There are many who argue that the “sinner crucified beside Jesus” was saved without being Baptised in/with water and/or born of the Spirit. There is of course NO SCRIPTURE to support that claim. However there are many indications given and other facts that do support the contrary. My endeavour here is to establish that there is every likelihood that the sinner in question had already been Baptised in water and was already a believer in Jesus Christ and His doctrines.
Let us firstly establish a few facts (within the limitations of what we are told/read).
1. Both John (the Baptist) and Jesus were conceived by the will of God by the Holy Ghost. Two miraculous conceptions, John to an elderly woman considered way past her child bearing years (Elizabeth wife of Zechariah) and Jesus to the Virgin Mary who was Betrothed to Joseph. Both were SENT by God, but for different purposes. One was to Baptise with water unto Repentance and the other to deliver His Word to His People with the Spirit of Truth, baptising those who Believe with the Spirit of God for the forgiveness of sins with the sacrifice of His own Blood sealing the New Covenant.
2. It is said that the Ministry of Jesus Christ lasted three years and 6 months (3.5 years) from Jesus’ baptism by John (the Baptist) unto His crucifixion.
3. Jesus was born 6 months after John (the Baptist).
4. It was not allowed for someone to become a Priest until they were thirty years old (30 years old), so Jesus (being blameless) would have observed this Law and gone to the river Jordan to be Baptised by John (the Baptist) not before turning 30 years old.
Now some may well be wondering what those 4 points listed above have to do with the sinner on the cross? A short answer would be a VERY GREAT DEAL.
Unlike the justice system(s) of nowadays where one can drag-out execution of an original conviction with appeal after appeal after appeal, the justice back in the days when Jesus walked upon the Earth was swift and rights of appeal a rarity (Jesus’ and Paul’s treatment were exceptions and not the rule). Jesus was taken into custody because of a betrayal and conspiracy and was repeatedly acquitted of any wrong-doing (found not worthy of death) and was only condemned to death because it was the will of the Scribes and Pharisees (not Pilate nor Herod). Paul was not able to be judged under the Law (Jewish Laws) as he claimed to be born a Roman and was sent incarcerated to be judged in Rome. With this in mind and given that John (the Baptist) had been Baptising in the river Jordan for maybe 6 months before he Baptised Jesus and that Jesus had been Preaching the Gospel for 3 years and 6 months before being condemned to be crucified, then there was a period of no less than 4 years (3.5 years + 0.5 years = 4 years) wherein the sinner could have been Baptised prior to his conviction and sentencing carried-out with his subsequent crucifixion along-side Jesus. Furthermore there were 3 years and 6 months when the sinner could have heard about the Gospel of Jesus and believed on Him. To say that the sinner had not been Baptised in water or heard about the Gospel of Jesus prior to his crucifixion would require one to believe that the sinner (thief) had been held in captivity and incarcerated for 4 years prior to his sentence being carried-out. Given the swiftness of punishment befitting the crime in those days, being held-over for punishment for 4 or more years is not only PREPOSTEROUS, it was just downright UNHEARD-OF.
Yes, the same could also be said about the other (unrepentant) sinner as those circumstances would also be true for him as well.
So here we have 3 condemned men being crucified, the first is a thief that refuses to accept his punishment, is unrepentant and would escape death by any means possible (even a miracle). The second also a thief who is self-confessed as being worthy of death for his crime (repentant) and accepting of his fate and who feared God, who spoke out against the unrepentant sinner and acknowledged Jesus as the Lord and asked Jesus “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy Kingdom”. The third was the Son of the Living God, who was condemned to death without a cause and accepted his punishment without complaint, secure in the foreknowledge and Faith therein that it was for that purpose to which he was born into the world.
Now in the entire chapter of Luke 23 it never mentions that either of the thieves were not Jews, so it can be safely assumed that they were Jews because no distinction was made about them. Also given the period of 4 years mentioned above, the thieves had plenty of time prior to their incarceration and subsequent crucifixion, to receive the Jewish right of Baptism in water unto repentance (thereby becoming a Disciple of John the Baptist). Part of John the Baptist’s mission to Baptise God’s People (the Jews) was to inform those he Baptised to seek Jesus who would Baptise them with the Holy Ghost and believe on Him for the remission of their sins. Finally, during that whole chapter never at any stage did anyone (not even Jesus) teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ or the Kingdom of God or indeed Life after death to either of the thieves.
What we know for certain about the second thief are these facts:
1. He was almost certainly a Jew as he was condemned under the Jewish Law.
2. He was absolutely repentant of his crime and had ample time prior to crucifixion to have confessed and been Baptised unto repentance (water Baptism) prior to his incarceration.
3. He had a thorough foreknowledge of the Kingdom of God, life after death and also knew that it was the Lord Jesus who was beside him being crucified also.
4. He vehemently defended Jesus’ inaction of not interceding and saving them from their punishment.
5. He had confessed Jesus as his Lord when he addressed Jesus as such.
Given the 5 points I have highlighted above, there is in fact every reason to believe that the second thief was actually a Disciple of Jesus’. Remember the only thing Jesus said to the second thief was to reassure him that he was not going to perish that day. And maybe the reason for that was because the second thief had already met all that was required to be saved and that Luke who recorded the exchange between Jesus and the second thief was merely unaware of it and hence failed to mention it.
Finally, I think I have highlighted that there is sufficient reasonable doubt that nobody can conclusively say that the second thief was saved without being Baptised in water, let alone believed the Word of Truth and declared Jesus as his Lord. YES The second thief was not Baptised when he was on the cross, BUT that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t Baptised and a Believer prior to being crucified.
God Bless you all, your Brother in Christ Jesus,
Christopher John Petersen (Ad finem fidelis)
© by Christopher John Petersen