“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). There are few passages of Scripture easier to understand than this.
Unfortunately, there are few passages of Scripture more misunderstood by men. How many times have we tried to lovingly show to our friends the necessity of baptism in this verse (and many others), only to hear in reply, “but the verse doesn’t say ‘he that believeth not and is baptized not shall be damned’”? Therefore, baptism is not necessary?
My next question for those who respond in this manner is always, do you believe that the Bible contradicts itself? Inevitably they reply in the negative. This is important to understand and agree upon in any Bible study. The Bible does not contradict itself! Yet, according to the misunderstanding of this text, not only does the Bible contradict itself, but it was done by the Son of God Himself, and He did it within one sentence. The first part of His statement, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,” states unequivocally that baptism is necessary for salvation. It would take a preacher to help us misunderstand this! So, if one concludes that the second part states that baptism is unnecessary for salvation, then he believes the two parts contradict each other. He cannot explain the alleged discrepancy between the two.
Again, the first part clearly states that baptism is necessary. So, does the second part really mean that baptism is unnecessary? First of all, if we believe that God does not contradict Himself, then we’ve just proven that it cannot mean this. However, we can delve a little deeper into the question. Logically, how can we conclude that this part of the verse teaches that baptism isn’t necessary for salvation when it never even mentions baptism or salvation? Rather, it discusses disbelief and condemnation.
Did Jesus need to say “he that believeth not and is baptized not shall be damned”? Of course not! How many people are there who will refuse to believe in Jesus but will decide to submit to His command to be baptized? The next person to do this will be the first person to do this!
The main point is this: in the first part Jesus told us what we must do to be saved. In the second part He told us what we must do to be damned. Do you want to be saved or damned? If you want to be saved, then believe and be baptized. If you want to be damned, then don’t believe! If you don’t believe then you won’t be baptized (actually, it would be completely irrelevant whether or not you were baptized). So, why would Jesus waste His words by saying “he that believeth not and is baptized not…”?
It is our earnest desire that everyone who reads this will choose to be saved and, therefore, will obey the first part rather than the second. If you haven’t made this decision, then “why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).