December 3, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“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? And why do we stand in jeopardy every hour? I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!’”—1 Corinthians 15:29–32 (NKJV)
As Paul continues to work his way through this teaching on the resurrection of Jesus and its implications, he comes to an interesting point. He makes reference to a particular practice we need to be very careful not to misunderstand or misinterpret.
The practice is baptizing people on behalf of the dead, which was a feature of some pagan religions in that time and place. People would undergo a special rite of purification in a select body so that those who had died (or even they, themselves) could enter into a state of eternal bliss. Now, we need to know that Paul is not validating this particular practice, which has no basis anywhere in the Bible. But remember, Paul is validating the resurrection, the fact that there is life beyond the grave. And even though this practice isn’t valid, the principle that it points to (life beyond the grave) is.
It’s Paul’s way of reminding the Corinthians, who would have been familiar with this rite, that even those who don’t possess the truth concerning the resurrection are instinctively aware of it. This is somewhat alluded to by Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes as he observes: “He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NKJV).
God has wired humanity with an inner sense and longing for eternity, for an existence that exists after we exit Earth. This is evidenced in religious beliefs throughout history and around the globe, including the baptism for the dead. All of these practices start from the basis of mankind’s reasoning and work their way God-ward towards some divine truth. But because humanity is fallen and flawed, we believe and do things that fall short and are false.
But the resurrection of Jesus is just the opposite. It’s based on the God of all eternity and works its way us-ward, revealing and satisfying the inherent quest for eternal truth in our hearts. The resurrection is the true fulfillment and revelation of all things pertaining to eternity, which is why Paul was able to face such conflict and danger throughout his life. He was able to “die daily” because the resurrection of Jesus filled him with such confidence in what eternity held for him.
As Christians, we’re to be wise stewards with the life God has given to us. We shouldn’t court danger or controversy unnecessarily, but when we look at the heroes of faith in Scripture, we do see an adventurous element that’s often lacking in our own lives. There should be a balance for the believer in Christ’s resurrection, a balance that isn’t reckless but is willing to take risks as the Holy Spirit prompts us.
The resurrection gave Paul a confidence that caused him to extend and expend his life here on Earth for the sake of eternity. What would happen if we allowed the resurrection to embolden us in the same way? What would it change about us? Who would we impact and how would we impact them? How far out from our comfort zone would those resurrection ripples extend? Let’s find out.
Pause: How does the resurrection differ from other religious beliefs concerning eternity?
Practice: Consider how a greater awareness of and confidence in the resurrection of Jesus can influence your lifestyle.
Pray: Father God, I ask that my heart would embrace the resurrection and all that it means as You would want me to. Help me to step into the realm of risk as Your Spirit leads me, and may I be more effective and influential with the truth You’ve revealed to me by Your Son’s resurrection. May I not cling to this life as much as I do in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.