Q. Can you explain the meaning of 1 Corinthians 15:29?
A. 1 Corinthians 15:29 reads, “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?”
This verse refers back to 1 Cor. 15:12 where Paul wrote that some in Corinth didn’t believe in the resurrection even though it had been preached to them. Yet we learn in verse 29 that some people in the area were conducting proxy baptisms for dead people. This is mentioned only here and probably referred to a pagan religion practiced in the region. It serves no spiritual purpose in Christianity, because as you know one person cannot profess faith in the Lord on behalf of someone else, and baptism is a public profession of faith.
Jesus never taught baptism for the dead, the apostles never practiced it, and the gospels never mention it. Thus it fails three major tests in the Law of Hermeneutics, a standard by which all Christian theology is judged.
In verse 29, Paul was saying, in effect, “You don’t believe the dead will be raised, but even the pagans believe it, otherwise why would they be baptizing themselves for dead people?” It’s important to see that Paul didn’t say “Why are we being baptized for the dead”, meaning Christians, but “why are they”, meaning pagans.