Each week we will bring you a new article written by faithful men, designed to encourage, challenge, and strengthen your faith! Past articles can be found in the article archive section.

Article for the week of July 1, 2007

You Might Not Be Able To Believe
Everything You Read In Your Bible!


Let’s first read our text for this lesson: Mark 16:16. “He who believeth and is baptized shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be damned.”

Some study Bibles on the market today try and prove by this verse that baptism IS NOT essential and has nothing to do with salvation!  Let me give a few examples from actual study bibles on the market today.

1. The Life Application Study Bible. According to their advertisement, this is the best-selling study bible on the market. Their note on Mark 16:16 says that baptism is not essential to salvation, but that belief is the only thing involved in whether or not someone is saved.

2. The Nelson King James Study Bible says, "Only faith, not baptism, is essential for salvation, as the omission of baptism from the last clause shows."

3. The New Geneva Study Bible (read the Bible through the eyes of the Reformers), refers the reader to an article on infant baptism, and the Baptist view of infant baptism. The article goes on to state that baptism is just to show other believers that you are already saved!

Many other study bibles simply try to ignore the verse altogether by questioning whether or not verses 9-20 even belong in God's Word to begin with! Yet, they go right on to comment on how modern day believers should be able to have the miraculous gifts based on verses 17-20.

Regarding Mark 16:16: First off, in a comparison of 48 different English translations (yes, 48) NOT ONE renders the verse structurally different from the King James Version. They may use slightly updated versions of the words, but all in all they are rendered the same! So, we can see from this that every scholar and Bible translator agrees that the sentence construction on the verse is 100% correct. Even the most liberal of translations and paraphrases agree on this verse!

The sentence structure shows that the person believes and is baptized, both in the present tense. And then it says "shall be saved" which is future tense. In a straightforward reading of the first part of this verse, we can see that salvation is promised to those who 1. believe and 2. are baptized. Now, who receives salvation, based upon Mark 16:16? Those who believe and are baptized!

Another thing to look at in this first section of the verse is that believing and being baptized are given equal importance when connected with the conjunction "and". In English classes, we all learned that the word 'and' combined two things together in equal importance. If two things are joined with this conjunction, then they are inseparable. To quote the Practical English Handbook (10th edition), "conjunctions ... connect elements that are of equal rank or importance." So, belief and baptism are, according to Jesus Christ, of equal rank or importance in reference to salvation.

If baptism is only of symbolic value, WHY WOULD JESUS COMMAND IT? If it was not important and part of being saved (those who are hard headed, read the first part of that verse again), WHY DID JESUS PLACE IT THERE AS A REQUIREMENT???

These people who try and twist this very clear passage to mean the opposite of what it says claim that the second part of the verse negates baptism's being essential. They claim that since the verse says "he who believeth not..." and doesn't mention the person who is not baptized, that belief (or the lack thereof) is what is essential.  I will take issue with is the absolutely absurd reasoning and hermeneutics that are employed to come up with such an unscriptural conclusion about baptism's role in salvation.

Suppose someone were to say "He who gets in his car and drives 100 MPH shall be ticketed, he who doesn't get in his car will be unticketed." We would be able to see from the first part of the sentence that the person who shall get ticketed would be the one who does two things: 1. gets in his car, and 2. drives 100 MPH. From the second part of the sentence, we can see that the person who does not get in his car will not get a ticket. The question, then, arises: is going 100 MPH of any consequence? If you use the reasoning of these "scholars" (and I use that term very loosely), then going 100 MPH is not important in determining if the person gets a ticket, but only the fact that they got in their car!

Or to use another example, let's insert some other words instead.

"He who has ingredients, and prepares them, has a cake. He who doesn't have the ingredients has no cake." Who has a cake? The person who (1) has the ingredients and (2) prepares them! Now we see from the second part of the sentence that the person who doesn't have the ingredients does not have a cake. Again, using the "scholar's" argument, the only thing that determines whether or not you have a cake is if you have the ingredients... and preparing it is of no consequence! Preparing the ingredients, according to their reasoning, is not essential to having a cake!

Who can prepare the ingredients without first having them? Who can drive 100 MPH without first getting in their car?

Can you see the absurdity? Read our example sentences again, and then change the words back to the verse in question.

Why make this point? Simply this: Name one person who would be baptized who did not believe! There was no point for Jesus to say here "he who believeth not and is baptized not shall be damned." Because the person who believeth not WOULD NOT BE BAPTIZED! Just as in our examples, the person who does not get in their car would obviously not be speeding. The person who doesn't have the ingredients, obviously wouldn't be able to prepare them! Common sense tells us that. There is no need for us to spell it out, because every person understands that! Why must people twist scriptures and abandon simple reasoning and common sense to try and justify their own unscriptural doctrines?

So, if we were to expound and paraphrase the verse in question, we could (without any contradiction, and without harming the meaning of the verse one bit) say "the person who believes and is baptized shall be saved. The person who believes not (and therefore would not be baptized anyway), shall be condemned." Just because the baptism is not mentioned in the second part of the verse does not mean it's not implied.

Be very aware of false teaching, even in your own Bible. Remember first that the Word of God is infallible. Remember as well that the Word of God is inspired by him (God-Breathed), and contains all we need to know for eternal life (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The footnotes in your Bible are NOT from God, they are put there by men. Baptism is essential for salvation, just as much as belief is! Just as much as repentance is! (Acts 2:38)

- Bradley S. Cobb
Moreland, AR


Back to the Article Archive