In Defense of Mark 16:16 (Part 3)

This article is the third of a 3-part series written by Travis Quertermous and appearing in POWER, in three consecutive issues beginning with December 2002. It gives a defense of the long ending of Mark and deals with other attacks on the true teaching of that section of Scripture. I commend it to your reading. I thought it was quite excellent.

In Defense of Mark 16:16 (Part 3)

by Travis L. Quertermous

    We want to wrap up our study of common quibbles offered by sectarian “scholars” against Mark 16:16.

THE “FAITH ONLY” ARGUMENT

    Among those deceived by the dogma of salvation by faith alone, it is common for them to argue that Mark 16:16 cannot possibly mean that baptism is essential to salvation because such would contradict verses that promise salvation at the point of faith (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Rom 5:1). Two points and an illustration are often debaters to make this argument:

  • (1) Passages which promise salvation at the point of faith are quoted;
  • (2) They point out that the latter part of Mark 16:16 does not say “He who does not believe and is not baptized will be condemned;”
  • (3) They conclude therefore that the believer mentioned in Mark 16:16 is saved by faith alone and is then baptized.

RIDING THE TRAIN

    This argument is often accompanied by “the train illustration.” (Glenn V. Tingley used it in his 1947 debate with brother W. Curtis Porter:

He that entereth a train and is seated shall reach Atlanta. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. Now suppose a man enters a train but does not take a seat. Will he not go to Atlanta anyhow if that train goes there? The taking of the seat involves his comfort but does not involve his going to Atlanta. So baptism relates to the privileges of the Christian life and does not secure such a life. The believer has entered the gospel train and whether he takes a seat or not, he will reach heaven if the train does.

    Let us respond to each part of this erroneous argument.

IS SALVATION BY FAITH ALONE?

    First, the dogma of salvation by faith alone is simply a contradiction of James 2:24: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” That one verse completely demolishes the whole argument! But what about all those verses which teach salvation comes by faith? Note carefully that not one of them promises salvation by faith alone! Brother Guy N. Woods, in his 1946 debate with A.U. Nunnery, exposed the fallaciousness of the first premise in the above argument:

    Mr. Nunnery will likely introduce numerous passages conditioning salvation on faith. I would like to suggest to you a very common figure of speech—a characteristic of the Sacred Writers to make one of the conditions of pardon stand for all of them. Let’s note them, please: Rom. 5:1: ‘Being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Obviously, it’s not faith alone, for that would exclude repentance. Here, faith is made to stand for all of the conditions of salvation. That is illustration No. 1. The second item of salvation is repentance. Acts 11:18: ‘God hath granted unto the Gentiles repentance unto life.’ While only repentance is mentioned, the other conditions are implied; repentance is made to stand for all of them. 1 John 4:2: ‘Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.’ In this passage, confession is made to stand for the other conditions of pardon. 1 Peter 3:21: ‘The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God).’ Thus we have examples of each of the items of salvation standing for all of them. If I were to insist that 1 Peter 3:21 (which asserts that baptism saves us) teaches that baptism alone saves, I’d fall into the same error that Mr. Nunnery falls into in insisting that salvation is conditioned on faith alone.’ [Guy N. Woods and A.U. Nunnery, The Woods-Nunnery Debate on Baptism and Apostasy (Huntington, TN: Joyce Hendrix, 1947): pp., 5-6. We are grateful to learn that Hester Publications is bringing this classic debate back into print later this year. Contact Sam Hester at 165 Gibson Dr., Henderson, TN 38340 for more information.]

EATING AND DIGESTING

    It is true that the Lord did not say in Mark 16:16, “he that does not believe and is not baptized shall be condemned.” Nor did He need to say that for if He had it would have been absurd. Faith must precede scriptural baptism according to the Lord’s order of things. The unbeliever cannot be scripturally baptized! Unbelief alone is sufficient to condemn one’s soul. Tingley made this quibble with brother W. Curtis Porter. Listen carefully as he exploded it:

    But the rest of the verse says, ‘He that believeth not shall be damned.’ It did not say, ‘He that believeth not and is not baptized shall be damned.’ No. I know it did not. If it had, it would have been silly. Suppose that some of you teachers who have a class in school, would give your class this statement tomorrow: ‘He that eats food and digests it shall have health.’ Your require the class to bring the negative of that on the following day. The next day Johnnie comes back with this: ‘He that eats food and digests it shall have health; but he that eats no food and does not digest it shall starve.’ I wonder what kind of grade little Johnnie would get on that? What kind of grade would you give him, Elder Tingley? … Why, that’s silly—the very idea of digesting food that you haven’t eaten. Let me tell you, my friends, the man who has not believed can no more be baptized than a man can digest food that he has not eaten. Not any more. They are parallel. It takes both the eating the food and digesting the food to bring health, but eating no food alone will being starvation, and you do not have to say, ‘And does not digest it.’ It takes both belief and baptism to bring the salvation, but unbelief alone will bring the damnation, and you do not have to say’ And is not baptized.’ It would be silly if you did.’ [Porter and Tingley, op. cit., 118-119]

    No more was heard of this “argument” in their debate!

WRECKING THE TRAIN

    Regarding the train illustration, brother Porter completely wrecked it! He said:

Then to his train illustration: “He that enters a train and sits down shall go to Atlanta.” I want to put that on the board just here if I can in a minute. Here we have it: …Enters train—sits down—Reaches Atlanta. Believeth—Is Baptized—Shall be Saved. He makes belief equal to entering the train, and being baptized equivalent to sitting down; reaching salvation equivalent to reaching Atlanta. Since the man who ‘enters the train’ can ‘reach Atlanta’ without ‘sitting down,’ so the man who ‘believes’ can ‘reach salvation’ without ‘being baptized.’ ‘Sitting down’ is not necessary in reaching Atlanta; ‘being baptized,’ therefore, is not necessary in ‘reaching salvation.’ So we cross them out (marking ‘Sits down’ and ‘is baptized’ off the board). Entering the train is the thing necessary to reach Atlanta. My friend, did you know that I could go to Atlanta without ‘entering the train?’ Didn’t you know that I could go to Atlanta without entering a train? Why I could walk or go in an automobile. There are a dozen ways I could go to Atlanta without ‘entering a train.’ So ‘entering the train’ is not essential to going to Atlanta. We’ll cross that out (Marking off ‘Enters train’). And since faith is equivalent to it, we cross that out too (Crossing out ‘Believeth’). So we do not have to believe or be baptized to get salvation, according to this illustration. Then, we look at it from another angle. ‘He that enters the train and sits down shall reach Atlanta.’ The ‘sitting down’ is not necessary. “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” The ‘baptism’ is not necessary. But in order for it to fit my opponent’s theory, since he says “He that believeth is already saved,’ it should say, “he that enters the train reaches Atlanta before he has time to sit down.’ (Laughter). “He that believeth is saved before he has time to be baptized.’ Is that so, Tingley? That’s your position, isn’t it? “He that believeth is saved before he has time to be baptized.’ So, ‘He that enters the train is already in Atlanta before he has time to sit down.’ (Laughter). Now, I know anybody can see that. You may not accept it, but you can see it. I’m just certain of that.’ [Porter and Tingley, op. cit., 120-121]

    Tingley evidently saw it for he never tried to ride that train again during the debate!

    Brethren, Mark 16:16 stands like the Rock of Gibraltar against all denominational quibbles in proving that baptism is essential to salvation! Therein, Jesus plainly taught that belief + baptism = salvation while forever denying the false doctrine of salvation by faith only, which teaches belief – baptism = salvation. May God help us to “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3), while lovingly teaching the gospel to the lost!

 

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In Defense of Mark 16:16 (Part 2)

This article is the second of a 3-part series written by Travis Quertermous and appearing in POWER, in three consecutive issues beginning with December 2002. It gives a defense of the long ending of Mark and deals with other attacks on the true teaching of that section of Scripture. I commend it to your reading. I thought it was quite excellent.

In Defense of Mark 16:16 (Part 2)

by Travis L. Quertermous

    In the last issue of POWER, we began a study of the common arguments made in a vain attempt to explain away the plain truth taught in Mark 16:16 that water baptism is essential to one’s salvation. Let us now turn our attention to three other quibbles denominational debaters have made against Mark 16:16.

HOLY SPIRIT BAPTISM?

    It is common for sectarian “scholars” to contend that the baptism of Mark 16:16 is Holy Spirit baptism and not an immersion in water. Commenting on this verse, denominational writer Charles C. Ryrie of Dallas Theological Seminary said, “This may be a reference to the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:13). Water baptism does not save.” [Charles C. Ryrie, The Ryrie Study Bible, NKJV (Chicago: Moody Press, 1985): 1570]

    In the first place, 1 Corinthians 12:13 refers to a baptism “by one Spirit” and not “in the Spirit” as Ryrie evidently thinks. The Holy Spirit is represented as the administrator of baptism and not the element in which one is immersed. Thus, the passage has no reference to Holy Spirit baptism, but rather is a figurative reference to one’s obedience to the Spirit’s inspired commands to be immersed in water into Christ. It is in this metaphorical sense that we are baptized “by one Spirit” (cf., John 4:1-3; Gal 3:27; Rom 6:3-4).

    Brother C.E.W. Dorris has done a good job of refuting this quibble when he wrote of Mark 16:16: “Water baptism is a command, not a promise. Holy Spirit baptism is a promise, not a command. We obey commands and enjoy promises. Baptism in the commission is an act of obedience performed by the believer, and therefore it is a command. This being true, and since the baptism of the Holy Spirit is always a promise and never a command, therefore the baptism of the commission is not Spirit baptism.” [C.E.W. Dorris, A Commentary on the Gospel According to Mark (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Co., 1975): 387]

    In addition, we would add that only Jesus Christ is said to administer Holy Spirit baptism (Mt 3:11), while the baptism of Mark 16:16 is plainly to be administered by man (cf., Mt 28:19). Thus, it must follow that such is water baptism.

ARE WE INCONSISTENT?

    Another objection that is often thrown out is to accuse churches of Christ of being inconsistent in preaching Mark 16:16 while rejecting what the rest of the passage says about evangelism and miracles. In their 1947 debate, Glen V. Tingley asked Brother W. Curtis Porter if he believed in casting out devils, speaking in tongues, handling serpents, drinking poison, and healing the sick per Mark 16:17-18. He further charged: “And the church of Christ has the fewest missionaries and do the least missionary work; and it professes to believe only that by the preaching of the Word can men be saved; and it is the most lax in teaching the word around the world of any and all denominations in America! Let me ask my worthy opponent … to explain why he does not follow the fifteenth verse as well. He places such great emphasis on the sixteenth and forgets to remember the fifteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth.” [W. Curtis Porter and Glenn V. Tingley, Porter-Tingley Debate (Murfreesboro, TN: DeHoff Publications, 1947): 108]

    In responding to these accusations, brother Porter pointed out that Tingley just did not know what he was talking about with regard to missionary work. He pointed out that the Broadway Church of Christ in Lubbock, TX, was itself sponsoring 40 missionaries to Europe and spending $160,000 in the effort. [Porter and Tingley, op. cit., 122]. Remember that this was in 1947, right after World War II! Churches of Christ have more missionaries in the field today than ever before!

    On the charge of not believing Mark 16:17-18, brother Porter replied: “Do I accept all of Mark 16:9-20? Yes, I accept Mark 16:9-20 just as I do all the rest of the word of God. Perhaps you want to know about the performing of miracles here. Well, do you perform them, Tingley? My friend is very hoarse tonight. Looks like if he can do all these miracles, he’d have some of his brethren cure that hoarseness and lets get on.” (Laughter).

    “Certainly, if the Lord is performing through him and through his brethren all these miracles here, such as taking up serpents, and drinking deadly poison, and things of that kind, and healing the sick, even raising the dead, why they could cure a little hoarseness in a man’s throat. Certainly, that could be done, and the fact that my friend goes along through this debate with hoarseness is going to prove that he doesn’t, and his brethren do not, possess the miraculous powers that’s mentioned here, or he would not allow it to continue. Incidentally, while he is at it, he might just relieve my blood malady, and I won’t have to take any more atomic energy.” (Laughter).

    “But I believe, according to 1 Cor 13:8-10, that the time was coming when those miraculous powers would be discontinued; and that time has come, and, therefore, I’m not trying to handle snakes and drink deadly poison.” [Porter and Tingley, op. cit.,198-199]

“SHALL BE SAVED” …In Heaven?

    There is one more common objection to Mark 16:16 and that is to suggest that the passage refers to eternal salvation in heaven and not salvation from sin. Baptist debater Ben M. Bogard put it this way: “To what time does damnation look? Evidently to the future. To what time does salvation look? To the future, and not to the immediate remission of sins. And so, he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved—in heaven! He that believeth not shall be damned—in hell. Undoubtedly one points toward heaven and the other toward hell. You might as well insist damnation here on earth immediately as to insist salvation here on earth as a result of what’s done.” [N.B. Hardeman and Ben M. Bogard, Hardeman-Bogard Debate (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Co., 1938): 137]

    Such a view left him with affirming that one must be baptized to go to heaven while denying it was essential to salvation! As usual, Bogard was all wrong here. The salvation and condemnation mentioned in Mark 16:16 refer to one’s salvation from his alien sins or being lost in them presently. This is seen from paralleling Mark’s account of the Great Commission with Luke’s. Brother Thomas B. Warren said: “Now, of course, Luke 24:46-47 says, ‘repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations beginning from Jerusalem,’ and the ‘salvation’ of Mark 16:16 … is analogous and parallel with ‘the remission of sins’ in Luke 24:46-47.” [Thomas B. Warren and L.S. Ballard, The Warren-Ballard Debate on the Plan of Salvation, Third Printing (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press, 1979): 123]

    We will conclude this study next issue, the Lord willing by refuting an argument against Mark 16:16 based on the false doctrine of salvation by faith alone.

In Defense of Mark 16:16

This article is the first of a 3-part series written by Travis Quertermous and appearing in POWER, in three consecutive issues beginning with December 2002. It gives a defense of the long ending of Mark and deals with other attacks on the true teaching of that section of Scripture. I commend it to your reading. I thought it was quite excellent.  –DRL

In Defense of Mark 16:16

by Travis L. Quertermous

It is very common for denominational scholars to deny the inspiration of Mark 16:9-20. The note on this passage contained in the Ryrie Study Bible by Charles C. Ryrie of Dallas Theological Seminary is typical of this line of reasoning: “These verses do not appear in two of the most trustworthy manuscripts of the N.T., though they are part of many other manuscripts and versions. If they are not a part of the genuine text of Mark, the abrupt ending at verse 8 is probably because the original closing verses were lost. The doubtful genuineness of verses 9-20 makes it unwise to build a doctrine or base an experience on them (especially vv. 16-18).”  [Arthur L. Farstad, The New King James Version in the Great Tradition, 2nd Ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989): pp., 112-113, emp. added]

Similar notes on Mark 16:9-20 are found in many study Bibles of different translations. They have caused widespread and needless confusion as they are absolutely unfounded. An overwhelming case can be made for the genuineness of Mark 16:9-20.

In the first place, it is nothing less than a denial of inspiration to suggest that God would go to the trouble to produce the Bible and then allow parts of it to be lost. Such a theory flies in the face of verses like Psalm 119:89, “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.” 1 Peter 1:23 speaks of “the word of God which lives and abides forever.” Jude 3 assures us that the faith has been “once for all delivered to the saints” and that includes Mark 16:9-10!

Not all denominational scholars agree with these attacks on Mark 16:9-20. Dr. Arthur L. Farstad, the Executive Editor of the translation committee that produced the New King James Version said of this disputed text:

The New American Standard Bible (1971) puts this paragraph in brackets and has a note reading, ‘Some of the oldest manuscripts omit from verse 9 through 20.’ The version adds an alternative reading for the end of the book, stating that this reading is found in ‘a few later manuscripts and versions.’ These notes are misleading. The ‘Some of the oldest manuscripts’ are really just two Greek manuscripts (there is also one much later manuscript). It should be said that the ‘sacred and imperishable proclamation’ (shorter ending of Mark) also has very little to commend its authenticity.

The note in the New International Version is more accurate as to number of manuscripts, but highly interpretative: ‘The two most reliable early manuscripts do not have Mark 16:9-20.’ Actually, the reliability of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus is strictly a theory, though widely taught.

Also, one of these two manuscripts contains space for the missing paragraph, a very unusual thing when using expensive vellum (fine animal skins). Apparently the scribe was aware of the passage but lacked it in his exemplar. The other manuscript shows evidence of having been tampered with to fill up the space.

It is common to say that the style of Mark 16:9-20 is unlike Mark’s, but this is subjective. Actually, there are stylistic parallels between Mark 16 and Mark 1.

Verse 8 of chapter 16 (where the two minority manuscripts close) ends with the second (‘for’) in Greek, which is usually the second word in a sentence. To end a book on this word seems most unlikely.

Also, especially if one accepts the theory that Mark is the oldest Gospel, we would have the Resurrection story without the risen Christ actually appearing—a disappointing Easter indeed!

Some try to solve the problem by saying that the original ending is lost and verses 9-20 are a makeshift substitute. This seems a very weak theory in light of our Lord’s promise that His words would never pass away (Matthew 24:35).

Frankly, one fears that some would like to be rid of the passage because of verses 16-18 on the doctrines of baptism and miracles.

The point that the footnotes in most Bibles fail to report is that 1,400 manuscripts do contain this passage. Further, St. Jerome, when he translated the New Testament into Latin, included Mark 16:9-20. It is significant that he did so in the fourth century, when the dissenting Egyptian manuscripts were also written! Apparently these two copies which lacked this passage were not representative in their own time.

In short, the long ending of Mark is on a firm foundation and widely supported.

[Charles C. Ryrie, The Ryrie Study Bible, NKJV (Chicago: Moody Press, 1985): 1570].

Nor is this all of the evidence that supports the inspiration of Mark 16:9-20. On July 23-26, 1952, brother Thomas B. Warren met the veteran Missionary Baptist debater Dr. L.S. Ballard in public debate on the plan of salvation. Brother Warren affirmed this proposition: “The Scriptures teach that water baptism is for (in order to obtain) the remission of past sins.” In defense of that proposition, brother Warren introduced Mark 16:16 and Dr. Ballard denied its authenticity. But brother Warren was well prepared for this argument and prepared a chart demonstrating the overwhelming evidence for the passage’s genuineness. [Thomas B. Warren and L.S. Ballard, Warren-Ballard Debate on the Plan of Salvation, Third Printing, (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press, 1979): p. 104].  Eleven of the thirteen manuscript families represented on the chart do have Mark 16:9-20. But the oldest of these date only to the fourth century. Eleven ancient translations also have this passage and five of these are from the second century while three are from the fourth century. Furthermore, the church “fathers” overwhelmingly quote from Mark 16:9-20 as the Word of God!

In short, one must argue in the face of a mountain of evidence to deny the inspiration of Mark 16:9-20! It is a shame that some of our own “scholars” have fallen for this unfounded infidelic argument. Mark 16:16 is undeniably part of the Bible and it proves beyond all doubt that baptism is essential to salvation.

When Does One Become a Disciple?

The article below was taken from the September 1989 edition of THE GOSPEL ADVOCATE. I have had it setting in a box in my office for quite some time, intending, eventually to study it further and file it. I read again the article today and it is quite convincing. I have to acknowledge that I have not always understood this text the way it is explained below and have been somewhat uncomfortable with my own understanding of it. I believe that brother Woods’ explanation has helped me to see the light and I believe he has the matter correctly explained. It is a LENGTHY article (1829 words), but I feel confident that it will benefit you if you will invest the time to read it carefully.–DRL

By Guy N. Woods

QUESTION: Are the participles “baptizing” and “teaching” in the Great Commission as recorded by Matthew modal and hence descriptive of the manner in which disciples are made?

ANSWER: No. These wonderful words of the risen Lord as penned by his biographer, Matthew, are: “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:19-20).

The view that the participles “baptizing” and “teaching” describe the manner in which the action of the principal verb (make disciples) is carried out, is by no means a new one, although it has appeared only in recent years in the churches of Christ. Pedo-baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Episcopalians, and others—baby sprinklers all—long have advanced the view in their defense of infant baptism.

If one must be a disciple before being baptized, and a disciple is one previously taught—and infants cannot be taught—infants cannot properly be subjects of baptism. To avoid this obvious conclusion their advocates have contended that the participles are modal and thus descriptive of the manner in which disciples are made, by first baptizing babies and then when they are old enough making disciples out of them by teaching them.

Instances exist in the Greek New Testament where participles in grammatical concord with the principal verb are adjuncts, such as in Acts 22:16, but the central question here is whether the participles “baptizing” and “teaching” may properly be described as modal in Matthew 28:19,20.

The only prominent denominational theologian known to me who is not in the Pedo-baptist camp and has supported this view is A.T. Robertson. His reliability in any mater relating to the plan of salvation may be judged by weighing his comment that the question of whether baptism is for the remission of sins as taught in Acts 2:38 is a theological one—not a grammatical one.

Verses 19 and 20 contain two full clauses. The aorist imperative verb matheteusate states the action of the first independent clause: (going) “make disciples.” Three circumstantial participles are used: poreuthentes (going or having gone), baptidzontes (baptizing) and didaskontes (teaching). The first, poreuthentes, is a temporal aorist, signifying “when you go,” and the other two—baptidzontes and didaskontes—are present active participles indicating continuous distributive action, such as, when you have gone and made disciples, baptize and teach each disciple you have made.

The second clause, introduced by the relative osa, signifying “however many,” makes obligatory the impartation of those matters taught by the Lord while on earth to these baptized disciples. Thus, three distinct obligations are set forth in Matthew’s report of the commission: having gone, make disciples; baptize these disciples; and teach these baptized disciples “all things whatsoever” Jesus commanded.

First, the verb matheteusate (make disciples) is second person plural, aorist active imperative of matheteuo, and the noun form is mathetes, defined by every reliable lexicon known to me as a learner, pupil, and student. The verb is used transitively in the passage under study, and it is quite obvious that one becomes a learner by being taught. To deny, as the doctrine under review does, that one is a disciple only after having been baptized and taught (didaskontes) strikes from the verb its basic and primary meaning.

Second, having instructed the apostles to “make disciples,” Jesus then commanded that they baptize and teach them. This was logical and chronological—logical because only believers are subjects of baptism, and those only are believers who have been taught, i.e., disciple; chronological because the act designated in the participle “baptizing” cannot be performed until after the action of the principal verb. It then must be apparent that the participle “baptizing” is a temporal adjunct and that the actions of the verb (make disciples) and that of baptizing them are not concurrent, because the second of the acts (baptizing) is possible only after the first (discipling) has been done.

Third, those they were to baptize are identified as “them” (autous, accusative plural of the pronoun autos), whose antecedent is mathetes (a disciple) and inherent in the verb matheteusate (make disciples). But, if one does not become a disciple until after baptism, no disciple is present to baptize and thus the pronoun is without an antecedent.

Lest someone should think the antecedent of “them” is “nations,” it should be noted that autous is masculine gender, whereas “nations” (ta ethne) is neuter gender, and thus lacking concord, cannot be the antecedent of the pronoun. Moreover, “nations” contain not only infants but wicked and corrupt characters who quite obviously are not currently candidates for baptism.

Fourth, we should keep in mind that two present particles follow the principal verb in Matthew 28:19-20, both of which are alleged to be modal and descriptive of the manner in which the action of the verb is done. Therefore, a disciple is not made until after the action involved in both baptizing and teaching has been done!

Baptism is performed by immersion and is relatively quickly done. However, the obligation to “teach them to observe (literally, to keep) all things whatsoever I commanded you”—that which our Lord taught throughout His public ministry—must indeed require considerable time and effort, all of which, according to the position under review, logically must occur before one becomes a disciple.

On this assumption, although baptism is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), puts one “into Christ” (Romans 6:3), and is the consummating act in the plan of salvation (1 Peter 3:21), one who submits—although forgiven—to the church and is saved and a Christian, is not yet a disciple of his Lord and will not be until he has been instructed in “all things whatsoever” the Lord taught. It scarcely needs to be noted that Peter, on Pentecost and at Caesarea, provided for no such interval before authorizing those whom he already had taught to be baptized in order to become disciples (Acts 2:42).

It seems a begging of the question to insist that “teaching them to observe all things” does not necessarily mean everything Jesus taught. If not, how much does it include? And who is to decide the inclusions and the exclusions? This objection bears refutation on its own face.

Fifth, in the apostle John’s biographical account of the life and ministry of our Lord, it is said that he “made and baptized more disciples than John [the Baptist].” The interesting comment follows that “Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples” (John 4:1-2). This means Jesus did not with His own hands baptize, but His disciples, with His authorization, did—and on the basis of the maxim that a principal acts through his agents, the action substantially was that of the Lord.

The order is significant. Jesus, John the Baptist, and the apostles all were engaged in the making of disciples. First, they made disciples. Second, they baptized the disciples they previously had made. Carefully note that the verse does not say they made disciples by baptizing them. They made disciples by teaching them, and these, being prepared, then were baptized. For many months the apostles, under the direct supervision of the Lord, had been engaged in making disciples and baptizing them.

Are we to suppose that, without any explanation whatsoever, these same apostles would understand Him to be telling them in the Great Commission that henceforth they were to reverse the order of making disciples by teaching them and start making disciples by baptizing them?

Sixth, the parallels between the reports of the commission by Matthew and Mark point irresistibly to the conclusion that disciples are made by teaching, they then were to be baptized, and they were “taught all things whatsoever” that Jesus commanded.

Mark’s mention of preaching equates with Matthew’s discipling. Those believing the preaching (Mark) correspond to those who having learned of the Lord, which to complete their obedience (Matthew). Mark’s note of baptism as a condition of salvation has its counterpart in Matthew’s statement of baptism into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Mark’s record of the commission thus became an inspired commentary on that by Matthew.

Several years after the Great Commission began to be preached, because “disciples” usually became “Christians,” the term, by metonymy, began to be used as a synonym for Christians (Acts 11:26), just as Christians eventually were called Jews (Romans 2:28-29), the seed of Abraham (4:11, 13, 16), Israelites (9:6), and the circumcision (Philippians 3:3). But this is unrelated to the study before us, and has nothing to do with how disciples are made. This is quite clear from the fact that Paul found certain disciples at Ephesus whom the Holy Spirit so designated before they were baptized “in the name of the Lord” (Acts 19:1).

Finally, the unanimity prevailing on this subject is overwhelming. These quotations—to which dozens of other similar statements easily might be added—are representative:

  • Two things or two classes of duties were enjoined on the Apostles in this commission. The first was the work of discipleing (sic) or making disciples. The second was the education of those disciples collected into churches or schools. –Alexander Campbell
  • His order to them was simply this: go and make disciples of all the nations; baptize the converts, and then teach them to walk in all the laws and ordinances of the New Covenant. –Robert Milligan
  • Having made disciples by persuading men to accept the teaching of Jesus, and having baptized such into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, they were next to teach them all that Jesus had commanded—all the duties of the Christian life. –J.W. McGarvey

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, and when by teaching you make disciples baptize them, i.e., the disciples. –Moses E. Lard