What about the thief on the cross?

How Would You Answer?

Imagine you’re speaking to someone about Jesus and you bring up the subject of baptism. Just as Philip did in Acts 8. You say something like, “The Bible says that one must be baptized in order to be saved.” They immediately shake their head and say, “What about the thief on the cross?” [Luke 23:43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.]

It’s not really that hard to imagine. This exchange occurs nearly every single time I speak with a person about Jesus, salvation or the bible. I’m sure you’ve had the same experience.

Before you respond, let me remind you of a proper attitude you must maintain while giving an answer; Ephesians 4:15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

This verse needs to be memorized by every Christian.

We need to give an answer with love and compassion. If they get upset let it be with God’s word rather than your attitude.

So, HOW WOULD YOU ANSWER THEM? In order to provide the answer, I need to point out a few things that are wrong with their questions.

FIRST, their question is steeped in a misunderstanding on how to determine scriptural authority. [Invite them to the “Are you certain?” Classes.]

Most denominations have no concept of how to determine God’s will. They think that if it’s in the Bible, that makes it scriptural. They misunderstand that in order for something to be scriptural, it must be determined by context, audience and speaker. There are some clear “rules” for determining scriptural authority. Not difficult ones, nor are they unique to Bible interpretation only. These rules are shown to us in scripture, but we use them automatically in our secular lives. One answer I use is to introduce them to this concept and invite them to study with me about How to determine Scriptural Authority [Permissions].

SECOND, your prospect is giving a proof text without context. One way to correct their error is by asking them, “Under what system of Law were Jesus and the thief living?”

Now that you understand where their error lies, we can look at several answers, all of which are united with each other in Truth…

ONE – While on earth, Jesus had the authority to forgive sins. We see this with the paralytic Luke 5:18-26, and the sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50. With the thief, Jesus clearly offered him salvation.

TWO – This thief was saved BEFORE the command to be baptized was given. Matthew 28:18-20 shows the command to be baptized was given AFTER Christ had risen from the dead. Additionally, we are baptized into His death, Romans 6:3-4.

The thief was never subject to baptism for it was commanded after his death. Just like Abraham, Noah, Moses etc. The thief never had a baptism command to obey. There was John’s baptism, but we can read the answer to that in Acts 19:4-5.

THREE – The thief lived, died and was saved BEFORE the new covenant began. Deuteronomy 5:2-3 shows the Old Covenant, which came to an end when Jesus died on the cross. [Ephesians 2:14-16; Colossians 2:14] Then in Hebrews 8:6-7, 13 we see that the first covenant was done away, and we now live under a New Covenant.

I hope this helps you as you to give answer for the hope that is in you. 1Peter 3:15


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