The Thief on The Cross 

"The Thief on the Cross is not an example of how man is saved today. "

The thief lived under the old law.  Under the old law, the command to be born again was not yet valid.  Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:5 Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. The answer as to how one is “born of the water and of the Spirit” is seen in Rom. 6:4, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life”.  Notice, the “newness of life” is after one is raised out of the waters of baptism. One is not “born again” before the “newness of life”. Since the New Testament was not yet in force, neither Nicodemus nor the Thief were amenable to this teaching. The gospels are not the beginning of the New Testament in a technical since. Jesus was still alive and a testament is not in force while the testator lives.  Heb. 9:16 “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. The gospels are that time period of preparing, i.e., getting people ready for the new covenant or testament when it becomes valid, just as John the Baptist prepared the people for the coming Messiah.   

  The thief was not subject to the great commission. When Jesus commissioned the apostles to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” Mark 16:15,16, the thief had already died, therefore, it didn’t pertain to him.  How the thief was saved was not relevant at all to the preaching of the first gospel sermon by Peter and the rest of the apostles on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.  It is neither relevant today. What is relevant since Pentecost when the apostles preached that first sermon, is the teachings of the New Testament; and all men are answerable to it.   

Therefore, to use the thief on the cross as an example of how one is saved today without having to be baptized, illustrates a misunderstanding of the two covenants. Finally, let us all heed the words of the apostle Paul as he wrote to Timothy. “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” II Tim. 2:15.
  ----Butch Ellis