The Berean Expositor
Volume 46 - Page 90 of 249
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some who had died. Yet another view postulates that such baptism refers to young
converts who took the place of older brethren who had died. The difficulty lies in the
preposition huper, "on behalf of". With regard to the Mormon view, there is no evidence
that a rite of this kind arose at any time in the first century. There is nothing like it till the
second century and then only in connection with heretics like the Marcionites, and in any
case, knowing the Apostle's horror of false teaching, we should expect him to expose its
falsity had it occurred at Corinth.
One thing is quite clear, namely that water baptism, symbolizing death, burial, and
resurrection, would have no point if there was no resurrection. The rite would have been
empty and meaningless. Dr. E. W. Bullinger suggests there is the figure Ellipsis here and
by supplying the words "it is" as the translators have done in Rom. 8: 34, the verse
then reads "What shall they do who are being baptized? It is on behalf of the dead if the
dead rise not at all". He points out that nekros `dead', with the article as is the verse we
are considering, usually means dead bodies, whereas without the article it refers to dead
We believe this to be the best solution of the difficulty that confronts us in verse 29. It
fits perfectly with the context and is in harmony with the verse that follows, "why do we
also stand in jeopardy every hour?" What point would there be in incurring continual
dangers that accompanied his apostleship if death was the end of everything? "In death
oft" he wrote in his second letter to the Corinthian church (II Cor. 11: 23). We come to
another problem in verse 32. What did he mean by fighting with beasts at Ephesus? He
could not have been exposed literally to wild animals in the arena unless he had lost his
Roman citizenship, of which there is no evidence whatsoever. It looks as though he was
using it metaphorically of his enemies. "I die daily", he declared, that is, he was daily
exposed to the risk of death, and if "merely as a man" he faced this then there was no
point in it without the Christian hope.
Heroditus, of Ephesus, had described his countrymen as "wild beasts" 400 years
before. Likewise Epimenedes called the Cretans "beasts" (Titus 1: 12), and Ignatius, later
on, described himself as "fighting with wild beasts, being bound to ten leopards" by
which he meant a detachment of soldiers who were guarding him. The whole point is
that such experiences were valueless if there was not the hope of resurrection; why not
seek to avoid all such difficulty and danger? Why not "eat and drink, for tomorrow we
die"? (32). This is a quotation from Isa. 22: 13, but with a different context. Note Paul
does not add the words "and be merry", as many do who misquote it without the solid
hope of eternal life. There is little to be merry about in a world that is dominated by sin,
death and disappointment.