What’s Up With Baptism for the Dead?

A friend who grew up in a foster home was subjected to Mormonism during her youth. Thankfully, she broke away from that; but she’s still perplexed by certain things she was taught. For example, the other day she asked what I thought the Scriptures taught about baptism for the dead, which is a part of Mormon practices.

I remembered seeing a verse somewhere about this, and I thought I recalled it was in one of Paul’s epistles. So I did a little research. Since I had to put my thoughts into writing in an e-mail to my friend about this, I thought I’d share what I discovered with you as well, for whatever it’s worth.

1 Corinthians 15:29 in the KJv 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?

This is an odd verse. But before I did any research, my first thought was that a person has to be alive to be baptized. Only a living person can accept Christ and afterward give evidence of that through the symbolic act of baptism. While that’s true, I saw two other views on this topic which go beyond that.

One view says Paul was referring to a pagan group who practiced baptism for the dead near Corinth. He was discouraging the Corinthians from doing this. If Paul did indeed have a pagan group in mind, then apparently even they believed in some kind of resurrection, as shown by the fact that they practiced baptism for the dead. That was further proof for Paul’s case that there is indeed resurrection, since even pagans expected it.

The other view made the observation that, since the theme and emphasis of that whole chapter of the Bible is resurrection, then verse 29 has resurrection in mind, too, and it shouldn’t be taken out of context. Obviously, one has to be dead to be resurrected. Baptism symbolizes burial and resurrection. If there’s no resurrection, then what’s the point of the symbol of baptism?

All in all,Paul makes the reference in verse 29 to add to his case for the reality of resurrection. It’s weird and sad that cults latch on to a verse in the Bible and run with it to come up with some bizarre practice.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Bible Study, Thoughts from John

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