The thief on the cross
When Jesus was led to the cross, there were also two other criminals led with Him to be put to death. And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left.
“Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us. But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:39-42).
Both Matthew and Mark state that the two thieves did revile Jesus. Yet, when one thief saw what was done to Jesus and all the mocking charged at him and how Jesus responded (Luke 23:34; John 19:26), that thief under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, understood that Jesus was truly the Son of God. Then, he repented, believed in Jesus Christ, and confessed his new faith (Luke 23:41-43; Romans 10:9).
No chance to get baptized
Although the thief on the cross repented and believed, he did not have the chance to mend his ways, restore what he had stolen (as the Lord specifically directs in Ezekiel 33:15), nor get baptized. Had he the chance to do so, he would have certainly did that which is right and fixed his ways before God and man and got baptized. This is the only example in the Bible of an exception to the rule.
God holds us accountable for what we can do, but He also recognizes the limitations of the flesh. “For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Psalms 103:14). God will not require a physical impossibility. And because of the thief’s faith, the Lord Jesus gave him the promise you will “be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). In fact, it was Jesus’ presence on the cross that made such a hope possible.
Why is baptism necessary for salvation?
Jesus also said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” To be “born of the Spirit” clearly refers to conversion. Conversion is the powerful inward change, and baptism is the outward physical sign that the change has taken place. Christ repeated the two conditions for salvation on another occasion, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).
How does baptism play into salvation?
To be “born of water and of the Spirit” is equivalent to being “born again,” that is, “from above” (John 3:3). Those who are born from above have God as their Father and resemble Him in character (1 John 3:1–3; John 8:39, 44). Henceforth, they aspire, by the grace of Christ, to live above sin (Romans 6:12–16) and do not yield their wills to commit sin (1 John 3:9; 5:18). So, a person must believe in Jesus as his personal savior from sin and this faith will bring the fruits of obedience to God’s Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). Just as baptism alone is not enough for salvation, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).
In His service,