Personal note: If only I could’ve presented the sum of all this to my CoC grandmother before she died. But it was not meant to be. Yet thanks to the testimony of the penitent thief, I still hold out hope that my grandma may have been saved. After all, I had sowed many seeds of the gospel in her life that may have even sprung up at the last minute. Only God knows. So I dedicate this article to her memory, for I loved her so very much, and today would’ve been her birthday. And who knows, maybe someone else’s grandmother is meant to come to Christ after reading this. I commit it all into God’s hands. May He be gracious to pardon this author and preserve the reader from anything that is not solely for the honor of His glory.
THE PENITENT THIEF: A POWERFUL TESTIMONY OF GOD’S GRACE
The CoC is notorious for dishonestly claiming to have no creeds, while hypocritically condemning Christian confessions of faith that have been passed down for centuries, which even have Scriptures to back them up. This means that CoC’s are inadvertently condemning Luke, for he spoke of Christians setting in order declarations of faith that state the things most surely believed among them (Lk. 1:1-4).
So, CoC’s are obviously trying to be silent where Scripture speaks (Acts 19:36). But they boast that they are silent where Scripture is silent, and yet, they cannot even produce one biblical piece of evidence that says one is justified by water baptism! Still, they falsely teach that one must obey their water gospel once one has reached the mystical “age of accountability.”
Yet, the CoC is going to have a REAL problem trying to explain why Jesus Himself was not water baptized until He was in His thirties!! That fact alone indicates that water baptism is only part of our discipleship and ongoing sanctification, NOT a part of justification and the gospel itself. Thankfully, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Jesus was faithfully obedient to His heavenly Father before He was ever water baptized, and we’re to follow His example.
But the CoC labors to instill legalistic fear, by repeatedly hammering it into people that they will go to Hell if they don’t believe in its Pharisaical formula for salvation that requires the external availability of water and a CoC mediator. So anyone who believes the true gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, will be cruelly ostracized and demonized by the CoC and its staunch defenders who can no longer think for themselves.
Unfortunately, the cults are full of emotionally and spiritually immature people who have never been truly born again by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. This is why so many of them want to be controlled and told what to “do” to get themselves saved, for they have no internal substance.
So whenever they encounter a true Spirit-guided faith in Christ, it is such a shock to their system that they become bound and determined to try to destroy that faith wherever they find it. Their CoC conditioning causes them to tolerate and enable those who are on the same surface-level as themselves, no matter how wicked. But free and faithful followers of Christ pose too much of a threat to their false support system, so they will be shunned and/or scourged in their presence (Mt. 10:17).
And sadly, this is one reason why CoC’s have always bent over backwards to try to underhandedly debunk and undermine the common salvation that all true believers have with the penitent thief on the cross. No wonder they mercilessly make up things about us that aren’t true, for their heretical movement has been doing that to the penitent thief for centuries!
Because God has graciously provided us with his testimony, which happens to be a glaring witness against all of the destructive heresies that the CoC heavily indoctrinates its captives into. It especially testifies against the CoC’s re-packaged version of baptismal regeneration.
To further prove this point, it’s finally time to go even deeper and re-examine the CoC’s dispensational heresy concerning the penitent thief. This overwhelming task has not been taken on lightly. After much prayer, many sleepless nights and decade’s worth of intense Bible study, it seems to be God’s timing to finally bring the CoC to the plumb line once and for all.
“Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 4:1-2).
So dear reader, you may want to brace yourself for this long, but well-worth-it journey into God’s Word, for He has “laid it on the line” when it comes to the CoC and other cults like it! For His righteousness is being exalted, and self-righteousness is being plummeted, as the plumb line of God’s Word dismantles and overflows the CoC’s hidden things of dishonesty.
“Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place” (Isa. 28:17).
Just to recap: Although the penitent thief was saved in EXACTLY the same way that every sinner has EVER been saved, CoC’s deceptively claim (or at least until they’re exposed) that he was saved without being baptized ONLY because he was still under the Mosaic Dispensation. But God’s Word plainly reveals the EXACT opposite, for the thief died AFTER Jesus.
As I’ve pointed out before, Scripture discloses that the two thieves had their legs broken in order to speed up death, but NOT Jesus, for He had already died (Jn. 19:31-33)! So the thief on the cross was NOT still 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).
And when confronted with the fact that Jesus Himself never water baptized anyone (because His main focus was THE GOSPEL) the CoC makes the excuse that it was because Jesus hadn’t died yet, for they point out that one must be baptized “into His death” (Jn. 4:1-2, Rom. 6:3). At first glance, that may seem plausible, but such a biblically illiterate evasion can hold absolutely no water (pun intended).
For one, the CoC is still cornered by the fact that Jesus died BEFORE the penitent thief on the cross, and yet, the thief was STILL not required to be water baptized symbolically “into His death” before he could be saved! Because a symbol cannot literally effect what it signifies. When one is truly saved they have been baptized by the Spirit, into the body of Christ. Water baptism is a ritual re-enactment of Holy Spirit regeneration (1 Cor. 12:13, Titus 3:5).
These revealed truths are just a few of the reasons why so many CoC’s are floundering to come up with new sophistry. Even to the point that they are entering into ecumenical alliances, for they are losing more and more ground every single day. So whenever their dispensational heresy is biblically and publicly exposed and annihilated, they will then flip-flop all over the place by saying things like…..“Oh, well, we’re not that big on dispensationalism anyway.”
Seriously? No repentance for deceiving the masses for centuries? No confession of sin? No humility or remorse whatsoever? Why?? Because, that’s how cults operate. For instance, the Jehovah’s Witnesses (which sprouted from the same “restoration” movement) continue to pull the same deceptive wool over their follower’s eyes today, rather than humbly repenting of all their failed prophecies and heresies that have ruined so many lives and eternal souls.
So, like their heretical counterparts, when CoC’s are confronted with the truth, they will attempt another route to deceive, by saying something along the lines of…. “Well, Jesus had authority to forgive sins THEN, because He was still on earth. So no one today can be saved like the thief on the cross.” REALLY?!
Does the CoC truly believe that Jesus could ONLY forgive sins while He was physically on earth? Because that would imply that Jesus no longer has the ability and authority to forgive sins today! And that is such a terrible contradiction of Scripture. Jesus is God in the flesh and still has pre-eminence in ALL things, and He is alive forevermore (e.g. Col. 1:18; 1 Jn. 1:9).
Jesus wasn’t incarnate in the Old Testament, and yet, He was STILL forgiving sins even then. Or do CoC’s NOT believe that Jesus is God? Because that is what their doctrine implies. OF COURSE Jesus had the power to forgive sins on earth during His incarnation, and even BEFORE His incarnation, and even BEFORE His actual atonement, and He STILL has the power to forgive sins today, apart from men’s works and their so-called “freewill” authorization.
Because, Jesus’ atonement was timeless. It was a spiritual reality before it even became a physical reality in time. God knows the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10). His eternal existence transcends time, so He is NOT limited by it! Even from everlasting to everlasting, He is God (Ps. 90:2). In eternity past, the Lamb of God was already considered slain, even before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). So the atonement covered the entire realm of time itself (past, present and future).
Therefore, even though Jesus forgave sins before His physical sacrifice occurred, that forgiveness was STILL based on His atoning sacrifice, which was grounded upon the eternal decree of God! And since He is Infinite, He suffered an infinity of time and eternity on that cross, which means there is absolutely no way our feeble finite minds could ever comprehend the torture He went thru for His own. What unimaginable, indescribable LOVE!!!! (Jn. 13:1).
Even in the Old Testament, sins could only be forgiven based on the coming Messiah and what He would actually accomplish on the cross, in fulfillment of the everlasting Covenant. Therefore, Old Testament saints were looking forward to the cross, just as believers today are looking back to the cross, for the forgiveness of sins. Old Testament saints were saved by the God Who gave them the Old Covenant, but they were NOT saved by the Old Covenant!
However, to try to escape the force of Scripture, the CoC will then deceitfully claim that its so-called “terms” of the New Covenant were not enforced until after Jesus’ resurrection and the coming of the Spirit’s outpouring at Pentecost. Hence, the CoC’s obsession with Acts 2:38. However, according to Scripture, Jesus’ blood of the Covenant was “poured out” for the remission of sins… AT THE CROSS!... NOT at Pentecost!! (Lk. 22:19-20, Mt. 26:28, Rom. 11:27, Heb. 9:22)
“Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin” (Heb. 10:18).
Jesus’ blood was no longer being “poured out” for the forgiveness of sins after His resurrection!! Despite the CoC’s dishonest claims, there were absolutely no further “terms” to be fulfilled on “our part” for the remission of sins in order to make His work effectual, for Jesus said, while still on the cross, “It is finished.” Because salvation is NOT about what we do but is about what He has done.
How else could He have been resurrected? For the resurrection itself was PROOF that God the Father had ALREADY accepted His Substitutionary Atonement as “the blood of the everlasting Covenant” (Heb. 13:20). Jesus’ blood had already effectually sealed and fulfilled the terms of the New Covenant, in the realm of time, in order to “save His people from their sins” (Mt. 1:21).
“For this is My covenant unto them, WHEN I shall take away their sins” (Rom. 11:27).
So again, exactly WHEN did this occur in the realm of time? According to Scripture, it occurred at the time of HIS DEATH! (e.g. Heb. 9:26)…. NOT AT PENTECOST!!
How else could the official discharge of the Holy Spirit’s work be ushered into public ministry at Pentecost? For the assignment of the Spirit’s outpouring in Acts was grounded upon the already enforced terms of the Everlasting Covenant of grace, sealed by Jesus’ blood, so that the Spirit could then apply the benefits of those terms to all whom the Lord added to the church (Acts 2:47).
In this sense, all of the Holy Spirit’s operations today are in subordination to what Jesus has already executed/enforced (i.e., John 16:13, Joel 2:11, Acts 2:16). Christ’s ministry to His disciples in the upper room, before His crucifixion (Lk. 22:11-12), and their receiving of the Holy Spirit, after His resurrection (Jn. 20:22), preceded the commencement of the Spirit’s work in the upper room at Pentecost. So they still have a conjoined mission.
Now, dear reader, please prayerfully think this through:
The Old Covenant was established AND enforced on Mt. Sinai by the giving of the Law through Moses. This is perfectly paralleled by the fact that the New Covenant was established AND enforced on Mt. Calvary by the giving of grace through Jesus Christ! The providential parallels are astoundingly undeniable!!
For even MORE evidence, please read the following verses:
“Jesus, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom” (Mt. 27:50-51, Mk. 15:38, Lk. 23:45).
The tearing of the veil, at the moment of Jesus’ death, indicated that His sacrifice was a definite, complete and effectual atonement for sins. It signified that “the Holy of Holies” was open for all of His people, for all time, both Jew and Gentile. They have access through faith into this grace (Rom. 5:2). For Jesus is the object of their faith, because He ALONE (apart from our own works)… is the way through the veil (Ex. 26:31-33, Jn. 14:6, Heb. 6:13-20; 9:1-28).
Jesus’ death inaugurated and ratified the restoration of “all things” (i.e., Mt. 17:11-12; 3:1-15; 20:28; 26:28, Phil. 3:9). And this was confirmed by the fact that the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom, to reveal that the Old Covenant was completely eradicated and no longer in force (Mt. 27:51).
The torn veil revealed permanent and unparalleled access to God the Father through Jesus Christ. All spiritual barriers were immediately REMOVED, and free access by grace was immediately ENFORCED, by the death of Christ. It was a dramatic illustration that the Mosaic Dispensation was completely done away with and that the New Covenant was everlastingly established in its place, so that believers could “have confidence to enter the holy places” by the blood of Jesus, Who is the “new and living way” through the veil, His flesh (Heb. 10:20).
The legal transaction was FINISHED and revealed publicly AT HIS DEATH. Therefore, the CoC’s so-called “terms” of the New Covenant were NOT awaiting “enforcement” at Pentecost, as the CoC so blasphemously claims. Jesus had already “enforced the terms” of the New Covenant AT THE CROSS! And those “terms” did NOT include water baptism for salvation!
The torn veil further reinforced the fact that the “terms” of the New Covenant were immediately in force, and that the “terms” of the Old Covenant were immediately obsolete (Heb. 8:13). It also revealed that God was done with the visible temple and its religious system, for it was left “desolate” and was finished off by the Romans in A.D. 70, just as Jesus prophesied (Lk.13:35; 19:41-44; Mt. 24:15-28).
Through HIS DEATH, Jesus removed all spiritual barriers between God and men (Heb. 4:14-16). Like the old gospel hymn proclaims, “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness”….which is why …. “My anchor holds within the veil.”
“Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil” (Heb. 6:19).
Because the blood that Jesus shed was the blood of the everlasting Covenant! According to Scripture, even Jesus’ resurrection was only possible because it was founded upon the very Covenant that He sealed with His very own blood. For we read the following….
“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting Covenant” (Heb. 13:20-21, underlining mine).
But CoC operatives seem to have a very low reading comprehension when it comes to Scripture. Even when faced with indisputable evidence, they continue their charade when they try to utilize 1 Corinthians 15:17 to prove their false claim that the gospel and their so-called “terms” of the New Covenant didn’t come into force until after Jesus’ resurrection.
Are CoC’s REALLY that clueless? For one, the thief on the cross was NOT required to acknowledge Jesus’ actual resurrection, for it had NOT even occurred yet!! But he was STILL blessed with the benefits of the “new terms” of God’s Covenant of grace, for the “law of Christ” had been written on his heart (Gal. 6:2).
Are CoC’s REALLY willing to dismiss the fact that Jesus Christ and Him crucified is the very HEART of the gospel (1 Cor. 2:2)?? For that’s EXACTLY what their false doctrines entail!
Are CoC’s REALLY willing to be consistent with their false doctrines, which imply that all of the Old Testament saints died in their sins due to Christ not yet being incarnate, sacrificed and resurrected? LET’S HOPE NOT!! Because Jesus’ resurrection actually proved that God had already discharged ALL of the sins that He bore for ALL of His people (past, present and future).
Yet, in order to double down on their false gospel, CoC’s attempt to hide Old Testament pointers to faith in Christ alone, for they PROVE that the thief on the cross was saved in exactly the same way that every sinner has ever been saved, including O.T. saints who were saved by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in the coming Messiah ALONE.
But CoC’s “suppress the truth in unrighteousness,” by trying to explain away the fact that the true gospel was preached long BEFORE Pentecost. For example, New Testament passages, such as Acts 8: 32-35, referred to THE GOSPEL in the Old Testament. Romans 3:29-30 referred to THE GOSPEL in the O.T. Also, Galatians 3:6-8 referred to THE GOSPEL in the O.T. And Hebrews 4:2; 9:15; 10:1-4 referred to THE GOSPEL in the O.T., etc., etc. How much clearer can it be?!
“There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Even in the Old Testament, God’s people were only justified by faith in the coming Messiah. Abel died for his faith in the promised Seed (Gen. 3:15). Old Simeon, the woman at the well and all of God’s people had been faithfully waiting for His arrival (Lk. 2:34, Jn. 4:25). By faith, Abraham seen His day and rejoiced (Jn. 8:56). By faith, Daniel declared the Messiah would be “cut off, but not for Himself” (Dan. 9:26). By faith, Isaiah foreseen the glory of the coming Messiah (Isa. 12:41; 45:22), which was reiterated in John 12:32-41.
In Romans 3:29-30, Apostle Paul made it clear that since there is only one God, there has always been only one way of salvation, and that is by God’s grace, through faith. Paul even confirmed this in Romans 4 where he reveals how Abraham was justified by faith BEFORE the Law was given, and how David was justified by faith AFTER the Law was given.
If only CoC’s could follow Apostle Paul’s example, for he publicly renounced his former Pharisee-ism when he submitted to Christian baptism, which comforted those believers who had been fleeing his previous persecutions until he publicly confirmed his conversion through the ritual that represented it.
Having already been justified by faith alone BEFORE GOD, Paul was then justified BEFORE MEN, when he demonstrated his God-given faith by his works (Jas. 2:17-26).
After that, Paul went forth preaching the gospel of repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus, with absolutely NO mention of water baptism being a part of that gospel (i.e., Acts 20:21, 1 Cor. 15:1-4). Because baptism is NOT a part of gospel preaching! Instead, water baptism is part of the sanctification and discipleship of Jesus’ “called out ones” (the elect, His church, His body, His scattered sheep), who obey the gospel… by coming to Christ through saving faith!!
It cannot be biblically denied that Paul often quoted Old Testament prophets when he spoke of justification by faith (i.e., Acts 17:3, Hab. 2:4, Rom 1:17, Gal. 3:11, Rom. 4:6-8, Joel 2:32, Rom. 10:12-13, 2 Tim. 3:15, 1 Cor. 15:3). Peter even quoted an O.T. prophet in Acts 2:31, who spoke of Christ, the object of that faith whereby one is justified. For Jesus Christ is the main focus of ALL the Scriptures!
“And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Lk.24:27).
Job spoke of his faith in the coming Redeemer (Job 19:25:26). Micah faithfully spoke of Jesus’ birth (Mic. 5:2). In faith, Zechariah spoke of Him when he said a fountain would be opened for sin and uncleanness (Zech. 13:1). In faith, Enoch spoke of Jesus when he prophesied that He was coming with thousands upon thousands of His saints (Jude 14). By faith, Moses chose the reproach of Christ over the riches of Egypt (Heb. 11:26).
All the Old Testament saints drank from the same spiritual Rock, “and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:3-4). For all works of the law pointed forward to Christ, Whom they were to believe in. Even now, the law (which extends to all works) points back to Christ, Whom we are to have faith in. For God’s people have ALWAYS been justified by faith, NOT by works (i.e., Rom. 11:6, Gal. 2:16).
And Jesus severely rebukes any who will refuse to believe what the O.T. prophets spoke concerning Him (Lk. 24-25; 24:44-47, Jn. 5:39). So this puts the CoC and its heretical agents on EXTREMELY dangerous ground, for its false doctrines are an out-and-out denial of what those prophets spoke of!!
Only in Christ Jesus do we have the key of knowledge that unlocks all of the Old Testament types and shadows, which happens to be the very key that all Pharisees, in every generation, have always tried so hard to hide (Lk. 11:51-53).
But despite their dishonest deceptions, Jesus fulfilled all righteousness on behalf of His people (past, present and future), which irrefutably proves that the penitent thief on the cross was saved in EXACTLY the same way that EVERY sinner (past, present and future) has EVER been saved. And that was by saving faith in Jesus Christ alone, not by his own works.
He didn’t have to be told by cult leaders what to “do” to get himself saved (1 Jn. 2:26-27), because his heavenly Father drew him, with cords of love, to Jesus, Who spiritually revealed Himself to the heart and mind of that thief, while the Holy Spirit applied to him all of the blessed benefits of the Covenant of grace, which Jesus procured for him, so that he was able to spiritually apprehend Jesus by faith.
What a beautiful testimony of God’s grace that completely destroys all of the CoC’s damnable heresies! May all glory be to God alone!! For He sets the captives free!!!!
Copyright © 2022 by Lee Anne Ferguson