Mark 16:16

Does Mark 16: 16 teach that (water) baptism is necessary for salvation?

Edited from the ministry of

Used by permission.

As we consider Mark 16:16 (“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned”), it is important to remember that there are some textual issues with Mark chapter 16 and whether or not these verses were originally part of the Gospel of Mark, or added later by a scribe.

Assuming that verse 16 was included in Mark’s original manuscript, does it teach that water baptism is required for salvation?

When one carefully examines this verse, it becomes clear that in order to make this passage teach that water baptism is required for salvation, one must go beyond what the verse actually says.

Certainly there is no controversy that this verse teaches that belief is necessary for salvation, which is consistent with all other verses in the Bible that deal with salvation (e.g. John 3:18; John 5:24; John 12:44; John 20:31; 1 John 5:13).

And if we look at this passage closely, we can see that it is composed of two basic statements:

He who believes and is baptized will be saved.

He who does not believe will be condemned.

So here we find both the positive condition of belief (that whoever believes will be saved) and the negative condition of unbelief (that whoever does not believe will be condemned).

But notice that nowhere in this passage, nor anywhere else in the Bible, will we find the negative condition of baptism that ’whoever is not baptized will be condemned.’

Again, there is no example anywhere in Scripture that whoever is not water baptized will be condemned.

So how can we know whether or not a believer will be condemned if they have not been water baptized?

As with any verse or scripture, we must always interpret the passage in question in the light of the rest of Scripture. And any interpretation that that goes against the clear teaching of Scripture is a faulty interpretation.

In other words, Scripture must line up with the Scripture.

In the case of baptism and salvation, the Bible is very clear that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by works of any kind. (Eph. 2:8-9)

To summarize the evidence against water baptism being required for salvation:

1—The Bible is clear that we are saved by faith alone. Abraham was saved by faith, and we are saved by faith (Rom. 4:1-25; Gal. 3:6-22; Eph. 2:8-10).

2–People have been saved without being water baptized. The thief on the cross was saved but not baptized and Cornelius was saved before he was water baptized (Acts 10:44-46; 11:15-16; 15:8-9).

3—Water baptism is a testimony of our faith and a public declaration that we believe in Jesus Christ. The Scriptures clearly tell us that we have eternal life the moment we believe (John 5:24), and belief must always comes before being baptized. Water baptism does not save us any more than walking an aisle or saying a prayer saves us. We are saved the moment we place faith in Jesus Christ.

4–The Bible never says that if one is not baptized that he is not saved.

5—If baptism is required for salvation, it also means that no one can be saved without someone else being present. In other words, if baptism is required for salvation, someone must baptize a person before he can be saved. This effectively limits who can be saved and when he can be saved.

It means that someone who believes in and trusts in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but does not have the chance of being baptized in water, cannot be saved. The consequences of this doctrine are devastating. A soldier who believes but is killed in battle before he can be water baptized would perish, etc.

6—Throughout the Bible we see that at the point of faith a believer possesses all the promises and blessings of salvation (John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24; 6:47; 20:31; Acts 10:43; 13:39; 16:31). When one believes, he has eternal life, does not come under judgment, and has passed from death into life (John 5:24), all before they are baptized in water.

If someone does believe in baptismal regeneration, they would have to carefully consider who or what they are really putting their faith and trust in. For example, is that person placing their faith in act of being water baptized, or on the finished work of Jesus Christ? In Whom or in what is the believer trusting in for salvation?

We must never forget that our faith must rest in Jesus Christ alone.

“All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives the forgiveness of sins through His name." Acts 10:43