"Chris you are WRONG. Baptism is required for salvation! Acts 2:38 has Peter commanding that we be baptized FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS. Mark 16:16 commands baptism and without it we are damned."There was more to it but that's the heartmeat of this individual's contention. I don't know what precipitated this correspondence. Maybe it was the "Meditation on Baptism" post nearly three years ago. Maybe it was one of the numerous posts I've had to make about a certain cult operating in this area: a group that has among other things harassed others who have met to worship in peace.
Okay, fine. I'll respond to it.
Here is Acts 2:38, as translated in the 1611 Authorized Version (AKA the King James Bible):
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
For all the beauty of the King James Version, it is rife with problems. Those stem from two primary factors: that the Authorized Version was a project that King James used to placate the Puritan faction of the Church of England (i.e. it was a political stunt, plain and simple) and the fact that the primary source material of Greek manuscript for the Authorized Version was apparently the Textus Receptus of Desiderius Erasmus. Now, Erasmus was otherwise a brilliant scholar, no doubt about it. But the Textus Receptus was hands-down his sloppiest piece of work ever (he was rushing to win a contest... and he didn't have that many manuscripts to draw from to begin with). Combined with the aforementioned purpose of affirming in approved canon the doctrines and ordinances of the Church of England over all others and you get the idea of what is wrong with the King James Version (though I still love the overall beauty of its language).
But anyhoo, let's look at the passage that this reader (and others) have attempted to use to insist that water baptism is necessary for salvation: "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins..." I emphasized the word "for" because in the Greek the original word is "eis". And "eis" does NOT easily translate into "in order to receive..." Rather, the more accurate rendition is "because of".
So let's translate Peter's statement again, this time with "eis" correctly translated...
"Then Peter said unto them: Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ because your sins have been remitted."That makes much more sense. It also reconciles that bit of scripture with the story of Cornelius, the first Gentile to become a Christian (recorded in Acts 10) who along with his household had already believed in Christ. That Peter baptized them was outward affirmation that Christ came for all nations, and not merely the Jewish people (per the vision that he received as recorded earlier in the chapter). Here also, we find that baptism is not for salvation, but is rather for all of those who are already in Christ and His church.
That might seem a small matter today, but in those heated days of the early church the issue of non-Jewish converts to the Way (as Christianity was called in the beginning) was a serious controversy. Peter baptizing Cornelius and his family was a threshold moment for Christianity. They were baptized because they had faith in Christ and because of that faith, their sins were already forgiven. Hence, they were fully entitled to baptism, without any regard whatsoever for their nationality.
So that takes care of Acts 2:38. But what about Mark 16:16? Here is what that passage has Jesus telling His followers...
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.Y'all want the "nice" reason first why this verse doesn't mean that baptism is a requisite for salvation, or do you want the "nasty" reason?
Fine. I'll start off polite. Here it is: this verse does not say at all that the absence of baptism equals damnation. It only states that "whoever does not believe will be condemned". Downright obvious, actually.
But here's the biggest reason why Mark 16:16 can not be used to claim that baptism is a requirement for salvation...
Mark 16:16 doesn't belong in the Bible to begin with.
Feel free to read that again after you've come down from the initial shock.
The Gospel of Mark is apparently the oldest of the four gospels, perhaps composed only about 35 years or so after General Titus and his boys laid waste to Jerusalem and the Temple there. But of all the oldest manuscripts that we have for Mark's book, none of them contain verses 9 through 20 of Chapter 16! The last thing that can credibly be ascribed to the Gospel of Mark is that "...the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid." And if you only have the King James Version to go on, it jumps from there to a sudden re-introduction of Jesus and an ending that is wildly different from the context of the rest of Mark's writing.
Long story short: Mark 16:16 and everything else from 16:9 onward is a later addition. Much later. Perhaps by a century or so. I've tried to find anything that demands why these verses do belong in Mark but as of yet, such justification has eluded me. If anyone has something that I might have missed, leave a comment here or shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Does that mean that your friend and humble blogger is committing sacrilege by ignoring part of the Bible? Nope, not at all. Indeed it is quite the opposite: I am striving for nothing more and nothing less than to understand what the Word of God does teach, in spite of all that man has inevitably attempted to do with it during these two millenia out of either well-meaning or malicious intent.
And however one chooses to adhere to the matter of baptism, it must be acknowledged by all that the endurance of the Word of God - the Truth of God, of which the verbiage of scripture can be but a rough covering - is in and of itself nothing short of a miracle.