I thank God that I baptized none of you, except Crispus and Gaius…
(I also baptized the household of Stephanas; besides them, I don’t know whether I baptized any other.) (1Co 1:14,16 WEB)
I have heard people explain this verse to mean that Paul just didn’t remember baptizing anybody but those few including Stephanas and his household. There are websites that say exactly that. In fact, there are translations that translate the verse that way. Here is the CEV translation:
I did baptize the family of Stephanas, but I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else. (1Co 1:16 CEV)
But that isn’t really what this verse is saying. This is a mistranslation.
The word “know” in the above verse is the Greek word “eido”, which means to perceive or have knowledge of. It doesn’t mean to remember. Being aware of, perceiving, or knowing is different than remembering.
There is a perfectly good word for remember in scripture. Paul and others use it numerous times.
I thank my God whenever I remember you, (Php 1:3 WEB)
“Remember” in the above verse is mneia. It means to recollect, to remember.
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, of the offspring of David, according to my Good News, (2Ti 2:8 WEB)
“Remember” in this verse is mnemoneuo, another form of the same word. It also means to remember, to recollect.
What 1 Corinthians 1:16 is accurately saying is not that Paul didn’t remember baptizing anybody else, rather it is saying that he wasn’t aware if he had baptized anyone else! He didn’t know if he had baptized any besides Stephanas with his household, and Crispus and Gaius. That is accurately what the verse is saying.
This is a classic example of translators translating according to their theology. They evidently didn’t think that the real meaning of the words used could be true so they changed it to something they thought was plausible.
The question is: how could Paul not be aware that he had baptized someone?
Simply put, the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was the falling down of the spirit upon the apostles and disciples gathered together in Jerusalem.
Being assembled together with them, he commanded them, “Don’t depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which you heard from me. For John indeed baptized in water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Act 1:4-5 WEB)
Here Jesus is directing the disciples, telling them that they will be baptized in the spirit “not many days from now.” Next, we will look at that baptism.
Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all with one accord in one place. Suddenly there came from the sky a sound like the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. Tongues like fire appeared and were distributed to them, and one sat on each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them the ability to speak. (Act 2:1-4 WEB)
There was the first baptism of the new church. It was made special because there was the sound of a mighty rushing wind, and there were tongues of fire on the heads of the disciples. That was a one-time thing that hasn’t been repeated since that I know of. Those were added elements.
The words that declare that this was their baptism are “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them the ability to speak.”
The filling of the holy spirit in each person was their baptism. It was their washing, their cleansing! There was no water in that baptism. The old baptism, John’s baptism, had water, but our baptism was truly cleaning us on the inside with the holy spirit. John himself said:
I baptized you in water, but he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.” (Mar 1:8 WEB)
John prophesied in those words that water baptism would be replaced by spirit baptism. Water out, spirit in. There was no one there dipping people in water, sprinkling them with water, or doing anything with water. John above says that it is really Jesus who does the baptizing, although we will see that the person preaching the word that leads them to Christ gets credit as the baptizer.
When Cornelius and his family listened to Peter’s teaching about Christ, the Holy Spirit fell down on them. And it says in the Scripture
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the word. They of the circumcision who believed were amazed, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was also poured out on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in other languages and magnifying God. (Act 10:44-46 WEB)
The believers there were amazed. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God! They had no idea that Gentiles were going to receive the gift! Now, as I talk about in T 1.8 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 8, The Spirit Baptism Mandate, John Baptized With Water, But You Will Be Baptized with the Holy Spirit, initially, Peter ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ but then we read he remembered that what Jesus said about how John baptized with water but we are baptized in the Holy Spirit. They were baptized in the Spirit without water and it took Peter a while to realize it.
When “the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the word”, they were being baptized. Peter was teaching the word, but it was the action of the holy spirit that did the baptizing.
The lesson here is that when people hear the word of God, they can believe that word of God, and receive the holy spirit, even to the point of manifesting the holy spirit. That is what happened here.
So, if everyone was baptized with water as some people assume, then how could Paul have possibly baptized people without being aware that he did it? That explanation just doesn’t work.
But just like the disciples on Pentecost and Cornelius and his household with Peter preaching were all baptized by the receiving of the holy spirit of God, then with Paul preaching there could have been people that received the holy spirit as he taught the word, except he never knew it. That is the accurate translation of 1 Cor 1:16. Paul taught the word to a lot of people. There could have been people in those crowds that received the word that he was teaching and believed to the point they were filled with the holy spirit, and he never knew it. Because he was the one that led them to God he baptized them just like Peter baptized the household of Cornelius when they received the word that he was preaching and were filled with the holy spirit and began to speak with tongues.
As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, even as on us at the beginning. I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John indeed baptized in water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit.’ (Act 11:15-16 WEB)
John baptized with water. Our baptism is with the holy spirit.