Mark 16:15-16

“You seem to disagree with the words of Jesus when He says ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved’”

No Christian in his right mind would disagree with anything the Scriptures says. Usually it’s our interpretation and understanding of the text that people disagree with. And when we disagree, we must give good reasons for why which I will do my best. When it comes to being saved, the emphasis is on “belief” first and foremost, this is because the Gospel is what saves us. Nothing is more clearer than Mark 16:15-16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; [but he who does not believe] will be condemned.” Note the emphasis on “believe.” This is clearly illustrated in Acts 16:25-34, “…Sirs, what must I do to be saved? … [Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ], and you will be saved…” And speaking of baptism, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?.. Philip said, ‘If you [believe] with all your heart, you may…’” (Acts 8:36-38)

We’re all damned before we’re saved. How do you get saved? Believe on the Lord Jesus (cf. John 3:16-18; Acts 16:25-34). Baptism is our response—one of the fruits of repentance, an act of obedience to the Gospel. What good is it if the flesh is circumcised but the heart is not? We see the reality of this throughout the Old Testament. Likewise, one can be baptized and not have a new heart, wrought by the Spirit. A new heart comes first, being saved comes first: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:17-18)

If that’s not enough to convince you, then hopefully two more key Scriptures will: John 3:36 and Matthew 10:22. God has an interesting way of repeating the same axiom throughout the Scriptures. People misread Mark 16:15-16 the same way they misread John 3:36 and Matthew 10:22. In so doing, they fail to see what Scriptures teaches as a whole when it comes to saving-faith and perseverance.

Take John 3:36 for example. The KJV says “Whoever [believes]… has eternal life.” All translations say that, but the second half of that verse is slightly different with non-KJV. It says “whoever does not [obey] the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (ESV). In an attempt to refute Eternal Security, many will use the non-KJV to point out that belief is not enough, you must obey: Believe = Obey, to say that we’re saved by works. I’ll tell you what: It doesn’t matter how you want to translate it because back in V.3, Christ talks about the New Birth. In the New Birth, you’re given a heart of flesh, a new disposition that loves God, wants to follow, and obey Him: “For I [delight] in the law of God according to the [inward man]” (Romans 7:2). Does this sound like an unregenerate man talking? How about King David: “their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I [delight] in Your law” (Psalms 119:70).

“whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life” — Which means the faith he possesses is a dead faith, and it’s not the faith of God’s Elect. Those that have been given a heart of flesh (New Birth) naturally, not under compulsion, want to obey. Obedience and good works flows out of the saved (cf. John 3:17-18 vs. 3:36).

John 3:36 (ESV)
“Whoever [believes] in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not [obey] [KJV says believes] the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

And the Elects of God will certainly obey. And now to our last key text: “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22)

“…he who endures to the end will be saved.” Sounds familiar? This again is taken out of context to teach that we can lose our salvation in a similar way that Mark 16:15-16 is taken out of context. It is true that he who endures to the end will be saved, but it’s not true that God’s Elects will not endure. One of the purposes of God’s warnings is to encourage and admonish us. In Luke 21:18-19, we read, “But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives” Not a hair of your head will perish. With that as our hope, knowing that God will protect us, we press on and fight to the end (cf. 1 John 3:2-3).

“But he who endured to the end shall be saved. This single promise ought sufficiently to support the minds of the godly, though the whole world should rise against them: for they are assured that the result will be prosperous and happy. If those who fight under earthly commanders, and are uncertain as to the issue of the battle, are carried forward even to death by steadiness of purpose, shall those who are certain of victory hesitate to abide by the cause of Christ to the very last?” —John Calvin

A lot more can be said about endurance and perseverance, but that would lead us into a very lengthy discussion. So let’s get back to Mark 16, with everything I have said so far in mind: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

Those that do believe will naturally want to be baptized. Just like obedience (John 3:36) and endurance (Matthew 10:22) naturally flows out of those that are saved (John 3:17-18). Water-baptism in and of itself does not save us, and this distinction is important because sometimes baptism is not possible like the Thief on the Cross, and when it’s possible it should be followed. Both the Thief and Paul had direct encounter with God without an evangelist (exception and not the norm), one without an opportunity to be baptized, the other (Paul) had the opportunity, and he did (Acts 9:11-18). Those that got saved without an evangelist usually don’t get baptized right away, but eventually something will bother them as they read the Bible with its clear examples of believers being baptized. Those that got saved without an evangelist should pray that God would lead him/her to a community of believers.

I [truly] believe that those saved by the Gospel [will want] to be baptized. Their hearts will want to be identified with Him in His death and resurrection through water-baptism. And the few that believe baptism is not needed are, I would say, individualists who believes that you can live your Christian life without others. As for those that are not sure or hesitant about it, my theory is that much of western Christians are introverts, and churchmen have turned baptism into a show. You can see where this is going… Public speaking is an introvert’s worst nightmare. It’s not that they don’t want to be baptized, it’s just that they’re uncomfortable with the formalization of it all.

In the Scriptures, the process is very simple. Paul got baptized in private. People were not there with a camera, light and guitar to make a big show out of it. Now, with YouTube upload… The Ethiopian wanted to be baptized, did Philip say, “Sure, but you have to wait for next month because that’s when we baptize a lot of people at once. In the meantime, write out your testimony to be presented to the church that…” No… there was no waiting for the Ethiopian, they came across water in the middle of nowhere and the only thing needed to be baptized is a simple confession: I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. God makes it simple, so that anyone can be baptized. And for the record, I am not saying that it’s wrong nor am I against the celebration and rejoicing of a believer getting baptized.

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