Debate: Is Baptism Necessary to Salvation?

Debate: Is Baptism Necessary to Salvation? January 15, 2022

Jerry Smith is a Protestant acquaintance of mine (of the Baptist — or similar — variety, as far as I know), who, years ago, gave a presentation at my house in a group discussion. He is the editor of The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (1992): a remarkably encyclopedic and thorough revision of a classic Bible reference work.

I was good friends with his brother, the late Martin Smith: a devoted Baptist who often attended my group discussions and was an advisor to my old Protestant campus ministry (part of my “board”). I am responding to Jerry’s article, Are baptism and the Eucharist necessary to salvation? (4-20-14). His words will be in blue. I will be dealing only with the arguments regarding baptism in this article. That was Jerry’s own overwhelming emphasis, anyway. One thing at a time!

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I’ll take his word for it that he is expressing the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.

I am, and I am also expressing the teaching, I submit, of the Holy Bible, of the Church fathers en masse, and of the vast majority of all Christians throughout history and today (Catholics, Orthodox, selected Protestants such as Lutherans, a portion of — possibly most? — Anglicans and Methodists, Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ, etc.). I think there is a reason why these historical facts are as they are. It’s because the Bible is, in fact, pretty clear about the necessity of baptism for salvation.

Jerry listed six Bible passages that I used to demonstrate biblical regeneration in the Bible: taken from my book, Pillars of Sola Scriptura: Replies to Whitaker, Goode, & Biblical “Proofs” for “Bible Alone” (July 2012). I have more than those, however. Here is the list of all or most of the Scriptures that I have used in making this argument (including the six he cited):

Acts 2:38-41 (RSV) And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. [39] For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.” [40] And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” [41] So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Here we learn that baptism brings: (1) “forgiveness of sins;” (2) the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which no unregenerate person could possess; (3) salvation (“save yourselves”); and (4) inclusion in the rank of saved “souls” (cf. Galatians 3:27).

1 Peter 3:18-21 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Peter’s saying that this baptism “saves” us is not merely symbolic. He throws in the fact that this baptism was not merely “a removal of dirt from the body” (not merely a physical, natural thing), but related to suffering with (3:14, 16-17; 4:1) and being resurrected with Christ (3:21), just as St. Paul also taught (even more explicitly) in Romans 6:3-4.

Acts 22:16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’ (cf. 9:17-18)

Acts 9:17-18 So Anani’as departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized, (cf. 22:16)

The first thing St. Paul did upon his spectacular conversion was get baptized. What did this baptism do? It washed “away” his “sins” and he was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” That sure sounds like justification and sanctification, doesn’t it? It would require an unnatural, eisegetical attempt to separate the “wash[ing]” here from baptism. This is clearly baptismal regeneration: expressly taught by the Apostle Paul.

In Paul’s case the order of things was repentance and belief, then baptism, then forgiveness of sins and salvation (regeneration), along with reception of the filling of the Holy Spirit. That was also precisely the order in Acts 2:38-39 as well: the very opposite of what Baptists claim is the case, as to when forgiveness of sins, justification, sanctification, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit take place.

Romans 6:3-4 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Romans 6:3-4 incorporates the blood and redeeming death of Jesus into baptism by referring to his “death.” So also does the larger passage of 1 Peter 3:14-22; 4:1.

Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Colossians 2:11-13 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; [12] and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. [13] And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,

Galatians 3:26-27 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Mark 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit,

John 3:3-6 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” [4] Nicode’mus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” [5] Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. [6] That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

John 3:5 and Titus 3:5 are almost exactly parallel:

Titus: “saved” / John: “enter the kingdom of God”

Titus: “washing of rebirth” / John: “born of water”

Titus: “renewal by the Holy Spirit” / John: “born . . . of the Spirit”

There is also the parallel of baptism with circumcision, that I have described in the past as follows:

Israel was the church before Christ (Acts 7:38; Rom 9:4). Circumcision, given to 8-day old boys, was the seal of the covenant God made with Abraham, which applies to us also (Gal 3:14, 29). It was a sign of repentance and future faith (Rom 4:11). Infants were just as much a part of the covenant as adults (Gen 17:7; Dt 29:10-12; cf. Mt 19:14). Likewise, baptism is the seal of the New Covenant in Christ. It signifies cleansing from sin, just as circumcision did (Dt 10:16; 30:6, Jer 4:4; 9:25; Rom 2:28-29, Phil 3:3).

Dave Armstrong’s argument above may be summarily dismissed and considered refuted because his interpretation relative to the matters of baptism . . . [is] incorrect, based upon a provable misinterpretation of Scripture.

As to baptism, the confusion is evident on Dave Armstrong’s part. Many others make the same mistake here as he did. The mistake is to (1) assert what the Bible does not say, namely, that ritual water baptism is necessary to salvation; (2) not understand the distinction between “real” baptism, performed by the Holy Spirit when one is saved and “ritual water baptism” performed by a human administrator physically upon the person. There is a vast yet provable difference.

I don’t find this distinction in Scripture, which simply talks about baptism, in its primary meaning of “applied water” in a ritual that most Christians regard as a sacrament (a physical means of applying God’s grace to human beings). When Jerry is debating me, he will be challenged to produce a scriptural basis for the claims he makes, so as to prove that they are not mere traditions of men (which the Bible repeatedly condemns, while not condemning true, Bible-based — and later, apostolically-based — tradition).

The Bible — as far as I know, after 42 years of intense Bible study and almost as many of apologetics — never draws the distinction made above. So the question is: where does Jerry get this idea in the first place? The Bible does distinguish to some extent between “baptism of the Holy Spirit” and the “baptism of fire” and water baptism. I say that he is simply playing arbitrary word games, in order to avoid the obvious common conclusion of the many passages I produced above.

Now the central point of difference between Biblically literate Protestants and the Roman Catholic Church is this: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that grace is received through the seven sacraments.

That’s correct as far as it goes; but we don’t restrict reception of grace to the sacraments. We believe that absolutely every good thing that persons do must have been preceded by God’s grace enabling them to do it. And this includes salvation, too, of course (contra Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism). But of course, many Protestants (Lutherans being the most notable example) are sacramental, too, and hold to two sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. So the above statement of contrast must be qualified.

On this matter, Luther and the Lutherans (whom no one has ever plausibly denied are good Protestants) stand on the side of the Catholic Church, over against the Baptist-type anti-sacramental Protestants like Jerry and a guy like, for example, the prominent anti-Catholic Reformed Baptist apologist, James White, who thinks that sacraments are in absolute opposition to grace.

The Bible does not teach sacramental salvation.

Ah, but it does, as seen in the above passages.

(1) Ritual water baptism in any form or mode is not required for salvation.

That’s precisely what the Bible, in the above dozen passages, teaches. And I am prepared to go through and defend each one of them from the Bible alone, should that be necessary.

For each positive requirement for salvation, there is in Scripture a negative statement threatening loss of salvation if the requirement is not satisfied. That is, belief as a requirement for salvation is stated positively and negatively (Ac 16:31 with Jn 3:18); repentance is spoken of positively and negatively (Ac 17:30 Lk 13:3). Although baptism is enjoined as a command, it is nowhere stated in the negative (i.e. “he that is not baptized is lost,” or the equivalent), as all positive, essential requirements for salvation are.

He later provides three additional examples:

(1) one must hear the Word of God: positive, Ro 10:17Jn 5:24. negative, Ac 3:23. (2) one must be convicted by the Holy Spirit: positively, Jn 6:4416:8-11. negatively, Ro 8:9. . . . (5) confession of Christ as Lord before men: positively, **Ro 10:910. negatively, Mt 10:3233. . . . All four or five conditions or terms of salvation are stated both positively and negatively; baptism is not one of these.

This is an interesting and clever argument, but it is massively erroneous, as I shall now show. Making sweeping, universal statements like this  –particularly with the use of the word “all” –, is always an unwise debate strategy, because such triumphant claims may be shown to be false.

The Bible refers to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit or the Spirit “falling” on us, or our  being “baptized with the Holy Spirit” or being “filled with” the Holy Spirit (Pentecost: Acts 2:4, 17-18; Paul’s conversion: Acts 9:17; disciples: Acts 13:52; all believers: Eph 5:15) as a crucial, necessary aspect of being a Christian believer and being in God’s good graces; on the “narrow way” road to heaven and salvation. See, for example:

Acts 11:13-18 And he told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, `Send to Joppa and bring Simon called Peter; [14] he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ [15] As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. [16] And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, `John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ [17] If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” [18] When they heard this they were silenced. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance unto life.”

Note how the reception of the Holy Spirit had to do with being “saved” (11:14) and was thought to be direct evidence that “God has granted repentance unto life” to Gentiles, as well as Christian Jews. But I don’t ever recall anything in the Bible to the effect of, “if you are not filled with the Spirit, you aren’t a believer” etc. Maybe I’m wrong. If I am, I’m sure Jerry will find such a verse and disabuse me of my present (99% sure) opinion.

So his general proclamation that “all positive, essential requirements for salvation are . . . stated in the negative” is already shown to be false. If I search the phrase “not filled with” in the RSV (or in the KJV, too), I get nothing in response. If this aspect of the Holy Spirit is not expressed negatively as well as positively, then neither is there any supposed “requirement” for baptismal regeneration to be so expressed. But this is not the only example.

When I search “not justified” in RSV I don’t find any such statement related to the possession or not of salvation. The RSV search engine does produce Galatians 2:16 (“a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ”), but that is making a different point, and asserting that the specific Jewish works of the Mosaic Law do not save (a proposition fully agreed upon by Catholics and Protestants); rather, faith in Jesus does. It is not asserting that “a man who is not justified by faith is not saved.” So that’s strike two against Jerry’s assertion. Again, if this is true of all-important justification, it also is of baptismal regeneration. No such biblical requirement exists merely because the Bible happens to refers in this way to Jerry’s five examples.

The Bible also refers to being “reconciled” with God (or receiving “reconciliation”) as a synonym for being a Christian believer; in Christ; saved, etc. (Rom 5:10-11; 2 Cor 5:18, 20). But again, a search for “not reconciled” etc. turns up nothing. Strike three (and we know what that means in baseball).

Paul refers twice to the believer in Christ being a “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15). But he never expresses it negatively. These are the only two times the phrase appears. Strike four . . .

The Bible refers scores of times (almost all examples from Paul) to the Christian believer / disciple being “in Christ.” But if we search for “not in Christ” guess what comes up? Nothing, as usual. So this is strike five.

The Bible uses “redemption” six times as a synonym for salvation or being a Christian believer, and “redeem” another six times. But I can’t find a single instance where this is expressed negatively (“if you are not redeemed . . .”). Strike six . . .

Paul refers to the believers’ “adoption as sons” twice (Rom 8:23; Gal 4:5). But when I search “not adopted” it’s again zilch, zip, zero . . . Strike seven.

Christians are called “children of God” nine times in the NT. I searched “not children of God” and “not the children of God” and got nothing. Strike eight.

Paul calls Christians “the body of Christ” (1 Cor 12:27). Negative searches turned up nothing. Strike nine. It’s mighty embarrassing for a supposedly universal rule or requirement to have nine glaring exceptions . . .

Therefore, this particular argument completely fails. If all these synonyms for Christian aren’t ever expressed in negative terms, then neither does baptismal regeneration have to be. Where Jerry got this idea is a mystery.

Jerry simply became overconfident (something we are all prone to at times: especially those of us who like a good dialogue / debate). He provided five examples of his claim; I offered nine counterexamples (actually ten: including baptism). A phenomenon that happens only 36% of the time (5 out of 14) or 33% (5 of 15) in the New Testament is obviously not a thing that is required.

Nowhere in the New Testament is baptism made a command or a condition essential to salvation. It never occurs as such in the imperative mood in a command statement, or in the subjunctive mood in a conditional clause, with the promise that by subscribing to such one shall receive salvation. . . . 

[T]he verb “baptize” is never used in the entire New Testament in the subjunctive mode in a promise of salvation,

I looked up “subjunctive mood” at Merriam-Webster:

English has three moods. The indicative mood is for stating facts and opinions like “That cat is fabulous.” The imperative mood is for giving orders and instructions (usually with an understood subject, you), as in “Look at that fabulous cat.” The subjunctive mood is for expressing wishes, proposals, suggestions, or imagined situations, as in “I wish I could look at that fabulous cat all day.”

The question at hand then becomes: does the NT propose or suggest that baptism is one of the means of salvation? Yes! It certainly does, and I already demonstrated it above. Peter said “Repent, and be baptized . . .  for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Doing this was doing what Peter described as “save yourselves” (Acts 2:40). Salvation, remission of sins, Holy Spirit, and it is a suggestion or proposal for those who desired to be saved and made right with God.  What more does one need as proof? It’s all there in two verses.

The same general scenario applies to the newly converted Apostle Paul (Acts 9:17-18; 22:16). He washes away his sins (sanctification) and was “filled with the Holy Spirit” as a result of the baptism, urged upon him by Ananias (“why do you wait?”).

neither is the noun “baptism” used in the instrumental, means, or agency case of prepositions so as to offer salvation, justification, or the new birth by or through baptism.

Sure it does: “Baptism. . . now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21).

[O]ne is never said to receive a pure heart, be justified, be saved, or to be a child of God by or through baptism . . . 

1 Peter 3:21, Acts 2:38, 40; Mk 16:16; Titus 3:5 all tie baptism to salvation, using the very words “saved” or “save”. Again, what more could one require? It’s as plain and obvious as the nose on one’s face.

As for “pure heart”, I don’t see how that is different from having one’s sins washed away, as is said about Paul — due to baptism — in Acts 22:16. Is that not a pure heart (purity being an absence of sin and a presence of the Holy Spirit: which Paul also received via baptism: Acts 9:17)? Romans 6:4 says that we live a “new life” because of baptism: basically the same idea expressed in different terms. “New” refers to being made pure; regenerated. And it came about by baptism. “Putting off the body of flesh” and being “made alive” due to baptism are other ways of saying the same thing (Col 2:11, 13).

As for being a child of God, through baptism, that is expressed synonymously by Galatians 3:26-27 (“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ”). How in the world is being “clothed with Christ” not being saved, justified, made pure, and made a child of God? As for a connection between baptism and justification (as well as sanctification), that’s all in one verse: 

Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

So I think I’ve shown that all four of these contra-baptism claims are false. To not see such a common, repeatedly emphasized thing in the New Testament is like the person who looks all around the sky on a sunny summer day at high noon, and can’t see the sun.

[T]he physical rite of water baptism cannot be shown from Scripture to be necessary to salvation. Mk 16:16 is not a command statement, nor is it in the subjunctive mood of a conditional clause, which would have to read “If one believes and is baptized he shall be saved.” If it were so worded here or anywhere, then baptism would be a necessary condition with which one must comply in order to be saved. But Mark 16:16 is a mere declaration that the baptized believer shall be saved. Had the Bible said “He that is baptized, and takes the Lord’s Supper, and pays tithes and offerings, and forsakes not the assembling of himself with other believers, and cares for widows and orphans, shall be saved,” it would have been a declarative statement of general Bible truth. But that is not the same as saying “If a person does all these things he shall be saved.” What one receives when he believes, he does not lose when he is baptized.

In effect I answered this argument regarding Mark 16:16 and what it means, in a dialogue with a Protestant in March 2002. He is now a Catholic, and has credited (in direct online communication to me) that dialogue with being a big factor in his conversion. I wrote:

The first part of the passage offers two conditions for salvation: belief and baptism. . . . Grammatically, it is possible to break down the first half of the sentence dealing with salvation, into the two following ones:

Whoever believes will be saved. Whoever is baptized will be saved.

Logically, however, it does not follow that the two derivative sentences are true [exactly] like the first one is, since two conditions were stated as necessary prerequisites for salvation, and must therefore exist together. In other words, the two derivative sentences do not express the fuller truth (the “whole truth,” to use legalese for a second) of two conditions being necessary for salvation rather than one only. To be true, they would both have to substitute the word “may” for the word “will.” This is analogous to the following proposition:

Whoever finishes first in the men’s speed skating competition in the Winter Olympics and does not do drugs in order to get an unfair advantage, will get the Gold Medal.

This can be broken down into:

Whoever finishes first in the men’s speed skating competition in the Winter Olympics will get the Gold Medal.

or:

Whoever does not do drugs in order to get an unfair advantage, will get the Gold Medal.

Neither derivative sentence is true (on the same basis, that two conditions are necessarily together). The truth of the first depends upon the athlete being drug-free, since even if a winner is found to have been using drugs, he will be stripped of his medal (as indeed happened in the recent Olympics). The second is obviously untrue as it is now far too vague, and would include every athlete at the Olympics who didn’t do drugs.

Thus, to return to the verse under consideration, since two conditions for salvation are being offered, (logically speaking) they must stand or fall together. One can only accept both or reject both. If [Name / and now, Jerry Smith, in the same position] accepts them both, his case against baptismal regeneration collapses. If he rejects them both, then this includes belief as well as baptism, and he cannot accept that position either. . . .

It couldn’t be more clear than it is. If these passages were concerned with a doctrine that all Protestants accepted, we can be sure they would be trumpeted from the rooftops as “clear and indisputable proof texts.” But because they clash with a preconceived theology of many Protestants which is — it turns out — contrary to many biblical teachings, it somehow becomes strangely “unclear,” when in fact it is clear as a bell that all these passages, taken in conjunction, form a compelling proof of the doctrine. There is a good reason why most Christians through history have believed this.

[Name’s] argument about the second clause was that it spoke only of disbelief as the cause of condemnation, not baptism: whoever does not believe will be condemned. It certainly does not mention baptism, but logically, it doesn’t have to, since . . . belief in Scripture includes the concept of obedience (which would include baptism in this instance).

[Lengthy “footnote”: see John 3:36: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him.”

The Greek word for “believes” is pistuo, and the Greek for “does not obey” is apitheo. There is a parallelism in this verse, whereby belief and obedience are essentially identical. When all is said and done, believing in Christ is obeying Him. This ought to be kept in mind by Protestant evangelists and pastors who urge penitents to “believe in Christ,” “accept Christ,” etc. To disobey Christ is to be subject to the wrath of God. Thus, again, we are faced with the inescapable necessity of good works — wrought by God’s grace, and done in the spirit of charity — for the purpose and end of ultimate salvation, holiness, and communion with God.

John 11:25-26 is of the same nature, and moreover, if we look at it closely, we see that the Greek for “believe” is pistuo, which is considered the counterpart of “does not obey” (apitheo) in John 3:36. 1 Peter 2:7 also opposes the two same Greek words. In other words, “believe” in the biblical sense already includes within it the concept of obedience (i.e., works). Hence, “little Kittel” observes:

pisteuo as “to obey.” Heb. 11 stresses that to believe is to obey, as in the OT. Paul in Rom. 1:8; 1 Th. 1:8 (cf. Rom. 15:18; 16:19) shows, too, that believing means obeying. He speaks about the obedience of faith in Rom. 1:5, and cf. 10:3; 2 Cor. 9:13. (p. 854)

Jesus joins faith (“belief” / pistuo) and works together, too, when He states:

John 14:12 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father.

To speculate further, if it be granted that pistuo  (“believe”) is roughly identical to “obeying,” as it indisputably is in John 3:36, by simple deduction, its use elsewhere is also much more commensurate with the Catholic view of infused justification rather than the more abstract, extrinsic, and forensic Protestant view: for example, the “classic” Protestant evangelistic verse John 3:16, Jesus’ constant demand to believe in him in John 5 through 10, and St. Paul’s oft-cited salvific exhortations in Romans 1:16; 4:24; 9:33; and 10:9, generally thought to be irrefutable proofs of the Protestant viewpoint on saving faith.

So even if one grants that these passages have to do directly with judgment and eschatological salvation (as I do not), it is still the case that the “belief” mentioned in them is (through cross-referencing) seen to include obeying and works, and we’re back to the Catholic organic relationship between the two, rather than the Protestant ultra-abstraction of the two into the justification and sanctification categories.

John 6:27-29 Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal. Then said they to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

In verses 28 and 29, working and belief in Christ are equated, much like obedience and belief in John 3:36. In the marvelous phrase “doing the works of God,” we see that our works and God’s are intertwined if indeed we are doing his will. This is the Catholic viewpoint: an organic connection of both faith with works, and God’s unmerited grace coupled with our cooperation and obedience. Our Lord constantly alludes to the related ideas of reward and merit, which are complementary: Matthew 5:11-12, 6:3, 18, 10:42, 12:36-37, 25:14-30, Luke 6:35, 38, 12:33. St. Paul, using the same word for “works” (ergon), speaks in Acts 26:20 of the process of repenting, turning to God, and doing deeds worthy of their repentance. In other words, they will thus prove their repentance by their deeds.]

Even if the clause is interpreted in a more “absolute” sense, it would not follow that baptismal regeneration is either disproven or not supported in the overall verse, because disbelief alone (whether or not baptism has occurred) is enough to render salvation unattainable. Following the analogy to the Olympics above, the second clause of Mark 16:16 would read:

Whoever does not finish first in the men’s speed skating competition in the Winter Olympics will not get the Gold Medal.

or:

Whoever does drugs in order to get an unfair advantage, will not get the Gold Medal.

[depending on which analogy one chooses to be parallel to “belief”]

Note that both sentences are true as they read, because negative assertions are different from positive assertions. The simple fact that only one thing is mentioned in Mark 16:16 with regard to condemnation, does not mean that there are no other things which also condemn. There clearly are: any number of other sins (besides unbelief) unrepented-of would also exclude one from heaven (see, e.g., 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

I believe that on the basis of the arguments I have given above, and the fuller evidence presented in my note from The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge for Mark 16:16, that I have absolutely refuted Dave Armstrong on the one point that water baptism, what I and other scholars have termed “ritual water baptism,” is NOT a requirement for salvation.

I’m happy to let readers decide what the Bible actually teaches on this topic, by pondering our opposing (and Bible-soaked) arguments.

To prove me wrong, in debate, Dave Armstrong would have to prove I am mistaken about how to properly interpret Mark 16:16.

I submit that I have indeed done precisely that, above, and a whole lot more, as a “bonus.”

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Summary: In-depth examination and intense dialogue with two Bible lovers on the important question of: “Is baptism necessary to salvation?” Let the reader decide!

 

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