Like the Thief or the Chief?

Written by Frank Jamerson.

In the great commission, when Jesus sent the disciples into all the world, He taught that men must believe, repent and be baptized in order to be saved (Mt. 20:18-20; Mk. 16:15,16; Lk. 24:47). Often, those who believe in salvation by faith only ask “what about the thief on the cross?” They ignore the example of the chief of sinners (Paul) and stake their hope on the thief. Let us look at some facts concerning both.

First, the thief lived under the law of Moses, before the law of Christ went into effect (Heb. 9:15-17). The great commission went into effect after Christ’s death, burial, resurrection and ascension into heaven. The thief did not have to believe that God had raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 10:9), nor  could  he have been “buried with Him through baptism” into the death of Christ, and raised “in the likeness of His resurrection” (Rom. 6:3-5). If we can be saved like the thief, we do not have to believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, nor be baptized into His death.

Second, notice the example of Saul (later called Paul) who said that he was the “chief of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). The account of his conversion is recorded three times in the book of Acts (chapters 9,22,26). From the three accounts we learn that as he approached Damascus, a great light shined upon him about noon, and the Lord told him that he would be told in Damascus what he needed to do (22:10). He was blind and fasted for three days (9:9), before Ananias went to him and said, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (22:16). Paul, who wrote the book of Romans, said “as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death” (Rom. 6:3).

Some contend that Saul was saved on the road to Damascus, when he believed in Christ. If so: (1) the Lord did not know it, for He told him that he would be told in Damascus what he needed to do (9:6). (2) The Holy Spirit did not know it, for He had Luke write that Saul would be told what to do after he arrived in Damascus (9:6; 22:10). (3) Ananias, who was sent by the Lord to Saul, did not know it, for he told him to be baptized “to wash away your sins” (22:16). (4) Saul did not know it, for he was blind, fasted and prayed three days (9:9). (5) Paul did not know it when he wrote the book of Romans, for he said that he was “baptized into Christ Jesus” and “into His death” (Rom. 6:3).

The thief on the cross is not an example of salvation under the testament of Christ. The chief of sinners obeyed Christ by believing in Him, repenting of his sins and being baptized into Christ.

© 2013 - - All Rights Reserved!