I’m often asked, What obedience did the thief on the cross display in regards to his salvation?
Clearly, he did everything required. He believed the Gospel. Everything required for salvation.
Obeying the Gospel – believing it – is not only evidence of genuine faith, it is required for full possession of salvation in the end. See Luke 23. For those of you who think ‘good works’ has nothing to do with salvation, ever, in any way, shape or form, ever. Think again. The Gospel commands obedience.
Professing Christ is one thing, possessing salvation in the end is another – it will not be had without good works. This is not saying we are justified in any way by our works, that is a declaration by God alone, apart from works, by means of faith in the finished work of Christ. What it is saying is this: Sanctification, your pursuit of holiness is not by faith alone, because you are involved, co-laborers with God. The saved thief on the cross gives you no excuse for ‘grace without obedience.’
1. He openly rebuked the other thief:
But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? – Luke 23:40
2. He repented of his sins. He admitted his own guilt, and that he and his co-thief deserved punishment of death on the cross.
And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; (v. 41)
3. He confessed with his own mouth the innocence and sinlessness of Jesus and did that before a public audience (soldiers, Jewish leaders, eyewitnesses to the crucifixions).
but this man has done nothing wrong. (v. 41)
4. Before everyone within earshot, this thief gave testimony that Jesus Christ is Lord and King:
And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (v.42)
Yes, indeed, the thief on the cross who went to be with Jesus that day, obeyed the Gospel – because he had been regenerated, given faith to believe and was justified before God. Salvation, even in the case of the rare exception such as this, is completely of the Lord.