Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Two Thieves, Part 2 of 2

Christ stooped to notice this sin-stained, condemned thief agonizing beside Him; the man opened his mouth in faith and confessed Christ. Jesus honored this confession of genuine faith by assuring the man: “Today you will be with Me in Paradise,” Luke 23:43. Consequently, this repudiates the doctrine of soul sleep, since Jesus told the thief plainly that today (that is, this very day) he would be with his Savior in Paradise; not unconscious in the grave until the resurrection.

The second thief represents those who by faith inherit the promises, and become children of God, John 1:12-13. Christ draws all men by His Holy Spirit, John 12:32; 16:7-13; yet not everyone drawn will come, as the parable in Matthew 22:2-14 illustrates. The parable ends with the statement by our Lord that many are in fact called, but few are chosen. Even those chosen must reciprocate and believe; such as the laborer hiring men who are willing to accept what their employer offers. Judas Iscariot was chosen, but he was unsaved and perished, John 6:70. This repentant thief’s presence in the gospel was a testimony that God gives life to whomever He will, and it is His pleasure to give life to those who trust Him alone for salvation. It is written that God gives mercy to whomever He will. None may demand salvation. Yet for the man who recognizes his need of salvation and turns to God in faith, He will in no wise cast him out, John 6:37.

The two thieves have their counterparts all throughout Scripture. In Luke 18:10-14 we read about the Pharisee and the Publican, or tax collector. One man was righteous in his own eyes; the other recognized his sinful state, and how he could only hope to approach a holy God by God’s sovereign mercy. One prayed “with himself,” while the other beat his breast and begged for mercy. The Pharisee, who approached God in his own esteem, was rejected, while the Publican was justified. The difference is simple but profound: one recognized his need for salvation and his inability to muster a righteousness God would find satisfactory; the other felt that his well groomed legalism bred such righteousness naturally. Like the unrepentant thief, he did not understand that the only way to approach God was the path of faith and humility.

The most famous example is found in Genesis 4. Cain offered unto God a sacrifice of the fruits of the earth, while Abel offered the firstlings of his flock and the fat thereof, as commanded. Cain did not grasp the gravity of sin and atonement; or he rejected it and replaced it with a righteousness of his own concoction. Cain must have known from his parents’ admonition that shed blood covered sin, and only through shed blood was there reconciliation with God. Cain rejected this counsel for reasons unknown, but while he disdained to spill an animal’s blood to atone for sin, he compounded disobedience with murder by slaying his own brother. Cain offered to God what was right “in his own eyes,” Judges 17:6. Yet there is a way that seems right to a man, but its way ends in death, Proverbs 14:12. Herod erred here; as did the Pharisee and the first thief. This is why we are told, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” James 4:6.

The second thief stands not as a monument to a bygone dispensation, the last man saved under the law before the Christian era commenced; rather he stands as a singular token of God’s saving power even to the uttermost. He takes wicked sinners and rebels and transforms them into humble and Spirit-filled men and women, born again by faith. The thief entered Paradise that day, and when Jesus led “captivity captive” at His resurrection that same thief entered into heavenly glory. When our Lord arose, the debt was paid for all the Old Testament saints waiting in Paradise (of whom the thief was one); when Christ was resurrected, having paid sin’s penalty, He brought all His saints with Him to Heaven.

There our brother the thief awaits the resurrection of his body as we await the soon return of our Lord, who promised those that love Him that He would come to take them to be where He is, John 14:1-3. Give glory to God for His work of redemption, typified in the salvation of this lowly thief, who was put on the cross a man condemned to death; and was taken down from it alive forevermore. Only Christ has this saving power, and to those who trust in His name, we too will follow Him and be with Him forever. Therefore, comfort one another with these words. Amen.

4 comments:

  1. Ian, you did a wonderful job explaining this, sometimes misunderstood, scripture from the Word of God which tells about the thieves on the cross. All we need to do is to reach out, in faith, to our Lord and He will put His loving arms around us. God's blessings. Lloyd

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  2. Good word bro, As I read your post I am amazed at just how far God's grace will extend. The Guy just minutes before death and grace is extended. And something else one surrenders and one rejects. Love the post God is so awesome
    Amen bro

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  3. Great post.

    You point out something I have observed repeatedly. A valid teaching will be found numerous times. If it isn't, then our understanding is doubtful. Each time they were justified because of faith. The various parallels demonstrate that you have not misinterpreted the passage.

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  4. Hi Ian,

    I have no words for the grace of God; it is beyond the scope of my understanding to adequately convey how precious it is to me.

    When I think of Cain, I see a man unwilling to sacrifice and give to God; he represents that part of humanity that exchange the truth of God for a lie.

    As you say, "The two thieves have their counterparts all throughout Scripture." All pointing to the truth; our need for the salvation of Christ.

    On a personal note: I want to thank you for both your fellowship and friendship. I have apprecieated your faithful testimony. I pray God's grace extend health and favor to you and your family, along with the upcoming birth of your third child, and the release of your book in the coming new year.

    I am honored that you seek my feedback and I pray that I may be of assistance in some small way.

    Blessings and peace.

    MTJ

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