In the 23rd chapter of Luke we have an account of the trial and crucifixion of the Son of God. This is recorded as part of that story in verse 32: â€œAnd there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, â€˜Father forgive them for they know not what they do.â€™â€ (Luke 23: 32 â€“ 34).
The eighth detailed example of conversion in the book of Acts is that of the converts at Corinth. As we have gone through these examples thus far, each has been more compact in narrative than had been its predecessor, so that with this one and the ninth and last, we are down to only a few simple descriptive sentences in each case. Nonetheless, enough detail is listed to complement what has already been discovered and to once again distinguish the elements, the actions necessary that were done by those in that day to become Christians.
To take things in order, I will identify the events starting in the 17th chapter, mentioning some of the background that leads up to these conversions. We will end our study in the 23rd verse of chapter 18. You may wish to read these passages prior to commencing.
In the course of continuing their journey through Macedonia and Achaia, Paul and his companions stopped in each city that would receive them and through which the Holy Spirit guided them. In several of these, as was the case in Thessalonica, they not only made converts but also in the working of that, encountered stiff resistance. In Thessalonica as elsewhere the enemies of the new religion were at first the Jews. That would in time change as the more they pressed into Europe the more they encountered problems from pagan antagonists.
Note that as they were assaulted by the multitudes in Thessalonica that news of the new religion had preceded them. “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king Jesus” (17.8). Also note that because of the trouble that their release was gained by paying a fine (or what amounted to a bribe as they had not broken any law). Having left the area they continued on to Berea where they were better received at least at first. While at Berea we a have record of conversions, but these lack the attendant details as to what was done to convert these people. However, there is simply no reason to suggest that the things done there were any different then than they had been at any time previously.
These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.
Due to the continued and unrelenting resistance, Paul went to Athens and the group split into two. Yet, there he did as he was always disposed to — he taught the gospel of Christ, appealing to the things surrounding him out of the culture in which he found himself. He started his instruction based upon the notion that the Athenians had a god for everything and were wholly given over to idols. As was always the case, their response was mixed.
Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.” For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing. (17.16 -21)
Again, although there were mockers and those who discounted what was taught, who worked against the teachers, there were some that believed and were converted as is recorded in the last verse, in yet another account of conversions without the attendant details appended. “However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.” (17.34)
It is following this that Paul left Athens and made his way to Corinth, where he stayed and taught for a year-and-a-half in starting the church there and making converts.
It is while at Corinth that Paul separated himself to work exclusively ministering to non-Jews, in response to the deliberate and continuous hounding and work against his teaching in the various communities.
It is also at this point that the narrative lists this simple remark of the work in Corinth — “And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain man named Justus, one who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.” (18.7, 8)
As noted with all the previous detailed listings of converts found in this book, this one identified the following steps taken by those converts — hearing, believing, and baptism. Simplicity is a good instructor, and one in whose economy should be noted plain instruction that is both practical and hard to ignore.
Perhaps a hardhead would cling to the notion that repentance is left off here or that again confession is not mentioned, so the plan of salvation is somehow different as listed here. I will simply quote the passage once more, “…and many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.” How hard is that to see, to understand, and then to get accomplished?
To make of things no more than what they are, there yet remain only four common elements in all of these examples to becoming a Christian: hear, believe, repent, and be baptized. How hard is that to understand and to do?
Will you need to confess Christ as the Son of God and as your Lord? Yes.
Will you have to remain obedient and change your focus and your guide? Yes. But the initial steps are so simple wayfaring souls cannot err therein, as the prophet had rightly noted.
So again, I ask. How closely does your conversion to Christ mirror these mentioned elements in detail? Is the premise as outlined in the first of these essays solid and accurate: that the closer your conversion comes to the form of those detailed in the New Testament, the better for you, and that the farther off your conversion is from incorporating all of these identified elements, so much the worse for you?
Did you read and hear the Word of God or did you respond to just the word of some man, some variation on a theme? Did you do as bidden by Christ and his apostles? What they stated has not in any way changed. Did you do as those Bereans we read of here, who, the record stated, “…were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so?” Are these things so?
Are you like many, one of the un-immersed who have been told or who hold that their prayers will somehow save them or make them safe? Were you sprinkled on the forehead with holy water as an infant (something we have not encountered in this study, and which you will not encounter in any study of the Bible)? Were you poured on, sprinkled on, or dumped on when you should have been immersed as a consenting and believing adult into the body of Christ? What sayest thou? How do you read and understand it to this point?
There is but one more detailed conversion to examine and then I will conclude this set of essays. To do so without noting the consequence for not heeding the word of God would be wrong. The reward given in God’s Word for not conforming and not getting it right and done properly; in not aligning yourself with the word of God and with the patterns for salvation contained therein, in not being amenable and obedient to the call of Christ, is eternal separation from God in everlasting torment and total darkness. Remember, “behold I thought” is the wrong answer and no excuse when crystal clear instruction is set before your eyes and sounded before your ears in several examples and instances. There is simply no excuse.
The next essay will examine the last of the detailed conversions listed in the New Testament — that of “about” twelve men who were baptized with “John’s baptism.” The concluding essay which will follow that will sum what has been identified as the necessary actions required to become a Christian according to the record of the New Testament.