The Thief on the Cross
39"One of the criminals who were hanged [there] was hurling abuse at Him, saying, "Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!" 40But the other answered, and rebuking him said, "Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41"And we indeed [are suffering] justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." 42And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" 43And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."
Those who believe that baptism isn’t necessary claim that Jesus saved the thief on the cross, thereby expecting this argument to be proof that baptism isn’t necessary for salvation. This is a very shallow argument for three reasons -
1. Christ had not risen from the dead yet, so the thief couldn’t experience grace. The New Covenant salvation was not given until 52-53 days later. The thief was under Old Testament Law, as the Apostles also were.
2. Although it is commonly supposed, there is no proof that the thief had a last minute conversion experience on the cross. He could have lived a righteous life as a prisoner on death row. We currently don’t know the details without a deeper study into Roman judicial traditions.
3. Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Paradise is commonly believed to be where Jesus went to preach the gospel to the waiting righteous souls of the Old Testament. Although the “paradise” argument is a study of its own as to where and how this place exists or existed, it is commonly embraced by many Christians.