What is the meaning of being converted? What is a faith conversion?
The word convert means "cause to change in form, character, or function." For example, a person's body can convert food into calories, or energy. In this sense, the body is the source of the conversion and the food is being converted, acted upon by the ability of the body to effect conversion. When a Christian is converted, he or she is also being acted upon by God. God has the power to change us, and when He gives us faith in Himself, we are converted. We were once sinful people in enmity to Him (Romans 5:10) but now we are "… his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:8–10). The active verb "convert" is therefore a very accurate way to describe the process of salvation.
The gospel is "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). That is, God does something to "cause us to change" in form, character, and function. Just as God spoke into the void and created the world, He speaks to the soul and it is changed, given light, re-born as a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; John 3:3–6). Once we have faith, we know that "He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son" (Colossians 1:13). We are literally converted from one state to another. Where we used to conform to sin, we now conform our lives and minds to the Word of God; where we used to love sin, we love righteousness; where we used to dedicate our bodies to the work of the flesh, we now dedicate them to the work of God's kingdom (Romans 6:20–22; 12:1). We are wholly and completely changed.
The Bible uses the Greek word aparche to describe a man named Epaenatus, "who was the first convert to Christ in Asia," as a result of Paul's ministry (Romans 16:5). The word aparche literally means "firstfruits" as in the firstfruits of a harvest. The Bible is full of harvest metaphors. The Word of God is compared to seeds planted in the ground, and the people who hear the word as different plants (Luke 8:5–15). Unbelievers are compared to a field of wheat ready to be harvested (Luke 10:2). And the converted are called the "firstfruits" of the harvest. A seed is converted into a seedling, which then grows and is converted into a stalk of wheat.
These harvest metaphors, when taken together, illustrate something that we often miss or forget as we strive to bring people into the kingdom of God: conversion happens between the seed and the harvest. The Word of God, the seed, is planted in the heart. Evangelists and teachers water the plant. God gives the growth of the plant (1 Corinthians 3:6). And then once the plant is grown and ready to be harvested, laborers are sent into the field. Conversion is a process that happens when a creative God reaches out to cause change in His creation. He turns the heart of stone into a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). He converts a person in a stubbornly sinful state and makes them a person that is ready to say "I believe" (John 3:16).
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