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Discovery Magazine 9/1/2004

The Thief on the Cross

While on the cross, the two thieves on either side of Jesus spoke ugly to Him. But after awhile, one of the thieves was sorry, and asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom (Luke 23:42). Jesus showed him great mercy by reassuring him that he would be allowed to be with Jesus that very day in Paradise. Many people think that since Jesus as-sured the thief that he was saved while on the cross, then he was saved without being baptized. They then conclude that people today do not have to be baptized to be saved.

But no one knows for sure whether the thief had alreadybeen baptized. Since he lived in that area, he may well have heard John the Baptizeror Jesus on a previous occasion and submitted to their command to be baptized (Mark 1:4; John 4:1-2). In that case, he would only need to repent of his sins before he died on the cross.

But it is very important to understand that, as a matter of fact, the thief was not subject to the New Testament command to be baptized into Christ’s death (Romans 6:3-4). In the same way, all other Old Testament characters —like Moses, Abraham, and David—were not told to be baptized. Why? They all lived before New Testament Christianity. The thief lived and died under the law of Moses priorto the death of Christ. He could not have been baptized into Christ’s death—because Jesus had not yet completed His death!He could not have been “buried with Him through baptism” (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12)—because Jesus had not yet been buried!The church of Christ was not established, and Christianity did not begin, until afterChrist’s death—in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost in about A.D.30 (Acts 2).

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