What about the Thief on the Cross?

The question is usually brought up in conversations about the efficacy of the sacraments. If baptism is so necessary or important as a sacrament, then what about the thief on the cross? Or, another way of phrasing it is to assert that baptism is not necessary for salvation because the thief on the cross was not baptized. These assumptions fail to see several things, but mainly it’s a categorical error. Baptism, as a sacrament, is not necessary to save in extraordinary circumstances,a but it is ordinary to save in almost all circumstances. Baptism is the seal of grace; the grace of the seal. Baptism is the initiation of a new mission. It is the mark of the Trinity over our body and soul.

So, then, we should ask why wasn’t the thief on the cross marked with the sacrament of baptism? The question is actually quite simple to answer. And the answer is that the thief was marked by God’s true sacrament, Jesus Christ. Jesus was the sacrament the thief experienced before death. Jesus was the baptism that covered the thief and gave him new life. Jesus, in fact, gave of his own body as a baptism for the thief as his body was pierced and blood and water washed the thief’s sin and gave him a Savior. The thief on the cross was sacramentalized by water and blood.

  1. death-bed experiences, early childhood death, stillborn  (back)
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