FUTURE – PROOFED
Lord, each day is a precious gift and my desire is to be a responsible steward. I rejoice in this new day.
Read 1 CORINTHIANS 15:25-34
25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.”[a] Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.
29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised,
“Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.”[b]
33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”[c] 34 Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Facing a task unfinished that drives us to our knees.’1
It would be easy to emulate Superman and leap over verse 29 with a single bound, but I promised not to duck the difficult issues, so here goes. What is baptism for the dead? The major academic commentary on 1 Corinthians considers in depth thirteen different understandings, reckoned to be the most important.2 Yet this is really only the tip of the iceberg, since many more solutions have been proposed. The phrase most probably refers to some form of proxy baptism: baptism on behalf of the dead (NRSV) is probably a better translation. Some have nuanced this idea by suggesting that a person may have made a deathbed confession of Christ. There was no time to baptize them, so someone else underwent the rite in their place. But this is speculative.
What are we to make of this? We should be clear that Paul doesn’t support the practice, he merely notes that it happens in Corinth – a church that, for all its Spirit-filled life, is riddled with issues of belief and behavior. Does he perhaps pass over it because he has more important things to tackle and can leave this one until he visits them? For the sake of clarity, I strongly urge readers of these notes not to be baptized for the dead! What such a practice reflects is a yearning for others to experience salvation. However, if someone living cannot be baptized there is no need to fear, as Jesus’ reassurance to the dying thief on the cross vividly demonstrates.3 The yearning for others to be saved is best met by speaking to them while they can still respond, for it is faith in Christ rather than proxy baptism which counts. All who truly trust in Christ will be saved. As this chapter demonstrates so wonderfully, the death and resurrection of Jesus guarantee it.
Bring before God in prayer particular people who you long to see trust in Christ. Be ready to be God’s answer to your prayer and take the gospel to them.
Dear Lord, this is such a difficult passage to understand, So often I need your illumination to understand your Word. Today I ask for clarity.
1 FM Houghton, ‘Facing a Task Unfinished’, 1930 2 Antony C Thiselton, 1 Corinthians [Greek Text], Paternoster, 2000, p1240–1249 3 Luke 23:43
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