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Bible Questions with Michael Pearl
Episode 030: In 1 Corinthians 15:29, did Paul condone a person being baptized for the dead?

By Michael Pearl

Episode Transcription:

Michael Pearl:  All right. Here we are, the No Greater Joy Ministries. I'm Michael Pearl, and we're sitting here to answer some of your Bible questions. What's the first one, Jared?

Jared:  Could you please explain I Corinthians 15:29? It seems as though Paul is contradicting the teachings of Christ.

Michael:  OK. Paul in another instance quoted a heathen philosopher. Paul wasn't abashed about resorting to contemporary views to make a point, and the point here that he was making was concerning resurrection. There were lots of people who doubted resurrection. Even among the Jews, there were those who doubted the resurrection. The Sadducees didn't believe in a resurrection. And so Paul is arguing that there is a resurrection of the dead. That's a general argument. In the process of doing that, if you look at the first part of the chapter he talks about Christ died, buried, and rose again. And then in verse 21 of chapter 15 of I Corinthians he says, "Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all died, even so in Christ shall all be made alive, every man after his own order."

See, he's talking about the overall issue of resurrection. And then he says verse 24: "The end will come. The kingdom of God will be delivered up to Christ, and he will reign 'til he put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy shall be destroyed is death" and so forth.

And skipping on down for the sake of time, he says, "And all things" verse 28 "shall be subdued unto him. Then shall the son himself also be subject to him that put all things under his feet that God may be all in all, 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?"

Now, he's answering the question of those who charge that the dead won't rise. Now here's his argument. If the dead don't rise, why are they baptized for the dead? In other words, someone was experiencing a baptism on behalf of‑‑like a proxy baptism‑‑for someone who was already dead. He said if these people don't believe in a resurrection, why are they baptizing for the dead?

So obviously, the people who were baptizing for the dead were not Christians. In other words, they were not believers. They may have been some Jews. Baptism was a practice that didn't begin with Christianity, of course. It was practiced by the Jews.

Like the Qumran community there, you'll find these pools where they had a daily baptismal ritual cleansing, so it was a common practice‑‑not something invented by John the Baptist. So there were Jews every day who went through these baptismal rites‑‑baptismal purification ceremonies.

So it's not his view that someone should be baptized for the dead. He's arguing against someone who holds an improper view of resurrection, that there is no resurrection. He's saying if they don't believe there's a resurrection, why are they baptizing for dead?

He's pointing out the inconsistency of their logic indicating that they in fact probably do believe in a resurrection. Otherwise, they wouldn't be baptizing for the dead. And then he has another argument. He says, "And why stand we" as opposed to them "in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing, which I have in Jesus Christ our Lord. I die daily."

Then he talks about how he suffers attacks by wild beasts. Apparently, Paul fought [laughs] on the side. He says, "I fought with a beast in Ephesus." Now Ephesus was known to be one of the big centers of gladiators and arenas where they had put people in with wild beasts.

Apparently Paul got stuck in an arena with a wild animal when he was in Ephesus, and he had to fight the animal to survive. This is not about your question, but I came across it. And Paul must have won. [laughs] So this Christian killed himself a lion or a tiger or a bear or something else in an arena to survive. It's something a lot of people overlook, but I think that's the case.

OK. [claps] The baptism. Yeah, it wasn't a Christian baptism. It was a heathen baptism of someone who didn't believe in a resurrection that he made this argument.

Announcer:  If you would like to ask a Bible question, email us at [email protected] or call at 931‑805‑4820.

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