“Baptism For The Dead”

Posted: September 29, 2012 in 1 Corinthians, Christian Life, Cults, Death, Hell, Salvation

     It might shock you to know that the Bible actually talks about the “baptism for the dead.”  The Apostle Paul wrote, “Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then be baptized for the dead?” – 1 Corinthians 15:29

     Interpretations.  There have been many interpretations of this verse.  One group believes that this verse is teaching “proxy baptism” for their deceased loved ones and friends.  They want unbelievers to have another opportunity to be saved after death and enjoy the blessings of heaven.  What a noble idea.  But is this possible?  Suppose the deceased person really hated God for not answering his prayer in life and didn’t want to spend eternity with God or Christians?  Believe it or not, there are many people who don’t believe God exists, and if He did they want nothing to do with Him or live under any of His rules.  Is this how you think and feel about God?

     Rules.  There are two principles of interpretation that we need to follow if we want to come up with a good understanding of what was written.  What is the context of the verse?  Are there other passages of Scripture that deal with the same subject?  Does the interpretation contradict other truths in the Scriptures (the 66 books of the Bible) that are crystal clear?  Woe to those who add to, subtract from, or who twist the Word of God (Revelation 22:18, 19; Galatians 1:6-9; 2 Peter 3:16).

     Dangerous.  It is very dangerous to build a whole system of doctrine and practice around a questionable verse in the Bible.  Should we lead people to believe that they can actually save someone from hell by their good works such as being baptized for a dead person?  Others believe that by praying for the dead or giving money to a church the suffering of the deceased person can be shortened.  Do you believe that the dead person’s eternal destiny is really determined at the moment of physical death or are there other opportunities after death?  What does the Bible say about this (Hebrews 9:27)?

     Savior.  We believe that there is only one Savior of mankind, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 16:31).  He died for our sins…and rose again bodily from the grave on the third day.  Only His sacrificial death for man’s sins is a sufficient and acceptable payment to God the Father for our sins (1 John 2:2).  We, as sinners, can’t die vicariously and pay the penalty for the sins of other people (Romans 6:23).  Jesus Christ is the just One who died for unjust ones like you and me (1 Peter 3:18).

     Key.  We believe the key to interpreting this verse correctly revolves around the preposition “for.”  This word in the Greek language conveys the idea of substitution.  (The New Testament was written in Greek.)  With this in mind, let’s translate the verse as we believe it can/should be.  “Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized ‘in place of’ the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then be baptized for the dead?”

     Quote.  “Paul is not here speaking of baptizing living believers in place of either believers or unbelievers who have died.  There is no assignment of saving efficacy [effectiveness] to baptism.  The argument is: Of what value is it for one to trust Christ and be baptized [immersed] in the ranks left vacant by the believing dead, if there is no resurrection for believers?  Why place life in jeopardy and forfeit the benefits of this life, if there is no life after death?” – Dr. C. I. Scofield

     Impossible.  The Scriptures clearly teach us if we are to be saved from hell to heaven, it must be on the basis of God’s grace (unmerited favor) through faith in Jesus Christ alone.  Our deliverance and the salvation of others, is not based of our works or another person’s good works lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8, 9).  Eternal life is a free gift from God to all who believe on Christ (Romans 6:23).  It cost Jesus His life, but it is available to all men everywhere (John 3:16).  This includes you and me.  Have you accepted this gift yet (1 John 5:13)?  If not, why not do so right now?

     Results.  Since Christians believe in Christ’s bodily resurrection (Luke 24:33-43; 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4) and in our own bodily resurrection, this doctrine should: bind us as believers together with cords of love (15:29; John 13:34, 35; Ephesians 4:4; Hebrews 10:24, 25), help us abstain from sexual immorality (15:32b; 1 Peter 1:16; 1 John 3:3), enable us bear up during hard times (Romans 8:18; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 15:32; 2 Timothy 2:10 ), and motivate us to share the Gospel with unbelievers.  Are you joyfully doing these things?  Shouldn’t we serve the Lord with gladness (Psalm100:2)?

     Help!  If you would like additional spiritual help, call us at 805-238-3549 or visit our web site at www.kelseypeach.com.  These articles usually correspond with our talks on Sundays and can be heard on the Internet.  Our web site was designed with people like you in mind.

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