One of the most popularly debated verses in the New Testament is Mark 16:16. After giving the great commission—that followers of Christ are to preach the gospel to all peoples as they go about in their everyday lives (15)—the Lord answers, as it were, an unspoken question: “OK, so as we are going and preaching the gospel to everyone, how do we know who is saved and who is not?”
Though it appears that this question was not actually verbalized, the Lord answers it all the same in v. 16:
“WHOEVER BELIEVES AND IS BAPTIZED WILL BE SAVED;
BUT WHOEVER DOES NOT BELIEVE WILL BE CONDEMNED.”
Our purpose in the next few moments will be to logically analyze Mark 16:16, putting both the Lord’s words, and some of man’s oft-repeated words regarding them, to the test of objective reasoning.
The claim to which I am referring is the one which asserts that Jesus’ (alleged) “omission” of baptism in the latter half of the verse indicates that baptism is not necessary in order to be saved.* Friend, the Lord said exactly what He meant to say, and He meant exactly what He said to mean. We can either simply believe what He said, or we can choose to believe He meant to say something other than what He said.In truth, the “omission” of “and is not baptized” does not—indeed, cannot—have any bearing on the necessity of baptism (or lack thereof) in salvation. What such does indicate is that if one does not believe, he will be condemned even if he is baptized (whether once, or a bajillion times)! In fact, it shows that no matter what one does (e.g., good deeds, generous giving, selfless living, “worshipping” every Sunday, etc.): No Belief. No Salvation. No Exceptions. Thus, the inference of Mark 16:16b is NOT the lack of necessity of baptism; rather, it is simply the absolute necessity of belief! The objective rules of sound reasoning and logic (not to mention language/communication) forbid any inference beyond this—such justified neither textually, nor grammatically, nor logically, nor spiritually, nor Scripturally, nor anything-elsely.
Now, let us consider the actual passage in question. However, in order to avoid any potential Biblical (or anti-Biblical) biases, we are going to substitute the actual language of the passage with some simple language of everyday significance. In other words, we’re going to consider Mark 16:16 in “code”:
“WHOEVER TIDIES UP HIS ROOM AND TAKES OUT THE TRASH WILL GET ICE CREAM;
BUT WHOEVER DOES NOT TIDY UP HIS ROOM WILL NOT GET ICE CREAM.”
Here is the “million-dollar” question:
“What about one who tidies up his room, but does not take out the trash? Doesn’t this statement imply that taking out the trash is not necessary—that is, that one can get ice cream without taking out the trash?”
Absolutely NOT! The above statement implies neither that one can get ice cream without taking out the trash, nor that one can get ice cream before taking out the trash. In fact—without even needing to resort to implication—the statement expressly indicates the opposite! For it has already specified that, in order to get ice cream, one must do TWO things: (1) Tidy up room; (2) Take out the trash. Only those who do both of these things will get ice cream. On the other hand, there are two types of people who will NOT get ice cream:
- tidy up their rooms, but do NOT take out the trash;
- DO take out the trash, but do NOT tidy up their rooms.
The Lord said what He meant to say, and He meant what He said to mean. We can either simply believe what He said, or we can choose to believe He meant to say something other than what He said.
And so it is with the Lord’s statement in Mark 16:16—there are not two, but three elements involved in that simple statement (one positive, two negative):
BELIEVE + BAPTIZED = SAVED
BAPTIZED – BELIEVE = CONDEMNED
BELIEVE – BAPTIZED = CONDEMNED
* Let it be noted that such a belief or argument, based on such an “other-worldly” system of reasoning (?), exists for no other reason than because of a predetermined rejection of water baptism as a part of God’s plan of salvation by grace, through Jesus Christ. Such men twist and dance and parry and contort, all to cling to their tradition (Mark 7:9)—even when the Bible plainly speaks to the contrary of that tradition. The Lord said what He meant to say, and He meant what He said to mean. We can choose either to simply believe what He said, or we can choose to believe He meant to say something other than what He said.