God's Complete Word Hebrews 8:7
What About the Thief on the Cross?

INTRODUCTION

1. In another series of lessons we have already examined baptism...

a. In the preaching of the apostles
b. In the teaching of Paul
c. In the teaching of Peter

2. The conclusion drawn from such sources was that baptism is...

a. For the remissions of sins - cf. Acts 2:38
b. Therefore necessary for salvation - cf. Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21
-- Which certainly seems consistent with Jesus' own words in Mark 16:15-16

3. But invariably someone will say: "What about the thief on the cross?"
- Luke 23:39-43

a. This is the most popular objection to the necessity of baptism
b. Despite all that is revealed about the purpose of baptism in the Bible!

4. The objection can be summarized like this:

a. The thief on the cross was not baptized
b. The thief was saved
c. Therefore, baptism is not essential to salvation!

5. Is such reasoning valid?

a. Might there be something the objector is failing to take into consideration?
b. A significant fact that renders the salvation of the thief irrelevant to the issue?

[As we take a closer look at the objection,
"What About The Thief On The Cross?", Let's first emphasize that...]

I. THE THIEF WAS SAVED

A. JESUS CERTAINLY HAD THE POWER TO SAVE HIM...

1. While on earth, Jesus had the authority to forgive sins
2. He exercised this authority on several occasions

a. For the paralytic - Luke 5:18-26
b. For the sinful woman - Luke 7:36-50

B. JESUS CLEARLY OFFERED HIM SALVATION...

1. The thief asked:
"Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." - Luke 23:42
2. Jesus replied:
"Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." -vs 43
-- None can doubt that Jesus promised him salvation!

[Yet the question remains: Is the salvation of the thief relevant to the issue? Consider that...]

II. THE THIEF WAS SAVED BEFORE BAPTISM WAS COMMANDED

A. THE BAPTISM UNDER DISCUSSION...

1. Was commanded AFTER Jesus died and arose - Mt 28:18-20;
Mark 16:15-16
2. Was a baptism into Jesus' death - Romans 6:3-4
-- How could the thief been baptized into Jesus' death, when Jesus had not yet died?

B. THE THIEF WAS NEVER SUBJECT TO THIS BAPTISM...

1. The baptism for remission of sins was commanded AFTER he died!
2. Just like Adam, Noah, Moses, etc.

a. None of these were baptized
b. But they all lived before the death of Jesus
c. And like the thief, were never commanded to be baptized!

3. Yes, there was the baptism of John - Mark 1:4-5

a. But that was preparing people for the coming of Christ ,Who was to die for our sins once for ALL.
b. And it was designed to be replaced by baptism into Christ and His death -
see Acts 19:4-5

-- One might use the thief on the cross to say John's baptism was not necessary, but the argument can't be made regarding the baptism which Christ later commanded!

[The thief on the cross died BEFORE Jesus gave His commandment in Matthew 28 and Mark 16. Since we live AFTER Jesus commanded baptism, how can we use the example of the thief to say it is not necessary? In a similar vein...]

III. THE THIEF WAS SAVED BEFORE THE NEW COVENANT BEGAN

A. THERE ARE TWO DIFFERENT COVENANTS...

1. There was a covenant between God and Israel - Deuteronomy 5:2-3

a. It governed all Israelites, such as Moses, David,
Isaiah, Daniel, the thief on the cross,
b. It never commanded people to be baptized!
c. It came to an end when Jesus died on the cross
- cf. Ep 2:14-16; Co 2:14

2. There is the new covenant that is now in force - cf. Hebrews 8:6-7

a. Of which Jesus spoke when He instituted the Lord's Supper
- Mt 26:28
b. Which came into force when Jesus died - Hebrews 9:15-17

B. WE NOW LIVE UNDER THE NEW COVENANT...

1. We must submit to Christ's authority as expressed after His death

a. An authority delegated to His apostles
- cf. Matthew 28:18-20;John 13:20
b. Who clearly commanded baptism!
- cf. Acts 2:38; 10:48; 22:16

2. How can we appeal to the example of one who lived under the old covenant?

a. Can we appeal to the example of David? (of course not)
b. Can we appeal to the example of Isaiah? (of course not)
-- Nor should we appeal to the example of the thief, who lived and died before the new covenant became of force!

3. We must heed what Jesus and His apostles taught AFTER the new covenant began!

CONCLUSION

1. Yes, the thief was saved on the cross without baptism

a. For which we should be thankful
b. For which we should give God praise for His wonderful grace

2. But the thief's example is irrelevant to the issue of baptism...

a. He died before Christ ever issued the command to be baptized into His death!
b. He lived under the old covenant, which did not require baptism into Christ!

3. The thief on the cross would be relevant to you IF...

a. You lived BEFORE the command to be baptized into Christ was given
b. You lived under the OLD covenant
c. You were in the presence of Christ and he told YOU
"Assuredly, I SAY TO YOU, today YOU will be with Me in Paradise." Luke 23:43

4. But here are the FACTS...

a. You live AFTER the command to be baptized has been given
b. You live under the NEW covenant, in which baptism has a crucial role
c. Christ has commanded YOU (and ALL) through His apostles to be baptized
- Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 10:48; 22:16

Rather than depending upon an example of salvation that is nothing similar to our situation today, base your faith and assurance of salvation on the many examples of salvation that were recorded in the book of Acts for our benefit.

Heed the preaching and teaching of Christ and His apostles directed toward YOU!

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