By Phil T.Arnold
A Landmark Missionary Baptist publication entitled The Baptist World has a monthly feature entitled, “What Baptists Believe.” In an article concerning baptism under the subheading “What Is Scriptural Baptism?”, the article states that there are four essentials for scriptural baptism. The very first of these being “the candidate for baptism must be a saved person.” Is baptism for the saved or is it for the sinner?
The condition of the sinner in God’s sight is set forth very plainly in the Scriptures. The sinner is lost and without salvation. He lives his life in iniquity and gropes in darkness. He exists in this world without God (separated by his own sins), without Christ, and as a result without hope. Who will deny that this is the condition of the sinner (Jn. 12:46; Rom. 3:23; Eph. 2:12; Rom. 6:23; Isa. 59:1,2)?
On the other hand, what is the condition of the saved? The man who is saved has salvation. He has had his sins forgiven and washed away. He has been redeemed in Christ and through Christ he has become a new creature. The saved individual has been justified by the blood of the Lamb and is freed from the power of sin (2 Cor. 5:17; 2 Tim. 2:10; Eph. 1:7; Rom. 5:9; 6:22).
Now, which of those two individuals is in need of receiving baptism – the sinner or the saved? To find the proper answer to that question, simply lay aside any pre-conceived ideas which you might have, turn away from the doctrines and teachings of men, and sit down with your Bible and see what purposes are ascribed to baptism. When you do this, I think the answer will be clear and simplicity can be restored to Mark 16:16 which says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be damned. ” Where did Jesus place salvation? Before or after baptism? Is baptism then for the saved or sinner?
What does the Bible teach about the purposes of baptism? The Bible teaches that baptism is for salvation. “The like figure whereunto even baptism does also now save us” (1 Pet. 3:21). Baptism is for the remission of sins, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. . . ” (Acts 2:38). Baptism washes away sins. “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins . . . (Acts 22:16). Beyond this the Bible reveals that baptism puts one into Christ and into his death where his blood was shed (Rom. 6:3-5). Those who are baptized have obeyed the form of doctrine which frees them from sin and allows them to begin a new life having put on Christ (Rom. 6:17,18; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 3:27). The sinner is in need of all these things which are attributed to baptism, and the saved person already is in possession of all that the Bible attributes to baptism. The sinner can and should be baptized to receive the promises which accompany it. But why baptize a man who already has these promises? What is it that baptism can do for the saved?
If a candidate for baptism “must be a saved person,” then the N.T. uses some strange language in reference to these individuals. It calls upon them to be baptized ‘!for the remission of sins” and that they might “wash away thy sins.” This is confusing language to use to one who is a “saved person.” Such statements could only be made to an unsaved person.
The Lord in Mark 16:16 did not teach that a “candidate for baptism must be a saved person” and neither does any other Bible passage. To agree with the doctrine and beliefs of many, Mark 16:16 must be changed to eliminate conflict. To satisfy them it must read, “He that believeth is saved and then he can be scripturally baptized.” The very obvious difficulty with this is simply that this is not what Jesus said. Jesus harbored no thought of salvation being a requirement for scriptural baptism, for he declared that the exact opposite is true.
Leave Mark 16:16 and all of the gospel in its simplicity. Do not be guilty of making it confusing. Accept it for what it says, and render obedience. Be baptized and be saved! For “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk.16:16).
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 13, p. 395
July 2, 1992