Good works and/or rites (baptism/communion/circumcision – more subtle forms of works) = salvation.
For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.
because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone,
But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.
nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.
This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,
2 Timothy 1:9
Many denominations would not consider baptism and communion to be “works”, and yet they consider these same things necessary for salvation. This is carefully disguised works-based salvation.
A work for salvation has the following qualities:
- It is performed through the effort and faithfulness of a human.
- It is performed with the goal of attaining or maintaining salvation.
- Salvation cannot be achieved without it.
All of these claims are made of communion and baptism by many “Christian” denominations or cults.
What if someone believes in Christ on their deathbed and dies before they can be visited by a minister or receive communion or sprinkling?
Certainly salvation cannot be contingent upon a physical rite involving our bodies.
Rather, salvation is dependent only upon one body: the righteous, spotless body of Christ.
We believe not in our own strength, acts, or faithfulness, but only in Christ and Him crucified.
Does Mark 16:16 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?
As with any single verse or passage, we discern what it teaches through careful consideration of the language and context of the verse. We also filter it through what we know the Bible teaches elsewhere on the subject. In the case of baptism and salvation, the Bible is clear that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by works of any kind, including baptism (Ephesians 2:8-9). So, any interpretation which comes to the conclusion that baptism, or any other act, is necessary for salvation is a faulty interpretation. For more information, please visit our webpage “Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works?“
Regarding Mark 16:16, it is important to remember that there are some textual problems with Mark chapter 16, verses 9-20. There is some question as to whether these verses were originally part of the Gospel of Mark or whether they were added later by a scribe. As a result, it is best not to base a key doctrine on anything from Mark 16:9-20, such as snake handling, unless it is also supported by other passages of Scripture.
Assuming that verse 16 is original to Mark, does it teach that baptism is required for salvation? The short answer is, no, it does not. In order to make it teach that baptism is required for salvation, one must go beyond what the verse actually says. What this verse does teach is that belief is necessary for salvation, which is consistent with the countless verses where only belief is mentioned (e.g., John 3:18; John 5:24; John 12:44; John 20:31; 1 John 5:13).
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). This verse is composed of two basic statements. 1—He who believes and is baptized will be saved. 2—He who does not believe will be condemned.
While this verse tells us something about believers who have been baptized (they are saved), it does not say anything about believers who have not been baptized. In order for this verse to teach that baptism is necessary for salvation, a third statement would be necessary, viz., “He who believes and is not baptized will be condemned” or “He who is not baptized will be condemned.” But, of course, neither of these statements is found in the verse.
Those who try to use Mark 16:16 to teach that baptism is necessary for salvation commit a common but serious mistake that is sometimes called the Negative Inference Fallacy. This is the rule to follow: “If a statement is true, we cannot assume that all negations (or opposites) of that statement are also true.” For example, the statement “a dog with brown spots is an animal” is true; however, the negative, “if a dog does not have brown spots, it is not an animal” is false. In the same way, “he who believes and is baptized will be saved” is true; however, the statement “he who believes but is not baptized will not be saved” is an unwarranted assumption. Yet this is exactly the assumption made by those who support baptismal regeneration.
Consider this example: “Whoever believes and lives in Kansas will be saved, but those that do not believe are condemned.” This statement is strictly true; Kansans who believe in Jesus will be saved. However, to say that only those believers who live in Kansas are saved is an illogical and false assumption. The statement does not say a believer must live in Kansas in order to go to heaven. Similarly, Mark 16:16 does not say a believer must be baptized. The verse states a fact about baptized believers (they will be saved), but it says exactly nothing about believers who have not been baptized. There may be believers who do not dwell in Kansas, yet they are still saved; and there may be believers who have not been baptized, yet they, too, are still saved.
The one specific condition required for salvation is stated in the second part of Mark 16:16: “Whoever does not believe will be condemned.” In essence, Jesus has given both the positive condition of belief (whoever believes will be saved) and the negative condition of unbelief (whoever does not believe will be condemned). Therefore, we can say with absolute certainty that belief is the requirement for salvation. More importantly, we see this condition restated positively and negatively throughout Scripture (John 3:16; John 3:18; John 3:36; John 5:24; John 6:53-54; John 8:24; Acts 16:31).
Jesus mentions a condition related to salvation (baptism) in Mark 16:16. But a related condition should not be confused with a requirement. For example, having a fever is related to being ill, but a fever is not required for illness to be present. Nowhere in the Bible do we find a statement such as “whoever is not baptized will be condemned.” Therefore, we cannot say that baptism is necessary for salvation based on Mark 16:16 or any other verse.
Does Mark 16:16 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation? No, it does not. It clearly establishes that belief is required for salvation, but it does not prove or disprove the idea of baptism being a requirement. How can we know, then, if one must be baptized in order to be saved? We must look to the full counsel of God’s Word. Here is a summary of the evidence:
2—Throughout the Bible, in every dispensation, people have been saved without being baptized. Every believer in the Old Testament (e.g., Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon) was saved but not baptized. The thief on the cross was saved but not baptized. Cornelius was saved before he was baptized (Acts 10:44-46).
3—Baptism is a testimony of our faith and a public declaration that we believe in Jesus Christ. The Scriptures tell us that we have eternal life the moment we believe (John 5:24), and belief always comes before being baptized. Baptism does not save us any more than walking an aisle or saying a prayer saves us. We are saved when we believe.
4—The Bible never says that if one is not baptized then he is not saved.
5—If baptism were required for salvation, then no one could be saved without another party being present. Someone must be there to baptize a person before he can be saved. This effectively limits who can be saved and when he can be saved. The consequences of this doctrine, when carried to a logical conclusion, are devastating. For example, a soldier who believes on the battlefield but is killed before he can be baptized would go to hell.
6—Throughout the Bible we see that at the point of faith a believer possesses all the promises and blessings of salvation (John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24; 6:47; 20:31; Acts 10:43; 13:39; 16:31). When one believes, he has eternal life, does not come under judgment, and has passed from death into life (John 5:24)—all before he or she is baptized.
If you believe in baptismal regeneration, you would do well to prayerfully consider whom or what you are really putting your trust in. Is your faith in a physical act (being baptized) or in the finished work of Christ on the cross? Whom or what are you trusting for salvation? Is it the shadow (baptism) or the substance (Jesus Christ)? Our faith must rest in Christ alone. “We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
Works-Based Christianity: A Subtle Form of Gnosticism
Works-based Christianity is a form of Gnosticism.
Gnosticism = salvation through knowledge.
True Christianity = salvation through Christ.
Works-based Christianity asserts that through special knowledge, understanding, or interpretation of scripture (“baptism saves you” or “communion saves you” or the assertions of the catechism) you can be saved.
This is salvation through “knowledge” or Man’s “special” understanding or reasoning.
However, Paul determined to “know nothing” except Christ and Him crucified.
And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Paul preached a very simple Christianity.
The word “simple” irritates many “intellectual Christians” today.
Those who preach nothing more than Christ and Him crucified for salvation are often viewed as “Quakers” or “Baptists”.
I am not saying “baptism doesn’t save you” because I grew up a Quaker or a Baptist. (I didn’t.) I am not speaking out of loyalty to some tradition or denomination.
Friends, I am saying these things because the center of Christianity is the power and wisdom of Christ, not the “power” (baptism, communion, works, efforts) or “wisdom” (denomination-specific special knowledge of the “real way to salvation” or membership in the “right church”) of Man.
I am simply a Christ follower, who preaches the gospel of Christ, which is to Jews (the religious) a stumbling block and to Gentiles (the intellectual) foolishness.
My simple trust is in Christ – not in water, wine, or bread – for salvation.
My trust – my hope for salvation – is in Christ – not in a special knowledge which requires “elite” church “fathers'” interpretations of the Bible (e.g., you must be baptized or take communion to be saved or remain saved).
Jesus’ message of salvation is clear. Salvation is not for those who are in the “right” denomination which trusts in baptism and communion for salvation.
In fact, those denominations which have confidence in the flesh (their own efforts and faithfulness to administer, practice, or receive sacraments) for salvation are in a deadly place. They are trusting in sacraments for salvation as much as – if not more than – they are trusting in Christ. They have faith in their own faithfulness more than in Christ’s power to save them.
His salvation is available to anyone, anytime, with or without the presence of a priest or baptizer or the availability of elemental substances with which to perform sacraments.
You don’t have to be in a church building with a font or altar to be saved or to remain saved.
You are saved when Christ comes into the temple of your body, to dwell in your heart. That can happen anywhere, and without the availability of baptism or communion.
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.
The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.
He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.
Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”
Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.
But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,
What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written,
“Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense,
And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
This “simple” faith seems like foolishness to “intellectual” “Christians”.
And, well, it is.
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”
Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom;
but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,
but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;
but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise,
and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,
and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen,
the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,
so that no man may boast before God.
But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,
so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Works-based Christianity makes the Christian life more complicated, and Christ’s crucifixion less powerful and complete.
To assert that salvation can be attained by an unbeliever through communion or baptism – or that an atheist who is simply “confirmed” and “baptized” is now a member of the church – is to put confidence in the flesh of Man rather than faith in the blood of Jesus Christ.