“Baptism Doth Now Save Us” AND “Baptised For The Dead”
W. E. Vine, Bath
Readers will be glad to have Mr. Vine’s comments on two much misunderstood Scriptures.
“BAPTISM DOTH NOW SAVE US.”
What has been pointed out from Scripture in the former paper on this subject receives a striking illustration in 1 Pet. 3: 20, 21, where the Apostle, speaking of the circumstances of Noah and his family, the ark and the flood, says, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth now save us (R.V., ‘which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism’), not the putting away of the filth of the flesh but the answer (R.V., margin, ‘appeal’) of a good conscience toward God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Baptism is therefore the “answer” or “appeal” made by the conscience of the believer against everything contrary to his identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.
Thus the believer is thereby saved, not from the doom of his sins, but from an evil conscience, by his obedience to the Lord’s command concerning the ordinance. This passage is likewise a testimony to the Scriptural mode of baptism; for it speaks of the ordinance as “a corresponding figure” (lit., “a corresponding type”) to the similarly typical representation of burial and resurrection in the case of Noah and his family, and the waters which surrounded them.
Baptism bears no relation to the Jewish rite of circumcision, nor has baptism taken the place of circumcision. Jews who, as such, had been circumcised on the eighth day, were baptized after they had believed on Christ. If there is any analogy it lies in this, that, as Jews were circumcised because they were children of Abraham, so believers are baptized because they are children of God.
“BAPTISED FOR THE DEAD.”
In connection with the significance of baptism, the 29th verse of 1 Cor. 15 has been usually understood to refer to a certain ceremony which took place on the occasion of the burial of a believer. In view, however, of the absence of any other intimation in Scripture regarding such a ceremony, and the absence of any historical evidence thereof, another meaning must be sought. Bearing in mind that the original was written without punctuation marks, let the first question mark in the verse be placed after the word “baptized,” and the verse gives a meaning at once consistent with the doctrine of Scripture. The reading will be: “Else what shall they do which are baptized? It is for (i.e., ‘in the interests of’) the dead, if the dead are not raised at all. Why then are they baptized for them?” The question, “What shall they do . . .?” is a way of asking what is the use or value of being baptized. The insertion of the words “It is,” to provide the answer, is consistent with the frequent omission of the verb “to be” in the original, as is shown by the italicized words in several places in this chapter. If there is no resurrection of the dead, the ordinance, instead of setting forth the identification of believers with the risen Christ, has no meaning at all either for Him or for them; for all perish at death: see verse 18. Both His command and their witness in the ordinance are null and void, and their baptism is in the interests of dead ones.
On the contrary, the testimony given in baptism abides as a power day by day for life. The believer declares that he or she is dead to self with its desires and lusts, dead to the world and its friendships and aspirations (for he who Would be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God, Jas. 4: 4, R.V.), and testifies to the experience of the power of life in Christ, instead of the motive power of sin and self. How solemn is the confession, and yet how blessed! How binding the obligation and yet how holy! How marvellous this identification with the risen Lord Jesus! May our life be ever consistent with the witness.