Answer: For one, most all Bibles
will either tell you that Mark 16, after verse 8, is not part of the
original text, or leave it out altogether because the case is very
strong that it isn't meant to be included as Scripture. It was
probably added around 200 AD, and is not in ancient manuscripts, and
evangelical scholars agree it probably is not original. How did it
get there in some manuscripts? One likely scenario: it seems people
were uncomfortable with the gospel of Mark ending so "abruptly" and
felt they had to "help God out" by adding an ending with an
"official" great commission. It was also a chance for folks in the
200s to sneak their pet doctrine (heresy) into the Bible: baptism as
essential to salvation. By the way, you notice there are other
problems with Mark 16: 9 and following: for example, it issues a
blanket promise that we can drink poison and handle snakes. When
someone quotes 16:16 as proof text for salvation in baptism, ask if
they believe that.
However, if someone wants to argue that Mark 16:16 is scripture, you
can still show from that verse in context that baptism is not
required for salvation. Notice it says: "he who believes and is
baptized will be saved. he who does not believe will be condemned."
What is very conspicuous by its absence is what it does NOT say (and
what you would expect it to say to keep the sentence and thought
parallel). It does NOT say "he who does not believe and IS NOT
BAPTIZED is condemned."
When someone argues strongly for baptism too strongly like this, I
would start by complimenting them and honoring them for making a big
deal about baptism, because we (evangelicals/Third Wavers/Third Day
types) usually don't make a big enough deal about it. Here I think
is the point, which helps interpret 16:16: There are four "items" in
the salvation "package" that God wants us all to "get": repentance, accepting Christ (salvation proper),
baptism and the Holy Spirit. Whenever one of these things is
mentioned in Scripture, the other three are implied as being so
connected that they can't really be separated. Now the normal
"order" for receiving these four is: repentance,
then salvation, then baptism, then Holy Spirit filling.
find God and the Bible (particularly Acts) being flexible,
Spiritaneous, grace-shaped and "out of the box" enough to let these
happen in any order. And we all know people who were saved AFTER
baptism. In Acts 19, we meet Ephesians.
Of course the classic Scripture to counter the false teaching that
baptism is absolutely required to be saved is the thief on the
cross. Jesus boldly and unflinchingly promised that this repentant
thief would be in paradise. But was he baptized? Obviously not.. Of
course, we assume that if he had gotten off the cross and lived
longer, he would have been. That's the point: baptism is not
required for salvation, but it is so closely connected to it that it
should always follow unless there are highly unusual circumstances.
Certainly the context of Scripture is salvation by grace through
faith (Eph. 2:8-120) and not by works...including baptism.
Sometimes these folks like to quote 1 Peter 3:21, after you have
explained Mark 16:16. So be prepared to go there. It actually says
"baptism now saves you." Wow. Sounds like they have a case. But I
think the argument above that baptism (symbol) is so close to the
reality (accepting Christ) that sometimes the symbol refers to the
reality. And the context of that scripture reveals the main reason
Peter uses the phrase baptism. because he is comparing our salvation
with Noah's "baptism" in the ark/flood.. verses 20-21 make that
extremely clear. And if there is any doubt, v.. 21 clarifies that
salvation is appropriated through Christ's resurrection alone.
One last note as a reminder on how
Scriptures that LOOK like they are requiring baptism for salvation
to be legal are actually showing how ideally the four components of
the salvation experience are connected and almost instantaneous.
Acts 2: 38 says "Repent, and be baptized for the forgiveness of
sins." Why doesn't he say "accept Christ" or even "be saved"? He
doesn't have to. After preaching about salvation, the hearers
realize that accepting Christ alone for salvation is implied even
when not specifically mentioned. In the NT, one cannot mention
repentance (which technically and usually comes before the accepting
of Christ) and baptism (which usually comes after) without the
understanding that the salvation experience of receiving Christ is
the center of that experience. One should read "Repent..(and accept
Christ)...and be baptized, for the forgiveness of sins (which
happens on accepting Christ).