The repentant thief who was on a cross being crucified along with Jesus, desired salvation (Luke 23:39-43). The man said that he was getting what he deserved, but Jesus was innocent.
The thief rebuked the other thief for his hardness of heart and his making light of Jesus' ability to save anyone. Seemingly, there was not any repentance in this thief's mind.
The repentant thief was willing to verbally request that Jesus remember him when he came into His Kingdom. That demonstrated that he had faith in Jesus' ability to save him from his sins.
Jesus responded to his request by telling him that on that same day he would be taking him to "Paradise" with Him. Thus, He was going to be saved from his sins, due to Jesus' releasing him of such and taking him to a place called "Paradise".
This was a department of a place where souls go following death, called "Hades". Another department of this place was called "Tartarus". Thus, "Hades" might be paralleled to a geographical location, which we may call a County, while "Paradise" would be a nice, comfortable, pleasant city, located in the county. However, another city in the same county, which is just the opposite - dirty, polluted, high crime, high unemployment, would be called "Tartarus". "Paradise" was a touch of heaven, while "Tartarus" was a touch of hell.
While Jesus was walking among men - he could extend salvation to anyone He desired. Sometimes He told people to do something to obtain such and sometimes He did not. Note the following:
1) Matthew 9:1-8 He told the palsied man verbally that his sins were
2) Luke 7:36-50 He told the woman who anointed Him that her sins,
which were many, were forgiven
3) John 8:1-11 He told the adulterous woman to stop sinning, and that
He did not condemn her
Just prior to Jesus' death on the cross, He said "It is finished" (John 19:30). He meant that His mission was finished (completed), as well as the Mosaic Law, which had been governing God's people since it's delivery to Moses, by God at Mt. Sinai. The Law was referred to as the First Covenant or First Testament. Hebrews 9:15-18 states that before a person's testament or will can go into force, the person writing the "will" must die. In other words - if I want to give to the reader of this article my automobile, I have that privilege. However, if I state that I have put you in my will to receive my automobile - I must first die, for you to receive it.
Thus, while Jesus was among mankind - He could forgive sins as He so chose. But now, after His death upon Calvary's Cross, man is saved from their sins by appropriating that blood. On "This Side Of Calvary" (after Jesus died and His will went into effect), this is accomplished when a person becomes a Believer in Jesus, Repents of his/her sins, Confesses Jesus as Lord, is Baptized for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, and strives to live a Christian Life. This is what Jesus' "will" states for us to do, as is stated in the Book Of Acts, which tells us of His Ascension to heaven and the directions, which the apostles gave to those seeking salvation. (See Acts 2:37-47; 8:35-40; 16:25-33).
If a person says that the thief on the cross did not need to be baptized, he is partly correct. If he was a Jew and had heard John the Baptist preaching and desired to be a follower of Jesus - he would have responded to John's preaching for people to repent and be baptized (Mark 1:1-5). This was a baptism for the forgiveness of sins, which looked forward to Calvary, where the sacrifice was going to be made for mankind's sins. Christian Baptism had not been extended yet, as Christ's blood had not be shed for the forgiveness of man's sins, nor had He died.
Following Christ's resurrection and prior to His Ascension, He gave the "Great Commission", which includes Christian Baptism. It is located in Matthew 28:18-20 and speaks of the Holy Spirit as a gift to the baptismal candidate (see Acts 19:1-5). This is the baptism which everyone needs to receive today.
May the reader of this article not get "hung up" on baptism (for it or against it). Let us be good students of God's Word - search it diligently. If one will do so, then the conclusion one will obtain is that mentioned above.
Plainly, don’t get short changed. Be ready to meet our Maker. The Bible teaches in Acts that to avoid hell and gain heaven - one must:
1) Believe In Jesus As Savior (16:31)
2) Repent Of Sins (17:30)
3) Confess Christ Audibly (8:37)
4) Be Baptized In Water (2:38)
5) Live A Christian Life (14:22)
6) Be Active In The Church (2:47)
In the Bible the MAIN THINGS ARE THE PLAIN THINGS. God does not want to confuse anyone, and He does not - it is Satan who confuses (I Cor. 14:33). He does not want us to MAJOR IN MINORS AND MINOR IN MAJORS, but wants us to do His will constantly. May we never be guilty of saying that; Believing, Repenting, Confessing , Being Baptized, or Living Faithfully, is a MINOR.
To answer the question in our title - The thief could have been baptized, but even if he had not been, that does not mean that anyone living today (this side of Calvary) does not need Christian Baptism. Jesus gave it in the "Great Commission", the apostles preached it on the birthday of the church, and that should settle it!