The ordinance of Christian water baptism by immersion is a beautiful picture of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Lowering a person under water symbolizes the death and burial of Jesus. Raising a person up out of the water symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus.
Christian water baptism by immersion is also a very accurate picture of what happens when a person is truly saved or born again. Lowering a person under water symbolizes the death and burial of that person’s old self (that person’s old sinful ways). Raising a person up out of the water symbolizes the resurrection of that person to a new life in Christ (a new Christ-directed life). Paul said, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new” (II Cor. 5:17). This change is part of the evidence of salvation.
There were some at Corinth and other places who didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead. The Epicureans, the Sadducees and the Stoics were among them. Paul responded by asking, “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” (I Cor. 15:12-13). Paul was saying, “Think it through. If there is no resurrection of the dead, Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead so He is still dead.”
Dropping down to verse 29, Paul asked two more questions that have mystified multitudes and caused a lot of misunderstanding.Paul asked, “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 are several different interpretations of this and some have wrongly led to the practice of believers being baptized for the dead, a ritual that is still practiced by some cults today.
I personally believe that Paul was saying, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, we shouldn’t raise people up out of the water. If Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, we shouldn’t use a symbol that depicts the resurrection of Jesus. Why baptize people by water immersion? Why baptize people fora Christ who is still dead? Why raise people up out of the water when Christ wasn’t raised up?”
If Christ wasn’t raised from the dead, it would be more appropriate to put people under the water and hold them down. That would more accurately symbolize a dead Christ. The problem with that is nobody would want to be baptized unless it was by sprinkling or pouring and that’s not enough water for many.
In conclusion, it is my opinion that Paul was asking, “If you don’t believe in the resurrection of the dead, why do you baptize people for a dead Christ?” He wasn’t promoting baptism for the dead. He was promoting the resurrection of Jesus. He even went on to declare that “Christ is risen” (I Cor. 15:20). So it is right to believe in a resurrected Christ (not a dead Christ), to raise people up out of the water and to live that Christ-directed life, but it is wrong to baptize people for the dead. That is a waste of time and effort.
Prophecy Plus Ministries
Daymond & Rachel Duck