The Thief on the Cross
Three scriptural reasons why this is an invalid argument
Some will ask, “Well, what about the thief on the cross? He wasn’t baptized and Jesus very clearly told him he would be in paradise. Doesn’t that prove baptism in not essential for salvation?”
This is a perfectly valid question and makes sense at first glance. However, the problem arises from not having a clear understanding of what baptism represents and what the scriptures tell us about it. According to Romans 6:3-6, baptism represents being unified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. The problem with the thief on the cross when Jesus told him he would be with Him in paradise, is that Jesus was still alive. Christ had not yet died or been buried, so He had certainly not risen yet either. Baptism into Christ was not put into practice until Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 after Christ had risen from the dead and ascended to heaven.
I) The thief on the cross was still under the Old Covenant and therefore not subject to this baptism. He was saved just like anyone else under the Old Covenant.
II) But besides that, when Christ was on this earth, He had the authority to forgive people of their sins. Look at Mark 2:9-12:
Which is easier, to tell the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven;' or to say, 'Arise, and take up your bed, and walk? 'But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" -- he said to the paralytic -- "I tell you, arise, take up your mat, and go to your house." He arose, and immediately took up the mat, and went out in front of them all; so that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"
When Christ was on the cross, He was still on this earth. And He had the authority to forgive sins.
III) An additional point to consider: To even position the argument about the thief on the cross one must be able to prove he was never baptized. But consider the following verses:
John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching
a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Then ALL the
So who can really say the thief was never baptized before he was crucified? According to Mark 1:4-5 there is a plausible chance he was!
This page last updated October 27, 2006