made the statement that he was not sent to baptize but to preach, he was emphasizing his primary mission was to evangelize. It wasn’t that Paul was prohibited to baptize, but was to focus on evangelism (1 Corinthians 1:14-15). This flawed argument is simply another tool in Satan’s hand to hinder God’s plan for saving man.