One of the most profound stories in the New Testament is the account of Jesus’ encounter with the thief on the cross.

“This story is in the Bible because it reminds us that it is never too late to trust in Jesus Christ. Grace extends from Christ to any person, however far from Him, however long they’ve been away from Him; grace extends from Jesus Christ to any person who trusts Him.”

Pastor and Unlocking the Bible radio teacher, Colin Smith, reveals the truth about God’s grace extended to the thief and to us. Regardless of our past, we are all justified by God’s grace through our faith in Jesus Christ.

“Think of Romans 5:1; being justified by faith we have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord. That’s what happened to the thief, and his story illustrates this great theme of justification by faith that runs right through both the Old Testament and the New Testament scriptures.”

The thief was nailed to the cross, next to Jesus, unable to live out a better life on earth. This raises a question of, how can anyone get into heaven without living out the Christian life?

“When folks have the idea that you would get into heaven if you lived a good enough Christian life, clearly, he had not done that and clearly he wasn’t in a position to do it. There’s no use saying to him, ‘Well you better start praying, reading the bible and going to church,’ he can’t do these things.

It’s only by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ who extends this unmerited favor towards him, and does it in the most dramatic way at the 11th hour of his life.”

Grace is unspeakably profound. Every other religion in the world says, ‘Here is what you must do.’ Only the gospel of Jesus says, ‘Here is what someone else has already done.’ 

Pastor Colin brings us back to the thief’s encounter with Christ.

“That is his story, really. He was justified and he was glorified; that is he was made right with God, that’s the meaning of justification, and he was brought into the presence of God; that’s what happens in glorification and it happened on the same day.”

“So there could not be a clearer story to say that however important the Christian life is, we are not saved by our performance in the Christian life. Faith in Christ will lead to a new in a different life than it would have led to that in the story of the thief.”

A fundamental lesson we can learn from the thief on the cross is that we do not get into heaven by our works, but by what Jesus did on the cross.

“Ultimately our standing before God rests on the word and the work of Jesus Christ, and we place ourselves wholly in his hands, trusting Him to do for us what we cannot possibly do for ourselves.”

Highlight: Saved by grace

Learning from the thief on the cross

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