IN THE WORD

"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost". Act 2:38

Without a doubt, repentance is a prerequisite, that is, a "requirement" to salvation and the personal responsibility of every person on earth, before they can be accepted by God. It is the method of sorrow that must be worked in every man/woman before he/she can achieve a relationship with God.
Even before John the Baptist God was laying the foundations of repentance. It was symbolic through the use of burnt offerings in the Old Testament law: "For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings". - Hosea 6:6

God has always used a symbol of death, i.e. burnt sacrifices/offerings, to represent the coming salvation of man. It was God's way of telling His people that true repentance is a dying out of self before entering into His holy presence. The Old Testament tabernacle was a "type & shadow" of the New Testament salvation, yet to be revealed. The layout of the tabernacle speaks for itself. As you looked toward the holy of holies, the first thing you saw outside the tabernacle was the Altar of Sacrifice (burnt offerings), or the "Brazen Altar of Sacrifice". It was the first stop before the holiest place could be reached. The sinner would place his right hand on the sacrifice and symbolically, the sins would transfer to the sacrifice. We know now that the blood of bulls and goats cannot remit sin (Hebrews 10:4), however, this was the law, as yet God had not revealed His plan.
Moving on from the Altar was the "Brazen Laver", a large basin filled with water. It was the place where the priest washed, typifying New Testament baptism. They were not allowed to enter the holy place without first being completely cleansed at the Laver, just as they were not allowed to wash at the laver without first offering sacrifice (repentance).

The Transitional Period between Testaments

John the Baptist's sermons were to "make his paths straight" (Matthew 3:3); an obvious connotation to repentance. Jesus was about to usher in a "new" covenant. In order to complete this task, he had to take the sins of the world upon himself and die as the perfect sacrifice. His job was to fulfill the Old Testament, drawing God's plan to fruition through the Son of God's actions.
The righteous men and women of the old covenant died in faith; their faith counted to them as righteousness, having never seen the promise of God's return. The fortunate few that walked with Jesus not only walked in faith, but walked in a very short transitional period where belief in Jesus was all that was needed. The time span between John the Baptist's ministry and the resurrection of Jesus Christ served as this period. If you died in this time span, your belief, which leads to repentance, was counted to you as righteousness. That's why Jesus told the ex-convict on the cross "Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). There cannot be a new testament without first having the death of a testator. This is why the man on the cross did not have to be baptized (Christ had not yet been buried) and did not need to receive the Holy Spirit (for it had not yet been poured out).
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"For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth" (Hebrews 9:16-17). That dispensation ended with Christ's death, burial, resurrection, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. That moment ushered in the New Testament. No more animal blood! God now demanded the fruits of repentance! Godly sorrow! "For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation" (II Corinthians 7:10). It's the same godly sorrow that Paul mentioned in I Corinthians 15:31 when he said "I die daily". Not a literal death, but through repentance. This is how the believer must begin his walk with God. "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19).

The Apostle Paul delivered the gospel in a nutshell: "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures" (I Corinthians 15:1-4).
Essentially, Paul was teaching us that the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It's the same message that Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost when he said "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost". We follow Jesus through his death by Repentance; his burial through baptism; and his resurrection through the Holy Spirit. It's the same plan God laid out when he "shadowed" it in the Old Testament tabernacle by giving a type of repentance at the Brazen Altar; a type of baptism at the Brazen Laver; and a type of Spirit Baptism in the Holy Place. Your walk with God does not stop at belief; it begins there. It grows into godly sorry that brings forth repentance. True repentance prepares the soul for a union with His Holy Spirit. Water baptism can come before or after the Holy Ghost, but repentance is a must before God can do anything in the new believer's life!

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