Does Mark 16:15 make baptism a requirement for salvation?
Mark 16:15-16: ‘And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”
The first thing we should notice is that the gospel is preached and we see the immediate response to those who accept the message is that they believe. Over 240 times Jesus speaks of being saved by believing. The Bible is consistent in teaching the gospel is PREACHED and belief (faith) is the response.
What it does not say is that the absence of baptism condemns someone. It is the absence of faith (belief) that will condemn, because it is one’s faith that is relative to salvation. One is baptized because they believed first.No verse says that if you are not baptized you are not saved but this Scripture and others all say if we do not believe the gospel or on Christ we will not be saved.
John 3:17-18 “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
Salvation is through the person and by his work on the cross as our substitute and sin bearer and he requires faith for us to enter into his work.
The next response to those who believe is to be immersed in water (baptism). It is always a believers baptism. In other words no one is being baptized to be saved. But believers are willing to be baptized to be obedient to the command.
The Eunuch in Acts 8:36-38 asked, “What hinders me from being baptized? "Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
The stipulation Philip gave was to believe; the Eunuchs confession is that of the church (Mt.16) the Jesus is the Son of God.
In Acts 10:47 Peters sermon was interrupted by his witnessing the gentiles being saved in a group for the first time. “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?"
He recalls this event in Acts 11:15-17 As “I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, 'John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' "If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”
What was that gift? The Holy Spirit which is the down payment the evidence of being saved.
Jesus emphasized before He left “for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5-6)
Acts 2:40-41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized”
1 Peter 1:23, 25: “having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 25 But the word of the LORD endures forever." Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.” Again the word ( message – the good news) is preached and people believer to be saved.”
As Paul points out in Romans 10:8-9 "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach ): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 10:15-17 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?" So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Paul says, “And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel” (Romans 15:20).
“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 1:17)
1 Corinthians 1:18-19: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
The gospel is a message, not a work, it alone is the power of God for salvation.
Col.1:23 we preach Christ crucified Paul states in Col.1:13-16 he baptized only a few people in response to his preaching. Which would be a neglect of preaching the gospel if baptism was part of the salvation message. Yet Paul makes it evident what the gospel is that he and all the apostles preached
1 Corinthians 15:1-4: “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”
And Paul explains the means “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
The greater context in scripture always teaches salvation occurs before baptism.Again the gospel is always preached, it centers on the work of Jesus on the cross and we enter into it by God’s grace through faith.