The one who believes and is baptized will be saved, but the one who does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:16
I have to say that I was really tempted to roll this verse in with Acts 2:38. It would have been a lot less complicated. There would be less risk that way. Oh well, sometimes you have to take the hard way because it’s the only way the truth will come out.
There are two ways to look at this passage – one is difficult, the other easy. Let’s look at the easy way first. That way, if you don’t like complicated stuff, you can stop reading and think all is well.
The question is: Does Mark 16:16 support the teaching that baptism is necessary for, or a means of, salvation? The easy answer is “No” for all of the same reasons as Acts 2:28.
First, Jesus was a Jew. Mark was a Jew. The disciples were all Jews. So repentance and baptism went together, even though repentance actually brought salvation.
Secondly, Mark’s gospel is actually Mark’ s re-telling of Peter’s eyewitness account, probably after Peter’s death. History tells us that Mark was very close to Peter and acted as Peter’s interpreter and probably scribe. Had Peter written down these stories instead of Mark, we would be calling it the Gospel of Peter. And as we have seen, in all of Peter’s teaching, salvation comes through repentance.
The hard answer is hard, because it’s hard to explain, but because many people find it hard to believe.
Here’s the problem: According to the oldest and best Greek copies of Mark that we have available to us today (called manuscripts), Mark 16 actually ends with verse 8. That is, verses 9-20 were added to the text later, probably to help finish the story.
What’s most interesting to me is that there are controversial (and by “controversial” I mean false) teachings that come from this short section at the end of Mark that stir up a whole lot of heat:
- verse 16 – Baptism is necessary for salvation
- verse 17-18 – Genuine believers will be able to do supernatural things: cast out demons, speak in tongues, play with snakes, drink poison, and heal people
The thing is, not a single one of those things is supported ANYWHERE ELSE in Scripture! Just this passage. And yet there are churches, for instance, that risk their members’ lives by bringing rattlesnakes into their services because of one part of one verse that was not even part of the original text!
OK, my rant’s done. Anyway, whichever answer you prefer, the easy one or the hard one, when you take this passage and line it up with the teachings in the rest of Scripture – literally, grammatically, and historically – we find one more passage that does not prove that baptism is a means of salvation.