Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 10, 1954

The Thief On The Cross

Roy Burgess

There are some things very plain and clear about the story of the thief on the cross. There are some thinks we can know for a certainty. Luke says these thieves were "malefactors." Webster defines this word as "criminal; evil doer, culprit; felon."

Placing our Savior between two such men would show how hatred reigned supreme in the hearts of these men. I picture in my mind the Savior's cross as being more outstanding so as to show that he was a worse criminal.

He Asked To Be Remembered

Not like the Philippian Jailor, who asked, "What must I do to be saved," he asked to be remembered. The fact that he mentioned the Kingdom showed that he probably thought Jesus would set up a Kingdom similar to that of David of old. This was the impression the disciples had. They even asked the Lord to restore it (Acts 1:6). John preached it was at hand (Matt. 3:1). Jesus also preached it was at hand (Matt. 4:17). Jesus built it on Pentecost after his resurrection (Mark 9:1; Acts 2:1-4). It is here NOW! (Col. 1:13).

Lord Promised The Thief Would Be With Him

The thief had railed on him, but seemingly now is penitent. The Lord said, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise."

Jesus Died Six Hours Later; Joseph Buried Him

The Son of God from heaven now in a borrowed tomb! He had humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. His work now finished, he was laid hurriedly in the tomb before the "High day" was closed.

Thieves' Legs Were Broken

But when they came to the Lord, he was dead already. A prophecy was fulfilled that a "Bone of him shall not be broken" (Psalms 34:20).

Jesus Did Not Go To Heaven That Day

In John 20:17 Jesus told the women, "Touch me not for I have not yet ascended to my Father." It is evident that the thief did not go to heaven that day for he was to go with Jesus where ever Jesus went. Jesus did rest or was in a state of peace. Since the thief was to be with him that day, and Jesus did not go to heaven that day, then it follows that the thief did not go to heaven. Some say the thief just went to the grave that day as Jesus did. Regardless of his destiny.

It Does Not Make Void God's Command To Be Baptized

The thief died before the commission was given. It was almost forty days after the death of the thief before the command to be baptized in the name of Jesus was given (Mark 16:16; Matt. 28; Acts 1:3).

Holy Ghost Not Yet Given To Guide Apostles

The thief died before the Holy Ghost came upon the Apostles to guide them into all truth (John 16:13-16; Acts 2:1-4). Through the mouths of the apostles the Holy Ghost made known the law of pardon to alien sinners. He told them what they must do to be saved. Regardless of what was told him, this would in no wise make the command to all, given later, void.

New Testament Law Not In Force

Since Jesus had not died, his will was not in force (Heb. 9:16-17) hence, the command to be baptized into the name of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18-20) was not binding on the thief. If Jesus had given the command to him, as he has given this side of the cross, to all responsible beings, he could not be saved without obeying it. Baptism is in the will. Man must do the will (Matt. 7:21; James 1:25).

Words To The Thief No Proof That Baptism Not Necessary

If we admit that the thief was saved (?) though he did not ask for salvation it would not prove that we can be saved without being baptized. Obedience to the Law of the Spirit makes us free now (Rom. 8:1; Rom. 6:17,18; John 8:32). Baptism is a command in the law of the Spirit (Acts 10:48; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21)

Cannot Prove That Thief Not Baptized

In Matthew 3:5-7 John baptized the people of "Jerusalem, Judea, and the region round about Jordan." If we are going to suppose that the thief was never baptized, would not this scripture always haunt us with the realization that perhaps John did baptize him, and he became a backslider. Which is more reasonable to believe, if we must suppose a case? ?

Beloved friend, this case is used more than any other to prove ( ?) that one can be saved without being baptized. It is easier to walk right up and face the facts than quibble about the thief. Jesus commanded baptism, and there is not one single responsible person who can get by God's judgment seat at that final day in safety, without it (1 Peter 3:21; Mark 16:16). While Jesus lived, he could SPEAK the word, and thus impart his blessings. Now he chooses to bless man with salvation, or forgiveness of sins, when man shows his deep faith in him in his willingness to obey his commands (Heb. 5:8,9). Salvation or forgiveness is now IN Christ — in his Spiritual body (2 Tim. 2:10; Eph. 1:7) and the only way to get INTO CHRIST is to be baptized after believing and repenting of sins (Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3; 1 Cor. 12,13). When one gladly receives the Word, as the people on Pentecost did (Acts 2) that one will be baptized, and he will not argue and quibble over the thief about it. The man who says you can be saved without being baptized is the greatest enemy your soul can ever know. He is blind (2 Cor. 4:4) and the god of this world will cause him to blind you if it is possible.

Better Read And Heed The Truth

Search the New Testament, and see if it is necessary to be baptized. Read the twenty-eight chapters in Acts and see for yourself. If you read prayerfully, you will find people hearing, believing, repenting, confessing Jesus, and being baptized! All this was required in order to be saved. Don't just read a verse that says believe, and think that is all. Read every case of conversion, and find everything that was required. Let no man deceive you: Open the Book!!


There are two roads. One leads to heaven and the other to hell (Matt. 7:13-14). On which road is baptism? If on the road to heaven, can one get to heaven without going the road?