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?
There is a community of men whose principles, spirit, aim, character, and destiny, distinguish them from every other class of human society. The text presents this Church-world: —
I. AS THINNED BY DEATH — "the dead." The great law of mortality enters this realm. The intelligence, virtues, devotions, and usefulness of this Church-realm, constitute no barrier to the entrance of death. But —
1. He appears here as the messenger of mercy — outside as the officer of justice.
2. He leaves behind him here consolation for the survivors, but outside unmitigated sorrow.
II. AS REPLENISHED BY CONVERSION. By those who are baptized for the dead I understand those who, from Pagan darkness, were converted by the gospel, and were admitted into the visible Church, there to fill up the place of those who, by martyrdom or otherwise, had been called away by death. The new convert then took the place of the departed saint. No sooner is one Christian removed from his station than another is raised up by God to supply the loss. As Joshua succeeded Moses, Elisha Elijah, Eleazer Aaron, so one man is ever raised in the Church to take the place of another. This succession affords a lesson —
1. For humility. The man of most brilliant talents, distinguished position, and extensive usefulness in the Church, has nothing whereof to flatter himself; however important he may be, the Church can do without him. When he fails, others are ready to step into his place, and to be baptized for the dead.
2. For encouragement. God's redemptive plan will go on, whatever happens to individual agents. "He buries His workmen, but carries on His work." Let us learn to trust God rather than His most distinguished servants. The treasure is only in earthern vessels — vessels that must crumble.
III. AS LIVING IN HOPE. This language implies that the hope of a future state, of a resurrection, was a vital thing in the experience of the Church; and so it has ever been, is, and will ever be. The Church lives in hope. It "reckons that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glories that shall be." It is "waiting for the adoption"; it is "looking for the blessed appearing," etc. Paul does not mean, however, that the religion of Christ is of no service to man if there be no future state. Let us answer his two questions.
1. "What shall they do?" We venture to reply, not renounce religion, but continue faithful for ever. Should there be no future, Christian virtue is good. You will lose nothing by it should you be annihilated: you will not feel even the disappointment, but you will gain immensely by it, even in the present life. "Godliness is profitable unto all things."
2. "Why are they then baptized?" We answer, because the claims of religion are independent of the future state. Were there no heaven, no hell, we should be bound to be truthful, honest, benevolent, God loving, etc.
(D. Thomas, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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?