How was the Thief on the Cross Saved?

Recently my husband had a very interesting conversation with one of our “Church of Christ” neighbors (we are surrounded) who claimed that Jesus was able to directly forgive the thief on the cross only because He was still on earth. Shocked, my husband asked, “You think that Jesus could only forgive sins while He was on earth?!

Of course, they immediately replied, “No, that’s not what I’m saying.” So he asked, “Then what are you saying?” And their reply was…..crickets…..the sound of crickets. They had no reply. So they began to feel that their entire spiritual survival was at stake and therefore could only respond like a cornered rat when it becomes psychotic and goes into attack mode.

I used to do the exact same thing when any ray of light would threaten my CoC conditioning, because the CoC convinces its members that there is no way that a person can ever even have a fighting chance of making it to Heaven unless they are first water baptized by its members.

For the CoC’s baptismal regeneration doctrine to hold water (pun intended), it must plant many unfounded and unbiblical assumptions into people’s minds, such as: the thief on the cross was “probably” baptized by John earlier, or the thief was “probably” still under the Mosaic dispensation and therefore didn’t have to be baptized first, or the ridiculous assumption that Jesus could only directly forgive sins then because He was still on earth.  For this is the devils “grasping for straws strategy” to try to keep its cover from being blown.

     If the thief on the cross was saved because he was earlier baptized by John, then that would still throw a huge monkey wrench into the whole CoC system. For it admittedly teaches that John’s baptism was obsolete after Jesus’ death, and….. the thief died after Jesus! Scripture reveals that the two thieves had their legs broken in order to speed up death, but not Jesus, for He had already died! So, the thief on the cross was no longer under the Mosaic dispensation right before he died.  Jesus died before the thief, so the New Covenant was immediately in force upon the thief before he died!

      “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” (Mt. 26:28, Heb. 9:16-17, KJV).

     It just goes to show, that unless God, through His Word, has convinced a sinner how badly sin corrupts, they won’t realize their desperate need for the Savior, and will be fooled into believing they can, by their own corrupt “free” will, choose salvation by doing something. Apostle Paul clearly warned that we need to be sure that we believe the true gospel, not one that causes a fall from grace into work-righteous legalism (Gal. 1:6-10).

     Adding requirements other than faith in Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, becomes works in disguise, which is why false doctrines are so tricky.  Jesus’ blood didn’t just make His people “savable” depending upon their actions.  His blood literally saves them, based on His work, His grace, His mercy, His will and His choice (Jn. 1:13, Rom. 9:16, 18, Heb. 9:12).

     The true gospel is a call to faith in the righteousness of Christ alone and to full, confident assurance in His blood atonement for sins as our only title to Heaven.  Baptism, like every other good work, is a pure act of obedience that God works in us to do, AFTER God has purified and cleansed our hearts by faith (Acts 8:37; 15: 8-9, Phil. 2:13).  But if one is baptized in order to get saved, then it becomes an impure, meaningless and defiled work of the flesh that God has no part in. 

     An unregenerate act that attempts to appease God’s wrath, instead of believing Jesus has already done that for us, becomes a witness against us.  So unless God first purifies our hearts by faith, nothing we do will be pure in His sight (Titus 1:15). It is dangerous ground when one tries to go through an outward performance in order to try to bribe God into saving them, for that is an abomination to Him!

In my book I go over all of the CoC’s false interpretations of Scripture and how any true believer in Christ who is led by the Spirit of God can see right through all of its shenanigans. In order to spot a counterfeit, one must get very familiar with the real thing. So….

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15, KJV).

Copyright ©2019 by Lee Anne Ferguson.

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