A Look at Mark 16:16

“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). “

It behooves us to consider the word order in Mark 16:16.  (1) Some insist by their doctrine that faith comes first, then salvation, followed by baptism.  (2) Other claim that baptism (of infants) comes first, then salvation (from original sins), followed by faith eventually.  (3) Still others claim that salvation comes first (by an arbitrary predetermination of God for each individual), then baptism and faith come along later in one order or another.  (4) But none of this is said by Jesus in Mark 16:16.  He put it in this order – belief, baptism, salvation.

The terms – “believes” and “is baptized” – are both participles.  A participle is an adjective or noun formed from a verb.  Both words modify the term “He.”  Moreover, the words “believes” and “is baptized” are not just participles, but aorist participles.  Ray Summers, in his “Essentials of New Testament Greek” said, “The kind of action in the aorist participle is punctiliar, i.e., finished action.  The time of the action is antecedent to the action of the main verb…” (page 94).   The main verb is “will be saved.” Thus,  both acts grammatically come before the words “will be saved.”  In a public debate, Garland Elkins correctly said, “Since the aorist participle never indicates action which is subsequent to the main verb, neither believing nor being baptized occur after one is saved.  But, both occur before one is saved” (Elkins – Ross Debate On Baptism and Faith Alone, pp. 7-8)

A common objection to baptism is “But, look at the final part (Mark 16:16b).  He didn’t say, ‘he who believes not and is baptized not will be condemned.’  He simply said, ‘he who believes not will be condemned.’ Therefore, baptism cannot be essential”

I have two responses.  First, He didn’t need to include baptism in the second clause.  Let me illustrate.  If I said, “He who eats and digests will live; but he that eats not shall die,”  would any object that I did not say in the second part “digests not?”  Of course not.  To negate the first is to negate the second.  Another illustration, If I said “He who takes and passes to bar examine may practice law; he who does not take the bar examine may not practice law,” would any object? Certainly not. Negating the first negates the second. Biblical baptism follows belief.  Thus, to negate the first is to negate the second. Belief is a necessary condition for Bible baptism (cf. Acts 8:12; 8:36-37; 16:30-34).

Second,  if Jesus had said – “he who does not believe and is not baptized  will be condemned,” there would be a problem.  If it was written this way, then those lost would be those who both do not believe and are not baptized. Furthermore (based on the first clause), those saved would be those who both believe and are baptized. This wording would create a difficulty. (1) What  about those who believe but are never baptized? There would be some who are neither saved, nor lost.  (2) What about those who are baptized ( perhaps as small children) but never believe?  There would be some neither saved, nor lost. Writing it as some folks would have it, creates a group of people who are neither saved or lost!  Such complicates things instead of simplifying.

Jesus said what He meant and meant what He said. Let us accept His words, and do what He said is necessary for salvation (cf. John 12:48).

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
This entry was posted in baptism, Plan of salvation, Textual study and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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