by Preston Foster
It is widely assumed that the Thief on the Cross (TOC) got a special deal.
The story of the TOC is often used to demonstrate what is assumed to be a unique case: a sinner, who realizes his dire circumstances, sincerely becomes convinced that Jesus is the Christ, asks for and receives salvation. Because of the immediacy of his salvation, the thief’s physical propinquity to Christ, the thief’s questionable motives (he was facing death — within moments), and the symbolic importance of the story, many see the thief’s salvation as different from the norm.
It was not.
The salvation of the TOC was not an exceptional one (regarding the process of his salvation, not its price nor its importance). It was born of desperation, faith-based, freely given, immediate, unearned, and promised (Luke 23:42-43).
That’s the point. The thief’s salvation was the standard deal.
The thief did nothing to earn salvation. He simply admitted his guilt (Luke 23:43) — and repented (meaning he “changed his mind”). The thief did not live to perform any good deeds or works to atone for his sins. He did, however, publicly declare his belief that Jesus was God (Luke 23:40-42) and, also, his Savior.
And he was saved.
The TOC received the same deal that every other sinner can access: salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:22, Romans 3:24-26).
Salvation has been promised to those who believe in Christ and allow Him to be Lord of their lives (Romans 10:13, Acts 2:21). This is the work that Jesus, when asked about God’s requirements, specifically prescribed for us (John 6:29).
For unknown reasons (although we suspect vanity), we want to make salvation more complicated than this. We turn the “good news” into “hard news.” We want to see the thief on the cross an exceptional case, rather than “Salvation 101.” Some would rather (try to) earn their salvation than accept the free gift that it is.
Complexity is often confused for depth. Our salvation has been simply, though violently provided — thru the blood of Jesus Christ.
That deal is available to all who believe.