1 Corinthians 15:29-16:24

Tonight we are gathering to read through 1 Corinthians 15:29-16:24. This will conclude our summer reading of Paul’s letter.

This week’s readings begin with one of the more puzzling statements in all of the New Testament: “What do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?” A surface reading of this verse leads to the interpretation that 1) members of the Corinthian congregation were being vicariously baptized for the benefit of those who had already died and 2) Paul has no objection to the practice.  In the early Church, the Marcionites (who denied a physical resurrection) practiced the vicarious baptism of the dead based on this verse. According to John Chrysostom: “when any Catechumen departs among them, having concealed the living man under the couch of the dead, they approach the corpse and talk with him, and ask him if he wishes to receive baptism; then when he makes no answer, he that is concealed underneath says in his stead that of course, he should wish to be baptized; and so they baptize him instead of the departed, like men jesting upon the stage.” Homily 40. Chrysostom, echoing earlier theologians, goes on to interpret this verse as the “dead” referring to our death in baptism as Paul explains in Romans 6:1-11, and certainly not the vicarious baptism practiced by the heretics. Today, the Mormons and some other Christian sects, such as the New Apostolic Church have revived the practice of the baptism of the dead based upon a literal reading of this verse and 1 Peter 3:18-20.

A final purpose of the letter is that Paul is taking a collection for the Church in Jerusalem.  Paul’s plea appears to be a means by which Paul seeks to show the Jerusalem church that the Church of Christ encompasses both the Jews in Jerusalem who founded the Church and the Gentile converts throughout the remainder of the known world. Gal. 2:10.  Paul makes a longer appeal for an offering in his subsequent letter to the Corinthians because the plight of the Church in Jerusalem had become more critical. 2 Cor. 8-9.

Dinner is at 6. The menu this week is tacos and Mexican beer. Hope to see you here.

Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love . . . [And] the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14, 22 

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