Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead? (1 Corinthians 15:29)
The Baptism For The Dead
There are passages in the holy writ that challenge the Bible student, and Paul’s letter to Corinth fits that bill. The essential part of Bible study is ensuring a text provides the context. Paul wrote a letter to the church, not a book. His style and approach were to write to the Corinthians about things they had written to him and to address serious problems that arose in the church. There are many subjects in this letter. Some of the discussions in Paul’s letter relate to apparent concerns, while others come from a background only the Corinthians knew. When Paul wrote about the conduct of husband and wife, it was in response to some things they had written to the apostle. Nothing further is known about this correspondence but what Paul reveals in this part of the letter.
It is also important to know that Paul did not write in chapters and verses. The “book of 1 Corinthians” is nothing more than a letter written by the apostle to the church at Corinth. As someone said long ago, “We are reading someone else’s mail.” The style of writing and the measure of the Greek language has a bearing on how a passage is read. Punctuations are added by translators and by those who publish the Bible. When unpacking a series of passages, these factors must be considered to understand their meaning best.
The question of what Paul meant about those baptized for the dead has created a myriad of answers and discussions to its meaning. It is recognized as a difficult passage but not a text that is without understanding. Consider the context is the first order of business in trying to flesh out the teachings of Paul. Beginning in the part of the letter where Paul mentions the baptism of the dead is paramount and essential to understanding what he may refer to. Without this foundation, there can be no full understanding of the text. One of the glaring problems at the Corinthian church was the teaching that the resurrection had passed, and there would be no other resurrection. Some were teaching that there was no resurrection of the dead. Paul argues that if there is no resurrection of the dead, Jesus did not rise from the dead, and there was no hope.
Eleven times Paul mentions death in the first Corinthian letter. All of the references are in the section of his letter where he writes about the resurrection. He first established that Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus died, was buried, and rose on the third day. Many people saw Jesus alive after the resurrection. Paul saw Jesus with his own eyes. The question he poses to the doubters of Corinth is if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, why would a child of God believe otherwise? Paul outlines the consequences of denying the resurrection of Jesus. The end is a useless and empty faith if Christ has not risen.
Paul affirms that Christ is risen, and every part of the doctrine of Christ rests upon the fact of the resurrection. Christ became the firstfruits by the resurrection of the dead. He was given all authority and power by the Father when He became Lord and Christ. The New Testament church is built upon the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Without the resurrection, Christ is nothing, the church is invalid, and faith is empty. When a man denies the resurrection, he voids the very act that brings a man into a covenant relationship with God – baptism.
The question of the baptism of the dead can only be answered by its context. It is clearly evident and strongly argued in scripture against the idea that anyone can be saved for another. Everyone will give an account of themselves before God. The soul that sins shall die. Mormonism is built upon the false teaching that many embrace. If a man refuses to accept the resurrection, he makes the power of baptism void. Paul’s letter to the Romans explains how baptism is being buried into the death of Christ Jesus. Denying resurrection denies the purpose of baptism. Earlier, in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul asked what good it would be for those who had died (literally) in Christ if there was no resurrection and baptism meant nothing. All those baptized into Christ (spiritually dead) and died physically had no hope – if there is no resurrection of the dead.
There is no baptism of the dead in a literal sense (to be baptized for someone else). That is a false doctrine and a lie. Paul wanted to reassure the Corinthians of the hope of salvation found in the resurrection, first experienced in baptism and then in death. Why be baptized if there is no resurrection of the dead (literal dead)? Thanks be to God, who gives victory through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Amen brother, context almost always provides the explanation of difficult to understand revelation.
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