1 Corinthians 15: 29 Otherwise, what will those people do who get baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why do they even get baptized for them? 30 Why do we live in danger every hour? 31 Day by day I face death, as surely as I boast about you, brothers, in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild animals in Ephesus with human motives, what good did it do me? (EHV)
What does it mean that people in Corinth were getting baptized “for the dead?” There are over three hundred interpretations of verse 29. The Mormons actually carry on a practice where their members can be baptized for unbelieving family members who have died. That’s an unlikely interpretation, because nowhere in the Bible does it say that we can do anything to change the eternal sentence of those who have died.
The Greek preposition translated “for” can also mean “in view of the dead.” When we come to faith and are baptized, we do indeed look ahead to what will happen when we die. Paul repeatedly connects baptism to coming alive in Christ by faith. I just read it again in Colossians 2:12 this morning: “you were buried with him in baptism and raised with him through faith in the power of God.” If baptism connects us to this first resurrection, the resurrection to a new life in Christ, doesn’t it also connect us with our second resurrection on the last day?
So if there is no resurrection, why get baptized at all? And if there is no resurrection, why would the Apostle Paul face death for preaching the gospel? One good reason to believe what the Apostles said about Jesus’ resurrection is the fact that they were willing to die for what they proclaimed. In the face of death, lies are easily exposed. But if the resurrection is true and real, then you can understand the willingness of the Apostles to die for what they knew was true.
The practice of placing a white funeral pall over the casket in church is not very common in our churches today. I witnessed it once, and it was a wonderful reminder that through baptism, this believer was clothed with the righteousness of Jesus and could wait for the resurrection on the last day.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I am thankful that I am baptized into Christ and raised by faith in him to have a new life. It is his righteousness and not my own that makes me your dear child. In the face of our mortality through pandemics and plagues, what a joy to say, “I am baptized into Christ!” Amen.