There are nine detailed examples of conversions listed in the New Testament. Along with the nine are some less detailed examples and also a mass of independent information in the letters of Peter, Paul and the rest of the writers. There are also comments made in the various texts on the steps and conditions that Jesus and his hand chosen apostles posited in order that persons might be called disciples and might gain their salvation and the reward of a home in heaven.
But we are a long way removed in time from those steps and from those days.
Today what had been given is mostly ignored. We are more concise. Some believe that a strict and difficult list of works must be followed to obtain the reward of heaven, and its administration must be strictly imposed. Some follow a handbook of instructions from the pens of men. On the other end of the rope there are people who believe that little is required in order to be saved. In the middle of the mud are those who have decided that as my father worshipped so shall I, and what was good enough for the family is good enough for me, and so I shall be saved through that exercise of history. Some suggest that all that may need to be done is to profess faith in Christ through recital of a rote prayer, and that they are then saved.
While what you believe may lie near one end or the other, or even somewhere nearer the middle, yet with all I can state with no fear of being proven wrong, that if you have not turned yourself over to God in doing strictly as he has charged, then the only comfort you will have is in the futile thought that God for some unknown reason will tolerate from you what you would likely not tolerate from someone else; and that he will have some regard for you in spite of what you have or have not done, are or are not doing; and that he will welcome you into his rest just because you are you, with or without any specific knowledge of his will. And of course, you believe that he will reward your bad behavior (and indeed he will).
If we all are to be so easily rewarded with heaven after our days here when most have paid no attention to the word or will of God, then salvation in Christ must be a common thing and easy to come by. It must therefore have little value. It is certainly a lot easier to come by than a family, a home, a job, financial security, or pleasing the boss. Why, if that’s the way it is then it’s just beyond simple, and God will put up with just about anything you or I dish out. (If that is not cause to think that there is no God I cannot reasonably conceive of a better argument.)
Yet those who take things seriously should think and act otherwise. We should not offer up our souls so easily by giving out demands and gazing away with disinterest barely glancing up toward the horizon to see what may be headed toward us by return mail. No one would do similarly in any other venture.
We need to find the instructions and set about doing what is required by God in order to be saved. It should capture all of our intellect and fill up our time.
Most would never attempt to assemble a set of bookshelves, a lawnmower, or some appliance without reading and using the provided instruction manual. Would we try to manage our homes and lives without ever paying any attention to civil rule or financial guidance? Would you go in search of a wife or husband with no thought as to what the outcome might be? With that noted, then how would we ever hope to become a Christian or to be found pleasing to God without ever reading, consulting, or doing as instructed through the examples and admonitions found in his assembly manual (some 2,000 years in the making)? And why should we think that we could find success some other way? Yet this is exactly the end to where all this kind of thinking leads.
If that did not raise the alarms — it should. Things of value are rarely found randomly strewn across the path in our lives, and most often obtaining them requires years of dedicated work and care. The songwriter said, “Nothin’ aint worth nothin’ but it’s free.” And nothing is the only commodity that can be obtained without any associated work or cost. You can have all of that you want and it will be worth exactly nothing when you finally get it all gathered in. You won’t need to read the book to get started on accumulating nothing.
In religion, if you are looking for nothing, or for its cousin, nothing in particular, someone is certainly available to serve it up for you. And if you believe that the creator of all life desires only that you should call on him when you are in the dumps, when it’s convenient for you, or in any old way you wish or in any manner that you see fit, and that it should be always on your schedule, then you have a different view than the one I have, and one different, I know, than the one found in the Bible. It is not about us.
If you believe that the Son of God was less than specific on what it takes to please Him and His Father, God Almighty, and on what you need to do to be saved, you have not thoroughly read the New Testament, or someone has told it to you wrong.
If you believe that things are so clouded in mystery that they can’t be understood, rather like reading and trying to make sense of the blather of Nostradamus, then you need to read and study your Bible. If you believe that all religious writings are similar you have been sold a bill of goods, which unless you free yourself, will entangle your soul and weigh it down to hell.
If you believe that God left us only a smattering of instructions which are purely optional, and that we can select how we want it played and finished, or that we have a say in whether or not we approve of what he gave, then you might as well worship Kermit the Frog.
The word of God is not subject to private interpretation — and it states that repeatedly. As one of my friends puts it, “It is what it is.” It takes work to pervert something so plainly simple.
But, because we are not always so quick on the upswing, and because we would generally rather be poked in the eye than either read or study, there is a short course: there are clear examples in the word of God as to what is required in order to be found justified and pleasing before God.
There is clear instruction on what you and I must do and how we should accomplish it. Nothing is left to the imagination. And, if you believe in God (and you should, for the evidence of his power and existence is all around you) the safe path would be to do the things requested and required in order to be saved – as nothing less than our eternal salvation would hinge upon making the correct choices.
Then as J. W. McGarvey noted long ago, the closer that our conversion to Christ mirrors the details found in those nine examples and in the explanatory information found in the New Testament, the better off we are before God. Conversely, the further that our conversion may be from incorporating those common things, then the more danger we would be in, and the further we would be from being found acceptable to God.
In the nine examples mentioned all types of situations are encompassed. The nine detailed examples are, in order, 1) the Pentecost multitude, 2) Simon the magician, 3) the treasurer of Ethiopia, 4) Saul of Tarsus, 5) the centurion Cornelius and his household, 6) the businesswoman Lydia, 7) the jailer at Philippi and his household, 8) the first converts at Corinth, and 9) the conversion of twelve disciples of John the Baptist at Ephesus. While these comprise various degrees of text and information, they all contain specific details. There are other less detailed conversions mentioned in the New Testament too. But the rule of thumb would be that whatever is common and mentioned in all of these would be the things that must be done. These items and conditions, will also be directed for anyone, and they should be commanded and commented upon sufficiently so that only those that refuse to see them could ever intentionally miss them or their import.
In the first detailed example, there is record of the conversion of a multitude of devout Jewish worshippers on the first Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ. In the last example, where about 12 men were converted to Christ, is the example of what you must do if you have been misled and following a false religious notion and worshipping in some form that was not given by God. In between these there are enough examples of every other type to allow each one of us to be able to assess exactly what we should do. We can compare what we are doing or what we have done with what Christ himself gave us to do. And if we find that we are outside the lines and boundaries — then we very likely need to change things. What a wonderful thing — there should be no guessing and there should be no “Behold, I thought…”
In the next essay I will undertake to look in detail at these conversions. We will compare the points of complement and the points of diversion. From that we should be able to identify what we all should be doing.