Ask Your Preacher
If baptism is essential for salvation, what about the thief on the cross ?
Dear Confession Only,
There are four explanations for Christ’s pardon of the crucified thief in Lk 23:39-43. 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).
- 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.
I'm confused. The people of Israel were once God's "chosen people". Jewish people see Jesus as a prophet, not as the Son of God. The way to the Father is through the Son (Jesus), so does that mean that Jews will not get to heaven? What have they done to no longer be "chosen"?
Dear Not Picky,
All those who reject Christ are lost (Jhn 14:6)… including Jews. Paul used to visit the synagogues to preach Jesus to them (Acts 18:4). The Jews are not Jesus’ chosen people; the church is. Jesus says that Christians are His royal priesthood and chosen race (1 Pet 2:9). Under the Old Testament, the Jewish people were God’s nation (Deut 7:6). The Jewish nation was warned that if they rejected God’s Son, they would be rejecting God, and God would make a new nation out of those who believed in Christ (Jesus explained this to the Jews in the parable of the vineyard – Lk 20:9-19). The vast majority of Jews didn’t believe in Jesus, and therefore, they never became a part of Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus’ chosen people are those that love Him and keep His commandments (Jhn 14:15). The Jewish people rejected God because they decided to keep their traditions instead of accepting God’s Son (Mk 7:9).
What is the meaning and relationship between Christ and "the order of Melchizedek" in Hebrews 6:20, 3:1?
Dear Seeking Order,
Heb 3:1 says that Jesus is our high priest, but a special type of high priest. The high priest was the one man in the nation of Israel who had the ability to go to God and ask the Lord to forgive the people of their sins (Heb 9:7). The problem was that under the Old Covenant, Jesus had no right to be the high priest because He was from the tribe of Judah, and all high priests came from the tribe of Levi (Deut 18:1).
Jesus was from the tribe of Judah – the tribe that kings came from (Gen 49:10). However, before the nation of Israel existed, there was a king that was also a priest named Melchizedek (Gen 14:18). Heb 7:1-3 says that Jesus is a king like Melchizedek. Jesus is both king and priest under the New Covenant. Jesus changed the law from the Old Testament to the New Testament and became forever both king and priest to the church (Heb 7:17).
How far is it from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea?
Lay Of The Land
Dear Lay Of The Land,
It is roughly eighty miles from Nazareth in Galilee to the city of Bethlehem. Traveling at the rate of twenty miles a day (a generous speed for a caravan), it would take roughly four days to get from Nazareth to Joseph’s hometown of Bethlehem for the census (Lk 2:1-5)… a difficult and arduous journey for a very pregnant Mary.
I've always been told that there is a rapture and that Revelation is about the future... but the more I am trying to read, learn, and understand the Bible, the more I'm confused about the end! I've heard from some of my friends in Christ that Revelation is about the past Roman Empire!! Please help. I am so confused.
Dear Book Befuddled,
Your friends are right. The book of Revelation is about the past, and the "Rapture" isn't something you will find in the Bible. If you want to understand the book of Revelation, we have a class series on the topic that can be found here. The Rapture is an idea that comes from taking parts of the Bible out of context. That class series should help you put it back in context.