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Hallelujah Bread #11
the dying thief

The dying thief rejoiced to see, That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he, Wash all my sins away:
Wash all my sins away, Wash all my sins away;
And there may I, though vile as he, Wash all my sins away.

(Vs2 hymn, “There is a Fountain filled with Blood”
Wm. Cowper, 1771

We can not talk of the Gospel of Salvation without talking about “the blood.”
Without blood there is no remission of sins!

There is power, power, wonder-working power
In the blood of the Lamb.
There is power, power, wonder-working power
In the precious blood of the Lamb .”

hymn; Lewis E. Jones, 1899)
The blood which gives us strength from day to day, it will never lose its power.”
Andrae Crouch)

     I was reading through a hymn collection last week and was moved by the second verse of the hymn above, There is a fountain filled with blood.”

We all are somewhat familiar with the account of the three crosses on Calvary; Jesus is flanked by two condemned criminals. They might be called companions in condemnation. All are sentenced to death. In the Gospel of Luke chapter 23:40-43 we read the account of the believing thief with some detail
; (40) But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? (41) “And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” (42) Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (43) And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

     There are some wonderful truths revealed in Luke's account of the crucifixion. There are keys here to understand the nature of salvation and the promise of redemption revealed in the account of the dying thief and his last words with the Messiah, Jesus.

     The unnamed thief speaks of the “fear of G-d” (Luke 23:40) Solomon called the fear of the Lord the beginning of wisdom. It is an essential acknowledgment of God's glory and authority over human life and all of creation.

     The thief recognized his own guiltiness and worthy of death and Jesus as guiltless: Speaking to his comrade malefactor, he declares, “this man has done nothing wrong.”
(Luke 23:41)

     The thief perceives that Jesus is indeed the Messiah and King of Israel. This being the very superscription written by Pilate the governor, and placed atop of Jesus' cross. (Luke 23:42) I believe he also had a revelation of the divinity of Jesus. As the events unfold, nature itself and Jesus' words bear witness to the divinity of Jesus as being the very sinless, son of G-d.

     The dying thief recognized that Jesus was about to enter into his kingdom. This kingdom is one in which one's life continues in an eternal blessed state. He recognized that Jesus was proceeding to this destination. (Luke 23:43)

     The dying thief had absolutely nothing to commend himself as being worthy of any sort of blessing. He knew his life was without any goodness or merit. His request was based only on the merit and mercy of the Lord Jesus. The thief implores Jesus for mercy upon his miserable life. “Just as I am, without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me, And that Thou bid'st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come! I come.” (Charlotte Elliott in 1835)

     I will share a couple additional remarks about the dying thief that Jesus spoke to with such compassion. Jesus tells the thief, “
This day you shall be with me in paradise.” It is interesting to note that this unnamed man was the first to enter into the Christ's kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven. This honor was given to an unnamed thief who had no merit or achievement. This is the true nature of salvation. We can do nothing to merit the gift of eternal life. Eternal life is a gift from the Prince and Possessor of Life.
I am the Way, the Truth and the Life John 14:6)

     The necessity of fulfilling religious ordinances as a requirement of salvation is also addressed in the account of the dying thief. I have heard some of my Baptist brethren say that the sacrament of baptism was waived as an exception in the case of the thief on the cross. Anyone having that view does not recognize the truth that we who are baptized are baptized into Christ's death (on the cross). “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? (Romans 6:3) The nature of baptism is to recognize that we are among those who die at Jesus' side on the cross. We are to realize that we “no longer live, but it is Christ who lives in us. The 'old man' and the fallen nature have been crucified.

     Religious ordinances are the norm in many religious systems. These activities that are called “sacraments” tend to ignore the lessons the dying thief teach us about salvation. We can not earn our salvation nor can we measure our progress toward it by a check list of obligations that we have fulfilled.

And so it is written “we must die in order to live.” For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:35)
C. Pinkney, 10-30-2020

Luke 23:40.
But the other answering rebuked him, saying,
Do you not fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
41) And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds:
but this man hath done nothing amiss.
42) And he said (pleaded) unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
43) And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say to you, Today you will be with me in paradise.

      In these closing hours of the church age it is more important than ever to understand the mystery of salvation. The formalistic doctrines of many churches have done much to confuse the matter, substituting dogma and duty in order to become a redeemed “child of God.” It is, dependabley, the Holy Bible which reveals the truth about this mystery of the ages. The wise and learned are among those who are and have been, deceived by the teachings of human authorities and theologians. The first century original apostles understood that there would be false teachers and false prophets in the latter days and that they would reject the “way of truth.”

     The account of the dying thief crucified with Jesus, reveals essential insights into the way of salvation and entering into eternal life.

     There are millions who encounter death every day, great numbers have not experienced the miracle of salvation. (link) The consequences of our choices in regard to “eternity” are no different than that facing the two malefactors who died at Jesus’ side two thousand years ago.

     “Malefactors” is a generic term meaning that the two beside Jesus had done bad things in their lives. Although not described in detail, they both deserved death and damnation. Though our sins may not be as notable, there is no difference between us and them, it is only a matter of degree. (All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of G-d. - Romans 3:23)

       These two men exemplify everyone alive today. We are not all thieves or murderers but we all have come short of living a perfect sinless life. Therefore, without our sins being forgiven and the price for our disobedience dealt with, we remain subject to judgment and damnation.

      I know this sounds unfair or unreasonable to the modern secular or religious mind. A priest can not intervene with a last rite ordained by religious authority. Emergent Christianity has entered the religious arena in the past 20 or 30 years. These teachers have adopted a theology that departs from the biblical doctrine of "Judgment" toward the pleasant view of a god within and a heaven for all. A holy God demands a penalty of judgment for any and all transgressions. Only the sinless Son of God could pay the penalty for us. This is a fact revealed in the Bible.

      This takes us back to the cross upon which Jesus died. Jesus died for the ungodly. It was for this purpose he was born! He was crucified on a cross meant for another man, Barabas, a notable sinner and lawbreaker accused of murder and insurrection. I believe that Barabas exemplifies each of us, human souls in a fallen state unable to determine the way of Truth and living only to gratify one’s selfish desires.

Summarizing: What the Dying Thief Knew

1. That he was a man who had done evil things and feared facing God.
     (Prov. 9-10 -Fear of G-d is beginning of wisdom

2. That he was facing a just sentence of death for his deeds.

3. That Jesus was a man who had done nothing (no sin) deserving death.

4. That Jesus was certainly the Messiah and God’s Son.

5. That Jesus was ordained to rule an eternal Kingdom.

6. That Jesus had the authority to grant pardon to a sinful man when asked.

7. That heaven, paradise, would be his reward that very day.

October 31, 2020