The thief on the cross apparently repented somewhat. Therefore Jesus promised him to be in paradise, which is not heaven. Paradise - or the spirit world - he has the chance to hear the full gospel and be saved in Gods kingdom if he accepts all of it.
The saved by grace alone stance has one problem: all the other statements in the Bible that point out the need for works, a classic example of which is James: faith without works is dead.
Since you believe in a works based salvation, how do you live this out in your own life? What does look like for you personally?
I must confess that if salvation is based on works, I’d never be saved. Why? By the simple fact that, well, I’m not good enough. Try as I might to do all these good works, but I could never ever do any “good works” to glorify God on my own merit; it would all be for my own glorification. If I can save myself, why do I need God? Where does He fit into the picture? When I try to save myself by my own mighty fist and mighty arm, pulling myself up by my own bootstraps in life, I constantly fall flat on my face. I can’t do it. I’ve tried many times before to be “good” but it’s clear that I can’t. I fall short every single time. It’s the only thing that I can be sure of in this life, that I will fall short of the glory of God (if I try to achieve it on my own).
I remember a story Ravi Zacharias likes to say: A soldier went up to Winston Churchill and said to him, “Sir, I am a self-made man!” To which Churchill responds, “You have just relieved God of a very solemn responsibility.” I don’t know about your life, but this truth is very prevalent in my life.
The only thing that keeps me going every day is the absolute knowledge that God loves me. He knows that I can’t meet his standards. He knows that I stumble and fall all the time. And I know that I can always count on Him to be there to pick me back up again. Because He knows that I can’t reach His standards, He sent His only Son, Jesus, to take my place on the cross of Calvary. I should have died there on that cross, but instead Christ took my place, taking my sin as His own and forever freeing me from myself. As the song goes, it’s all because of Jesus I’m alive.
If works is how one gets saved, I don’t qualify nor will I ever. Christ knew my inadequacy and volunteered to take my place. This is the gospel, the Good News, that Jesus came to earth and died for, the apostles preached and were martyred for.
May I ask you a question? If one is saved by works, why did Jesus have to come here as God incarnate and walk the earth? What was the purpose of the brutality and the bloodshed on the cross? Why did the Son of our Father is heaven leave the comforts of His eternal home to come here? If I can save myself, why not send another minor prophet or two? But His only Son! It doesn’t make any sense!
The cross is why I live. To live is Christ and to die is gain. If I can save myself, this would change to: to live is Me and to die is also Me (by my own merit I deserve heaven). Even now I tend to live for Me. But God loves me so much that He overwhelms My will with the the constant truth: “I am the Way, the truth, and the Life” meaning, simply, that I’m not.
I want you to know this truth, too. I want the Truth to set you free. Because that is what Truth does; it liberates one from their former life of deceit and self-glorification.
I challenge you study the New Testament; read the gospels and the epistles, and list all of the verses on salvation in a notebook and see for yourself if salvation is by works or by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. If you have questions, go to the throne boldly and with an open mind.
May God bless you greatly in your pursuit for truth
I posted this to highlight the fact that this is not a settled issue but it sure is important enough to write about, 42 volumes.