By Brannon Howse
The Scripture: Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?
The Twist: People who are alive can be baptized for the dead and therefore bring them salvation after they’re already dead.
The foremost purveyor of this twist is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Mormons baptize people for those who have already died. In fact, the LDS faithful believe they can pay money to the Mormon Church to have someone stand in for a dead relative and be baptized for that relative. I’m told by former Mormons that there are even people who do this as their job. They are baptized over and over for the relatives of Mormons who pay for this “service.”
Is that what 1 Corinthians 15:29 is talking about? Certainly not.
Taking a look at the original language helps to understand why. A more accurate rendering of this in the original would be something like this: “Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized because of the testimony of some of the saints that are now dead?”
I think of my friend, the late Ron Carlson, for example. Ron had a powerful Christian witness and testimony all over the world, and today, countless people are believers because of his ministry. Even now that he is with the Lord, someone could become a believer by watching DVDs by Ron Carlson or by reading his books. Ron is dead in this life, but he’s alive in the Spirit. And yet, someone could read Fast Facts on False Teaching and hear the Gospel, repent, and place his or her faith and trust in Christ, then go on to be baptized—all because of the Gospel testimony Ron Carlson has left behind.
So: “Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead,” could just as well mean, “Otherwise, what will the Christians do who are now saved because of the testimony of the saints, like Ron Carlson, if there’s no resurrection of the dead?”
If there’s no resurrection for the dead in Christ, then why are the people being baptized because of the testimony of the dead? In other words, because the Gospel is true and was evident in the lives of believers who are now dead, others have become believers and been baptized. Here’s a helpful paraphrase I developed for the whole passage so you can see the verse as it could read in the original language:
Otherwise, what will the Christians do who are now saved because of the testimony of the saints, or the dead, if there is no resurrection of the dead, or no resurrection of the saints? Why then do they become Christians and get baptized because of the testimony of those who are now deceased?
There is no legitimate “baptism for the dead.” No one gets a second chance by having those still alive be baptized for the departed. But we can rejoice over the testimonies left for us—and others who may come to Christ—by faithful believers who have gone before us.
Copyright 2014 ©Brannon Howse. This content is for Situation Room members and is not to be duplicated in any form or uploaded to other websites without the express written permission of Brannon Howse or his legally authorized representative.