Our present subject is the “Salvation of the Thief” on the cross—provided he was saved. Was the thief saved? If not, why not? If he was saved, why can not we be saved like him?
Grant the thief was saved, which I do not believe, as I have no testimony concerning his salvation yet I shall show that if he was saved. We have two promises of going to heaven without dying where we have one of being saved like the thief.
With all the characters in the Old Bible who were saved, including Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Job, Moses, and David, not one stands out so prominent in the sectarian plan of salvation as the thief. In all their meetings they mention the dying thief on the cross ten times to where they mention Abraham or Joseph once.
Some good people think they believe the Bible, and will sing: “Where he leads me I will follow all the way.” They start with Jesus in Capernaum, his home, and will follow him sixty miles down the Jordan river, singing as they go, “Where he leads me I will follow all the way,” until they get to the Jordan, and when they see Jesus going down into the water with John the Baptist, they will forsake Jesus, and run back up the bank after the thief. Then they sing:“The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day, and there may I, though vile as he wash all my sins away.”
Notwithstanding the Bible tells us that when the side of Jesus was pierced there came out blood and water (John 19:34), and notwithstanding Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5); notwithstanding the God of heaven said of Jesus that he came by water and by blood (1 John 5:6); and notwithstanding God says there are three that bear witness on the earth: the Spirit, the water and the blood (1 John 5:8), still the religious world continues to argue, “Lord, we will forsake you when you say you came by water, for we will follow the thief who went to heaven above high-water mark, rather than to follow you who had to go down into the river and be baptized of John to fulfill all righteousness
Why it is that many good people suffer of religious hydrophobia, and fear water, and would rather follow the thief than the Son of God is hard for me to understand.
In examining the salvation of the thief, I beg to call attention to the diagram. You will notice three different religious ages. The way in which people worship God in one age oft the world is not accepted in another age. During the first 2,500 years of time people worshiped God under the patriarchal age. Each man, as Job, Jacob or Noah, built an altar and offered up animal sacrifice, and God accepted their worship.
After this time we come to the Mosaical age under which people worshiped God through the Levitical priesthood. Instead of each father offering sacrifice for his family wherever he pleased, all the Jews must go to Jerusalem three times a year, and God accepted their sacrifice only through the tribe of Levi. This age of religious worship continued until the death of Christ.
Christ referred to John and said that he was the greatest born of woman, but the least in the kingdom of God was greater than John the Baptist. How was it possible f or John the Baptist to be the greatest born of women, and at the same time the least in Christ’s kingdom be greater than he? I can illustrate that by school work. A graded school may teach from the first to the tenth grade. We are discussing the seventh grade work. I pick out a boy and say he is the greatest boy in the seventh grade, but the least in the eighth grade is greater, or brighter than he. This you can understand as you know the lowest study in the eighth grade is higher than the highest study in the seventh grade. “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). The kingdom of grace would be as far above the law of Moses as the eighth grade is above the seventh grade. So the Son of God could well say that John the Baptist, in the seventh grade or under the law of Moses was the greatest prophet among men, but the least in the eighth grade, in the kingdom of grace, would be greater than he.
One says, “What does that have to do with the salvation of the thief?” If baptism is essential to salvation as taught by Jesus in Mark 16:16, why was not the thief baptized? The reason is that the thief was dead and buried forty days before any man on earth was commanded to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Forty days after the thief died Jesus gave the commission to go to all the world and teach “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” The apostles waited ten days at Jerusalem before they began to preach that doctrine.
But this is not all. The religious world can hardly see where it will force them to go when they rub out baptism in order to save the thief who lived and died under the law of Moses, or an abrogated law. We can take up a citizen of Germany, Cuba, or Old Mexico, and find them doing things which would not violate the laws of their governments, yet the same things done here would violate the laws of our country. It would be a poor lawyer who would argue that things allowed in their governments would be allowed here. Likewise is it a poor preacher who argues that because the thief was saved under the government that did not have the great commission we can be saved who will not obey the commission under Christ.
The religious zeal of many to do away with baptism for the remission of sins as taught by the Holy Ghost in Acts 2:38, may force them into greater troubles than they imagine.
I talk to men who say, “I want to he saves like the thief. He was saved without baptism, therefore I want to be saved without it.” We want to be liberal in our teaching, so we grant the request and rub out baptism. But this is not all. Moses said in the eighteenth chapter of Deuteronomy, that God would raise a prophet like Moses and we must hear that prophet in all things. For 4,000 years no man was required to hear that prophet. Even the thief died before Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection (Rom. 1:4). As the thief died under the law of Moses where people had to hear him instead of Christ, and as many people desire to be saved like the thief was saved that will force us to rub out hearing Christ and go back to hear Moses. But, in order to my salvation I must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Acts 8:38). For 4,000 years no man was required to believe that Christ was the Son of God. While Christ was on earth he said to the Jews, “You believe in God, believe also in me.” This shows they had not previously believed in Christ. But some claim they want to be saved like the thief who went to heaven without being baptized. But as the thief was saved under the old law where did they not have to believe in Christ it forces you to rub out the doctrine of faith in Christ. But it does not stop here. Jesus said we must preach repentance in his name, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47-49). But as the thief died 50 days before Peter told them to repent in the name of Christ for remission of sins (Acts 2:37), it then forces you to give up the doctrine of repentance in the name of Christ. But Jesus required us to confess him before men (Matt. 10:32). The eunuch confessed him (Acts 8:37). Paul says this was done with the mouth unto salvation (Rom. 10:8-10). But under the law of Moses they confessed their sins (Mark 1:5) .
So when a man forsakes Christ and follows the thief for salvation it forces him to give up every command the Son of God has bound upon us as essential to salvation. He leaves the gospel and goes back under the law, and Paul says such a character has fallen from grace (Gal. 5:4).
But after all, how do you know the thief was saved? Paul says, He that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption (Gal. 6:8). The thief had sown to his flesh and was put to death for his crime.
One says, “Did not Christ tell the thief that he should be with him in paradise that day?” (Luke 23:43). This was literally fulfilled; but three days after Christ went to paradise where the thief went with him he came out of paradise, and when the woman wanted to touch Him, Christ said, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father” (John 20:17). If God is in heaven, and Jesus did not go to God while in paradise, nor for forty days after he came out of paradise may you not be mistaken after all about the salvation of the thief.
But here is the argument: The thief went to heaven without being baptized. Therefore I can go to heaven without being baptized.
Enoch went to heaven without dying. Therefore I can go to heaven without dying.
Elijah was translated and went to heaven without dying. Therefore I can be translated and go to heaven without dying.
Each of the arguments is as strong as can be made on the thief, and all are unscriptural, sophistry and untrue.
Then let’s abolish the devil’s doctrine of following the thief for salvation, and let us accept the Lord who said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”