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.


    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.


    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.


    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.]


    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!


    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!