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