The Power Of Conversion

by David Padfield

The gospel of Jesus Christ is intended for all races and classes of humanity. It is intended to save the most morally upright person this nation has, as well as the vilest of sinners. This is because the gospel can change the hearts of men and women and bring about their conversion (Matt. 18:3; Acts 3:19).

Some unlikely prospects for the gospel have proven to be capable of conversion, such as Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1-30), Cornelius, a Roman military officer (Acts 10:1-2; 11:14), Matthew the tax collector (Luke 5:27-32), and the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:25-34). To most Christians, these men might not have been considered "good prospects" for the gospel. What can we learn from the conversions of these men?

We Must Not Prejudge The Hearts Of Men

Even Paul, one who was "formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man," and who considered himself to be the chief of sinners, could be obtain mercy from God (1 Tim. 1:13-15).

Sometimes Christians forget that our duty is to preach the word and let God take care of results. "For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it." (Isa. 55:6-11). Paul reminded the Corinthians that he "planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase" (1 Cor. 3:6).

We need to remember that we are to be sowers of the seed, not soil inspectors (Luke 8:4-8, 11-15). Sometimes we only look at the surface -- and we usually do a poor job at that!

Over the years, I have collected numerous newspaper articles that record how people sometimes purchase priceless works of art for mere pennies. The problem usually is that the seller does not know the true value of his merchandise. Let me give you two examples: "A painting of a black-hulled schooner bought at a yard sale for $75 is expected to fetch more than $100,000 at an art auction this week. The 1831 painting, 'Revenue Schooner,' by Boston marine artist Robert Salmon, was purchased at a yard sale in southwestern Massachusetts this summer." (The Evansville Courier, August 18, 1991). "A painting of hummingbirds bought by an American tourist for $3 at an English flea market was sold Thursday at a prestigious auction house for $96,000. The painting, by American Martin Hohnson Heade, had been acquired by an unidentified New Yorker from the flea market in Bristol, England." (Chicago Tribune, March 12, 1993).

The Chicago Tribune also carried an article from Austalia about a man who walked into an opal market "with a $650,000 nobby he'd been using for months as a block for his truck wheels. It wasn't until a chunk broke off that he saw the flame-on-black harlequin, the kind of gem opal that has turned this remote bush town into a gamblers' Shangri-La." (April 7, 1992).

Please realize that not everyone will look at the gospel in the same way. Some people will love and treasure the gospel, while others will despise and reject it. "To the one we are the aroma of death to death, and to the other the aroma of life to life" (2 Cor. 2:16).

Christ Can Change The Hearts Of Men

At our conversion, we become new creatures. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). "For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin" (Rom. 6:5-6). In the song, Jesus Paid It All, we read, "Lord, now indeed I find, Thy power and Thine alone, can change the lepers spots, and melt the heart of stone."

We must "put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts" and "put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness" (Eph. 4:22, 24).

Those converted at Corinth made dramatic changes in their lives. "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

Likewise at Ephesus, the power of the gospel was able to change idol worshippers into obedient children of God. "And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed." (Acts 19:18-20).

From his Roman jail cell, Paul was able to report that the gospel produce saints in "Caesar's household" (Phil. 4:22).

The Gospel Has Not Lost Its Power

The gospel is still "living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword" (Heb. 4:12), and is still "the power of God to salvation" (Rom. 1:16).

We must preach what people need, not what they want. Paul told how the "Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom" (1 Cor. 1:22). Instead of yielding, Paul preached "Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:23-24).

Conclusion

If you are a Christian, use your opportunities to teach the gospel. If you are not a Christian, remember that the gospel will be the standard of judgment. "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him -- the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day" (John 12:48).