Question & Answer Forum

Please explain “baptized for the dead” in I Corinthians 15:21

There is no indication either in Scripture or in historical records during the apostolic period that living Christians were baptized in the place of unbaptized believers who had died. Were this a scriptural practice, it would have been taught in the New Testament epistles. Had it been wrongly practiced, the apostles would have written against it. This practice, however, is being followed by certain modem day cults.

Every reference to death in the chapter refers to physical, not spiritual, death. Paul is dealing with the false teaching of some in Corinth who denied the resurrection; therefore, the primary subject of the chapter is the absolute certainty of the resurrection of all believers who have died. The apostle asks the question in verse 29 that if new converts were not absolutely sure of resurrection, why would they be willing to risk persecution by being baptized, thus publicly stepping into the ranks of believers, in place of those who had died or been martyred. In a parallel question in verse 30, Paul asks why would he be willing to live in jeopardy of his fife every hour if he were not absolutely confident of the resurrection.

A. Joyce

Does “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling” and “whose house are we” (Hebrews 3:1, 6) refer to believers or unbelievers?

We cannot accept that these words are addressed to unbelievers for two very obvious reasons.

The nation of Israel never had a heavenly calling. The covenant with Abraham involved blessing for a heavenly and an earthly seed (Genesis 22:17; Galatians 3:29), but the promise through Jacob to Israel was for an earthly seed (Genesis 32:12). Abraham had heavenly hopes (Hebrews 11:10), but his natural seed had earthly hopes.

Israel is never called “the house of God.” His (God’s) house in Hebrews 3:2 refers to the tabernacle in which Moses was faithful. To make unbelievers a part of “His (Christ’s) own house” is not possible. Therefore the two expressions in the question cannot refer to unbelievers. We believe they were believers saved out of Judaism.

We know the name of this epistle is not divinely inspired, but internal evidence is most convincing that it was written to a people who were very familiar with the law and the Levitical system. The majority of them were true to Christ; some were not and turned back. In 1 Corinthians 10:22, going back to either the idol’s temple or the Jewish altar was to provoke the Lord to jealousy. Distinction between the genuine and the false is clear in chapters 3, 6, 10 and 12. The most difficult passage, 5:11 to 6:10, becomes much easier to understand if we see the contrast between “they – them” referring to apostates, and .us – you”, referring to genuine believers. “Beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation.” (6:9).

N. Crawford

In light of Matthew 18:21-22 and Luke 17:3, 4, is a Christian bound to forgive another Christian only if he repents?

Every offended Christian ought to be willing to forgive another Christian whether or not the offender repents. God loves to forgive. Being followers of God (Ephesians 5:1), we ought to be ready to forgive, too. Psalm 86:5 states, “For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive.”

An unforgiving spirit produces bitterness and ruins Christian life. The apostle Paul exhorted, “Let all bitterness … be put away from you…: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31, 32).

When a believer recognizes that he has offended another, he should attempt to restore the enjoyment of fellowship with his offended brother. Sometimes, however, a Christian may not even be aware or feel – that he has offended another. In such a case, a spirit of forgiveness on the part of the Christian who has been hurt will enable him to lay aside the hurt without ever raising the matter. Love “thinketh no evil” (1 Corinthians 13:5) means love keeps no record of evil; thus, Christian love will lay a matter to rest – and forget it – without raising the issue or demanding repentance (1 Peter 4:8).

J. Beattie

What did our Lord mean in Matthew 26:29, “when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom?”

The context is clear. The Lord is partaking of the last Passover supper and will soon be separated from them. He leaves them with the assurance that in the millennial day He will have the new joy (symbolized in the fruit of the vine) of celebration with them in that Messianic kingdom. The emphasis is on spiritual joy. “My Father’s kingdom” expresses the intimacy of that kingdom suggested by the singular “My.” These related terms are suggestive: “kingdom of God,” the source of the kingdom; “kingdom of heaven,” the sphere of the kingdom; “My Father’s kingdom,” the secrets of the kingdom; “the kingdom of their Father,” the sharers of the kingdom. That last Passover anticipated the day when He would share His fullness of joy with His own in His Father’s kingdom. What took place in embryo before His death will have universal fulfillment.

A. Hull