The thief on the cross


Everytime someone tries to get in debates with me over faith I can usually prevail, however lately I have been surrounded by Protestants and they have aroused some questions in me.
The other day while I was at school my friend started the whole “saved” thing which led to conversation about sin. He said “Jesus died on the cross for our sins so if we keep his name we aren’t full of sin.” I didn’t know exactly what to say to that. The other thing he brought up was forgiving sins to a priest. He knows and understands that Jesus gave the apostles the power to do so but he doesn’t think that we need a mediator to jesus.
The hardest thing for me to talk to him about was good works. I showed him many places in Scripture were it talks about works (…sola scriptura…) and then he brought something up about the thief (correct me if I am wrong) that died on the cross next to jesus. He said that the thief had no good works and that he accepted Jesus while he was dying and made it to heaven so clearly there are no reasons why we need good works. Faith inspires work, there is no need for works outside faith.
The last point I tried to make was the difference between mortal and venial sins. He just told me, “Jesus died for our sins, murder or a white lie, If we have faith our sins our forgiven.” I tried to prove to him that there are deadly or mortal sins by showing him (1 John 5: 16). After reading it he just started flipping through more pages to find something to show me. He told me to read on (1 John 5: 18-20). He said that no one that knows god sins, so clearly he couldn’t go to hell for murdering someone or commiting a mortal sin.
I have kind of been in a hole for the past few days and really needed help. Its hard being catholic when you are surrounded by protestants. If someone could please help me answer some of my questions I would greatly appreciate it. I would like to hear answers that aren’t just bible versus (although i don’t mind if they are included) so that it makes for more of a conversation. Thank you and christ be with you.



I don’t have much time, but quickly, the theif had no chance to get the sacraments and live his life for Christ…therefore he is the exception rather than the rule. You cannot ignore the sheer volume biblical proof and Catholic teaching in regards to salvation.


Thank you for your answer, it’s still a little blurry but I see more of the big picture.


God does not hold us accountable if we cannot receive the sacraments through no fault of our own.


As I read your post something jumped out at me when you said he understands Jesus gave the apostles the power to forgive sins but he doesn’t THINK we need a mediator. I just don’t think Jesus makes mistakes, do you? He also gave them the power after the crucifixion and resurrection. If all sins were forgiven by Christ’s sacrifice, why does Jesus later give the power to forgive sins to the apostles?
Hope you get more help with this. I’m still learning too.


The good thief made a last confession to the ultimate priest: Jesus himself. He rebuked the other thief saying that they (the two thieves) deserved their punishment but Jesus was an innocent man. Isn’t that acknowledging his sinfulness before God (Jesus was right there)? God in his infinite mercy offers salvation even to those who live a lifetime of sinfulness if they repent even at the last moment.

The Protestants are probably right for the wrong reasons. Everyone who accepts Jesus as his saviour is at least sorry for having offended God and prays that he will die in a state of grace. They’re wrong in thinking that our conduct has nothing to do with our salavation. If we neglect our spiritual health during our life, we may still escape Hell by making our last confession but we will still have a very long road to travel before we experience the fullness of Heaven. That is why Catholics believe in Purgatory - a state of purification. CS Lewis describes it as arriving before God in rags and covered in filth. You would want to clean up before entering into the place prepared for you in Heaven. Protestants seem to believe in a very simply test for salavation - belief or not;
50.01% passes, 49.99% fails. Whether the like it or not they still believe in works. Do you believe or not? Is that not a work of your human will? They ultimate logical extension of their position is predestination which is completely false because it believes that God wills us to sin and wills some of us to damnation.


The issue is falsely presented as faith vs. works. This is an incomplete understanding of the Catholic position. I perform good works because of my faith in Christ and belief that these works are pleasing to God and help me to walk closer to Christ. The two are self reinforcing.

I would point out to your friend that our role here on earth is not to limp across the finish line by doing the minimum while still getting to heaven. Our role here on earth is to create heaven on earth. (… Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…) Now salvation is given to us freely and not earned by good deeds, but what is the proper way to say thank you for that gift? The Church has taught me that good works are an important tool in my formation, helping me to see Christ in others and to put my self interest in its proper place. I do them not to seek favor from the Lord but to please him.

Do I assume that because I said the Jesus prayer in 5th grade that I’m covered? Or, do I seek to grow closer to God throughout my life? The Protestant contention that we believe that we earn our way to heaven is just false and incomplete and pulling passages from scripture without the benefit of Tradition and the magesterium of the Church logically allows for just about any position including slavery, the separation of races, ostricism of unpopular groups and on and on.

Speak to your friend with charity but don’t be pulled into a verse exchange.


Saint George,

First, even those who “know God” contine to sin. Look at Peter - he loved Christ & yet he lied & denied he even knew him (3 X) so it’s just plain wrong to say that Christians no longer sin. The fact is, if we are sorry, God is faithful & he forgives us. Always.

Second, when someone says they don’t need a Priest to have their sins forgiven, they can go straight to God, ask if that applies to every aspect of their Christian life? For example, when they want to be baptized - can they just go straight to God & stick their head in the sink & baptize themselves OR DO THEY NEED A PASTOR?

When they want to get married - do they just go straight to God - maybe out in a field somewhere OR DO THEY NEED A PASTOR?

When someone dies, can they just have a service between them & God or do they NEED A PASTOR to perform the funeral?

Likewise with communion - is it just between them & God with a basket of bread on their table or DO THEY NEED A PASTOR?

See, Protestants call on their Pastors for all sorts of things - it’s never between them & God unless we’re talking forgiveness. I don’t know about you, but being forgiven is SO IMPORTANT to me… I’d want to be sure I got it right - so I’m sticking to the way it’s been done for 2,000 years.

Blessings to you! (And I agree with you, it is difficult being the “Catholic” surrounded by Protestants. Stand your ground -we’re right!



Thank you for all of your replies. They have all helped me grow in my faith, even in this short period of time. You have been a great help and I pray that you all continue to grow in your faith alongside with me. *I really like the babtism sink thing.


The good thief did do a good work, by responding to Jesus on the cross, repenting of his sins, and suffering for them. Enough suffering there to even wipe out any purgatory time, if you ask me.


We don’t know that the good thief WASN’T baptised, though…we just don’t know.


[quote=adstrinity]We don’t know that the good thief WASN’T baptised, though…we just don’t know.

Uh? Jesus said to him: "Today you will be with me in Paradise."
Sounds like baptism to me.


[quote=adstrinity]We don’t know that the good thief WASN’T baptised, though…we just don’t know.

True, and even if he wasn’t baptized - what does that prove?

We are bound by God’s commands - but God Himself is bound by nothing. If Jesus wanted Him in heaven - he’s in heaven. That doesn’t change anything for the rest of us though.


So not forget that there are many Saints recognized by the Catholic Church, who died a natural death before they could be baptized.


I think the plea of the “good” thief makes a great case for baptism of desire especially given the response of Jesus.

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