Saved Now and Forever: Luke 23:39-43

 •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 5
IN Luke 23:39-4639And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. 44And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. 46And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. (Luke 23:39‑46) is described the manner of God's grace to a thief on the cross. It is the great instance of the grace of God to a sinner; that of Saul of Tarsus is the greatest. The popular idea that it refers to a death-bed repentance is not correct; it is to show the grace of God, and what it does for a sinner in his most extreme state. Here is a thief cast out of the world, righteously put out according to law. He had transgressed grievously-his state could not be worse-the world could not endure him any longer. This is a lesson to many in the present day. Here is a man who is so incorrigible that there is no attempt to reform him, the only remedy is to put him to death. It is remarkable, while man feels in this way of a criminal who acts badly towards his fellow man, he has not got the sense in his soul, I have sinned against God, and have incurred His righteous judgment. When man finds his fellow is incorrigible, he says there is no help for it but to get rid of him-we must put him to death. It is right; the law of God sanctions it. God, in His righteousness, inflicts the same on man-a sinner. God said to man in the garden of Eden, "of the tree of knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat, for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die:" that is, in my righteousness, if you act according to your own will in contradiction to my will, you must die. If you see a thief punished, you say it is just what he deserves. Why? Because he is incorrigibly bad. Now, you see how it is with God. If you set up a will contrary to His will you are incorrigible-you must die.
One knows in his heart that he is under the sentence of death-even a child is aware of that-no animal has the suspense of it but man. Animals can enjoy the earth, but the moment man is true to himself he loses his enjoyment. Learned men tell us the deepest thought is allied to melancholy. What a statement! Why? Because it has gone down to the root of things. Man has capacity for enjoyment, but a deep thought must be melancholy, because he sees his doom. People are not awakened to the fact, that the life they have, as men, is under judgment. Adam did not adhere to the will of God, but set up his own will; his mind is alienated from God, and righteously he must die. And man has the sense in his soul that he must suffer judgment at the hand of God, and that he cannot meet it. What then? God comes in and meets it, and gives His Son to bear the judgment upon us. " While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Christ sheds His blood, the propitiation for our sins. He has taken upon Himself all the judgment that rests on me, hence he says (John 12:2424Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. (John 12:24)), "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone, but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit." Here is the thief on the cross; man is putting him out of the world, but man's judgment cannot go beyond this world. “Fear not them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do; but I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear. Fear him which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, fear him." This is the distinction between what man can do, and what God can do. Here is man putting a criminal to death in righteousness, and grace bringing this sinner to heaven through the death of the Son of God. The thief dies, his legs are broken, not one bit of his temporal punishment is remitted, yet the Lord says to him, " To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise."
There are two sides to grace. They are both brought out in the same passage. (Luke 14) Grace provides everything. "All things are ready." the doors are open-that is one side. The other is, "Compel them to come in." It is God's doing; God makes all ready, and He compels. "He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters." I say, who sent the earthquake to the jailer? Was it to let out the apostle? Not merely, but to bring the jailer on his knees to learn salvation. Who sent the famine to the prodigal? Who comes with bright light to the soul of Saul of Tarsus, and flashes it in, in spite of all the force of Satan Who was it that suddenly arrested a poor woman in the city of Nain, so that she says, Though I am a notorious sinner, Jesus is my Savior? Where did that come from? The grace of God compelling her to come in. It is not only that all is ready, and all the doors open, and the message is sent forth, but you must conic in and find out the things that are prepared. Christ, at the end of His course, effects the reversal of all the damage that Satan had done in Eden. Here is this man, a sinner not tolerated among men, deprived of his life-the dearest thing to a man. God's Son comes in and says, I bear the judgment, and he takes the man the world cannot tolerate in a new nature to the third heaven. “To-day shalt thou be with me." This is what Christ's death achieves for the sinner. When done with this scene, like the thief, you pass into a perfect, blessed state, into paradise with Christ. Now, if you do not believe that this is the grace of God to one still on earth, something must be imperfect in the way you see the righteousness brought in. If you think the way cannot be quite clear until you are dead yourself, then you do not see that you are as yet dead in the sight of God. If you are dead righteously, you cannot be regarded as alive righteously. You say, I am alive in myself. I admit it, but settle the question of God's righteousness. Was God righteous to give the thief association with His Son? Yes; because he was dead, and all was gone that had brought in the judgment. Then you do not believe that, in the eye of God, you are as dead as that man was. If you do not believe that God's righteousness is complete till you are dead, it must be imperfect as it stands. If I, a believer in Christ, am not as dead in the sight of God as ever I will be, God's righteousness is not complete. God says you are dead; you say, “I am a sinner every hour of the day." Quite true; but if you say God is not perfectly free to make you conscious of His salvation till you are in the grave, you call in question the righteousness of God. Why put it off till you are a corpse? Because you do not believe that judgment is complete till you are one. Now, God “hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin;" hence He says, "If one died for all, then were all dead, and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them and rose again." A believer has to do with a risen One. If all the judgment is not borne, there is not righteousness; if all is borne, then there is righteousness. I am dead with Christ. The apostle says, “ye are dead." There is no question about it. The moment I look at Christ risen I know I am " a new creature " in Him, breathing the peace of His life as distinctly by the Spirit as the thief did in the third heaven.
We do not get resurrection in Luke, but we get it in Rom. 4:2525Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Romans 4:25). Christ was “delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification. 'Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God;" and hence, in Rom. 8:22For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2), "the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." I am free; it is plain to any exercised conscience. God's Son not only bears the judgment, but it is complete. The life I live in the body shall pass away, but I breathe life in. Christ distinctly by the Spirit of God. If I only find acceptance when I die, then judgment is not complete till I die. I say it is complete in the cross, if not so I am not justified: “He was raised again for our justification." (See Rom. 5:11Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: (Romans 5:1).) I get beyond Luke 23 Christ is a Man out of judgment. I had to do with a man under judgment, now I have God's Son out of judgment, and righteousness is imputed to me if I believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead. I have to do with the God that raised Him, "being justified by faith." I am on new ground -resurrection ground-with Christ. There is nothing to offend God's eye there! Are you there? That is the point. Are you in the Man out of judgment “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature." You were in the man who was under judgment, now you are by faith connected with the One who went under judgment, and has risen out of it-dead with Christ, and alive in Him.
You never have perfect peace till you see every atom of you has been judged in the cross. If every atom has been judged, where is the atom to rise against you? We are on an island; everything is perfect, God has judged everything in the cross of Christ. “We glory in tribulations." I am in a scene of sorrow, but I endure. The very roughness hardens me, and brings out patience. I have to do with God, and my very difficulties become opportunities for God to show His grace and mercy to me, "knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, [' Experience' means testing], and experience hope." I hope, I do not despair because of the pressure, "it maketh not ashamed." I fall back to the foundation of everything; hope is not at the bottom, but at the top. "And the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us."
“When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." That brings us back to the thief on the cross. “God commendeth his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." The thief is an example; he dropped the thief-life and got another-an endless life, a perennial life-that never fails, never wearies; he got life in Christ. “To-day shalt thou be with me."
Now, will you, my reader, say " I do not want this great salvation. I will go to my domestic comforts, and turn my back on what God in His grace provided for sinners?" God sends forth the tidings of His grace, and will you say, “I refuse His offer "? J. B. S.