by Pastor Doug Cox
Crossroads Newlife Fellowship Church
I have been asked how I would explain 1 Corinthians 15 by a member of the Mormon church, adding the need for me to ‘be careful.’
I’ll explain what I know about 1 Corinthians 15. I’m not convinced at all that verse 29 of that chapter gives living Mormons a mandate to assume the names of dead people and perform baptisms in their behalf especially if you read the whole chapter in context. In it you find Paul is declaring that at the core of the gospel is Christ’s resurrection. How Christ died on the cross for our sin, was buried and then rose from the dead according to the Old Testament scriptures. Everything about the gospel is built on having faith in that fact. He was also dealing with false teachers who were teaching there was no resurrection (see verse12).
Paul countered their false teaching with the fact that there were eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection and then he points out that if there is no resurrection, his preaching is in vain and his and everyone else’s faith is in vain. He says if there is no resurrection, then he and the other apostles are nothing more than liars. He says if there is no resurrection, people are still lost in their sins. And finally, if there is no resurrection, all who have died trusting in Christ have perished having no hope. In other words, without the resurrection there is nothing.
It is important to look at the pronouns in verse 29. Paul says “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?” Paul does not say ‘we’ the followers of Christ at Corinth baptize for the dead. That’s because he does not identify with ‘they’ who were practicing this superstitious practice and were teaching there is no resurrection.
The point is false teachers or someone else were practicing proxy baptism for the dead while at the same time were teaching there is no resurrection. So, Paul uses it to drive home a point and ask a question. Why do you baptize for the dead if you don’t believe in the resurrection? He was not condoning the practice of baptism for the dead he was saying it was a contradiction to do that if you don’t believe in the resurrection.
As a side note. In my reading through the Bible, I haven’t seen a single reference where someone received salvation through a proxy. I can’t sin by proxy for someone else nor can I save them. The Bible does however refer to personal salvation over and over. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “for by grace ‘you’ have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God not by works lest any man boast.” John 3:36 says “’He’ who believes in the Son has everlasting life and ‘he’ who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” Notice the personal pronouns. Notice how 2 Corinthians 6:2 says “…behold, now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of salvation.”
And though I don’t believe the Book of Mormon to be inspired by God at all it says the same thing. The Book of Mormon is heralded to contain the fullness of the gospel, yet it says nothing about baptism for the dead and refutes the idea of salvation by proxy.
Alma 34:34-35 says…
34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world. 35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he DOTH SEAL YOU HIS; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the FINAL STATE of the wicked.
My question is how can the Book of Mormon say that after death an unbeliever is sealed forever to the devil and that is the final state of that person, then claim that proxy baptism for the dead and temple work will save this person and provide a pathway to seal them to God?
I choose to trust the Bible and the words of the Apostle Paul. He teaches that I can experience salvation now. He says “for since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22) I choose to put my faith in the sacrifice Jesus made for me on the cross now. I believe His love made Him willing to taste death for my sins. After satisfying judgment for my sin, He rose again for my justification?
I believe the doctrine of baptism for the dead is a doctrine of demons. It is not a harmless religious practice that can be winked at because it instills in people a false hope that diminishes a personal responsibility towards God. It gives people an excuse to continue their worldly ways because some faithful Mormon will go to the temple and do dead works for them after their dead and gone.