By Paul R. Blake
Over the many years I have served as an evangelist, I have talked with many folks who have a very visceral reaction to the New Testament command to be baptized in order to be saved. Most of their opposition stems from the almost universally taught error of salvation by faith only. From the distant and dim past of Calvinism, misguided men have been teaching that one is saved at the point of faith, in spite of the fact that James clearly wrote: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). However, baptism is rejected by the erring because it is a work, and they reason that we are not saved by works, a misapplication of what Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-10. In point of fact, faith is also called a work two times by the same apostle (1Thes. 1:3; 2Thes. 1:11), but because this contradicts Calvinism, it is ignored. In truth, baptism is as essential for salvation as is faith. Leave either out of the equation and one is still in his sins.
Consider what Jesus clearly stated about salvation: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Did Jesus make baptism necessary for salvation? Well, what are the conditions of salvation in this text? Believe and be baptized. The argument has been made that Jesus didn’t restate baptism in the second part of His statement; therefore, baptism is not a necessary condition for salvation. This is neither sound nor logical reasoning. When one states two conditions for a desired result, both conditions must be met. And if one of the conditions has not been met, it is not necessary to restate both conditions in the negative. The loss of a single condition is sufficient to void the desired result. Consider the following illustration:
A young boy is told to behave all evening and take his bath; and if he does, he will be permitted to go to the carnival tomorrow. It is easy to understand that he needs to do both in order to go to the carnival. If he doesn’t behave, he doesn’t get to go; it doesn’t matter at that point whether he takes his bath or not. If he does not take his bath, he will not get to go; it doesn’t matter that he behaved. We understand that based on the instructions, he had to do both. Leave either condition out and the conditions for going to the carnival have not been met.
Jesus said: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). The Divine Son of God put two conditions in that statement: believe and be baptized. Leave belief out of the statement, and it doesn’t matter whether one is baptized. Leave baptism out of Jesus statement, and it doesn’t matter whether one believes. Both conditions must be met if one wants to meet the conditions Jesus set for salvation. I commend you to what Jesus said without modification.
When A Man Does Not Believe, Baptism Means Nothing
By Kent Heaton
Before Jesus ascends to the Father after His resurrection, He spends forty days with the eleven and His disciple’s teaching and instructing them the patterns of the new covenant. Writing to the Roman mind, Mark addresses the immediacy of the message of Christ with power showing the clarity of God’s message of salvation. There are no wasted words in the gospel of Mark as he unfolds clearly, concisely and succinctly the story of the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God. As Mark closes his book, he declares the words of Jesus to the eleven concerning the commission they would take with them from the city of Jerusalem into the whole world. The ministers of God would preach the gospel to every creature. That message was summed up in eighteen words; half describing salvation and the other half declaring condemnation. In the first part, it is a simple declaration defining the grace of God and how a man can justify himself. Salvation comes from the hand of God to those who believe in Him and obey His command. Belief is necessary for acceptance of the rule of God and baptism obedience from the heart the form of doctrine delivered by the Holy Spirit to the first-century disciples. One is dependent upon the other. When a man believes in the word of God he will not question what is required of him. Baptism is a natural response to the message of the gospel. Peter told those gathered on the day of Pentecost to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins in keeping with the command of Jesus. Throughout the book of Acts in the early years of the church, myriads of men and women heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, believed and were baptized. This was keeping the command of Jesus as described by Mark.
In the latter part of Jesus’ instructions to the eleven, He said that if a man did not believe he would be condemned. What Jesus did not have to say is that if a man did not believe and was not baptized he would be condemned because the conclusion of a man who does not believe is that he will do nothing that will save his soul. When a man does not believe he rejects the Son of God and His word. If a man refuses to believe in God he has no desire to listen any further, obey any commands and consider his lost state as important. Detractors of what Jesus said in Mark’s account claim baptism is not necessary because the latter part of the statement does not say anything about baptism. They are correct only in the matter that no man will desire to be baptized that does not believe in God. Those who are condemned are not lost because they have not been baptized; they are lost because they do not believe. When a man becomes fully convinced that Jesus is the Son of God he will do anything and everything to obey the word of God which includes confessing His name, repenting of sins and being buried with Christ through baptism into death. No questions whatsoever. If a man does not believe in God he will not confess the name of Christ, repent of his sins and surely have no desire to be immersed in water. When a man does not believe, baptism means nothing.
The account of Mark’s gospel and rendering of the final words of Jesus are simple to read and understand. He instructed the eleven to go into all the world and preach the gospel and they did that very thing beginning in Jerusalem. The message they preached was the power of God declaring that if one believed in Jesus Christ they would submit to His word and His rule and desire to be baptized. Three thousand souls understood this on the Day of Pentecost as recorded by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles. A man from Ethiopia was taught about Jesus beginning in the prophet Isaiah’s book and his conclusion was that water baptism was necessary for salvation. Every story of conversion in the new covenant includes the act of baptism because that is the gospel message taught by the early disciples. The New Testament writers wrote extensively about the necessity, importance, and relevance of baptism in all of the epistles. Many people did not believe the teachings of Jesus Christ and they were never baptized because they did not believe. Religious teachers today proclaim a false doctrine of salvation when they deny the role of baptism in salvation teaching contrary to the plain instruction of Jesus as seen in Mark’s account. With all the platitudes of the graceful speech made by the wisdom of men, the eternal truth of God’s word remains. He that believes and is baptized will be saved. If a man does not believe in God and accept His word, he will be lost. Salvation is found in the bosom of the Father in obedience; condemnation in the lake of fire and brimstone to those who do not believe.