Five Views of Mark 16:16
By Andy Cantrell
The main message of this study is Believe and Be Baptized and receive the Holy Spirit
I’d like to invite you to turn in your Bibles to Mark, chapter 16. And I’d like to just read a couple of verses here where after Jesus had been crucified and he had risen from the dead and he had appeared to some after being alive. The Bible tells us in Mark chapter 16, verse 14 that afterward, he appeared to be eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table. He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who had seen him after he had risen. It’s an interesting thing to think about that even some of Jesus’ own Apostles were having trouble believing in the resurrection, something so unscientific. We would say something that many people stumble over when we try to talk to them about our Lord.
But even those that would become his representatives in the world were struggling with that which should strengthen their testimony. Later, when we read in the Book of Acts of those spreading the gospel and proclaiming Jesus to be alive and to be the King. We should remember this moment when they were still wrestling with their own doubts and their own unbelief. But they would see him and touch him and know that he really was alive and raining. But I want you to see now what Jesus says to them in Mark 16, verse 15. He said to them, go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved, but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. When Jesus commissions these men to go into all the world and preach the good news – the Gospel –, to share the story of Jesus and his Salvation, there’s this thing that he says in verse 16 as straightforward and as simple as it sounds. It has been the source of much controversy over the years, even from those who believe in Jesus. When Jesus says in verse 16, he who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved, but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. There are all kinds of different views about that very straightforward, simple instruction. I want to talk to you in this lesson about the five views of Mark 16:16.
There really are only five. There might be other ways that people might nuance it. But you’ll see, by the time we’re done with this lesson that when the world, whether they be the unbelieving world or the believing world, look at this statement in scripture. There are different ways they think about it.
They may not always state verbatim the way that I’m going to express their view, but their life demonstrates it. Their practice proves it. But at the end of this lesson, I want to ask you, especially if you’re someone who believes in Jesus or has come to believe in Jesus, what your view is.
Out of these five options of Mark 16:16, I will go ahead and say before I start presenting those that every once in a while, the controversy about being baptized focuses on the second half of the verse. Every once in a while, somebody who does not believe that they must be baptized into Christ to be saved will point to the second half of the verse and say, you notice he didn’t mention it in the second half.
He who has disbelieved and has not been baptized shall be condemned
He didn’t say he who believes in baptism shall be saved, but he who has disbelieved and has not been baptized, shall be condemned. They reason something like this. Well, since he doesn’t mention baptism in the second half of the verse, then it’s not forceful in the first half of the verse that Jesus would have to give us the negative in the second half of the verse as well. I just want to point out a couple of simple things.
First of all, the first half of the verse is telling people how to be saved. If we want to know how to be saved, pay attention to that part of the sentence. The second half of the verse isn’t telling people how to be saved. It’s telling people how they’ll be condemned. And really, baptism has nothing to do with that conversation.
If you don’t believe in Jesus Christ, that’s all that’s needed to be condemned. But the question about what is it that we need in order to be saved? We need to pay close attention to Jesus’ words. Remember that the first half of the verse tells us how to be saved. The second part of the verse is telling us how to be condemned.
Don’t mix those up. There are other ways to illustrate something like that. If I told you that there were two things that must be done in order for something else to be done, but the first thing isn’t done at all, then you don’t really need to mention the second. I could think of an example like if I told you, if you buy a ticket and get on this particular train, you’ll reach this destination, but if you don’t buy a ticket, you’re not going to reach the destination. That doesn’t change the fact that if you do buy a ticket, there’s still this other requirement to get on the train in order to reach the destination.
They don’t even believe in something like Salvation. Now, I’ll say you’re going to notice that in each of these times that I talk about these views, I’m going to put the word not into the verse. This is really kind of how the Devil’s always worked whenever God speaks, even from the beginning of time. If you go back to Genesis, God would make statements and the way that the devil and man would mess that up is by usually inserting a “not” into the sentence.
When God told Adam and Eve, the day you eat of it, you shall surely die. All the devil said was, you shall not surely die. All of these views are going to have this word somewhere in it. But who believes this? Who believes that you and I, who believe in Jesus and are baptized into Christ, are not going to be saved?
Well, the simple answer is this is what atheists and non-Christian religions believe. They think the message of the gospel is complete foolishness. So, you go ahead and do whatever you want to do. You believe in God, you get baptized. But at the end of your life, that’s all there is.
It’s just the end of your life. They don’t believe in eternity. They don’t believe in Salvation. This is, I would say, the most popular view of March 16:16. In a world where most people don’t believe in The Christ, and don’t follow the religion of Christ, Christianity, most people in the world being either unbelievers or some sort of believers in a different message from a different God, then that would be the view.
That’s the number one view. There are a couple of things that the Bible says about this. 1 Timothy 2. I just want you to hear these words so that we can be sure about how Scripture speaks about this. First Timothy 2:3 says, This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all and the testimony given at the proper time. There is one God, and there’s one mediator between God and men. The reason that God gave Jesus Christ as a ransom for all was so that God could save everybody. There is such a thing as eternal Salvation. There is such a thing as the Spirit that God put within us, living on forever and ever with him or without him.
Another passage that might have a bearing on this is John 14: 6, And you know these words that Jesus spoke when Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me. Jesus was stating very emphatically and controversially that if somebody wanted to come to God and be saved, they had to come through Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, there are lots of people that you and I know who think it doesn’t matter whether we believe in Jesus or whether we’re baptized, we are not going to be saved by such a thing.
But that probably doesn’t have a lot to do with most of us who do believe. Let’s begin to talk about some of the views of this verse that come from our religious friends. I want to be clear. I am not trying to be unkind in this lesson.
I don’t want to call anybody out specifically necessarily by name in some embarrassing way. But I do want to challenge people that believe that the Bible is the word of God or believe that Jesus was who he says he was about this simple, straightforward teaching that Christ brought to us.
The second view that many people hold is something like this.
He who does not believe and is not baptized will be saved
Now think about it just for a minute. Do you know anybody that thinks like this that there is such a thing as heaven, there is such a thing as Salvation, there is such a thing as joy after this life. But you don’t really have to believe in Jesus Christ, and you really don’t have to be baptized. There are lots of ways to get to heaven.
Now, the people that would believe something like this, we might refer to them as Universalists or Unitarians. There are many groups that exist, probably in your own neighborhood, they believe just universally that all mankind is going to be saved. And God, whoever he is or whoever she is, is going to just save everyone, no matter what they think about someone like Jesus or any other thing. Again, this might not be something that you’ve heard a lot. You may not know very many people, but it’s actually practically, even if it’s not stated out loud, it’s something that many people believe.
I’ll even go back to the atheists and the unbelievers that we talked about a lot of times, people I know, family, even who don’t believe in God. When the day comes that somebody dies, it’s interesting that you’ll hear them talking about heaven and the afterlife and that they’re in a better place.
Well, what is that? That essentially is a belief that you don’t have to believe in Jesus, and you don’t have to be baptized, but you’re going to be saved anyway. Now, there’s some scripture that we can look at for this.
In Matthew 7, at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said these very important and challenging words. Starting around verse 13, he said, Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction. And there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow which leads to life. There are few who find it.
Now, I’ll be honest, I wish that wasn’t the case, and I believe that God wishes that wasn’t the case. I don’t believe that God, any more than I or you wants many to be going to devastation, and many to be lost. But the fact of the matter is, because of who God is and because of the truth of God, there really are few who are going to find it. But for our point here, scripture will always say over and over again that there is such a thing as being lost, there is such a thing as destruction, and a place that the Bible refers to as hell.
There’s another place we can think about here. 2 Thessalonians 1 will speak to this. When Paul wrote the Christians in Thessalonica, he made this statement in chapter one, verse eight, he said, Well, I’ll start reading in verse six. After all, it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well. When the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus, these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power.
Now, I don’t know if there’s anyone listening to this message that believes these first couple of things that maybe you believe that believing in Jesus is nonsense and people that are getting baptized are just performing some strange ritual that has no value, that all mankind is just going to live and then die and there’s nothing after. But I want you to hear these words from scripture that say there really is a judgment coming. Now if you’re someone that holds this second view that he who does not believe and is not baptized will be saved. I want you to please think deeply about who this Jesus was and his claim that in order for mankind to know who they truly are, they have to come and face this Jesus and his teaching and listen closely to what he has to say. Again, there may be a lot of people that are listening to this that don’t interact with very many atheists, at least in religious discussion, or don’t interact with many Universalists or Unitarians.
But I think these next couple of views are going to be a little closer to home.
The third view that is pretty common these days about Mark 16:16 might sound something like this.
He does not believe and is baptized, will be saved
Hugh does not believe and is baptized, will be saved. Can you think of anybody that might think like that?
Now, again, they may not come right out and state it in such words, but their practice gives it away that they believe that all that needs to really be done is for some human person to be there dunked in the water or sprinkled on the head that it doesn’t matter whether they believe or whether they don’t, that act of baptism is just going to save them.
And so maybe I’ve already given it away. But without getting into every group that might teach something like this, those that practice infant baptism, this is really their view about this is that it is not necessary for the person being baptized to believe in Jesus, to have faith that the baptism is enough to save that soul from hell. And this has been practiced for centuries, and because it’s been practiced for centuries in different groups. There are things that sometimes exist in our culture and in our language that not everybody even understands.
I don’t know if any of you grew up in a tradition where you had godparents, maybe somebody was your godmother or your godfather. And a lot of times that was in religious circles. If you really do the history and check the history on where that came from, it came from sort of this problem that somebody in the past asked questions like, well, if the Bible teaches that someone has to believe and have faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, then how can we be baptizing infants or children that don’t have the cognitive ability to believe?
What they came up with within their traditions was this idea of a proxy faith that you could choose somebody like a faithful person that you knew. And that person’s faith would essentially cover for the child until they could one day come to faith on their own. But that faith of the godparent would be sort of transferred to this one that was being baptized.
Now, there are a number of things to say about that, and that’s not what this list is about. You just won’t find in scripture examples of infants or children that couldn’t believe being baptized. I know there are passages that will say things about households being baptized, like the flipping jailer and his household. And a lot of times, people that practice infant baptism will go to passages like that. But one question that must be asked is, where does the text say that the people within that household were infants or were too young to have faith or belief? What you’ll see consistently throughout scripture is that anyone who’s going to be baptized into Jesus Christ must believe that Jesus is Christ and that he rose from the dead.
And that confession and that belief are really foundational to the transaction that takes place between God and man concerning his Salvation. A couple of things that the scripture might say about something like this. In Acts 8, when the Ethiopian eunuch was traveling back home from Jerusalem and Philip the evangelist got into the chariot with him and began to expound on the scripture that he was reading from Isaiah. The Bible teaches that they went ahead and look here. In Acts eight, around verse 34, the eunuch answered Philip and said, please tell me of whom does the Prophet say this of himself or someone else?
Verse 35 says. Then Philip opened his mouth and beginning from this scripture, he preached Jesus to him. I’ve always wished that I could just hear what that sermon sounded like. What if you have the scroll of Isaiah and that’s all you had? Could you take the scroll of Isaiah and hear the eunuchs reading from what is our Isaiah 53 and use that scroll to present Jesus to the eunuch?
I think it’s perfectly possible. I actually have a sermon that I did in the past called what the Ethiopian and eunuch might have heard in just using the Book of Isaiah to teach the story of Jesus Christ. But I’ll tell you something, even though we don’t know everything that was in that sermon, starting in the Scripture, telling the stories of the eyewitnesses talking about what Jesus did in his ministry and his death and his resurrection, here’s something that we know he taught. Look at the very next verse, verse 36, right after it says he preached Jesus to him, says as they went along the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, look, water, what prevents me from being baptized?
Now, there’s an implication here. If Philip was preaching Jesus to him, and the question that was asked is, here’s, water, what prevents me from being baptized? There’s an inescapable conclusion to preach Jesus like those people in the first century preached Jesus, we need to talk about baptism, which just makes sense in Mark 16, that was the message. In Matthew 28 that was the Great Commission Jesus said before he ascended into heaven, go make disciples, baptizing them.
But nowadays you will find people who preach Jesus, but they leave off this thing about baptism. Here’s my challenge to anybody who preaches Jesus. If you’re going to preach Jesus, the way that these early preachers preached baptism is something that must be taught. And it should be the kind of thing that when you’re even in this conversation about Jesus, somebody will understand that baptism is something that needs to be done. But I want you to notice the eunuch’s question in verse 36.
He said, look, water, what prevents me from being baptized? I understand that not every Bible has verse 37 in it. Your Bible might go right to verse 38, and it’ll have a footnote that will have the verse 37 in the footnotes. And it’ll say something about how not every manuscript in the ancient manuscripts we have contained that verse. And I’m not here to debate which of those manuscripts is correct or to work out all of the textual criticism on that.
But I will point something out. There was a question asked in verse 36, and if verse 37 wasn’t part of the conversation. The question never really got answered. But verse 37 is in manuscripts that are ancient, and it is in most of our translations. The answer to verse 36 was Philip said, if you believe with all your heart, you may.
And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. This idea that somebody can be baptized into Christ and not believe kind of misses the point of this story. What hinders me from being baptized? Well, God always wanted people that believed in him. Some other passages about this would be places like Romans chapter ten, verses nine and ten.
That belief is what preaching is supposed to bring people to. How can they believe without a preacher and somebody will believe and then confess with their mouth that they believe? That’s part of the Salvation process as well. Or maybe just a very clear passage in Hebrews eleven and verse six. And all of the things that we understand that the Bible teaches about faith and it is the foundation of our Salvation.
Just listen to Hebrews eleven six. Without faith, it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him. Look, if you’re someone who has believed or practiced the idea that somebody could be baptized without faith, I want you to pay close attention to Hebrews eleven six. Without faith, even if there’s baptism, it’s impossible to please God. This is the third view of Mark 16:16.
Some people believe that he who believes in his baptism will not be saved. Some people believe he who does not believe and is not baptized will be saved. Some people, many of our religious friends believe that you don’t have to believe in Jesus. He who does not believe in his baptism will be saved. But then there’s a fourth view.
He who believes and is not baptized will be saved
The fourth view sounds like this, and this one might be the most common when we talk to our religious friends, many people believe that what this verse should say or essentially says is he who believes and is not baptized will be saved.
Now, who believes something like that? Well, many people who believe in the statement that is made by often religious folks that Salvation is by faith alone or it’s faith only that saves us. And then they’ll get into a discussion about how works don’t save us. Usually, baptism gets included in that list of works.
We can’t possibly teach that baptism is something that saves us because it’s work. So, we’re only saved by faith alone. Over the years you’ve had preachers that will preach to people and convince them that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. And then we’ll tell them something like, now accept Jesus as your personal savior, say this Sinner’s prayer and you’ll be saved. Of course, a great question to ask is where scripture speaks like that.
Where do you see evangelists in the Book of Acts? Where do you see people being told that they need to accept Jesus into their heart or just say some Sinner’s prayer in order to be saved? Now, there’s a lot to unpack with this. And again, that would be a separate lesson altogether. But Scripture has some things to say about this.
In Matthew 7:21 earlier, we looked at this text at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, but in Matthew 7:21, Jesus said these words, not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father, who is in heaven. There’s going to be a lot of people, according to Jesus, that will say to him, Lord, Lord, or in other words, we believe in you and we believe in your authority and we believe that you are the Lord. But Jesus goes on to say that’s not going to be enough. There are other places like Luke 6. Look at Luke chapter six.
Jesus said some things like this, a couple of things like this. But in verse 46, Jesus said, Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say? Now, this certainly would include more than just the topic of baptism, but it certainly includes it. If Jesus commanded that those that would be disciples were to be baptized, then this is something that we need to take seriously. Why do you call me Lord?
Why do you believe in me, but you don’t do what I say? And then finally, maybe for this topic of being saved by faith alone, it’s valuable to point out that the only time those two words appear together in the Bible are in James 2:24. In fact, we do this sometimes when we go into public places and we have people take a Bible quiz. It shocks many people who have grown up being told that all that’s needed is to have faith alone. That the only time you’ll find the words together in the Bible is when James says that it is not by faith alone that we are saved, and we need to pay attention to things like that.
Again, I’m not trying to be unkind and there are many nuanced conversations that need to take place about:
- What is baptism
- What does it do?
- How does it work
- Why did God command it?
But I will just simply point out these are all very prominent, famous viewpoints of the simple words that Jesus spoke. Now, what’s the fifth view? The fifth view of this passage is just as it reads, he who believes and is baptized will be saved.
He who believes and is baptized will be saved
Now, here’s the tricky part about this. If you were to go and ask people, hey, whose view is this that he who believes in his Baptism will be saved. You’ll have some people in the religious world say, oh, I know who believes that. That’s certain Church is that Church of Christ viewpoint. And here’s all I’m going to point out about that. Do you know whose view this is?
This is the view of Jesus himself. It’s what Jesus said. It’s also the view of his Apostles because they took this message that he spoke to them, and they began to preach it as well. I include on the chart there that it’s also the Holy Spirit’s view, because not only was Jesus the one speaking, but the Spirit of God was inspiring the things that were written for us, for our instruction. But in every place that you’ll see these Apostles teaching, this will be the kind of way that they’ll teach.
In Acts chapter two, when Peter preaches that first sermon on the day of Pentecost, he convinces this group of Jews that this Jesus, who they crucified, was both Lord and Christ. Go ahead and look at this passage for just a moment. Acts 2:36, therefore, let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ. This Jesus whom you crucified. Now, verse 37 says, when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the Apostles, Brethren, what shall we do?
This is an interesting moment. It’s apparent to me from verse 37 that these people believed they were cut to the heart. They were convicted about what was being preached concerning Jesus. But they asked the question, what shall we do? This would have been a perfect time for Peter, especially in the first gospel sermon, to say something like this, well, there’s nothing to be done.
You believe you’ve been cut to the heart. You’ve obviously accepted the truth. Perhaps he could have said, make your confession or say a prayer, call on the name of the Lord. Like he earlier had quoted Joel as saying in verse 21, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But what did that mean to call on the name of the Lord?
What was expected from somebody who believed that Jesus was The Christ? Peter went on to answer their question. In verse 38, Peter said to them, Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sin, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For this promise is to you and to your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to himself when Peter answers and says, Repent and every one of you be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. Sometimes you’ll meet people who don’t believe that baptism is necessary, and you will talk about this passage, and here’s the response that will sometimes come up.
Well, I believe what Peter was telling them to do was to be baptized because their sins were already forgiven. Sometimes that word for in the Bible can mean because of not in order to that’s another nuanced discussion, but I’ll just tell you, you don’t even have to leave this text or get into a linguistic discussion about the Greek. All you have to do is just keep reading. Verse 40 says, and with many other words, he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, Be saved from this perverse generation. Right there.
In the very next verse, it tells us that these men were not yet saved, even though they had been cut to the quick, cut to the heart, even though they were asking what needed to be done. He certainly wasn’t telling them to be baptized because their sins were already forgiven, and they were already in a safe state. He had to continue to try to encourage them and exhort them in verse 40 to be saved. They did what he told them. In the next verse, verse 41 then those who had received his word were baptized, and that day there were added 3000 souls.
And you know, those of us that believe in Jesus, believe in his authority, his sovereignty, his kingship, his love, his offer of forgiveness. Why would we preach anything different? Acts 22:16, when Ananias was trying to persuade Saul, who would be Paul, to be saved, he says in this text. Acts 22:16, Why do you delay, get up and be baptized and wash away your sins calling on his name.
I’ll just put these up one more time for you to think about when people look at places like Mark 16:16 or Matthew 28:18 through 20 When Jesus gave the Great Commission there and told people to go make disciples by baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. There are only so many views of that. What’s yours? I’ll tell you, Christian, this has been something that’s been very effective for me. When I’ve sat down with people who wrestle with the question of baptism, I go through this with them. Here are the five views.
And when we finally get to the last view, the one that is stated in Mark 16:16, this isn’t Andy Cantrell’s view. It’s not the Church of Christ’s view, it’s the view of Jesus Christ Himself. It’s his view. It’s what he taught. And I would encourage you to accept his words and to obey the Gospel of Christ one last word.
Some of us who hold to the fifth view, Jesus view that someone must believe and be baptized in order to be saved, we may hold to that view intellectually and still live a life that’s kind of like the second view.
He who does not believe and is not baptized will be saved. Sometimes we live lives as if we don’t believe, even though we hold intellectually to the truth of the fifth view we might hold to the fifth view and live the third view or live the fourth view? But let’s be all in when it comes to obeying Jesus Christ, let’s believe with our hearts let’s obey from our hearts let’s do whatever he’s asked knowing that those that have faith in Jesus Christ will please God.