Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation? What About the Thief on the Cross?
Luke 23:39-43 ESV - 39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." 42 And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." 43 And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
Luke 23:43 - Thief on the Cross
First, we don’t know that the thief was never baptized. Luke 23:42 indicates he seemed to know more than even the apostles, so he could have been baptized with John the Baptist’s baptism before he was put up on the cross. If you are going to use the thief to prove one doesn’t have to be baptized, you better know for sure that he wasn’t baptized. That should go without saying.
Rom 10:9 ... if thou shall … believe … that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved
The thief couldn’t have believed in the resurrection of Christ (as an accomplished fact) – so obviously he lived under a different covenant than we do (else he couldn’t have been saved).
The thief didn’t need to be baptized for basically the same reason that Moses and many other Old Testament saints were not baptized; that is, the New Testament law had not come into effect yet.
Hebrews 9:15-17: And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament ... For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.
The thief was forgiven before Jesus died (therefore was not forgiven based upon NT law).
The thief on the cross died before the “great commission” of Mark 16:16 was ever given
Mark 16:16 ESV - 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved…
(therefore was not amenable to the command to be baptized in the name of Jesus in order to be saved).
Luke 24:47 (“And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem”) is the third account of the great commission. Doesn’t this verse make it obvious the great commission was to begin to be preached (begin to be binding) at Jerusalem?
And wouldn’t “at Jerusalem” be referring to the day of Pentecost (Luke 24:49)?
Luke 24:49 ESV - 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high."
Acts 1:8 ESV - 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
And the second account of the great commission is where Jesus required water baptism for salvation. Do you see then why the thief did not have to be baptized to be saved?