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Let’s read that portion.  1 Corinthians 15:29-30 says, “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?  And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?”  This entire chapter deals with the certainty and importance of Christ’s resurrection.  Let’s notice that 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 is a parenthetical phrase dealing with the importance of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  Verse 29 is where Paul picks up his thought from verse 19.  Let’s read 1 Corinthians 15:19 and 29-30 together.  That says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.  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 deadAnd why stand we in jeopardy every hour?”

Verse 29 is one of the more difficult verses in the scriptures.  There have been many explanations for this verse, including the practice of being baptized for the benefit of those who have passed away without having been baptized.  This thought is against the truth of the scriptures.  First, we need to understand that baptism is the way for the believer to show to the world that he has identified himself with the Lord in His death, burial, and resurrection as we read in Romans 6:3-6, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”  Salvation does not depend on our being baptized.  Baptism is an act of obedience by one who is already saved.  I cannot be baptized in the place of someone else to declare his identification with the Lord.  To be baptized for someone after they have passed away benefits no one.  If one is truly saved and is never baptized, that person will still go to be with the Lord when they pass away.

Today, when a new believer is baptized, there is much celebration and encouragement for that new believer.  Typically when there is a baptism, there is a program to encourage the one baptized to continue with a life that honors the Lord.  We love to see a new believer take this step of identifying with the Lord in His death, burial, and resurrection.

In the days of the newly formed church, baptism was entirely different.  When a new believer was baptized, they were in danger of being ostracized by their Jewish kinsman, or even killed.  To stand with Christ was to stand in opposition to those who lived under the law.  Truly, in those days, when someone was baptized, they put their life in danger.

The point Paul is making here is that if Christ was not raised from the dead, we are still in our sins.  Why should others put themselves in danger by being baptized in place of others who had gone to be with the Lord?  The thought is that as some are killed or passed away, others are filling the ranks of baptized believers.  Let’s look again at 1 Corinthians 15:29, “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?”  The word ‘for’ is used twice in this verse.  The Greek word is “Huper”, which can mean ‘instead of or in place of.’  Now, let’s consider this verse in light of the meaning of the word.  We might translate the verse as follows: Else what shall they do which are baptized in place of the dead, if the dead rise not at all?  why are they then baptized in place of the dead?  (87.1)