In the Bible, often we find more than one term used for the same thing. For instance, in our age we use the term “Christians” to designate those who are followers of Christ. Yet, the word “Christian” is only used three times in the entire New Testament. More often used are the terms, “the body of Christ” and “believers”. Yet, all three terms are in reference to the same people. When different terms are used, mostly it is to put emphasis on a particular aspect involved in that which is being referred to. The term “Christian” emphasizes the fact that one is a disciple of Christ. The term “body” emphasizes the fact that there is a whole that is made up of many individuals. The term “believers” emphasizes the fact that one truly believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and has all authority on earth and in heaven. In like manner, there are several terms used in the Bible in reference to one making a change from the lost state to the saved state, that is, in becoming a Christian. We wish to consider a couple of these terms and notice where the emphasis is in each.
Probably the term we use the most is the word, “converted”. In the second sermon preached by Peter, this one in the temple after having healed the man lame from his mother’s womb, Peter told the listeners, “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). We use the word “conversion” today to denote one who has made a change from one thing to another, based on evidence that has been presented showing the former belief or practice to have been inferior to the latter. For instance, one might use facts, figures and logical argument to convince someone that they needed to change from one political party to another. Using this understanding of the word, we see that using the word “converted” to refer to one that has become a Christian, indicates that in some way a person has been convinced that being a Christian is superior to not being a Christian. This points to the very first thing done in every case of conversion found in the New Testament: God’s word was preached. On Pentecost, Peter preached the gospel, and people were converted (Acts 2:22-41). When Peter preached that sermon in the temple, people heard the gospel message and were converted (Acts 3:13-26; 4:4). The apostle Paul said that the gospel of Christ “is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). It is when, and only when, the gospel of Christ is proclaimed that one can be converted to Christ! One might use the teachings of men and convert one to whatever organization, whether religious or secular, but those teachings cannot convert one to Christ. One might use entertainment, gimmicks and programs to convert one to their organization, but those things will not convert one to Christ; it takes the unadulterated gospel of Jesus Christ to convert one to true Christianity.
A second term that is found in the New Testament to refer to the process of conversion to Christianity is that of being “born again”. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). This term uses the analogy of conversion as it compares to the natural birth of a new baby into the world. A number of times God’s word portrays those who have recently been converted as being babies. Peter said, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word” (I Pet. 2:2). The Hebrew writer speaks of some that had never grown up and were in need of milk, saying that they were babes (Heb. 5:12-14). In this analogy, one sees that becoming a Christian is the beginning of a new life. Paul said, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Cor. 5:17). To the Romans Paul said that when one is baptized into Christ, “that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4). Jesus made sure that Nicodemus understood that He not talking about another physical birth (John 3:6-8). Nicodemus, as well as all others that have lived since Adam and Eve have been born physically one time and one time only. This born “again” that Jesus speaks of is a spiritual birth which like the physical one, occurs only once for each person. It is the transition from being lost to being saved. It is the conversion which takes place in the heart, though it will be manifest in the physical life lived by the one converted. Since both the words “be converted” and the words “born again” refer to the same event, it is not surprising that in both cases it is specified that this is done through the use of what Paul said was “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). Peter also wrote of being born again. He said, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (I Pet. 1:23). Whichever term is used to denote the process, the important thing is that one becomes a child of God, for as was pointed out to Nicodemus, without this change one “cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
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