The following articles have been compiled and indexed by inWORD Bible software.
Conversions in Acts: What Do They All Have in Common?
Hearing? Faith? Repentance? Confession? Baptism? Which of these characteristics were found with each incident of conversion in the Acts of the Apostles?
Embracing Converts, and the Seeds of Amalek
This week’s parasha [Torah reading] is Vayishlach [Genesis 32:4 to 36:43], which recounts Jacob’s return and settlement in the Holy Land after twenty years of living in Charan. At the end of the parasha is a long list of the genealogies of Jacob’s brother, Esau. The list seems unnecessary, and many Sages have wondered why the Torah bothers to spend so much time recounting Esau’s descendants. There have even been debates on whether the entire text of the Torah is equally holy, or if passages like the Ten Commandments are holier than passages such as this list of Esau’s genealogies. Meanwhile, the Arizal [Rabbi Isaac (ben Solomon) Luria Ashkenazi] states that many of the deepest secrets of Creation are embedded particularly in this seemingly boring and superfluous passage.
Reasoning and Scripture
Once a belief has been accepted both intellectually and emotionally as truth, any challenge to that cherished tenet is liable to almost automatic rejection. The very human desire of all of us to conform to the group which has nourished us and the lifetime patterns of thought learned from sincere teachers we trusted and respect tends to create barriers which secure us against all objections and can blind us to the most obvious truths. When those deeply held beliefs are challenged, we naturally feel threatened and defensive.
Except Ye Be Converted...
What is the real signification of the word “conversion,” as used in the Scriptures? The word looms large—or used to loom large—in certain places of worship; among Salvationists, the Methodists, and those denominations which made a practice of holding “Revival services.” In fact, revival services were held for the express purpose of bringing about “conversions.” We have placed this last word between inverted commas, because it has been used in a technical sense by Salvationists, old-fashioned Methodists, many Evangelical Churchmen, and revivalists in general. Our meaning is this. It is quite possible for a man to be converted from Hinduism or Buddhism to Orthodox Christianity, from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism, and yet not be “converted” in the sense meant by a revivalist when he employs the word. A man may be a full member of the Methodist denomination, he may have been “christened” and “confirmed,” and thus be a full member of an Evangelical Church, and yet be “unconverted” in the technical sense.
A New Creature
The Old Testament tells of Saul of Benjamin, that immediately after his anointing by Samuel, but prior to his proclamation to Israel, he was sent on his way by the prophet with the following significant words. “Thou shalt meet a company of prophets. . .and they shall prophesy. And the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thon shalt prophesy with them, and thon shall be turned into another man.’”¹ And so it came to pass that, at least for a period, Saul became a changed man. The New Testament tells of another Saul, a citizen of Tarsus and a persecutor of the Christians, who on the Damascus Road was overwhelmed by a great light at mid-day—and that light was the Light of the World. And although his physical sight was blinded for a season, the eyes of his spiritual discernment were considerably opened, and he, too, became “another man.” Which was the real Saul of Benjamin? Which was the real Saul of Tarsus? After most startling experiences, they each became “a new creature.”
The turning of a sinner to God (Acts 15:3). In a general sense the heathen are said to be “converted” when they abandon heathenism and embrace the Christian faith; and in a more special sense men are converted when, by the influence of divine grace in their souls, their whole life is changed, old things pass away, and all things become new (Acts 26:18). Thus we speak of the conversion of the Philippian jailer (16:19-34), of Paul (9:1-22), of the Ethiopian treasurer (8:26-40), of Cornelius (10), of Lydia (16:13-15), and others. (See REGENERATION.)
The noun “conversion” (ἐπιστροφή, epistrophḗ) occurs in only one passage in the Bible, “They passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles” (Acts 15:3). Derived forms of the verb “convert” are used in the Revised Version in James 5:19, “convert,” “converteth” (James 5:20), “converted” (Psalms 51:13, margin “return”), “converts” (Isaiah 1:27, margin “they that return”). In other instances where the King James Version uses forms of the verb “convert” the Revised Version employs “turn again” (Isaiah 6:10; Luke 22:32; Acts 3:19), or “turn” (Isaiah 60:5; Matthew 13:15; 18:3; Mark 4:12; John 12:40; Acts 28:27). In Psalms 19:7 the reading of the King James Version, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul,” has been changed by the revisers into “restoring the soul.” The words commonly used in the English Bible as equivalent with the Hebrew and Greek terms are “turn,” “return,” “turn back,” “turn again” (compare Deuteronomy 4:30; Isaiah 55:7; Jeremiah 3:12; 25:5; 35:15; Ezekiel 18:21-23; 33:11; Malachi 3:7). Thus “convert” is synonymous with “turn,” and “conversion” with “turning.”
pros ́ḗ-līt (προσήλυτος, prosḗlutos, from prosérchomai, “I approach”): Found 4 times in the New Testament. In the Septuagint it often occurs as the translation of גּר, gēr. The Hebrew verb gūr means “to sojourn”; gēr accordingly means a stranger who has come to settle in the land, as distinguished on the one hand from ‘ezrāḥ, “a homeborn” or “native,” and on the other from nokhrī or ben-nēkhār, which means a stranger who is only passing through the country. Yet it is to be noted that in 2 Chronicles 2:17 those of the native tribes still living in the land as Amorites, Hittites, etc., are also called gērīm. In two places, (Exodus 12:19; Isaiah 14:1) the Septuagint uses, g(e)iṓras, which is derived from gīyōr, the Aramaic equivalent for gēr. Septuagint uses pároikos (the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew tōshābh, “a settler”) for gēr when Israel or the triarchs are indicated (Genesis 15:13; 23:4; Exodus 2:22; 18:3; Deuteronomy 23:7; 1 Chronicles 29:15; Psalms 39:12; 119:19; Jeremiah 14:8), and in a few other cases. In Talmudical literature gēr always stands for proselyte in the New Testament sense, i.e. a Gentile who has been converted to Judaism. Onkelos, who was himself a proselyte, always translates the word in this way.
Conversion a theological term, used to denote the “turning” of a sinner to God. It occurs in Acts 15:3 (“declaring the conversion [ἐπιστροφή] of the Gentiles”). The verb ἐπιστρέφω is used in the N. T, actively in the sense of turning or converting others (Luke 1:16, et al.); intransitively, in the sense of “turning back,” “returning;” and tropically, to denote “turning to good,” “to be converted” (Luke 22:32, “when thou art converted, strengthen the brethren”). In general, the word is used to designate the “turning of men from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God” (Acts 26:18.) In a general sense, heathens or infidels are,” converted” when they abandon paganism or unbelief, and embrace the Christian faith; and men in general are properly said to be “converted” when they are brought to a change of life through the influence of divine grace upon the soul.