“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?” (1 Corinthians 15:29).
Paul is referring to a heretical custom whereby living Christians were baptized for the dead and unbaptized relatives or friends, who were supposed thus to be saved by proxy. Church Fathers make several references to such a practice, quoting the custom of the Marcionite heretics (Tertullian Against Marcion v. 10; On the Resurrection of the Flesh 48; Chrysostom Homilies on 1 Corinthians xl. 1).
It is not possible for Christians to be baptized vicariously on behalf of deceased relatives and friends. This is apparent from the many Scriptures which declare that a man must personally believe in Christ and confess his sins in order to profit by baptism and be saved “Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38; also 8:36, 37; cf. Eze. 18:20–24; John 3:16; 1 John 1:9).
Even the most righteous of men can “deliver but their own souls” (Eze. 14:14, 16; Ps. 49:7). And death marks the close of human probation (Ps. 49:7–9; Eccl. 9:5, 6, 10; Isa. 38:18, 19; Luke 16:26; Heb. 9:27, 28).
In His service,
A closing message from BibleAsk:
Thank you for visiting BibleAsk – an online ministry dedicated to providing Bible based answers to your questions. If you enjoyed and agree with this answer, please like and share! If you don’t agree, please leave a comment below, and we’ll be sure to respond! If you have another question you would like to ask, please click here and someone from our team will personally answer it (don’t worry, your email address will never be shared). Check out our Bible Answers page to see just Bible verses answering thousands of questions. If you feel impressed to support this ministry, kindly visit our donate page to send a tax-deductible love gift to BibleAsk. Any donation size helps 🙂