Recently, Nathan Bingham of Ligonier talked with Mark Dever and Jonathan Leeman about marks of a healthy church in a Google Hangout. This is the full version and it’s worthy of the time investment to listen to these brothers talk about the church.
Marriage Isn’t Meant to Meet Your Needs – Christopher Ash points to the real purpose of marriage.
Starbucks Unveils New Satanic Holiday Cups – Well, it’s worth a good laugh.
25 Years Ago, “Nine Marks” Was Born – Happy anniversary to 9Marks.
NEW RELEASE — Ezra & Nehemiah (Reformed Expository Commentaries) by Derek W. H. Thomas – This will be one resource worthy of adding to your library.
Sons of Liberty and Joy: How a Christian Relates to the State – John Piper always makes you think.
Six November Deals You’ll Want to Pick Up – Deals from Logos are always a good thing for the library. This special includes B.B. Warfield.
G3 Conference Seats and Hotels – Seats and hotels are filling up quickly for the 2017 G3 Conference. Reserve your seats today (also be looking for announcements about additional hotel blocks that should be available very soon).
Theology Word of the Week: Conversion
Conversion. The term ‘conversion’ may be discussed in relation to a variety of disciplines, including biblical studies, history, theology, sociology and psychology. Its implications are wide-ranging, since conversion is a universal phenomenon which may be documented in non-religious as well as religious experience. We shall be concerned with its significance in the Christian scheme.
In the NT the words used for this concept are epistrephō (which in the lxx regularly translates the Hebrew šûḇ, ‘to turn back,’ or ‘return’) and its cognates, especially strephō. The literal meaning of these two verbs is ‘to turn,’ in the sense of changing direction (cf. Jn. 21:20). From this usage derives the figurative and intransitive occurrence in the NT of ‘turning’ to denote (as in 1 Thes. 1:9) a decisive, God-ward reorientation.
In Christian theology conversion may be distinguished from spiritual rebirth, or regeneration. Conversion is the act of turning from sin and self towards God through Jesus Christ, often as the result of some form of Christian proclamation. At a particular point in the process God, by grace, regenerates the believer and gives that person eternal life (Rom. 6:23; 2 Cor. 5:17). According to NT teaching both actions are normally symbolized in baptism, which expresses both the processes involved in conversion and the precise moment of regeneration. Regeneration and conversion therefore includes God’s part and man’s part. On the human side lies repentance (or a change of mind) and saving faith (Mk. 1:15), issuing in a new spiritual direction (Rom. 6:11). But the start of the conversion process is a response to God’s work in Jesus Christ. Thus through a God-given faith articulated in baptism (Eph. 2:8; Col. 2:12), it becomes possible to receive forgiveness (Acts 2:38a), incorporation into Christ (Rom. 6:3–5), the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38b; cf. Jn. 3:5, 8), renewal (Tit. 3:5) and grace to live a new life (Rom. 6:4, 22).
Conversion is also related to the sanctification of the Christian. It can be argued on the basis of NT linguistic evidence that conversion is completed by regeneration. Nevertheless baptismal incorporation, which acts as the focus of this two-way response between God and man, is linked in the NT to the demand for increasing holiness (1 Pet. 1:4–6). The converted Christian is called to be converted, and the reborn person who is baptized needs perpetually to live out the implications of that status. Moreover, while conversion is initially an individual experience, those who are converted belong to the community of the church, and are required to sustain their belief and exercise their service in a corporate context (cf. Acts 20:32). In this sense, conversion and renewal by the Spirit are life-long features of the Christian life.
The demand for personal conversion formed part of the apostolic preaching, and it has been a feature of some forms of evangelism ever since. But is conversion, in the sense of being ‘twice born’, essential to Christian commitment? There is, of course, no archetypal conversion ‘experience’ to which every believer must submit. But even if the process of turning to God may assume many forms, and be sudden or gradual in character, the NT evidence suggests that it is an indispensable foundation to Christian believing, and to all that should flow from that. We may conclude on this basis that ‘preaching for conversion and rebirth,’ so that those who are being saved may be added to the Christian community, is a crucial task in today’s church.
- Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 167–168.