The Expository Files

Jesus, On Salvation  

Mark 16:16

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

Jesus said this! Do you desire to be an honest student of the Bible? Then you must read and accept everything the Bible says. Do you desire to be a Christian (obedient believer in Christ)? Then you must not reject anything He has said (see Mark 7:9 & Luke 10:16). Mark 16:16 is in the Bible, and Jesus said it? Can you imagine standing before Jesus and arguing against baptism? "Lord, I accept what You said about believing, and I believe in You and love You. I need what You offer, and I want to serve You. But I'm not willing to follow your instructions about baptism!" When the matter is stated in these terms it really sounds ridiculous. To affirm your loyalty and commitment to the Lord, but not obey what He said! Jesus said, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved."

But did Jesus really say this? In some English translations, footnotes and headings question the authenticity of this section (Mark 16:9-20). Most versions include the section, but with a disclaimer: "...lacking in Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, although nearly all other manuscripts of Mark contain them," (footnote, New King James, Nelson #334). If readers want to seriously consider that comment, they should also consider: (1) King James and American Standard scholars put the section in without question; (2) with the possible exception of the reference to drinking deadly poison, everything in the section is confirmed in other accounts; (3) there is nothing in this section that contradicts anything elsewhere in the Bible. Further, if you decided, based on testimony you have considered, to reject the section, what would it change about our duty to God? Absolutely nothing. {I write this as an individual Bible student, not a textual scholar. For an excellent study of the question, see the Appendix to L.A. Stauffer's commentary on Mark; published by Guardian of Truth, 1999. Bro. Stauffer concludes his research by saying: "Regardless of how this issue plays itself out in the days ahead, no student of the Bible, as previously noted, need concern himself about the truthfulness of the teaching of the last twelve verses of Mark's gospel. On that few will disagree."} Even if we didn't have Mark 16:16, the imperative instruction to be baptized is established in many other places (Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:1-4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21). So the student of the Bible and the one who wants to follow Christ is back to facing the text: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved."

The first part of this statement is seldom disputed. Denominational preachers who deny that baptism is essential robustly maintain that belief is essential. Why? Because the denominational spin (faith alone) is upset by baptism. If you start with a creedal assumption, the temptation is to deny anything in the text that interferes with your assumption! The better approach is, just read what Jesus said (without prejudice) and do it. On the subject of salvation, and man's response to the gospel -- assume no tradition or human spin -- just read what He said, do that and teach others to do it. Jesus included baptism with belief.

If it helps, consider the same grammatical construction in another context. Stand away from any prejudice against baptism and look at the text. Jesus said, He who ______ and _____ will receive this result: _____. If I desire to obtain the result (the gift of salvation in Christ), I must do all that is meant by both belief and baptism. Other passages using the same construction are undisputed.

In Rev. 2:26 --> He who overcomes and keeps My words, will have the result: power.
In John 14:21 --> He who has My commandments and keeps them, enjoys the result: fellowship with God and Christ.
Likewise, in Mark 16:16 --> He who believes and is baptized shall receive the result: Salvation.

Baptism is presented as something you do to receive salvation. On a religious website I read this: "Being baptized in water does not add one iota to your salvation, and missing baptism in water for a valid reason will not detract from your salvation," (

First, baptism is never presented in the New Testament as something that "adds" to salvation. Secondly, consider his reference to "missing baptism for a valid reason." This puts what Jesus commanded into the realm of subjective judgment; something you can "miss" if you have a valid reason. Would the writer subject other commands of Christ to this category - of something you can miss for a valid reason? Question: If you can "miss baptism for a valid reason," why couldn't you miss belief for a valid reason? He affirms belief, but demeans baptism. If you start with what Jesus said (without prejudice or creedal assumptions), you see baptism as something the believer must do to receive the promised result: salvation.

One more thing! Did Jesus say, "He who believes and is not baptized shall be saved?" No. Men say that, but not Jesus. If you claim to believe in Christ, but you have not been baptized for the remission of your sins, what reason can you give for your disobedience? I strongly urge you to simply look at what He said and do it. Read your Bible and find out all that is involved in belief and baptism. Comply with that instruction and enjoy what God wants you to have.

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 9.2; February 2002