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H.A. Ironside’s Ministry Stories (And S. Lewis Johnson’s Observations)

August 2, 2013 3 comments

H.A. Ironside and his stories often come up in S. Lewis Johnson’s sermons.  Now going through SLJ’s 1 Corinthians series, he mentions a book from Ironside, Random Reminiscences from Fifty Years of Ministry, while telling a story found in Ironside’s commentary from 1 Corinthians 15, specifically concerning verse 29, “those who are baptized for the dead.”

Ironside’s small book is available online here, a short read with some interesting evangelism stories, of which I‘ve now read a few.  The story in reference to 1 Corinthians 15:29 is actually found in Ironside’s commentary on 1 Corinthians (this section):

The view held by these Mormons and a few others is based on the belief that baptism in itself is a saving ordinance, that apart from it none will ever be saved. It would follow that since a great many people have died without having had the opportunity of being baptized, someone else must be baptized for them if they are going to be saved. Therefore the Mormons say that the apostle was referring to—and approving of—living Christians being baptized vicariously on behalf of people who have died unbaptized. This is a common practice among the Latter Day Saints. In fact they have temples in which they carry out the ceremony of baptism for the dead, and people are urged to be baptized, some over and over and over again, for the dead who were never baptized in this life.

When I was in Salt Lake City some years ago, a young Mormon elder told me about a wealthy lady who had been baptized over thirty thousand times. Every time she was baptized she paid a sum of money to the Mormon church, so you can see that baptism for the dead is a rather good thing from the financial standpoint! She had spent her entire fortune redeeming people, so she thought, from death and destruction. She had been baptized for all her deceased friends and relatives; then she had taken thousands of names from history and literature and had been baptized for every one of them. Alexander the Great, Nebuchadnezzar, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Cleopatra were among those for whom she wanted to be the means of salvation. The youthful elder said to me with a very solemn face, “I believe that in the day of judgment it will be proven that this lady, through being baptized for the dead, has saved more souls than Jesus Christ ever saved through dying on Calvary’s cross.” That ridiculous and blasphemous theory of course finds no support whatever in the Word of God.

A rather sad story, actually, showing the depths of deception within the cults and the financial ruin it drives some people to.  S. Lewis Johnson, relating the story, also states his opinion regarding one of the famous people, a view in agreement with what I’ve heard elsewhere and also understand from Daniel 4:

According to Dr. Ironside, she was baptized for Alexander the Great.  Will we see him in heaven?  She was baptized for Nebuchadnezzar.  Well, that was unnecessary I think.  Nebuchcadnezzar, as far as I can see from the Old Testament, probably was a believer, and we will see him.