What does 1 Corinthians 15:29 mean?
ESV: 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?
NIV: Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?
NASB: For otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?
CSB: Otherwise what will they do who are being baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, then why are people baptized for them?
NLT: If the dead will not be raised, what point is there in people being baptized for those who are dead? Why do it unless the dead will someday rise again?
KJV: Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?
Verse Commentary:
Having concluded an aside about the order and purpose of the end times, Paul now returns to making his initial point. The case he is proving is that Christians will be physically resurrected in the end times, just as Christ was resurrected physically after the crucifixion.

This verse has been interpreted in varying ways by different scholars. The best reading seems to be that Paul is describing the practice of people who do not agree with regular Christian teaching. In that interpretation, his point is to show a disconnect in their thinking: "Why do some people get baptized on behalf of the dead if the dead will never be resurrected?" Apparently, these people believed both that the dead would only ever remain in spirit form and that being baptized on their behalf would help them somehow.

Crucial to interpreting this verse is that Paul is posing this group as an "other:" those who don't follow his teaching, reasoning, or instruction. He uses the Greek term literally meaning "those who" baptize for the dead, rather than his usual terms of "us," or "we." Nothing in any of Paul's writings, or elsewhere in the Bible, suggests there is value in being baptized on behalf of another person, living or dead. The New Testament is clear that individuals are responsible to God for their own sin and their own personal faith in Christ for the forgiveness of that sin.
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 15:12–34 describes all the implications for Christians if there is no resurrection, at all. Most importantly, that would mean that Christ was not raised from the dead. If Christ was not raised, then Paul's preaching of the gospel was false, and the faith of those who believed it was worthless. All remain in their sins. Christ, though, was raised from the dead, and when He returns for those who are His, all who have died in Christ will be resurrected to new life, as He was after the crucifixion. Finally, Christ will reign on earth before delivering the kingdom to the Father.
Chapter Summary:
Paul provides thorough teaching about the resurrection of Christians from the dead. This is a direct counter to some group of Corinthians who did not believe in such a resurrection. He shows that natural death is not the end of life for Christians; it is the last step before receiving a glorified, resurrected body like that of the risen Christ. That ''spiritual'' body will be as different from our current bodies as a star is from a fish. In that moment, for all who have believed in Christ, living and dead, death will be defeated for good.
Chapter Context:
In chapters 12, 13, and 14, Scripture focused on the concept of spiritual gifts and how best to use them. This follows several other ideas where Paul corrected errors in the Corinthians' thinking. Chapter 15 contains extensive teaching on one last issue about which some Corinthians were confused or misled. Apparently, they harbored some doubts about the physical resurrection of Christians from the dead. After clearing up these confusions, Paul will address various other items, of a less doctrinal nature, and close out his letter.
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
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