Cled E. Wallace
All the constitutions and statutes of all governments of all time are not to be compared with the Great Commission. It is indeed the Magna Charta of salvation. As recorded by Mark, Jesus said: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved ; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). Thus was the inspiration for the evangelization of the whole world in a generation.
It is not strange that this text has called forth the forces of truth and error to battle. There is nothing difficult about the text. Its terms are clear. Jesus beyond reasonable doubt makes both belief and baptism conditions of salvation, while unbelief alone is made a sufficient reason for condemnation. This much is clear on the face of the text. Some modern partisans have developed a rabid aversion to baptism as a condition of remission of sins and have made some reckless and ingenious efforts to break or change the force of the language that Jesus used. These efforts have not proved satisfactory to even all who were in sympathy with them. So some have gone to the extreme of repudiating the language altogether and contending that Jesus did not use the language at all. But criticism, scholarly and otherwise, has failed to shake the historical accuracy of the text. Jesus said it. The “assured results” of scholar criticism support the text.
This language of Jesus does not square with the faith alone doctors. The order of Jesus is (1) belief (2) baptism (3) salvation. Sectarian doctors would have it (1) belief (2) salvation (3) baptism. They would feel infinite relief if they could make Jesus say: “He that believeth and is saved shall be baptized.” Their theory demands a change in the order of the terms that Jesus used, and also a change in the tenses of the verbs that Jesus used. This amounts to a rank perversion of the language of Jesus that cannot be tolerated for an instant by those who have any respect for the word of the Lord. Jesus said: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” This makes both belief and baptism conditions of salvation. The text stands.
A plain text does not always stop a partisan. If it blocks his path, he resorts to artful dodges and detours around it. He does not surrender to the obvious fact that Jesus made belief and baptism conditions of salvation in the text. The text also makes disbelief sufficient ground for condemnation. This offers the sole opportunity for evasion. “He that disbelieveth shall be condemned.” Jesus did not say “He that disbelieveth and is not baptized shall be condemned.” Ergo, baptism is not a condition of salvation. Shades of logic! It might be excused in the dear old lady who thought it a touching story, that one about little Moses among the bull nettles, or in the brother who thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were man and wife. But for a man who knows that the epistles are not the wives of the apostles it is simply pitiful. Yet it is seriously urged by some men with seminary training, evidently for the consumption of the ignorant. They do not of course explain how a disbeliever could be baptized even if he wanted to, or how he might even be induced to want to. Suppose, for purposes of examination, we concede that Jesus should have said: “He that disbelieveth and is not baptized shall be condemned?” What follows? Well, more follows than the average dupe who apes the objection ever dreamed of. It would follow that the man who believed and refused to be baptized could not be condemned. But that is not the half of it. It would also follow that the man who disbelieved but should be baptized, as though such a thing could be, could not be condemned either, under the conditions of such a test. The most striking thing, however, that follows is that the sectarian critics, in trying to make a fool of Jesus, have succeeded admirably in making fools of themselves. The language of Jesus stands. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.” Nothing can be done to it that will make it any plainer, and we cannot allow it to be eclipsed by sophistry.