Some will know the names Frank and Jessie James, maybe John Dillinger, but most thieves are not remembered very long. One will be remembered and is by far the most famous thief in history (Luke 23:39-43). The thief on the cross next to Jesus has been known through the ages by the inspired account of his interaction with the Lord. Some use him as their example for salvation today. Is he our example, today?
The thief didn’t have to believe in Jesus, we do (John 8:24). He died under the law of Moses, but we are under the new covenant, the law of Christ.
The thief didn’t have to believe in the resurrection, we do (Rom. 10:9). It obviously hadn’t occurred at the time of crucifixion.
The thief didn’t have to confess Christ, we do (Matt. 10:31-32; Rom. 10:10). God’s plan was not complete at his time.
The thief didn’t have to be baptized, we do (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16). More on this later.
The thief never had or heard the complete gospel of Christ, we do (Rom. 1:16; I Cor. 15:1-4; II Thess. 1:7-9).
The thief lived under the law of Moses, we do not and never have (Exod. 20:2). The Law of Moses had no power to save (Heb. 10:1-4; 9-10).
The thief was never in the Church, we must be (Acts 2:47; 20:28; Eph. 1:7). The Lord’s church was established on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) after the cross.
The thief could be forgiven by Jesus (Heb. 9:27-28), we are forgiven/saved by obedience to His Law (Rom. 8:2; Heb. 5:9).
There are many things we don’t know about the thief. Was he baptized in John’s baptism (Luke 3:3)? Had he heard John the baptizer preach? Had He heard Jesus preach? Had the thief repented of his sin prior to the cross (Joel 2:13)? Had he followed Jesus? We are to obey what we can know—the Truth (John 8:32), not what we can’t know.
Jesus said to this famous thief “today thou shalt be with me in paradise.” This we can know for sure about the thief on the cross, because the Bible tells us so. The Bible tells all now how to be a Christian. That salvation is by and through the authority of the resurrected Savior, Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18-20). Hear Him (Matt. 17:5).
Northeast Bulletin November 12, 2023