Ron Boatwright wrote this webpage, arguing that without baptism one is not saved, and then sent me an e-mail asking me to read it and tell him what I thought.
From the website: Jesus says in Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned“. But just as 1+1=2, Jesus says belief + baptism = saved. One needs help to misunderstand Jesus. How much clearer could Jesus have said it? Jesus placed both belief and baptism prior to being saved.
What Jesus said and what Boatwright claims he said are not the same. Jesus lumps believing and baptism together as almost one single activity – he who believes and is baptized. What Jesus says next is “He who does not believe will be condemned.” Not believing equates with condemnation (hell). In Mark 16:15 Jesus had told the disciples to preach the gospel to every living creature. Those who believe that message, and are consequently baptized, will be saved. Rejecting the gospel is what sends non-believers to hell, not refusing baptism. If this were the case Jesus might have also said “He who believes but is not baptized will be condemned.” He didn’t say that. Jesus does not equate belief and baptism as being essential to salvation, but he is assuming belief and baptism are a package deal.
John chapter 3 records a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. In verse 5 of that passage Jesus says “…unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Some have used this verse to argue baptism is necessary, but again Jesus is not saying that. He explains that what is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of the spirit is spirit. Notice that in 3:5 one is born first of water and then the Spirit. Born of water refers to physical birth into the world. If you’ve never witnessed a birth taking place you may be able to fully grasp born of water. You can look it up on YouTube. We are born into this world, with the curse of Adam upon us, and may later be reborn in the Spirit.
Jesus himself was baptized at the beginning of his earthly ministry as an example to the rest of us. John the Baptist was preaching a message of repentance and baptizing in the Jordan for the remission of sins. Jesus had no sins to repent of nor to be wash away. Would he have been condemned without baptism? Certainly not. For the new believer, baptism is the first public profession of faith. Baptism is symbolic of the old man, the slave to sin, being laid to rest and a new creature rising up. The waters of baptism represent the grave; we die to self and live to Christ. We crucify the flesh in order to come alive to God.
Abraham was counted righteous in Genesis 15:6 because he believed God. His faith was equated as righteousness in the eyes of God. The woman with the issue of blood, blind Baritimaeus, and dozens of others are healed by Jesus who says their faith made them well. Romans 10:9 says “if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The Bible simply does not teach that you must be baptized to be saved. That one verse in Mark 16 may seem to say that, but notice that condemnation comes from lack of belief not lack of baptism.
I will make this passage from Luke my closing argument:
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
(Luke 23:39-43 ESV)
Jesus did not come down from the cross to baptize this man.
I am an ordained Baptist minister, and hold baptism in very high regard. If a new believer asks if he/she should be baptized I point out that Jesus was baptized and might share the story of the Ethiopian eunuch. Again, in Mark 16:16 belief and baptism go hand in hand. Is baptism a requirement for salvation? No, that is not taught in scripture.
*I am going to limit my response to baptism and salvation. Boatwright goes on to declare that all Baptists are going to hell for their belief in faith alone to save them. It’s nothing personal, he actually rejects all denominational churches.