A Question I Was Asked:

"Can You Offer Any Insights on Mark 16:16?... I Almost Feel That Some Preachers Treat These Verses Too Simplistically."

My Reply:

Well, I think I take your point on that. The Scripture you refer to says this,

'Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.' (Mark 16:16, NIV).

Now I hold that to be a very true biblical statement, however, I would just make a few points about it:

1. When considering any biblical doctrine, it is essential to take every Scripture on that very doctrine into account. Of course, realising - as evangelical Christians do - that revelation is progressive, then particular weight should be put on New Testament Scripture. Whilst this statement in Mark 16 is undoubtedly absolutely correct, other Scriptures on that same topic will surely add to our understanding.

2. The Gospel writer is here only comparing two groups of people:

a. Those who very definitely hear and understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ during this age of the Church, and who respond positively to that message.

b. Those who - again - very definitely hear and understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ during this age of the Church, but who then reject the message as having no personal relevance for them.

3. That verse says nothing at all about those who never hear the Gospel. Those people are not under consideration here. The best estimates still state that a huge majority of those who have lived and died since the time of Jesus never heard the Gospel during their lifetimes.

The school of 'race against the clock evangelism' which has been especially strong among the fanatical Roman Catholicism of earlier centuries and among Arminian-type Evangelical Protestants from around 1750, has taken some statements of Jesus (such as the statement recorded in Mark 16:16) and interpreted it in a manner which - effectively - means that God is helpless to do anything in the way of evangelism without human help! But Jesus did not mean that, and the Apostles never preached that. So Jesus never meant that He would raise up evangelists whose job it would be to enable every single living soul to hear that Gospel message before their death (and for any living soul who did not hear that message before their death, a 'divine lever' would be pulled in heaven which would mean their automatic post-mortem delivery to hell). Those parts form an assumption -yes, it is an assumption from well-meaning believers who are concerned about the Gospel, but it remains an assumption.

The New Testament is clear that the Gospel of Jesus Christ shall be preached as a witness and testimony (Matthew 24:14; Acts 1:8. Also consult Deuteronomy 19:15 and Matthew 18:16) to the whole world because of the authority granted to Jesus at the cross of Calvary with His subsequent resurrection. The Apostles were commanded to go out and to start giving that witness and testimony of the things which they had seen and experienced. Those who would willfully reject that witness, while in a full understanding and appreciation of its content, are warned of divine judgment to come. Oddly enough, it is often the cults and sects who seem to better understand the concept of world-wide witness as opposed to world-wide conversion (but those cults and sects invariably misunderstand and pervert the substance and message of the Gospel).

So while Scriptures such as Mark 16:16 are great and eternal truths, no one Scripture necessarily tells us everything on any Bible doctrine and that goes for every biblical doctrine. I believe that it is true and fair to say that large swathes of evangelicalism, especially those branches which are rooted in Augustinianism, have sometimes erred in developing an unbalanced approach towards what evangelicalism is capable of achieving, because of overly focusing on certain Scriptures at the expense of others.

Robin A. Brace, 2007.