In part 1 of this article on the “thief on the cross”, I stressed it is obvious to any honest heart the man was saved by Jesus. Jesus can save anybody He wants. In Luke 23:39-43 Jesus told the man that on that day he would be with Him in “Paradise”. After Jesus was resurrected, and just before He ascended back to heaven, He said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven, and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). He can save anybody He wants, but the Bible clearly teaches He isn’t going to (Matt. 7:21-23; John 12:48).
Many people today, unfortunately, like to use the “thief on the cross” as an example when they say one doesn’t have to obey Jesus’ Words in the Bible to be saved from sin. They use him as a “loophole” to avoid obedience to the Lord’s commandment to be baptized in His Name for the forgiveness of sins. The “thief” (I put the word in quotation marks because he repented of his sins before he died), who died on a cross, and who is in Abraham’s bosom today, must truly ache in his heart whenever any person uses him as an example and excuse to reject and disobey the Lord who saved him. The thief was more than likely baptized with John’s baptism that was commanded at that time (Mark 1:4,5), because the Bible says everyone else was, then fell away from the Truth, like so many others did (John 6:60-66), and still do today, and then took advantage of the opportunity he had on the cross to repent. He knew even in his suffering what a blessed opportunity that was. This man sincerely believed Jesus could save him, and that was what he cared about. He was sincerely sorry for his sins, and he sincerely wanted to obey the One who he knew was the Son of God. Does any reasonable, logical thinking person really believe that if that man was alive today, he would neglect to obey the commandment of Jesus and His apostles to be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1Peter 1:22,23; 3:18-21)?
As I mentioned in Part 1 of this study, John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance that was intended to bring about a change of heart and mind, and point people away from the Old Testament law of Moses for salvation, and to the upcoming New Testament law of Christ, and His kingdom, the church, for their salvation. In Matt. 28:18-20, just before the Lord’s ascension back to heaven, where He reigns over His kingdom, the church today, He said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you….” In Acts 19:1-5 you can read how those who were baptized with John’s baptism, which was before the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ that began His reign over His kingdom, the church, needed to be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ after His ascension. These verses, along with Acts 2:38, reveal that this is when one receives the promised indwelling of the Holy Spirit as a seal of salvation (Eph. 4:30).
One day, all of us will be facing the reality this man on the cross was confronted with on the day he repented from the heart. The Bible does reveal more evidence that he was baptized with the baptism that was commanded at that time under the Mosaic law than it does that he wasn’t, like some continue to insist, for some strange reason. There isn’t any evidence at all that he wasn’t baptized. None. The Bible shows that he stood up for Jesus against an angry mob who had him nailed to a cross, even after Jesus’ own apostles had fled and were scattered, he confessed his sin, and he repented from the heart. He was willing to do anything Jesus commanded him to do, if he had the opportunity. Is this your attitude today? Think about it, and pray about it, and God bless you and your efforts to serve Him and glorify Him with your obedience to Him and His Word in the Bible.
Preacher / Evangelist for the La Crosse church of Christ