And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
— Luke 23v43
All Christians agree that baptism is important, Getting us to agree on what it does, how to do it, and to whom we ought to do it is a different matter. Still generally speaking, we know that people ought to do it. The question remains though: is baptism necessary in order to be saved? I’m not going to get into the details of that question, but I do want to fly a kite as a possible response to one common question: what about the thief on the cross?
It would seem, considering the thief on the cross, that baptism is not necessary for people to be saved. After all, the thief was not baptised, but he was saved. I might suggest this, however: that he was in fact baptised. How so? Let us consider what baptism is. St Paul says that baptism is our means of entering into and participating in Christ’s death (Romans 6v3). We, living in different times and places to the Lord Jesus, are only able to participate in the death of Christ sacramentally. Through baptism, the Spirit unites us to Christ so that we can say with Paul that we have been crucified with Christ (Gal. 2v20).
It might stand to reason then, that the only person would not need baptism in order to die with Christ is the person who actually died with Christ. Did the thief need to be baptised? Well, if the question is whether he needed to participate in the death of Christ, then is seems to me that he already did.