Baptism for the Dead, 1 Cor. 15:29

[podcast src=”” height=”90″ width=”450″]Hard Verses Episode 15: Baptism for the Dead; 1 Cor. 15:29

Thanks to Patrick Peters for the suggestion.
The Problem.
1Co 15:29 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?
What does it mean when it says they are baptized for the dead?
Does that mean that you can be baptized for those that have already died?
Prophet Joseph Smith first taught about the ordinance of baptism for the dead during a funeral sermon in August 1840. He read much of 1 Corinthians 15, including verse 29, and announced that the Lord would permit Church members to be baptized in behalf of their friends and relatives who had departed this life. He told them “the plan of salvation was calculated to save all who were willing to obey the requirements of the law of God” (Journal History of the Church, 15 Aug. 1840).
Proxie baptism maybe. Mormons use this as proof.
Can we save those that have gone on before and were not living right?
The Solution.
Let me give the context, let us read some.
1Co 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
1Co 15:21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
1Co 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
1Co 15:23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.
1Co 15:24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
1Co 15:25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.
1Co 15:26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
1Co 15:27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.
1Co 15:28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
1Co 15:29 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?
1Co 15:30 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?
1Co 15:31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.
1Co 15:32 If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.
1Co 15:33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.
1Co 15:34 Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.
1Co 15:35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?
1Co 15:36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:
1Co 15:37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain:
1Co 15:38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.

Let us not lose the meaning of the passage.
Paul is teaching that there will be a resurrection of the dead.
There was doubt about this resurrection. The pagans believed that there was corruptness in the body. This meant that purity was to come by shedding this body.
Paul was using this practice of baptism (whatever that meant) to teach about the resurrection of the body.
Many have suggested that this practice is lost to antiquity because we have nothing else to describe it.
He was not teaching that we were to be baptized for the dead. This was just illustrative (Guy N. Woods).
Notice the “they” instead of inclusive words like “we” or “us” which would indicate an outside group.
Can you be baptized for someone else?
Can you proxie other areas of the faith? Hearing the word of God? Believing/faith in that word and in God? Confessing Jesus before men? Repenting of sins? This just doesn’t make sense. So to make baptism go to that area doesn’t make sense.
What could it mean?
Could have been a practice of the surrounding pagans.
Howard Winters (Commentary on First Corinthians, Practical and Explanatory pg. 217) puts it in a modern day saying, “Else what shall they do who violently attack others in order to end violence, if non-violence is their method ? Why then are they using violence?”
Burton Coffman states the following:
“The Indians bury a dog and a spear with the fallen warrior; and why should they do that, if there is no resurrection?”
Both statements use illustrations without condoning the practice used in the example.
One of the safest ways to interpret the passage, which lines up with every major doctrine in the NT is the following:
The “they” are Christians that were baptized for their dead spiritual condition.
To ask, “why are you being baptized to a spiritual death if you are not going to have a spiritual resurrection?”

The lesson for us today.
1. Don’t create doctrine out of a single verse, especially out of its context.
2. Don’t take just part of a teaching, take it all.

Tools I Used
E-sword (Burton Coffman module).
Commentary on the First Corinthians, Practical and Explanatory, Howard Winters.
Seek the Old Paths, A study of the Church at Corinth, ed. Garland M. Robinson.
Questions and Answers, Open Forum, Freed-Hardeman College Lectures, by Guy N. Woods.
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