Just As Saved (But Not Like) The Thief On The Cross
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” The precious blood of Jesus is so powerful that even a sinner like me can be saved. Sweet, incredible grace!
The greatest news in the world is this: Jesus came to save sinners (Luke 19:10). Even a sinner like you – with all that baggage and feelings of regret – can be saved. In the words the Hebrew writer, “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him” (Hebrews 7:25). I would give anything for that.
We don’t exactly know what crime the thief hanging next to Jesus had committed. The Bible just calls him a “robber” or “criminal” (Luke 23:39-43). Whatever it was, he knew he was guilty (Luke 23:41). But he confessed his sins to Jesus, after which Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
Sweet, incredible grace! Imagine how that thief must have felt when he heard those words. Think about the assurance he must have felt. Hanging there on that cross, abused and in utter physical agony, he felt a sense of peace and security he had never felt before.
Don’t you want to feel that confidence in your salvation, as if Jesus had personally told you, “Today you will be with me in Paradise”?
Totally Secure In Your Salvation
The apostle John says that it is possible to “know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). We can be absolutely sure that “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11). You can have just as much confidence in your salvation as you would if Jesus personally looked at you and said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” You can be just as saved (to the same degree) as the thief on the cross.
How can you get that security?
You must be obey the words of Christ. Jesus says,
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).
He’s talking about you, Christian! When we follow Christ, we receive eternal life. And how can we feel secure in His grace? By knowing we are keeping His commands. “By this we may know that we are in Him: whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked” (1 John 2:5-6). Sweet, incredible grace!
God’s grace saves us, and we come to know His saving grace through our faithful obedience (Eph. 2:8; cf. John 3:36). By His grace he has offered salvation to “all people” (Titus 2:11), and we in turn “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:12).
God doesn’t ask for perfection; He just asks for your best.
You cannot purposefully sin and have any hope of salvation. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2). Nonetheless, God doesn’t ask us to be perfect; He simply wants us to give Him our best by serving Him from the heart (Mark 12:30).
John says it this way:
But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
We must “walk in the light.” In other words, we must continually try to obey Jesus faithfully. When I follow Him (however imperfectly), I have the absolute confidence that “Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Sweet, incredible grace!
Saved, But Not Like The Thief On The Cross
It is common to hear some well meaning soul say, “I just want to be saved like the thief on the cross.” The only problem is: you can’t.
No one today can be saved like (in the same manner as) the thief on the cross.
You can’t be saved like the thief on the cross, just as you can’t be saved like Elijah and Moses.
There is no doubt that that the thief on the cross was saved, just as there is no doubt that Elijah and Moses were saved (cf. Matt. 17:3-5). But the thief, Elijah, and Moses lived under a different law than anyone today.
Let me explain: As long as you are living and breathing, you can do whatever you want with your money and possessions. Likewise, Jesus, while on earth, had the authority to forgive sins whenever he wanted (Mark 2:10). However, when you die, your last will and testament will determine what happens to your money and possessions. In the same manner, after Jesus died and ascended into heaven, His last will and testament became the way in which He offers people forgiveness of sins (Heb. 9:13-17). And the way in which Jesus today has decided to forgive sin is through obedience, starting with repentance and baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21; etc.).
You can’t be saved like the thief on the cross because the thief lived under a different law. Jesus’ last will and testament was not yet in effect. The law the thief was under when Jesus pronounced him saved was the very law Jesus was nailing to the cross (Col. 2:14).
Here’s the irony: If you try to be saved like the thief on the cross, you will be rebelling against the last will and testament of Jesus, and you’ll end up eternally damned like the other thief!
We are saved by following Jesus. And you can’t follow Jesus without first repenting of your sins and being baptized for the forgiveness of your sins (Mark 28:18-20). Today, you must be saved like the crowd on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38), the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:35-39), Saul (Acts 9:17-18; 22:6-14; 26:12-18), Cornelius (Acts 10:34-38), the jailer (Acts 16:25-34), Lydia (Acts 16:15), and John’s disciples (Acts 19:1-7).
You can be just as saved as the thief on the cross, but you can’t be saved like the thief on the cross. Belief in Christ must translate into obedience to Christ (John 3:36). Have you been baptized for the forgiveness of your sins?
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