Luke 23:42-43 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
This passage has prompted all sorts of speculation about just what “paradise” is, and how it differs from “heaven,” but that really misses the point of this episode being included in the Bible. The most important thing to grasp is that this man, a convicted criminal, was assured of salvation by Christ on the basis of the simplest of confessions of faith. There was no baptism, no vote of the church body, no doctrinal teaching or training. This man, in a situation where anything less that the unvarnished truth would make no difference, confessed that he was worthy of death and that Jesus was not. Then he said what we have recorded here. It actually took great faith to speak of “when you come into Your kingdom” to a man who was nailed to a cross! He certainly didn’t claim he was worthy of anything, but he asked for mercy, saying, “remember me.” The world would be a much better place if more people had that kind of humble faith! However you define “paradise,” Jesus’ response was certainly clear, and so this convicted criminal became the first person saved with full knowledge of the cross of Christ.
This story, along with the story of the Philippian jailer in Acts 16, has formed the foundation of my distaste for making people wait for baptism when they have confessed Christ. However, the level of acknowledgment of sin, of being worthy of death, is often very different, and that has created problems. I need to be careful not to dunk people who want the “goodies” without being really aware that they aren’t worthy of them. So many people desire salvation purely out of self interest, without any real awareness that Christ is worthy of absolute loyalty and obedience. That’s a difficult point, because few if any have a full awareness of Christ before salvation, so it becomes a question of how much to require. It all boils down to trusting, listening to, and obeying the Holy Spirit! I must remember that I can save no one, regardless of how many people are saved through my ministry. Salvation is in Christ, of Christ, and by Christ, as people are convicted of sin, righteousness and judgment by the Holy Spirit and given the gift of faith. (John 16:8, Ephesians 2:8)
Father, thank You for this reminder on Good Friday. Several people who are in need of salvation have told us they will be here Sunday, and we anticipate several more. I pray that Your Holy Spirit would be here in power, convicting and imparting faith, so that we may have a beautiful harvest of souls while we yet have time, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!