Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 14, 1955


Hoyt H. Houchen, San Antonio, Texas

All of us are headed in one of two directions — either toward heaven, the home that God has prepared for the faithful, or, we are headed for hell, the place that is prepared for the devil and his angels. Where we will spend our eternity depends upon how we think and act in this life. A study of conversion: what it involves and how it takes place is therefore of the utmost importance to every accountable human being.

No doubt you have heard or heard of many plans of conversion. Almost every plan is different in some particular. With so many methods of conversion being advocated, it is no wonder that people are confused. In this series of lessons we wish to look into the New Testament. It is there that we find God's plan of salvation taught in such plain and positive language that it cannot be misunderstood.

The word "conversion" is translated from the Greek word strepho, a word that is used eighteen times in the New Testament. It means "to turn oneself, to turn about." For example, Jesus said in Matthew 18:3, "Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven."

But what does conversion involve? Conversion involves a turning, but just what is involved in this turning? We can all agree that conversion of which the Bible speaks is not a change of the physical body. Conversion is a change of heart. It is the failure of so many people to understand what the heart is that causes them to point to and pound upon their left chests and say, "I have a feeling here that I cannot describe," or "I have religion right here in my heart," and other such similar expressions. They think they got religion and they can feel it in their chests. Listen friends, listen carefully. The idea of "getting religion" is not in the Bible. James tells us what pure religion is. He says, "Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." (James 1:27.) What is religion? It is a system of doing. It is not something that we get or merely feel, it is action — it is putting into practice the teaching of Christ. But now going back to the heart that must be changed in conversion, it is not that physical organ in the left side of our bodies. In II Samuel 15:6 we are told that "Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel." Was Absalom going about cutting out the physical hearts of the people with a knife? Of course not. He was stealing their hearts, but what was he stealing? He was stealing their affections. Jesus said in Matthew 22:37, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." Jesus was not talking about the heart that pumps blood through our physical bodies. But to clearly understand the function of the heart that is to be changed in conversion, please notice the following: it is with the heart that we believe, (Rom. 10:10); it is with the heart that we purpose, (II Cor. 9:7); it is with the heart that we obey, (Rom. 6:17); it is with the heart that we understand, (Matt. 13:15); and, it is with the heart that we reason, (Mark 2:8). These passages enable us to see that the heart of which the Bible speaks and that needs to be changed in conversion is mental and not physical.

Why must the heart be changed? We read in Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it?" What made the heart this way? Sin! Sin corrupts the human heart and that is why the heart has to be changed. God spoke through Ezekiel the prophet in Ezekiel 19:31, "Cast away from you all your transgressions, wherein ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, 0 house of Israel?" It is needful to point out that man was not born with a corrupt heart, that is, he did not inherit such. Adam and Eve did not inherit guilt; they became guilty before God when they sinned. It is when man becomes accountable and violates God's law that he becomes a sinner. (I John 3:4.)

How is the heart changed? It is changed by faith. Peter said in Acts 15:9, "and he made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith."

Conversion not only involves a change of heart — a change that is brought about by faith, but it also necessitates a change of state. Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:5, "Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." The water in this verse refers to baptism because it is the act of baptism that requires water. That baptism brings about the change of state, Paul wrote in Galatians 3:27, "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ." Christ is put on in baptism; it is baptism that brings the change of state about. Then Paul also wrote in Romans 6:4, "We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life." Peter told the Jews in Acts 2:38, "repent and be baptized . . . . for the remission of sins." Ananias told Saul in Acts 22:16 to "arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins."

The Bible teaching on conversion should be plain enough. What does conversion involve? It involves a change of heart that takes place by faith. It involves a change of state that comes about by baptism. Jesus said in Mark 16:16, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." If you would be converted this. is what you must do."

Conversion is not a convulsion or a night-mare. It is not that feeling that is "better felt than told," nor is it that "small still voice that speaks peace to the soul." It is not a direct operation of the Holy Spirit. We are saved by the Holy Spirit through the word of God, but nowhere in the scriptures this side of the cross of Christ do we find any example of anyone being saved by a direct operation of the Holy Spirit. In the examples that follow, it will be seen that these people were never saved in some mysterious, inconceivable, unintelligible way separate and apart from the preaching of the word of truth. Conversion is the mental or moral change in a person which begins with his belief of the gospel and ends with his obedience. It will be seen in every case of conversion that people simply obeyed the gospel of Christ.