A Closer Look at 1 Cor. 15:29


Bob Thompson


"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?"


            In Luke 12:50 the Lord Jesus emphatically states, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straightened until it be accomplished?” Here He   speaks prophetically of His death, referring to it as a “baptism.”  

            Now 1 Peter 3:18:  “For Christ also hath once suffered (been baptized) for sins, the just for the unjust.....”

              In vs. 20 we’re told about the eight souls that were saved by water; that is, Noah and his family being saved from death because the ark took the judgment of God against the world for them—the family receiving not so much as a drop of water.  In fact, the water that destroyed the world became their ally, their friend by bearing them safely up to the top of Mount Ararat.   Anti typically, Christ, our ark, bore in his own sinless body the judgment we deserve, and by His resurrection guaranteed the eternal safety of all who believe on Him.  John 5:24. Today, all true believers are “hid with Christ in God,” (Col. 3:3) forever beyond the reach of further judgment for sin.        

             Verse 21 explains this allegory: “The like figure (the antitype of that which was prefigured by Noah’s ark) whereunto even baptism (the sufferings of Christ on the cross))   doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God) cp. Heb. 9:14, BY THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST.”           

             Note: the sufferings of Christ and the word baptism are used interchangeably in the above verses.

             Perhaps, now, the word “baptism” in 1 Cor. 15:29, is more understandable, 

             “Else what shall they do which are BAPTIZED (which are suffering) for the dead… (for those “dead in trespasses and sins.” Eph. 2:1)."

             In the very next verse, Paul enlarges on the word “baptized” by asking the question: “And why stand we (Paul, Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, Silas, Epaphroditus, Trophimus, etc. who are in the trenches, always in the line of fire) in jeopardy (in constant danger of suffering or even losing our lives) every hour?”  

             In other words, why are we going through all this trouble,  persecution, and these near-death experiences on behalf of those lost in sin, whom we are trying to reach for Christ, why all this pain —cp. 2 Cor. 4:8-11; 11:23-28) if there be no resurrection?  What good will it do them, or us?  “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” IF there is no resurrection. 

             Paul, speaking to the elders of Rome, said, as recorded in Acts 28:20 “for the hope of Israel (Israel’s promised Messiah) I am bound with this chain.” Paul could have avoided the turbulent life, the one fraught with incessant danger, had he but left the unsaved the alone and not presented them with the claims of Christ.

              1 Cor. 15:29 again, “Else what shall they (the  ministers of Christ) do which are baptized for (suffering on behalf of, for the benefit of) the dead (those dead in trespasses and sins), if the dead (those we are trying to reach with the gospel) rise not at all (if there is no future for them or us)  why are they (we leaders in the church) then baptized (undergoing persecution, punishment, even death) for (on behalf of) the dead (lost souls we are seeking to reach with the gospel)?” 

             This writer welcomes any correction, criticism or suggestion that will help to clarify this difficult passage theologians have puzzled over for centuries.  

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