14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,
15 lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name.
16 Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other.
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.
This term “thank God that I baptized none of you” speaks a volume of truth about baptism. If there were any inherent blessing in baptism, Paul could not have thanked God for its absence of blessing, for this could not possibly be. The objection that Paul is thinking of the abuse of baptism is invalid, because abuse never takes away the right use of a good thing. Even in the face of all the abuse Paul would have been all too glad to use baptism, if it really contained some blessing … That Paul baptized a few was due to the transition nature of the Acts period. He also circumcised a few in those days, but we should neither follow his baptizing nor his circumcising. They both belong to Israel. — Bultema, page 5
Why does Paul say that he doesn’t know if he baptized anyone else if he was inspired by the Holy Spirit? Probably because the Holy Spirit was demonstrating the decreasing importance of baptism during the transition period.
preach the gospel (v.17) — from the Greek word from which we get evangelize
not with wisdom of words (v.17) — and so not in the fancy rhetorical, philosophical style popular among the Greeks in Corinth
John the Baptist, clearly, was sent to baptize, for in John 1:33 we find his words: … He that sent me to baptize with water …
The twelve, too, were sent to baptize, for in our Lord’s commission to them He said: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19).
Thus, not only did the twelve baptize when they labored with Christ on earth (John 4:2); they were later sent to teach and to baptize with a view to His departure from this earth. They began to carry out this commission at Pentecost, baptizing about three thousand of their hearers that one day.
But as to Paul, there is not a vestige of evidence, and certainly not one clear statement in Scripture to the effect that he was sent to baptize.
It should be carefully noted that from John’s baptism right through Pentecost this rite was a requirement “for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4; 16:16; Acts 2:38). Also, it is significant that both Peter and Paul referred to “the baptism which John preached” (Acts 10:37; 13:24). The twelve also preached baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). How could Peter’s words at Pentecost be interpreted otherwise, especially in the light of their background (Mark 16:16) and of the fact that he did not offer salvation by grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
We have answered the objection that Paul did baptize some during his early ministry, but there is further light on this subject. He also spoke with tongues, healed the sick, cast out demons and circumcised Timothy. Shall we practice all these? No, for all these belonged to the dispensation under which he was saved and from which he gradually emerged as the Lord appeared to him in one revelation after another (Acts 26:16; 2 Corinthians 12:1). — Stam, pages 43-44.