Monday, August 13, 2007

How Simple Is That?

[This is an edit of an article originally Posted Monday 26 September 2005, titled: “What Was His Name? or How Simple Is That?]

‘Learned’ people, in religious circles, like to throw around 'big' words. Words like justification, sanctification, imputed, imparted, dogma, doctrine, and propitiation are just a few… That is fine, but these words often confuse. Sometimes when these types of conversations start, one feels like “a hog looking at a wrist watch”.

It gets murky quickly. The ‘gospel made simple’ becomes a confusingly litany of do and do not. [†] After re-reading this quote, “Any clear presentation of the gospel of grace would include the following in some measure:” followed by a list of twelve ‘necessary’ requirements. The ‘response’ to the gospel is a list of nine evidentiary requirements. In other words, to ‘present the gospel’ requires twelve elements - someone responding to the gospel would require nine elements of ‘evidence’. I decided to ‘re-post’ this (edited) article.

I am a K.I.S.S. person. K.I.S.S. is the acronym Keep It Simple I am Stupid. So let us K.I.S.S. this whole salvation ‘thing’, (with its 12 & 9 requirements) with a little Bible history lesson.

What was the name of the first person to die a ‘believer’? Who was it that first died believing that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and only through His crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection, one could receive salvation instead of being condemned and sent to hell?

Many people will say, “That is easy, it was Steven in Acts 7:60-8:2.” Um, wrong, Steven was the first recorded martyr, that is the first person executed for believing it, and teaching it. However, he was not the first one to die believing.

No, the first ‘believer’ to die was a thief. We do not even know his name. The Bible does not record his name… Just that he was the first.

Who was he and why is he important to us?

When Jesus was crucified (hung on a cross), He was crucified with two other men. The Bible tells us that they were thieves (convicted criminals). We read ‘their story’ in Luke 23:39-43.

One of the thieves reviled and mocked Jesus.

The other did not, in Luke 23:40-41, he defends Jesus, “But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”

He goes on in verse 42, “Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

This in the simplest terms is the ‘gospel of salvation’!

Was this some kind of ‘special’ salvation (as some religions claim)? Alternatively, was this the entire ‘gospel’ message in the K.I.S.S. format?

This is the K.I.S.S. ‘gospel’.

Let us look the ‘elements’ of the thief’s declaration.
The thief admitted that he deserved to be condemned, that he deserved to die for his own crimes (vs. 40 & 41).
The thief recognized Jesus’ was blameless (vs. 41).
The thief recognized that Jesus was ‘his’ master by using the title ‘Lord’ (vs. 42).
The thief recognized Jesus was more than just a man and in fact ‘The King’ (which meant The Messiah) (vs. 42).
The thief asked to be ‘remembered’ (vs. 42).

The thief admitted that he was getting ‘what he deserved’. The thief ‘knew’ because of his own actions, there was nothing but a guilty verdict and death. The thief ‘knew’ that the only way ‘out’ of his condemnation was Jesus Christ. That is, nothing the thief could do was worth anything, only Jesus’ actions could save him.

How did Jesus Christ answer this thief?

“And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”” Luke 23:43.

Jesus Christ saved the thief. This unnamed thief was the first person to die ‘believing’ the ‘whole’ “gospel of Jesus Christ the power of God for salvation”. He was the first ‘Christian’ to die. Ephesians 2:8-9, tells us it is not of ourselves, it is a gift. Jesus Christ did not ‘owe’ the thief anything; He gave the thief a place in ‘Paradise’.

That is the Promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ - believe and you will be saved!

This unnamed thief is important to us because his ‘profession and belief’ is the definition of salvation made simple.

It really is that simple…

[†] 2 Corinthians 11:3 reminds us that the gospel is simple. Here is simple - the entire “gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation” in one verse: Romans 6:23. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” WE deserve death, God is willing to gift us eternal life, the way is through Christ.

Again, it really is that simple…


Blogger Cleopas said...

Hi David,

An excellent post. In fact, this story is an example to us in many ways that can surprise us.

For example, some people have used this story to 'prove' that baptism is merely optional. 'The theirf on the cross was never baptized'. But what does baptism symbolize? That we are buried with Christ and rise with Him.

This symbolism is the thief's reality. For at the end of this event he was the first who could truly say, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live . . ." So I actually like to use him as an example of what our attitude, in baptism, should be.

Thanks again for reprinting this posting.

It has also been said that the thief on the cross was never b

4:23 PM  
Blogger Cleopas said...

Hi David,

Have you gotten moved in yet? How are you doing?


8:12 PM  

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