Mark 16:16 “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
Without reading that again, do you believe that means you must be baptized to be saved?
Ok, read it again. What if you believe but aren’t baptized? Are you saved or condemned?
Next question, what do you picture in your mind when you think of baptism? Infant baptism or believer baptism? Sprinkled, poured, immersed? Bathtub looking thing in a church, a swimming pool, a lake or river? Maybe speaking in unknown languages, healing services, snake handling. (If those last few are a bit too charismatic for you, please read the verses following Mark 16:16.)
The Bible can be tricky when we try to read it as an instruction manual. What if we read the above scripture as an involuntary act of human existence?
John the Baptist is quoted in Luke 3:16 saying “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
When Jesus was baptized, Luke 3:22 tells us that the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. Have you ever seen that happen when someone gets baptized today? I haven’t. I haven’t even sensed a significant moving of the Spirit at a water baptism. There may be a warm fuzzy feeling. Maybe even shouts of joy. But not the Holy Spirit descending in bodily form like a dove. That would be cool. If you’ve seen that, please let me know.
John 4:2 indicates that Jesus didn’t baptize with water. Only his disciples did.
Perhaps Jesus is simply informing us in Mark 16:16 of something we can observe. When someone believes in him, the Holy Spirit comes upon them – they are changed through the immersion of the Holy Spirit into their lives. It is a natural response to believing in Christ. The natural response to not believing is being condemned.
So we don't need to discuss whether someone should or shouldn't be baptized. We should be able to watch and see for ourselves. Forms of water baptism may be outward signs of inward experiences but unless a dove shows up at a water baptism, it could just be someone playing follow the leader.
Just so you can rest assured that I’m not totally off the wall here – or at least I’m not alone, here’s a note from http://www.crosswalk.com/ The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon for Strong’s number 907 Baptizo which is the word translated as “baptized” in Mark 16:16.
Not to be confused with 911, bapto. The clearest example that shows the meaning of baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be 'dipped' (bapto) into boiling water and then 'baptised' (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptising the vegetable, produces a permanent change. When used in the New Testament, this word more often refers to our union and identification with Christ than to our water baptism. e.g.Mark 16:16. 'He that believes and is baptised shall be saved'. Christ is saying that mere intellectual assent is not enough. There must be a union with him, a real change, like the vegetable to the pickle! Bible Study Magazine, James Montgomery Boice, May 1989.
It seems to me that God sent his son not to show us how to obey laws but to allow us to live in the Spirit. Because of Christ, we are given the Spirit to do his work until he returns.
“No one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. And since you don't know when they will happen, stay alert and keep watch. The coming of the Son of Man can be compared with that of a man who left home to go on a trip. He gave each of his employees instructions about the work they were to do, and he told the gatekeeper to watch for his return. So keep a sharp lookout! For you do not know when the homeowner will return – at evening, midnight, early dawn, or late daybreak. Don't let him find you sleeping when he arrives without warning. What I say to you I say to everyone: Watch for his return!”