And Jesus said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16). -New American Standard Bible
The Scriptures plainly state, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” Easy enough? Case Solved? Nope.
Theologians like to complicate the perspicuity or clarity of Scripture by telling common folk this was not the author’s intent. They may explain this passage away with theological jargon, reject Mark 16 as canonical, or tell you the original language Greek denies it.
Since theologians assume you aren’t likely to open up a Greek-English Lexicon to prove them wrong, the conversation usually ends there. In fact, whoever told you baptism is not necessary for salvation was probably told the same thing by a pastor, mentor, or professor he or she trusted.
For these reasons, it’s crucial to mimic the Bereans by examining what you are told in light of God’s word (Acts 17:11). In this essay, I want to lay out arguments from both sides so you can discern truth from error.
Theologians who argue against baptism as a necessary component for salvation usually start out by saying,”While Scripture seems to indicate belief and baptism are necessary for salvation, this is not what Mark meant.” Their reasoning lies in the difference between the first clause and the second clause of the sentence.
E. Calvin Beisner, professor at Knox Theological Seminary, made this statement: “While the first clause says that all who both believe and are baptized will be saved, it does not say that all who neither believe nor are baptized will not be saved. In other words, the clause does not exclude any group, while it does tell of a group of people who will be saved, namely, those who both believe and are baptized.
But the second clause negates one group: those who do not believe will not be saved. There is no negation of the group of those who believe but are not baptized. Thus, while the verse as a whole does teach that belief is essential to salvation, it does not teach that baptism is.”
To summarize, professor Beisner is arguing that baptism is not an essential condition since it’s omitted from the latter part of this passage.
But think about it for a moment. If one doesn’t believe, do you think they will get baptized? For example, if I say, “He who turns on his TV and tunes in to channel 5 will see the program; he who refuses to turn on his TV will miss the program.” If the person doesn’t turn on the TV, do I need to also tell him not to tune into channel 5? No, because not turning on the TV will prevent the person from going to the channel in the first place. Therefore, arguing the omission of baptism in the second clause proves it’s not necessary is a weak argument.
The second most common argument against baptism is to suggest Mark 16:9-20 did not appear in the best of the manuscripts of the New Testament. Because it appears in late manuscripts, it should not be used as proof of doctrine. While it is true that Codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus do not have this passage, Codex Alexandrius and Bezae do, and both are early manuscripts from about AD 350. Also, I side with Metzger’s third view: the Gospel accidentally lost its last leaf before it was multiplied by transcription.
The third argument against baptism as being part of the gospel is the fear its adding works to the gospel, which would violate justification by faith alone in Christ alone. First, baptism is not a work of man, but a work of God (Col. 2:11-13). Jesus applies his atoning blood to us personally and raises us from spiritual death (Rom. 6:3). There is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor.
Second, it’s not a command, but rather a promise. When we call upon the name of the Lord during baptism, He is the one saving us (Acts 22:16) and rescuing us from the flood of judgment (1 Pet. 3:21), not ourselves.
Third, Mark 16 reveals that baptism and faith are synonymous since both are linked together so closely in this context.
In conclusion, I would encourage you to research the subject of baptism. There are many views out there, but Scripture must be the primary authority. Other passages to consider are Acts 2:38-42, Acts 22:16, Rom. 6:4-6, Gal. 3:27, Col. 2:11-13, and 1 Pet. 3:21.
Read each passage in its context and I would encourage you to read the Greek. The original language actually strengthens the argument for baptism being necessary for salvation. I believe once people view baptism as a visualization of faith rather than an act of obedience, they will begin to see it more clearly. Please feel free to agree or disagree in the comments below. Have a blessed day!