Monday, April 17, 2006

Baptism for the Dead?

A few of you noticed, despite Nathan's and my best attempts to skim over it, that 1 Corinthians 15:29 talks about being baptized for the dead.

Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?
What could this possibly mean? No one knows definitively. Over 30 possible answers (guesses) have been put forward.

We do know a few things: Someone only receives eternal life when they put their faith in Christ (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9) We know that one must be baptized as a follower of Christ for it to be Biblical baptism (Matthew 28:19-20). We know that there are no second chances. You can't die then have someone get baptized for you and go from hell to heaven (Hebrews 9:27).

So what does "baptized for the dead" mean? My best guess is that there were some who were being baptized on behalf of believers who had never been baptized. It could be that some Christians put off being baptized so they wouldn’t draw attention to themselves and be candidates for martyrdom. They probably fully planned to be baptized one day but died before they got around to it. Their friends, in a misguided attempt to right a wrong, were baptized for them.

The fact that Paul talks about his own potential martyrdom in the next verse informs makes me think I may be close.

Paul doesn’t condone the practice (of baptizing for the dead) nor does he condemn it, he merely mentions it.

His point is: Why would they do this if they didn’t think there was a resurrection? What would be the point if it wouldn’t matter someday? There MUST be a resurrection for this practice, albeit misguided, to make any sense at all.

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