|Volume 17 Number 6 June 2015||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
The New Testament governs everyone now living. All of the Old Testament was replaced with the New Testament (Romans 7:6-7; Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14). The prophet Jeremiah had prophesied hundreds of years earlier that this would occur (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:6-13). The theme of the Book of Hebrews was to establish in the minds of Jewish Christians that they had made the correct choice to no longer practice Judaism but rather to embrace Christianity. In addition, the apostle Paul cautioned Christians through his epistle to churches throughout Galatia not to return to Judaism (Galatians 2:16, 21; 5:4; cf. Acts 13:39; Romans 3:20).
Therefore, one needs to turn to the New Testament rather than to the Old Testament to reflect on examples of conversion that apply to mankind today. However, the Gospel records and the first chapter of the Book of Acts bridge the two testaments, and the people then living, including our Lord Jesus Christ, lived under the Old Testament. The church of our Lord did not come into existence until Acts 2. The Gospel records and the entire Old Testament were preparatory and pointed in the direction of Christianity. Hence, in our search for examples of conversion that apply today, we need to examine the New Testament from Acts 2 onward.
The first occasion of a conversion relative to Christianity appears in Acts 2. The thief on the cross, for instance, lived and died under Judaism before the church began (Acts 2:47), and so, he has no bearing on conversions that apply under Christianity. However, in Acts 2, about 3,000 Jews (including Gentile proselytes to Judaism, Acts 2:10) became members of the New Testament church (Acts 2:41, 47).
The apostle Peter preached the first recorded Gospel sermon on the first Pentecost following the death, burial, resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ. He convicted his listeners of sin, including the murder of the Christ (Acts 2:23, 36). Many obviously believed the Gospel message, which included the heinous charge of responsibility for killing the Messiah (Acts 2:37). On that basis, Peter commanded his auditors to “repent and be baptized” (be immersed) to receive “the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Those who repented and were baptized were added to the church by the Lord (Acts 2:41, 47).
This conversion example ties together hearing God’s Word taught (cf., Romans 10:17), believing the Gospel message (cf., John 8:24), repenting of past sins (Luke 13:3) and being baptized for the purpose of receiving the remission or forgiveness of sins (cf., Mark 16:16). Surely, anyone living today who follows the same conversion process will likewise become a genuine Christian.
The Ethiopian treasurer of Acts 8:35-39 is another example of New Testament conversion. That context indicates that he was taught the Word of God, he believed the preaching about Jesus, he professed his belief that Jesus is the Christ and he was baptized. Afterward, he had ample reason to rejoice because his sins had been forgiven.
The conversion of Saul of Tarsus, later known by his Roman name as Paul, was taught the Gospel of Christ, whereupon he was baptized (Acts 9:17-18). The result was that his sins were washed away in baptism (Acts 22:16).
The context detailing the conversion of the Roman officer Cornelius reveals that he was taught the Word of God, he believed it, repented of his sins and was baptized for the remission of those sins (Acts 10:1-48). Jews and proselytes became Christians first (Acts 2), followed later by the conversion of Samaritans, whose ancestry was part Jewish and part Gentile (Acts 8:5-13). Cornelius was the first Gentile convert to Christianity.
A woman named Lydia was baptized after hearing the Gospel proclaimed (Acts 16:13-15). The Philippian jailer is still another example of New Testament conversion (Acts 16:27-34). The text indicates that he believed the Gospel and was baptized, after which he also rejoiced.
Being taught God’s Word precedes salvation (Romans 10:13-17). Faith proceeds forth when honest hearts accept Gospel teaching, and without faith a person cannot be pleasing to God (Hebrews 11:6). One must repent of past sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30). Likewise, a person must be willing to confess that Jesus is the Christ (John 8:24; Romans 10:9-10). In each of the cases of conversion salvation came at the baptism of the convert to Christianity (1 Peter 3:21).
All of the examples of conversion to Christianity in the New Testament provide the same information. Summarized, prospects for conversion heard God’s Word, believed Jesus of Nazareth to be the Christ or the Messiah, repented of their sins and were immersed in water for the remission or forgiveness of their sins. One of the conversion examples especially highlights the prospect’s willingness as well to openly acknowledge his belief that Jesus is the Christ. Anyone who duplicates in his or her life today this same process of conversion can be assured that he or she has become a Christian. However, persons conforming to denominational doctrines or other religions have no such assurance. Dear Friend, please rely on biblical evidence for your conversion rather than upon manmade alternatives.
Change Your Name or
Change Your Conduct!
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
Alexander the Great, one of the greatest military generals, conquered almost the entire known world with his vast army. One night during a campaign, he couldn’t sleep and left his tent to walk around the campground. As he was walking, he came across a soldier asleep on guard duty, a serious offense. The penalty for falling asleep on guard duty was, in some cases, instant death. The soldier began to wake up as Alexander the Great approached him. Recognizing who was standing in front of him, the young man feared for his life. “Do you know what the penalty is for falling asleep on guard duty?” Alexander the Great asked the soldier. “Yes, sir,” the soldier responded in a quivering voice. “Soldier, what’s your name?” demanded Alexander the Great. “Alexander, sir.” Alexander the Great repeated the question: “What is your name?” “My name is Alexander, sir,” the soldier repeated. A third time and more loudly Alexander the Great asked, “What is your name?” A third time the soldier meekly said, “My name is Alexander, sir.” Alexander the Great then looked the young soldier straight in the eye. “Soldier,” he said with intensity, “either change your name or change your conduct!”
The faith a Christian professes with his or her mouth must harmonize with his or her daily conduct! Inspiration said it best, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).
Firstly, consider the command: “And be not conformed to this world…” This directive is not optional! God was clear in His desire for His people to be different from the secular society in which they live. He has never approved of His people “blending” in (cf. Deuteronomy 7:2-3; 2 Corinthians 6:14ff; et al.)! Conformity is not Christianity! When God views you from His throne room in heaven surrounded by your daily acquaintances, do you stand out in His eyes or blend in? Faithful Christians cannot be like this sinful world (1 John 2:15-17).
Secondly, regard the change: “…but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” The mind is where the conscious decision to be different is determined. Sadly, some who profess Christianity are simply content to “ride the fence.” Even sadder still, sometimes a religious or moral discussion among professing Christians almost leaves the flavor that one or more are almost “defending” the world. For example, have you ever discussed a recent “box office hit” movie only to have another Christian speak up and defend the immorality by saying, “There was only one nude scene” or “The movie was really good; I wouldn’t let my kids see it because of the language, but the plot was amazing”? Such worldliness will never please God! The word “transformed” in our text denotes a radical change! Christianity is just that – a radical change that begins in the mind and directs every action, every deed, every thought and every motive.
Lastly, note the consequence: “…that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” This “proof” is not shown by our words alone! A person can say almost anything, but simply saying it does not make it so. We can preach a masterpiece with our tongues, but our daily conduct will be heard much more clearly!
Those who wear the name of Christ must live like He did (1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6). To those who are not willing to live like He did, I guess Alexander the Great was spot on when he said, “Change your name or change your conduct”! May God help us to be different!