What does it mean to be “baptized for the dead?”


Could you please explain 1 Corinthians 15:29 to me. I am not long saved 21.03.09, and I am a bit confused on this baptism for the dead.


1 Corinthians 15:29 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?”

There have been many unscriptural interpretations of this verse taught. One is that people were getting baptized in the place of those who died, but had never followed the Lord in Believer’s Baptism. That is a similar error to those who believe in “purgatory,” and thus try to do things to “shorten the stay” of their loved ones there. They may try to “do good works” for them to shorten their stay. They may try to “give money to the church” to shorten their torment. They may try to “light candles and pray them out” of purgatory. All of that is in vain, and shows a lack of understanding as to what true salvation is.

No one can get saved for you — either before, or after you die — not your parents; not your friends; not your pastor; etc. It is a personal decision that only you can make. Matthew 16:13-17 says, “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, WHOM DO MEN SAY THAT I THE SON OF MAN AM? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, BUT WHOM SAY YE THAT I AM? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”

There is no way to “be obedient in the place of” someone who has not been. You cannot erase anyone’s sin in the sight of God, by trying to “be good” in their place — or by offering to “be punished” in their place. Moses offered to be punished along with the lost, if God would not forgive them, but God told him, “No,” it does not work that way. Exodus 32:30-33 says, “And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the LORD; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin. And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, IF THOU WILT FORGIVE THEIR SIN–; AND IF NOT, BLOT ME, I PRAY THEE, OUT OF THY BOOK WHICH THOU HAST WRITTEN. And THE LORD SAID UNTO MOSES, WHOSOEVER HATH SINNED AGAINST ME, HIM WILL I BLOT OUT OF MY BOOK.”

The lost and disobedient must be punished for their own sin. Ezekiel 18:20 says, “THE SOUL THAT SINNETH, IT SHALL DIE. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE RIGHTEOUS SHALL BE UPON HIM, and THE WICKEDNESS OF THE WICKED SHALL BE UPON HIM.” The only exception to this is if they receive the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on their behalf. 1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” Romans 5:6-9 says, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” Romans 5:10-19 says, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”

In regard to trying to get baptized for someone who died and was never baptized, there is a two-fold error there. First, that shows a wrong understanding of baptism. Many false religions teach that a person must be baptized to be saved. That is false. A person cannot Scripturally get baptized until he is already saved. Acts 8:30-39 says, “And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, SEE, HERE IS WATER; WHAT DOTH HINDER ME TO BE BAPTIZED? And Philip said, IF THOU BELIEVEST WITH ALL THINE HEART, THOU MAYEST. And he answered and said, I BELIEVE THAT JESUS CHRIST IS THE SON OF GOD. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and HE BAPTIZED HIM. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.”

If a person is saved, but dies before he is baptized, that does not mean that he cannot go to heaven. They dying, repentant thief on the cross had Jesus’ word on it that he was going to heaven — and there was no way for him to get baptized before he died — he was hanging on a cross. Luke 23:39-43 says, “And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And JESUS SAID UNTO HIM, Verily I say unto thee, TO DAY SHALT THOU BE WITH ME IN PARADISE.” Paradise is the same place as the third heaven, where God’s presence and people dwell. 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 says, “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one CAUGHT UP TO THE THIRD HEAVEN. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was CAUGHT UP INTO PARADISE, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” So the dying, repentant thief was going to be in paradise or heaven that very day that he died. It was not possible for him to be baptized, and Jesus did not instruct any believer there watching to get baptized in his place.

Another unscriptural interpretation is that Christians had begun the practice of getting baptized in the name of deceased brothers or sisters in the Lord, and were carrying on in their names. The Bible shows that teaching is in error. Ephesians 4:4-6 says, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, ONE BAPTISM, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” We are to get baptized ONE TIME — not several. Please see the Baptism Bible Course for an explanation of the only time a person should ever be re-baptized, if he was not truly saved the first time, etc.

No one should ever get baptized in the name of another person. 1 Corinthians 1:11-17 says, “For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; LEST ANY SHOULD SAY THAT I HAD BAPTIZED IN MINE OWN NAME. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.”

Then what does 1 Corinthians 15:29 mean? “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 meaning is very clear. “If there is no resurrection, then why are you getting baptized, because it pictures, DEATH, BURIAL, and RESURRECTION.”

1 Corinthians 15:12-20 says, “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.”

The whole passage is teaching the importance of the resurrection, and then it simply refers to how even baptism itself shows forth the truth that there is a resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:29 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?” It is saying, “Why get baptized if there is no resurrection, because that is exactly what baptism pictures.”

When we get baptized, it shows a picture of what has happened in our lives. We have repented of our sin, and by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ are endeavoring to rise up and live a new life in Christ. We are associating with His death, burial, and resurrection. Romans 6:1-13 says, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 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. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.”