THE THIEF ON THE CROSS

(The Repentant Robber)
By
Shelby G. Floyd

On Mount Calvary there were three crosses on that fateful day in the long ago. The Lord Jesus Christ was crucified between two thieves. Luke records this event with remarkable brevity and in simple terms:

“Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left” (Luke 23:32-33).

One man said that when he was ready to die he wanted two politicians to come and stand on each side of him. He said, “Christ died between two thieves and I want to die the same way.”

CHRIST DIED BETWEEN TWO THIEVES

There are different varieties of thieves. Some steal by stealth but are not violent. Others steal by stealth and are brutal and violent when confronted. These two thieves are described by Matthew as “robbers” (Matthew 27:38, 44). “Robbers” translates from (ληστης-lestes), “a robber; plunderer, freebooter, brigand…and not to be confounded with (κλεπτης-kleptes), thief, one who takes property by stealth” (Thayer, page 377). In Luke’s account he uses the word “criminal” to describe these two felons (Luke 23:32-33, 39-40). “Criminal” is derived from (κακουργος-kakourgos), and refers to “a malefactor: of a robber” (Thayer, page 320). Justice and punishment was quick and efficient in the days of Christ. Every family tree probably has some criminals that paid the ultimate price for their crimes.

My family tree has been traced back to the Revolutionary War. Colonel Matthew Floyd (1729-1787) was loyal to King George while his son Abraham Floyd (1755-1844) was loyal to the 13 colonies. Matthew Floyd owned a big plantation down in South Carolina, but he lost it all when he had a price on his head and had to flee to Nova Scotia.

I heard about a family that wanted to give their father a family tree on his sixty fifth birthday. After some research they found out that their Uncle Harry was a convicted felon, went to prison and finally was electrocuted for his crime. In order to make the family tree more respectable they worded the Uncle Harry entry thus:

“Uncle Harry occupied a chair of applied electricity at one of our important government institutions. He was attached to his position by the strongest of ties and his death came as a real shock.”

Jesus was crucified between these two felons and implied to the uninformed that he was as guilty as they and worthy of death. And while Christ was hanging on the cross many people reviled him with insults.

THE ROBBERS REVILED CHRIST

Christ was crucified about nine in the morning (Mark 15:25; Luke 23:44). Darkness covered the land from noon to three in the afternoon when Jesus died (Luke 23:44-46; Mark 15:33-37). The criminals—robbers heard many insults from the various groups of people surrounding the crucifixion. The rulers “sneered” at Christ (Luke 23:35). He was “mocked” by the soldiers (Luke 23:36). During this time both of the robbers joined in and “hurled insults” at the sinless Son of God (Matthew 27:44; Luke 23:39). As time went on one of the robbers completely changed his attitude toward Christ.

THE REPENTANT ROBBER

It appears from the gospel record that the one robber was filled with godly sorrow and repented of his sins. There are several statements indicating his change of heart:

The Trilingual Sign

There is no doubt that he was able to read the accusation against the Son of God for there was a trilingual sign nailed above his cross for all to read: Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews” (John 19:19-21). These were the principal languages spoken in that day and therefore could be understood by all literate people, including these two thieves.

The Claims of Christ

The repentant robber no doubt knew something about the claim of Jesus to be the Christ—the Son of God and the promised king of Israel spoken by the prophets. Even the unrepentant robber acknowledged that Jesus claimed to be the Christ as he hurled his insults to Christ: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39). Both of these criminals heard others repeat the claims of Jesus as they jeered him: “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:40). They also no doubt heard the accusations of the rulers of the Jews against the crucified Christ: “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God’” (Matthew 27:42-43). With all of this information about Jesus it is amazing that the unrepentant robber did not change his heart also! The repentant robber definitely took on a spirit of faith in Jesus.

The Repentant Robber Feared God

From his words we conclude that he took on a healthy respect and fear of God. When he rebuked the other thief it is implied that he did fear God and could not understand why his fellow criminal did not have the same fear in view of his impending death: “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?”(Luke 23:40). When Billy Graham was asked which President he had talked with the most, he stated that it was Lyndon Johnson, because he had a great fear of death. The repentant robber implied that he feared God before whom he must stand and give an account at the last day (2 Corinthians 5:10).

The Repentant Robber Confessed His Sin

The Bible declares “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The repentant robber candidly confessed that he was a sinner justly condemned and worthy of death: “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve” (Luke 23:41).

The Repentant Robber Testified of Christ

While involved in his ministry Jesus Christ challenged anyone to convict him of sin. Skeptics and infidels (in-for-hells) have attempted to do so for centuries unsuccessfully. There are many proofs of the immaculate character of Christ, among which we have the testimony of this repentant robber: “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:41). It is at this point that we have a desperate, sinful man about to die a painful death make a death bed request of Christ.

The Repentant Robber Said “Remember Me”

Memory will be continued beyond the grave (Luke 16:19-31). The repentant robber asked Christ to remember him when he would overcome death and Hades. Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). It is doubtful that this robber understood the spiritual nature of the kingdom that Jesus came to establish. Shortly before Pentecost even the apostles did not understand that the kingdom of Christ was to be the reign of God in the hearts of his people (Acts 1:6-8). This was the case in spite of the fact that Jesus had plainly instructed them that his kingdom was not an earthly kingdom: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36). This request whether he understood the nature of the kingdom, was an appeal to be saved from his sins that he might have eternal life. Christ understood this and answered him in a way that must have given him “blessed assurance.”

THE LOVING, FORGIVING CHRIST

While hanging there on the cross the repentant robber must have observed that Christ had a loving and forgiving disposition toward his detractors. At one time he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Peter in his first letter described the loving disposition of Jesus which the thief observed:

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed (1 Peter 2:21-24).

JESUS RELIED-“TODAY…PARADISE”

It is in keeping with this spirit that Christ answered the robber’s request when he replied, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). This strongly implies that the repentant robber was forgiven of his sins and would have eternal life that would begin in the paradise of God. “Paradise” is from (παραδεισος-paradeisos), and is thought by many in origin and etymology to be, “among the Persians a grand enclosure or preserve, hunting-ground, park, shady and well-watered, in which wild animals were kept for the hunt; it was enclosed by walls and furnished with towers for hunters” (Thayer, page 480). In that sense the Native American Indian was not far off when his concept of heaven was the “Happy Hunting Ground!”

“Paradise” was also used by ancient writers to refer to “a garden, pleasure-ground; grove, park,” and by implication also a reference to the Garden of Eden—man’s original paradise lost by sin and rebellion against God (Genesis 2:8-17; 3:1-12). However, in Christ’s promise to the repentant robber he was not referring to paradise here on earth.

Jesus promised the repentant criminal that he would be with him in paradise that very day. All three men crucified died that same day. Therefore, the spirits of Jesus and the thief went to “that part of Hades which was thought by the later Jews to be the abode of the souls of the pious until the resurrection” (Thayer, page 480). This is the same place that the rich man and Lazarus went after death (Luke 16:19-31). And the promise also refers to “an upper region in the heavens” (Thayer, page 480), a place that Paul styles “the third heaven” and “paradise” (2 Corinthians 12:2, 4). On the day of Pentecost, Peter affirmed that Jesus was resurrected from “hades” and the grave (Acts 2:27). Therefore, paradise refers to Hades and heaven—the eternal home of the redeemed. It is plain to those who can see that Christ saved the repentant robber.

THE DIVERSITY OF PLAN BEFORE THE CROSS

Today, many who consider conversion to Christ, when confronted with the command to be baptized, will balk and say, “But what about the thief on the cross, he was saved without baptism and I want to be saved the same way!” The repentant robber was saved before Jesus died upon the cross and therefore was not subject to the last will and testament of Christ that became effective after his death. No one today can be saved like the thief was saved. While Jesus was living he could give salvation either with or without conditions to whoever he wanted to.

Let us notice some examples of how Jesus saved sinners before the cross. This graphic chart will illustrate what we shall prove by specific cases. In each case Christ offered salvation either with or without certain conditions. While he was living on earth he had the power to give salvation to whoever he chose to on whatever terms he decided. That is however not the case today.

1. The Palsied Man
A man who is afflicted with palsy is the first example of how Jesus saved people while he was living and before he died upon the cross. Jesus was teaching in a house and so many people had filled the house that there was no room to enter through the door. Four men of active faith carried the palsied man on a stretcher, cut a hole in the roof and let him down in the room where Jesus was instructing the people. When Christ saw him he simply said, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5).

Some of the teachers of the law were thinking within themselves that no one can forgive sins but God alone. Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . .” He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all (Mark 2:8-12). The point is that Jesus performed an outward visible miracle to prove that he had the power to forgive sins—something inward and invisible. In this case Jesus forgave this man of his sins without any conditions. This he had the power to do while he was living, either with or without conditions.

2. The Sinful Woman
Once, a Pharisee invited Jesus to his house to have dinner with him. “A woman who had lived a sinful life” found out Jesus was there and invited her self. She showed great love to Jesus, weeping she washed his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, anointed them with an alabaster of perfume and kissed them again and again. The Pharisee was standoffish and embarrassed by her, but Jesus said, “Therefore. I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47). Then to the sinful woman Jesus simply said, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48).

Before Jesus died on the cross he saved sinners either with or without conditions. In the case of the sinful woman, he forgave her based on her demonstration of penitent faith and acts of love. As they departed he said to her: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:50). In our next example Jesus offered salvation based on some conditions that seem hard and which very few would be will to accept today.

3. The Rich Young Ruler
In this case a young man with great possessions asked the Lord what the conditions might be in order that he might inherit eternal life. Jesus referred him to the last six of the ten commands given by Moses (Exodus 20:12-17; Luke 18:20). He acknowledged that he had kept all of these from the time he was a young boy and inquired what was still lacking. As far as negative goodness, he was a good example of how young people should live, but he lacked positive goodness. Therefore, in the one thing he lacked Jesus commanded him to “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Luke 18:22). He became sad and as far as we know never did what the Lord asked him to do.

How many would want to use the rich young ruler as their example of salvation today? I dare say, “Not many!” But many want to use the case of the repentant robber. He was not baptized and in order to get around obeying the command of Jesus and the apostles, many will say, “What about the thief on the cross? He was not baptized! I want to be saved like the thief.”

4. The Thief on the Cross
Why do so many want to use the thief on the cross as their example of salvation today, instead of the many examples of salvation after the death of Christ, as demonstrated in Acts of Apostles and the Epistles? It is because of a refusal to accept baptism as a condition of pardon. It is because of loyalty to a human creed, doctrine and traditions. The logical argument goes like this—baptism was not required of the thief; therefore, baptism is not required of us. But this logic proves too much and therefore proves nothing. Belief of the gospel—the death, burial and resurrection of Christ was not required of the repentant robber; therefore, these gospel facts are not required of us. This conclusion is patently false, because we must believe and obey the gospel:

1 Corinthians 15:1-4
“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”
NKJV

Therefore a sinner is required to believe and act upon facts, commands and promises that were not required of the thief on the cross. And it is upon this same basis that baptism is required of us as a condition of remission of sin, even though it was not required of the repentant robber (Romans 6:1-4; 10:9-10).

An illustration of the difference between the salvation of the thief and that of people today, is the fact that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson never paid federal income taxes to the government of the United States, because that tax had not been imposed on the citizens in that early timeframe. We cannot say that we will not pay income tax because they did not. Neither can one say that baptism is not required today because it was not required of the repentant robber. This is the case because the palsied man, the sinful woman, the rich young ruler and the thief on the cross all lived under the Law of Moses and the earthly ministry of Christ. When Christ died, the Law of Moses was annulled and the ministry of Christ in the flesh ceased. His death cancelled the Law and then after his resurrection the new covenant or will was inaugurated.

THE DEATH OF CHRIST CANCELLED THE OLD TESTAMENT

There are several plain scriptural statements that announce the abrogation of the Old Testament. Paul to the church at Ephesus writes, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace” (Ephesians 2:14-15). And the writer of Hebrews states, “By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear” (Hebrews 8:13). And plainly the apostle states that the Law of Moses was cancelled by the cross: “having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:14). Having therefore done away with the old law by the death of Christ, it was necessary that the requirements of a legal will would be met before the last will and testament of Christ could be established.

THE REQUIREMENTS OF A LEGAL WILL

What are the several requirements in order for a legal will to be effective and in force? And does the will of Christ meet these requirements?

Testator
For a legal will to be effective there must be a testator who is of age and in good mind. Christ qualified in both respects: “Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry” (Luke 3:23).

Legacy
But the testator must have something of value to leave to the heirs. Christ Jesus left us the greatest legacy of all—the abundant life: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). He also promised us eternal life: “And this is the promise that he has promised us, even eternal life” (1 John 2:25).

Heirs
When we become children of God by faith, repentance, confession and baptism we become heirs of all that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have vouchsafed to us: “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:16-17).

Witnesses
After his resurrection and during the forty days before he ascended back to heaven, Jesus repeatedly appointed the apostles as witnesses of his death, burial and resurrection. He gave them specific instructions of their duties as witnesses:

Luke 24:45-49
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them,  “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

The apostles would not qualify to be witnesses until they received the promised baptism of the Holy Spirit. Only then could they carry the last will and testament of Christ to the ends of the earth: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Death of the Testator
As we have already pointed out, while living the testator has the power to dispose of his property however he may choose—with or without conditions. But after the death of the testator, his legacy must be dispensed according to the terms of his will. Christ qualified in this respect on the cross:

“For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living” (Hebrews 9:15-17).

Executors
Finally, there must be executors who open the will and announce the disposal of the blessings either with or without conditions. In the case of Christ’s last will and testament it offers salvation to sinners upon certain conditions.

THE NEW TESTAMENT CONDITIONS OF SALVATION

Some religionists teach that only one condition is required—faith. Faith is definitely a condition of pardon from sin, but not the only one. We list them here in the logical order in which they are to be met by sinful people:

• Teaching (Matthew 28:18-20)
• Faith (Hebrews 11: 6)
• Repentance (Luke 24:46-49)
• Confession (Romans 10:9-10)
• Baptism (Mark 16:15-16)

Since the inspired apostles were given the original charge to take the gospel into the entire world, let us see if there was conformity and uniformity of requirement to the terms of Christ’s last will and testament.

UNIFORMITY OF REQUIREMENT TO CHRIST’S WILL

Just as there was diversity of plan in the way that Christ saved sinners while he was living on the earth, so now there is uniformity of plan according to the terms of his last will—the New Testament.

Pentecost
The first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ is the birthday of the church—the kingdom of God. God reigns in the hearts of his people. All of the executors stood up and announced the uniform conditions of pardon on this great and notable day of the Lord. And we are not left in doubt as to what they said, for we have the recorded speech of the apostle Peter. Having been filled with the Spirit of God, Peter stood up and delivered a stirring sermon on the death, burial, resurrection, ascension and coronation of the Lord Jesus Christ. His powerful words pricked the hearts of the multitude and they cried out loud, “Brothers, what shall we do” (Acts 2:37)? In keeping with the conditions of Christ’s last will Peter gave this answer: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call”(Acts 2:38-39). Thus the people on Pentecost were not saved like the thief on the cross. They did not fight water baptism for the remission of sins like many of the denominations do today because,

With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:40-41).

Ethiopian
In our next uniform example of how Christ saves people under his last will and testament is that of the man from Ethiopia who was the Treasurer of Queen Candace. He was either a Jew or Gentile proselyte to the Jewish religion, for he had been to Jerusalem to worship. Now he is returning to his home in a chariot. He is reading the fifty third chapter of Isaiah as they roll down the road. As scripture says, he was reading it with a veil over it, because he does not understand who the prophet is describing. Someone needs to guide him in understanding the message.

It is at this juncture that Philip the evangelist joins him and beginning at that scripture preaches unto him Jesus. As they reach some water, the Ethiopian asks why he should not be baptized. Philip was not a denominational preacher who says you do not need to be baptized, because Philip told him to stop the chariot and be baptized. The Ethiopian definitely was not saved like the repentant robber on the cross. He was baptized for the remission of his sins:

Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”
Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”
And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him (Acts 36-38, NKJV).

The reason the Ethiopian made the good confession and was baptized for the remission of sins, is because he was living under the last will and testament of Christ, and therefore subject to the terms and stipulations of that document. Our next example is the conversion of a young man who previous to his conversion was a foe of Christ.

Saul of Tarsus
This man, who later became the greatest salesman in the world for the gospel, previously persecuted the church, putting Christians in prison and to death (Acts 8:1-3). With authority in his hands he was on one of these mad expeditions to Damascus when he was confronted by Christ himself. He inquired of Christ what he would have him to do. Jesus command him to arise and go into the city and he would be told what he “must” do (Acts 9:6). Now he is a penitent believer, but not saved from his sins. Ananias is apprised that Christ has chosen Saul to take the gospel to “the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). But now he must go to Saul and tell him what he must do. We are not left in doubt because Luke left us a record of his speech to Saul:

Acts 9:17-18
“Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.
NKJV

In his own defense Paul later recounted his account of his conversion to Christ. Ananias admonished him not to wait any longer in doing what the last will and testament of Christ required to pardon him from his sins: “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Anyone who can see through a picket fence can understand that Saul was not pardoned until his sins were washed away and this followed the command to be baptized. This is the uniform plan of salvation for today.

Jailor
Our last example of the uniform plan of salvation after the death of Christ is the jailor in charge of the facility at Philippi. The magistrates were convinced by false testimony that Paul and Silas were guilty of inciting riots and commanded them to be beaten with many stripes and the jailor put their feet in stocks in the inner part of the prison. Paul and Silas were able to sing praises and pray to God in the night. At midnight a great earthquake broke everyone’s bonds. The jailor was considering suicide when Paul saved his life, telling him all the prisoners were still there. Realizing that divine intervention had delivered Paul and Silas, “Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway” (Acts 16:29-33, KJV). It is plain that there was something the jailor had to do to be saved from his sins. What did he do? He believed and was baptized just as Jesus had commanded (Mark 16:15-16).

Every example of salvation in Acts of Apostles bears out that after the death, burial, resurrection, ascension and coronation of Christ over his kingdom, the conditions of salvation were uniform. While many more examples could be presented, it will suffice as a summary to notice, “And many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:8, NKJV). And please take notice that in Acts of Apostles, not one person was saved like the thief was saved because they lived under the last will and testament of Christ.

EXHORTATION

After one today hears and learns the conditions of pardon there is one thing to do, and that is to trust and obey and accept the pardon that God signifies is ours. Christ is said to be the author of eternal salvation all who obey him (Hebrews 5:9). At the last day,

“when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10, NKJV).

Notice that a pardon is of no value until the conditions are obeyed and accepted. It is hard to understand why so many sinners reject the pardon offered by the loving and forgiving God.

GEORGE WILSON MUST DIE!

George Wilson and an accomplice back in 1830 were convicted of robbing the U.S. mail and sentenced to be hanged. George Wilson had influential friends who persuaded President Andrew Jackson to issue him a pardon, but he adamantly refused to accept it. The Attorney General made this statement: “The court cannot give the prisoner the benefit of the pardon, unless he claims the benefit of it… It is a grant to him: it is his property; and he may accept it or not as he pleases.”

The matter went all the way to the Supreme Court and Chief Justice John Marshall handed down the ruling that George Wilson must be executed for his crimes:

“A pardon is an act of grace, proceeding from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws, which exempts the individual, on whom it is bestowed, from the punishment the law inflicts for a crime he has committed…

“A pardon is a deed, to the validity of which delivery is essential; and delivery is not completed without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered; and if it be rejected, we have discovered no power in a court to force it on him.

“It may be supposed that no being condemned to death would reject a pardon, but the rule must be the same in capital cases and in misdemeanors.”

Incredibly, George Wilson rejected the pardon and chose to die. It could not be forced upon him. And God will not force his pardon on law breaking sinners today. Christ offers to blot out our transgression and many choose to die. Let it not be so! *

* Shelby G. Floyd delivered this sermon under the title, “The Repentant Robber,” May 10, 2009 at the Heartland Church of Christ, 2455 Fairview Place, Greenwood, Indiana. Shelby also delivered this sermon under the title, “The Thief on the Cross,” May 6, 2018 at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142.  Copyright © 2009 2018 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved

Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142

 

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