Converting Christians

Converting Christians

The Word “Converted” and its derivatives have a very distinct connotation to it. Generally, when someone uses this word it is in relation to religion. The Greek and Hebrew definitions of these words mean: to turn back or to revert (Complete Word Study Dictionary).  The word “convert” or “converted” is only found a handful of times in the King James translation of the Bible. However, it’s meaning saturates the pages of Holy Writ. For the Christian, this word typically signifies the repentance of an alien sinner and subsequent obedience to the Gospel of Christ. When we use this term, it is predominantly used in that fashion. However, are alien sinners the only ones in need of conversion? A careful study of the scriptures informs the Bible student about the need for God’s people to be converted at times. In the epistle written by James is recorded the following exhortation. Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins, James 5:19-20 (KJV).  The inspired penman touches on several things in these two verses.

First, conversion is needed when a Christian errs or wanders away (Complete Word Study Dictionary) from the truth. There is one standard, one canon or rule by which we serve the Lord. It is called the Bible or as James puts it, The Truth. The Christian lives his/her life by this standard. On numerous occasions, the Lord in His infinite wisdom admonished and exhorted His people not to forget this principle. Therefore, you shall be careful to do as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess, Deuteronomy 5:32-33.  The Hebrew nation was encouraged to continue to walk in all the ways of the Lord. When they rebelled against this commandment, the Lord rebuked and chastened them according to His promises (Deuteronomy 30:15-18). Furthermore, the Lord asked them to turn back or be converted. Yet the LORD testified against Israel and against Judah, by all of His prophets, every seer, saying, Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets, 2 Kings 17:13 (Emphases MWS). In the same fashion, the Christians in Galatia were asked to turn back to the truth when they veered from it (Cf. Galatians 3:1 & 5:1). The Christian who no longer walks according to the commandments of God has wandered away or erred from the truth and needs to be converted. They must be reminded of the ways of righteousness and encouraged to return to it.

Second, conversion of a saint requires a converted saint. In James’ admonition, he exhorts the faithful Christian to convert the one who is being unfaithful (James 5:19). God does not want the erring brother or sister to remain in their wretched state, thus He commanded the faithful to restore them. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted, Galatians 6:1.  Since the fall in the Garden, the Lord has been reaching out to the lost. It was the Lord who reached out to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:8-9). It was the Lord who reached out to Cain (Genesis 4:6). Through Noah, the Lord reached out to a wretched world (C.f. 2 Peter 2:5). The prophets reached out to Israel (Luke 13:34). Jonah reached out to an erring Gentile nation (Jonah 1:1-2). Jesus came to seek and save the entire world and subsequently commanded Christians to do the same. (Luke 19:10 & Galatians 5:1). From the beginning when mankind was lost in sin God reached out to bring them back by using faithful men and women.  It is not the work of the world to bring our brethren back nor should it be left to time and chance. In the conversion of erring Christians, it must be the faithful who endeavor to bring them back.

Third, conversion is needed to avoid spiritual death. The crux of converting Christians is seen in the conclusion that James draws. The Christian who remains in sin or the Christian who does not come back to the ways of righteousness will lose their soul’s salvation. I believe we completely grasp this principle when it comes to converting alien sinners. However, I do not believe we grasp it when it comes to our brethren. Church discipline, which was set in place by the Lord for this purpose, is often ignored, some even blaspheming God by saying it does not work. Yet, James points out the critical truth of the matter. Our brethren, in their sinful state, have made for themselves a reservation in the fires of Hell. Their situation is perilous and desires our prompt response (Jude 1:23). Their souls are in the same danger as the alien sinner and should be reached with the same fervor. Peter emphasized the following about their disposition. For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them, 2 Peter 2:20-21.

Some Christians lose their way, and some give in to the pressures of an ungodly world. God desires their renewed salvation as much as He desires the alien sinner’s initial salvation. For this cause, He instructed the faithful to convert the sinner from the error of his way and in so doing save their souls from eternal damnation.