And What About . . . ?

We’ve all run across them. That would be those verses in Scripture that cause us to question other Biblical guidelines we’ve come to understand on a given subject. I will only try to tackle one in this post but I acknowledge there are others.

The first one that comes to my mind is found in Luke 23:39-43 NASB and reads as follows:

‘One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other responded, and rebuking him, said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our crimes; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

Of course, context is always key when we encounter anything in Scripture, that causes those little gears in our mind to start to whirl. And right up there with context, is the likewise necessity of very closely examining what exactly has been specifically said, by whom and to whom.

Notice that there is NO baptism going on here! Does this mean that being baptized isn’t necessary? Doesn’t that conflict with the command that Jesus gave us with regard to the Great Commission, where Jesus stated in Matthew 28:18-20 NASB ” And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Notice what the criminal who did fear God actually said.

He admitted or confessed that he had sinned and was being justly punished for what he had done. ” And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our crimes;”

He acknowledged that Jesus was being unjustly punished. “but this man has done nothing wrong.”

And then this same criminal who feared God said the following to Jesus: “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!”

He obviously believed that even though he was going to shortly die, that his own physical death was not the end of his existence. He could indeed have been a follower of the Pharisees, who did believe in a resurrection. As you recall, the Sadducees refused to go beyond the written Torah (first five books of the Bible) and thus, unlike the Pharisees, denied the immortality of the soul, bodily resurrection after death, and—according to Acts 23:8, —the existence of angelic spirits.

He also asked Jesus to remember him “when You come into Your kingdom!” In order for Jesus to be able to “remember him”, Jesus would of necessity, also have to be resurrected. By saying these words to Jesus, he also acknowledged his belief in the resurrection and note to whom he also acknowledged who was the king of the kingdom – Jesus. “YOUR kingdom” .

Confession of belief and respect/fear of/for God.
Confession of his own sin and justified punishment.
Confession that Jesus had done nothing wrong.
Confession of belief in the resurrection of both Jesus and himself.
Confession of being subordinate to Jesus’ Kingship.
Confession of Jesus as the divine King of the kingdom of God.

There is a lot packed into the statements of the criminal who feared God, and addressed Jesus directly.

And what about baptism?

Did the criminal who feared God have an opportunity to be baptized at this particular point in time? No he did not. If he had the opportunity to be baptized, should he have been baptized? Yes he should. I would also go on record as indicating that I personally believe that baptism should be via immersion in water. But he had no opportunity at this given point in time, so that requirement or commandment uttered by Jesus, was waived by Jesus. Baptism, like circumcision, is a outward displayed physical sign of an inward spiritual reality. What ultimately mattered to Jesus was that the inward spiritual reality had been realized by the criminal who feared God.

Rule of thumb that I see in what transpired here between these seemingly contradictions pertaining to baptism:

If one believes that Jesus is who He says He is, and trusts in what Jesus did for him/her, and believes that Jesus rose from the dead, and that because Jesus lives, we also shall live, then if one has the opportunity to be baptized (via immersion), one should be baptized.

And Jesus’ response to the criminal on the cross who feared God?

“Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

For your consideration.

Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!

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