Conversion, A basic overview

Hello everyone! About a week or two ago I wrote a piece on an aspect of sanctification, but in that piece I mentioned several issues that I believe should be addressed. I must apologize for putting down my series on Jehovah’s Witnesses and I intend on going through that series at a later time. As for right now there are more pressing topics within the true church of Christ, meaning the church that holds to the dogmatic teachings of Christianity.

This new category will be focusing on a very important topic, the topic of salvation. I hope to provide information that will benefit the body of Christ or benefit those who are looking in to be disciples of Christ. Todays topic is that of Conversion. Some aspects of todays post may call for a more in depth examination at some point, but lets begin with some of the basics!

Contents: 

I. Conversion 

II. Repentance 

III. Saving Faith

I. Conversion 

To start off, it would be good to give a theological definition of conversion. Using the Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms we can establish what we will be talking about specifically. Conversion is defined as, “A general term referring to an individual’s initial encounter with God in Christ resulting in the reception of God’s gracious provision of salvation.” [1]

Now, a lot happens at conversion, but we are more interested on what conversion consists of. Before we get into that, though, it is important to note that emotional accompaniments of conversion can vary. This is important indeed because some churches will tell you “you need to feel something”, that you need a grand experience, or you should be bouncing off the walls in joy. My reasoning for including this is simply because I was very much in joy, and I felt something, but it was not according to the criteria for “true salvation” of some traditions. We’re all designed differently, come from different places, and soak in truth in unique ways. To get an example of the variations, take a look at Lydia’s conversion which appears simple and calm in Acts 16:14. Later on in verse 30 we see a Philippian jailer who trembles in fear and asks, “what must I do to be saved?” Surly, as well, we don’t all experience the damascus road treatment our brother Paul faced. It is also worth noting that conversion can be a process for some; John 19:29 with Nicodemus. Lastly, there need not be conversions that are only worked through crisis situations or hitting rock bottom. It is important that we do not place things such as conversion in boxes.

Now conversion is a single entity, but “has two distinguishable but inseparable aspects: Repentance and faith.” [2] Erickson, goes on to say that “they are, respectively, the negative and positive aspect of the same occurrence. In a sense, each is incomplete without the other, and each is motivated by the other.” [2] (I highly recommend this as introduction theology book and so be sure to check out the citation. It is important to remember with any theological work, though, we need to compare the author’s positions and conclusions with scripture before accepting them or disowning them.) Lets then go into the negative aspect, which is repentance.

II. Repentance 

Oddly enough, talking on this topic led me to learn that the Pocket dictionary of theological terms does not have “repentance” in it, which is quite strange. That being said I will be quoting Erickson yet again to give you an idea of what repentance is. Repentance is, “the abandonment or repudiation of sin…it is based upon a feeling of godly sorrow for the evil we have done.” [2]

Repentance is the recognition of sinful nature, why it is wrong, that we need to forsake sin, and that we need God. Repentance is extremely important in the process of conversion because it is the act that makes you realize your condition and that you need a savior. I talk a bit on the “Doctrine of Sin” and why it is important here: (Doctrine of Sin) and repentance can be considered the broader term for that recognition of man’s fallen condition.

In the New Testament the words used to convey repentance indicate regret or remorse over ones actions, but that involves an alteration in behavior. Another term used is “metanoeo”, which means “to think differently about something or to have a change of mind.” Since repentance is not a shy word in the scripture such as “repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand” or Peter in Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized”, we can easily understand its importance in terms to salvation. Erickson further states that, “Real repentance is sorrow for one’s sin because of the wrong done to God and the hurt inflicted upon him. This sorrow is accompanied by a genuine desire to abandon that sin.” [2]

Without true repentance there is no salvation, because firstly you cannot understand what you are being saved from, and secondly you cannot understand why you need a savior. There is this initial repentance in conversion that is distinctive from a lifelong process of repentance. Taking a stab at explaining this; the initial repentance at conversion is the acknowledgment of sin and the message of the gospel understood in the broad and general sense. As you are going through sanctification, repentance later becomes turning from individual sin as led by God. The latter form of repentance goes into Godly sorrow vs. Guilt, which I think will be a topic to be touched on a different day.

III. Saving Faith

Faith, biblically speaking, refers to both intellectual belief and to relational trust or commitment. In my last post I talked about a misconception that seems to be a growing trend among confessing christians in the United States. You can read about that view, which I will extract more at a later time, here (Faith, Hope, Trust and a Cross). The type of faith necessary for salvation, or also called saving faith, consists of believing that and believing in. This means that we believe that Christ and God exists, that they accomplished what they claim to have accomplished, and we trust them and commit ourselves to them because of that belief and trust in their work. We must not only believe in the historical Christ, but also in what he claimed to be and what he accomplished. Saving faith can be broken up as follows;

(a) Knowledge – Involves intellect and emphasizes that there are basic truths that must be believed for Salvation. I.e. (a) Man’s sinfulness, (b) Christ’s atoning sacrifice, (c) and His bodily resurrection.

(b) Conviction – Involves emotions. Not only intellectual awareness of the truths, but inner conviction of their truthfulness.

(c) Trust – As a result of knowledge about Christ, and a conviction that these things are true there also must be a settled trust, a moving of the will – a decision must be made as an act of the will.

Conclusion:

Touching on these topics has been particularly brief as some of the ways to better understand these things are by looking at examples of how they play out. I hope that the provision of a basic look at these aspects of conversion and conversion itself can help you dive deeper into understanding what true conversion is. I will press on to dive deeper into these topics soon as I believe there is importance in understanding these concepts. I hope to provide you with more sources on these topics as well, but at the heart of it I encourage you to conduct studies. In regards to these topics we will be touching on the scripture that goes into conversion, repentance and salvation, but for now I challenge to do word studies on “repent” and “faith”. Take a look at how they play into scripture and really try to grasp the usage of each in their context.

Thank you for reading and being a part of this page! God bless you and I appreciate any feedback, questions, or suggestions you desire to provide. 

Sources:

[1] Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms. Green, Guretzki, and Nordling. 1999. ISBN: 978-0-8308-1449-7

[2] Introducing Christian Doctrine. Second Edition. Erickson. 2001. ISBN: 978-0-8010-2250-0

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