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Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you. 1 Timothy 4:16

Baptism for the Dead

by Jay McMullan
© 2002

     I recently received an e-mail from a recent convert to Mormonism. I don't think she understood that I am not a Mormon. She asked if I could help her explain how to tell a non-Mormon about baptism for the dead and how she could know God's will for her life. This is how I answered.

Dear *****,

Most people use 1 Corinthians 15:29 to try and prove that baptism for the dead is scriptural:

1 Cor. 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?

     If you take a close look at the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 15, you will see that it deals with the resurrection. The reason it does, is because there was a group of believers in Corinth that had begun to teach that there was no resurrection. Paul explains to them that if there was, in fact no resurrection, then Jesus could not have been resurrected and there would be no hope for us since we would not be resurrected. The church at Corinth, that Paul had established, was a very zealous church however they were in error on many issues. One of those issues was baptism for the dead. Baptism for the dead originated as a pagan ritual. It was a false teaching that the pagans who became believers in Corinth brought into the church. There is a scriptural principal that must be adhered to when you study the Bible.

Every doctrine must be proved by at least two or three scripture references. Here is what Paul said, again speaking to the believers in Corinth:

2 Cor. 13:1
This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.

     There is absolutely no other scripture in the Bible that says that baptism for the dead is, or should be an ordinance in the Christian church. Apparently these believers were baptizing for the dead and Paul's reasoning with them was that if there was no resurrection of the dead, why were they baptizing for the dead? They could have very well been giving offerings for the dead as many in the Catholic faith do to keep their deceased loved ones out of purgatory. Again, there is no scriptural basis for purgatory and Paul might have said, "Else, what shall they do which give offerings to keep their loved ones out of purgatory, if the dead rise not at all? Why then are the offerings given?" You see, Paul's point was to simply show that the resurrection of the dead is of paramount importance to us as believers in the Christian faith.

     As for you knowing God's will in your life, Jesus said:

Matthew 6:33
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

     Please let me elaborate on this for a moment. Jesus said, in Mark 1:15, that the Kingdom of God is at hand. That means it is here now. There is a difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Heaven (where God lives). Jesus brought the Kingdom of God with Him when He came to earth. There are certain "Kingdom principles" that we can learn that will bring many blessings to our lives. Also, it is by God's grace and righteousness that we can have a relationship with Jesus. The Bible tells us that there is absolutely nothing we can do to earn or deserve the eternal life that Jesus gives to us when we put our faith and trust in Him. This is one of my favorite scriptures:

Ephes. 2:8-9
For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the free gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

     God chose something that we can all do, for us to receive eternal life. That is to simply have faith in Him. If the charge for eternal life was a million dollars, very many of us would not have eternal life. But God loves us and He made it so that even the simplest of minds can receive eternal life by ONLY having faith! That is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ! Jesus did all the work, we absolutely cannot do anything to make it better. Isaiah said that all of our works or deeds are like filthy rags in God's sight. It is like a King holding out a beautiful and wonderful gift to a beggar that could not possibly earn or deserve that gift! Some people bring up that James said, "Faith without works is dead" not knowing what that means. It simply means that if you have true faith in Jesus Christ, because of that faith, your life will produce Godly works. Faith must come first, then works will always follow but they are not what give us eternal life. On the other hand, a person may very well have good works but without faith. This does not give them eternal life.

     Do these three easy things and I will guarantee you that you will find God's purpose for your life:

1. Put your faith completely in what Jesus did by giving his life freely for our sins and by His resurrection. Don't try to do things to earn your salvation.

2. Read your Bible and study it as often as you can. Don't just take other people's word for what it says. You will be surprised at what God will show you.

3. Pray! There is no secret to prayer. It is simply talking to God like you would to your best friend. Be honest with God, He knows your feelings anyway. As you do this, you will build a relationship with our heavenly Father! Ask Him everyday what He is doing that day and how you can be a part of it.

As you do these things, all of a sudden you will find yourself walking in God's plan and purpose for your life. As you do this, the fruit of the Spirit ( love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance) will grow in your life!

I'm sorry this turned out to be so long but I hope it answers your questions.

In Jesus' mighty and holy name,

Jay McMullan

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