Is The Thief On The Cross The Example We Ought To Follow In Regards To How One Should Be Saved From Sin?


One of the main reasons people object to baptism is because of the example of the thief on the cross. The argument usually goes something like this: The thief was not baptized. The thief was saved. Therefore, a person does not have to be baptized to be saved. However, the thief on the cross is not a valid example for the following reasons:

First, the thief lived under the Old Testament. The law of Christ, or New Testament, did not go into effect until after Jesus died on the cross of Calvary (Ephesians 2:14-18, Colossians 2:13-17). As the Hebrews writer said, "a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives" (Hebrews 9:17). If someone wants to learn what to do to be saved today, they must look to the new law of Christ (Romans 3:19; Hebrews 10:9).

Second, the thief lived while Jesus was on the earth. While He was on the earth, Jesus had power to directly forgive the sins of the thief and others (Matthew 9:6). Jesus Himself said, "that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins" (Mark 2:10). Jesus is no longer on the earth (Acts 1:9-11). He has been resurrected to the right hand of God in heaven (Hebrews 1:1-3). Since the Lord is no longer on earth, we must look to His written will to find out what we must do to be saved (John 6:63). In that written will, Jesus specifies what obeying the gospel involves: "He that believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16). The thief on the cross did not obey the gospel because the gospel was not preached until 50 days later on the Day of Pentecost (Luke 24:46-48; Acts 2:38; Romans 10:9-10; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

Third, the thief may have been immersed. It is possible, even likely, that the thief was baptized prior to the events of the cross. The Bible says that, "Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him [John], and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins" (Matthew 3:5-6). How do we know that the thief was not one of those who were baptized by John? In fact, it was considered rejecting the will of God not to be baptized by John's baptism while Jesus was on the earth (Luke 7:30). It is a mere assumption to suppose that the thief was not baptized (the point being that we cannot know for sure if the thief was or was not baptized).

Therefore, we should not use the thief on the cross as an example of salvation.

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