Friday, August 6, 2010

Does the Bible teach the practice of baptism for the dead?

1st Corinthians 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?"


Does the Bible teach the practice of baptism for the dead?

This is a question that both sides of the argument need to know. If you are an evangelical Christian, or a Latter Day Saint. And my guess is both sides are familiar with this verse. Perhaps as a Mormon, you have used this verse as a proof text to support your argument. After all, this verse does appear in Mormon literature, and even inside of the temple itself. This verse has been used by many members of the LDS church to support their doctrinal practice of baptism for the dead.

If you are an evangelical Christian who has witnessed to a Mormon, or studied Mormonism, you have no doubt either had this verse quoted to you, or have read it from a Mormon scholar, to support their position. The question is not, “Does the Bible mention baptism for the dead?” The question is, “Is baptism for the dead a biblical practice, and doctrine?” For the answer, we must consult the Bible and see if it gives us the answer to this question.

First, we need to ask, “since the Bible mentions baptism for the dead, does this mean it is a biblical practice?” The answer, no. If that was true, and anything mentioned in the Bible was a biblical practice, than we have a myriad of problems. We would begin to get strange doctrines. We might start to think that having concubines is biblical, that sorcery is biblical, that divination is biblical, or that homosexuality is biblical. These are all behaviors mentioned in the Bible, but being mentioned in the Bible does not make it become a doctrine itself.

Lets look at this scripture more in depth. First of all, who is speaking?

We see clearly that the person speaking is Paul. Who is he speaking to? The author of the first epistle to the Corinthians is speaking to the Corinthians themselves. Now, please notice that the verse quoted is in the midst of an argument. The verse begins with, “else what shall they do”. This shows us that we do not in this verse alone have all of the answers. We should ask ourselves, what shall who do? Who is baptizing for the dead? Why are the dead being baptized?

Lets see if we can find the answers.

We know the speaker is Paul, we know the audience is the Corinthians. What we don’t know is why this is being brought up. We need to look at the entire chapter to see if we can somehow find an answer, and sure enough, we do.

1st Corinthians 15:12-19 tells us: "Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied."

Several things to notice in this scripture. First, we see that the Corinthians, although they are practicing baptism for the dead, do not believe in a resurrection of the dead, or an afterlife. Paul is questioning them as this makes no sense. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ Himself could not have been resurrected and would still be in the tomb, and Paul’s faith is in vain. He even goes further to say that if that is the case, then they are false witnesses since they were testifying that God Himself raised Christ from the dead, and if the Corinthians were right that there is no resurrection, then how could God have raised Christ?

Also please notice, the topic is truly speaking about the resurrection of the dead, NOT about baptism for the dead. When we get to verse 29, Paul uses an interesting word, he says, “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead”. He uses the word, “they”. He does not use the word, “we”. He excludes himself from this practice. And once you put the scripture in its context, we see Paul is not at all condoning the practice of baptism for the dead, but is distancing himself from this practice, and is also bringing the Corinthians who are part of this practice back to the truth, which is the doctrine of the resurrection.

He goes on to explain, “30-Why are we also in danger every hour? 31-I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32-If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, LET US EAT AND DRINK, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE.”

Now, in conclusion I beg of you to please stay with me on this. No where, and I mean NO WHERE, do we see in this the doctrine of baptism for the dead, we do not see this as doctrine, as a biblically based practice, and especially not as some sort of a second chance at eternal life. This is the 1 place in the entirety of scripture with any reference to baptism for the dead, and now that we have studied this verse, we can clearly see it is not a biblical practice.

In fact, Hebrews 9:27 says, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment”. There is no second chance. Today is the day to make your choice of whom you will serve. No one is guaranteed tomorrow.

The last thing I would like to say is, every single person will experience eternity. Some will experience eternal life, others eternal death. If you are wrong, imagine the length of time you will have to dwell on it. You could spend 165 billion years in hell, and yet be no closer to the punishment being over than when it first began.

Nothing is more important than your eternal salvation, so I beg you with all of my heart, to be honest and spend time studying these issues.

God Bless,


Jamie Pellew

11 comments:

I would have to disagree with you because you failed to mention one key verse in the immediate context of 1 Corinthians 15. You have to go back to the very beginning of Verse 1 where Paul establishes his argument. He begins by reminding the Corinthian believers that he preached to them the same Gospel message that he himself received. Here, we have to ask ourselves, who taught Paul the Gospel message? The answer is right in 1 Corinthians where the Apostle Paul states that it was the Apostles, and not only the Apostles, but their testimony to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, when we come to verse 11, we find Paul saying something very interesting:

Therefore, whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believe.

Paul identifies they as being the other Apostles. He mentions Cephas (which is referenced in Luke as Simon - and we know that Simon is also Peter) who first saw the resurrected Lord (according to Paul's statement here when we know it was the women first, and then Peter being of the First Apostles to arrive at the tomb and then seeing the Savior).

Paul then states that the twelve saw the Resurrected Christ, then 500 of the brethren. James saw Christ, and then all of the apostles as well. This is interesting to note because Paul refers to more than just the Twelve Apostles - how many where there? We know that Christ called 70 disciples as well (see Luke 10:1, 17).

He then states that he was the last Apostle to have seen the resurrected Christ, and considered himself the least of the Apostles because he persecuted the Church.

Now, the reason why verse 11 is significant is because Paul states that "either I or they" and they already being identified as the Apostles he mentioned early in chapter 15.

When we get to verse 29, Paul makes the observation "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".

The only group of people the Apostle Paul could be referring to is the Apostles. He was not trying to distance himself from the practice that the Corinthians were participating in, he was telling the Corinthians that since the Apostles preached that Christ was resurrected and that this is the same Gospel Paul received from the Disciples, he makes the argument that if there really is not a resurrection, then why are the Apostles not only preaching and teaching the doctrine of the resurrection, but why are they "the apostles" performing the ordinance of baptism for the Dead?

Furthermore, the Greek for Dead has two meanings. The first is the proper form of Dead as pertaining to one who is deceased. The second refers to the one who is spiritually dead. The question is, which reference is Paul using the Greek word nekros? The context makes it very clear that Paul is talking about the Resurrection of the Dead, since the topic is the resurrection of humanity from the grave - both the righteous and unrighteous will rise up in their respective and appointed time.

So, it is very clear that Paul was referring to the actual ordinance that the Apostle Peter, James, and others participated in and brought to mind in his argument for the Corinthian believers to consider that if there was no resurrection, why would they, the apostles, even commit themselves over to the practice of the baptismal ordinance for the dead?

Hello Mr. Berman, and thank you for taking a moment to read the blog post.

Before I show why the Bible disagrees with you, I would like to show the scripture in it's full context.

I will post the entire chapter, and then I will finish make my refutation.

1 Corinthians 15 (NASB)

1Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 9For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

12Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

The Order of Resurrection

20But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, 24then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26The last enemy that will be abolished is death. 27For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. 28When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.

29Otherwise, 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? 30Why are we also in danger every hour? 31I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, LET US EAT AND DRINK, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE. 33Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” 34Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.

35But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” 36You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; 37and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. 39All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. 40There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. 41There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

42So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 47The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. 48As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. 49Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.

The Mystery of Resurrection

50Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. 55“O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” 56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord

Ok, now we have shown the entire context of the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians.

You begin by saying, "I would have to disagree with you because you failed to mention one key verse in the immediate context of 1 Corinthians 15. You have to go back to the very beginning of Verse 1 where Paul establishes his argument. He begins by reminding the Corinthian believers that he preached to them the same Gospel message that he himself received. Here, we have to ask ourselves, who taught Paul the Gospel message? The answer is right in 1 Corinthians where the Apostle Paul states that it was the Apostles, and not only the Apostles, but their testimony to the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

Ok, verse 1, as you can clearly see, is Paul telling the absolute importance of his message. In fact, he tells them the gospel is the power of salvation in verse 2.

Now, you say that Paul was taught this gospel from the apostles.

However, read Galatians 1:11-12, "11For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ"

Paul did not receive his instruction, or the gospel from men, but received it from Jesus Christ, and was instructed by Him! So with that being said, you built your argument on a point that is false. Paul did NOT receive the gospel from men, as he himself states so eloquently, in Galatians.

So on point one, we see that for you to say that, "The answer is right in 1 Corinthians where the Apostle Paul states that it was the Apostles, and not only the Apostles, but their testimony to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. " is actually false. It is stated in Galatians where he received the gospel message from.

Continuing on, you move to verse 11, which truly you need to reference back to at the ver least verse 9 with 11.

9For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Paul is clearly laying out his defense of his ministry, the gospel he preaches, and that he was and is the least of the apostles.

I will skip to your point on verse 11. You say, "Now, the reason why verse 11 is significant is because Paul states that "either I or they" and they already being identified as the Apostles he mentioned early in chapter 15. "

This is a logical fallacy. To conclude that simply because Paul, referring in previous verses, is now unable to be referring to a new group of people using the term "they" does not logically follow.

Now, you say, "The only group of people the Apostle Paul could be referring to is the Apostles. He was not trying to distance himself from the practice that the Corinthians were participating in, he was telling the Corinthians that since the Apostles preached that Christ was resurrected and that this is the same Gospel Paul received from the Disciples, he makes the argument that if there really is not a resurrection, then why are the Apostles not only preaching and teaching the doctrine of the resurrection, but why are they "the apostles" performing the ordinance of baptism for the Dead? "

Mr. Berman, you just performed a reading into the scriptures. Completely. No where in 1st Corinthians, not to mention the entire Bible, do we see any of what you just said. You just forced the Bible to conform to your mormon belief and doctrine, when it NEVER said anything of the sort.

The Corinthians were practicing baptisms for the dead, all the while denying that there was an actual bodily resurrection. Paul points out the simple illogic of practicing baptism for the dead, if they do not even believe there will be a bodily resurrection. And virtually most every Biblical scholar agrees on that point. The mormons are the ones who disregard the absolute plain and simple truth of the text.

If Paul was handed down the practice of baptism for the dead from Jesus, why is it found virtually NO WHERE in the entirety of scripture? This one isntance is clearly Paul distancing not only himself, but the rest of the apostles from this practice, which is not Biblical in the least.

In closing, you say, "So, it is very clear that Paul was referring to the actual ordinance that the Apostle Peter, James, and others participated in and brought to mind in his argument for the Corinthian believers to consider that if there was no resurrection, why would they, the apostles, even commit themselves over to the practice of the baptismal ordinance for the dead?"

No Mr. Berman, what is clear is this issue highlights a much larger issues for mormonism. Mormonism forces the Bible to say something it does not say. To the mormon church, either the Bible will say what they want it to say, or be told how fallible and unreliable, and corrupt it is. This is not the case.

This example shows exactly that. You have a scripture which seemed vague to Smith, so he decided rather than studying it out, he would make his doctrine out of it, in complete error.

The Bible is clear, that all men shall die and then the judgment, and no where do we see a second chance. The story of the rich man should have settled that pretty clearly.

So from start to finish, your argument was wrong.

Thank you for taking the time to read the post.

It is interesting that Mr. Berman would know Greek and still miss the word "for" [hipo] in verse 29 which can also be read as "on account of" which would change the meaning drastically. Suppose that people were being baptized on account of the dead actually being raised.

According to the chapter, which is in essence dealing with the resurrection of the dead, it would make sence that others were accepting the gospel of Christ, and being baptized because they wanted eternal life. How we read an ordinance into this is questionable.

It is interesting that Mr. Berman would know Greek and still miss the word "for" [hipo] in verse 29 which can also be read as "on account of" which would change the meaning drastically. Suppose that people were being baptized on account of the dead actually being raised.

According to the chapter, which is in essence dealing with the resurrection of the dead, it would make sence that others were accepting the gospel of Christ, and being baptized because they wanted eternal life. How we read an ordinance into this is questionable.

this is fascinating. I had read years ago that a first century christian stated that the "they" in 1 Cor 15:29 was referring to Peter and John as reported to him by an ancient relative, Bishop of Jerusalem, who knew of the practice. I had lost the reference. Now in keeping with the intent of the chapter, that the "they" referred to, as the Apostles is unquestionable from verse 11. To change the meaning to someone else, Paul would have mentioned the other group by name to assign "they" to them. This is in keeping with the gospel being preached to the dead in 1 Peter by Christ. Thank you so much for showing this fact, I had read over it time again and did not realize it till I read your post.

I don't expect the non Mormons to accept this fact, but it seems obvious to me.

Awesome.

Ridgerunner, the issue is your assuming your case without valid textual support. What you just engaged in is called eisegesis, which is when you read your opinion in to a text to force that text to say what you would like it to say. This is dangerous and leads to errors and heresy.

We are commanded to exegete the text, which is to interpret scripture in light of scripture, and to derive out of the text the intent. The very fact that Paul is so careful to not include either he, or any other of the apostles or disciples in the "they" in this verse is beyond clear that this is not something they are practicing, and are in truth condemning this practice.

So by ignoring the context and then forcing your view into the text, you come up with what you might try to make fit, but it does not, and indeed cannot, fit.