Should Christians Baptize For The Dead?

In the middle of a long and detailed discussion of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul drops a confusing bombshell:

Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? (1 Cor. 15:29)


In a chapter full of clear, careful argumentation, this verse stands out. The Corinthian church certainly had its share of unsavory practices, but baptizing on behalf of the dead seems odd, even for them. Paul references it off-handedly, leaving us to scratch our heads, unsure of what was going on at Corinth. Is this a practice that should be carried out by the church today? Paul doesn’t condemn it. What, then, should we think?

It’s hard to say exactly what the Corinthian Christians were doing. Paul’s abrupt mention of baptism on behalf of the dead doesn’t provide much information. No wonder scholars estimate that more than 200 different theories have been proposed.

Here are the four most widely accepted interpretations.

1. Replacement Theory

Those baptized on behalf of the dead replace saints in the congregation who’ve died. To use military imagery: when one soldier falls, another rises to take their place.

2. Evangelism Theory

They are baptized in honor of someone whose prayers or evangelism brought them to faith. For example, maybe Grandma prayed for your salvation throughout your youth, and you became a Christian after she died. On this theory, baptism for the dead would simply mean you’re honoring Grandma’s role in your salvation.

3. Vicarious Baptism Theory

If a person was in the process of becoming a church member and died before they could be baptized, someone could volunteer to be baptized on their behalf. Why? Likely because of an erroneous view that baptism was a mystical rite necessary for eternal life. Perhaps they believed salvation wouldn’t be possible for one who died without baptism—unless a living person was baptized as a substitute.

Why would Corinthian Christians be doing something so different with baptism that it’s not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible?

Read more»

Andrew Menkis | “Should Christians Baptize on Behalf of the Dead” | July 29th, 2023


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Posted by Andrew Menkis | Monday, March 25, 2024 | Categorized in Baptism, Christian Life, HeidelQuotes. Andrew Menkis. Bookmark the permalink.

About Andrew Menkis

Andrew is a Theology & Rhetoric teacher with a passion for helping others see and experience the truth, beauty, and goodness of God and his creation. Andrew's poetry and prose has been published by Core Christianity, The Gospel Coalition, Modern Reformation Magazine and Ekstasis. You can find more of his writing at


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