What are baptisms for the dead? Are they biblical?


One Response to “What are baptisms for the dead? Are they biblical?”

Ricardo Duarte
2007-12-29 20:26:53
Mormons believe the Bible, which states that baptism by one with the proper authority is an essential step in the path to salvation (John 3:5). So important is baptism that even Jesus Christ, who was perfect, chose to be baptized to set an example for all of us. If baptism is essential for salvation, however, what happens to the many people who never even heard of Jesus Christ? What of all the people who never had the opportunity to be baptized by someone with authority? God would not be a just God if He barred these innocents from entering into the "kingdom of heaven."

While His body lay in the tomb, the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ visited the "spirits in prison," those who had not had the opportunity to accept Him in life (1 Peter 3:18-20, 1 Peter 4:6). Many of these spirits accepted Christ's gospel, but, as spirits, they had no way of being baptized "in the flesh." Despite their new-found sincere belief in Jesus Christ, they could not comply with His baptismal requirement.

Paul mentions briefly an ancient Christian practice that resolves this dilemma. In 1 Corinthians 15:29, he talks about baptism for the dead. In this sacred ordinance, a living person is baptized vicariously for one who has died, usually a relative. With the baptismal requirement fulfilled, the person who has died is free to choose to follow Christ or not. Regardless of his or her choice, baptism will not be a barrier to salvation; only personal choice will determine future spiritual progression.

Why did God set up such a seemingly complex system? The benefits of vicarious baptism for the dead go far beyond enabling the spiritual progression of the deceased. God instituted this system because He wanted the living to feel a connection with their ancestors, their heritage. He wanted the entire human family to be tied together as one. He wanted His children to understand, if only in a minuscule way, what it is like to work for the salvation of another soul. Baptism for the dead truly is a beautiful ordinance.

Krister Stendahl, the Dean of Divinity Emeritus at Harvard University who later became the Lutheran Bishop of Stockholm, confirms that baptism for the dead was a practice of the early Christian church. He said, "Now with the Mormons we have it again as a practice...I could think of myself as taking part in such an actÂ…extending the blessings that have come to me in and through Jesus Christ. That's generous. That's beautiful. And should not be ridiculed or spoken badly of."

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