1 Cor 15:29-32 – The Hope of the Resurrection – Results 1

Translation and Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS 06 Dec 2009


20. But now, Christ has been raised out of the dead – the firstfruit of the ones who have been sleeping.

            21. For since, on account of a man, there is death,

            also, on account of a man, there is resurrection of dead [men].

            22. For, just as in Adam, all are dying,

            thus also in the Christ, all will be made alive,

                        23. yet each in his own rank:

                        Christ is the firstfruit,

                        then those who are Christ’s – during His visitation,

                        24. then there is the end,

                                    whenever He delivers the kingdom to His God and Father,

                                    whenever He has put out of commission all rule and all authority and power.

                                                25. For it is necessary for Him to reign

                                                until whenever He has put all His enemies beneath His feet.

26. Death, the last enemy, is being put out of commission,

            27. for “He has brought all things under submission beneath His feet.”

                        (Now, wherever it said that, “all things had been put under submission,” obviously

                        it was [with] the exception of the One who put all the things under submission to Him.

                        28. And whenever all the things have been put under submission to Him,

                        then also the Son Himself will be under submission to the One

                        who put all the things under submission to Him, in order that God might be the all in all.

            29. Otherwise, what will those who are being baptized over the dead accomplish?

                        If dead [men] are totally not being raised,

                        why are they even getting baptized over them?

            30. And why are we ourselves risking [danger] every hour?

                        31. Throughout the day I am dying.

                                    [This is] truly the boast I have in Christ Jesus our Lord concerning y’all.

                        32. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus according to man, what was the benefit to me?

                                    If dead [men] are not being raised; let’s eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!

33. Do not be led astray, Bad company corrupts good manners.

34. Start waking up righteously and stop sinning,

            for some are maintaining ignorance of God.

I am saying this to you in order [to elicit proper] shame.


Meditating on the resurrection in this passage opens up a bunch of fascinating subjects! We’ve already looked at some of these things last week:

o       Anthropology: The resurrection of not only the righteous but also of the wicked

o       Eschatology: Differences between Amillennial and Pre-millennial views of the end times,

o       Theology: The Economic Trinity and Christ’s mediatorial kingdom,

o       Hermeneutics: Re-interpreting the Psalms in light of Christ and the church,

            And today we get into some more interesting topics, like:

o       Sacramentology: Baptism of the Dead,

o       History: Paul’s stint in the WWE –the Wildlife Wrestling Entertainment industry,

o       in addition to the usual fun with Greek vocabulary and grammar!

Who knew the resurrection could be so interesting?


The context of what’s going on in this passage is that:

Some of the Corinthians were apparently saying that the resurrection was figurative, or spiritual, not real and physical, perhaps equating the resurrection with their regeneration, and saying that the resurrection was past already. Paul counters this error by writing that “just as there is no dying outside of Adam, so there is no quickening apart from Christ… and just as it needed more than a mythical Adam to produce the concrete reality of universal death, so it requires more than a mythical resurrection of Christ to annul the power of death for all believers.” Geoffrey Wilson’s Digest of Reformed Comment on 1 Corinthians.


 Last week we looked at the Why, When, and How of the resurrection:

o       Because Jesus died for all of us, and presented Himself as the firstfruit of the resurrection life, His resurrection guarantees our resurrection. This is WHY we have hope.

o       Although we don’t know exactly WHEN, we believe the resurrection is coming, because we are inbetween His resurrection and the perfection of all things.

o       And we considered the HOW of the resurrection, namely that Jesus is in control of this world and is putting an end to sin and death by saving people from every nation!


 This week, I want to look at the practical results of the resurrection .in our lives. It has been said that “The resurrection is intimately tied up with [the] motivations and hopes” of all Christians. (Jack Arnold)

What Should We Who Hope Due to Christ’s Resurrection Do?

I see four courses of action in verses 29-34 that flow out of a belief in the resurrection:

  1. Baptism (v.29)
  2. Risk-taking (vs. 30-32)
  3. Breaking ties with deception (v.33) , and
  4. Living a life of repentance from sin and obedience to God (v.34).

Let’s consider each of these things separately: We may only get through the first two today:
What should we who hope due to Christ’s resurrection do?

1. Be Baptized and Baptize Others (v.29)

If the dead are totally not being raised, why are they even getting baptized for them?

A)    The word “totally” is actually in the Greek text here.

B)    Anyway, Paul says, “What will they do/What will they accomplish?” Does it do any good for them to have these baptisms?

C)    There are many different explanations for what it means to be baptized for the dead, so I don’t believe it is appropriate to be dogmatic on what exactly it means to be baptized for the dead, but here goes:

D)      The Greek word translated “for” (or “on behalf of” by the ESV) is the word “huper,” which in its most literal sense means “over” or “above.” Some take this literally to mean that Christians intentionally chose to have their Christian baptism on top of the grave of a believer who had already died to express a belief that the dead would rise again.

E)      Most Bible scholars, however, starting back as early as Tertullian in the 2nd Century and Ambrose & Chrysostom in the 4th Cent. describe this as Christians being baptized not only for themselves but also for loved ones who had died without Christ so as to bring salvation to them in proxy.

1)      The story in 2 Maccabes 12:43-45 gives some credence to this view, for Judas Maccabeus believed in a resurrection of the dead and, although he didn’t get baptized for them, he did pray for some idolatrous Jews who had been slain in battle and sent money to the temple on their behalf because he believed that this would make God more forgiving of them in the resurrection.

2)      This is similar to what the Mormons believe. They go to great pains to research their genealogies and then get baptized for their ancestors just to make sure their family will all get the Mormon blessing. Thank God for the genealogy research the Mormons have done, but all they are doing with their baptisms for the dead is running up their water bills and deceiving people into thinking that God’s blessings come through doing certain ceremonies.

3)      But there are problems with the practice of baptism on behalf of the dead:

a.        We are not saved by our works. We are saved by the grace of Jesus. The act of getting wet in baptism doesn’t save anybody, so being baptized for people who have already died will not save them.

b.      Secondly, God’s salvation is personal.

(i)     It is not some impersonal store of merit that can be mechanically applied to just anybody through a baptism.

(ii)   God is a personal God, and He applies His salvation to those He chooses.

(iii) Salvation is not like some cosmic vending machine that automatically dispenses a product when you put the right payment in.

(iv) We can’t baptize ourselves for those who have died and think that we can force God’s hand or change his mind concerning His judgment on their life.

(v)   God’s salvation is personally given and has to be personally received.

c.       Eph 2:8-10 for it is by grace that you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, in order that no one might boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand in order that we might walk in them.

4)      The Christians who interpret 1 Cor 15 as speaking of baptism on behalf of those already dead explain that the Corinthians were familiar with this practice, and, although Paul did not agree with this practice, he appealed to their practice to show that by this practice they must have assumed that there is an afterlife. In other words, their own practice of baptism on behalf of the dead betrayed the fact that they believed in life after death. “Aha gotchya!” says Paul.

a.       My wife once used this line of reasoning with someone who said that life wasn’t worth living and that he wanted to kill himself. She told the guy about her friend across the street who was dying of cancer. The guy replied, “That would be awful not to even make it to your 21st birthday!” Then she said, “You just told me life wasn’t worth living, but if you think if would be awful not to make it to your 21st birthday, you must see something worth living for!”

5)      However, there are some problems with this interpretation of baptism for the dead:

F)       John Calvin and the 19th Century Scottish Presbyterian commentators Jamieson, Fausset and Brown suggest that the baptism for the dead was the practice of baptizing a person who is a legitimate candidate for baptism under the circumstances of impending death.

1)      It was apparently common practice to delay Christian baptism in many parts of the early church:

a.       in some cases, out of a misguided belief that it actually washed away sins and so should be delayed until you had committed all your sins first (Augustine),

b.      in other cases, such as in the context of persecution, new converts were tried over time to make sure they were really Christians before baptizing them,

c.       in some other cases, baptism has been delayed out of a mistaken belief that baptism is not the sign of the beginning of Christian discipleship but rather a seal of maturity in Christian faith.

2)      In whatever case, if such an unbaptized convert were to get fatally wounded, or fall deathly sick, or simply get so old that he was on his deathbed, the delay over their baptism could be waived, and they could go ahead and get baptized before they died, and thus be “baptized [in preparation] for [being among] the dead.”

3)      This explanation is subject to some of the same criticisms as the substitionary baptism position, but I’m willing to settle for it for now.

G)     But the point I want to bring out is this: (whatever your position on “being baptized for the dead”) we can all agree that a belief in the resurrection of the dead led some people to the sacrament of baptism – even if it was wrongly administered. If, therefore, it has led others to the sacrament of baptism, why not us too?

1)      If you have never been baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19), why not ask for it today?

a.       If you believe that your disobedience against God has brought God’s judgment of death over you, and

b.      you believe that Jesus loves you and died on the cross to pay the price of death in your place,

c.       and if you believe there will be a resurrection of the dead in which Jesus will judge all people and will rescue you from lake of fire on that day, then

d.      you are a Christian and, if you haven’t already been baptized, you should be baptized to show it.

2)      Also, if you know someone else who is not a Christian, don’t wait until it’s too late to bring the gospel to them! Give them their own chance to respond in faith to the good news that Jesus Christ died for sinners so that they can be baptized while they’re still alive!


So, baptism is one of the first actions that Christians should take as a result of hope in Christ’s resurrection. In verses 30-32, Paul brings in another action which results from hoping in Christ’s resurrection:


2. Take Risks and Endure Suffering to Spread the Gospel (vs. 30-32)

A)    Paul wrote in v.30, “Why do we stand in jeopardy/endanger ourselves” (cf. Lk 8:23, Acts 19:27 & 40)

B)    Some commentators actually connect this idea of enduring suffering with the baptism for the dead in v.29 by saying that “baptism for the dead” was a euphemism for martyrdom.

1)      Jesus called his death on the cross a “baptism” in Luke 12:50 and Mark 10:38.

2)      If this is the case, it only strengthens this second application point that the hope of the resurrection can enable us to hazard our lives for the sake of spreading the Gospel.

C)    This word “jeopardy/danger,” in its noun form, is used and explained in 2 Cor. 11:24:
“Five times I received from the Jews one shy of forty lashes. 25) Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day have I been in the deep; 26) in journeyings often, in perils of rivers, in perils of robbers, in perils from my countrymen [the Jews], in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brothers…”

D)    Why choose such a difficult life? Why not play it safe?

·         Because Paul knew he would be resurrected to a better life.

·         Paul believed that his glory and bliss did not lie in this world but primarily in the life to come!

·         If we believe in the resurrection, we believe that our life can be risked because our life on earth is not all there is.

E)     Paul continues in v.31 with what appears to be a formula for a solemn oath that he “dies every day” and is “in danger every hour.”

1)      I’ve seen it estimated that 45 million Christians were killed for their faith in the last century. That’s about 50 Christians every hour for the last 100 years, killed by people who hate Christians.

2)      Now, while it is true that Christians are physically martyred, Paul had obviously not been physically killed yet, so we must understand him to be using a non-literal figure of speech.

a.       Figuratively, he could risk death every day, and he could put to death his selfish desires in order to minister the Gospel to others.

b.      Paul mentioned this throughout 2 Corinthians: “We would not have you ignorant, brothers, concerning our affliction which befell us in Asia, that we were weighed down exceedingly, beyond our power, insomuch that we despaired even of life (1:8)… We who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh (4:11) … I have been in hard labors… in prisons…, in stripes above measure, and often in deaths (11:23b).”

c.       I think Paul is saying in v.31 that this is the most important thing in his life: He “glories/boasts/ takes pride/rejoices” in his calling to risk all, every day, for the sake of building up the church of Christ.

·         Is risking your comfort and reputation for the sake of Christ something you find “glorious,” something you could “rejoice” to do?

F)     Paul was smart enough to land a cushy job in the temple somewhere, but he was convinced enough of the resurrection to throw away worldly, human opportunities for comfort and fame.
He gives an example of this in v.32 – fighting wild beasts in Ephesus:

1)      Bible scholars are divided over whether Paul was literally given a sword in the coliseum of Ephesus to fight wild animals or whether this is just a figurative expression.

2)      In favor of a literal interpretation:

a.       There was a big amphitheater in Ephesus, and the sport of watching men kill wild animals was a current pastime.

b.      Ancient Greek writers described one occasion under the reign of Pompey when 500 lions and 18 elephants were killed in five days in this sport. (Calvin)

c.       And apparently a legend does exist that Paul was made to fight a lion and then a number of other beasts, but was untouched by them all (Vincent).

d.      Proponents of this position suggest that this may have been what Paul was referring to when he said in 1 Cor 4:9 that he had been made a spectacle of.

3)      However, I’m in favor of a figurative interpretation:

a.       It was not legal for Roman citizens to be executed by being thrown to wild animals, so it seems likely that Paul would have spoken up (as he did on other occasions) to assert his citizenship if he had ever found himself in this situation.

b.      And it seems unlikely that Paul would have ever stooped to voluntarily participate in slaughtering God’s creatures for mere entertainment.

c.       Furthermore, if Paul had been thrown to the lions, we would expect that to be mentioned in the history of his ministry in the book of Acts or in Paul’s litany of hardships in 2 Cor 11, but it isn’t there.

d.      It seems most likely that Paul was speaking metaphorically, comparing the men that were antagonistic to him in Ephesus to wild beasts, for:

(i)     In Titus 1:12, Paul describes some “rebellions deceptive men” from Crete as “evil beasts” using the same word as is used here in 1 Cor 15.

(ii)   This is in the same tradition of David, who described his human enemies as wild animals: “Strong bulls of Bashan have beset me … dogs have surrounded me: A company of evil-doers have captured me... Save me from the lion's mouth; Yes, from the horns of the wild-oxen...” Psalm 22:12-21

(iii) Ignatius, who was born about the time that 1 Cor. was written, also used this figurative expression of people being like wild animals when he described his being captured and escorted to Rome by soldiers, “From Syria even to Rome, I fight with beasts, both by land and sea, both night and day, being bound to ten leopards. I mean a band of soldiers, who even when they receive benefits, show themselves all the worse.” (Ignatius was later martyred in Rome by being thrown to actual lions.)

G)    Is spreading the word that Jesus “died for our sins… and was raised the third day according to the scriptures” worth getting thrown to the lions over?
Yes! – if the message is true. Otherwise the Epicureans are right: “eat & drink for tomorrow we die!”

1)      Actually, Epicurean philosophy would be anachronistic, for this is a quote from Isaiah 22 which predates all the Greek Epicurean philosophers by at least 400 years (and it doesn’t fairly represent Epicurean philosophy anyway - Epicurus taught against sensual indulgence and drunkenness and promoted prudence, honor, and justice as the way to avoid pain and trouble in this life.)

2)      The CONTEXT of Isaiah 22 was Jews in Jerusalem who had forgotten that God was their savior and who had fallen into despair when they saw the mighty Assyrian army advancing upon them. They simply said, “It doesn’t matter anymore what we do. We’re just going to get slaughtered, so we might as well get drunk and die laughing.”

3)      Isa 22:8 “So He has uncovered the veil of Judah. But in that day y’all looked to the armory of the House of the Forest and saw the breaches of the city of David, for they were many. So y’all collected the waters of the lower pool and counted the houses of Jerusalem, then y’all broke down the houses to fortify the wall and made a reservoir between the walls for the water of the old pool. But y’all did not look to Him who made her, or see Him who formed her from long ago. Yet in that day the Lord Jehovah of Hosts called for: tears and for mourning, and for baldness and for wearing sackcloth. But look: joy and gladness, killing an ox and slaughtering a lamb, eating meat and drinking wine: ‘To eat and to drink, for tomorrow we die!’”

4)      Isaiah went on in 56:10ff to say, “His watchmen are blind – all of them! They do not know. All of them are mute dogs; they are not able to bark! delirious, lying around, loving to sleep. Yet the dogs are violently selfish, they never know satisfaction. And those shepherds do not know to understand. All of them have faced toward their own way, each to his profit from his end: ‘Come, let me get wine and let us get drunk on alcohol, and tomorrow will be like today, a very large excess!’”

5)      This is what happens when you do not have the hope of salvation and resurrection in Christ.

6)      In the apocryphal book, The Wisdom of Solomon, the 2nd chapter describes other Jews who spoke in a similar manner. They said, “Our life is short and tedious, and in the death of a man there is no remedy: neither was there any man known to have returned from the grave… Come on therefore, let us enjoy the good things that are present: and let us speedily use the creation like as in youth. Let us fill ourselves with costly wine and ointments… Let our strength be the law of justice: for that which is feeble is found to be worthless. Therefore let us lie in wait for the righteous; because he… criticizes us for our offending the law...” You know anybody that talks like that? They don’t have hope .

7)      It even happens to those of us who know better but struggle to believe sometimes. Drunkenness, gluttony, sexual immorality, and even many forms of entertainment are ways of trying to create our own temporary sense of comfort in rebellion to God’s offer of eternal comfort. Our hope should lead us instead to hazard our temporary comfort and reputation for the glories of resurrection life!

H)    Do you believe in the resurrection of the dead? Do you believe that this life is not all there is?

1)      Our life in this world is not of ultimate value. What risks are you willing to take?

a.       I encourage you to take a risk this week – not a reckless risk but a risk based upon your hope in Christ and His call upon your life.

b.      Perhaps it will be facing the risk of failure. What if it can’t be done?

c.       Perhaps it will be risking your reputation. What will other people think of me?

d.      Perhaps it’s the risk of personal comfort. What if you have to go without?

e.       Or risking your security. What if you don’t have that savings to fall back on anymore?

f.       Perhaps God is even calling you to risk your life, like Paul, to talk about Jesus in places where it is not safe to do so.

2)      Nate Saint, in a sermon he broadcasted over the radio some time before he was speared to death by fierce tribesmen in the Amazon, said, “During the war [that would be the 2nd World War] we were taught to recognize that, in order to obtain our objective, we had to be willing to be expendable...” He went on to say, “This very afternoon thousands of soldiers are known by their serial numbers as men who are expendable... We know there is only one answer to our country's demand that we share in the price of freedom. Yet, when the Lord Jesus asks us to pay the price for world evangelization, we often answer without a word. We cannot go. We say it costs too much.”

a.       Was it worthwhile for Nate and his four buddies to get themselves killed in the jungles of Ecuador trying to tell savage tribesmen about Jesus?

b.      Was it worthwhile for Nate’s wife and children to go into those same jungles after he died and hazard their lives too?

c.       The Waorani tribesmen who are Christians today would answer, “YES!”

3)      Risks taken for the hope of the resurrection are worth it because no risk can separate you from the love of God:
Rom 8:35-39 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Even as it is written [in Psalm 44:22], “For Your sake we are killed all day long; we were accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”