Ask Your Preacher
“An Old Argument”Categories: NEW TESTAMENT, SALVATION
If baptism is required, then the criminals on the cross next to Jesus are not in heaven?
What About Those Guys?
Dear What About Those Guys,
There are four explanations for Christ’s pardon of the crucified thief in Lk 23:39-43 (He only pardoned one of them; the other one continued to hurl abuse at Jesus – Lk. 23:39). All of them fit in perfect harmony with the necessity of baptism and the New Testament teachings that salvation begins at baptism (1 Pet 3:21, Acts 2:37-38, Mk 16:16, Rom 6:3-4).
- 1. This thief may very well have been baptized by John the Baptist (Mk 1:4) or one of Jesus’ disciples (Jhn 4:1-2). We simply don’t know enough about this thief to say whether he was or wasn’t baptized. It is always faulty to build a doctrine off an assumption. To say that we don’t need to be baptized because that thief wasn’t baptized is an assumption.
- The thief was physically unable to be baptized. 2 Cor 8:12 tells us that God only holds us accountable for what we are physically able to do. That thief didn’t have the capability to get off that cross and be baptized. The argument could be made that he was excused from the law of baptism the same way that a mute man would be excused from the command to “confess Christ with your tongue” (Rom 14:11). This isn’t the best argument of the four, but it is a valid point worth considering.
- While Jesus was here on earth, He had the authority to forgive sins as He saw fit (Matt 9:6). This thief was no different than any of the other people whose sins were verbally forgiven by Christ as He walked this earth (Lk 7:48-49, Lk 5:20). Since Jesus is no longer on this earth… baptism is the only other way to have your sins removed.
- The command to be baptized for salvation is a New Testament command. Those who are baptized become a part of the church (Acts 2:41). If we are being technical (and there is a time for technicalities), the church and the New Testament law didn’t come into effect until after Jesus died and rose from the grave. Until Jesus’ death and resurrection, the laws of the Old Testament would have still been in effect. That thief wasn’t bound to the law of baptism (a New Testament law) because Jesus hadn’t yet died.
No matter which argument seems the sturdiest to you (they all have merit), the thief on the cross example doesn’t negate the necessity of baptism today.