WHAT ABOUT THE THIEF ON THE CROSS?

When studying the New Testament to see what men did to be saved, there can be no question that one of those things was baptism.

Acts 10:48

“And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.”

Mark 16:16

“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

1 Peter 3:20-21 (KJV)

“Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

That being understood, some are confused when they read about the thief on the cross. Jesus said to the thief in Luke 23:43, “…today you shall be with me in Paradise.” And yet, there is no record of the thief being baptized. Some have speculated that if the thief could be saved without being baptized, then baptism must not be essential for salvation.

First of all, we do not know that the thief had not been baptized earlier by John the Baptist.

Matthew 3:4-5

“And John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him.”

The thief may have been baptized by John. But let’s assume that he had not been. It is irrelevant because the thief was living under the old law, the Law of Moses. He had not heard the command to be baptized under the Great Commission, for it was not given until after the cross. The gospel was not preached in its fullness until on the Day of Pentecost—seven weeks after the thief died! In that sermon, Peter preached that men must “Repent and be baptized…for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). 

It is also important to note that Jesus had the power to forgive the sins of any man while on the earth.

 Matthew 9:6

 “But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins…

Jesus clearly forgave the thief on the cross of his sins as he personally hung there next to Jesus. Whether the thief had been baptized or not does not change the fact that under the New Testament, all men are commanded to be baptized. We do not live under the Old Testament. Furthermore, Jesus is not personally present on earth to forgive sin. We must rely on the word given by the Holy Spirit—the things written in the New Testament to know what God requires of us in order to be saved. There is no question that the New Testament clearly teaches that baptism is required by God in order for us to be saved.

 John 3:5

“Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’”

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