As part of Paulâ€™s letter to Titus and in his admonitions concerning â€œthings that become sound doctrineâ€ he gave advice and godly instruction on how all Christians are to act and as to the character they should exhibit. In chapter two and verses seven and eight is this statement: â€œâ€¦in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.â€ (Titus 2: 7, 8)
Over the last few months, we posted ten essays here covering the nine detailed conversions listed in the New Testament. The purpose of this exercise was to note what elements were common to all examples and what elements were not, so that those who seek Christ might have some way to know how they must “get into” Christ. I thought that we would leave the “staying in” Christ part rightfully to each.
We used McGarvey’s rule that the closer our own conversion comes to matching the elements found in each one of these examples, the better for us. And oppositely, the farther away or the more of these common elements in all nine examples that were lacking from our own conversion, then so much the worse.
This is an encapsulation of what was uncovered.
In every case, all participants had to come into contact with the rightly divided word of God — they had to listen to what was taught. To note that the teaching had to come from God’s Word and be accurate should be understood. It has to be accurate, so not just any teacher will do.
Each of the nine persons or groups then had to hear the spoken word. Today we can hear the spoken word or read the written version, but either way, the first step is still that we must listen to the Word of God.
In each of the nine cases a response was required and supplied. The multitudes on Pentecost believed what was said, as did the jailer and the apostle Paul. Each of the learners in every case immediately built up faith in that they accepted what they heard as it was the truth.
Each had to repent of the past activities and actions where those were not in accordance with God’s plan. In every one of the nine examples there is evidence of repentance, although in some it is not explicitly stated. So it is that to this point we must hear, believe, and repent if we are to follow after these given examples and trust in God.
The last common element is immersion. In every case immersion is mentioned and that activity is undertaken by the convert. It seems that effusion or sprinkling is never mentioned and that rejecting immersion was also not acceptable. We also showed how the scriptures clearly prove that it is immersion in water that was and is required to be a Christian and not baptism of the Holy Spirit, which only a specified and select group had participated in. All of the mentioned persons in the nine listed conversions had to be baptized in water in obedience, to be counted “of or in Christ”- “Christ like.”
Therefore, as we noted when we moved through these examples, there are four common elements to every detailed example of conversion in the New Testament: hear, believe, repent and be baptized.
There is another element that should be considered and applied as well. That is confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God and the Messiah Immanuel. Although not mentioned in many of these examples, it also is implied. Elsewhere Christ plainly said, “He who confesses my name before men, him will I confess before My Father which is in heaven.” I would like to have that confession made on my behalf. How about you? And confession really means so much more than only saying the words – doesn’t it? But let’s move on.
With the various elements and events mentioned in these nine detailed conversions, most of the others then are the details of incident, or details specific to a chosen person or group. For instance, I was not a chosen apostle and do not come under the events that they came under. I am not the apostle Paul and there is no reason for me to believe that I should have an appearance of Christ to move my conversion along. I am not the first gentile convert, so I was not baptized with the Holy Spirit. I was not moved by angels, and I was not spoken to by the Spirit. The scriptures never tell us that such events will take place in our lives. Quite the contrary, they tell us that these things ended with the establishment of the church and with the death of the apostles. But neither then were all the participants in these nine conversions given such signs and wonders to behold. Most never saw or knew anything of the Holy Spirit (the eunuch is one, the jailer another). Most did not have a vision, or ever spoke to an angel as Cornelius had. Some never had any contact with anyone other than with the preacher (Lydia or the jailer come to mind). Therefore, all of these various elements are non-essentials, while only the four remain essential to getting into Christ.
“How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him?”
As we have had the Word confirmed by example and witness (the apostles and disciples) why would we not want to comply? Four elements are needed to become a Christian: hear and listen, believe and act, repent and be baptized. When we add the confession we then only have a handful of essential requirements to fulfill. As we have noted here before, we would be well served to spend our time doing the identified and essential things to become Christians, and then better off to leave all the non-essential things for others to worry about.