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?
Whosoever Shall Call Upon The Lord Shall Be Saved... Is A Game Changer!
Rom 10:13 reads “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
"Whosoever" = Jew or Gentile
Eph 2:11-16 - NASB - 11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," [which is] performed in the flesh by human hands-- 12 [remember] that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both [groups into] one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, [which is] the Law of commandments [contained] in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, [thus] establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.
"Whosoever Shall Call Upon The Name Of The Lord Shall Be Saved" in Rom 10:13 is a quote from Joel 2:32 "And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered ..."
“Calling On The Name Of The Lord” is clearly necessary to salvation. But how does one call on the name of the Lord? We better know what it means if it is necessary to salvation.
Let’s continue reading verse 14 “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?”
Do you see how this verse makes it clear that one can’t call on the name of the Lord until after they have believed?
So, How do we call on the name of the Lord?
Acts 22:16 NKJV - 16 'And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.'
Consider what Jesus said...
Mark 16:16 - 16 "He who believes and is baptized will be saved...
Also consider Acts 2:21 “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” And then notice verse 38 of the same chapter “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins ….”
Peter told them they needed to call on the name of the Lord to be saved from their sins in verse 21, and then told them exactly how to do that in verse 38 “… Repent, and be baptized … for the remission of sins ….”
Have you ever repented and been baptized for the remission of sins? Do you need to "call on the name of the Lord"?