Often people tell about their conversion or that of someone else, but in any of these, there is often subjective information given that may or may not have been true. Whenever one of the inspired writers of the Bible tells of a conversion, there is no doubt that it was a true conversion. The book of Acts contains a number of accounts of actual conversions. We would encourage all to study these inspired examples of conversions and seek to do all that they had to do in order to be saved. In this brief article we wish to give consideration to just one of these examples and specifically examine the way, manner or method of conversion rather than the specific requirements of conversion.
The eighth chapter of the book of Acts contains the conversion of a number of people in Samaria (Acts 8:5-25). Then, the remainder of the chapter is devoted to the conversion of just one man (Acts 8:26-40). The account tells us of a man from Ethiopia who traveled to Jerusalem. He was not a Christian when he went to Jerusalem, nor was he one when he left Jerusalem to return to Ethiopia. However, when he arrived back home in Ethiopia, he was. The text cited explains how this transpired.
We might begin by pointing out that three things are needed to bring about a conversion as are seen in this example. Those three things are: (1) A messenger, (2) A message, and (3) A recipient. In our text Philip was the messenger, the gospel of Jesus Christ was the message and the Ethiopian was the recipient. When this text begins, Philip is sent by “an angel of the Lord”, also referred to as “the Spirit” (verses 26, 29) to take the message to the Ethiopian. The question could be asked, “Why did the Spirit send Philip?” Philip was already doing a good work in converting people to Christianity in Samaria. Many had already been converted and no doubt Philip could have converted more. Why did the Spirit not just go to the Ethiopian directly, leaving Philip to the work he was already doing. The answer to this question brings us to what we wish to give consideration to, the method God has chosen for the conversion of man to Christianity (I Corinthians 1:21).
God’s method includes the use of all three things mentioned above. We will get back to our specific messenger in a moment, but let us here consider the message that is required and the manner in which that messages was to be taken to man. When Philip left Jerusalem and went to Samaria, the scripture says that he “preached Christ unto them” (8:5) and when he met with the Ethiopian, the scripture says that he “preached unto him Jesus” (8:35). It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that must be taught, heard, believed and adhered to in order for one to become a child of God, thus a Christian. The apostle Paul said that the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16) and that it reveals the righteousness of God (Rom. 1:17). James tells us that it is by the word of God that one can be saved (James 1:21) and Peter tells us that one purifies his soul in obeying the truth, is born again by the incorruptible seed of the word of God and that the gospel of Christ is the word of God by which this is done (I Pet. 1:22-23, 25). Every example of conversion found in the book of Acts begins with God’s word, the gospel of Christ being proclaimed to those who are converted. The first example in the book is found in Acts chapter two, where Peter preaches the gospel (Acts 2:22-36) and the scripture says, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? (Acts 2:37). Without the proclaiming of the gospel of Christ, there can be no conversion to Christianity. Paul wrote, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
But now, back to our messenger. Just who the messenger is does not matter all that much. In this case, Philip was a devoted follower of Christ and obviously sincerely desired to lead others to salvation. However, no matter who the messenger is, not all will accept and obey the message. Peter proclaimed the same message as he did on Pentecost at other times with different results (Acts 5:29). Paul said that he rejoiced when the gospel was preached, even when the motive of the preacher was not pure (Phil. 1:15-18).
Let us briefly consider the recipient of our text. The Ethiopian was a religious man and obviously a sincere and dedicated man to make the trip all the way to Jerusalem “for to worship” (Acts 8:27). He was seeking to know God’s will, thus looking in the right place, God’s word (Acts 8:30; John 5:39). Most important of all was that he was honest enough to accept the truth when he heard it and immediately make every effort to comply with the commands of that truth. Having heard the word, he realized he needed to be baptized and after confessing his faith in Christ, he was. Then he was able to go on his way rejoicing (v. 39). True conversion requires following God’s instructions! (Send any questions or comments to: [email protected])
Robert Oliver is a long time columnist for The Sampson Independent.