He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. -Mark 16:16 NKJV
Mark 16:16 is probably the second favorite verse of those who believe baptism is a part of salvation. But while the verse at first glance seems to say you must be baptized to be saved, a closer look dispels the problem.
And, remember the many, many verses that teach believing in Jesus is what saves (John 3:15-18; John 3:36; John 5:24; John 20:31; Acts 2:21; Acts 10:43; and many more).
The following quotes easily explain Mark 16:16.
H. A. Ironside
On Mark 16:16, “Those who received the message in faith were to witness to it by being baptized, thus declaring themselves openly as His disciples. There was no saving virtue in the ordinance itself, but it was the expression of subjection to Christ. Those who refused to believe would be judged (see R. V.). Note that He did not say, He that is not baptized shall be judged.” -H. A. Ironside, Mark, Loizeaux Brothers; 1948, 1973.
Bob L. Ross
“You will notice that while Mark 16:16 speaks of one who believes and is baptized and of one who believes not, it does not have anything to say about the person who believes but has not as yet been baptized. There is an intermediate period between faith in Christ and baptism. Mark 16:16 does not mention this period; it has nothing to say about he that believes but has not yet ben immersed. Can we find the answer as to the condition of such a person? Yes, we read in John 3:18: ‘He that believeth on him (Christ) is not condemned.’” -Bob L. Ross, Campbellism, Pilgrim Publications, Pasadena, TX; 1962, 1981.
Warren W. Wiersbe
“A superficial reading of Mark 16:15-16 would suggest that sinners must be baptized to be saved, but this misinterpretation disappears when you note that the emphasis is on believing. If a person does not believe, he is condemned, even if he has been baptized (see John 3:16-18, 36). It was expected in the early church that believers would be baptized (Acts 2:41; 10:44-48).” -Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, David C. Cook; 2003, 2007.
John R. Rice
“Christians are supposed to be baptized as soon as possible after they are saved. In Bible times they were usually baptized the same day, oftentimes the same hour of their conversion, even if it were midnight, as in the case of the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:33. In fact, baptism is a public profession of faith. One can see baptism; one cannot see faith in the heart. It is natural to think of baptism following salvation, and Jesus said that those who believed and were baptized should be saved. He did not mean to contradict the rest of the Bible, though, as you will see from the following words in the same verse; for He added, ‘But he that believeth not shall be damned.’ That makes it clear that the matter which settles it is believing, just the same as is taught in John 3:18:
‘He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.’
The above verse, John 3:18, settles it that the man who believes in Christ is not condemned, whether or not he has been baptized. It also settles it that a man is condemned ‘because he hath not believed.’ Salvation is settled by belief in Christ, and only by that.” -John R. Rice, Bible Baptism, Sword of the Lord; 1943, 1971. Rice (AD 1895-1980) was an independent Baptist preacher, evangelist, author, and founding editor of the Sword of the Lord.
B. H. Carroll
On Baptism: “The church authorizes; the subject must be a disciple, and the act is immersion. The purpose is to make a public declaration, or confession, of faith in Jesus Christ, to symbolize the cleansing from sin, a memorial of Christ's resurrection, and a pledge of the disciple.” -B. H. Carroll, An Interpretation of the English Bible.
“‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved’; that is true. He that endures to the end and is baptized shall be saved; that is true also. But when the negative is stated, it does not say, ‘He that believeth not and is not baptized shall not be saved, or shall be condemned.’ When you put it negatively it has no reference to baptism. It does not say, ‘He that is not baptized shall not be saved.’ It does not make any difference how many things one may put in – believe, be baptized, keep the law, go to church – with salvation, it does not affect salvation. If the first one was to secure salvation, it will be true if you put all of them in. That will not take away from the truth. He that believeth hath everlasting life; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. Some would make it read: ‘He that believeth and is baptized and goes to church every Sunday, etc., etc. etc., hath everlasting life.’ You can put in as many as you please and they all follow from the first one. But to put it negatively, you could not say, ‘He that does not go to church every Sunday will be lost.’ And in negation it does not say, ‘He that believeth not and is not baptized’ – it stops at the believer.” -B. H. Carroll, An Interpretation of the English Bible, Broadman Press; 1938. Carroll (AD 1843-1914) was a pastor, author, and founding president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Ft. Worth, TX.
J. B. Jeter
“There is perfect accordance between this promise [Mark 16:16] and the plain, literal declaration of Jesus, that ‘He that believeth on the Son is not condemned.’ Certainly, if he that believes on the Son is not condemned, he who not only believes in the Son, but, in submission to his authority, is baptized, is not condemned.” -J. B. Jeter, Campbellism Examined, Sheldon, Lamport, & Blakeman; 1855. Jeter (AD 1802-1880) was a Baptist Pastor, author, and editor of the Religious Herald, Virginia.
“The main thought in that verse [Mark 16:16] is not baptism. Jesus was not teaching that you have to be baptized to be saved. The crucial word is believe. Baptism does not confer salvation; it confirms it. Baptism is an outward act that demonstrates an inward experience. Jesus did not say, ‘He that believeth not and is not baptized shall be condemned.’ It is he that believeth not who is condemned; that is, he shall be under judgment.” -Jerry Vines, Exploring the Gospels: Mark, Loizeaux Brothers; 1990.
Robert L. Sumner
“Mark 16:16 says ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved’! Exactly! But it does not say, ‘He that believeth and is baptized THEN shall be saved!’ This verse most certainly does not say that a man is not saved until he is baptized with water.
Perhaps by giving a parallel sentence I can make clear the fact that ‘shall be saved’ does not depend upon ‘and is baptized.’
For example, take this sentence: ‘He that boards the bus and is seated will arrive at Los Angeles.’ Obviously, the man who gets on a bus bound for Los Angeles will arrive in that city, regardless of whether or not he is seated. No doubt he would sit down if a seat were available – it would be so much more comfortable riding that long distance to do so – but even if he remained standing all the way, he would arrive in Los Angeles IF HE GOT ON THE BUS! In exactly the same way, a man who gets on the salvation vehicle – the man who believes - will get to Heaven whether he sits down or not, whether he is baptized or not.
Now, wait a minute! If he doesn’t sit down he’s going to be mighty uncomfortable! If he disobeys one of God’s commands – baptism or any other – the Lord will chasten and divine blessing will be withheld from his life. BUT THAT WILL NOT EFFECT HIS ARRIVAL IN THE GRAND CENTRAL STATION OF HEAVEN IF BY FAITH HE GETS ON BOARD THE GOSPEL EXPRESS! So I say unto you, ‘Get on board, get on board!’ Then, after you are on the bus, sit down! Enjoy the blessings of the Lord in their fullest measure! But the thing that damns is not failing to sit down, it is failing to get on board. ‘He that believeth not shall be damned’ (Mark 16:16).” -Robert L. Sumner, Does the Bible Teach That Water Baptism Is a Necessary Requirement for Salvation?, Biblical Evangelism Press; 1970. Also in Biblical Essays, Biblical Evangelism; 2013, by Sumner.
Be sure to check out other articles here on salvation and baptism.
Note: Mark 16:9-20 involves a Textual issue. See footnote in NKJV. But we will save that issue for another day.
-David R. Brumbelow, gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com, September 2, AD 2019.
Other Articles in lower right margin.