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In my opinion, God wants new Christians to be baptized (as indicated by Jesus in His Great Commission to the apostles in Matthew 28:19-20), and baptism is a sacrament that every Christian should actively seek, and not avoid or refuse if given the opportunity. However, baptism is not an absolute requirement for either being saved (as demonstrated by the repentant thief on the cross in Luke 23:39-43), or being filled with the Holy Spirit, as indicated by the household of Cornelius receiving the Holy Spirit (just as the apostles had at Pentecost) prior to being baptized (Acts 10:44-48).
The thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43) was one of several examples of Jesus forgiving the sins of several people during His personal ministry: the forgiveness of the sins of the paralytic man (Mark 2:1-12) and the forgiveness of the sins of a sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50). But Jesus used this power while He was on earth: Mark 2:10-11: But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"—he said to the paralytic— 11 "I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home." ESV There is no record of this happening after Jesus’s death and resurrection. The household of Cornelius was filled with the Holy Spirit before they heard Peter preach the gospel to them. Why? The Holy Spirit was given to the household of Cornelius to prove to the Jewish Christians that the gospel was for Gentiles as well as Jews. Acts 11:1-18 David Willbanks
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