Hebrews 6:4-6 is a very interesting (and disturbing) text, speaking of those who have exercised the miraculous spiritual gifts, yet still fall away from the Lord. The Hebrews writer says it is impossible “to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame” (v 6 NKJV). The thought of causing Jesus to be crucified again ought to cause one to shudder.
I was thinking of this idea as I received, for what seems like the millionth time, a charge of denying the power of the cross because I teach that one must be baptized in order to be saved. The argument goes like this: ‘Why do you teach baptism is necessary to be saved? What about the thief on the cross? If Church of Christ doctrine is true, then the thief must be in hell because he was never baptized. If I could be saved by being baptized, then why did Jesus have to die? I could just be saved by my own works. I’m going to be saved like the thief on the cross.’
Long story short… If one wants to be saved like the thief on the cross, he’ll have to crucify Jesus again. I recently made a couple of comments on my Facebook page about the thief on the cross. (These comments are found at the bottom of page two of this bulletin.)
A friend of mine posted an intended humorous illustration of what one would have to do to be saved like the thief on the cross. Those requirements began with “1. Travel back in time to the first century.” Since Jesus had “power on earth to forgive sin” (Matt 9:6), one would have to be in Jesus’ physical presence to be forgiven like the thief. (Among the other requirements were: “steal something,” “be crucified,” “speak personally to Jesus,” “have Jesus promise to take you to Paradise” (and I added, “have your legs broken to hasten your death”). In other words, if you want to be saved like the thief on the cross, you would have to be crucified, and Jesus would have to be crucified again.
I also find it interesting that those who point to the thief as the example of how to be saved will also point to Romans 10:9 – “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” While the thief called Jesus “Lord,” he did not believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, for Jesus had not yet died.
Just as a point of fact, the thief died more than a month before Jesus commanded the apostles to preach the gospel to the whole world, and the proper response to the preaching of the gospel is to believe it and be baptized in order to be saved. Moreover, it was some days after that that Peter preached the gospel for the first time in Acts 2. The thief was not under the teaching of Jesus and the apostles in this matter for he was long since dead.
It is nothing short of astonishing how people are so insistent to believe any and everything under the sun rather than simply obeying the clear and unequivocal teaching of Jesus. We must be prepared to help them see the error of their ways.