This will almost always come up at some point in a discussion on the necessity of baptism. Many times it gets thrown in after several passages have been cited to establish the biblical teaching on baptism. In the face of the multiplicity of passages that establish the necessity of baptism, the opponent will say something like, “well, the thief on the cross wasn’t baptized!”
The most a person can do in regards to whether the thief was baptized or not is to speculate. That is, to say whether
he was or he wasn’t baptized is pure speculation! I don’t know about you, but the condition of my immortal soul is too important to me to leave up to speculation. But, if we are going to speculate about whether the thief was baptized
or not, we should at least try to provide some evidence for our speculation.
My personal opinion on the thief is that he had been baptized. Now, let me provide some evidence for my speculation on this point. First, the thief lived at a time when John was baptizing so many people that it was said, “all Judea” was being baptized (Mark 1:5). When Jesus began His ministry it says that He baptized even more than John did (John 3:22, 26; 4:1, 2). So, there were a lot of people being baptized! Second, John and Jesus were both preaching a baptism of repentance (Luke 3:3; Matt. 3:8; 4:17). The thief may have been on the cross because of his repentance! Third, the thief knew Jesus was innocent (Luke 23:41). How could he have known that unless he already knew who Jesus was? Fourth, he addressed Jesus as a disciple would, calling Him Lord (Luke 23:42). Fifth, he asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His
kingdom (Luke 23:42). How would the thief know anything about a kingdom unless he already knew who Jesus was?
Why would he expect that Jesus would be able to remember him at all, considering that Jesus was dying on the cross?
It is very obvious, from what the thief said, that he already knew Jesus before the scene on the cross! Now, where is
your evidence that he was not baptized?
Ultimately, though, the entire question is irrelevant. Jesus had power on earth to forgive sins (Matt. 9:6). The thief lived and died under the Law of Moses, before the Great Commission was given (Matt. 28:18-20), before the church was established (Acts 2:38, 41, 47). Jesus was physically present with the thief to tell him personally that he would be with Him in paradise (Luke 23:43). You’re not hanging on a cross next to Jesus, you’re living in the world after Jesus has ascended back to haven. You can’t do what the thief did physically hanging on a cross next to Jesus! You must do
what Jesus said before He departed this world (Mark 16:16). You must be baptized into Christ for the remission of your sins! (Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3, 4; Gal. 3:26, 27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
Richard Bow says
You make a great point that it was completely unnecessary for the thief to be baptized because he lived and died under the Old Dispensation; and also that the Great Commission and Pentecost were still days and weeks away respectively.
And yet, much, much earlier (in fact John the Baptist was still alive) in John 3:5-6 we see that Nicodemus’ New Birth (Regeneration) must result from being born of “water and the spirit”. You claim water and the spirit references physical water baptism; and yet water baptism for the remissions of sin (according to your teaching) was not established until after the Lord’s resurrection in Act 2:38. We cannot it both ways – we cannot have water baptism established in two places and two different times.
Also, in the Verse 10, Jesus is surprised that Nicodemus is without understanding of Verse 9, i.e. “How can these things be?” So what exactly should Nicodemus have understood given that Jesus referred to him as “the teacher of Israel.” If Nicodemus missed something where exactly would it be located if not in the Old Testament. Was the New Birth and Regeneration referenced in the OT. Clearly it was.
New King James Version
25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a “New Heart” and put a “New Spirit” within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them…..
This is the Definitive Picture of the New Birth apart from your physical water in John 3. Why have you never known that Regeneration was, and is pictured in the OT; and that John 3 is about Regeneration; not a meager reference to a physical element?
New King James Version
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind (spirit) blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So it is EVERYONE who is born of the Spirit.”
Glad I could help out – I hope you recieve it graciously.