By Larry Ray Hafley
Under the title above, editor Bob Wilkin wrote the article which appears on the opposite page. It was published in The Grace Evangelical Society News (Vol.10, Number 3, May-June 1995, pp. 2-4). Before reviewing the article, a few preliminary comments may be in order.
First, the wise man was right when he said, “There is no new thing under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). As we shall presently see, Mr. Wilkin makes the same worn and weary arguments that gospel preachers have answered over and over again. Second, those who say (1) that denominational preachers are not making such arguments anymore, and (2) that answers to them are unnecessary, ought to reassess their assessment. Such arguments are being made, and they will continue to be made. They must be answered. “Let us not be weary” in doing so. Third, we are not angry at editor Wilkin. My heart’s desire and prayer to God for him is that he might be saved. I bear him record that he has a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. He is ignorant of God’s plan of making men righteous, and, going about to establish his own righteousness, has not submitted himself to God’s plan of making men righteous (Rom. 10:1-3, 8-10, 16). Fourth, if Mr. Wilkin is free to attempt to refute what he believes is a perversion of Mark 16:16 without being labeled as a “contentious, argumentative writer” who is “just out to make a name for himself,” are we not also free to do the same without being similarly maligned and criticized? Fifth, and finally, Mr. Wilkin boldly asserts his position, but is he willing to publicly debate it? We do not know, but here is why some will not agree to a public discussion of biblical issues:
“For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God” (Jn. 3:20, 21).
Prior to publication of this review, a copy was sent to Mr. Wilkin. Propositions for debate were also enclosed. Mr. Wilkin was asked to deny the following proposition: “The Scriptures teach that water baptism, to the penitent believer, is for (in order to) the remission of sins.” I have signed to affirm it. Will he agree to deny it in a fair, open, honorable Bible discussion? Mr. Wilkin was also invited to affirm the following proposition: “The Scriptures teachthat alien sinners are saved by grace through faith alone, before and without water baptism.” Will he agree to de-fend it in an open, public study wherein his views would be examined with all candor? Surely, he will. What does he have to fear, if he has the truth?
Perhaps some of our readers will want to make the propositions above available to their preachers, too. Surely, there is a preacher of Mr. Wilkin’s persuasion who will have the faith and courage to accept our sincere appeal for an open Bible study of these important matters. If there is such an individual, please put him in touch with me so that we may make the appropriate arrangements.
Review Of Bob Wilkin’s Article On Mark 16:16
While I cannot presume to speak for the “students” to whom Mr. Wilkin’s spoke, their contention should have been over whether or not baptism is one of the conditions of pardon from past or alien sins (Lk. 24:47; Eph. 2:12; 2 Pet. 1:9b). One is saved from his past sins when he believes and is baptized (Mk. 16:16). He is “purged from his old (or past) sins” when he believes and is baptized (Mk. 16:16; 2 Pet. 1:9). He obtains the remission or forgiveness of his past sins when he believes and is baptized (Mk. 16:16; Lk. 24:47; Acts 2:38; 22:16).
Mr. Wilkin’s purposes and proposes to “explain why this verse can’t be teaching salvation by baptism.” We could have saved him a lot of time, ink, and space. The passage does not teach “salvation by baptism.” It teaches that “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” Baptism is but one of the conditions of pardon from one’s past sins (Mk. 16:16). Faith, or belief in Christ, is another condition. That is what the passage says, hence, that is what it teaches. Mr. Wilkin’s says, “this verse can’t be teaching salvation by baptism.” He says that it teaches “salvation by faith alone.” However, if baptism is not a condition of salvation in the passage, neither is faith. Both are joined by the coordinating conjunction, “and.” Faith and baptism are of equal rank. If one is a condition of salvation, so is the other. If one is not a condition of pardon, neither is the other.
In a nutshell, here is the gist of Mr. Wilkin’s introduction: “Though the Lord said, `He who believes and is baptized shall be saved,’ I am going to try to convince you that it is not so.” Friends, Mr. Wilkin does not believe Mark 16:16. He does not believe that in order to be saved one must believe and be baptized. He does not believe what the Lord said. No matter how you slice and dice it, that is the essence of Mr. Wilkin’s article. When he has finished with his comments in denial of what the Lord said, the passage will still say, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
Mr. Wilkin is “sure that Mark 16:16 isn’t teaching that water baptism is a condition” of salvation. He cites four reasons. Let us examine them with all care, caution and candor.
“Condemnation Is For Unbelief Only”
Let us effect parallels to Bob Wilkin’s statement in this section, using Luke 13:3, 5 “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” First, in commenting on the passage, suppose I said: Jesus didn’t say, “Except ye do not believe, you will perish.” Neither did he say, “He who does not believe and repent will perish.” Rather, he said, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” By this our Lord made it clear that repentance alone was necessary to avoid eternal condemnation. Would Mr. Wilkin accept that conclusion? No, he would not. When he explains that condemnation based on a lack of repentance does not exclude the essentiality of faith as a condition of pardon, then we shall explain how that condemnation based on a lack of faith does not exclude baptism as a condition of pardon.
Second, Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32, 33). Reasoning like Bob Wilkin does, and commenting on this text, suppose I said: Jesus did not say, “He who does not confess will be denied.” Neither did He say, “He who does not believe and does not confess will be condemned.” Rather, He said, “Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” By this our Lord made it clear that confession alone was necessary to avoid eternal condemnation. Would Mr. Wilkin accept that conclusion? No, he would not. When he explains that condemnation based on denial of the Lord does not exclude the essentiality of faith as a condition of pardon, then we shall explain how that condemnation based on a lack of faith does not exclude baptism as a condition of forgiveness.
Ironically, Wilkin’s citation and quotation of John 3:18 helps to explain why the Lord did not say, “He who does not believe and is not baptized will be condemned.” Truly, “he who does not believe is condemned already.” So, in Mark 16:16 when the Lord said, “He who does not be-lieve will be condemned,” he did not need to say, “and is not baptized,” because the man who “does not believe is condemned already.” Consider these parallels:
(1) “He that enrolls and attends class shall be educated, but he that does not enroll shall be uneducated.” There is no need to say, “He who does not enroll and does not at-tend class shall be uneducated,” because he that does not enroll is “already uneducated.” Obviously, if he is not en-rolled, he will not attend class.
(2) “He that eats and digests shall live, but he that does not eat shall die.” There is no need to say, “He who does not eat and does not digest shall die,” because he that does not eat is “already condemned” to die. Obviously, if he does not eat, he will not digest.
(3) “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” There is no need to say, “He who does not believe and is not baptized will die,” because “he who does not believe is condemned already.” Obviously, if he does not believe, he will not be baptized.
Bob says, “see also John 5:24; 6:47.” He made no argument on those passages. Neither of them mentions baptism. If his inference from that is that baptism is not essential because it is not mentioned, then the same is true of repentance. Repentance is not mentioned in either of those passages. Is repentance, therefore, not a condition of forgiveness?
Wilkin’s assertion is that these passages make “it clear that faith alone (is) necessary to” salvation. Note, “faith alone.” He cited passages that ascribe salvation to faith, but none of those verses say that salvation is by “faith alone.” There is no such passage (see also Acts 2:38; 22:16; Heb. 11; Jas. 2:14-26).
The Apostles Preached Salvation By Faith Alone
Did “both” Peter and John teach “that the only condition of eternal salvation was trusting in Christ and him alone,” as Wilkin’s asserts? If so, neither taught that repentance and confession are essential to salvation, for if “trusting in Christ” is “the only condition,” then repentance and confession are not required in order to be saved.
First, did Peter, having heard the Lord say, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved,” preach “salvation by faith alone”? Wilkin says he did. “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Peter, having heard the Lord in Mark 16:16 and Luke 24:47, taught that both repentance and baptism were conditions of salvation. But there is more from the apostle Peter: “Ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth” (1 Pet. 1:22).
“Then Peter. . .said. . .he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34, 35). “And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21, NASB). Yes, Peter “heard Jesus say the words recorded in Mark 16.” Wilkin’s is right about that, but Peter did not teach that “trusting in Christ” is “the only condition of’ salvation as Wilkin says he did. Why? Because he heard the Lord say, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.”
Second, did John, having “heard Jesus say the words recorded in Mark 16,” preach “salvation by faith alone”? John recorded these words of Jesus, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). (Despite this, Wilkin says “water baptism is not even mentioned in John’s Gospel.”) John said, “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected” (1 Jn. 2:3-5). “He that doeth righteousness is righteous” (1 Jn. 3:7). When any man, including Bob Wilkin, says that one may “know” Jesus as his Savior “by faith alone,” he “is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” John said, “Every one that doeth righteousness is born of him” (1 Jn. 2:29). John said, “Whosoever shall confess Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God” (1 Jn. 4:15). John wrote these words of Jesus, showing that he (John) did not teach “salvation by faith alone.” “If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death” (Jn. 8:51). “If ye love me, keep my commandments. . ..He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me” (Jn. 14:15, 21). Mr. Wilkin says John taught “that faith is the only condition of eternal salvation.” Whose word will you accept, Mr. Wilkin’s or John’s?
Bob refers to the case of Cornelius and says Cornelius and his family “were saved and baptized by the Holy Spirit” before water baptism. Cornelius was “baptized by the Holy Spirit” before he was baptized in water, but he was not saved before he was baptized (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 10:48). Cornelius was “baptized by the Holy Spirit” be-fore he believed. Cornelius was to hear “words” which would save him (Acts 11:14). The Spirit fell upon those Gentiles “as” Peter “began to speak” (Acts 11:15). Since “faith cometh by hearing” the word, Cornelius received the Holy Spirit before he believed (Rom. 10:17). Does Mr. Wilkin conclude from this that belief in Christ is not essential since Cornelius received Holy Spirit baptism before he believed? No, he does not. However, if the fact that Cornelius received Holy Spirit baptism before water baptism proves that water baptism is not essential, then the fact that Cornelius received Holy Spirit baptism before he believed would prove that faith is not essential. If not, why not?
Peter “commanded them (Cornelius’ household) to be baptized in the name of the Lord ” (Acts 10:48). What is the purpose of baptism “in the name of the Lord”? What is it “for”? Let Peter himself tell us, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized.. .in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Hence, when Cornelius was baptized “in the name of the Lord,” he was baptized `for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38; 10:48).
In this same connection, Wilkin says Peter “led them to faith in Christ before he even mentioned baptism.” Of course, he did, for the Lord said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” Naturally, therefore, one is “led to faith in Christ” before he is baptized. “When they believed. . .they were baptized” (Acts 8:12). “And many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:8). When the Ephesians “heard” and believed “on Christ Jesus,” they were “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38; 19:4, 5). One must be “led to faith” before he may be baptized (Acts 8:35-39). Hence, there is no need to “mention” baptism until one is “led to faith.”
The Gospel Never Changes
No, Bob, those students were not telling you “the Gospel had changed.” They were telling you that “a testament is of force after (not before) men are dead,” and that “it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth” (Heb. 9:16, 17). Jesus was alive on the cross. His testament was not “of force” at that time. Before his death, men were to be obedient to the law of Moses (Matt. 23:2-5). His testament and its forgiveness was yet to begin at “Jerusalem” (Lk. 24:47; cf. Isa. 2:3).
No, the thief was not baptized in the name of Christ for the remission of sins. Neither did the thief believe in his heart that God “hath raised” (past tense) Christ from the dead (Rom. 10:9). Now, however, we must believe that “God hath raised him from the dead” in order to be saved. Since the dying thief did not believe that “God hath raised him from the dead,” while we must believe that “God hath raised him from the dead,” are you telling us, Bob, that “the Gospel has changed”?
Regarding the thief, Wilkin says, “Before Jesus’ resurrection and the coming of the Spirit a person was saved without water baptism.” Well, Bob, before Jesus’ resurrection and the coming of the Spirit, a person was saved without believing that “God hath raised” Christ “from the dead.” Does that mean that one today can be saved with-out believing that “God hath raised” Christ “from the dead”? Will Bob tell us? When he does, will he be able to do it in such a way as to show us “that the Gospel (has not) changed”? When Bob answers that with respect to the necessity of believing that “God hath raised him from the dead,” he will answer his own argument concerning baptism.
In Luke 7:29, 30, “the people. . .justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.” Those who were “not baptized of him” “rejected the counsel (or purpose) of God against themselves.” Yet, in Acts 19:1-5, the baptism of John was no longer sufficient. Those who had received John’s baptism “after Pentecost” now had to be baptized “in the name of the Lord Jesus” “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38; 19:5). Given his reasoning along this line, Bob needs to explain whether or not “the Gospel had changed.” He says that if the thief was not baptized and was saved, and if we have to be baptized to be saved, then the gospel has “changed.” Well, if the reception of John’s baptism was a sign of justification before God at one time, but later it was not, would that not mean, according to Wilkin, that “the Gospel had changed”? When he clarifies the one he will have explained the other, also.
If the contention that “water baptism is required. . .is an impossible position to defend,” is true, will Mr. Wilkin agree to discuss it? If one truly believes that his opponent has “an impossible position to defend,” he surely will not refuse to meet the indefensible position when it challenges him. But will Mr. Wilkin refuse? Do you think he really believes that the “position” is as “impossible. . .to defend” as he says it is? Me, neither. But if he does so think, then “what doth hinder” us from having a Bible discussion of our differences?
If “the apostle Paul clearly indicates that we are saved in this age the same way Abraham and David were saved in their age,” why did the Hebrew writer speak of “a new and living way” (Heb. 10:20)? Paul said that through Christ one can be “justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38, 39). “Righteousness. . .without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets” (Rom. 3:21). Mr. Wilkin, have ye never read that there is “a change also of the law” (Heb. 7:12)? While it is true that salvation is by grace through obedient faith, the specific conditions or terms of pardon and salvation have not been the same in every age (cf. Heb. 1:1, 2; 2:1-3; 10:28, 29; 12:25).
Wilkin cites Romans 4:1-8 and Galatians 3:6-14 to prove that we are saved “the same way” Abraham and David were. Indeed, we are to “walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham,” but the terms of pardon are different for us than they were for Abraham and David (Rom. 4:12; 6:3, 4, 17, 18; Gal. 3:26-29). Today, one must believe with all of his heart that God hath raised Jesus from the dead, and he must confess that Jesus is Lord (Rom. 10:9, 10). Did Abraham do that in order to be counted righteous? Did David? If not, has “the Gospel changed,” Mr. Wilkin? Wilkin surely admits that they did not have to believe and confess the same things we do today. He says that the conditions of Romans 10:9, 10, do not result in a “change” of the gospel. Therefore, he ought to be able to see that though water baptism is required of us today, it does not “change” the gospel, either (cf. Rom. 6:3, 4, 16, 17; 10:9, 10).
Abraham and David lived under the covenant of circumcision. Even Jesus who was “born under the law,” was circumcised (Lk. 2:21). Today, however, those who would say, “Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved,” “are fallen from grace” (Acts 15:1, 24; Gal. 2:3-5; 5:1-4). With respect to circumcision and the approval of God, are we accepted “the same way” Abraham and David were? Since circumcision was bound upon them, but not upon us, does that mean “the Gospel has changed”? According to Bob, that is what it would mean. When he explains that the gospel has not changed though circumcision once was bound, he will explain how that the gospel has not changed though baptism is now a condition of salvation. Physical circumcision once was something important (Gen. 17:9-14). Now, it is “nothing.” “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God” in view of the cross is everything (1 Cor. 7:19; Gal. 6:14).
Our circumcision today is a spiritual one, “in the heart” (Rom. 2:28, 29). The circumcision of Abraham and David was made with hands upon the flesh. The “circumcision of Christ” is “made without hands.” Old Testament circumcision cut off excess flesh. The New Testament “circumcision of Christ” cuts away and puts “off the body of the sins of the flesh.” This spiritual surgery is performed by the Lord when one is “buried with him in baptism” (Col. 2:11-13).
Paul did not preach that salvation is “by grace through faith plus nothing.” If he had, he would have excluded repentance. However, Paul taught that men “should repent and turn to God” (Acts 26:20; Cf. 20:21). Paul preached salvation “by grace through faith,” but he did not preach salvation “by faith only,” as Bob Wilkin says he did (Rom. 1:5; 3:24; 5:1, 9; 6:17, 18; 10:9, 10; Eph. 2:8, 9). Yes, indeed, the Ephesians were saved “by grace through faith,” but has Mr. Wilkin forgotten that these Ephesians were “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38; 19:5; Eph. 2:8, 9; 5:26)? It was only “after” their baptism that Paul said they were saved “by grace through faith.”
Wilkin refers to Genesis 3:15, 15:6, and Revelation 22:17 and says those verses prove “The Gospel has al-ways been, and always will be, by grace through faith plus nothing.” Those verses say nothing like that. Read them and see. Revelation 22:17 mentions those who “hear” and “come” and “thirst” and “take” of the water of life freely. Sounds like a lot more than “faith plus nothing.” Three verses earlier, in Revelation 22:14, we find this, “Blessed are they that do his commandments that they might have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” So, if verse seventeen says, as Wilkin says it does, that salvation is “by grace through faith plus nothing,” it contradicts verse fourteen! When Mr. Wilkin, gave those passages, did he never think that someone might check up on his (mis)use of them? In a public debate, such things are not allowed to slide by. That is why that men who hold a false position often will avoid open discussion. They can see that in this written review. They do not want their errors to be exposed. They do not want to be exposed. Hence, they will not engage in fair and honor-able controversy when they are challenged to do so. Do you blame them?
“The NT Gives Examples Of Salvation Before Baptism”
John 11:25-27 does not show that Martha was “saved without being baptized,” as Mr. Wilkin alleges. (1) It says nothing about her being saved at that time. (2) It does not say she was saved, nor that she was saved “without being baptized.” (3) If Martha had not received John’s baptism which was “for the remission of sins,” she would have “rejected the counsel of God against” herself (Mk. 1:4; Lk. 7:29, 30). (4) If the fact that baptism is not mentioned means that Martha was “saved without being baptized,” then the fact that her repentance is not mentioned would prove that she was “saved without having repented.” If not, why not? If she was saved without repenting, may we be saved without repenting of our sins (Acts 2:38; 17:30)?
Acts 10:43-48 does not show that Cornelius and his household “were saved the moment they heard Peter tell them that all who believe in the Lord Jesus receive the remission of sins.” Note the text cited by Mr. Wilkin. Acts 10:43 says “that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive the remission of sins.” Salvation is “in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:12). We are baptized “into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19, ASV). Cornelius was “commanded” to be “baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:48). What is baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ for”? It is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Hence, one is not “into” the name of Jesus Christ until he is baptized “into” it. One does not receive remission of sins “through his name” until he is “baptized into” his name “for the remission of sins” (Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38; 4:12; 10:43, 48).
Acts 10:43-48 says nothing about Cornelius’ household being “baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ.” However, if they “were,” as Wilkin’s asserts, then they were “in the body of Christ” without faith! Faith comes “by hearing” the word of God (Rom. 10:17; Eph. 1:13). But Cornelius received the baptism of the Holy Spirit be-fore he was told to believe, for the Holy Spirit fell upon them “as (Peter) began to speak” (Acts 11:15). Since the Spirit came on them “as” Peter “began to speak,” and since Wilkin says that “At that very moment” they were placed “into the body of Christ,” and since faith does not come until one hears the word of God, the irresistible conclusion is that they were in the body of Christ before they believed!
If, according to Wilkin, they were saved without baptism because they were in the body of Christ before they were baptized, then they were saved without faith because they were in the body of Christ before they believed. Wilkin’s reasoning not only eliminates baptism, it also eliminates faith. In a discussion, he would have to explain these contradictions. Though it would be far easier for him to refuse to debate our differences, perhaps he will be eager to have the opportunity to explain such things and will agree to it.
Cornelius was to “hear words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved” (Acts 11:14). “As” Peter “began to speak” those saving words, “the Holy Spirit fell on them.” “At that very moment,” Wilkin says they were placed “into the body of Christ.” So, according to him, they were saved in the body of Christ before they heard the words that were to save them! At this point in a public discussion, Mr. Wilkin would have quite a mess of his own making to clean up.
The truth is this: Cornelius was saved by grace and justified by faith when, after having heard the word of God, he believed, repented, and was “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” “for the remission of sins” (Acts 10:43, 48; 11:14, 18; 15:7-11).
Wilkin concludes his four points, saying that they “prove that Mark 16:16 is not teaching that one must be water baptized to go to heaven.” In our introduction, we said that Bob does not believe what Mark 16:16 says. The statement above proves our contention. But there is this: If “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” does not prove that water baptism is essential to salvation, then it does not prove that belief is essential, either. According to the text, “who. . .will be saved”? Answer, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” If the “he who. . .will be saved” does not need to be baptized, neither does he need to believe. But if the “he who. . .will be saved” is the one “who believes and is baptized,” then both belief and baptism are required to be saved from past sins.
Mark 16:16 Is Teaching That All Who Respond To
The Great Commission Will Go to Heaven
Bob Wilkin does not understand “the Great Commission” any more than he understands the place of water baptism in the scheme of redemption. He says that “All Who Respond to the Great Commission Will Go to Heaven.” Earlier, he said that going to heaven is “by grace) through faith plus nothing.” Now, he refers to the fact that one must “Respond to the Great Commission.”
What is included in one’s response “to the Great Commission”? Let us allow “the Great Commission” to tell us. First, according to the Great Commission, one must believe the gospel that is preached (Mk. 16:16). Second, according to the Great Commission, one must repent in order to receive the remission of sins (Lk. 24:47; cf. Acts 2:38). Third, according to the Great Commission, one must be baptized “into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19; Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38). Please read those passages.
Referring to Mark 16:15, 16, Wilkin says, “Baptizing those who believe (v. 16) is the first step in discipleship.” Friends, read the text! It absolutely does not say that baptism “is the first step in discipleship.” It says, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”
Even if Mr. Wilkin were right, he would be wrong. Let us explain. He says, “The Great Commission in Mark 16:15-16 includes both evangelism and discipleship.” He does not say that it “includes” any conditions of salvation from sin, just “evangelism and discipleship.” Then he says, “baptizing those who believe. . .is the first step in disciple-ship.” No, according to Bob, belief, not baptism, is the “first step in discipleship,” for he says the passage speaks of “evangelism and discipleship.” He makes no mention of any conditions of pardon. So, if the passage is speaking of “evangelism and discipleship,” as he affirms, then where does faith fit in? If baptism is the “first step,” where would he put belief? Mr. Wilkin would have to answer questions like these in a discussion. Rather than having to face questions which pin-point his confusion, he could simply refuse to accept our proposal for an open Bible study.
The truth is that baptism is a part of the process whereby one is made a disciple. “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38).
Bob Wilkin Says: “What Jesus is saying in Mark 16:15-16 is this:.. .
Those who believe and are baptized will be saved.” What Bob Wilkin Believes and Teaches Is This:
He who believes is eternally saved the very moment he believes, whether or not he is ever baptized.
One may believe Bob Wilkin, or he may believe Jesus the Christ.
(1) If one is saved “the very moment” he believes, disobedient children of the devil are saved (Jn. 8:30-32, 44). (2) If one is saved “the very moment” he believes, those who refuse to confess him are saved (Jn. 12:42, 43; cf. Matt. 10:33; Rom. 10:9). (3) If one is saved “the very moment” he believes, he is saved before he has turned to the Lord (Acts 3:19; 11:21; 26:20). (4) If one is saved “the very moment” he believes, he is saved before the Lord said he would be, for the Lord said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.”
Bob refers to some who “have died” immediately after believing in Christ and thus were unable to be baptized. Will such people be saved? “They will,” he says. This is an emotional argument which has deceived many and caused them to deny that one must believe and be baptized to be saved (Mk. 16:16). All we know is what the Lord said “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” However, if an untimely death negates what the Lord said regarding the necessity of baptism, consider the following scenario:
There is an unbelieving farmer out in his field plowing. He has never taken the time to reflect seriously about his soul. However, he sees the wonders of creation on his farm. One day he decides that there has to be a God who provides such life in the seeds he has sown. So, he determines that he will talk to someone about his soul’s salvation. That evening, he sees an advertisement in the paper for a meeting where Bob Wilkin is to speak about “trusting in Christ” for salvation. Being an irreligious man, he has never heard the gospel story, but he decides to go and hear Mr. Wilkin. He arrives at the building. He meets Mr. Wilkin and a host of friendly people. The service begins. He en-joys the singing. Mr. Wilkin is introduced, and he cordially welcomes the audience before beginning his lesson. Suddenly, as Bob is about to begin his sermon, the farmer clutches his chest and dies immediately. Before the man could be led to believe in Christ and to confess him as Lord, he is dead.
Question, please: Will he be saved without faith in Christ? Remember, Jesus said that one must “believe” in order to “receive the remission of sins” (Mk. 16:16; Acts 10:43). However, because he was sincere and because he was so close to doing what the Lord said, can we say, “He was saved”? No, we cannot, “for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (Jn. 8:24). Emotional arguments do not determine truth, nor do they make void the word of God. When we dry our tears over the fate of the poor fanner, the word of God will still say, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” However, if we can use death to invalidate the necessity of baptism, then we can use it to deny that faith in Christ is essential. The plain, sad truth is that we can do neither (Jn. 12:48).
Finally, Mr. Wilkin says that Mark 16:16 affirms “salvation by faith alone.” There is only one place in the Bible where the word of God mentions justification “by faith only,” and in that place, the Spirit says it is not so (Jas. 2:24)! Does Mr. Wilkin understand the definition of the word, “alone”? If a farmer raises corn only, or corn alone, does that mean he also raises soy beans? If salvation is “by faith alone,” that excludes repentance and confession of Christ. If Bob says that repentance and confession are included in justification by faith, and that is what he means “by faith alone,” then upon the very same basis and through the very same door that he brings repentance and confession, we shall bring baptism (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30; 22:16; Rom. 10:9, 10).
Wilkin’s Holy Spirit Baptism Footnote
Mr. Wilkin is correct in his assessment of Mark 16:16 with respect to its being a reference to water baptism and not to Holy Spirit baptism. Baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ” occurs in the element of water (Acts 2:38; 8:12, 35-39; 10:47, 48). Men perform the act of water baptism (Matt. 28:19; Acts 8:36-38). The Lord is the one who “baptizeth with the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 3:11; Jn. 1:33; Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:4, 5, 8).
The Bible nowhere says that Holy Spirit baptism puts one “into the body of Christ.” (The “body of Christ” is the church Eph. 1:22, 23; Col. 1:18, 24). If it did, and if Holy Spirit baptism were necessary for one to be “in the body of Christ,” that would mean that there are two baptisms, one in water and another in the Holy Spirit. However, the Spirit himself says, “There is. . .one baptism” (Eph. 4:4, 5). But that is not all:
If Holy Spirit baptism places one “into the body of Christ,” what does water baptism do? Baptists have taught that water baptism makes one a member of a Baptist Church. They do not teach that the Baptist Church is “the body (or church) of Christ.” So, if Holy Spirit baptism (that is one baptism) puts one “into the body of Christ (that is one church),” and if water baptism (that is a second baptism) makes one a member of a Baptist Church (that is a second church), then it follows that there are two baptisms and two churches. However, that is one too many, for the Spirit says, “There is one body and. . .one baptism” (Eph. 4:4, 5).
If Wilkin believes that 1 Corinthians 12:13 is a reference to Holy Spirit baptism, then for one to be in the body or church of Christ and for one to be able to drink in the fellowship of the one Spirit, one would have to receive both Holy Spirit and water baptism (Acts 2:41, 47; 18:8; 19:5; 1 Cor. 6:11; 12:13; Eph. 5:26). But that cannot be true today, for Paul says, “There is. . .one baptism.” The truth is this: By the teaching of the “one Spirit” in the word of God, penitent believers are led to be baptized in water “for the remission of sins” and the Lord adds them to his body, the church (Acts 2:4, 38, 41, 47; 10:47, 48; 18:8; 19:5; 1 Cor. 4:15; 6:11; 12:13; Eph. 5:26; Col. 1:13, 18; 2:11-13). In other words, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16:16).
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: No. 18, p. 17-23
September 21, 1995