The word conversion is heard often in religious circles. People commonly speak of their "conversion," or how they came to be "converted." What do these words mean?
Conversion, in a religious context, generally refers to a change from one belief system to another, or from non-belief to belief. But is that all there is to conversion?
Contrary to what many think, conversion is not just a onetime event. Instead the Scriptures reveal that it is a process.
Some use the word conversion to mean almost any dramatic change for the better that people choose to make by their own efforts, sometimes erroneously giving the impression that all such self-induced changes are from God. This, however, is simply not true. People can and do change without God's intervention—but not in the same way that conversion is described in the Bible.
Even without any religious background, people understand that conversion—simply because of the dictionary definition of the word—refers to a change. If something is converted, it is changed in some way.
The biblical concept of conversion certainly involves change. For example, the Scriptures relate that Paul and Barnabas, as they traveled toward Jerusalem, "passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren" (Acts 15:3 Acts 15:3And 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 to all the brothers.
American King James Version×, emphasis added throughout).
But if a person is converted—changed—what is he changed from, and what is he changed to?
In the Bible, conversion is represented as a miraculous, life-transforming process—a process that is impossible without the direct, active intervention, participation and power of God. In fact, He initiates the conversion process. He first opens the minds of those He is calling, or inviting, to conversion so they can begin to comprehend the Scriptures with a clarity and depth of understanding they could never attain on their own.
This wonderful, miraculous process usually begins when the individuals God is calling hear, or read, His truth accurately explained by His true servants. At that time God begins to open their minds to comprehend the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
God's Word now begins to make sense to them. Just as a picture emerges when the pieces of a puzzle are fitted together, so can those whom God is inviting to be converted begin to understand the Holy Scriptures. This is the miracle of God's calling.
What follows depends on the choices they make when they hear or read God's truth. They can respond to God and ask for His help to implement what they learn. Or they can turn their back on the understanding of the truth they have received.
Although He clearly encourages human beings to "choose life" (Deuteronomy 30:19 Deuteronomy 30:19I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live:
American King James Version×), God does not force anyone to make the right choice. But, as we shall soon see, the consequences of our choices are enormous.
In this booklet we will examine the Bible's teaching on conversion. Contrary to what many think, it is not just a one-time event. Instead the Scriptures reveal that it is a process.
The process begins with God's calling, followed by the key steps of repentance in faith, baptism and the receiving of the Holy Spirit—finally climaxing with the return of Jesus Christ, when the dead in Christ are resurrected to immortality and given eternal life. That is the ultimate transformation, being changed from a mortal to an immortal being!
Let's begin our quest—directly from God's Word—for an understanding of this marvelous transformation called conversion.