Often when someone hears about baptism for the forgiveness of sins, they will bring up the thief on the cross and use this example in their argument to deny that baptism has any connection with salvation. They will point out that the thief on the cross didn’t have time to be baptized. So someone might say “I want to be saved like the thief on the cross.” And its true that Jesus told the thief in Luke 23:43 “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” So their point is that Jesus didn’t tell him to be baptized to be saved. People use this as an argument against the command to be baptized.
So here is a good question:
Can someone be saved like the thief on the cross TODAY?
1)We are not on the cross next to Jesus. We cannot be crucified alongside Jesus and suffer the same death.
2)While on earth, Jesus had the power to forgive sins . In Matthew 9:2, Jesus told a man that his sins were forgiven and the Jews were shocked. Jesus clarified this to them in Matthew 9:6 that he indeed had the power to forgive sins while on earth. Since Jesus directly promised this thief eternal life, nothing else was required.
3)It was not possible for someone to be baptized into the death of Jesus until He actually died. Let’s never forget that it was the death of Jesus that brought forth the new covenant. There was no new covenant without His death. After His death, the new covenant (or agreement) was in effect. You will see many examples in the Book of Acts of people entering this new covenant with God via baptism. Read Hebrew 9:15-17, Acts 2:38, And don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t just the act of getting wet. There is more involved which I discussed in my earlier post about How To Become a Christian.
4)The Bible doesn’t really say if the thief was ever baptized or not. Multitudes of people were being baptized during this time. In fact Mark 1:5 says “And all the country of Judea was going out to him (John the Baptist), and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.” That sounds like a lot, but in fact Jesus was baptizing more than John as stated in John 4:1. It’s just as possible that the thief was one of these people. But regardless, Jesus directly granted this man access to the Kingdom.
5)How did the thief know that Jesus was innocent and that Jesus was about to enter His Kingdom? Perhaps he had previously heard him speak or might have even been one of His disciples. We don’t know for sure, but there seems to be some evidence to suggest it. Read Luke 23:41-43.
Some people want to pattern their own salvation after the thief on the cross. The real is issue is not whether the thief was baptized. The better question to ask is whether baptism is necessary today for someone to have their sins forgiven and receive salvation. The early Christians preached about baptism and that is hard to ignore. The thief on the cross is not the pattern for salvation under the new covenant of Jesus Christ and it was never intended to be viewed that way.
As always, if you think that I’ve misrepresented Scripture in any way, please leave me a comment below. If you like the post, please pass it along via Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.