This is probably Salvation 101: The Basics, but for so many sincere believers in the LORD Jesus [Yeshua] there is still some confusion on how a person is saved or receives forgiveness of sins, so here is a brief reintroduction. Most, if not all the Evangelical or Pentecostal Churches teach that all you have to do is "believe" and confess Jesus as LORD and the Son of God, or just recite "The Sinner's Prayer" to become a child of God.
The 'Thief on the Cross' is usually the PEOPLE'S EXHIBIT A to prove that you don't have to be baptized to be saved. The manner in which Jesus [Yeshua] chose to save him [the thief] under those extreme circumstances and others that He granted forgiveness of their sins was a special dispensation of grace given at the time. The following passages are offered for consideration:
Luke 5: 20-21, 24
When He [Jesus] saw their faith [being demonstrated-Cp. Luke 5: 18-19], He said to him [the paralyzed man], "Man, your sins are forgiven you." And the scribes and Pharisees began to reason, saying, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" "But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins. . ."
NOTE: The man came to Jesus for his physical infirmity but the first thing the LORD does is to forgive his sin, and then cure him of the paralysis. Why didn't the LORD simply cure him and be done with it because He encountered many people in His travels, but their sins, with the exception of a very few, were not even mentioned at all? The thing is the LORD can choose whatever method He deems appropriate to forgive sins, even baptism in water; as we shall see later on.
Luke 7: 36-38, 47-48
Then one of the Pharisees asked Him [Jesus] to dine with him. And He went to the Pharisee's house, and sat down to eat. And behold, a woman of the city who was a sinner, when you knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little. Then He said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."
John 5: 2, 5-6, 8, 14
Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew,
Bethesda ["Place of Outpouring"], having five porches. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been in that condition a long time, He said to him, "Do you want to be made whole?" Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk." Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, "See, you have been made whole. "Sin no more [your sin is forgiven], lest a worse thing come upon you."
John 8: 3-5, 7-8, 10-11
Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the Law [Torah], commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?" So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you [Is there no one here to condemn you]?" She said, "No one, LORD." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more [your sins are forgiven]."
Luke 23: 39-43
Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, If You are the Christ [Moshiach], save Yourself and us." But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? "And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong." Then he said to Jesus, "LORD, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."
NOTE: Jesus did not specifically say to the thief that his sins were forgiven but the reference to him joining Him in Paradise seems sufficient to prove that he was pardoned based upon his act of "faith." Now all of these examples of people having their sins forgiven by the LORD were at His discretion and divine prerogative, but the question is, did Jesus [Yeshua], after His death, burial, and resurrection, give His disciples any information whatsoever regarding the remission or forgiveness of sin?
Mark 16: 15
And He [Jesus] said to them, "Go into the entire world and preach the gospel to every creature [person]. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be [is] condemned.
NOTE: Now Peter was one of those who heard the LORD'S instruction, so how did he understand it?
Acts 2: 37-38
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart [convicted of their sin, guilt, and complicity in Jesus' death], and said to Peter and the rest of the apostle's, "Men and brethren, what must we do [to be saved]?" Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ [Yeshua Moshiach] for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
NOTE: The apostle gives the entire plan by combining all the words of Jesus on the matter (Cp. Matthew 28: 20-21; Luke 24: 47).
There are some people who don't see or understand the relevance of water baptism and teach that you are baptized in or by the Spirit of God, and while that is true to a certain extent, but not in the way they teach it, as in the example below:
Acts 10: 44-48a
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision [Jewish] who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles. For they heard them speak with tongues [languages] and magnify God. Then Peter answered, "Can any forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the LORD [Jesus/Yeshua].
NOTE: These Gentiles believers received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and according to the apostle Peter experienced or manifested the very things he and the others did on Pentecost, but why did he command them to be baptized in water if it was not necessary? If this 'water' baptism is spiritual and not literal then it would be an unnecessary redundancy. The apostle Peter also writes the following:
1 Peter 3: 20-21
Who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us-baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ [Yeshua Moshiach].
NOTE: There is a complex question to be asked, namely, how does a person show or demonstrate a good conscience toward God in reference to baptism whereby salvation occurs?
1 Peter 1: 22a, 23
Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit . . . having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible through the word of God which lives and abides forever.
NOTE: How is a person "Born again?"
John 3: 3, 5, 7
Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Jesus answered, "Most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." "Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' "
John 19: 33-34
But when they came to Jesus [Yeshua] and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.
John 7: 38-39
"He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of His heart [side] will flow rivers of living water." But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, who those believing in Him should receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus [Yeshua] was not yet glorified.
1 John 5: 8
There are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.
1 Corinthians 10: 1-2, 4
Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware [ignorant] that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea [water], all were baptized into Moses in the cloud [representing the Holy Spirit] and in the sea [water], and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ [Moshiach].
NOTE: The text does NOT say they were baptized "unto" Moses but rather 'into' Moses in the cloud and the sea.
Romans 6: 3
Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus [Yeshua Moshiach] were baptized into His death. Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism unto death that just as Christ [Moshiach] was raised from the dead by the glory of the father, even so also should we walk in the newness of life. This same Apostle Paul [Rav Shaul] testified about his own conversion before the Jerusalem mob as recorded in more detail in Acts 22: 1-21; Acts 9: 1-18.
Acts 22: 16
And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the LORD.
NOTE: When Paul received the Holy Spirit while in Damascus he was still baptized (Cp. Acts 9: 18), and again, if this was not a literal baptism in water, then in what, because he already received [was baptized by] the Holy Spirit of God?
Galatians 3: 27
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ [Moshiach] have put on Christ [Moshiach].
COMMENTARY: There are a couple of more closing points that need serious consideration- "IF" a sinner is directed to recite "The Sinner's Prayer" then it would seem reasonable to show the person where it is located in the Scriptures, just like "The LORD'S Prayer." While the person is searching that out they should read John 9: 31; Isaiah 59: 1-2; Job 27: 8-9. In 2 Kings 5: 1-14, Naaman the commander of the Syrian army wanted to be cured of leprosy and was told by Elisha the prophet to go dip [wash] in the Jordan River seven times. Now, he had it all figured out beforehand in his own mind how this healing should take place.
For Naaman, the QUESTION is this: Was his restoration from an incurable disease [like from the penalty of sin] based upon his belief "only" or was it "only" in the somehow regenerative power of the Jordan River [water] or was it "only" because he relented [repented of his hardness of heart] and decided to obey the word of the LORD through the prophet Elisha? ANSWER: All of the above because for Naaman his 'salvation' depended upon those requisite conditions being met, and just because he didn't understand or see how this river in the land of Israel could "save" him is like people today who can't see how 'water' [baptism] can have the power to cleanse from sin, is because they only see things according to the flesh and not the Spirit. Titus 3: 5 says: Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.
I recall a preacher referencing Romans 10: 9-10 as the ONLY condition to receive forgiveness of sins, adding a few of his very own words, too. The thing is, though, he forgot to mention Romans 6: 3-4 and all the other Biblical text where 'baptism' is mentioned in relation to salvation, remission/forgiveness of sins and our being united into the body of Christ [Moshiach]. READ BELOW:
Acts 8: 36-37, 38b
Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may. And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and he [Philip] baptized him [the eunuch].
For those who want to teach something different than what the LORD Jesus [Yeshua] told His apostles before ascending back to Heaven, that's fine with me but they might want to consider this:
2 John 9
Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ [Moshiach] DOES NOT HAVE GOD. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ [Moshiach] has both the Father and the Son.
NOTE: The doctrine, teaching or instruction [Torah] of Christ [Moshiach] is everything that He taught, not just the part about "loving one another."
John 12: 48
He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which will judge him-the word that I [not the Pastor, Bishop, Elder, Apostle, Evangelist, Minister, Bible Theologian, etc.] have spoken will judge him at the Last Day.
Finally, it doesn't matter what you feel or how religious you seem to be or the justifications offered in one's defense such as God knows the heart of a person, because we are admonished as in 2 Timothy 2: 15: Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
2 John 2: 28
And now little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming [arrival].