Does Mark 16:16 Involve “Water” Baptism?

Is the baptism in Mark 16:16 a baptism in water or is it of some other sort?
By Wayne Jackson | Christian Courier

No narration available

“Would you provide biblical evidence in answering this question: Does the baptism of Mark 16:16 involve water? A friend contends the passage refers to a ‘baptism into Christ’ at the point of faith. Then, subsequently — as a Christian — one submits to baptism in water as an act of obedience, symbolizing his salvation.

Unfortunately, your friend is quite in error on this matter. Consider the following points.

Baptism of Great Commission Administered by Men

It is universally conceded that the “Great Commission,” as set forth by Mark (Mk. 16:15-16), finds a counterpart at the conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel narrative (Mt. 28:18-20). A discussion of these parallels may be found in numerous works (Mackinnon 1906, 347-349; Harrison 1999, 130-131).

This matter conceded, it is imperative that the Bible student analyzes carefully the language of Matthew’s version of the Commission.

The Lord instructed his apostles to

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19).

The participle, “baptizing them,” explains “the manner in which the given action was performed” (Green 1907, 332).

The baptizing is to be done by the ones who are “going” into all the world. This makes it very clear that the administrators of this baptism are those who are proclaiming the gospel.

The baptism of the text, therefore, is not some mystical, invisible baptism. Rather, it is the water baptism commonly referred to in the New Testament record administered by men.

In fact, unless it can be demonstrated that “baptize” is used in a metaphorical sense (as in Mt. 3:11b; Lk. 12:50; Jn. 1:33b; Acts 1:5; 11:16b), it must be concluded that water baptism is in view in most New Testament passages that mention the term (cf. Mt. 3:6; John 1:28; 3:23; etc.).

The Baptism Resulting in Salvation

The baptism of Mark 16:16 predicated on faith resulted in salvation. Therefore, if it can be shown that elsewhere in the New Testament salvation is joined to water baptism, it will have been established that the baptism of Mark’s record is, in fact, an immersion in water.

The connection between “water” and “salvation” is simply too obvious to miss — unless one’s mind is clouded with a misguided presupposition.

For example, in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul speaks of the state of being “cleansed” (the equivalent of being “saved”) by means of the washing of water with the word (Eph. 5:26).

Additionally, Peter alludes to those souls who were “saved through water,” adding, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you” (1 Pet. 3:20-21).

Unheard-of Dispute

Finally, virtually the entire world of biblical scholarship acknowledges that the baptism of Mark 16:16 is that which involves water (c.f. Thayer 1958, 94; Danker 2000, 164).

The truth is, this issue is so clear, and so settled, that it is not even a matter of discussion, much less controversy, among biblical scholars.

  • Danker, Frederick W. 2000. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago.
  • Green, Samuel. 1907. Handbook to the Grammar of the Greek Testament. London: Religious Tract Society.
  • Harrison, Everett, et al_. 1999. Wycliffe Dictionary of Theology. Harrison, Everett, Geofrey Bromily, and Carl Henry, eds. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.
  • Mackinnon, D. A. 1906. Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels. James Hastings, ed. Vol. I. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.
  • Thayer, J. H. 1958. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.