In 1 Corinthians 15:29, Paul declares, “Now 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?” From this passage of Scripture, one could surmise that Paul was affirming the existence of baptism for the dead. The concept of baptism for the dead does not align with Paul’s theology; therefore, why does Paul even mention it? Is there actually baptism for the dead?
Is There Baptism for the Dead?
This is a difficult concept to understand as it is not biblical and many biblical commentators are unsure of the exact meaning of baptism for the dead. The overall consensus of baptism for the dead is that it is believed that a living person can be baptized in place of a loved one who has passed away in order for the deceased individual to obtain salvation.
By the living person making a statement of the profession of faith for the deceased individual, it is supposed to entail that the deceased individual has now been “baptized” and ultimately “saved.” The origin of this concept seems to have been started with pagan practices in Ancient Greece. Sadly, this concept is still being taught among cults today, such as the Church of the Latter-day Saints, formerly known as Mormonism.
There is no avoiding the fact that Paul mentions the concept of baptism for the dead in his famous discussion of the resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-58). Paul is not affirming this erroneous belief, but rather, Paul is pointing out this belief in conjunction with his overall main topic — the resurrection of Christ.
The Corinthian church had been practicing baptism for the dead even though this is not a true biblical practice. Salvation is only obtained by placing faith in Christ when a person is still alive (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:28). Once a person has passed away, there are no second chances.
We are all given one life to live, and we each have to choose personally whether or not we will accept Jesus as our Savior. Placing faith in Jesus is a personal decision that each person has to make for themselves. Just like you cannot place faith in Jesus for me, I cannot place faith in Jesus for you.
Many Christians struggle with knowing that many of their loved ones have not placed faith in Jesus, but we cannot place faith for them. Every person has to freely place faith in Jesus on their own. We can pray for our loved ones to know Christ, but we cannot force them to accept Him nor can we place faith for them.
Likewise, after a person dies, we cannot undergo “baptism for the dead” in order to provide salvation for a dead loved one. If an unbeliever dies, they will not go to be with God in Heaven. Due to our sins, each person who does not trust in Jesus for salvation will go to hell when they die.
Once a person passes away, there is nothing we can do to warrant that individual to obtain salvation. The best thing we can do to help our loved ones who are not believers is to pray for them and to continue to tell them the gospel.
The concept of being baptized for the dead is not biblical and Paul is not endorsing the idea by mentioning it in this passage of Scripture. Paul does not approve of the practice of “baptism for the dead;” rather, he is connecting it back to the resurrection.
In other words, Paul is saying, “Why would anyone be baptized for the dead if Christ was not resurrected?” Paul was utilizing this false belief that the Corinthians were practicing pointing to the bigger issue at hand, which was his discourse on the resurrection.
Are There Present-Day Practices?
As previously mentioned, the Church of the Latter-day Saints still practices baptism for the dead. They base this practice on the misinterpretation of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:29. This is not surprising due to the fact that the Church of the Latter-day Saints endorses many practices that have no biblical proof nor biblical grounds.
The Church of the Latter-day Saints is a cult and believers need to abstain from practices utilized in this cult, such as the idea of baptism for the dead. Baptism for the dead is not true as the Bible never tells us that individuals can be baptized for the dead.
As much as many believers wish they could save their lost loved ones who have passed away, we simply cannot. Each individual has to make their own decision while they are alive if they are going to trust in Jesus for salvation or not.
It is depressing to know that many of our loved ones have passed away without trusting in Jesus, but we cannot do anything to help them obtain salvation now. God is full of mercy and love; however, He is also holy, righteous, and true. “For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face” (Psalm 11:7).
God has given each of us the chance to obtain salvation by placing faith in Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17).
He desires all people to be saved, including your loved ones (1 Timothy 2:4). Since God has freely shown us what we must do to inherit salvation, we should all turn to God and accept His free gift of salvation by placing faith in Jesus.
Why Does This Matter?
Once we die, we will not get a second chance. Nobody will be able to participate in baptism for the dead for us after we die because baptism for the dead will not save a person.
Baptism for the dead is taught within several false belief systems, which means this practice should not be practiced among believers. There is no salvation apart from an individual person personally placing faith in Jesus by believing that He died for their sins, was buried, and rose again.
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).