Baptism for the dead

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					Pleasant Valley
Church of Christ

    3317 Amidon
  Wichita KS 67204                “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;
  (316) 838-4195                  they shall mount up with wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31)

                                                                    December 20, 2009

    of Services             Baptism for the dead
        Sunday              by David King
Classes . . . . . 9:30 am
Worship . . . . 10:30 am
Evening . . . . . 6:00 pm       “Otherwise, what will they do who are bap-     why are they baptized?” Paul is not describing
                            tized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at     something that he or the Corinthians practiced.
                            all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?”     Rather, it is some other group that performs
Classes . . . . . 7:30 pm
                            (1 Cor. 15:29).                                    this kind of baptism. Throughout this chapter,
                                This is the only passage in the New            Paul consistently uses the pronouns “we” or
                            Testament that mentions baptism for the dead.      “you” (v. 17, 19). But suddenly here he switch-
         Elders             Paul appears to describe it as an actual prac-     es to “they.” Why?
David King . . 744-9069
                            tice but provides no other information, so we          Corinth was located just a few miles from
Steve Wright . 777-4393
                            are left to wonder what he was referred to.        the town of Eleusia, which was the home of an
        Deacons             For centuries commentators have struggled to       ancient religion known as the Eleusinian
Dan Mason . . 684-3109
Keith Miller . . 618-1669   explain it. According to one review of the sub-    Mysteries. The Mysteries were probably the
Frank Neal . . 744-0022     ject I read recently, there are over two hun-      dominant religious movement of the day, cer-
Kent Schlosser 744-1404
                            dred different interpretations.                    tainly in Greece. One of the rituals practiced by
       Evangelist               The most natural interpretation is some        the followers of this religion was baptism in the
Eric Hamilton 213-5686      kind of proxy baptism, in which a person is        nearby Aegean Sea, performed at the autum-
                            baptized in behalf of a dead relative or friend.   nal equinox. There is some evidence that these
                            This is the view taken by the Mormons, in par-     worshippers practiced a form of baptism for the
                            ticular. While grammatically appropriate, this     dead (Orphic Fragment 245).
  The Pleasant Valley       approach suffers from a complete lack of cor-          Remember that Paul’s objective in this
  Church of Christ is a     roborating evidence in the New Testament, as       chapter is to defend the Christian doctrine of
   group of believers       well as contradicting everything we know about     the resurrection. Paul is making an argument
 who are committed to       baptism as a personal decision tightly linked to   based on the Corinthians’ existing knowledge
 following Jesus in our
                            one’s own faith and repentance (Ac. 2:38).         of a pagan religion. He is not legitimizing the
attitudes, our relation-
ships, and our worship.         Others adopt unusual definitions of the        pagan religion or ritual. Rather, he is using it as
 If you want the same       phrase “for the dead” to find the meaning. For     a means of reinforcing the reasonableness of a
    thing in your life,
   please contact us.       example, some suggest Paul is referring to         belief in the resurrection. Even the pagans rec-
    We’d like to help.      those who are baptized “in view of their own       ognize a future life; their practice of proxy bap-
                            impending death,” or those who are baptized        tism proves it. So why should his teaching of a
                            “to take the place of the fallen martyrs,” or      future resurrection be so hard to believe?
Unless otherwise noted,     those who are baptized “in response to the             In conclusion, baptism for the dead was
all scripture quotations
are from the New King       death of Christ.” All these interpretations get    indeed a form of proxy baptism, known to the
 James Version Bible,       credit for cleverness, but they are obviously      audience for whom Paul was writing. But it was
     Thomas Nelson
                            stretched too thin to be credible.                 a practice of the pagans of that day, not the
                                The key to unlocking this puzzle is to         Christians. There is no Biblical basis for God’s
                            notice the pronouns: “what will they do . . .      people today to practice it.