What is baptism for the dead?


Clarify Share Report Asked July 01 2013 Mini Anonymous (via GotQuestions)

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Shea S. Michael Houdmann Supporter Got Questions Ministries
Baptism for the dead is a non-biblical practice where a living person is baptized in lieu of a person that passed away, as a means of making a public profession of faith for a person that is alread...

July 01 2013 1 response Vote Up Share Report

Mini Ben Zickefoose Retired, Kinesiology Dept. ACU, TX & traveling ministry.
What is baptism for the dead?

I have understood, as Michael mentioned above, there are many proposed explanations for this passage about baptism for the dead.

I have had several ideas about the meaning of this passage, which indicates that I do not have “the meaning.”

One idea I have considered is: Paul was not referring to water baptism. Perhaps he was using “baptism” as Jesus did when he challenged James and John when they asked to sit with him in his glory, one on the right and the other on the left.

Mark 10:35-40 (NIV) 35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask." 36 "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. 37 They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory." 38 "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said. "Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?" 39 "We can," they answered. Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”

It seems to me that Jesus was telling James and John that they would be baptized (overwhelmed, immersed) with threats, danger, suffering, death as he would be and was.

Was Paul using “baptism” the way Jesus did, i.e. figuratively?

The following is 1 Corinthians 15:29-32 (NIV) 29 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? 30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I die every day--I mean that, brothers--just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." 

Perhaps Paul could have said it this way, “If there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized (overwhelmed, immersed in suffering, danger) for the dead (including Jesus)? If the dead (including Jesus) are not raised at all, why are people baptized (overwhelmed, immersed in suffering, danger) for them?

In the context of 1 Corinthians 15:29-32, after Paul asked the questions about baptism for the dead, he explained what he went through every day for Christ because he believed in the resurrection of the dead.

Maybe he could have said it this way, “I am baptized (overwhelmed, immersed) everyday with danger for Christ because I believe he was raised from the dead. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’”

Conclusion: the question about “baptism for the dead” provides for interesting discussion and comments. However, “baptizing for the dead,” as some teach and practice, is not a commandment from God. Christian baptism is preceded by hearing the gospel, believing, repenting and confessing faith in Jesus as the Son of God. Hence, those who have died do not qualify for water baptism in the name of Jesus.

December 24 2014 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Craig Stephenson
1 Corinthians 15:29
The Resurrection of the Dead

29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

This is indeed a difficult passage to understand. However, that does not mean it can't be understood.

Part 1 : "Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead?" Here, we find people are being SAVED and then baptized based on the lasting testimony of those now deceased. There was much persecution of the early church, and as mentioned in Hebrews 11:37a, they were "They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword:" Imagine the impact Stephen had upon the early church. Even though now dead, his resounding testimony lived on through the telling again and again of his boldness and devout faith. Many, upon hearing of his life, powerful testimony, and martyrs death could have thereby trusted Christ and been baptized. There were not getting baptized FOR the dead, but because of (or for) his lasting testimony which spoke powerfully of his faith in Christ.

Part 2: "If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?" Here, following up on the thoughts of Part 1, we find the people understood the dead saint's faith so well that they also believed in life after death. This portion of this verse is speaking in direct opposition to the Sadducee point of view who believed death was final and there was no resurrection. Remember, many of these early believers were Jewish converts, and the two major schools of thought in that day on human death came from the Pharisees who believed in life after death, and the Sadducees. It could have been a strong departure from the tradition of many to believe there was indeed a resurrection of the dead.....which was the testimony of those who were Christ followers, believing HE had risen from the grave. Therefore, to be a true Christ follower and to follow the same faith of those now dead by being saved and baptized as a result of their testimony - would mean you are expressing faith in life after death as well. Like the angels asked the women who came to anoint the body of Jesus, "Why seek ye the living among the dead?" The question posed is almost a rhetorical one in which the author demands the reader to think on the idea of why anyone would go to the trouble of professing faith in Christ (and denouncing their former faith of salvation by works as taught in Judaism) and being baptized if they didn't ALSO believe in a LIVING Savior? If they didn't also believe in the current status of those saints who preceded them in death as now living the eternal life? "What would be the point - of what use would it be - if they didn't believe that?" the author is asking.

Hope this helps.

August 27 2014 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Jim Dubé Former pastor
"For otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?" 1 Cor. 15:29 

1 Cor. 15:29 has a piece to it that would help us understand why this is NOT a Christian practice. Paul states, "...why then are THEY baptized for them (the dead)?"

The key word is "they" - Paul is speaking of others (non-Christians); not himself and not the Church, but others. It was a pagan practice.

January 06 2023 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

20230618 192834 Donna Williams
In context of scripture, I believe that the Apostle Paul was addressing the unbelief that some held that there is no resurrection of the dead in verse 12 of 1 Corinthians chapter 15. 

This passage of scripture is about the resurrection of Jesus Christ! It is possible that these were former Sadducces that did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, and may have been causing a problem for those who believed the preaching of Paul and the other apostles. Just a thought, not a concrete conclusion! See Luke 20:27

I believe that he was simply saying, that if Jesus was not raised from the dead, then it would be futile to baptize in His name! Their preaching about Jesus, and our faith in Him would also be in vain!

November 19 2023 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini John Appelt
There are many suggestions for the phrase, ‘baptized for the dead,’ I Corinthians 15:29. 

Some think Paul was referring to the pagan custom practiced north of Corinth in Eleusis, and perhaps influencing some in Corinth who wanted to insure those that had died without being baptized were guaranteed a good afterlife. However, it must be assumed that ‘baptism for the dead’ is a Christian principle as Paul is writing to believers. For him to bring up a heathen practice would be an unacceptable argument to use. 

It is thought by many that it was a baptism in the name of someone who had desired to be baptized but had died before it could be done. It was common practice for one to submit to water baptism immediately after believing on the Lord. Some like the thief on the cross never had the opportunity. However, vicarious baptism was never a teaching of Paul or anyone. In fact, there is no record in the Bible or in Judaism of such a practice. 

In the article, “Living Rewards for Dead Apostles: ‘Baptized for the Dead’ in 1 Corinthians 15:29,” James E. Patrick, suggested that when new believers in Corinth were baptized, they credited their salvation to the truth they had received from some of the apostles, many of whom were now dead. He wrote that it was “an expression of allegiance to honour not only Christ but also the ‘patron’ apostle in whose testimony the convert believed.” This is credible because the Corinthians were already identifying with the ministry of certain apostles, I Corinthians 1:12, 13.

Paul led many of them to the Lord, I Corinthians 4:15. He could boast in them, I Corinthians 15:32, having laid the foundation of Jesus Christ, I Corinthians 3:10, 11. He was credited for them as those of other churches were, Philippians 4:1, and I Thessalonians 2:19, 20. This reward can only be received in the resurrection, and if the Corinthians wanted the dead apostles to receive the reward they were ascribing to them by baptizing new believers for these apostles, resurrection was necessary.

The word ‘for’ is not ‘on behalf of,’ but the primary meaning, ‘for the benefit of.’ The believers were not being baptized on behalf of (‘for’) another. Instead, they were being baptized for their belief in Christ and in honor of (‘for’) another who was instrumental in their salvation.

The ‘dead’ were believers who were already baptized. It has been pointed out ‘dead’ in this verse has an article ‘the.’ Without the article, the sense is general, but with the article, it means a certain group, here the Christian dead.

The point of the whole chapter is the reality of the resurrection. Paul was refuting those Corinthians who did not believe in a resurrection by referring to their practice of baptizing for the dead. Their practice contradicted their beliefs. There was a resurrection! 

‘Baptism for the dead’ was a tribute by the one saved to the martyred one who had preached the gospel.

January 17 2022 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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