Many people, in an effort to prove a person can be saved from his sins without being baptized, go to the penitent thief on the cross as an example. Oh, without a doubt, the thief was saved. When the thief said to Jesus, “Remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom,” “Jesus replied, “Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” There’s no question the thief was saved. But to say we can be saved from our sins without being baptized because the thief was saved without being baptized is incorrect for several reasons. First, it is a mere assumption to say the thief had never been baptized. He may have very well previously been baptized with the baptism of John, a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins – Mark 1:4. I am NOT saying the thief was baptized. I am simply saying WE DON’T KNOW. The Bible doesn’t say. To say the thief had never been baptized is an assumption – it cannot be said with absolute certainty.
Second, Jesus, while on earth, could have forgiven sins as he wished. He could have simply spoken them forgiven. Jesus healing the paralytic in Mark 2:1-12 is just one example. Today, since Christ has died, risen and ascended to heaven, we receive forgiveness of our sins according to the conditions of Christ’s will. See Hebrews 9:15-17.
Third, the thief died while the old law, the law of Moses, was still in effect. Because Jesus had not yet been resurrected when the thief died, the gospel had not yet become a reality. Today, we are obligated to follow the new law, the law of Christ. Matthew 26:28 along with Hebrews 8:6-7.
The New Testament of Christ, the gospel of Christ, teaches us that, in order to be forgiven of our sins, we must hear and believe the gospel of Christ (Mark 16:15-16), we must repent of our sins (Acts 17:30), we must confess our faith in Christ as our savior (Romans 10:9-10) and we must then be baptized in order to be forgiven of our sins (Acts 2:38 along with I Peter 3:21). If you have not already done that, I plead with you to do so today.