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SEVEN BAPTISMS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
by Dr. Fred Wittman
VII. BAPTISM FOR THE DEAD
1 Cor. 15:29
UNTO RESURRECTION - FUNERAL
“Or else what shall the ones being baptized in behalf of the dead ones do, if (and assume it is true) 0dead ones are not being raised up at all? Why are they even being baptized in behalf of the dead ones?” (1 Cor. 15:29 APT).
This is another chapter in the study of the Seven Baptisms, one book of the series entitled, Fundamental Facts For Searching Saints (Acts 2:41,42). Baptism has quite a significant meaning in The God’s Word according to the viewpoint of The God. What does baptism mean to you? How does your meaning of Baptism by The Holy Spirit compare with The God’s as clarified by His Dearly Beloved Son?
Before the seventh baptism is examined, a brief review of the first six baptisms will call to mind the basic facts about the meaning of “baptism.” The word “baptism” is the translation of the Greek noun βάπτισμα (Báhp-teesmah). It comes from the verb βαπτίζω (bahptéez0) translated ‘baptize’ and means “to make whelmed, (i.e. to fully wet).” To whelm means “to overcome utterly, to submerge, to engulf.” βαπτίζω comes from the root word βάπτω (báhpt0) which means “to whelm, i.e. to cover wholly with a fluid.” It is sometimes translated “to dip.” βάπτω is also used to indicate the act of dying, ‘to dye,’ that is to dip a cloth or material completely immersed into a vat of liquid to change its color. The cloth is not changed, only the appearance and color is changed. However, baptism calls for an inner change producing action whereby there are seven factors in connection with each of the seven baptisms:
1. A Particular Message Proclaimed,
2. A Faith Proven,
3. An Action Performed,
4. A Confession Pronounced,
5. A Meaning Projected,
6. An Indication Produced, and
7. An Identification Professed.
The Baptism of Moses projected the meaning, Redemption by power after being redeemed by the blood of the Passover lamb. It indicated that the participant who has been redeemed by blood and by the power of The God is Free from bondage and Sin. The Baptism by John projected the meaning, Repentance. It indicated that the participant was Forgiven of sins. The Baptism of Christ projected the meaning, Righteousness. It indicated that the participant had Fulfilled all Righteousness. John the Baptizer was reluctant to baptize Jesus at first. He needed instruction so he could obey. The Baptism of Violent Death projects an unusual aspect of meaning upon which The Lord Jesus Christ elucidated. This baptism projects the meaning, Wrath. It indicates that the participant is Faithful to his spiritual father. The Baptism of Violent Death is different than the other baptisms in that it is figurative, symbolic, and begins with a meaning that adds to the basic meaning of baptism stated above. Moses and the nation of Israel were not completely wet. However they were whelmed with walls of water on each side and vapor in the form of a cloud overhead. In the Baptism by John the people were baptized by immersion in water after they repented of their sins and brought forth fruits meet for repentance. Therefore the Baptism by John projected the meaning, Repentance. It indicated that the participant was Forgiven of sins. But in the Baptism of Violent Death we are faced with a symbolic meaning for baptism or an abstract meaning and not with water. That means “it has only intrinsic form with little or no attempt at pictorial representation.” The whelming is not with water, but with more severe action resulting in the reality of the representation, death - a violent death. The Baptism by The Holy Spirit projects the meaning of a twofold Relationship to The Godhead: as a member of The God’s family and as a member of The Christ’s body. The Baptism by The Holy Spirit also is not with water. But on the contrary this baptism is a spiritual baptism performed by The Holy Spirit of The God. Because The Baptism of The Holy Spirit is figurative and spiritual, it is most often confused in our day! The sixth baptism chronologically observed in The New Testament is Water Baptism or Baptism of Disciples of The Lord Jesus Christ. It projects the meaning of Resurrection and indicates that one is going to his or her own white Funeral. The term believer’s baptism is not found in Scripture. The Lord Jesus Christ’s fourth command is to baptize disciples (Mt. 28:19,20 APT, see before Introduction to the previous chapter, VI. Baptism of Disciples).
The Lord Jesus began baptizing His disciples early in His public ministry, shortly after He observed His first Passover in Jerusalem in the spring of A.D. 30. According to the imperfect tense which John used to record this event, Jesus initially baptized but did not continue to do so. Rather the disciples He baptized were repeatedly baptizing the disciples who followed Jesus. Because of this practice, the twelve disciples, who formed the core that Jesus left behind when He ascended, understood the command to make disciples, the need to make disciples, and how to baptize ‘them’ (Mt. 28:18-20 , see above), since they already had done so.
Then on the day of Pentecost, after The Holy Spirit descended and it was manifest that the promise that Jesus gave to His disciples was fulfilled, Peter used the keys to the Kingdom and preached his first sermon with Holy Spirit convicting power. So effective was his preaching that the question was asked by those who heard, “O men! Brothers! What shall we do?” In addition to the brief answer to, “Repent at once and be baptized!” recorded by Luke, Peter exhorted and earnestly testified “with more other words” (Acts 2:40 APT). Then those who gladly received his word delightedly were baptized (v. 41). It was noted that these were Jewish adults who were in Jerusalem for the festival of Passover and Feast of Weeks or Pentecost and were well aware of the crucifixion that took place on the Preparation Day of Passover. They also had been exposed to baptism by the preaching and baptism by John who prepared the way for The Lord Jesus Christ’s ministry. So they understood the sermon that Peter had just preached which included repentance and baptism as a response to the Salvation and forgiveness of sins provided by The Lord Jesus Christ through crucifixion death under The God’s wrath and His resurrection-ascension after burial.
Then in early Autumn of A.D. 33 (four months after Pentecost), during the great persecution that the church suffered which scattered all the church in Jerusalem except the apostles, Philip evangelized a city in Samaria. He baptized those who responded, among whom was Seemōn the sorcerer. However, later Peter followed up Philip’s ministry in that city and discovered that Seemōn was still in the bond of iniquity and perishing. Then a Lord’s angel directed Philip to journey on the road from Jerusalem to Gáhzah where he met the Ethiopian eunuch, sitting in his war chariot reading a scroll of Isaiah and had progressed through to chapter fifty-three. From that point, Philip began pronouncing The Glad Tidings concerning The Lord Jesus Christ and no doubt proceeded to fulfill The Christ’s third command to disciple the eunuch. So well did he disciple him that the eunuch of himself requested baptism in the form of the question, What does hinder me from being baptized? And Philip baptised him in a small body of water in the desert.
When Peter first preached The Gospel and opened the Kingdom to the Jews with the keys The Lord Jesus Christ had given to him, he preached The Gospel of Christ and the necessity of repentance for salvation followed by the command to be baptized at once. A few days later Peter had a little better understanding of the Gospel. He did not tell them to be baptized, but he told the hearers to repent and be converted (Acts 3:19). So he moved away from preaching the act of baptism in connection with Salvation. But in the beginning he preached it because of the understanding from the fact that The Lord Jesus baptized and His disciples baptized and John baptized. There was a primitive understanding about baptism, but as The Holy Spirit revealed The Truth more clearly, the contents of the message became more precise and the act of baptism was not retained in preaching The Gospel of The Lord Jesus Christ.
The seventh baptism chronologically mentioned in The New Testament is Baptism for the Dead. There are thirty-three different interpretations of this verse of Scripture, most of which do not take into consideration the context of the background of those in the church at Corinth nor the context of the chapter in which this verse is couched. This baptism was not practiced throughout the whole Church, but was confined to the mixed congregation of the local church at Corinth. It was mentioned by Paul in his Epistle to them in his argument substantiating the resurrection as another reason among six other valid reasons that are used to verify ‘resurrection’ (1 Cor. 15:29). This is necessary because there were those in the mixed congregation at Corinth who denied that there was a resurrection. Yet at the same time there were some so convinced that there was a future resurrection and they feared for loved ones who died without being baptized but had made a profession of faith (not necessarily total commitment to The Lord Jesus Christ). Therefore they were actually baptized for or in the name of that dead one. This practice in Corinth stemmed from the belief of the mystery religions which were so prominent in Corinth. These mystery religions engaged in secret rites and celebrations that were known only to and practiced by those who were initiated into them by baptism. The participants were entitled to pass mystically through death into immortal life in union with a deity and were guaranteed blissful immortality. One can easily recognize the similarity of this counterfeit religion to certain aspects of the life in The Lord Jesus Christ, especially in the false concept of the result of baptism. Paul did not condone the teaching of those who practiced baptism for the dead. He only used the practice as another argument for the reality of the resurrection.
Isn’t it interesting that the study of the Seven Baptisms began in First Corinthians chapter ten with the first of the seven baptisms and now the finish of this study takes us back to the same Epistle, First Corinthians chapter fifteen? Paul here is writing about Christ’s resurrection, that He is risen from the dead. He is not teaching a doctrine, he is reasoning with the dissenters about resurrection by use of a practice which may not be correct as evidence to the resurrection of Christ, but it challenges the logic of denying resurrection while practicing a ritual that assumes resurrection and therefore the resurrection of The Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism for the dead was a baptism by proxy for a loved one who has died without being baptized, which created doubt as to their future life of immortality. Some loved one had intended to go into the waters of baptism but died before they were baptized. So that person voluntary was baptized by proxy for that dead one, in that person’s name. Paul says if they do not believe that the dead are resurrecting at all, why bother to be baptized for them to make sure they are going to be accounted baptized in the resurrection. If there is no resurrection, why be concerned about what would happen to loved ones in such no resurrection?
Now consider the seven factors of Baptism for the Dead. All points in this Baptism are the similar to those describing Baptism of Disciples with a few additional thoughts in light of the mystery religions which practiced baptism for the dead.
I. A PARTICULAR MESSAGE PROCLAIMED.
The particular message proclaimed in connection with the Baptism for the Dead on the one hand for true disciples is The Gospel of The Lord Jesus Christ (Mk.16:15), but also to “make disciples” of people of all nations and “keep ALL things watchfully secure whatsoever I have commanded you&” Mt.28:19,20 APT). This message includes: His Creatorship (Acts 17:24); His Deity (Acts 3:13,26); His virgin birth (Mt. 1:23; Lk. 2:27); His perfection (Acts 3:14); His agonizing, vicarious death enduring the Wrath of The God in darkness (Acts 2:23; 3:15); His burial; His resurrection-ascension and high priestly ministry (Acts 3:24); His exaltation; the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ; His Saviorhood (Acts 5:31) and the basis on which Salvation including forgiveness of sins is appropriated (Acts 20:21); and His Lordship including the true meaning of Disciples’ Baptism (Acts 2:36; 10:36-43), that the disciple together with Christ is crucified to Sin, self, and the world and lives the victorious, resurrected life as an overcomer (Mt. 7:21; Lk. 6:46-48; Rom. 12:1,2; Gal. 2:20; 1 Jn. 4:1,4,5; 5:4,5; Rev. 21:7,8).
But on the other hand, the message of the mystery religions has influence upon those who come from that background, but have listened to The True Gospel of The Lord Jesus Christ. It may be that they are not sure of the loved one’s true Salvation experience before that one died and they want to make sure for that one or else the Salvation experience was true but that one died before being baptized and they did not yet fully understand Paul’s teaching and feared for the future state of that loved one. From such corrupted belief has stemmed the false doctrine of baptismal regeneration--the requirement for the necessity of baptism by immersion before one can be regenerated.
II. A FAITH PROVEN (EXERCISED).
On the one hand for the regenerated disciples who are being baptized for the dead, the faith that is exercised is saving faith in The Lord Jesus Christ that is proven by means of the Baptism by The Holy Spirit. The fact that one has been truly baptized by The Holy Spirit and therefore regenerated is proof that the faith committed to The Lord Jesus Christ has been accompanied by repentance and acknowledged by The Father. The change in lifestyle and persistent obedience to all Scripture is evidence that such repentance and saving faith has been committed. Additionally, the candidate for disciples’ baptism demonstrates that he or she has indeed been crucified to Sin, self, and the world together with Christ and therefore needs to be buried with Christ in the likeness of his burial and resurrection to walk in newness of life (Acts 8:12, 37; 9:18; 10:47, 48; 16:15, 33, 34; 18:8; 19:4, 5).
But on the other hand, this is faith that has been corrupted by false doctrine promoted by doubt and fear for the future of a dead one that was not baptized.
III. AN ACTION PERFORMED.
There must be an action performed on the part of the participant to be baptized for the dead. The action performed is a substitutionary action on the part of a dead unbaptized believer based upon false doctrine and doubt.
IV. A CONFESSION PRONOUNCED.
The confession that is pronounced at the baptism for the Dead is of necessity by proxy and lacks the significance of a personal testimony. The confession is presumed to be as follows, “The dead believer in whose name and for whom I am being baptized trusted The Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. However the thief on the cross of Calvary, who indicated repentance and faith and requested The Lord Jesus Christ to remember him when he comes in His Kingdom, was told, “Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise,” was never baptized. Therefore some may die in faith without being baptized. We must leave the oputcome with The Lord since there is no clear imperitive in Scripture concerning those who professed faith and die without being baptized.
V. THE MEANING PROJECTED --Resurrection
The meaning of the Baptism for the Dead lacks the true significance of baptism in that it is only surmised by the one baptizing one for the dead that the dead one died to self, sin, and the world. There is not the opportunity to hear the confession at baptism from the mouth of the dead one. Therefore it is by proxy and presumed to be true. Baptism has meaning only for disciples of The Lord Jesus Christ who intend to live as bondslaves of Righteousness and have died to Sin, self, and the world. We must leave the future destiny of our dead loved ones to The Lord.
VI. AN INDICATION PRODUCED --Funeral.
The indication that is produced by Baptism for the Dead is that the dead one has claimed to receive The Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. But the indication of death, burial and planting, and resurrection to walk in newness of life is meaningless since that one is dead and will no longer live on Earth as he or she did before. Life after death is entirely different.
VII. AN IDENTIFICATION PROFESSED.
The Baptism for the Dead also loses significance in identifying the dead one as a disciple of The Lord Jesus Christ. If that is professed, it is false profession. Therefore Baptism for the dead is not practiced by the true disciples of The Lord Jesus Christ and by His True Church
COMPARISON OF THE SEVEN BAPTISMS:
The Baptism unto Moses took place at the beginning of Israel’s relationship to The God under the Law. The people of Israel were delivered and redeemed from the power of sin and from the world behind them through redemption by the blood of the Passover lamb in Egypt and through redemption by power in passing through the Red Sea. This was accomplished so that the world had no more dominion and control over them. They were free from bondage and Sin and were identified with The True God to prepare an habitation for The God.
The Baptism by John took place at the close of Israel’s relationship to God under the Law. Those Jews baptized by John after repentance were identified with the Kingdom of God and Heaven, marking those Israelites out as those who were forgiven of their sins and awaiting the coming of Christ (The Messiah) because not all Israel was awaiting The Messiah. These two baptisms recorded in The New Testament refer to The Old Testament. One baptism referred to the initiation of a nation under Law and the other the conclusion of the nation under Law and introduced them to the new relationship to The Messiah.
The Baptism of Christ took place at the beginning of the ministry of The Lord Jesus Christ in preparation of The New Covenant and indicated His righteousness. It identified Him as The Fulfiller of all Righteousness. This Baptism introduced The One Who is The Lamb of The God Who fulfilled all righteousness enabling Him to take away Sin and establish Righteousness.
The Baptism of Violent Death for The Lord Jesus Christ took place at the end of His physical human life on Friday, 14 Nisan (April 3), A.D. 33, when He endured the fiery wrath of The God upon Sin for the whole world of people from the creation of human beings. The Baptism of Violent Death for the disciples of The Lord Jesus Christ takes place when they face violent physical death to be martyred for the sake of The Lord Jesus Christ. The Baptism of Violent Death for the unregenerate ones takes place at the end of time immediately after the Great White Throne Judgment takes place in outer space.
The Baptism by The Holy Spirit initially took place for the Jewish disciples on the Day of Pentecost, Sunday, 5 Sivan (May 24), A.D. 33 in Jerusalem when The Holy Spirit descended to abide on Earth with (in the midst of) the disciples of Christ which make up His Church forever. Baptism by The Holy Spirit took place on the Gentiles a little more than four years later in the summer of A.D. 37 in the home of Kohrnáyleeohs in Kaisáhreiah. Thereafter it took place on both Jews and Gentiles anywhere in the world at the time of regeneration.
Baptism of Disciples of The Lord Jesus Christ takes place after repentance toward The God and committed trust unto The Lord Jesus Christ, which is proven by a change in lifestyle and persistent obedience to all Scripture and after the disciple has demonstrated that he or she has been crucified together with Christ to Sin, self, and the world.
Baptism for the Dead lacks the significance of the true meaning of baptism and is a practice neither condemned nor condoned by the apostle Paul. Rather it was practiced by people in Corinth who were involved in the mystery religions and it is assumed it was practiced by some in the mixed congregation at Corinth. The practice was referred to by Paul as another reason for the Corinthians to recognize that resurrection is a reality that we all must face and that The Lord Jesus Christ was truly resurrected from the dead or else why are some being baptized for the dead?
Although Baptism for the Dead is mentioned by the apostle Paul in First Corinthians, it is not a valid baptism for the disciples of The Lord Jesus Christ nor for His True Church. It loses the full significant meaning of New Testament baptism in all seven factors of the other Six New Testament baptisms. Baptism for the Dead presents false doctrine concerning the meaning of baptism and distracts from the significance of baptism of disciples as commanded by The Lord Jesus Christ (Mt. 28:19,20).
How does your understanding of Baptism by The Holy Spirit compare with The God’s Word? How will you live in the light of what God’s Word teaches on this subject? What changes will you choose to permit The Holy Spirit to make in your life and lifestyle? What will you do to conform to the true meaning of Baptism by The Holy Spirit?
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