A perplexing verse in Paul’s letter to his friends in Corinth mentions being baptized for dead people. What in the world does this mean? It sounds heretical.
Can we be baptized for dead people? Well, I suppose so, but we shouldn’t expect it to accomplish anything. Should we be baptized for dead people? No.
Though the meaning of this verse is unclear—and I won’t attempt to clarify it—we should keep two things in mind:
First, it is likely a reference to an issue confronting only the church in Corinth since it is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. Though we don’t know the background for this particular issue, we do know the Corinthian church had many issues, with this being one of them.
Let’s not make this our issue by adopting their misguided practice. After all, they had many unwise practices.
Second, and most importantly, is that Paul shares this procedure in a descriptive manner. He is simply describing something other people are doing. Paul does not command we do this; he does not recommend we do this; and he does not model this.
If we did everything the Bible described, we’d be a sorry lot. Instead let’s look at what the Bible commands. That will keep us busy for a long time.
Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.