"Baptised for the Dead" 1Cor. 15:29
This verse has puzzled many students of the Bible over time, including the writers, and many commentators have presented as many possible understandings/interpretations as questions, usually leaving conclusions to the readers.
It has been seized upon as proof positive that Baptism (water) is essential for Salvation in Christ, and has been taught and practiced since the early Church in various modes.
There are religious groups that will not allow fellowship of aspiring new members until the ritual of water Baptism in one form or another (either full immersion or symbolic) has been carried out. These groups are spread worldwide, and are most prominent in Western societies. In one incident some years ago, the writer was talking to a Christian street worker handing out Christian Tracts, and was encouraging him in his endeavour. On parting an effort was made to shake his hand, he recoiled, and stated that he could not as he assumed I was unbaptized, as I had been majoring in our discussion on Christ's work only being key to Salvation, and no other factor!
There are hundreds of such concepts abounding, which is very confusing for both serious and genuine Christians, and the public at large, some who use such to denigrate the authenticity of Biblical Scripture!
The rigidity of the water Baptism principle as a "Sacrament" of Salvation has been well established by the Roman Church since AD300, which has become rock hard in the world's religions, and therefore even after the Reformation has carried on into many Protestant Groups. That clear fault, despite the clear vision and statement of Martin Luther: "Salvation is by faith only in Christ Jesus' death on the cross of Calvary"!
The following is taken from an earlier work titled "Baptism"; and is given so as to avoid repetition, before dealing further with "Baptism for the dead".
Baptism is a misunderstood and in the majority of cases misinterpreted concept in the Christian Churches (Christendom) worldwide. Its practitioners (priests, pastors etc.) are almost universally carrying out what they have been taught and directed to do by their Church theologians, (seminaries). Hardly any of them have done an original study themselves of the Word of God to check that their training and teaching conforms with what Scripture teaches. The standard teaching on Baptism would forbid what follows below.
Baptism in Scripture is a word in the English Bible which is exclusive to the New Testament. One word has been used by the translators when in fact others would have been more precise. A study of the New Testament will show that there is comment on various Baptisms i.e. Baptised into Moses, 1Cor. 10:2, and the Apostle Paul talks about not wanting to Baptise in case people considered his Baptism to be different from the ultimate Baptism into the death and Resurrection of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Paul's wisdom showed in that he knew he had been commissioned by Christ to bring understanding to the Jews (if they would take it) and latterly to the Gentiles, that the Baptism into Christ's death vicariously was the one and only way of achieving the Salvation that was being offered by Almighty God.
The figurative Baptism of John, who was the Forerunner, although valid at the moment of John's ministry, was subsequent to the teaching of the Jewish priesthood and went against their teaching; which is why they opposed it vehemently; (the Jewish priesthood had developed their own interpretations of Law, since Ezra, and were misleading and miss-teaching the Jewish people re the Salvation of God, Jewish Scriptures: ).
The reason the Almighty was giving this relatively simple example for the Jewish Nation via John, was to oppose the corrupt teaching which had been developed by the Jewish priesthood. It was also one of the instances in Scripture showing a change in the rules governing God's dealing with His people; and was a figurative water washing to show that the One who followed John (Jesus the Christ), as John had stated "will Baptise with fire and the Holy Spirit" Matt. 3:11.
Some of the different uses of the word Baptism are as follows. Our Lord used the term to relate to His torture, crucifixion, reviling, and bearing the Sin of the world vicariously for all people who would look to Him for their Salvation, in the following verses, Matt. 20:22, Mark 10:38, Luke 12:50 and others.
John the Baptist and his water Baptism is referred to in Matt. 3:6, Mark 1:4, Mark 1:9, Luke 3:3-4 & Luke 7:29.
A reference to Baptism by the Holy Spirit is shown in Mark 1:8.
During the Acts period, when Christ was still on offer to the Jews as their long promised Messiah, their transitional period from Acts 2 which ended at Acts 28:28, has reference to Baptism as follows Acts 10:30-48, Acts 13:24, Acts 18:25 & Acts 19:3-4.
Post Acts 28:28, is the current Age and has been in force since Israel rejected Jesus as Messiah. Our Lord stated "it is finished" and the veil of the Temple was rent from top to bottom, allowing access to the Almighty direct. The current Age has the following references to the act of Baptism. Rom. 6:3-11, Eph. 4:4-5, Col. 2:12-13 & 1Pet. 3:21. This current Age which will end when Israel is again adopted as "My people" (Ammi), allows people to accept the Grace of the Almighty in Christ, in simple trust (which must be true), at which point the person is sealed in Heavenly places, and the Spirit of Christ enters them in an act of occupation, washing (Baptism).
Many so called Christian groups demand an act of Baptism in water as a condition of membership to their group. Others link water Baptism to that of the sincere individual act of Christ conversion as essential to the converted state. There are many variations to this formulation, arrived at by the various Churches over the last two millennia.
The truth is that according to Scripture the individual who sincerely takes Christ into their lives and themselves is already Baptised by the Holy Spirit (of Christ).
The practicality remains, that if a group of true Christians can be found, it is often a good demonstration publicly of the new state of the individual to undergo a water Baptism, but only as a witness to the outside world that the individual has identified themselves with the death and Resurrection of their Lord and Saviour. However, the Enemy as always through men, corrupts the intention in the water Baptism, to reduce and limit the true Baptism which was invisible.
The decision must always be individual as to whether to undergo water Baptism. It is the opinion of the writers where it is undertaken, the individual should be allowed to state verbally what the true Baptism is, and that this water Baptism is only symbolic of that.
When a true Christian is seeking to join a true Bible based grouping, the leadership of that grouping should willingly produce a statement of their teaching on water Baptism, which will give the individual the necessary information for the decision.
So, we have seen that Baptism as a ritual and symbol was introduced by John (the Baptist), the cousin of Jesus, as a call to Israel to repent of sin, and to be washed clean! That was a direct challenge to the ruling group at the time, the Pharisees, who had/have prescribed rituals and procedures to expiate sins, and enforced their controlling power over the Jews! In his work, he referred to "One who is to come", who would "Baptise with the Holy Ghost (Spirit)"!
John had made it clear that Jesus would Baptise with the Holy Spirit. Yet we know that in His life time in the flesh He did no such thing. He did however perform many acts of a supernatural nature (miracles), which confirmed His identity from Old Testament prophecy, as that of the Messiah of Israel. As Messiah (Christ), He was therefore the perfect Sacrifice for sin; in anti-thesis to the fall of Eve and Adam and the anti-thesis to the rebellion of Lucifer! This He undertook at Calvary, rose again on the third day (as per Scripture) and Ascended to the Father in Heaven. Before He died, He had promised His disciples that He would endow them with "power from on high", which He did as shown in Acts 2, and as He had shown His Power in His Miracles, the disciples should have been ready and watching to receive that Power! Just as Peter denied our Lord 3 times, (lacking faith), such was the case with the grieving Jewish disciples, and is the case with the human race now!
It is postulated here, that this is what Paul was dealing with in the Corinthian Church (lack of Truth and faith in that Truth), and specifically his comments regarding 15:29. It is clear from the context that they were keeping bad company and were affected by it. It is also clear that they were "Baptising for the dead" (which is the confusing verse). He reiterates that Salvation is in Christ only 15:12-26. It is probable that they were also becoming/had become confused as to the singular Truth of Christ's Work, and had wrapped together the Baptism they had witnessed in the work of the disciple's, when they Baptised to enable Holy Spirit possession in the Acts period, i.e. pre-Acts 28:25-28, (see above ref's). This is exactly what happened in the post Acts 28:28 period, when the Church fathers (Gentiles) did not adhere to Paul's great understanding, and did not adhere to the clarity he imparted in the seven letters he wrote after Acts 28:28. The most severe of the errors being the Roman Church, and its stipulation that Baptism is one of the 7 "Unction's" essential for Salvation!
When the Holy Spirit (HS) descended in Acts 2, it was at the time of Pentecost in Jerusalem. The Jews who received it were enabled for witness and service as per the promise of Jesus. The Jews were still "Ammi" (Jehovah was still striving with them, to accept Jesus as Messiah), which continued until Acts 28:28. Part of their works as converted Jews was to be enabled for self-improvement, as well as service to their fellow Jews. As is shown in Acts, Paul struggles with the Mosaic Jewish teachings and traditions, and compromise is reached with the Jerusalem Christians for the Gentile converts. This difference between the two is even more marked when it is noticed that Gentile converts did not always need physical Baptism to receive the Holy Spirit, but Jews did who were not in Jerusalem at Pentecost! (Acts 19:1-6). This almost certainly led to the concept of "completion", much vaunted by many current "Charismatic" groups. When remembering that the Corinthians were in the pre-Acts 28:28 grouping, and it seems certain they were practicing vicarious Baptism, and that Satan would certainly wish to confuse the Truth of Christ's Salvation by faith, it is not difficult to envisage the outcome as described by Paul! The Corinthians wanted to make sure their dead loved ones had received the Holy Spirit (for Salvation), confusing the purpose of Holy Spirit imparting. Also to be remembered is that the Acts period was approx. 30 years in length, plenty of time for the Enemy to do his usual misrepresentation work; so successfully shown in the last 2000 years!
A further strong point for the above argument is the situation affecting post Acts Christians, and the Holy Spirit, (i.e. up to the present day), see: Holy Spirit, Christ Spirit and The New Nature.
The actions of the Holy Spirit in relation to the "Mystery Church", the "Body of Christ" are again different to earlier examples. The words translated "Spirit" in Romans 8 and elsewhere have the meaning in the Greek of "new nature", which is the nature of Christ Himself as the "Christ Spirit". When that takes place at the "conversion" of a person to Christ, they are sealed (Eph. 1:13) in Heaven for the day of completion, which is irreversible and secure. Paul clearly describes the struggle by all Christians with the "old nature" (Rom. 7), which the "new nature" must contend with until death or Translation.
So in brief summary; the Corinthians came to confuse Truth of faith in Christ only for Salvation, with that of Holy Spirit imparted by Baptism or laying on of hands; and wanted to "guarantee" their loved ones "Resurrection" within that Satan induced misconception.
Satan had clearly worked quickly in this new pre-Acts 28:28 situation to pervert Truth, as he did in Eden! He has been successful in this perversion up to the present day, particularly in the Roman Church, and many Protestant Groups.
The Satan induced Baptism myth, has many people and groups in bondage, which is the opposite of Truth in Christ, "which makes people free".
There is no Scriptural "Baptism for the dead" as is practiced by some Groups, notably Mormons.
Salvation is in Christ's Vicarious Death on Calvary's Cross 2000 years ago. Resurrection of the Christian is also Vicarious in His Resurrection, 1Cor.15:20, and takes place when He (Christ) returns to Earth.
The above is offered as a plausible explanation of 1Cor. 15:29.