The Thief on the Cross - An example of grace (Luke 23:39-43)Errol Wagner, April 9, 2017
Part of the Easter 2017 series, preached at a Sunday Morning service
This man was a criminal, being punished for a life of crime and violence, and no doubt murder. So he deserved to be on the cross. We read that at first he joined the other thief and the crowd in mocking Jesus. But there came a moment when he changed - why? Whatever it was, he turned turned to the other thief - (Luke 23:39) And one of the hanged criminals blasphemed Him, saying, If you are Christ, save Yourself and us. (Luke 23:40) But answering, the other rebuked him, saying, Do you not fear God, since you are in the same condemnation. (Luke 23:41) And we indeed justly so, for we receive the due reward of our deeds, but this Man has done nothing amiss.
And then, (Luke 23:42) ...he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.
Jesus' response: (Luke 23:43) And Jesus said to him, Truly I say to you, Today you shall be with Me in Paradise.
Although he did not understand much, nevertheless, he believed - he cast himself on Jesus Christ, and immediately he was forgiven and by that evening he was in heaven. How do we explain that? He had no time to do anything good - he did not join a church or get baptised - he had no opportunity to do good works - all he did was look to Christ and he was forgiven for a life
of crime and was put right with God on the word of our Lord.
What we see here is the basic principle of salvation by grace through faith This is the very heart and essence of what grace is - we contribute nothing to our salvation. Why, because Jesus took our punishment.paid our sin. And it is that same principle that applies for the rest of our lives as Christians. Yes it is true that after we are saved there must be a change life - there must be fruit of our salvation, but as important as these things are, in a sense we are like that thief, even after years of living the Christian life - nothing we do contributed to our acceptance with God, only what Christ did for us - that is grace. We must never think that any of our good works come into the equation of God's acceptance with us, he accepts us on the basis of what Christ did not us.Our faithfulness, our spiritual growth add nothing to God's acceptance of us.
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Luke 23:39–43 (Listen)
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, 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.”