Our Savior declares, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” This text of Scripture has been wrested by many to their everlasting destruction; but it is a text full of gospel truth that needs to be understood and obeyed by all.
“He that believeth” ― To believe is to trust, or lean upon the Lord Jesus Christ. It is to give up and renounce all self-reliance and rely upon Christ alone for salvation. Those who believe on Christ know their need of him. They have been made to see the fulness, sufficiency, worth, and efficacy of Christ as the sinner’s Substitute and Savior. They come to him as poor, perishing, condemned, impotent sinners. They venture upon him, commit themselves to him, and live upon him. To believe on Christ is to look to him, like the Jews of old looked upon the brazen serpent and lived. They looked not upon themselves, nor upon the pole that held the brazen serpent. They looked not upon Moses, nor upon the serpents that bit them. They looked upon the serpent of brass; and looking on that they were healed. Even so, we are saved not by looking at ourselves, or at the ordinances of divine worship, or upon the men who preach Christ to us, but by looking upon Christ himself. “Look unto me,” he says, “and be ye saved.” If you would be saved, you must look to (believe upon) the Lord Jesus Christ.
“And is baptized” ― Faith must precede baptism. It is the one and only pre-requisite for baptism. Only those who have faith in Christ are to be baptized (Acts 8:36-37). Yet, all who believe are to be baptized. This is not an option. Baptism is the believer’s public confession of faith in and identification with Christ. To be baptized is to submit to the ordinance of God to which our Lord Jesus himself submitted as the servant of God, when he was immersed in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. Baptism is a matter of obedience to Christ our King. All who were converted at Pentecost were immediately baptized. The jailer and his household, as soon as they believed, were baptized in the name of Christ. This outward confession always follows God’s salvation. The outward sign does not save; but it does picture our death, burial, and resurrection with Christ. Therefore, being saved, believers follow their Lord into the watery grave and arise from it to walk with him in the newness of life (Rom. 6:3-6).
“Shall be saved” ― They have been saved already in the sense that they are already redeemed, justified, regenerated, and called. Otherwise they could not believe. Faith is not the cause of salvation, but the result. Faith is not a work by which we accomplish God’s salvation, but the operation of God in us which is salvation (Col. 2:12). All who believe on Christ shall be saved everlastingly. Believing on Christ, we possess and enjoy God’s salvation. Being baptized, we confess it.
“But he that believeth not shall be damned.” ― If you refuse to trust Christ alone as your Savior and Lord, you shall be damned forever, without mercy, under the wrath of God.