I know this is picking nits, but when the Gospel Advocate tweets something kinda off-the-mark, the ornery part of me wants to say something:
“@gospeladvocate: The Son of God came and commanded that all are to believe and be baptized in order to be saved (Mark 16:16)”
I don’t even have to go to Mark 16:15-16 (but I will) to know that what Jesus asked His followers to do was to go and teach the good news about Him:
“Mark 16:15-16: He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.’ “
Believing and being baptized are what people choose to do (or not) after they are taught. Being saved is what Jesus does for them. His promise is that they will be saved if they do. His warning is that they will not be saved if they don’t believe.
I can understand why someone who does not believe would not choose to be baptized. I have trouble understanding why someone who believes would not want to be baptized. (After all, Jesus Himself was – because it was fully the right thing to do; His followers practiced it and thousands who believed in those days experienced it.)
But I’m afraid I can sympathize a little when these two verses are interpreted only as commands, giving the impression that the One who died for all was in the habit of issuing ultimatums rather than bringing the best news ever about grace and forgiveness, as well as the all-but-priceless gift of choosing to accept it.
As I recall, He emphasized two commandments from the old law, then rolled them into one at the Passover table before He was arrested: To love one another as He had loved us.
He called it a commandment.
But it really doesn’t sound like one to me.
It sounds like the last request of a man about to die.
So I’ll get off my soapbox now.
I can’t apologize for my tribe of faith, but if someone from it has tried to intimidate you into obeying a command to be saved, I hope you’ll forgive them. And reconsider, looking at what the text actually says … and the nature and circumstances surrounding the One who said it … and the fact that being saved is a response of love to inimitable divine love, sharing a message of that love and an opportunity to choose it for life that not only lasts, but is actually worth living.