“…but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

The title above is a quotation of the end of Mark 16:16. It is contended by some that this verse teaches that the baptism commanded by Christ is not necessary to salvation. Their grounds for the argument rests upon the fact that Jesus did not say, “he that believeth not and is baptized not shall be damned” contrary to the previous statement that both belief and baptism were necessary for the salvation of those that heard the gospel.

The stance held by such a person teaches that since Jesus did not condemn the lack of baptism but only the lack of faith on the part of the person hearing the gospel that means that baptism is not necessary to salvation at all. But is that what Mark 16:16 is really saying? Unfortunately, for the person that holds to the doctrine of faith-only, this is not what Mark 16:16 is saying at all.

What happens to a person that lacks faith who ends up being baptized, or in other words what happens to a non-believer who is immersed in water? They get wet! Nothing more and nothing less. There was no reason for Jesus to say that the absence of a scriptural baptism leads to damnation because He had already given the way that leads to salvation (Matthew 28:19-20). If a person wants to find salvation then do what Jesus says (Hebrews 5:9).  If you want to find condemnation then do the opposite.

What Jesus was teaching at the end of Mark 16:16 is no different from what He said in John 3:17-18:

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.

What did Jesus say would cause a person to be condemned? A lack of faith! And the reason is because that a person is condemned already because of sin! The gospel preached in the context of Mark 16:15-16 is to lost people who need salvation because they are already condemned. If they refuse to believe the gospel then there is absolutely no reason to baptize them for the remission of their sins when they are not even interested in placing a belief in the One who died for their sins. I have never heard a person reject the gospel but still express a desire to be baptized.

John, the forerunner of Jesus, understood this principle perfectly. He also taught the people,

He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36)

The lack of a scriptural submission in baptism does not change an unbeliever’s position with God one bit if they fail to believe in Christ. They are already condemned to begin with. Would a confession of Christ but a lack of faith save a person? Would repentance but a lack of faith save a person? Of course not! It would be ridiculous to even suggest a thing. So would it make any more sense to baptize someone who does not believe?

Jesus said exactly what He meant when it comes to the salvation that He wants all to experience. If you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He died for our sins and that He rose again from the dead and you are willing to confess it with your mouth then you can find the salvation that He has provided for us through His blood in the waters of baptism (Romans 10:9-10; Revelation 1:5; Acts 22:16).

“And [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16)

Being baptized to be saved according the gospel is essential. Believe it or not…it makes all the difference in whether a person is getting washed or just getting wet. EA


  1. “Speaking the truth in love” What an excellent article, would that every Calvinist would be able to view this and prayerfully consider your fine points. Well done my Bro.!! To God Be The Glory!! Godspeed My Friend!!

  2. I have often said, If baptism alone saves us then let’s round up the whole town (by force if necessary) and take them down to the river.

    Really good article brother.


  4. Exactly simple to understand and seasoned with salt! Sometimes, not all saved people understand why they need to be baptized or why baptism is essential. Thank you for the helpful verses :) God bless!

    1. Hi Paul. Thanks for stopping by. One of the things important to remember about the baptism commanded by the scriptures is that indeed it is a “believer’s baptism” as can be seen by Jesus’ command. Hence we have no authority to baptize unbelievers, which does not only include pagans and other adult non-believers but also babies too.

      I have absolutely no problem using the phrase “believers baptism” when it comes to Mark 16:16 but sadly I don’t believe everyone understands it completely/correctly in the biblical sense. First we believe then we are baptized then we are saved in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15; Galatians 3:26,27) according to the order of Mark 16:16 . Take care Paul and thanks again for your comments.

      1. HI Eugene many thanks for the reply, Could you do a post adding onto this about “the name of Jesus in baptism?” I was reading John 3:18 “he that believeth in him is not judged but he that believeth not is judged already because he hath not believed in the name…” and how those in Acts were baptised in the name of Jesus. Seems a natural flow on to your topic. Again many thanks for connecting and informing! It’s appeciated

      2. Hello again Paul,
        I may get to it in a little while because I had already decided that my next few posts were going to be about the 4 witnesses of John 5. But I will definitely keep your request in mind.

      3. Hey Paul, hope you don’t mind but I visited your blog for a little while to read some of the posts you have done. I enjoyed reading several of them. One question I have for you though is this – Do you want me to write an article on John 3:18 and the comparison of being baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18,19) and being baptized in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38) to have a debate/discussion on the doctrine of the Trinity? Just wondering. Thanks.

  5. If one was a nonbeliever and had been divorced for reasons other than adultery, and came to know Christ and be baptized after being divorced and remarried, what does one need to do to be right in the eyes of God ? Is he not a new creature with past sins wiped clean? Or is he still bound to that original spouse? What if the original spouse remarried?

    1. Lindsey,

      The question you ask is a sensitive but important one because I know it’s something that people wonder about and even struggle with. Here’s how I have kindly answered it in the past, and would still answer it today, to those who seek a scriptural understanding.

      Firstly, when it comes to salvation, the vital role of repentance can never be under emphasized (Acts 2:38).

      Based upon that fact, to put it simply and reasonably, if something was sinful before salvation, the same remains sinful after salvation; i.e. being baptized does not change what was spiritually wrong in our lives into something that is spiritually right. Hence the role of a repentance that produces a change in lifestyle through the deliberate choice of change within us when we understand where the wrong in our life exists (2 Corinthians 7:10).

      The need for repentance in our relationship with God and our own martial relationships comes into play because the regulations of marriage belong to God whether someone is a Christian or not (or whether or not someone even believes in the existence of God). This principal can be seen in Hebrews 13:4. It can also be seen in Matthew 19:1-12 when the bedrock principals of marriage are given not from a “new Christian teaching” but rather from God’s desire for mankind’s marriages from the beginning of creation. So when one becomes a Christian it is God’s desire that we bring all areas of life, our marriage included, into harmony with his revealed will.

      It is a difficult answer for many to accept, but remember that baptism does not change sinful behavior into an accepted behavior … rather it provides an avenue of forgiveness to those who repent of/change the sinful behavior that exists in order to become that new creation who lives a life in harmony with God’s righteousness.

      I hope this answer helps to bring a scripturally balanced understanding to the situation you’re describing.


      1. It absolutely does- makes perfect sense. Thank you for your scriptural answer. God Bless

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