by Al Maxey

Issue #154 ------- October 23, 2004
To die is poignantly bitter, but the
idea of having to die without having
lived is unbearable.

Erich Fromm (1900-1980)
An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics

Being Baptized for the Dead
An Exegesis of 1 Cor. 15:29

"Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?" (1 Cor. 15:29, NIV). Paul wrote these words while in the city of Ephesus during his third missionary journey (1 Cor. 16:8). It was written during the winter of 56 AD. Paul had established the church in Corinth near the end of his second missionary journey (c. 53 AD). The historical account of its origin may be read in Acts 18:1-18. Soon after Paul left the city, Apollos came and worked with them (Acts 18:27 - 19:1). This was a relatively young, spiritually immature congregation of believers. They had many questions, many concerns, and many conflicts. Clearly, they were in need of guidance in several critical areas of belief and practice. One such area was their understanding, or lack thereof, with respect to the resurrection of the dead. They were struggling with this foundational truth, and some of their practices reflected great inconsistency with what they seemingly believed and professed.

In the first century, Corinth was infamous as a locale where people could "have a good time" (in a very worldly sense). Here one could find the temple of Aphrodite, which boasted several hundred cult prostitutes. At the time of the apostle Paul's establishment of the church in Corinth, this city had a population of almost 700,000 people, with almost two of every three persons being slaves. It also had a reputation of being one of the most wicked cities in existence. "The term 'a Corinthian' meant a profligate, and 'to Corinthianize' meant to engage in prostitution. In the Greek plays of that time Corinthians were usually represented as drunkards" (Dr. D.E. Hiebert, An Introduction to the Pauline Epistles, p. 106).

It was to a band of fairly new converts, struggling to be lights in the darkness of such an environment, that Paul wrote his powerful epistle now known to us as First Corinthians. It is thus little wonder that these saints were somewhat confused and conflicted. Many had recently come from paganism, others were still perhaps experiencing some loyalty to previous religious traditions. They had "seen the light," but as "through a glass, darkly" (1 Cor. 13:12, KJV). They were in need of additional insight into the wonders of God's marvelous gift and matchless grace. Thus, Paul sought to clarify some of their misconceptions, address some of their problems, and answer some of their questions.

A Logical Fallacy

To better understand the statement of Paul regarding "baptism for the dead" in 1 Cor. 15:29, we need to perceive the nature of the problem that prompted his reference to this practice, and then note the reason he made reference to such a practice. The basic misunderstanding of the Corinthian brethren was with regard to the resurrection of the dead. Apparently, some were not convinced of the truth of this doctrine. Paul boldly asks these brethren, "How can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?" (1 Cor. 15:12). "Paul saw this as a serious error" (Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 151).

The resurrection of the dead was, and is, a foundational truth of the Christian faith. To deny the promised resurrection is to deny the very heart and soul of Christianity. Acts 17:18 informs us that the message of Paul created quite a stir among those who heard him, "because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection." One cannot preach Jesus without preaching the reality of resurrection. Indeed, without a resurrection there is no hope! As Paul appeared before the Jewish Sanhedrin, he created yet another stir by proclaiming, "Brethren, I am on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead" (Acts 23:6). This was no trivial teaching for Paul; it was the core of the gospel. Paul informed the Corinthians that to deny the resurrection is essentially to deny hope. Without resurrection reality we are lost. Without resurrection, "our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied" (1 Cor. 15:14-19).

Paul's point is clear: if there is no bodily resurrection of the dead, as promised by the Lord, then when we die physically we perish. Our hope as Christians is NOT in the false doctrine of "immortal soulism," but rather in the divine promise of a physical resurrection from the dead. Embracing the former renders unnecessary the latter. Satan has gained quite a solid foothold in Christendom through this original lie -- "Thou shalt NOT surely die!" (Genesis 3:4). That lie has been perpetuated from that day forward, and the notion that "immortal souls" fly instantly off to heavenly bliss at the moment of physical death has caused countless disciples to abandon the hope of resurrection for the original lie of Inherent Immortality. The Lord "alone possesses immortality" (1 Tim. 6:16), which means you and I, inherently, do NOT ... but Jesus Christ has "brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Tim. 1:10). Thus, those who "seek for ... immortality" (one doesn't "seek for" that which one already possesses) shall be given "eternal life" (Rom. 2:7). Immortality is a GIFT, and it is only to be found "in Christ Jesus!" Many today, in effect, deny the worth of resurrection by proclaiming the inherent immortality of ALL men (saved and lost alike), rather than proclaiming the hope of resurrection to everlasting life only through Christ (Conditional Immortality). It is a subtle seduction by Satan, but it is deadly.

The early Corinthians, like far too many today, had lost sight of the spiritual significance of the resurrection from the dead. Some of them had completely rejected it as a valid doctrine of the Christian faith. Therefore, Paul spends much of chapter 15 seeking to bring them to a better appreciation of this foundational truth of the gospel message. He argues his point from many different angles. Some scholars suggest that in vs. 29 he employs what is known as an "argumentum ad hominem." This is a Latin phrase which simply means "argument to the man." It is a device in logic where one attacks the person rather than the idea. I personally do not believe this is what Paul is doing in this passage. It is far more likely he is employing what is known as a "non sequitur," another Latin phrase, which means "it does not follow." In other words, Paul's statement in vs. 29 signifies "that what they said and what they did were inconsistent. Their own practice, therefore, controverted their position" (Carl Holladay, The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, p. 205).

Paul's point in 1 Cor. 15:29 was simply this: If there is no hope of resurrection to life for the dead; if the dead are just dead, with no hope of resurrection to life, as some were professing in the church at Corinth, then why be baptized for such persons? What's the point of such a practice? It just doesn't follow; it is logically fallacious! "If the Corinthians have this practice they destroy their own case against the resurrection" (Dr. C.K. Barrett, First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 363). Their practice (baptism for the dead) "does not follow" their profession (there is no resurrection of the dead). Thus, it is essentially a charge of inconsistency between ritual and doctrine. Somewhat like the disciples in Corinth observing the Lord's Supper (a meal signifying, in part, their unity -- 1 Cor. 10:16-17) while dishonoring that Supper through their disharmony and division (1 Cor. 11:17-22). By their actions and attitudes they were making a mockery of one of the central truths underlying their ritual; the inconsistency was glaring! This is more commonly known as a "Logical Fallacy."

Thus, Paul's argument to the brethren in Corinth was that the very practice of performing baptisms for the dead argues against their teaching that the dead are devoid of any hope of future life. If the dead are dead, never to be raised to life, then to be baptized for them is illogical. Few scholars would argue that this was not the primary purpose of Paul in 1 Cor. 15:29. Paul's purpose, however, is really not where the major hermeneutical difficulty lies; it is with the Corinthians' practice.

Pondering the Problem

The problem primarily perceived with Paul's pronouncement in 1 Cor. 15:29 is two-fold: the nature of the practice itself (what was this "baptism for the dead") and Paul's silence with respect to any refutation or rebuke of the practice. The latter has led some to wonder if perhaps Paul actually condoned baptism for the dead. Most scholars, however, reject this premise, believing instead that this was merely "a custom which Paul cited for his argument without approving" (Davis Dictionary of the Bible, p. 75). "Paul was not advocating the practice of baptizing for the dead. Paul was merely pointing to the inconsistency in the thought of the Corinthians" (Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 152). "We are not to understand that St. Paul gives it his sanction -- he only recalls the fact of the custom, and uses it for the purpose of his argument" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 19). There are others, however, who are convicted that Paul would never "stoop to make use of this 'superstition' for 'tactical' reasons, i.e., in order to win a point in an argument" (R.C.H. Lenski, An Interpretation of First Corinthians, p. 691). The most likely view, however, is that Paul was merely alluding to this practice, which would have been very familiar to the Corinthians, to drive home an important truth regarding resurrection reality, and that he was not thereby either approving or authorizing said practice.

The major difficulty in the passage involves identifying the practice itself, as well as identifying those who were using it. This has led to literally dozens of differing interpretations. Adam Clarke declared, "This is certainly the most difficult verse in the New Testament" (Clarke's Commentary, vol. 6, p. 284). B.W. Johnson observed, "This passage is difficult, and has received almost as many interpretations as there have been commentators" (The People's NT with Notes, vol. 2, p. 123). "This is confessedly an obscure expression, and has given rise to many and conflicting interpretations, none of which are free from difficulties" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 19). "This is a famous crux interpretum. Opinion concerning its meaning has been divided since early times, and there can be few verses of Scripture concerning which the views of modern commentators are so bewilderingly diverse" (Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 1, p. 469). Brother Jimmy Allen, in his Survey of 1 Corinthians, writes, "One expositor mentioned a work which has thirty-six explanations of this verse. Another said the interpretations of it were too numerous to catalogue" (p. 190). "This in itself should cause the interpreter to be cautious rather than imaginative" (Carl Holladay, The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, p. 205). For those who want to examine an in-depth account of the history of the interpretation of this passage, it may be found in the book Die Taufe für die Toten by M. Rissi (published in 1962).

It is clearly beyond the scope of this present article to examine in-depth each of the many interpretations suggested through the centuries by various scholars. "Many of them are not worth recording, and are only worth alluding to at all as specimens of the willful bias which goes to Scripture, not to seek truth, but to support tradition" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 19). Having given this disclaimer, I shall nevertheless list some of the more intriguing interpretations below for the enlightenment, as well as the amusement, of the readers:

  1. The term "dead" is taken metaphorically as a representation of suffering and hardships faced because of one's faith. Paul's personal references in vs. 30-32 are used to help justify this view, as well as Jesus' reference to a baptism of suffering (Mark 10:38-39; Luke 12:50; and Matt. 20:22-23 -- in the KJV). Thus, Paul is speculating as to why one would willingly submit to such a "baptism of suffering" if there was no reward (a resurrection to life) following such suffering and possible death.

  2. It means to be baptized out of respect for the feelings of those who are now dead. In other words, if your mother had always wanted to see you baptized into Christ, but you had never done so while she was alive, you would now go ahead and be baptized so that your dead mother could rejoice with the angels over your immersion. They often quote Jesus, who said, "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:10). Thus, the living are baptized for the dead ... i.e., to bring the dead joy in heaven! There is some historical evidence that some ancient disciples were actually baptized over the graves of departed loved ones so that they might literally be "baptized over the dead" -- (in 1 Cor. 15:29 the preposition huper is the one used in this phrase, which, in addition to meaning "for, on behalf of," may also mean "over, above;" it generally only signifies the latter meaning, however, when used with the accusative case, which is not the case used in the text).

  3. Another twist on this is for the living to be baptized so that they might join their departed loved ones one day! I want to see grandma or grandpa again in heaven, so I had better go get baptized so that I can go there to be with them. Thus, one is baptized for the sake of joining the glorified dead. But, again, as with #2, this immersion would be pointless if there is no such thing as a resurrection to life for the dead. Such a practice, therefore, argues against their denial of the doctrine of resurrection .... which is Paul's point, regardless of which interpretation one embraces.

  4. A more "here and now" focus is evidenced in the theory that living persons are baptized into Christ to fill the vacancies left by members who have died. "This is the military concept of one soldier taking the place of another who has fallen in battle" (Jimmy Allen, Survey of 1 Corinthians, p. 190). One scholar, in The Pulpit Commentary, is quoted as saying it applies to "those who, from pagan darkness, were converted by the gospel and were admitted into the visible Church, there to fill up the place of those who, by martyrdom or otherwise, had been called away by death. The new convert then took the place of the departed saint. Thus, conversions in the Church replenish the losses caused by death."

  5. "Baptism for the dead" is a reference to being baptized into Christ Jesus --- "the dead" being interpreted as a reference to the Lord. Thus, our baptism is "for Him." But, as Paul says in 1 Cor. 15, if not even HE has been raised, then our faith (as well as our baptism) is worthless and futile. A strong argument against this interpretation, however, is the fact that the phrase "the dead" is plural in the Greek. Thus, it refers to the "dead ones," rather than to a "dead one."

  6. Some suggest the practice merely alluded to the washing of a dead body to prepare it for burial. But, again, why wash and clean the body if it was never expected to rise again?! Such a practice would appear to be inconsistent with the denial of a physical resurrection of the dead. If the body simply rots, never to be raised, why bother to wash it?

  7. A scholar by the name of Olshausen took the view that the resurrection of the dead on the day of judgment could not occur until a specific number of persons had accepted Christ Jesus. The dead must remain dead and in the graves until that number was reached. Thus, many people were baptized in the hope of drawing ever closer to meeting that magic number (known only to our God) and, in so doing, rescuing the dead from their tombs. It could be justly said, therefore, that they were being "baptized for the dead" (i.e., to their ultimate benefit). Such a theory, even though rather bizarre, still assumes a resurrection, which some in Corinth were denying. The practice was simply not consistent with the profession.

  8. Some see the phrase denoting a rite of purification. We are all "dead" in our sins, but those sins are "washed away" in the "waters of baptism." The dead (i.e., each of us) are raised to life -- "raised from the watery grave." To be "baptized for the dead," therefore, simply signifies that each one of us, who are dead in our sins, are being immersed unto a death, burial and resurrection to newness of life. It is merely symbolic of a spiritual reality (Romans 6).

Vicarious Baptism

There are obviously countless other theories that could be listed, but these should suffice to show the diversity of opinion that has been generated by this passage from the pen of Paul. The dominant interpretation of the phrase "baptism for the dead," however -- one which has endured for many centuries -- is that it refers to the practice of an immersion by proxy; a vicarious baptism. This is where one person is immersed in water so that another person (in this case, one who is physically dead) may receive the benefit of that immersion. Thus, a living person is baptized on behalf of a dead person.

The Pulpit Commentary states, "This clause can have but one meaning, and that is its obvious one, namely, that, among the many strange opinions and practices which then prevailed was one which was entirely unwarranted -- but which St. Paul does not here stop to examine -- of persons getting themselves baptized as it were by proxy for others who had died ... in the hope of extending to them some of its benefits." "The only tenable interpretation is that there existed amongst some of the Christians at Corinth a practice of baptizing a living person in the stead of some convert who had died before that sacrament had been administered to him" (Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 7, p. 348). This was a practice well-known among the early Christian heretical groups, such as the Marcionites, the Montanists, and the Cerinthians, where the living were often baptized on behalf of the dead, so that the latter, who had died without having been baptized, might still be saved. Early Church Fathers, such as Tertullian, Epiphanius, and Chrysostom recorded actual occurrences of such vicarious baptisms. It was also practiced by the Egyptian Copts. The practice was ultimately forbidden in the sixth canon of the Council of Hippo (393 AD).

"The present tense of 'baptize' suggests that the practice of baptizing for the dead was current and evidently well known to the Corinthians" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 10, p. 287). This is not to suggest, however, that the Corinthians themselves were engaging in this practice. This, by the way, is the source of yet another major interpretive controversy among biblical scholars -- were the saints in Corinth actually baptizing for the dead, or were they merely aware of the practice among others? Some suggest the former, others insist on the latter. Those who promote the latter point out that just north of Corinth was the city of Eleusis, a site where pagans practiced a form of baptism for the dead (mentioned by Homer in his Hymn to Demeter).

Paul's goal at this point was not to condemn the practice of baptism for the dead; perhaps he did this at another time, and that discussion is simply not preserved for us. His goal, rather, was to show the inconsistency between their ritual and their doctrine. His focus was the resurrection, and he employed this false practice only to add force to his argument. It has bothered some disciples greatly that Paul did not repudiate the practice of baptism for the dead. However, it was not uncommon to allude to a false teaching or practice to make a point, and yet do so without taking the time on that occasion to refute the error. Even Jesus did this. In John 9, for example, His disciples, as they passed a man "blind from birth" (vs. 1), asked Jesus, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?" (vs. 2). Some had the mistaken view that one could sin in a previous existence, prior to birth, and thus be forced to pay for that sin by being given a deformed body at birth. Interestingly, Jesus responded to their question, but He did not refute this pagan doctrine! He did not thereby condone it, however! The same is true with Paul in 1 Cor. 15:29 and his employment, for the sake of his argument, of the practice of some being "baptized for the dead."

Current Practice: The Mormons

One does not hear much about baptism for the dead in mainstream Christendom, however this is not to suggest it still does not exist in some fringe movements. A perfect example is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons). Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the LDS movement, taught, "If we can baptize a man in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost for the remission of sins, then it is just as much our privilege to act as an agent and be baptized for the remission of sins for and in behalf of our dead kindred who have not heard the gospel or the fullness of it" (Scott G. Kenney, Wilford Woodruff's Journal, vol. 2, p. 165). According to B.H. Roberts, the major historian for the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith declared, "A man may act as proxy for his own relatives .... we may be baptized for those whom we have much friendship for ..." (History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, vol. 6, p. 366).

In 1959, Stephen L. Richards, who was First Counselor in the First Presidency of the Salt Lake Church, wrote, "All men are equal before the law and all are to have the opportunity, even the dead, to accept the Gospel and receive the promised blessings, but all must know and understand, and the dead who have gone on into the spirit world without knowledge of the Gospel are to be hereafter given an election to embrace it through vicarious works done for them by their descendants and other friends in the brotherhood of the Church" (About Mormonism, p. 11). Richard E. DeMaris, in the Journal of Biblical Literature, noted the view of the Mormons was that "the living were thought to be obligated to help the deceased become integrated into the realm of the dead." This they sought to accomplish via acts of proxy obedience, which included baptism for the dead.

The first recorded public affirmation of this doctrine of baptism for the dead in the Mormon Church came in August, 1840. The occasion was the funeral of Seymour Brunson in Nauvoo, Illinois. Joseph Smith delivered the funeral sermon, in which he stated to a woman, whose son had died without having been baptized, that this doctrine would prove to be for her, and also for the departed lad, "glad tidings of great joy." The first recorded baptisms for the dead were performed in the Mississippi River near Nauvoo.

In the early years of Mormonism, vicarious baptisms were performed only for direct blood relatives who were deceased. They would also baptize for their ancestors, although usually not more than four generations back. Today proxy baptisms are far more sweeping. They will even collect names of persons unrelated, sometimes even unknown, to them, and members of the Mormon Church will be baptized for these dead persons so that they might receive the remission of their sins and be saved. When they began collecting the names of Jewish Holocaust victims a few years ago, and began being baptized for these persons, then listing them as "Mormons" in their International Genealogical Index, an outcry arose! Ernest Michel, chairman of the New York based World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, said the number of names collected by the Mormons, for whom they had performed proxy baptisms, was in "six figures." Michel stated, "We are very hopeful that we will be able to convince the church to stop!" In point of fact, the Mormon Church did indeed agree to cease this practice with respect to the Holocaust victims. Mormon Church spokesman Michael Leonard stated that future baptisms of such Holocaust victims would only occur if it could be demonstrated the deceased was a direct ancestor of a living member of the Latter Day Saints or if the Mormon Church had written permission from all the living members of the deceased person's immediate family. As one can quickly perceive, not only is this practice a major theological problem, but it can quickly become a delicate social issue as well.


It is almost mind-boggling the depths of theological absurdity to which men plunge themselves when they fail to perceive the beauty and simplicity of God's revealed Truth. Paul's statement in 1 Cor. 15:29, when examined in context, is really not that complicated or complex. The relatively new Christians in Corinth were struggling to understand the concept of resurrection. Some, indeed, had come to believe it was a fallacious doctrine. Paul needed to reaffirm this most basic of Christianity's foundational truths. He approached that task from several tactical and strategic directions, one of which was to point out the inconsistency of that denial with the practice of being baptized for the dead. Paul's goal was not to refute the practice, but merely to refer to the practice, one with which they were familiar, to spotlight the absurdity of their position. I believe he succeeded admirably!

Although Paul did not address the matter directly, he nevertheless would most certainly agree that "baptism for the dead" -- vicarious immersion for the deceased -- was, and is, a false doctrine and practice. It is both an abomination and an absurdity. It accomplishes nothing, and actually denies some of the core truths of the Christian faith, including the nature of man, the nature of redemption, the purpose of active, demonstrated faith, and the parameters of God's grace. Psalm 49:7 clearly states, "No man can by any means redeem his brother." Yet, the practice of vicarious baptism is an attempt to do just that. It is contrary to Truth. Therefore, it must be rejected!

Reflections from Readers

From a Reader in Colorado:

I don't know if you remember me, but I came to your office once for counseling. Well, my life sure has changed a bunch since I last saw you. I live in Colorado now. Your article "Suicide Among Saints" was very good, I thought. I went through a horrible depression right before my divorce from my husband. I too tried taking my life. I almost made it. I was given a 50/50 chance to live. I was hurting so badly, and I was so ready to die. I can still feel the pain. I never want to go back there again. I had so much emotional pain that the thought of living another day seemed impossible. But now, several years later, I realize that I am worth something. I now believe God knew I had a good heart. That was a very good article and I commend you for writing an article that gives people so many thoughts about what is right or wrong. Keep up the great work.

From a Reader in Georgia:

I'm so very behind on reading through the Reflections. This is such "spiritual meat" that sometimes I have to go off and "chew" on it before I go on. I work in a prison ministry and the Sheriff won't let us take the prisoners out to be baptized, nor may we bring in anything in which to baptize them. Your prayers that this impasse will be overcome would be much appreciated. God bless you in your work. May the Holy Spirit guide you and be your constant Companion.

From a Deacon in Alabama:

Brother Maxey, I just read your article on suicide and would like to be added to your Reflections mailing list. I am the father and father-in-law of a couple you knew in Hawaii. In fact, I was fortunate enough to hear you preach when we visited them in Honolulu. I am a Deacon at the ----------- Church of Christ in Alabama. I recently lost a good friend, and member of the church, from suicide (he waited on the table the Sunday before), so my daughter sent your article to me. I am sorry I did not know of your other writings 'till now.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Al, Thanks so much for your comments about suicide. I have experienced oppressive desperation in my own life at times that caused me to consider taking my own life. I never once thought that I would not be forgiven if I chose that particular remedy to my deep depression. The thing that kept me from attempting suicide was ultimately my clinging to a faith that God was not yet through with me on this earth ... that His greater purpose for me was to remain, even in the midst of agonizing emotional and spiritual pain. On this side of my decision, I know I was right to remain. However, I have two family members, an uncle and his son (my cousin) who both committed suicide. Both suffered from bi-polar disorder (manic-depression). Their lives were a constant living hell and their despair just too much to deal with.

From a Minister in Virginia:

Brother Al, I myself am also a Church of Christ ("Independent") Minister, and am located in Virginia. I have recently read the dialogue you had with Pastor David Martin of the Baptist Church. I was very much impressed with your arguments, and very disappointed with David's arrogant answers. I was surprised at him insisting that you were using "smoke and mirrors," when he himself was so guilty. Oh, by the way, I graduated from Liberty University (Jerry Falwell's school, hence a Baptist school), and so far not a single one of them has been able to sway me in my faith and understanding of God's Word. So Al, you stay strong and keep the faith! Both Max Lucado and I support you!!!

From an Elder in Missouri:

Once again you have dealt with a very delicate subject with compassion and sound advice. I am thankful that I am not the judge! I don't know if you are familiar with Dr. Paul Quinnett and the QPR Institute. I am a certified trainer in their "gate keeper" program. I am sending you the link to their web site: They have a free download of his book -- Suicide: The Forever Decision, which is excellent. I have known people who felt such despair that they truly believed there was no other recourse. Mostly, like you, I have been able to plant a seed that allows them to see another possibility. But, I also have had some who went on and succeeded in ending their lives despite all that I or anyone else said or did. Tragic and heart-wrenching!

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Maxey, In reading one of your Reflections articles on baptism you referred to a book by Max Lucado -- Baptism: The Demonstration of Devotion. Where can I purchase that book? I have looked all over the Internet and cannot find it. Can you help me locate this book? Keep up the good work in your Reflections. You are a breath of fresh air!! May the Lord bless you in all that you do.

From a Minister in Florida:

Dear Al, This has been a crazy night. My cousin and I witnessed a murder: a man who shot a woman in the head with whom he disagreed. I cannot believe how evil our times are becoming. I got to my parents house and plugged in my laptop, and saw your Reflections article on suicide. I have a dear friend who lost someone to suicide last year, and I have often wondered about the situation. Thanks much! Also, I am just shocked at the brutality I saw tonight. Sorry if I am rambling in this letter. I was with that woman when she died, holding her hand and trying to recite the 23rd Psalm to her. I am almost afraid to go to sleep (hope that doesn't sound cowardly). Well, thanks for your time and the good email Reflections. Also, I would appreciate your prayers for me, and for the cousin who was with me tonight. By the way, do you remember the uncle I told you about who was shot and killed last November? It is his daughter who was with me tonight. I just pray, "Maranatha!"

From a Reader in Georgia:

Al, I am wrestling with some ideas. I believe my freedom in Christ has given me a much, much firmer foundation for my Christianity. I believe I have a better understanding of Christ's freedom than most of my brethren who are more legalistic in their approach to serving Christ. My dilemma arises from knowing some of these legalists. I do not mean being acquainted with them -- I mean having a really good idea as to how they live, privately and publicly, and having a really good idea of their sincerity in serving Christ. On the one hand, I lean towards condemning their service to Christ because of their legalism. Yet, on the other, I know my service to Christ is imperfect too ... even with my freedom. I believe grace will cover my imperfections. So, by that rationale, how can I expect that grace will not cover the legalist's imperfections too? If I do not allow grace to cover the legalist, am I not becoming a legalist too? To me, the separation point between those who will be saved and those who won't is the motive by which we do what we do. If our sincere motive is service to Christ, legalist or liberal, then grace will cover us. Well, enough venting. I really appreciate your work with these Reflections. I know of individuals who read them and who have grown in Christ because of them. Your influence is very great. Truly, you do much good among many.

From a Minister in Kentucky:

Dear Bro. Maxey, I have a question I want to ask you because I respect your constant study of the Scriptures. Growing up in the Churches of Christ I had always heard that worshipping "in spirit and truth" (John 4:23) meant that we had to have the correct balance of proper emotion and right doctrine during our worship. "Spirit" was the emotion and "truth" was the way the Bible commanded we worship. As I have grown in my faith and studied more I have come to another conclusion as to what that passage means. God cannot be confined to some place, but can be found everywhere -- therefore, we are to worship "in spirit" (i.e., everywhere we find ourselves). "Truth," as found in John, almost always refers to Jesus, not some right doctrine. So I've come to the conclusion that He is not dealing with "the right balance of heart and doctrine," but He is dealing with the where and who of worship. We worship anywhere and everywhere ("in spirit"), and we are to worship Jesus ("truth"). What are your thoughts on this?

From a Reader in Mississippi:

Thank you, Al, for your article "Suicide Among Saints," and for taking the time to write on such a delicate subject. One thing I appreciate you touching on, which most people, whether for or against, gloss over or miss completely, is the state of mind of the individual contemplating the act. A large majority of those who attempt suicide are in a state of depression, and I do not mean feeling blue because it is a cloudy day. These people are in a pit so deep and dark that they truly feel there is no way to get out. There is not even a sparkle of light they can reach toward. They feel completely isolated and without hope of any kind. When in such a state, they are so deeply into depression that they believe the only way to be released from their pain is to be released from life. In this state, they do not know right from wrong, and are truly "not guilty by reason of insanity." While God is certainly not bound by secular state law, I do believe He looks toward the heart, and I believe rather than condemning a person for throwing His gift of life back at Him, He grieves with them, and for them, over its loss. Suicide is a very delicate topic, one where emotions can run raw on either side, and I applaud the compassionate way you went about discussing it.

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