SALVATION NOT BEING THROUGH BAPTISM
Now we have to consider another question. Some people say that a man cannot be saved without being baptized. Perhaps those among us would not say this. But some who have been affected by the poison of Roman Catholic tradition may be full of this kind of thought. Recently, a few co-workers and I met a few western missionaries in Canton. They all paid much attention to this matter of baptism. There is a certain missionary in Hong Kong who is very strong about this matter. They certainly have their scriptural basis, which is Mark 16:16: "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned." Some would argue that this means if a man has believed but has not been baptized, he is still not saved, because this verse clearly says that he who believes and is baptized shall be saved.
Here I would like to ask a question. What does salvation mean here? It says: "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved." But following this it says: "He who does not believe shall be condemned." From this we see that the salvation here must not refer merely to deliverance from condemnation. We must be careful here. The Lord says he who believes and is baptized shall be saved. The corresponding sentence should be that he who does not believe shall not be saved. But it is so strange that it says he who does not believe is condemned. Hence, the salvation in the first clause must not refer to the not being condemned in the second clause. We have to see that not only does salvation refer to a man’s salvation before God, but it also refers to his salvation before men. Before God, it is a question of condemnation or no condemnation. Before men, it is a question of being saved or not being saved. Before God, all those who believe in the Lord Jesus are not condemned. He who does not believe is condemned already. This is the word of John 3:18. But one cannot say that he who believes and is baptized shall not be condemned. We can say that he who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but not that he who believes and is baptized shall not be condemned. This is because condemnation has to do with God. Salvation here does not have to do with God. Salvation has to do with man. That is why the question of baptism comes in. To be condemned or not is a matter before God. That is why there is only the difference between believing and not believing. To be saved or not is not before God; it is something for man to see. That is why there is the difference between baptism and no baptism.
When we read the Bible, we have to take care of these distinctions. We will take John 3 again as an example. The Lord Jesus said in verse 5: "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Then in verses 6 and 8, when it mentions this matter again, it mentions only being born of the Spirit, without mentioning being born of water. The reason for this is that there are two sides to the kingdom of God. One side is spiritual, and the other side is earthly. Spiritually speaking, if a man is not born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. This is a fact. But there is still the human side. On the human side, there is not only the need to be born of the Spirit, but the need to be born of water also. What is the Spirit like? It says the wind blows where it wills. We can also say that the Spirit blows where it wills. In the original language, wind and spirit are the same word. Both are pneuma. The Spirit blows where He wills. One does not know where He comes from or where He is going. Man cannot control the wind in the sky. When it comes, it simply comes. When it goes, it simply goes. Many times, we only hear the sound of the wind, and know that it is here, or that it is gone. We cannot control the wind in the sky, but we can control the water on the ground. I have no way to control the wind blowing on my face. But I can determine whether I want to go into the water or not. The wind blows where it wills, but the water goes where I will. I cannot order the Spirit in heaven to put me into the kingdom. But I can manage to get myself into the water. I can have a part in the kingdom of God on earth. When I am baptized, no one can say that I do not belong to the Lord. This is why the Lord said in Mark 16 that he who believes and is baptized shall be saved.
(Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), Chapter 13, by Watchman Nee)