The first appearance of evidence of a transformed life is called conversion. The conversion of a sinner to a saint carries the same meaning, regardless of the biblical author’s angle in showing us evidence of this transformation.
Conversion, in the order of salvation, is the visible turning point in a person’s journey toward hell. Their new direction is noted by a renewed mind and a change in priorities toward the will of God. In Acts of the Apostles, we observe the diversity in views to conversion.
Conversion is seen at Pentecost after the baptism of the Holy Spirit of the apostles (Acts 2). Most noteworthy is the change from timidity to boldness in proclaiming Jesus as Messiah. The subsequent conversion of thousands of people was recorded by Luke, with a series of preaching events producing believers in Jesus Christ via the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Acts of the Apostles might rightly be re-titled, “Acts of the Holy Spirit.” Conversion is an act of God in the process of salvation, which itself is a work of God by the grace of God, extending from eternity past to eternity future.
In Acts 7, Stephen displayed the converted life of a Hellenistic Jew, who had become a Messianic Jew, a Christian — although this title was not yet applied to the church members at Antioch, in what would become a universal term for disciples of Jesus. The unlikely conversions of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8), Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9), and the Roman soldier Cornelius (Acts 10) all produce visibly changed states. The eunuch returned home rejoicing; Saul became the courageous apostle Paul; and Cornelius spoke in tongues and praised God. Conversion is visible.
The order of salvation finds conversion as its centerpiece. God selected His people before the creation. At the appointed time, He calls them through a preacher with a message called, “the Gospel.” The Holy Spirit empowers the Word of the Lord to be received by a person (Jn 6:63; Jas 1:21), and He opens that person’s heart to respond (Acts 16:14). This is an elect sinner’s baptism by the Holy Spirit (Mt 3:11; Jn 1:33; Acts 2:38; 10:47). He is added to the invisible church with the permanent possession by the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:17; Rom 8:9, 11; 1 Cor 12:13). God’s seal (the Holy Spirit) guarantees justification, by the blood sacrifice of Jesus and by immoveable faith, imparted to the new believer by the grace of God (Rom 12:3; Eph 2:8–9; Phil 1:29).
The permanent occupation by the Holy Spirit also guarantees the eternal life of the soul, even securing the declaration “not guilty” in the judgment of God to come upon all men. With the awareness of this supernatural work of God, conversion becomes apparent to the one who now calls upon the name of the Lord (Joel 2:32; Rom 10:13).
Evidence of conversion becomes public through the first step of obedience for the new disciple of Jesus — baptism. Believer’s baptism, by immersion in water, is the outward sign of the inward baptism of the Holy Spirit (regeneration). Those baptized into Christ are adopted by God the Father into the family of God (Rom 8:15, 23; Eph 1:5), so to be called the children of God (1 Jn 3:1, 10). He loves His children and disciplines them (Heb 12:4–11).
The saint, which means to be set apart or to be made holy by God, follows the Way in communion with the Lord and other believing disciples called, “brothers and sisters in Christ.” This identity correlates to the new life of sanctification (2 Thess 2:13) — the work of the Spirit and the Word to prepare the Christian for heaven (glorification). So, the relevant question is, “Have you been baptized in alignment with your conversion?”
Spokane Valley, Washington
June 13, 2021