The Doctrine of Sola Fide and Mark 16:15-16

Eddie Fisher

The doctrine of sola fide affirms that God on the basis of the redeeming work of Christ offers to the alien sinner salvation from sin based on his faith alone independent of any and every thing that the sinner does insisting that an individual is saved the moment he exercises faith in Christ. This theological position grew out of the 16th century Reformation Movement which held firmly to five central principles of sola scriptura, (scripture alone) sola fide, (faith alone) sola gratia, (grace alone) solus Christus (Christ alone) and soli Deo Gloria, (to the glory of God alone) Sola fide contends that based on scripture alone, salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone to the glory of God alone.

The advocates of sola fide have long insisted that Mark 16:16 teaches the essentiality of belief contending that the text does not make baptism a requirement for salvation. They maintain that while it is the case that it tells us something about believers who have been baptized (they are saved), it does not say he who is not baptized will be condemned. The claim is that in order for this verse to teach that baptism is necessary for salvation, a third statement would be necessary: “He who believes and is not baptized will be condemned” or “He who is not baptized will be condemned.” But, they affirm that because neither of these statements is found in the text, then it follows that baptism is not a condition for one’s salvation.

It is rather disappointing that the proponents of sola fide would develop an entire theology and attempt to refute the clear teaching of scripture on what the passage does not say rather than addressing with what it does say. Consistency would dictate that since the text does not say anything about repentance or confession it would mean that these are not necessary for salvation and would make them non-essentials. But such reasoning falters on the basis of scriptural teaching. Building an argument on what the text does not say while paying scant regard to what it teaches is a serious blunder.

The argument as espoused by ‘sola fidists’ that since Mark 16:16 does not say, "and he who has not been baptized shall be condemned’, then baptism is not essential to salvation reflects a clearing ignorance of the Bible’s teaching on salvation. Let us apply this logic to Romans 10:9-11Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” This passage affirms that there are two conditions that will result in salvation: confession and belief. However, are we to infer that because verse 11 does not say ‘Everyone who believes in him [and confesses him] will not be put to shame’ that confession is not essential to salvation? Since it is the case that confession is not mentioned, are we to assume that a person will be saved purely on his belief without confessing with his mouth the Lord Jesus? The truth of the matter is that confession need not be included because if the person does not believe in his heart that God raised Christ from the dead then he will not confess the Lord Jesus. The same applies to the issue of baptism in Mark 16:16

Let us again apply the logic of the argument to the destruction of the walls surrounding Jericho. ‘Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valour. You shall march round the city, all the men of war going round the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march round the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets.  And when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.” Joshua 6:1-5

If we were to formulate this command following the construction of Mark 16:16 it perhaps could be read thus ‘ He that marches around the city and blows the trumpet shall make the walls fall flat but he that marches not shall not make the walls fall flat.’ The argument of the ‘sola fide’ adherents would be that the verse does not say, “and he who does not blow the trumpet shall not make the walls fall flat”

Let us apply this reasoning to our fictitious text. ‘He that marches around the city and blows the trumpet shall make the walls fall flat but he that marches not shall not make the walls fall flat.’ This verse is composed of two basic statements. He who marches around the city and blows the trumpet shall make the walls fall flat and He that marches not shall not make the walls fall flat. While this verse tells us something about the marchers who blow the trumpet (they make the walls fall flat), it does not say anything about marchers who do not blow the trumpet. In order for this verse to teach that blowing the trumpet makes the walls fall flat, a third statement would be necessary, viz., “He who marches not and does not blow the trumpet will make the walls fall flat” or “He who does not blow the trumpet will not make the walls flat.” But, of course, neither of these statements is found in the verse. The scriptural absurdity of the argument that since Mark 16:16 does not say ‘he that is not baptised will be condemned’ then baptism is not necessary to salvation should become clear from the case of the Israelites marching around the walls of Jericho as stated in our fictitious text.

The advocates of sola fide argue that since there are countless verses where only belief is mentioned then the Bible supposedly teaches the doctrine of sola fide. If that were the teaching of scripture then such argumentation would exclude the command to repent and the question would then arise, May one be saved without repentance? Since Mark 16:16 does not include the command to repent it would mean repentance is not essential for salvation. If the adherents of sola fide in answer to these questions were to claim, as they would invariably have to, that repentance is also necessary to salvation, then the argument that of sola fide falls like a ton of bricks since by including repentance would mean that faith does not stand alone.

The case of Paul challenging King Agrippa is another validation of this truth. ‘For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” Acts 26:26-28 Even though Agrippa had believed that belief did not bring about his salvation and it is certain that it took more than mere belief to make him a Christian.

The scripture has shown that the doctrine of sola fide is false and that the baptism of the Great Commission as recorded by Mark16:15-16 is for the remission of sins.

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Author: jfm

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