Views from the Pew – Baptized for the Dead

What did you learn from last week’s sermon?

Q1: Were the people in the Corinthian church struggling with Christ’s resurrection or their own resurrection?

Q2: What happens to our fear of death when we have a sure hope of a future resurrection?

Q3: Is it accurate to say that baptism wouldn’t make any sense to us if we didn’t have a sure hope of a future resurrection?

Q4: What is the sole purpose of baptism?

Q5: Is baptism commanded by Christ or simply an option after salvation when you are ready?

Q6: Other than to be with Christ, what is a huge motivator (to Paul & us) to be baptized?

Sermon Summary & Answers

We are nearing the end of our time with Paul in 1 Corinthians. The Corinthians were questioning the hope of a future resurrection for themselves. Chapter 15 gives Paul’s proofs of Christ’s resurrection and our certain resurrection as promised and purposed in the Gospel and the Old Testament. If these two resurrections are not true, our faith is entirely in vain, our sins would not be forgiven, and we would be dead (forever). We would not have any present hope. That’s pitiful. When we couple this hope with the knowledge that death will be abolished by Christ during the end times, we inevitably see the fear of death, which all men have ABOLISHED as well (1 Cor. 15: 23-26).

Hebrews 2:14-15
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

Why would you fear death if you knew that you would not really die but just fall asleep for a short time? Then you would be instantly transported to be with the most extraordinary person who ever lived, with full knowledge of all your secret sins and loves you anyway. So much so that He literally allowed Himself to be tortured. He died at the hands of evil men, paying the necessary penalty for believer’s sins. This is immense relief, joy, and hope that starts first with Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, but it doesn’t end there. We then have our resurrection – our final and absolute freedom from death and ever committing any more sins against our precious and perfect God.

So, with this hope of resurrection in view, Paul points out three ordinary matters of Christian living that wouldn’t make any sense to us without this specific hope. The first item is baptism. Pastor Wilson will cover the next two in subsequent sermons.

1 Corinthians 15:29
Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?

Pastor Wilson points out that this is one of the most challenging passages in scripture. But, fortunately, the brightest brains in Christendom have narrowed it down to forty viable translations that don’t conflict with orthodox Christian doctrine. Yikes!

The phrase “baptized for the dead” is strange to us. So, what is the “for the dead” referring to? We know it doesn’t mean being baptized for someone else (like in cults). We get baptized “for” identification as Christ-followers to the church as a whole. So, baptism is not for salvation. It isn’t a cathartic experience for ourselves; it’s for notice to other believers who will not ever be permanently “dead.” We are commanded to do baptism as an outward sign for other fully alive-forever believers. What would be the point of this eternally cleansing symbolism if it were just for a short lifetime to other soon-to-be-dead people? Baptism makes no sense unless you understand we have a future resurrection.

Baptism was so common to the early church that believers didn’t walk around saying, “I got saved.” Instead, they would say, “I’ve been baptized,” which naturally meant that they’d already been converted/saved. Baptism was their ID card into Christendom. It was commanded by Christ (Matthew 28:19-20) and quite unthinkable to not obey. Imagine being introduced to Paul and saying, “Oh no, I haven’t been baptized yet, I’ve just been saved.” [market place goes deathly silent – crickets] He might ask you (with brow tilted), “Then why won’t you obey the Christ you say has saved you from death and identify with His body? You are either in-Christ or you are in-the-world. Look down, that fence you are riding is Hell’s gate” Sorry if I overstate. I just imagine Paul would pull no punches when it comes to your eternal soul (Romans 9:1-4). Other than Christ, one of his strongest motivators for salvation and baptism was being reunited with other believers (1 Thessalonians 2:19–20). That doesn’t mean he loves people over Christ. It just amplifies the unity he feels we all have in Christ – that’s a good thing. That’s real family!

Ephesians 4:4–6
There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism [all of us in-Christ], one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 2:19-22
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens [officially identified] with the saints, and are of God’s household,

There are no secret agents in the body of Christ, nor in heaven. No one who is saved should lack being identified as His. Baptism is an act of obedience.

“I think Paul chooses baptism here to focus us on the union it brings between us and the saints – – the saved and the community of the saved – – That union – – is not permanently severed at death – – no, there is, because of the resurrection, the promise of a RE-UNION [1 Thess. 2:17-18]… right? A reunion with those who have died – – that is a strong motivation for our own conversion and testimony of baptism.”

Pastor Steve Wilson

We are baptized to benefit those living in Christ because we have the sure hope of a future resurrection! Paul served to teach us this in all of his writings. He loved Christ and longed for all to come to Christ. That, in turn, manifested his love for those identified in Christ. Flat out, Paul loved the church just as any Christian does. Pastor Wilson bravely points out that you might not be a Christian if you struggle with a desire to fellowship with your fellow Christians.

“Or – – perhaps you are a Christian and you are letting the devil have his way with you – – urging you, tempting you – – always offering you a reason not to be with [or identified with] those who share your faith.”

Pastor Steve Wilson

Now, reread it….

1 Corinthians 15:29
Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?

Does it make sense now?

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  1. Their own resurrection
  2. We lose our fear of death
  3. Yes
  4. To let other believers know that you belong to the body of Christ.
  5. It is commanded by Christ for immediate action
  6. Being reunited with other believers