How is it that we are so easily trapped by assumptions? I have read a few attempts at an answer to those who deny the need for immersion (baptism) for salvation by appealing to the thief on the cross who asked Christ to remember him (Luke 23: 33-43). The usual answers come about half of the way and stop. Maybe we have just been too programmed by certain assumptions to be able to connect all the dots, but I wish to offer a more thorough approach. This is a logic problem.
What has become known as “faith only” teaching denies the need for immersion (Note 1) often by falsely assuming that the thief on the cross had not been baptized before Jesus died on the cross. This assumption cannot hold up when we rightly lay out the truth of the word of God (2 Tim 2:15; Note 2).
“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
4 And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,
6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins” (KJV)
“Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about” seems to include a great many if not mostly all of the people in the land of Judea and the area of the Jordan river. These verses indicate that the people were repenting and confessing their sins and being immersed under John’s baptism. This is confirmed by Mark 1:5:
“And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.” (KJV)
Christ was immersed by John (Matt. 3:13). Christ commanded and taught immersion to be saved, which was done before He was crucified.
“After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.” (John 3:22, KJV)
“And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.” (John 3:26, KJV)
“When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, 2 (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)“ (John 4:1-2, KJV)
The people were being prepared for the kingdom and were being called by both John and Christ to be immersed for forgiveness of sins. This period of time before the crucifixion introduced salvation through immersion for forgiveness of sins, and the record states that those of Jerusalem, and all of Judea, and all the region around the Jordan were being immersed.
It is not only possible, but it is highly probable that the thief on the cross had been immersed for forgiveness of sins.
The only ones who resisted and who were not being immersed were those who did not believe: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the lawyers – the dispensers and cutters of the Law.
“ But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.” (Luke 7:30, KJV)
The thief on the cross believed Christ was the Son of God (YHVH).
“ 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43, KJV)
The malefactor / robber who rebuked the other for railing against Christ believed Christ’s teaching of the kingdom, the very kingdom that both John and Christ had said was “at hand” (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15). The thief knew the kingdom was coming, which means he had to have previously heard either John or Christ or one of the disciples teach about the kingdom of God.
The better stand to take is that not only did the thief on the cross believe Christ was the Son of God, not only did he believe in the kingdom which Christ had said was shortly to come, but that he had indeed been convinced of the need of forgiveness of sins, and had repented and been immersed.
There is much more cause to believe the thief had been immersed / baptized than not.
So, the thief was crucified as a malefactor, a sinner under Roman law. Do we then assume that because he had been convicted of a crime under Roman law that he had not been forgiven of his sins by God?
The Romans used crucifixion for many reasons, but by the time of Christ’s crucifixion it was mostly for political insurgents; those who disrupted the state, opposed Caesar, and were instigating violent rebellions. Pilate’s instructions for Jesus’ cross was the label “king of the Jews”. This was to distinguish a supposed ruler who was not ordained or recognized by Caesar. (3) (4)
The very question Pilate asked Jesus was if He was king of the Jews (Matt. 27:11). Pilate was trying to determine if Jesus was guilty under Roman law of sedition and rebellion against Caesar.
Caiaphas and the rest of the council (Sanhedrin) had conspired to use the Romans to carry out a death sentence they were afraid to do themselves (Luke 22:2; 23:3). The normal Jewish practice for blasphemy was stoning to death. They cooked up the cause of sedition against Caesar to be able to bring Jesus under a Roman death sentence because they feared the people.
“And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King.” (Luke 23:1-2, KJV)
John 30:31-32 brings in the method of the death sentence the Jews wanted for Christ, and which had been foretold (Psa. 22:16; Zech 12:10; Isa 49:16). If a death by their hands had been carried out, they would have stoned him. Instead they wanted a cause and a reason to shift the blame for His death from themselves to the Romans, and for that they needed a sufficient cause for crucifixion – sedition. Christ was claiming to be a King, and Rome would and did view that as rebellion against Caesar.
Then why do we assume the thief on the cross was simply guilty of stealing an apple, or something similar which would more likely have resulted in having his hand cut off?
We are not told of which crime the thief was guilty. The scriptures do not clarify exactly why he was there on a cross beside Jesus. But, they do say enough for us to know that he believed Christ was the Son of God. As he asked to be remembered, Christ forgave him.
Do we also assume that because the thief was on that cross, he therefore was a sinner who had not repented, and had not yet been immersed; because we all know that those who have been immersed no longer sin? Should I say LOL, that is to laugh?
We know that Christ forgave his sins because of Christ’s statement,
“… Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43, KJV)
Summarizing what we actually can know from the scriptures:
- The scriptures say that all of Judea, Jerusalem, and the region around the Jordan were being immersed for forgiveness of sins.
- Both John and Christ through His disciples preached and practiced immersion for forgiveness of sins.
- The thief on the cross believed Christ, and asked to be remembered.
- Paradise, that is Abraham’s bosom was that part of the Hadean realm for those who were saved (Luke 16:19-31) (5)
- Christ told the thief that he would be with Christ in Paradise that same day.
Conclusions we can then derive from the known facts by rightly handling the truth:
- As Paradise was that part of the Hadean realm for those who were saved, those who were judged worthy of eternal life, and
- As Christ told the thief he would be in Paradise that same day, and
- As Christ saved the thief that means He forgave his sins, and
- as John and Christ taught that immersion was necessary for forgiveness, therefore
- The thief had been immersed for forgiveness of sins sometime prior to his death.
The final conclusion is that those who believe and are immersed (baptized) SHALL be saved – Mark 16:16.
Christ saved the thief, therefore the thief had been immersed / baptized.
Immersion for forgiveness of sins is absolutely required by God, so that we will be covered (Rom. 4:7) by the blood of Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8), so that if we repent, our sins will be hidden, forgiven, and never more remembered, and we can stand before our Father in heaven covered by the righteousness of His Son.
Acts 2:38; 8;12-13, 16, 38; 9:18; 10:47-48; 16:15; 18:8; 19:5; 22:16; Rom 6:3; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27.
Faith only teaching is a false doctrine. Those who teach it are denying the scriptures, denying Christ’s clear command, and causing many to stumble and fall away.
(All bold emphasis is mine.)
1) The correct translation of the Greek “baptizo” is immersion. For more on the misuse of “baptizo” see the previous post at the right margin, “Lies of the Roman Catholic Church – Part III: Baptism is NOT Sprinkling”.
2) Excerpt from Ellicott’s Commentary on “rightly dividing” of 2 Tim. 2:15:
“Rightly dividing the word of truth.—Better rendered rightly laying out the word of truth. The Greek word translated in the English version “rightly dividing,” literally signifies “cutting a straight line.” It seems most correct to regard it as a metaphor from laying out a road (see Proverbs 3:6, in the LXX. rendering, where the word is so used), “or drawing a furrow, the merit of which consists in the straightness with which the work of cutting, or laying out, is performed. The word of truth is, as it were, a road which is to be laid out straightly and truly.” So Ellicott. To affirm (see Alford and Huther-Meyer) that the notion of “cutting” had been gradually lost, and that the word already in the time of St. Paul signified simply “to manage rightly,” “to treat truthfully without falsifying,” and that the exact opposite is to corrupt or adulterate the Word of God (2Corinthians 2:17), seems premature. (Comp. Eur. Rhesus, 422, ed. Dindorf.)” Source: Biblehub
3) From “10 Interesting Facts About Crucifixion”:
Crucifixion was not a general form of capital punishment under Roman law. It was only allowed under specific circumstances. Slaves could be crucified only for robbery or rebellion. Source: here
4) From Jewish Encyclopedia on Crucifixion:
“These facts show that the crucifixion of Jesus was an act of the Roman government. That it was customary to liberate one sentenced to death on account of the holiday season is not corroborated by Jewish sources. But many of the Jews suspected of Messianic ambitions had been nailed to the cross by Rome. The Messiah, “king of the Jews,” was a rebel in the estimation of Rome, and rebels were crucified (Suetonius, “Vespas.” 4; “Claudius,” xxv.; Josephus, “Ant.” xx. 5, § 1; 8, § 6; Acts v. 36, 37). The inscription on the cross of Jesus reveals the crime for which, according to Roman law, Jesus expired. He was a rebel.” Source: Jewish Encyclopedia
5) Bible Dictionary: Abraham’s Bosom
” Unique phrase found in a parable of Jesus describing the place where Lazarus went after death ( Luke 16:19-31 ). It is a figurative phrase that appears to have been drawn from a popular belief that the righteous would rest by Abraham’s side in the world to come, an opinion described in Jewish literature at the time of Christ. The word kolpos [kovlpo”] literally refers to the side or lap of a person. Figuratively, as in this case, it refers to a place of honor reserved for a special guest, similar to its usage in John 13:23. In the case of Lazarus, the reserved place is special because it is beside Abraham, the father of all the righteous. The phrase may be synonymous to the paradise promised to the thief on the cross ( Luke 23:43 ). Together these passages support the conviction that a believer enjoys immediate bliss at the moment of physical death.” Source: BibleStudyTools
15 thoughts on “The Thief On The Cross”
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Gina- First off, yes our realm is a flat motionless plane as scripture affirms over and over again. 🙂
I support you and your research fully.
I had always been confused by the issue of a full immersion-in-water baptism. As a child I was ‘baptized’/sprinkled with water in a Presbyterian church. As I aged, I fell away and recently have been convicted, repentant and digesting as much of God’s word as I can. After much research and nudging from the holy spirit, I am now absolutely convinced that a full immersion baptism is crucial to one’s salvation.
One can argue their point(s) and trade semantics but remember this; What does scripture tell us about Jesus’ first ‘public appearance’? How did he decide to reveal himself to the world? The first thing he did before he began his ministry in earnest was approach John and command that he be baptized. Our rabbi was ALWAYS teaching and this was his first and probably most important lesson that often gets overlooked.
On a personal note-I have yet to be immersed and do not belong to a church. I am struggling to find one that:
a) performs full immersion baptisms
b) i felt comfortable enough with their teachings/doctrines to join
Question: Can one baptize him/herself or have a loved one baptize you?
Thank you ahead of time for your blog and input.
David, welcome. The best basis, the only basis we have for our salvation is God’s word. All of the examples of immersion for repentance of sins is found in the gospels and in the book of Acts, and all of the immersions / baptisms were were witnessed by John, or the apostles and/ or the deacons they appointed. The scriptures do not seem to allow for an immersion without the confession of belief in Jesus / Yeshua as the Son of God (Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38) and confessing their sins (Matt. 3:6, Mark 1:5; Acts 19:18). The confession of belief and of their sins required a witness, or witnesses. So it was a public event. If we abide by the scriptures, then a private, individual immersion is probably not a good model.
I am not an expert on the different practices of all of the denominations declaring their belief in Christ, but there are two which do still practice immersion for repentance of sins: the churches of Christ, and the Baptists. Most of the others seem to have fallen into the Catholic form of sprinkling. There are many Baptist churches that teach immersion into the “Baptist church”, which is counter to being immersed / baptized into Christ. So, if you go to a Baptist preacher you must inquire and make it clear that your immersion is into Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection and not for admission to the Baptist church organization.
That said, both the churches of Christ and the Baptists have fallen into the doctrines of dispensaltionalism and futurist end times teachings. Most all of the denominations have done so, and they are actively persecuting those of us who are trying to point out to them what the Bible really says. We are called heretics and are shunned. Doors are closed in our faces. So, while you can hear the basics of baptism / immersion and of how to live for Christ at most of the churches, all of the Christian denominational churches will teach that we are living in the last days, and end-times or end-of-the-world nonsense. Attending a local congregation to hear the full truth of God’s word is a shot in the dark today. They are not interested in fulfilled eschatology, and their minds are closed.
I can highly recommend Don Preston’s youtube videos at his channel at MrDonPreston (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAYGTKRVwQk&t=8s). He has been exploring the Olivet Discourse from Matt. 24-25 for two years bringing in all of the OT prophesies that foretold Christ’s coming in the first century AD.
Also, William Bell has a radio program & does put some of his work out on youtube at William Bell All Things Fulfilled (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3sBqNkg98UnXdhdk6BhibA). You are in time for the Preterist Pilgrim Weekend that both of them participate in coming up this July 13 – 17. It will be broadcast on line. They have been holding this conference for several years with 6 or 7 other men who are doing their best to get the word out. See https://bibleprophecy.com/.
Please do seek out a preacher from a local church of Christ, telling him of your belief in Jesus as the Son of God, and confessing the need for repentance of sins. Then, seek out these few men on line that may be able to point you to a local congregation of true students of the Bible. My family and I attend a church of Christ, but we cringe and endure the false teachings of a last days doctrines. It is a problem which is slowly coming to light, but will be eventually successful for those who do love God’s word.
The scriptures are full of metaphors, water Baptism is the shadow Of The Real & Spiritual Reality Of Being Baptised Fully in The Holy Spirit! & speaking in New tongues. When you speak from The Spirit – Jesus Christ is Lord then you believe from your heart a gift from God!
God Quickens The Human Spirit- makes Alive!
There is much religiousness even in “Christianity”! People can say and do all manner of things, But Has God really been involved?
Why would “The Scriptures” relate to A Beloved Believer as a thief?
He would be called a martyr!
If Paul says he didn’t baptise then that must also include the people with and under him.
What happens with death bed Repentance?
God is Love and much bigger than formalities
Imagine how many people have cried out to God with their dying breath!? Being murdered for instance.
Jesus is The Eternal Word Of God.
Who was baptized in the Holy Spirit? I count three occassions of Holy Spirit baptism: the disciples waiting in the upper room on day of Pentecost; the house of Cornelius in Acts 10 to open the door of the kingdom to the gentiles; and Paul on the road to Damascus. All three still had to be immersed in water after the Holy Spirit fell upon them. All of them! The Holy Spirit baptism was for the purpose of the miracles that were poured out upon the believers in the 1st century AD to show that the gospel was indeed approved by and sent by YHWH (Acts 2:22).
Those miracles lasted until that which was perfect had come… the kingdom (1 Cor. 13:10). So until AD 70, the Holy Spirit confirmed the word through miracles. And it was only given to the people by the Apostles’ laying on of hands, or the select few whom they designated such as Timothy. Carefully read the account of Paul’s interaction with the twelve from Ephesus who were baptized again in Acts 19.
1. Paul asked if they had received the Holy Spirit since they had BELIEVED. The word believed in the Hebrew is an action word, and was used by the Apostles to denote their compliance with being immersed in water for their salvation. It implied action, not thought.
2. After they said no, Paul then asked unto what were they baptized? Affirming that believing meant having been baptized!
3. The twelve replied they had been baptized in John’s baptism.
4. Paul told them that they had to be baptized into Christ, implying that John’s baptism was only effective up to the cross of Christ.
5. The 12 men were then immersed in Jesus’ name, believing what Paul said they did what Paul told them to do. They believed, thus they were baptized into Christ.
6. Only after they were immersed did Paul lay his hands upon them so they could receive the Holy Spirit. And, only after that laying on of hands did they begin speaking in tongues and prophesying.
You will also see the gift of the Holy Spirit denied to Simon, even though Simon had been baptized b/c Peter knew by the Holy Spirit that Simon wanted to use it as a means of profit (Acts 8:9-22). So, having the gift of the Holy Spirit was not an automatic result of baptism. The Holy Spirit approved the person whether he was worthy or not of the gift. That is why Paul told Timothy to lay hands suddenly on no man (1 Tim. 5:22). Timothy was to wait and see if the Holy Spirit approved the laying on of hands of any new believer that had been baptized.
Since all of these miracles died out after the apostles died, and the temple was destroyed, as we no longer have these miracles today, then the pouring out of the Holy Spirit also ceased in the first century AD. Too many ppl today are trying to claim these miracles for themselves and are denying the very power of His Spirit which is in the word…. the word given by the Holy Spirit for all of us. That is how we have the Holy Spirit today, by studying His word. Then the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts through the word of YHWH. It does not mean we can perform miracles.
Immersion in water is absolutely required for you to say you are a believer; for you to say you have been saved.
….of the doctrine of baptismS… why plural ?
Heb 6:2, Interlinear, “about baptisms instruction, of laying on then of hands…” and the Greek word is “baptismos”, Strong’s Gr 909, the act of dipping or washing. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon has ” of the washings prescribed by the Mosaic law, Hebrews 9:10. βαπτισμῶν διδαχῆς equivalent to διδαχῆς περί βαπτισμῶν, Hebrews 6:2 (where L text, WH text, βαπτισμῶν διδαχῆς), which seems to mean an exposition of the difference between the washings prescribed by the Mosaic law and Christian baptism.” Source: https://biblehub.com/greek/909.htm.
The plurality is not implying different kinds of baptism, but the differences between the Mosaic “washings” and the immersion in water for symbolic burial in Christ under the new covenant. Eph. 4:5, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” The plural form of the word “baptismos” also works with the plural form of “laying on of hands” and indicates not different types of baptism, but multiple events where the disciples were performing multiple baptisms of many ppl.
You might also notice the Interlinear correctly identifies the order; first the immersion / washing, then the laying on of hands. This was the promise of Joel’s prophesy for the pouring out of the Holy Spirit in the 1st century AD (Joel 2:28-29). Acts 2:39, ” For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” The promise of the Holy Spirit was for that generation to be able to prove to the ppl that what they heard and saw was from YHVH.
The gift of the Holy Spirit was not automatically given as a result of baptism. The apostles, or those they delegated (Timothy) had to lay their hands upon the person after they were immersed in order for them to receive the Holy Spirit. See 1 Tim. 5:22, “lay hands suddenly on no man”. They were to wait for the Holy Spirit to tell them whether or not to lay hands on the person. See Acts ch. 8 and Simon the sorcerer. Simon believed and was baptized, but he saw the apostles laying their hands on the other believers who had previously been baptized, he wanted the gift of the Holy Spirit so that he could make money off that power. Peter rebuked him (Acts 8: 13-21). That gift of the Holy Spirit was for the public proof and witness of the word, the gospel of Christ. It died out as the Apostles / disciples who had the ability of laying on of hands died. It was no longer necessary once the written word, the NT was circulating because that word had been repeatedly confirmed by those miracles.
When we are immersed today, we have forgiveness of sins as we repent of them. We have the Spirit through the written word of His testimony of all those miracles that were recorded for our edification. The more we study His word, the more His Spirit dwells within us because of His word being written upon our hearts (Heb 10:16-17).
…solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptismS, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment…
Holy Spirit teach and only trough Him by revelation the True Church is built. I must stop here. Shalom in Y-h
Yvan, that passage does not negate the first principles, not laying again the foundation, does not mean destroying the foundation. Paul is wanting them to build upon the foundation the deeper & more mature meat of the gospel. He was trying to get the walls and the roof put on the foundation of repentance and baptism and resurrection which were the foundation.
Peter & the eunuch, Acts 8:36-38, “… See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.”
Just one of the examples in Acts of immersion in water for salvation that is the foundation upon which the Apostles preached the gospel. If you have not yet been immersed, please do not be afraid of getting wet! You stand up from that watery grave (Rom. 6:3-9) as Paul preached resurrected to eternal life. Paul never said it was no longer necessary.
After that question, I look all the verses from Paul’s writing on baptism. I discovered that none was about “water” baptism. Thanks. Now I will read your post on Rom. 13. Blessings
Yvan, yes they were all water baptism. That was understood, because the word “baptizo” was not translated; it was transliterated from the Greek. The word in the Greek means immersed. All of the immersions performed in the gospels and in Acts were in water. Please also read Lies of the Roman Catholic Church – Part III: Baptism is NOT Sprinkling at the right margin.
Many moon’s ago… over 33 years, I was puzzled by Paul : “For Christ did not send me to baptize…” in 1 Cor 1:17 a direct opposition to the Great Commission to the apostles in Mat 28:19 How do you understand him? Blessings
Paul did baptize on occasion (Acts 19:1-6, 1 Cor. 1:14). In 1 Cor. 1:17 Paul was stressing that his primary duty was to preach the gospel. The deacons and other disciples were ministering to the assemblies and Paul and Peter designated those to baptize the ppl (Acts 10:48). The apostles were the “higher authority” appointed by God (Rom. 13) for the commission of spreading the gospel and binding the first principles (Matt. 16:19; 18:18). Jesus did not baptize, but He instructed His disciples to do so. The Apostles were following His pattern and using their time and abilities for the higher purpose.
Barnes’ Notes on 1 Cor. 1:17 –
“For Christ sent me not to baptize – That is, not to baptize as my main business. Baptism was not his principal employment, though be had a commission in common with others to administer the ordinance, and occasionally did it. The same thing was true of the Saviour, that he did not personally baptize, John 4:2. It is probable that the business of baptism was entrusted to the ministers of the church of inferior talents, or to those who were connected with the churches permanently, and not to those who were engaged chiefly in traveling from place to place. ”
They also avoided the tendency that Paul spoke of in the previous vs. 11-14 where the ppl were boasting of who had baptized them, and were arguing over this status symbol.
See my post on Romans 13, and also see the other commentaries on this verse at Biblehub.com.
You never answered Paul Harrison’s questions. Why was the thief not called a martyr? What happens to people who get saved on their deathbeds? What happens to people who die between getting saved and getting baptized? If you believe baptism MUST happen in order for salvation then all of those people are burning in hell, according to you. I’m sorry but it takes ALOT of assumptions to presume the thief had already been saved, baptized and was a child of God as he was hanging bc the Bible never says that. You’ve said in previous comments that you’re married to the Bible. If that’s true then you must know that ONLY God gets to decide who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. ONLY God knows the HEART of a man. ONLY God knows who is truly His. You nor I nor any other MAN gets to decide who is truly saved and who isn’t. My Bible says repeatedly that BELIEF in Jesus as the Son of God through the GRACE of God is the ONLY requirement for salvation. John 3:16 And that’s why you can’t answer the simple questions Paul Harrison asked. Men can add religious doctrine all they want but the Bible clearly states those are dead works and will get you nowhere. Getting dunked in a pool of water by another man does NOT save us – only God does that.
Blondie, the thief on the cross was convicted of a crime against Roman law. He was not killed because of his belief in Christ, therefore he was not a martyr. Stephen was a martyr. Peter and Paul were both martyrs.
People latch onto the comments in the letters about believing and continuing in the faith & then cut away the original commandments in the gospels and in Acts. Mark 16:16, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (KJV). Believing was the first part of the command, but is connected with “immersion” (Gr. baptizo). Believe and is baptized. Ppl want to erase the second part of the command because they think the word “believe” is just a mental process.
When the apostles wrote the letters to the assemblies in Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia, Thessalonica, etc they were writing to those who were already baptized believers. They did not have to continually preach the need to be baptized to those who were already baptized. Those assemblies were teaching the gospel of Christ and the need for immersion into Christ to local people b/c they were taking care of the first steps. The apostles were teaching weightier matters (Heb. 6:1-2).
Rom. 13:11, “11 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” (KJV) Believed – past tense. It is translated in the ASV, AMP ERV, ESV, & others as “first believed”. The ISV has it as “nearer now than when we became believers.”
What did they do first when they were convicted in their hearts that Christ had died for them? What did they do to put themselves into a right relationship with YHWH? They obeyed the command to be immersed into Christ (Acts 2:41). Every example of conversion in the book of Acts involves first believing, then confessing, and then immersion. When the apostles then used the word “believed” or “believe” in the letters to the assemblies they were including all of that compound command which Christ gave to them to believe and be baptized. Baptism / immersion was understood as a necessary component of their belief. They did not have to keep saying “believe and be baptized.”
Gal. 3:6, ” Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” How was Abraham’s faith counted to him for righteousness? Because he obeyed God’s command. Obeying the command is believing. If you say you believe and you do not do the things God has told us to do, then you do not really believe.
The unbelieving spies in the exodus from Egypt were condemned for their failure to do what God told them to do, and God said “ye did not believe the Lord your God” (Deu. 1:32) Likewise, in Deu. 9:23, “… then ye rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your God, and ye believed him not, nor hearkened to his voice.” They did not obey God’s command, so then they did not really believe.
A command of God is not a work of man. We are not saved by our own initiative / works. We are saved by doing what God says to do, which we do when we believe Him. “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” (James 2:18). Believing is not just a rearrangement of the neurons in our brains. It involves completed action, meeting the conditions and terms of the contract, doing the will of the Father.
God honors His word, and will save all who have believed and been immersed into Christ, if they stay faithful unto death (Rev. 14:13). You want to place conditions upon God’s word by speculating about any who have not heard the commandment, or did not obey the commandment until just before they die, and do you not see that you are trying to tie His hands? God will judge all of us as to whether we have been faithful unto death. I will leave those speculative conditions up to Him. But as I have heard the command, and have trusted His word, then I was told and I am responsible for doing what He said to do – believe and be baptized / immersed.
James 2:23, “And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.” (KJV)