Saved as the Thief on the Cross, But Not Like Him
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” “Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, Because He always lives to intercede for them.” (Hebrews 7:25) The greatest news in the world is that Jesus came to save sinners (Luke 19:10)-sinners like you and me.
The thieves who were crucified with Jesus were probably violent, ruthless bandits or insurrectionists (λῃστής). One recognized his guilt (Luke 23:39-43), confessed his sins to Jesus and asked for mercy when he begged, “Remember me in Your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42). Although Jesus was struggling with His suffering, writhing in His pain, shedding His blood and dealing with His death He promised the thief, “Today you will be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43).
Grace, how sweet and incredible it is! Imagine how it must have felt to have that assurance of salvation while hanging on the cross knowing that once physical life ended eternal life would begin in paradise with the Son of God. Sweet mercy and amazing grace as this thief felt a sense of confidence, security, and peace he had never felt before.
You can have the same confidence, the same peace, and the same security as the thief as if Jesus had personally said to you, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” John said that these things have been written: “so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13) “And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” (1 John 5:11) Today you can be just as saved-to the same degree-as the thief on the cross. But, how can this be accomplished?
You must obey the words of Christ. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:27-28) We must follow Jesus to receive eternal life. We can feel secure of our salvation by keeping His commands. “By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” (1 John 2:5-6) God’s grace saves us, and we come to know His saving grace through faithful obedience to His word; “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36)
Nowhere does God expect you to be perfect, nor does He expect it; He asks that you give Him your best. The point is that you cannot purposely sin and have any hope of salvation. That’s exactly what Paul argued in Romans 6:1-2; “What shall we say then? Shall we keep on sinning so that God can keep on showing us more and more grace and forgiveness? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” God wants us to give Him our best by giving Him our hearts. (Mark 12:30)
But, what about the thief on the cross? Some ask, “Why can’t I be saved like the thief on the cross?” The simple answer is, “Because you can’t. You can’t be saved like the thief just like you can’t be saved like Moses, Elijah and Moses-they all lived under a different law than we do today.
While Jesus was alive He saved and forgave sins because He has all authority (Mark 2:10). However, when Jesus died and ascended into heaven, His last will and testament became the way He offers salvation to mankind (Hebrews 9:13-17). And how Jesus today has decided to forgive sins is through obedience, beginning with repentance and baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21).
You can’t be saved like the thief on the cross because he lived under a different law. Jesus’ law was not yet in effect (Col. 2:14). If you want to be saved like the thief on the cross, you will be rebelling against Jesus’ last will and testament, and you will end up damned like the other thief.
The only way to be saved is by obeying the Gospel through faith in Christ, repentance of sins, confession that Christ is the Son of God and baptism for the forgives of sins (Mat. 28:18-20; Acts 2:38; 8:35-39; 9:17-18; 22:6-14; 10:34-38).
You can be just as saved like the thief on the cross, but not saved like the thief. You must obey in order to be saved (John 3:36).