What is the Baptism for the Dead?
Paul wrote some very interesting words in I Corinthians 15:29. Do you know what they mean? "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?"
What is the baptism for the dead?
Ask a Mormon, and they will tell you with great zeal. They believe you can be baptized underground in a Mormon temple to save your dead relatives.
Since Joseph Smith invented Mormon baptism around 1840, those who died before that time could not be saved. To keep his followers happy, he also invented baptism for the dead. Living Mormons go to a temple and are baptized for dead relatives, thus connecting them to Mr. Smith for salvation.
Bible believers know that this explanation is ridiculous in every aspect.
But what is the baptism for the dead?
What did Paul mean?
I Corinthians 15 is the Bible's resurrection chapter. Paul used the chapter to correct false teaching at Corinth that there was no resurrection of the dead.
Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? I Corinthians 15:12
He gave several arguments to convince them, from eyewitness accounts of Christ's resurrection (15:3-8) to the vanity of faith without it (15:14-19).
After describing our Lord's victory over death as the second Adam (15:20-28), Paul uses a couple practical arguments to persuade the Corinthians.
He first appeals to their baptism by immersion. And if you do not believe in immersion, this verse will be a mystery to you. No Catholic or Presbyterian can come close to explaining it reasonably within the doctrine of Scripture. Read their commentaries on this text for some spiritual entertainment.
The Bible plainly teaches that baptism shows a likeness with Christ's burial and resurrection (Rom 6:3-5), involves both parties down in the water (Acts 8:38-39), requires much water (John 3:23), and is a figure or symbolic picture of resurrection (I Peter 3:21). Bible baptism is only by immersion.
Since baptism is a picture of death and resurrection, Paul asks the church at Corinth why they continued to practice immersion. If there was no resurrection of the dead, as some were teaching, why were they baptized in a picture of resurrection?
The key to the verse is the middle clause, "if the dead rise not at all." By denying the resurrection, the Corinthians had removed the glorious figure of baptism. They had reduced it to a mere picture of death, without any hope of a future resurrection.
Rather than teaching Joseph Smith's fantasy of underground baptisms for dead relatives, this verse teaches the glorious hope of the resurrection by the symbolic picture of baptism.
Paul, by the Spirit, made a powerful practical argument by using the figure of speech called ellipsis - which removes words to add force to the sentence. He reasoned that continuing to practice baptism by immersion required faith in the resurrection. Let us add the ellipsis back to see his argument.
Else what shall they do which are baptized for THE RESURRECTION OF the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for THE RESURRECTION OF the dead?
Let God be true, but every man a liar. The Mormon doctrine of baptism for the dead is a lie, and I Corinthians 15:29 teaches baptism by immersion and its glorious picture of our faith in the resurrection.