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?
The baptized for the dead mean all those persons who, saved from a world of sin, from Pagan ignorance, and from the power of Satan, passed through the ordinance of initiatory baptism, there to fill the places and to carry on the work of the dead martyrs, as fresh soldiers fill the ranks of those who are slain in battle. What shall they do? Secular motives for such a profession they had none. What must be their disappointment if the hopes of spiritual recompense were delusive? This method of interpretation suggests —
I. THAT THE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST ARE ALWAYS DESCRIBED AS A PECULIAR PEOPLE.
1. They are separated from the world — "I have chosen you out of the world." The duty such a separation involves is manifest.
2. They are avowedly united one to another — in the fellowship of holy love. We much neglect our duty and our privilege if we neglect or refuse such communion with the people of God.
3. They form an organised and well connected body, in which every member has his proper place and office. The Church is likened to a kingdom, a house, a body, an army.
II. THAT THE INDIVIDUAL DISCIPLES OF CHRIST ARE FREQUENTLY REMOVED, AND THEIR PLACES RENDERED VACANT BY DEATH. The ranks of Christ's army are constantly being thinned. When the text was written many lost them through the bitterness of persecution. But the ordinary causes of death still exist. The best must die.
1. We see vacant places in the leadership; ministers, rulers, governors must lay down their authority.
2. We see vacant places among the rank and file. Our beloved companions are called away one after another, and our own turn must soon arrive.
III. THAT GOD ALWAYS WILL RAISE UP OTHERS TO TAKE THE PLACE OF THOSE WHO ARE REMOVED. The Church of Christ is unchangeable and lasting as the throne of God, and, as such, neither can the gates of hell prevail against it, nor the change of time affect its constitution, nor the deaths of its individual members occasion its dissolution. It may suffer a temporary eclipse by the loss of its brightest ornaments, but it is never abandoned, and others soon rise to take the place of those gone before, The whole history of the past is a living commentary on this truth.
IV. THAT THE PROSPECT OF THE RESURRECTION TO A FUTURE LIFE IS THE CONSOLING ELEMENT IN ALL THE CHANGES OF THE PRESENT. If it were not for this prospect all else would be utter loss. "Else what shall they do who are baptized for the dead, if Christ had not become the first-fruits of them that slept?" All their labour would have been in vain and their duty lost.
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?