Baptism for the Dead

In 1 Corinthians 15 there is a mention of baptism for the dead.  It seems that those who lived in Corinth were currently being baptised for the dead.  This could mean (1) That living believers were being baptised for believers who had died before they could be baptised (2) Christians were being baptised in anticipation of the resurrection of the dead (3)  New converts were being baptised to replace those who had died (NIV Study Bible).  Although I think that it is strange, I am inclined to think that #1 is true.  The next question is why don’t people do this today?  The thrust of Paul’s argument is about a resurrected life.  His point is that people obviously believe in eternal life when they are baptised for those who are living in it.  He is not condoning the practice.

Why is this important?  Some churches do baptise for the dead.  I think they should stop.

1 Corinthians 15: 20-34

20But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27For he “has put everything under his feet.”[c] Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

 29Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 30And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31I die every day—I mean that, brothers—just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised,
   “Let us eat and drink,
      for tomorrow we die.”[d] 33Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 34Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.


  1. What has happened to Christ that makes him the firstfruit of those who have fallen asleep?
  2. Summarize the contrast between Adam and Christ?
  3. What pronouns does Paul use for baptizers of the dead contrasted with those who are endangered every hour?
  4. How does resurrection from the dead bring boldness?
  5. How does the company that you keep affect your view of the afterlife?

Going Deeper

Using Wikipedia as a starting point, investigate the Baptism of the Dead.  Who does it?  What does it achieve?  Why do you think evangelical Christians do not do it?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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