1.       1Cor15:29 – Baptised for the dead.What does this all mean?

2.       In Acts 8 we see Peter and John going to Samaria and laying their hands on the them for the Holy Spirit yet they were baptized in the name of Jesus which Peter in Acts2 says “be baptized in the name of the Jesus and you will receive the gift of the holy spirit.”This happens also in Acts 19 when Paul places his hands on those who are baptized in the name of Jesus.

These scriptures have given me trouble over the years and I have not been able to ask in time since some of my friends who were disciples left as a result of how they perceived the Holy Spirit. They went away to churches which after baptizing in the name of Jesus they place hands for the ‘holy spirit” My thinking is and I know it has to do more with God’s purpose since in Acts 2 it’s the Jews,Act10 It’s the Gentiles , Acts8 Samaritans and Acts19 John’s disciples but I want to be certain.

Your biblical assistance is highly appreciated.


Commentators have several possible explanations of 1 Corinthians 15:29.  This is a difficult passage and we will probably have to settle for saying we are not absolutely certain what Paul is getting at.  The question of interpretation depends on the question of whether there really were people being baptized for the dead in the church.   This is debated.  Possibly some sort of "baptism for the dead" was practiced by another group.  Possibly Paul is talking about something hypothetical.  Possibly there were actually people doing this in Corinth.  One thing we can be absolutely sure of, Paul is not promoting baptizing for the dead!  My thought is that there was probably a fringe group somewhere which actually proposed baptizing for the dead and that Paul was sarcastically referring to them in order to shame those in Corinth who were struggling with belief in the final resurrection of all souls at the end of time.  Sometimes when we come across more difficult passages (and 1 Cor 15:29 certainly is an example) we ought to start by asking what it certainly does NOT mean.  Once we eliminate the possibility that Paul is actually implying that baptism for the dead is an OK teaching, I think we can decide that it is not a devastating problem to be not exactly sure what Paul is referring to.

About Acts 8 and what happened with Phillip in Samaria, first of all, you need to understand that the Bible never teaches that one receives miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit by being baptized by immersion into Christ.  Baptism into Christ is for forgiveness of sins and to receive the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit, not for giving miraculous gifts.   The miraculous gifts were always given by laying on of hands by the apostles.  Perhaps there were exceptions to this rule, but none are given in the New Testament.  We know that Phillip had miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, but that he did not have the ability to pass on those gifts by laying on of hands.  In Acts 8 he had to send to Jerusalem for apostles to come to Samaria in order to pass along miraculous gifts.  Again, remember that the Scripture never connects baptism into Christ to miraculous gifts.  In Acts 2 and Acts 10, miraculous gifts were poured out on people to announce the arrival of the gospel.  Paul gave the miraculous gifts to Timothy by the laying on of hands.  This is what happened in Acts 8 when the apostles came to Samaria.  The scene in Acts 19 is another example supporting what I am saying here.  People were baptized into Christ.  This is the "one baptism" of Ephesians 4.  However, Paul was an apostle and he had the ability to pass on miraculous gifts to some of the members of the church in Ephesus.  This giving of miraculous gifts by the laying on of hands of an apostle is NEVER called baptism anywhere in the Bible.

We know from Hebrews 2:3-4 teaches that the "signs, wonders and miracles" had as their purpose to testify to the message of the gospel.  We now have the complete New Testament and have no further purpose for these miraculous gifts to be passed on.  Add to this the fact that there are no longer any apostles to pass on these gifts and we can be assured that almost certainly the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit are no longer available to followers of Jesus.  This claim is strongly supported by history.  If we study the statements of Christian writers in the second century we find that these gifts had ceased, although a questionable splinter group known as the Montanists claimed to have prophetic gifts.

Groups who lay on hands for receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit are not acting in a biblical way.  They can do this ceremony if they like, but there is no biblical warrant for such a ceremony.  For biblical reasons I am very skeptical of those who say they have miraculous gifts.  You would do well to be extremely skeptical of such claims as well.  Baptism never included laying on of hands and you would do well not to introduce such an unbiblical practice and should not be intimidated by those who do.

John Oakes

Comments are closed.