Belief & Baptism
Mark 16:16 (ESV) — Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
When I was at bootcamp in the Army, we had a couple of opportunities to earn a two- or three-hour pass. This means we had the chance to be a normal human for a couple of hours without the guys in the round hats yelling at us. They laid out the requirements necessary to earn those few sweet hours of freedom. They inspected our weapons for perfect cleanliness. Our boots and uniforms were inspected. Our wall-lockers and beds were inspected for alignment with stated regulations. If you passed inspection, you earned the pass. If you didn’t pass, you stayed in the barracks and completed the tasks correctly while your buddies were making calls home, buying junk food at the store, and going to movies.
This story captures something that is true about our passage today. In Mark 16:16, Jesus says, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” The question this answers is: what must we do to be saved? How can we ensure our sins are forgiven and be reconciled to God? We are to believe and be baptized.
To believe is to trust in the finished work of Jesus. His death on the cross and his resurrection from the grave is the substance and content of the gospel message. Those who put their faith in his sacrifice have their sins forgiven. And those who believe are to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20). This public identification with Jesus in baptism is a command for us given by Jesus. However, it is not something that saves us. If someone doesn’t get baptized, it doesn’t condemn them. The reason we know this is because verse 16 doesn’t say that failure to be baptized condemns. It says failure to believe will condemn us. Baptism is a crucial step of obedience for the Christian, and not something to be discounted as unimportant.
Just as our Drill Sergeants laid out clear instructions for how to earn a pass in bootcamp, Jesus lays out for us what we must do to enter eternal life. If we want to be saved, we must believe upon Christ for eternal life. Nothing else and no one else can save us.
Reflection & Journal:
- Why does Jesus list both belief in him and baptism as connected to salvation?
- Why does Jesus not list baptism in the part of the verse that talks about what condemns us?
- Have you believed in Jesus and been baptized to publicly identify with him?
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