He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. – Mark 16:16 (KJV) [Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. – Mark 16:16 (ESV)]
I’m utterly delighted on behalf of the Church to be blessed with the opportunity to conduct baptism in Moriah this Christmas. We have a double confirmation of God’s blessings.
A small team from Moriah (and one from Sembawang) travelled to Kampong Thom—a remote village 3 hours by road from the Cambodian tourist capital Siem Reap to the church pastored by So Khon Pin and his wife Chhor Vy. Our original primary purpose was to encourage them and their church by teaching bible and sharing Sunday school and English lessons with them and the young people from nearby villages.
On arrival, Pastor So Khon informed me that he had 19 people ready for baptism on the Sunday I was to preach in his church. We were pleasantly surprised and delighted. We have the same number today who are baptizing, reaffirming their faith, and transferring of church memberships! Is it coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not.
The baptism in Kampong Thom was unexpected. So I ditched my pre-prepared sermon and instead prepared, the night before, to preach on baptism based on the verse above.
A casual reading of the verse above seems to say that water baptism is necessary for the forgiveness of sins and salvation. But do they? Let’s examine Jesus’ words in Mark 16:16 closely. He says, those who believes (i.e. come to faith) and is baptized will be saved. This seems to link water baptism to faith as the means to salvation. But is that what Jesus meant?
If you look at the second part of this verse, Jesus simply says, “Whoever does not believe will be condemned.” What is pointedly left out is, “and is baptized.” Hence, the emphasis in Jesus’ words in Mark 16:16 is not on baptism but on the exercise of faith for salvation, exactly as He taught elsewhere in the gospels.
However, on the other hand, the person who by God's sovereign grace has surrendered himself to Christ will also, in obedience to Jesus’ command, gratefully accept the sacrament of baptism as a sign and seal of salvation. Thus baptism follows faith, as also in Act 2:41; 16:31-34, and everywhere.
May God bless all those who, led by the Spirit of God, came forward today to be baptized, or reaffirmed their faith or to transfer their church membership.
As you are welcomed into the fellowship of God’s family, may this and every Christmas be truly a blessed one.
Rev. Robert Chew