KEY TEXT: Acts 2:36-38 "Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
KEY THOT: The starting point of conversion to Christ is to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord and Christ. To confess Jesus as Lord and Christ is to accept Him as King before we can become members of His kingdom. Jesus preached the good news (gospel) about the Kingdom of God of which He has been made the King. It is therefore incumbent on us to submit to the rule of this King in order to enter His Kingdom. That, in essence is what salvation means--a transfer from the kingdom of darkness where sin and Satan rule into the kingdom of light where righteousness and Christ rule. The entry requirements for membership in this kingdom is "repent and be baptized".
There are some churches that minimize the importance of baptism because they think that it is just symbolic rather than substantial. The two words: "repent and be baptized" (Acts 2:38) cannot be separated, any more than "believes and is baptized" (Mark 16:16) can be separated. It's like trying to have a marriage without the wedding. Without the wedding (baptism), there can be no marriage (only co-habitation). The wedding seals the marriage and signifies the commitment of the husband and wife. We should never say it's ok to co-habitate without wedding, any more than believing without baptism. What God has joined together (believing and baptism), let no man separate.
Just as a man and a woman must already be in an exclusive relationship before they decide to get married (wedding), even so a believer and Christ must already be in a relationship before the baptism. Baptism does not start the relationship but formalizes the commitment and deepens the union. Like the wedding, it signifies a new union and consigns any extra-marital liaison as adulterous and idolatrous. So, we cannot repent and believe alone without baptism and say we are members of Christ's kingdom, any more than we can co-habitate without the wedding and call it a marriage. If a couple wants their exclusive relationship to be accepted as a marital union, the wedding becomes the necessary prerequisite to signifies and seal the commitment before God and others.
The other two words that must not be separated is repent and believe. When the hearers of Peter's sermon asked, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter's reply was: "Repent and be baptized" (Acts 2:37-38). When Jesus gave His disciples the great commission in Mark 16:16, he said: "whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved." Jesus put these two words in one context in Mark 1:15, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). Just as we cannot separate repenting/believing from baptism, so we cannot separate repenting from believing.
In fact, we cannot believe in the biblical sense without first repenting, for believing allows us to enter the kingdom of light. But that implies giving up our citizenship in the kingdom of sin and darkness. We cannot be transferred from Satan's kingdom into Christ's kingdom without first repenting (surrendering our citizenship in the old kingdom). It's only after we have surrendered our old citizenship card in Satan's kingdom that we can apply to become citizen of Christ's kingdom by pledging our allegiance to Christ as King. We cannot have dual citizenship in the realm of the spirit: it's either Christ or Satan.
Let's not try to hold dual citizenship. It doesn't work. In other words, believing without repenting is like trying to be a citizen in both kingdoms. We are self-deceived if we think we can do that. May the Lord grant us wisdom to repent before we believe.
Father God, thank You for Your word that You will not receive dual-citizenship disciples. Amen.