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Monday
Mar092009

Theological Term of the Week

conversion
A sinner’s willing response to the gospel call in which he repents of his sin and places his faith in Christ; the turn from sin to God by the one who is being saved.

  • From scripture:
    For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God…. (1 Thessalonians 1:9 ESV)

    I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:20-21)
  • From The Second Helvetic Confession, Chapter XIV, Of Repentance, and the Conversion of Man

    The doctrine of repentance is joined with the Gospel. For so has the Lord said in the Gospel: “Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in my name to all nations” (Luke 24:47).

    WHAT IS REPENTANCE? By repentance we understand (1) the recovery of a right mind in sinful man awakened by the Word of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit, and received by true faith, by which the sinner immediately acknowledges his innate corruption and all his sins accused by the Word of God; and (2) grieves for them from his heart, and not only bewails and frankly confesses them before God with a feeling of shame, but also (3) with indignation abominates them; and (4) now zealously considers the amendment of his ways and constantly strives for innocence and virtue in which conscientiously to exercise himself all the rest of his life.

    TRUE REPENTANCE IS CONVERSION TO GOD. And this is true repentance, namely, a sincere turning to God and all good, and earnest turning away from the devil and all evil.

  • From George Whitefield1, Repentance and Conversion:

    I am preaching from a Bible that saith, “He that is in Christ is a new creature, old things”, not “will” be, but “are passed away, all things”, not only “will”, but “are become new.” As a child when born has all the several parts of a man, it will have no more limbs than it has now, if it lives to fourscore years and ten; so when a person is converted to God, there are all the features of the new creature and growth, till he becomes a young man and a father in Christ; till he becomes ripe in grace, and God translates him to glory. Any thing short of this is but the shadow instead of the substance; and however persons may charge us with being enthusiasts, yet we need not be moved either to anger or sorrow, since Paul says, “I travel in birth till Christ be formed in your hearts.”

    The author of this conversion is the Holy Ghost: it is not their own free will; it is not moral suasion; nothing short of the influence of the Spirit of the living God can effect this change in our hearts; therefore we are said to “be born again, born of God, of the Spirit, not of water only, but of the Holy Ghost; that which is born of the flesh, is flesh, but that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit”: and though there is and will be a contest between these two opposites, flesh and spirit, yet if we are truly converted, the spirit will get the ascendency; and though for a while nature and grace may struggle in the womb of a converted soul, like Jacob and Esau, yet the elder shall serve the younger, Jacob shall supplant and turn out Esau, or at least keep him under: God grant we may all thus prove that we are converted. This conversion, however it begins at home, will soon walk abroad; as the Virgin Mary was soon found out to be with child, so it will be soon found out whether Christ is formed in the heart. There will be new principles, new ways, new company, new works; there will be a thorough change in the heart and life; this is conversion: at first it begins with terror and legal sorrow, afterwards it leads to joyfulness; first we work for spiritual life, afterwards from it: first we are in bondage, afterwards we receive the Spirit of adoption to long and thirst for God, because he has been pleased to let us know that he will take us to heaven.

Learn more:

  1. John Gill: Of Conversion
  2. Tom Schreiner: Conversion in the New Testament
  3. Kim Riddlebarger: Biblical Conversion and the Modern Church
  4. Jared Wilson: The Beauty of Conversion
  5. John Piper: The Role of the Holy Spirit in Conversion
  6. Wayne Grudem: The Doctrine of Conversion (mp3)

Related terms:

1I recommend John Piper’s sermon on George Whitefield, which comes in manuscript, audio, or video form.

Do you have a a theological term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.

I’m also interested in any suggestions you have for tweaking my definitions or for additional (or better) articles or sermons/lectures for linking. Credit will be given for any of these suggestions I use, too.

Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms organized in alphabetical order or by topic.

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