Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead - This is certainly the most difficult verse in the New Testament; for, notwithstanding the greatest and wisest men have labored to explain it, there are to this day nearly as many different interpretations of it as there are interpreters. I shall not employ my time, nor that of my reader, with a vast number of discordant and conflicting opinions; I shall make a few remarks:
1.The doctrine of the resurrection of our Lord was a grand doctrine among the apostles; they considered and preached this as the demonstration of the truth of the Gospel.
2.The multitudes who embraced Christianity became converts on the evidence of this resurrection.
3.This resurrection was considered the pledge and proof of the resurrection of all believers in Christ to the possession of the same glory into which he had entered.
4.The baptism which they received they considered as an emblem of their natural death and resurrection. This doctrine St. Paul most pointedly preaches, Romans 6:3-5 : Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead, even so we also should walk in newness of life: for, if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in his resurrection.
5.It is evident from this that all who died in the faith of Christ died in the faith of the resurrection; and therefore cheerfully gave up their lives to death, as they took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing in themselves that they had in heaven a better and an enduring substance, Hebrews 10:34.
6.As is the body, so are the members; those who were properly instructed, and embraced Christianity, believed that as all who had died in the faith of Christ should rise again, so they were baptized in the same faith.
7.As so many of the primitive followers of Christ sealed the truth with their blood, and Satan and his followers continued unchanged, every man who took on him the profession of Christianity, which was done by receiving baptism, considered himself as exposing his life to the most imminent hazard, and offering his life with those who had already offered and laid down theirs.
8.He was therefore baptized in reference to this martyrdom; and, having a regard to those dead, he cheerfully received baptism, that, whether he were taken off by a natural or violent death, he might be raised in the likeness of Jesus Christ' s resurrection, and that of his illustrious martyrs.
9.As martyrdom and baptism were thus so closely and intimately connected, , to be baptized, was used to express being put to a violent death by the hands of persecutors. So Matthew 20:22, Matthew 20:23 : "But Jesus answered and said, Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of? etc." (Can ye go through my sufferings?) "They say unto him, We are able. He saith unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of my cup," (ye shall bear your part of the afflictions of the Gospel), "and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with (that is, ye shall suffer martyrdom.) See also Mark 10:38. So Luke 12:50; "I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!" That is, I must die a violent death for the salvation of men.
10.The sum of the apostle' s meaning appears to be this: If there be no resurrection of the dead, those who, in becoming Christians, expose themselves to all manner of privations, crosses, severe sufferings, and a violent death, can have no compensation, nor any motive sufficient to induce them to expose themselves to such miseries. But as they receive baptism as an emblem of death in voluntarily going under the water, so they receive it as an emblem of the resurrection unto eternal life, in coming up out of the water; thus they are baptized for the dead, in perfect faith of the resurrection. The three following verses seem to confirm this sense.
Other Adam Clarke entries containing 1 Corinthians 15:29:
1 Corinthians 11:10
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