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"Baptism for the Dead"

“Baptism for the Dead”

By Paul R. Blake

            (A sister in Christ from New York sent the following question to me) “What does it mean in 1Corinthians 15:29 by ‘baptism for the dead’?” “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?”

            This is not an easy question, but like all Bible questions, it merits a Bible answer. I believe Paul is asking elliptically, “Why are others immersed in persecutions just to bring salvation to the spiritually dead if there is no resurrection of the physically dead?” That explanation would certainly fit the context of the chapter (see 15:12-19), and would also parallel other similar statements of Paul to the Corinthians on suffering reproaches and trials in order to preach the gospel. In fact, consider what Paul said in the next two verses: “And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily” (1Cor. 15:30-31). The context indicates that the resurrection of Christ gives hope for our own resurrection. This message of salvation needs to be preached to everyone. Often, the messengers suffer hardship, persecution, and threat of death in preaching the message of hope. Verse 29 asks the question: “Why risk death to preach to the spiritually dead if there is no resurrection from physical death?” He states the dilemma a bit differently in verses 14 and 19: “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain... If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”

            I could be mistaken in this approach to the passage. However, I am absolutely certain of one thing: it does not teach baptism or salvation by proxy for those already physically dead. That concept is disharmonious with scripture. The dead cannot be saved by a living person being baptized in his place post mortem. The only candidates for baptism are those who can believe the Gospel (John 8:24; Acts 16:31), repent of their own sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38), confess the name of Jesus with their mouth (Rom. 10:9-10), and be personally immersed for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16). That is why infants are not candidates for baptism, and that is why dead people cannot be saved by means of another person being baptized in their place.

            It is sad, but it is also true. It is too late to effect a change in one's eternal destiny after death. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” (Ecc. 9:10).

 

Two Prayers at the Same Bedside

            The little boy confessed a childish wrong to his father, then he knelt by his bed and prayed: “Dear Lord, make me a man like Daddy, wise and strong. I know you can.” When the lad fell asleep, the father knelt by his son’s bed, confessed his sins to his Father, and prayed: “Oh Lord, make me a child like this child here, pure and guileless, trusting in you with faith sincere. I know You can.”

 

Parable of an Ignorant Congregation

            “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).

            A preacher once entered a Bible class while it was still in progress. He asked the children a question: “Who made the walls of Jericho fall?” One little boy piped up, “I sure didn't do it.”

            The preacher turned to the teacher and asked, “What do you have to say on behalf of this student?” The teacher said, “This boy is honest and I believe him. I don't think he did it.”

            Leaving the room in bewilderment, the preacher encountered one of the deacons and explained what had happened. The deacon said. “I have known the boy for some time and I am convinced he would never do such a thing.”

            By this time the preacher was heartsick and reported to the elders. They said, “We see no point in disturbing the congregation over this matter. Let's just pay the bill for any damage to the walls and charge it to upkeep.”

 

A Moment’s Wisdom

—There are no traffic jams on the “extra mile.”

—If you are angry at someone, do not speak about it; write it in the sand at the water’s edge.

—To get the best of a silly argument, stay out of it.

—There is no danger of developing eye strain from looking on the bright side of things.

—It is more about why you are busy than it is about how busy you are; the bee is praised, but the mosquito is swatted.

—People read the Bible to see what they should do. They read the newspaper to see what they actually do.

—Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the conquest of it.

—Words, like tranquil waters behind a dam, can become reckless and uncontrollable torrents of destruction when released without caution or wisdom.

—Gossip is a grapevine that only produces sour grapes.

—At the end of life, you will not regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a mate, a child, a friend, or a parent.

—God clearly intends for us to work. Else why, when man asked Him for butter, He gave him a cow.

—Tragically, there are many whose faith is not strong enough to bring them to church, but they think it is strong enough to get them to heaven.

--The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.

--A person who refuses to lead and is reluctant to follow makes a great roadblock to progress.

--Anger is a thief who steals away our pleasant moments.

--The doors of great wisdom are never closed as long as your Bible is open.

--An ode to politically correct speech: “I used to think I was poor. Then they told me I was needy. Then they said it was self-defeating to think of myself as needy; I was deprived. No, not deprived, underprivileged. Then they told me underprivileged was overused; I was disadvantaged. I still don’t have a dime, but I now have a great vocabulary.” (Jules Feiffer)

--Corrective criticism should always leave the person with the feeling that he has been helped.

--Only one who reads the scriptures can understand how they speak to modern life.

--Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy.

--For every temptation and sin, Satan will readily supply us with an excuse.

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