Baptized For The Dead -- By: E. St. G. Baldwin

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 074:294 (Apr 1917)
Article: Baptized For The Dead
Author: E. St. G. Baldwin


Baptized For The Dead

E. St. G. Baldwin

Toronto, Ont.

1 Cor. 15:29

In the International Critical Commentary it is stated that thirty-six interpretations of the phrase “baptized for the dead “have been given; three are discussed as to their respective merits, and one is selected as the best that has as yet been suggested. It reads as follows: —

“Persons previously inclined to Christianity sometimes ended in being baptized out of affection or respect for the dead, i.e. because some Christian relation or friend had died, earnestly desiring and praying for their conversion. Such might reasonably be designated as those who receive baptism on behalf of the dead.”

It might, I think, well be asked what proof is there that such a practice existed so early in the history of the church, that Paul should have referred to it; and if no such evidence has come down to us this exegesis may be set aside as unsatisfactory. This explanation, in common with all others I have seen, is an attempt to arrive at the meaning of the sentence as though it stood alone, with the emphasis laid on baptism; whereas the whole discussion is upon resurrection, and this section (ver. 29–32) is dealing with the subject from the negative side of the case, and demonstrating the futility of both faith and baptism if there be no resurrection.

To understand, then, the meaning of the words “being baptized for the dead,” we must endeavor to see their relation to Paul’s argument; and when we see that relation we will also see, I think, that there is a baptism for the dead that Paul did refer to when writing to the Corinthian deniers of the resurrection, and still refers to to-day when we read his great thesis on the resurrection. To make clear the connection of

verse 29 with the argument, it is necessary to go over from the beginning the Apostle’s statement of his case for the resurrection.

This section of the Apostle’s letter was written to those who were members of the church at Corinth, who had doubtless confessed their faith in Christ by being baptized, but who were now saying that there was no resurrection of the dead. In answer Paul first recapitulates briefly what he had preached to them as the gospel, mentioning many, from Cephas the first to himself the last, who had been eyewitnesses of the risen Lord. Then, asking, “How say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” he proceeds, first of all, to give them the reason why the Lord Jesus rose; and so important does he deem this reason, so fundamen...

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