Baptism for the Dead and Other Problems

Part of Paul’s logic in favor of resurrection life involved a curious statement about baptism for the dead.

1 Corinthians 15.29Otherwise, what will those people do who receive baptism on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

Where did such a strange belief originate and why did resurrection deniers embrace it?

Even though Greco-Roman paganism did not place much stress on a blessed afterlife, they were intent on honoring deceased family members.

— They offered sacrifices to the dead.

— They ate meals in dining areas that were near the tombs of the dead.

— There was a practice of baptism in bull’s blood for the welfare of the emperor.

Paul did not elaborate on what was meant by “baptism on behalf of the dead.” It is assumed that some Christians were baptized for the sake of deceased loved ones who had not been baptized before death.

Paul doesn’t satisfy our curiosity about this practice. He simply uses the practice as another argument in favor of resurrection life.

He was arguing in effect, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, why bother with this practice?”

The Man and His Message

An old saying that “a man is his message” is very true for Paul. He backed up his convictions with the way he lived his life.

1 Corinthians 15.30-32And why are we putting ourselves in danger every hour?

I die every day! That is as certain, brothers and sisters, as my boasting of you — a boast that I make in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If with merely human hopes I fought with wild animals at Ephesus, what would I have gained by it? If the dead are not raised,

“Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.”

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he enumerated the trials he experienced.

2 Corinthians 11.24-28Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning.

Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters;

In toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked.

And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches.

The scar tissue on Paul’s back was a testimony to his devotion to Jesus. The callouses on his feet told of his love for the gospel.

The struggles in his heart revealed his commitment to Jesus, his mission, and his church.

If the resurrection of Jesus and his followers were not true, Paul would have joined the pleasure-seekers of the world.

Sober Thinking

Paul concludes his case in favor of resurrection life with two concluding thoughts.

1 Corinthians 15.33-34Do not be deceived:

“Bad company ruins good morals.”

Come to a sober and right mind, and sin no more; for some people have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

(1) Leading members of the church had been overly influenced by their pagan friends.

They apparently did not want to stop eating with them in pagan temples. While there, some of the pagan notions “rubbed off” on them.

Not only did they have wrong beliefs about the resurrection, but they also engaged in unacceptable behavior.

An emphasis on here-and-now pleasure and questioning of resurrection life is the perfect environment for bad behavior.

If it’s “all about me” and “nobody can judge me,” then I am free to oppress and abuse people for my own ends.

The belief that there is an accounting for our deeds in the resurrection should correct our daily attitudes and actions.

(2) A sober and right mind will agree with Paul’s analysis of resurrection life.

It will reject the beliefs of those “who have no knowledge of God.”

Lack of knowledge of God is a “big deal,” according to the prophet Hosea.

Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel;
for the Lord has an indictment against the inhabitants of the land.
There is no faithfulness or loyalty,
and no knowledge of God in the land.
(Hosea 4.1)

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge . . . (Hosea 4.6)

Sober-minded Christians should strive to personally know God, not just know facts about him. They should let the knowledge of God determine the attitudes and actions of their lives.

YouTube Video

Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on YouTube today. It is on the Bob Spradling channel.

Please email your prayer request to or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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