"Nothing more impressive than an intellectual and spiritual approach to seeking truth and a willingness to embrace it unconditionally."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Baptism for the Dead: What Does That Mean?

(The blog this picture was taken from)
"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?" 1 Corinthians 15:29 KJV
I received a call tonight, as I have on several occasions, asking what my view on 1Corinthians 15:29 is. What did Paul mean by referring to baptism for the dead? The obvious abuse of this text is by the Mormons who baptize on the behalf of people who die unbaptized. The above article does a good job of highlighting their misguided practices.

One commentator says that there have been over 30 explanations given as to what Paul meant. Whatever explanation you chose, the one thing that is clear, the Mormon explanation is heretical. I have a couple explanations that I really like, which I will detail for you a little later, but first I am going to prove why it cannot mean what the Mormons say it does.


It cannot mean that a person can be baptized on behalf of an unbaptized dead person and their sins be forgiven. We can know this because of the scriptural prerequisites for baptism, which a dead person cannot meet.
  • FAITH: Faith is a prerequisite for baptism. No one can to come God apart from faith (Hebrews 11:6). This is a very general view of the necessity of faith preceding baptism; however, the scriptures very specifically demand faith on the part of the person the baptism is for at the moment of their baptism. The Ethiopian eunuch asked, "what doeth hinder me from being baptized (Acts 8:36)?" Philip answered, "if thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest (Acts 8:37)." In other words, if the eunuch did not believe he would be hindered form being baptized. No one else could believe for him; Philip said, "if THOU believest, THOU mayest." The one that baptism was for was the one that had to believe. Faith is always a prerequisite for baptism (Mark 16:16). The dead cannot exercise faith.
  • REPENTANCE: Repentance is also a prerequisite for baptism. When the Pharisees and Sadducees came to the baptism of John he demanded proof of repentance before he would baptize them (Matthew 3:7-8). Repentance is the death of the old man that must be buried with Christ in baptism (Romans 6). Living people are not buried; therefore death through repentance must precede baptism's burial. The dead cannot repent.
Another reason that 1 Corinthians 15:29 cannot teach that a living person can be baptized for the forgivness of a dead persons sins is because only the judgement follows death.
"And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment," Hebrews 9:27 ESV
Death is final; there is no opportunity for changing the condition of the soul after death. The only thing left after death is the judgement. If you die a sinner that is how you will remain; if you die a saint that is how you will remain.


I have just listed a couple reasons why 1 Corinthians 15:29 cannot support the Mormon view. I believe that these reasons that I listed above are the "death blow" to their "grave" error (pun intended). There are literally dozens of explanations as to what Paul meant, so feel free to take your pick.

My personal favorite of all the explanations is as follows: Paul is not stating that this is a practice of his or the Corinthian church, rather this is a practice that "they" do. The "they" must be understood with in the context of the entire chapter. There is a "we" and "they" being discussed in the chapter. The "we" is obviously Paul and the Corinthian Christians, and the "they" are those who say, "there is no resurrection of the dead."

The purpose of 1 Corinthians 15 is to rebut "they" who say there is no resurrection. Multiple times Paul states their position and then offers a rebuttal, or demonstrates an unacceptable or contradictory conclusion inherent to their position. So, he states their view, then rebuts it.

In verse 16 Paul argues, if there is no resurrection as "they" say, then Christ is not risen. Again in verse 35 Paul states their opinion when he says, "but some will say." He is stating what "they" say in order to refute it . It is my preferred opinion that this is what Paul is doing in verse 29 when he says, "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?"

Paul was not saying that we baptize for the dead, he was saying that "they," those who deny the resurrection from the dead, were baptizing for the dead. He then asks, why would "they" baptize for the dead if the dead is not raised? That would be a colossal waste of time.


If I viewed the text as Paul discussing a Christian practice of "baptizing for the dead," then this would be my preferred view. Since the topic of 1 Corinthians 15 is the resurrection, Paul is making the point that baptism points us to the resurrection. In Romans 6 Paul uses baptism, as a type of being buried and raised with Christ; therefore baptism points to resurrection.

Here in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul is arguing that the resurrection of Christ that we share in through baptism is the earnest, or first fruits, of a final resurrection at the second coming of Christ. So, if our baptism looks forward to resurrection, and there is no resurrection, then why are we baptized for the dead.

So that the dead that we are baptized for, or in reference to, are the dead in Christ that shall be raised in the resurrection. So, if baptism looks forward to resurrection, and there is none, then baptism is a waste of time.

It is late so I hope I am making sense. Make up your own mind. Chose any one of the many possibilities that are available as long at it can be harmonized with the whole of what the Bible teaches about baptism.


  1. In I Cor. 15, Paul not only refutes for the Resurrection of the Dead, but He also refutes the resurrection of a physical body. 1Cor.15:37. It's about time Mr. Carroll put something in print on Eschatology.
    Pastor Mike Palevo
    New Life Tabernacle of Chattanooga

  2. I would not say that he refute the resurrection of the physical body.

    What do you think "baptism for the dead" is?

  3. @ Mike Palevo: Elaborate on how you think Apostle Paul refutes the resurrection in v.37.

  4. Greetings All,
    First of all, I don't have a lot of time to do blogging as you would call it. I've got many projects in process right now. I'm doing audio on the "The Coming of the Lord, The resurrection, The End of the World, The Rapture, The Body of Christ, The True Israel of God, Matthew 24 fulfilled, etc. Also, developing our website - www.newlifetabernacleofchattanooga.org.
    Now, let's talk about "Resurrection". If we're gonna base our decision on ICor. 15th chapter, then we're gonna have problems. If we begin to utilize the Five W's and One H, it will give us a proper understanding of the entire chapter. Particularly, verses 35-37. In no wise is Paul talking about our physical body. This is where Christianity in general falter, and Pentecostals follow right along. They all get stuck on the word "Body", and assume it is talking about our physical body. It's not!Rom 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that THE BODY OF SIN might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
    It dealing with the Soul and spirit of man. Notice this question: 1Co 15:35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?
    The answer: Thou Fool! History will support that even in that time the Pharisees believed in a physical body rejoined to the Soul, and I believe this is what's being asked. Then Paul begins to use Nature itself to teach on the Resurrection. Bare Seed, Naked Grain is what's mentioned referring to the shell of this physical body cast off, and the new coming from the center as with a Natural Seed itself. No part of our physical bodies will have anything to do with our eternal abode! The Phrase "Glorified Body" is not in your Bible, nor mine. Synopsis: This entire chapter is dealing with Old Covenant Israel waiting on the End of all things(Ending of The Law), and the Soul sleep under the Old Covenant, and their spiritual bodies pulled out of the grave to judgment. 1Co 15:56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. Notice the word Law. It's referring to Old Covenant, they under the Old Covenant. It would pass away at the Destruction of Jerusalem. Then all those under the Old Covenant would resurrect out of the graves to receive one of two things: Dan 12:2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
    New Covenant must line up with Old Covnenat, or else you have Speculation, Assumption, Science Fiction, etc.
    Pastor Mike Palevo
    New Life Tabernacle of Chattanooga

  5. @ Palevo: Are saying by your invocation of Romans 6:6 that the body in 1 Corinthians is the Body of sin, and the the resurrection is the new birth. Putting off the natural body is the body of sin and taking on the spiritual body is the new man of salvation.

  6. Neither of these chapters deals with a physical resurrection of our bodies! Romans 6 is the new man, and ICor 15 deals with those who would come out of the grave to receive eternal life, or their change. The last trumpet being the final call to judgment under the Old Covenant.
    And yes, I don't believe I need TWO resurrections! I believe in the Death, Burial, and Resurrection! I believe it's Acts 2:38. Why do I need TWO resurrections? Is there something that the Holy Ghost can't do that I need something more????? I've got Eternal life now! In order to believe in a collective future judgment, you cannot believe in us having eternal life now. SO, WHAT'S UP WITH THAT???
    It's called the Resurrection of the New Man! Those who believe in this futurist mess not only are extraBiblically based, but they are also not fully ONENESS! And can't be!

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. @Mike Palevo:

    "Those who believe in this futurist mess not only are extraBiblically based, but they are also not fully ONENESS! And can't be!"

    The above is your quote. This is the most ignorant statement I've heard in a long time-maybe, even ever heard. I'll cancel out your ignorant statement by asking intelligent questions.

    You have dug yourself in a hole that only the resurrection can get you out of!

    Please answer them in any order you prefer.

    1. Insomuch as you asked, "why do I need TWO resurrections? Is there something that the Holy Ghost can't do that I need something more," what resurrection had not Paul attained to even though he had the Holy Ghost? (Philippians 3:11-12)

    2. When did all-the good and evil come out of the grave? (John 5:28-29)

    3. When was the "alive" caught up together with the "dead" to meet Christ in the air? (I Thessalonians 4:17)

    4. In your view, since Jesus knew the day of A.D. 70 (Matthew 24:1-34), what day did Jesus not know? (Matthew 24:35-36)

    5. Insomuch, that you teach that the resurrection of the body is the putting off of the body of sin and putting on the new man, and since Paul had already experienced that resurrection, what body did Paul have that was yet unredeemed? (Romans 8:23)

    6. Was Jesus' physical body resurrected? If so, does He still have it?

    7. Since Christ's firstfruits resurrection was physical, what kind of resurrection do we have at Christ's coming? (I Corinthians 15:20-23)

  9. @Mike Palevo:

    "Those who believe in this futurist mess not only are extraBiblically based, but they are also not fully ONENESS! And can't be!"

    Speaking of "extra Biblically based," that's exactly what one needs-"extra Bible" to believe there was a resurrection in 70 A.D.

    Still looking for the answers to my intelligent questions.

  10. @ Elder Bow: I am honored that you took the time to read and comment. Thank you and God bless you.

  11. I Corinthians 15:29

    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 a very odd passage of Scripture. The Mormons use this passage as the basis for their belief in Baptism for the Dead. I will present the orthodox Christian/Lutheran view of this passage below, but first I would like us to look at something else in this passage that is odd:

    If the Church in Corinth had been taught by the Apostle Paul that the manner in which one is saved is to pray (verbally or nonverbally) a sincere, penitent, prayer/petition to God, such as a version of the Sinner's Prayer, why does this passage of God's Holy Word discuss baptisms for the dead and not "prayers for the dead", specifically, praying a version of the Sinner's Prayer for the dead?

    Isn't that really odd? No matter what activity was actually going on in the Corinthian church regarding "the dead", why is the discussion/controversy about baptism and not the "true" means of salvation according to Baptists and evangelicals: an internal belief in Christ; an internal "decision" for Christ?

    And even more odd...why didn't Paul scold the Corinthians for focusing so much on baptism which he had surely taught them (according to Baptists and evangelicals) was nothing other than an act of obedience; a public profession of faith??

    Why so much emphasis on baptism?

    Is it possible that the reason that the Corinthians were so concerned about baptism is that they had been taught by the Apostle Paul and other Christian evangelists that salvation and the promise of the resurrection of the dead and eternal life are received in Baptism, just as orthodox Christians, including Lutherans, have been teaching for almost 2,000 years??

    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals