Summary: The two thieves on the cross illustrate the issue of salvation for the entire human race: that salvation is a choice by placing your faith alone in Christ alone.


Luke 23:32, 39-43; Matt. 27:41-44)

[HTML formatted version and handouts are located at:]


Jesus Himself tells us in John 8:31-32:

31 "... If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;

32 and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. " NAS

In John 15:7, He also tells us:

7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. NAS

Let’s take a moment to quietly confess our sins to God, so that we are in fellowship with Him and led by the Holy Spirit when we study God’s word. 1 John 1:9 promises us, that if we name our known sins to God, He always forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness, even from the unknown sins we forgot or didn’t even realize we committed. Let’s pray.

Thank you, Father, for always restoring your children when we admit our sins to you. May your Holy Spirit teach us your word as we study it now. We ask these things in Jesus Name. Amen

TWO THIEVES AT CALVARY: A Biblical Illustration Of Salvation

The greatest Biblical example that proves salvation is simply by faith alone in Christ alone, is the illustration of the criminal crucified next to Jesus, who placed his faith in Christ and was saved. This can be found on the second page of the outline I handed out.

Whenever we picture the crucifixion on the hill at Golgotha, we have that image of three crosses, with Jesus in the center and the two criminals on either side.

Luke 23:32 And two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him. (NAS)

Initially, both thieves mocked Jesus along with the chief priest, scribes, and elders. This tells us that both thieves were unbelievers when they were crucified. This is important to remember, because it means that the "good thief" did nothing by which he was saved BEFORE his crucifixion. He was crucified an unsaved person. He had not previously repented nor been baptized. His salvation occurred totally on the cross.

Matt 27:41-44

41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking {Him,} and saying,

42 "He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we shall believe in Him.

43 "He trusts in God; let Him deliver {Him} now, if He takes pleasure in Him; for He said, ’I am the Son of God.’"

44 And the robbers also who had been crucified with Him were casting the same insult at Him. (NAS)

So initially, both thieves were unsaved, and both insulted Jesus. However, perhaps as he heard Jesus ask the Father to forgive the mockers, the heart of one of the thieves softens. He makes the free will decision to believe in Jesus, to put his faith in him. The other thief could have done the same, but doesn’t.

Luke 23:39-42

39 And one of the criminals who were hanged {there} was hurling abuse at Him, saying, "Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!"

40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, "Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?

41 "And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong."

42 And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" (NAS)

Notice what Jesus does not do. Jesus Christ Himself does not say:

- "Whoa buddy! No way!!! You think you’re going to live your whole life in sin and then get into heaven at the last minute?!?!

- "Sorry, you’ve never been baptized. You can’t be saved."

- "It’s too late now! You still need to make restitution to all the people you robbed!"

- "You don’t look or sound sorry enough for your past sins!"

- "I haven’t seen any fruit in your life. You’re not really saved!"

- "You still need to make me Lord of your life. It’s not enough to simply believe in me!"

- "I’m sorry. You’re not really saved until you speak in tongues!"

Instead, Jesus rewards the man’s simple act of faith with the promise of salvation.

Luke 23:43 And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." (NAS)

The "good thief" lived his life as a criminal, a life that was so bad that he was finally being sentenced to death for it. In the end, he made an "easy death-bed" confession of faith, doing nothing more than believing in Jesus:

Copy Sermon to Clipboard with PRO Download Sermon with PRO
Browse All Media

Related Media

PowerPoint Template
Talk about it...

Gene Kelly

commented on Mar 12, 2008

I like it...brief, yet addresses so many points in dispelling denominational "add-ons." Satin seeks to dilute the simple truth of Salvation with all manor of "good-seeming" devices...the latest of which is our "stewardship" over his earth through help in fighting global warming and environmental issues. Pastors should rather ignore all the clutter and teach Christ only. I am glad I found this sight. Gene

Ephrem Hagos

commented on Jan 18, 2014

Self-conviction and declaring Jesus ?not guilty? as charged is the whole story of one thief?s immediate clearance to Paradise.

Michael Lum

commented on Mar 19, 2014

Overall a good message. Salvation always has been and always will be "by faith". Some really good thoughts, but also gross overstatement in some areas. Many of the comments about things the thief did not do are directed toward the church which did not start for another 50 days after Jesus was resurrection on Pentecost (Acts 2). For all practical purposes, the thief lived under the Mosaical Law and therefore could not adhere to the pattern of things that had not occured... ie: baptism (for remission of sins); joining a local church (actually Jesus adds the saved to His church-Acts 2:47); shedding tears of repentence (how do you know he did not shed tears when he confessed Jesus was God and asked Him remember him?). God sees the heart and He has the right to save whomever He wishes, but he makes clear the plan of salvation and the importance of some of the items that you seem to want to minimize based on this single passage. Would he have been saved if he had not cried out to Jesus? Did he not confess Jesus as Lord and that he was a sinner (and you also instructed listeners to confess sin at the first of your lesson)? Most of the examples you gave are of things that were either impossible for him to do and that is what weakens the point of "faith-only" salvation. Have never seen anyone in Scripture called "righteous" with no actions/words on his or her part? James says, "faith without works is dead"...we don't work to be saved--it's because we are saved and thankful.

Join the discussion