The Penitent Thief: A Model of True Repentance?

J.C. Ryle

Many people look at the broad fact that the penitent thief crucified with Jesus was saved in the hour of death, but examine no further (Luke 23:39-43). They do not look at the distinct and well-defined evidences of repentance that fell from his lips before he died. Those evidences deserve our closest attention.Genesis 1:2-7

The first notable step in the thief's repentance was his concern about his companion's wickedness in reviling Christ. "Do you not fear God," he said, "seeing you are in the same condemnation."

The second step was a full acknowledgment of his own sin. "We indeed are just in condemnation. We receive the due reward of our deeds."

The third step was an open confession of Christ's innocence. "This man has done nothing amiss."

The fourth step was faith in Jesus Christ's power and will to save him. He turned to a crucified sufferer, and called Him "Lord," and declared his belief that He had a kingdom.

The fifth step was prayer. He cried to Jesus when he was hanging on the cross and asked Him - even then - to intercede for him.

The sixth and last step was humility. He begged to be "remembered" by our Lord. He mentions no great thing. Enough for him if he is remembered by Christ.

These six points should always be remembered in connection with the penitent thief. His time was very short for giving proof of his conversion. But it was time well spent. Few dying people have ever left behind them such good evidences as have been left by this man.

Adapted from The Gospel of Luke by J.C. Ryle (Chapter 23).

Originally published July 19, 2010.

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