August 26, 2015


CONVERSION (Gr. epistrophe) essentially means a “turning” or “a turning toward.” The verb is hepistrepho, rendered in the N.T. “to convert” or “to turn.” When Paul and Barnabas were on their way to Jerusalem, they passed through towns and villages “….declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren” Acts 15:3. In other words, the Gentiles had turned from their sinful ways and, by the power of the Gospel, they had turned toward God through saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Hb. terms of the O.T. have a similar significance and usage (Pss. 19:7; 51:13; Jer. 31:18 and Ezek. 33:11). In Psalm 51:13 David, after his horrendous sin with Bathsheba, confesses the sin and asks God to restore him so he can be useful again: “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” 


1.   The Apostle Paul was commissioned by God to take the Gospel to the Gentiles: “…to open their eyes, and to turn them (convert) from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:18).

2.   An angel told Zacharias that his ‘soon-to-be-born-son’, John the Baptist, would have a powerful ministry: “And many of the children of Israel shall he turn (convert) to the Lord their God” (Luke 1:16).

3.   The Apostle Peter’s Gospel preaching included an appeal for conversion: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord…” (Acts 3:19).

4.   The Prophet of old, Ezekiel, was to preach ‘conversion’. God said to tell His people: As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11)

5.   After declaring the power of nature to turn people back to God (Psalm 19:1-6), David, in v.7, says: “The law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”

6.   Nominal Christians (those who sometimes are even numbered among the congregation but not truly saved) need to ‘be converted’ or ‘turned back’ by truth to authentic salvation This is not being saved again, but rather being truly saved, moved from mere profession to true possession Of Jesus Christ: “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).

R.C.H. Lenski says concerning this difficult passage: “What was one of the great dangers that threatened his readers? Why, to revert to Judaism. To be sure, James also includes all mortal sins. But the most damnable and deadly sin is unbelief. Read what is written to other Jewish Christians who were thinking of going back to Judaism (Heb. 6:4-8; 10:25-31)….What erring from the truth means to James is all too apparent from what he says about turning such an erring one back to the truth; such erring means that a soul is in death and in a multitude of sins…What a great thing it is to rescue a person from physical death! This is a greater thing, for spiritual death is far worse than physical death. James states this in the third person: ‘he that turns back.’ He thereby makes the statement objective and general for every case of this kind. How this turning back is accomplished is indicated by the means: the sinner is turned back to the truth by the truth. There is only one objective means to save such a sinner, namely the truth; and only one subjective means, repentance (contrition for sin, faith in the Savior). We translate ‘shall turn back’ and ‘he that turns back’.”

-          Dick D. Christen