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"dying in testimony of their belief in the divinity and resurrection of Christ." As the apostle is treating of the resurrection of the dead, and earnestly defending this doctrine from the assaults which are made against it, "baptized for the dead" evidently means, "baptized for the resurrection of the dead."
Thus far this interpretation is certainly correct. But a doubt may be reasonably entertained whether it is equally correct in the figurative meaning annexed to the word "baptized." It is supposed that this word means "immersed in suffering," agreeably to the sense in which our Saviour applies it to his own sufferings, when, in reference to them, he speaks of the "baptism with which he should be baptized." To this signification of the word there are two objections. The first is, that the word is no where used in this signification but in the discourse of our Saviour, where he is speaking of the intenseness of his own sufferings: the trials and afflictions which Christians should endure, are no where designated in this figurative manner. And the second objection is, that there can be no necessity for having recourse to a figurative signification, where the literal meaning will answer.
Applying the word "baptized" literally to the Christian sacrament of baptism, we shall arrive at the true meaning of the passage. "Baptized for
the dead" refers to those who have received Christian baptism in testimony of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.
But how, it may be asked, was this testimony given in baptism? It was denoted in the rite itself; it was given in the profession then made.
The rite itself holds forth the doctrine of the
resurrection. "Buried with him," says the apostle, "by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection." Here it is evident that the apostle considers baptism as representing the spiritual death and resurrection of Christians in connexion with their temporal death and immortal resurrection to life and glory. In another view, baptism also denotes the doctrine of the resurrection. It is a covenant rite, in which those who receive it engage to serve God as his people, and he graciously promises to be their God." But God," as our Saviour himself argues, "is not the God of the dead, but of the living." When, therefore, in baptism he graciously promises to be the God of his people, he impliedly engages to raise them from the dead to life and glory, in order that he may be the God, not of the dead, but of the living.
Thus, then, they who were baptized, were “baptized for the resurrection of the dead." They received a rite which most forcibly denoted this fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith.
But further: baptism testifies to the doctrine of the resurrection, on account of the profession of belief in this doctrine which was then made. A profession of faith, personally or by sureties, is essential to baptism. "Believe and be baptized," is the exhortation of Christ and his apostles. "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ;" and of this belief the fundamental article is, that he is, agreeably to his own gracious declaration, "the resurrection and the life; and that whosoever believeth in him
should not perish, but have everlasting life." This is the belief which, in every age of Christianity, has been deemed essential to baptism. They, therefore, who were baptized, were "baptized for the resurrection of the dead;" they bore testimony. in baptism to this doctrine, by the profession of belief in it which was then made.
"Baptized for the dead" then means, having received Christian baptism in testimony of the resurrection of the dead. This is an interpretation which gives full force and meaning to the reasoning of the apostle.
On the whole, then, the difficulty of this passage will be removed, if we consider it as elliptical, agreeably to the practice of many writers, and particularly St. Paul, and supply the words which, from the subject of the apostle's reasoning, are evidently understood, and thus render the passage, "baptized for the resurrection of the dead;" "baptized in testimony of the resurrection of the dead;" a doctrine represented by the rite of baptism, and professed by all who have received it.
Forcible, according to this interpretation, is the reasoning of the apostle-" Else what shall they do, who are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead!"
If the dead rise not, what shall they do who receive baptism as an emblem and a pledge of their spiritual death and immortal resurrection? They partake of an unmeaning and illusory rite. Why are they baptized professing their belief in the resurrection of the dead, if the dead rise not? Their profession is vain; the glorious hopes which it inspires are vain. By denying the doctrine of
the resurrection, baptism is thus rendered an unmeaning rite; it is no longer the emblem and the pledge of the spiritual death and immortal resurrection of Christians; for if the dead rise not, Christ is not risen. Vain then is the profession of faith in his resurrection made in baptism; vain all those hopes of immortal life and glory which the belief of the resurrection inspires-so animating in the discharge of duty, so consolatory under the sorrows and trials of the world.
2. "And," continues the apostle, proceeding to another topic in defence of the resurrection, "why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die."
Here the apostle forcibly argues in favour of the doctrine of the resurrection, from the animating motives which it affords to Christians to sustain the trials of the world, and from the folly, if there be no resurrection, of foregoing the pleasures of this life, to encounter persecution and death, without any prospect of recompense in the life to come.
Different meanings have been assigned to the declaration of the apostle in this part of the passage "If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus."
Some have understood the expression metaphorically, and supposed that the apostle alluded to some contests which he had with his enemies at Ephesus, whom, for their rage and malice, he compares to wild beasts: but a metaphorical sense is
never to be admitted when a literal one will answer; and there is no reason for supposing that the apostle did not literally fight with wild beasts at Ephesus. Exposure to wild beasts was a severe punishment common in those times and countries: that St. Paul was doomed to this punishment by the malicious arts and power of his adversaries is insinuated where, in recounting his sufferings, he speaks of being "in deaths oft;" and is more expressly declared in this epistle, where he speaks of being "appointed to death, being made a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men:" and again, in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, he speaks of being "pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired of life." St. Paul, then, "after the manner of men," after the barbarous customs of those times, was sentenced to fight as a gladiator with the wild beasts at Ephesus; so that he was "appointed unto death;" he was " made a spectacle;" he "despaired of life," but was providentially preserved.
"If the dead rise not, why stand we in jeopardy,” is the forcible reasoning of the apostle, "every hour?" why do we Christians expose ourselves every hour to the danger of death, in defence of a Master who has never risen from the grave, and in the hope of a resurrection to life which will never be realized? "I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord," by my joy on account of your faith in him, by our common joy in the profession of his name, I am so surrounded with danger that I daily suffer all the apprehensions of death-every day is, as it were, a martyrdom to me "I die daily." Nay, I was exposed, for his sake, to a combat with wild beasts at Ephe