Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the
dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them? Why
are we also in danger every hour? I affirm, brethren, by the boasting
in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If from
human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it
profit me? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for
tomorrow we die. Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good
morals.' Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some
have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.
Paul's mention of this particular type of proxy baptism was in response to the question of the resurrection. If there is no resurrection of the dead then why were people practicing a baptism for the dead?
The practice of a proxy baptism – “What will those do who are baptized for the dead? Why then are they baptized for them?”
The first thing that has to be acknowledged here is that Paul affirms the existence of this practice.
The second thing is that the existence of this practice testifies to the importance the early Church placed on baptism, even though this practice represents a perversion of it.
The third thing is that Paul does not ask, “why do you or we” but, why do “they,” whoever the ‘they' were. Paul is clearly separating himself and those at Corinth who did not practice this ritual for the dead, from those who did. It must also be noted that Paul is not giving credence to the practice. He simply acknowledges that some, whom he does not identify, were practicing this and it would appear that it was from among some of those who were claiming there was no resurrection. This reveals the existence of yet another faction that existed among those at Corinth just like this who were forbidding to marry. Just like those who had divided into factions over baptism, etc…. Some were teaching that there was no resurrection from the dead while at the same time practicing this proxy ritual of baptism for the dead. Paul is not offering a defense for this practice. Rather, he is stressing the obvious absurdity of denying the resurrection and then baptizing for those who had died. How would they propose to defend the logic of this? Paul is not legitimizing the practice, he is showing the absurdity of it.
If there is no resurrection, then the patient endurance of persecution and constant dangers for the sake of the gospel was all for nothing. “Why are we also in danger every hour?” All of the profound experiences of suffering that Paul and others endured would have all been meaningless.
Why not just eat drink and be merry? If there is no resurrection, then life is of no more value than the satisfaction of our appetites. If there is no resurrection then the satisfying of all fleshly appetites would be the highest and most noble aspiration we could hope to attain in this life. If there is no resurrection and we deny ourselves the greatest pleasures of this life, then all we are doing is robbing ourselves. Death, then, is the ultimate end of pleasures and we should enjoy every pleasure of life to its fullest because this is all there is. These are the consequences if there is no resurrection. On the other side of the coin, if there is a resurrection then the appetites of the flesh must be brought under control.