20. New Testament Conversions


The book of Acts is the book of conversions. It contains nine distinct accounts of how people became Christians. The word ‘convert’ means to turn. One converted to Christ has turned from the ways of the world to Jesus.

Modern teachings on this subject often disagree with the apostolic practice. We must try to discover how people were converted in the first century rather than to justify ourselves.


Previously we studied God’s part in our salvation – His love and grace as expressed in the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross to atone for the sins of mankind. To avail ourselves of the forgiveness Christ requires that we obey Him, Hebrews 5:9. By obedience we do not earn salvation, but we do appropriate that offered by God.

To illustrate, suppose that a drowning man is thrown a rope by a bystander. He is commanded, ‘Grab hold of the rope, and I will pull you out.’ If one wishes to be saved, he must obey the command, yet his obedience in grasping the rope in no sense takes away the ‘grace’ of the man on shore, not does it mean that he has earned his salvation. Likewise, our obedience to the gospel commands in no way minimises divine grace, but rather enables us to accept that grace.


By comparing accounts of conversion in Acts we learn how God requires us to become Christians. Totalling the nine following cases of conversion we may find what all of them did to be saved.


The multitude on the day of Pentecost was told to ‘know assuredly’ (or believe) that Jesus was both Lord and Christ, Acts 2:36. They did believe and said, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Acts 2:37. Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ Acts 2:38. 

That day 3000 believed, repented, and were baptised in order to have their sins forgiven. Repentance is a change of heart which is prompted by godly sorrow, 2 Corinthians 7:10, and results in a reformation of life.


Philip the evangelist went to Samaria to preach the word of God. The people ‘heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said,’ Acts 8:6. Having heard, ‘they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women, Acts 8:12.


Philip then preached to a man of Ethiopia riding in a chariot. The Ethiopian believed in Christ and confessed his faith to Philip. Coming to a certain water, they stopped, and ‘Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him,’ Acts 8:38.

SAUL OF TARSUS ACTS 9 / Acts 22 / Acts 26

To get the complete story of the conversion of Saul we combine the three accounts of his conversion. On his way to Damascus he fell blinded to the ground when a bright light shone from heaven. Christ told him to ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do,’ Acts 9:6.

Ananias came to him and commanded, ‘And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name,’ Acts 22:16. Saul was baptised and his sins were washed away.

Notice that Saul was not saved on the Damascus Road. Were his sins forgiven then, Ananias would not later have told him to be baptised to wash them away.


The first Gentile convert was a Roman soldier instructed by the Lord to send to Joppa for Peter ‘He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved,’ Acts 11:14.

Peter preached Christ to Cornelius and his friends and declared, ‘All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name,’ Acts 10:43. Having believed, they were baptised, Acts 10:47.


At Philippi Paul converted Lydia of whom it is said, ‘One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized,’ Acts 16:14-15. Lydia heard and evidently believed because she was baptised.


In Philippi Paul and Silas, who had been cast into prison, also succeeded in converting their jailor. Convinced that they were men of God he asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ Acts 16:30.

They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household,’ Acts 16:31. That same hour of the night he took the prisoners, washed their stripes, and was baptised, ‘believing in God,’ Acts 16:34 – A.V.


The story of the conversion of the people of Corinth is to the point. ‘And many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptised,’ Acts 18:8.


Twelve disciples of John the Baptist were converted by Paul at Ephesus. He told them, ‘John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus,’ Acts 19:4-5.


1. New Testament converts were saved when having heard God’s word they believed, repented, and were baptised. Forgiveness through the blood of Christ was not received until all of these acts of obedience were performed.

2. Since no other means of becoming a Christian has been revealed, we today cannot be saved in any other way.

3. In the nine accounts of conversion there is no example of one being saved by having an ‘experience’, ‘praying through’, or ‘going to the altar’.

The following summary shows what these converts did or were commanded to do. All references are from Acts.


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