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Monday, August 21, 2006

I Corinthians 15 Verse 29, I Peter 3 Verse 19, and I Peter 4 Verse 6

We recently received a letter that cited I Peter 3:19 and I Peter 4:6. It didn't cite 1 Corinthians 15:29, but it could have.

So do these verses say that we should be baptizing dead people?

The I Corinthians verse falls within the context of verses discussing the resurrection - namely, 1 Cor 15:12-34. In essence, Paul is saying that if the Corinthians believe that there is no resurrection of the dead, then how can Christ have raised from the dead? In the process of this argument, but before verse 29, Paul says the following:


1 Corinthians 15:18-19 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.



This statement, taken out of context, does not mean that we are lost. It means that if we do not believe in resurrection of the dead, then we are lost. Yet I'm certain that there's some anti-Christian group that claims that the Bible "proves" that Christians are lost.

Now let's look at verse 29:


1 Corinthians 15:29 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

29Now 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?



It's interesting to note that Paul uses the third person plural here, which gives a clue about what's going on. Paul didn't say "...what will we do who are baptized for the dead?" There's no verse that records anything about Paul baptizing for the dead.

This statement, taken out of context, does not mean that we should baptize for the dead. It means that if we do not believe in resurrection of the dead, then it's ridiculous for third parties to baptize for the dad. Yet I'm certain that there's some anti-Christian group that claims that the Bible "proves" that we should baptize the dead.

Let's move on to I Peter 3:19, which speaks of preaching "to the spirits in prison." The surrounding verses, 13 through 22, happen to speak of baptism and resurrection. But they also speak a lot about suffering for doing good. Right before verse 19, Peter says the following:


1 Peter 3:18 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

18For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,



Christ died for sins once for all? Interesting.

But let's take a peek at I Peter 4:6, which says that the gospel was preached to the dead. Or does it?


1 Peter 4:6 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

6For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.



But if you always use the King James Version, you might read something slightly different:


1 Peter 4:6 (King James Version)
King James Version (KJV)
Public Domain

6For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.



Yet even the KJV distinguishes between the preaching of the gospel (past tense) and the state of the persons as dead (present tense).

So if Peter isn't talking about preaching to dead people, then what is he talking about?


1 Peter 4:1-6 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

1Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. 2As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 3For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. 5But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.



One way to sum this up is to say that Christians are done with sin, and sin no longer has a hold on us. Assurance of salvation and everything else falls into this pot.

It can also be noted that the gospel is preached, people die, and then they are judged. The implications of this would require a much larger study.

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