In the 23rd chapter of Luke we have an account of the trial and crucifixion of the Son of God. This is recorded as part of that story in verse 32: â€œAnd there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, â€˜Father forgive them for they know not what they do.â€™â€ (Luke 23: 32 â€“ 34).
I am very excited today because the NLT New Application Study Bible arrived in my mail. I found a great deal on the Amazon Marketplace. In a previous post I pointed out how good the study notes were. So I picked one up for myself. There is a section in the back of the study Bible called “A Christian Worker’s Resource.” One of the articles is about how to become a Christian. After being severely disappointed with the ESV Outreach New Testament and how it teaches bringing people to Christ, I was curious to see if there was any mention of baptism.
Six pages of information about God’s love, sin, the need for Jesus, and how to respond to Jesus. But baptism does not appear anywhere in these six pages on teaching an unbeliever or following up with a new believer. It is really shocking. At least it did talk about the need for repentance, so not all of the commands were ignored. Unfortunately, it went on to teach the need to pray for salvation. Again, show me one scripture that teaches to pray to God for salvation. It is simply not there, but the invention of humans.
There was a tremendous backlash against my articles about how study Bibles are not speaking about the importance of baptism. In fact, some study Bibles like the ESV Study Bible backpedal away from clear language that commands baptism. But I think my point continues to be valid. The NLT Life Application Study Bible contains a handbook on what to teach unbelievers and what to teach new believers. How can baptism not be included in this teaching? Why is there the continued insistence to erase the command for baptism even though the scriptures plainly teach it? While we certainly need to teach with clarity that baptism is not a sacrament and does not save without proper confession, faith, and repentance. But we must make a stand and stop the continuing elimination on the teaching of baptism.
The interesting thing is that the study notes do a fairly good job pointing out baptism. For example, in Acts 2:38 the study note says: “We cannot save ourselves – only God can save us. Baptism identifies us with Christ and with the community of believers. It is a condition of discipleship and a sign of faith.” Now was that so hard to say? A study Bible does not have to argue against baptism. Point out that God saves us but also point out it is a condition we need to meet, since baptism identifies us with Christ (though I would say “joins us to Christ” since that is the language of Romans 6).
The study note for 1 Peter 3:21 also does fairly well. “It is not the ceremony that saves us; instead, the ceremony is evidence of our faith in Christ’s death and resurrection. Baptism is a symbol of the cleansing that happens in the hearts of those who believer (Romans 6:3-5; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12). By identifying themselves with Christ through baptism, Peter’s readers could resist turning back, even under the pressure of persecution. Public baptism would keep them from the temptation to renounce their faith.” Again, I would say it a little differently. But this is a vast improvement over many study Bible notes.
I can’t figure why the study notes would teach these important points about baptism, yet completely ignore baptism when it comes to teaching people about coming to Christ. The study notes point out the importance of baptism but baptism gets erased when it comes to how to teach unbelievers and what to do with new believers. I am further amazed that people were critical of me saying something similar to what these study notes say. Like it or not, baptism is in the scriptures. Rather than ignoring God’s commands, we need to respond with our heart to God’s teachings.