David Smitherman
Read the following passage and find within it the three most important words: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned." (Mk.16:16). Did you find them? What about these:
"And he said" (Mk. 16:15) are the three most important words for those who would question what Christ says here. Whatever he says, anything he requires, should be accepted and obeyed without quibble or dispute simply because he said it. The very fact that the one who has "all authority" (Matt. 28:18) said it should forever end all haggling over whether or not what is said has any application to me. Jesus said it and that ought to settle it.
"He that believeth" are the most important words for those who would confine belief to mental assent only and try to make any "doing" on our part some "work" that must be excluded. Jesus called belief a "work" (Jo. 6:29) and was clear that "doing" something was a requirement if one would enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21).
"And is baptized" are important words for those denying the necessity of baptism. This same Jesus appeared to Saul (later Paul) on the road to Damascus and told him to go into the city and be told what he must do (Acts 9:6;22:10). And what was he told? "...arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name" (Acts 22:16). If "doing" anything is unnecessary, Jesus' saying "it shall be told thee what to do" is strange. Likewise, if baptism is unnecessary, Ananias' "wash away thy sins" comment is difficult to explain. And, in our text, it seems that Jesus connected salvation with baptism because he connected it with the next three important words...
"Shall be saved" -These three important words tell me at least two things: (1) baptism is essential to salvation (as previously established) and (2) any past sins can be forgiven. Paul spoke to the Corinthians of sins that are as vile and evil as it is possible to imagine (1Cor. 6:9-10) and said "And such were some of you: but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified..." (1Cor. 6:11). Truly, baptism is required to wash away sin and it will cleanse any and all transgressions.
"He that disbelieveth" are important words for those who seek to make baptism unessential. Jesus said, "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Lk. 6:46). "Calling" (an indication of belief) apart from "doing" nullifies the calling. All who "come" to the Lord and "hear" his words must "do" them (Lk. 6:47) - including being baptized. Anything less is unbelief.
"Shall be condemned" are the three words of importance for those who trivialize anything Jesus said here---or elsewhere. He said in another place, "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my sayings, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day" (Jo. 12:48). It is a fearful thing to fall into God's hands (Heb. 10:31) and especially so when the one who will be our judge (Acts 17:31) has commanded obedience and we have failed to comply.
Surely you realize that no three words in our text are the most important to the exclusion of the others. They must be read---and obeyed---as a unit. Please read these carefully and respond obediently.