Fred A. Shewmaker
In Acts 15:3 we read about Paul and Barnabas "being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren." This is a description of their journey "to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about" the question of Gentile circumcision (v. 2). Before making this journey "Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation" (v. 2) with those who were telling Gentiles, "Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved" (v. 1).
From this it is evident that "the conversion of the Gentiles" which "caused great joy" was not conversion to Judaism. "The conversion of the Gentiles" is described by James in v. 19, "Them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God." In order to turn to God it was necessary to turn from something. These Gentiles had turned from the false religion of idolatry. In this study we will examine the changes necessary in order for a person to be converted -- turn from an existence without God to God.
Paul wrote Gentile Christians at Ephesus, "Remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world" (Eph. 2:11-12). Necessary to an alien's conversion are changes that must take place in the mind The first of these changes is a change of one's acquired knowledge. Jesus said, "Whosoever heareth these sayings of mike, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man" (Mt. 7:24). The Heavenly Father said of Jesus, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him" (Mt. 17:5). Again Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me" (Jn. 13:20).
Jesus sent His apostles, saying unto them, "Go ye into the world, and preach the gospel" (Mk. 16:15). Therefore, necessary to conversion is an acquired knowledge of the gospel. If a person acquires knowledge of the gospel and rejects it, that person cannot be converted. When one acquires knowledge of the gospel, to be converted there must be also a change of what the mind accepts. One's mind must accept the validity of the gospel. One apostle wrote, "Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" (Jn. 20:30-31).
When one has heard the gospel and believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the mind must continue the process of change by changing what it approves. The alien approves ungodly activities. For him to be "turned to God" the mind must change to approve the things required of servants of God "God . . . now commandeth all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30). "The Lord is not slack concerning his promises, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pt. 3:9).
One may change by acquiring knowledge of the gospel, accepting "that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" and approving the things required of servants of God without revealing these changes of the mind to another. This also must change, if one is to be converted. One of the changes necessary to conversion eliminates the possibility of being a secret servant of God. That is the change of what one acknowledges.
The person who has not acknowledged Jesus Christ, the Son of God as Lord must openly do that. Jesus said, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven" (Mt. 10:32). Paul write, "With the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. 10:10) and "Every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God and Father" (Phil. 2:11).
There is, yet, another change necessary to conversion. It is not enough to acquire knowledge of the gospel, in the mind accept "that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God," approve the things required of servants of God and openly acknowledge Jesus Christ, the Son of God as Lord. We might illustrate this by considering one who is an alien to the United States: He may acquire knowledge of the United States, in the mind accept that the United States is the greatest nation on earth, approve the constitution of the United States and openly acknowledge the greatness of the United States and remain an alien to the United States. What is lacking? For an alien to become a citizen he must change his allegiance.
Paul wrote unto the Colossians about "giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood even the forgiveness of sins" (Col. 1:12-14). For the alien to be converted, "turned to God," he must be "translated into the kingdom of" God's Son. This necessitates redemption through the blood of Christ ("the forgiveness of sins").
Paul wrote, "As many of you have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27). Peter said, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission (forgiveness) of sins" (Acts 2:38). If an alien who has no allegiance to Christ will not change and give his allegiance to Christ by being baptized to obtain forgiveness, he will never be translated into and become a citizen of the "kingdom of God's dear Son."
If in your life you have not experienced conversion, my friend, make the changes necessary to turn to God: acquire knowledge of the gospel; accept "that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God;" approve the things required of the servant of God; acknowledge Jesus Christ the Son of God as Lord before men; give your allegiance to Christ and become a citizen subject to our Lord Jesus Christ!
These are the changes which take place when one hears the gospel, believes the gospel, repents of his sins, confesses his belief that Jesus Christ is Lord and is baptized to obtain forgiveness of sins. Be converted, my friend! Turn from the service of Satan to the service of God.
Truth Magazine XXII: 2, pp. 45-46