Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Thieves On The Cross

I was reading about baptism today specifically relating to the thief that asked for eternal life on the cross versus the one that didn't. I was reminded of a statement made by a former pastor of mine over the pulpit: "Was Jesus stating that the thief would be saved? or sarcastically throwing it in his face?" The argument was that because the thief had railed against Christ, that Jesus may have been scorning this man and that the verse could have been a rhetorical question based in sarcasm. If you end the verse with a question mark, it becomes a question that would seem to indicate that Jesus was telling the man that He (Jesus) would be in paradise, but He wouldn't be seeing the thief there.

But let's examine the scripture: Luke 23:32-43
"32 And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.
33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.
34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. 35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.
36 And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar,
37 And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.
38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise."

If you notice, the thief doesn't rail on Jesus, but in fact REBUKES the other thief. Then he makes an honest confession and acceptance of responsibility. Also notice that he doesn't ask for earthly deliverance as the other thief demands as a sign, but rather asks for eternal hope...something requiring faith in Jesus as God. Also notice that the signs that accompanied Christ's death on the cross that so affected the Centurion have not happened yet, so the thief has no earthly sign to motivate him.

Thus, Jesus accepts the prayer as sincere and honest and grants the fellow forgiveness...something He had done in the past with others and SOMETHING HE HAD JUST FINISHED PRAYING THE FATHER FOR IN REGARDS TO THOSE THAT CRUCIFIED HIM. He doesn't ask the thief what his theological views are, whether or not he's been baptized, or even whether he understands God. He simply says YES. This is the God of mercy that died on the cross.

I read a paper on a website that deals with whether or not salvation can be had without baptism, and this was one of the scriptures they used. They basically said that the man MAY have been baptized by John, and so had that part of the "Plan of Salvation" covered. But I ask this: if, as according to them, he was baptized by John, and John's baptism was temporary and only in effect during his life and the life of Jesus (they set two different limits depending where they are in the article....typical), then the thief would have been lost the instant that Jesus died on the cross as John the Baptist was already dead and beheaded. The baptism would have been out of force.

However, if we recognize that this apparent vagueness only exists in the English as a cultish, fear mongering, power hungry attempt to induce people to believe a heresy regarding water baptism, then we can see that the original Greek never has this problem. Those verses in the original Greek do not offer the possibility of changing punctuation to fit your mood. It's just another example of UPCI buffet Bible church mentality that is so damaging to those seeking the true God.

Rightly divide the word people; don't accept some self-proclaimed "pastor's" nonsense and let him put questions in your mind about the abundant mercy and grace of our Lord and Saviour.

God Bless you

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