The Thief & The Gospel

April 01, 2014 | By Chuck

Many times during a discussion on baptism the thief on the cross is brought up to show that baptism is not essential for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus said to the thief hanging on a cross next to him "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise. "(Lk.23:43) First of all, Jesus had "all authority in heaven and on earth. "(Mt.28:18) Jesus could say to anyonâ?¦e he wished, today you'll be in paradise. He could do what he wanted. He had all authority! Secondly, we don't know for sure that the thief on the cross was not baptized. We only know for sure that he was not baptized into/with Jesus" baptism. We know that because Jesus baptism did not go into affect until after his death and resurrection. Jesus was obviously still alive as he spoke to the thief. The only baptism that was being preached and practiced prior to Jesus death was the baptism of John. "And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins."(Mk.1:4) The thief on the cross could've been baptized with John's baptism which I hope you noticed was for the forgiveness of sins. Obviously we don't know and apparently the thief got off track at some point and got himself into trouble. Now the gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.(I Cor.15:1-4) II Thess.1:8-9 tells us that we must "obey" the gospel to escape eternal punishment. The only way to obey the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is by being baptized into Christ. Romans 6:17-18 says we obeyed this teaching and were set free from sin. This teaching is obeying the gospel at baptism. "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."(Romans 6:4) Notice that "new life" comes after one obeys the gospel at baptism. Baptism is not a work of merit. If it's a work at all it's a work of faith. Many years ago when I was baptized I did no work at all. I confessed that I believed Jesus is the Son of God and the man baptized (immersed) me completely under the water (baptism is only by immersion) for the forgiveness of my sins. God did all the work by forgiving my sins and saving me. There is a spiritual circumcision that takes place at baptism. It is discussed in Colossians 2:11-12. This is not physical but a spiritual circumcision done by God by cutting away the sin from our life at baptism. Hope this helps. I will end with this. "And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name."(Acts 22:16) It's clear that our sins are washed away, forgiven, cleansed by the blood of Jesus at baptism. We call on the name of the Lord to be our Lord, for forgiveness of sins and for salvation at baptism.