A few days ago, I heard a person use “the thief on the cross” as biblical evidence that we don’t have to do anything except ‘believe’ to go to heaven. Here is my response, starting with:
Dan Corner’s response to an email (Google’s cached version of www.evangelicaloutreach.org/emails092709.htm)
(EMAIL) If works and turning away from your sin’s along with the output of works is necessary for salvation then explain the salvation received by the thief on the cross next to Jesus that simply believed and Jesus told him plainly “that today you will be with me in paradise.” The thief did not have an opportunity to turn from his sin’s or perform works [I explain ‘works’ below – jeff]. So, Please if you could explain to me his salvation or maybe you’re suggesting that he wasn’t saved at all and Jesus was a liar incapable of securing this man’s salvation by simple belief. Thank you for your time and I look forward to your response.
(RESPONSE) Greetings in Jesus’ name. The ONLY way that thief could have gotten forgiven (which is what happened) was for him to repent (turn from his sins). In his HEART he turned away from wickedness and essentially asked Jesus for mercy. If he didn’t he could not have been forgiven. Jesus taught one MUST repent (Lk. 13:3,5; 24:47; etc.) just as his disciples did (Acts 3:19; 20:21; 26:20) to get forgiven. He sincerely and humbly asked for mercy as he repented. See also Lk. 18:13,14. His spiritual identity changed from “thief” to “righteous” in a moment’s time and he was therefore of the PURE HEART needed to enter “Paradise.” The sins that were dragging him to eternal fire were forgiven INSTANTLY. Had he been able to come down from the cross he would have proven his repentance by his deeds (Acts 26:20).
Paul says in Acts 26:20
19 “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to them of Damascus, at Jerusalem, and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance.
Clarifying a few things
How can Paul speak against works while hear and elsewhere speaking for them?
When Paul said we’re not justified by works, he was talking about the works of the law. Now we are to be led by the Spirit, walking according to the Spirit. See Romans 8:1a&b (b is missing in most modern ‘Bibles’) in Who-Goes-To-Heaven Scriptures — Narrow is the Way | Who are the Children of God?. We’re not talking about “I have to do this today to go to heaven.” I never think that way, personally. I do this website because it’s natural for me. I have a burden on my heart. I’m afraid for us if we don’t get ONE happening soon, before it’s too late for many, because a crash course can’t happen at the last minute,” because people are so full of demons, God said 10 years ago. “Do you realize that what is to come is so full of wrath, and you want to be on the winning side at all costs.”
From my prophecy Let Us Be ONE, Part 23 of 33
Failed Churches…Hate that Destroys the Yoke of Unity
There is much to learn. Many have gone awry. Many despair, thinking they know the answers, but they don’t work. You’ve seen it, churches that failed, and then there are others that mock but look pretty as you stand inside. But you can feel the muck.
Look around; see the light that wants to illuminate all who remain steadfast, not moving where they say, but doing what is right—a love of a different kind. Not regulations that kill and destroy the life I have for everybody, but a new way.
Hope for iniquity to be found out, so we can become clean as a body. Pray for it: the anger to cease, the hate that destroys the yoke of unity. It is a yukky, terrible thing, full of lies that destroy: that we can be one and still have love when hate lingers, festering.
Listen. See My face. It is above, full of anger at My church when they hate. I hate wrath that is unholy, that is directed at those inside who obey.
Jealousy, there is so much. Why not pray? Why not be like Me. Do you realize that what is to come is so full of wrath, and you want to be on the winning side at all costs.
Give your life to Me, now, while there is still time to prepare. If you wait, others cannot take you into where you belong. A crash course can’t happen at the last minute, enough to get you in, because you are festering with demons.
Your heart won’t change if you let rebellion keep you from Me now. Now is the day of salvation. Why wait?
There is a balance here, which I don’t talk or think about much. It is in the Bible that if we harden our hearts to not help people in need we’ll be a goat, not a sheep, for example in Keith Green’s song: [1978 concert video] Keith Green debunked LUTHER’S FALSE SALVATION DOCTRINE that’s now MAINSTREAM in America. Let’s get it right!
The main thing is to keep our hearts right, or our religion is worthless. We abide in Christ, and do what comes naturally, getting the sap from Him, bearing much fruit that remains (John 15).
I’ve been recently thinking about what the second part of what James says pure religion is: “to keep oneself unstained by the world.” But he also has a first part, visiting the fatherless and the widows.
12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation, for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love him. 13 Let no man say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God,” for God can’t be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each one is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then the lust, when it has conceived, bears sin; and the sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death. 16 Don’t be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, nor turning shadow. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
19 So, then, my beloved brothers, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man doesn’t produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore, putting away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, receive with humility the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not only hearers, deluding your own selves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he sees himself, and goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of freedom, and continues, not being a hearer who forgets, but a doer of the work, this man will be blessed in what he does.
26 If anyone among you thinks himself to be religious while he doesn’t bridle his tongue, but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
When we do what in the new covenant have replaced the 10 commandments, the greatest two commandments — loving the Lord, our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving our neighbors as ourselves, we keep our hearts pure, and our religion is worth a lot! It’s pure and undefiled. We need to radically depart from what is mainstream ‘Christianity’ today, which doesn’t teach that we have to keep ourselves unstained by the world, so this religion is worthless.
What each of us then do will be what God puts on our hearts to do. For example, I’m not a helps person. I’m not gifted with the “gift of helps” (1 Cor. 12:28), but I am gifted in doing this, having other 1-Cor.-12 gifts.
We should all do what is natural for us to do when we are resting in God from dead works and worldly goals, being right with God and all of our fellow man = peace. What we do will feel right, and there will be some joy from God in doing it. This isn’t a sweaty ministry.
I remember a Bible teacher at Abbott Loop, teaching in the early ’80s talking about sweaty ministries versus in-Christ, flowing-from-the-Vine ministries. Sweaty ministry is doing things for God on our own. This could be doing things we were never called to do, but think we have to do them. Or it could be doing what we’re supposed to do but while not being right in our hearts with God and our neighbors.
Everything should flow from Him. Life should be a joy!
Purity of the heart is the main thing that matters, abiding in the Son, keeping ourselves unstained by the world. That’s why in Paul’s most comprehensive who-goes-to-hell list in Galatians 5, Paul doesn’t mention a lack of works. He lists things that defile a man’s heart. While what he lists in in his “Those who are Christ’s” list aren’t works to be done, but the resulting clean heart from leading an undefiled life, resting in God.
Resting in God is resting from our own works to do His, which is an easy yoke, a light burden in comparison to heavily burdened sweaty ministries, not resting in the Son.
Jesus in Matthew 11
28 “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened [doing sweaty ministries – Jeff], and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Two more things about the thief on the cross:
One is that the Holy Spirit had not yet been given. The thief was still under the old covenant, and we must keep this distinction in mind when using pre-Pentecost examples to determine what is true for us, who now can walk according to the Spirit. Things were much different prior to Pentecost.
I don’t think this hermeneutical principle makes a big difference in this case, but it does in others, such as Judas. Some say that Judas was an example of losing his salvation and going to Hell, which then shows we can lose ours also. I definitely believe we can lose our salvation (I think most are currently in this state), but I won’t use Judas as proof, or any other pre-Pentecost people.
Conversely, I also point out that the Pharisee who Jesus told to tithe was still under the old covenant. So it a violation of hermeneutical principles to apply what Jesus said to him to us.
This thief-on-the-cross subject reminds me of what Dick Benjamin once said from the pulpit at Abbott Loop Christian Center (now called Abbott Loop Community Church — Dick Benjamin the founder). Dick used to minister at the rescue mission, and he said they used to say this about how to keep the street people that were converted from losing their salvation. I think they would see the same people respond to the altar calls repeatedly.
They would say that maybe the only way for these street people to not lose their salvation would be like three stations. The person would get saved, then they’d submerge them in the baptismal tank, and then put them on the electric chair. Otherwise they’d go right back to their sin.
In reality, it is possible for a person to sincerely repent and dedicate their lives to Christ and then go right out and commit sins leading to death. I’ve seen it in jail ministry, for example. But probably what happens more often is the people don’t fully repent and fully commit to live for Christ. The prayer must be sincere. And for many non-street truly born-again ‘Christians’ who I know. I think at one time they were committed to living holy, but the once-saved-always-saved doctrine has watered down Christianity so much that they have over time backslid to where they are no longer resting-in-God disciples of Christ.
Many of these born-again ‘Christians’ have since hurt many people who they now need to get right with before they can again rest in God. This is the bad fruit that comes from the OSAS doctrine. Had the truth about who goes to heaven been preached, many would not be in the predicament they are now in: afraid of what men will think when they apologize while afraid of what God thinks if they don’t.
Most are letting the fear of man override the fear of God — including most pastors.
Frank used to say in Bible school: we can either fall on the Rock or the Rock will fall on us.
We better fall on the Rock real soon, you all or the Rock will fall on us and then it will be too late to get right with those we’ve hurt. Now is the day of repentance, while we still have the ability to do what we need to do.
All it would take is two EMP nukes over America and 9o-95% of the people would die within months, it’s predicted. And I had a dream about all cars stopping in Anchorage. We are that vulnerable. Imagine life without electricity, water, food, heat, transportation, …. This is the predicament we’re in. And the missiles probably wouldn’t be Al Queda, but rather China or Russia. China may have successfully launched one already. This is no joke. We’re living on the edge!
A shot across the bow: Missile expert says southern California projectile was a foreign-made cruise or ICBM missile launched from a submarine
ONE needs to happen now — while we still have the internet and the ability to meet in small and large groups.
I can’t wait to see large groups meeting all in Christ — lifting up truly holy hands in unison to God our Father Who loves us so much — and Who has given us His standards so we can be free in Him, right with each other.
“This is no joke.” Don’t be deceived. We must be right with each other for ONE to happen — clean hearted!
2 thoughts on “What about the thief on the cross? He wasn't required to do works | 'Sweaty ministry' VS "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me…"”
I heard that when Christ was a baby the very thief saved on the cross had planned to rob the Holy family but after discovering that they had less than he did he gave what he had to them. Have you heard anything on this saying. Thank you and TO GOD BE THE GLORY.
I haven’t heard that one, Roderick.