What About the Thief on the Cross?

Three Crosses

When talking to others from various denominations about the subject of salvation, we can see that man has many different ideas as to how one is saved. Some will tell you that in order to be saved, you just need to receive Jesus into your heart and accept Him as your personal Savior. Some will say you need to pray the “sinner’s prayer” and ask God to forgive you of your sins. Others will tell you that as long as you believe in God, then that is all that is necessary to receive salvation. Usually no passage is cited to prove their assertion. When one is, it has been taken out of context and misapplied. When we study the New Testament, we see one consistent message showing what man must do in order to be saved. We must believe in Christ, repent of our sins, be baptized in water, and live faithfully in service to God from that point forward (John 8:24; Mark 16:16; Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21; Revelation 2:10).

When pointing out these things to others, a question will often come up – “What about the thief on the cross?” Notice what Luke recorded:
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Baptism – A Requirement of God or Man?

Baptism

Recently on the radio I heard a Baptist preacher talking about legalism – the binding of man’s requirements instead of, or in addition to, God’s requirements. We are warned in the New Testament not to do this. Jesus told His apostles they were to bind things that had already been bound in heaven (Matthew 16:19). They were not at liberty to bind anything else. On the other hand, He also commanded them to teach those who obeyed the gospel to “observe all that [He] commanded” (Matthew 28:20). So those who teach are to instruct others of their responsibility to do everything required of them in God’s word. But they go too far and become guilty of legalism when they place additional requirements on others that are not required by our Lord.
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Great Plainness of Speech

2 Corinthians 3:12

Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech” (2 Corinthians 3:12, KJV).

Paul told the Corinthians that he deliberately made his words and his message clear and understandable in his work as a minister of the new covenant (2 Corinthians 3:6). The new covenant Paul referred to is the gospel. He used “great plainness” as he preached. Why use such plainness? It is because of the hope we have under the new covenant. Those who obey the gospel have the hope of heaven because of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. But why is “great plainness” necessary in preaching the gospel? Let us notice a few reasons.
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