Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. (Mark 16:14-20)
The Plan To Be Saved Is Still The Plan
Jesus has risen from the dead. He has appeared to a few but the testimony of these few is received with skepticism. The unbelief and hardness of heart of the eleven apostles is surprising. They had been with Jesus and heard him speak often of His death and His resurrection. Witnessing the cruel death on a cross they had decided all had come to naught. The forty days Jesus spent with the disciples affirmed the belief He was the Son of God and they would start a revolution on the Day of Pentecost that is still being felt today in the hearts of men. However, the skepticism of the early disciples still plagues men in accepting the teaching of Jesus Christ.
The disciples are told to go into the world and preach. Their message was of salvation. Without the blood of Jesus Christ there could be no hope. At Pentecost the focus of the message was the sacrifice of Jesus. Preaching the gospel of Christ is preaching the plan of salvation. While we do not have the complete revelation of all the Lord spoke to the disciples during that forty day period the gospel writer Mark declares in simple terms the message of what that salvation would be. It begins with preaching the gospel. This message must be taught to every person under heaven. Reading the book of Acts the student will find this is exactly what the early disciples did. They went everywhere. They taught everyone. The apostle Paul would later declare within forty years the message was preached to every creature under heaven.
In the first century the message of salvation was simple and direct. When a person believed the gospel and was baptized for the remission of sins they would be saved. If a person did not believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ they would be lost. Why? Preaching the gospel is telling the story about God’s love. Disbelief in the love of God will cause a person to turn away and do nothing. They are not interested in truth. Their hearts are filled with disbelief. Hardened by the deceitfulness of sin they walk away. Condemnation will be their reward. Belief has a different effect on people. When they hear the love of God they want to do something about their sin. On the day of Pentecost Peter told the crowd exactly what Jesus told him to say. “Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins.” They believed and were baptized (3,000 to be exact). These folk were saved because they obeyed.
Jesus told His disciples to preach the word and they would confirm the word by miraculous power through the signs. This is exactly what they did. Mark tells us they went everywhere preaching the word and the Lord confirmed the word with accompanying signs. Luke shows this to be true in the book of Acts. Today there are no miracles. The need for miracles ceased in the first century as the word of God was confirmed by the written word. God’s plan for saving man has not changed. The message remains the same.
There are many today (sadly the majority) who disbelieve that salvation is found in baptism. Mark writes the plan of salvation in simple terms. Hearing the word of God, believing the word of God and salvation in baptism is exactly what Jesus said. Suggesting the baptism is not salvation does not change the words of the Holy Spirit. Satan has done well to convince men in salvation by faith only. He believes and knows Jesus is the Son of God yet he is damned. Faith is a key ingredient to salvation but not alone. Without the waters of baptism the blood of Jesus Christ will not remove sin. He that believes in the word of God and obeys in the waters of baptism will find salvation. When a person hears the plan of salvation and refuses to be baptized for the remission of sins they will be lost. That is what the Lord said.
You who believe what you like of the gospels and believe not what you like, believe yourselves rather than the gospel. (Augustine, Contra Faustum Manichaeum, 400)