The greatest gift ever given to mankind is the gift of God that makes our salvation possible. Paul emphasizes this fact when he writes to the Romans and assures them, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23)
To receive this gift, then, we must go through Jesus. We must accept Him by fully submitting our lives to His way. This change is described as conversion in the scriptures. The book of Acts makes this point clear when it says, “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). This passage provides not only instruction but also assurance.
Jesus likens this change to a birth in His instruction to Nicodemus: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).
Of the 27 books comprising the New Testament, there is one book—Acts of the Apostles—that is particularly helpful in understanding the nature of conversion. This book gives an account of the conversions of many people; and these are found in Chapters 2, 8, 9, 10, 11, 16, 18, and 22—eight key examples of conversion. From these examples, we understand some specific universal principles of conversion.
First, conversion is dependent upon the acceptance of the Word of God by the sinner. Jesus says, “The seed is the Word,” and the book of Acts emphasizes to us that it is the Word the sinner must hear and accept if he is to be saved. Acts 8:12 teaches, “They believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God” and Acts 18: 8 teaches, “And many of the Corinthians hearing, believed and were baptized.” These actions indicate a change has taken place in the sinners involved. Paul makes a bold and dramatic statement when he teaches the Romans “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth…” (1:16).
The presentation of the Word can be either public or private—through words spoken or written, but their acceptance always results in belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. ”So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
Second, we read that faith in Jesus Christ, produced by the testimony of the Word of God, leads to a change in a sinner’s attitude toward his own transgressions. With faith comes an understanding of God’s love to man. This understanding, in turn, leads the sinner to determine to turn away from sin. Paul teaches, “Or despiseth thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Romans 2: 4). An example of this part of conversion is found in Acts 2 in response to Peter’s preaching of Jesus: “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in the heart and said unto Peter, ‘Men and brethren what shall we do?’ Then Peter said unto them, repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2: 36-38).
Third, this change in a person’s heart must lead to certain actions before conversion is complete. One of these actions is confession that Jesus is the Christ: “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10: 9-10).
Finally, we must be baptized in the likeness of Jesus’ death and burial. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6: 4). This passage makes clear the point that baptism is necessary in order for God to forgive us of past sins. The man who became the Apostle Paul is taught, “Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22: 16). And in Peter’s sermon on Pentecost, he says that both repentance and baptism are necessary in order to receive the remission of sins. (Acts 2: 38). Later Peter echoes this same thought when he says, “baptism doth also now save us” (1 Peter 3: 21).
When a person believes in Christ, repents of sin, confesses Christ and is baptized into Christ for the remission of sins, he is converted. Only then has he been born of water and of the Spirit as referred to in John 3: 3-5. Then the Lord adds him to the body, the Church, the Kingdom of God (Acts 2: 47).
If you have not obeyed these commands of the gospel, you are encouraged to do so today; and if you would like to discuss the subject, please send us an E-mail to request more information. We will be glad to assist you in studying this vital subject more completely.
For additional information or help contact: gospel@NewTestamentChurch.org