What Does Paul Mean by ‘Baptism for the Dead’?

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Lee's picture

A rhetorical one at that, one that answers itself or is answered in the text. 

The topic is the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the assurance of our resurrection based on it.  Paul has already established that "...if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain...."  Now he is headed in a different direction--why hazard life and limb for something that has no eternal value if Christ is not raised.  In so doing the question is put into some semblance of perspective--"Why make such a drastic/costly identification (baptism) for a guy that is dead? Why risk bodily harm (jeopardy) if the one in who you hope is dead?  If He's dead then we should just go on our merry way because that is our end as well."

It's not a question about a prevalent practice; it is a question about a belief system that denies the essential belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and/or the resurrection of the believer while retaining the accouterments of legitimate belief. Paul is correcting a potential doctrinal error from several different logical, rational perspectives.