QASome churches believe in the baptism of the dead. Is this correct?
People who believe in baptizing the dead cite 1 Corinthians 15:29, where Paul asks, “Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?”
Yet this passage does not command baptism for the dead nor make any judgment about such practice. Paul’s point was not that such practice was correct, but that the practice demonstrated people’s belief in the resurrection.
Paul could not have endorsed vicarious baptism (baptizing the living on behalf of the dead) because it is against biblical teaching:
- Baptism is for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 22:16). Since all have sinned (Rom 3:23), everyone must be baptized for the forgiveness of his own sins (Acts 2:38). No one may be baptized for the forgiveness of another’s sins.
- Baptism is not merely a formality or an immersion of the body; it is a spiritual cleansing and salvation of the soul (1 Pet 3:21; Heb 9:14). Once a person dies, the soul leaves his body. Baptizing a living person on behalf of the dead cannot in any way save the soul of the dead.
- After a person dies, he faces judgment (Heb 9:27). Those who failed to believe in the Lord will be condemned (Mk 16:16; Rev 21:8), and every person will be judged according to his deeds (Rev 20:12). Once a person dies, he has to give an account of his disbelief and no one else may receive salvation on his behalf.