In the book of Acts we read, “Repent you therefore, and be converted that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3: 19). The change in a person’s life resulting in his becoming a Christian is called in the Bible, conversion, and the Bible teaches that conversion is necessary for a person to be saved. Christ likened this change to a birth and taught Nicodemus, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Of the 27 books comprising the New Testament, there is one book which is particularly helpful in understanding the nature of conversion. This book is Acts of the Apostles which tells of the conversions of many different people. In Chapters 2, 8, 9, 10, 11, 16, 18, and 22 are 8 key examples of conversion and from these examples certain universal principles of conversion can be understood. Conversion is dependent upon the acceptance of the Word of God by the sinner. Jesus said, “The seed is the Word”, and conversions mentioned in the book of Acts bear out the necessity of both the presentation of God’s word to the sinner and his acceptance of it (Romans 1:16). The presentation can be either public or private; through words either spoken or written, but their acceptance always results in belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (Romans 10:17). We also read, “They believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 8:12), and in Acts 18:8, “And many of the Corinthians hearing, believed and were baptized.”
Faith in Jesus Christ, produced by the testimony of the Word of God leads to a change in a sinner’s attitude toward his own transgressions. With faith comes an understanding of God’s love to man. This, in turn, leads the sinner to determine to turn away from sin, for we read, “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4)? An example of this part of conversion is found in Acts 2 in response to Peter’s preaching of Christ. The Bible says, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:36-38). This change in a person’s heart must lead to certain actions before conversion is complete. One of these actions is confession that Jesus is the Christ, for we read, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).
Finally, a person must be baptized in the likeness of Christ’s death and burial (Romans 6:4), in order for God to forgive him of past sins. The Bible says, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). And we also must remember that in Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, he said that both repentance and baptism are necessary in order to receive the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Later, Peter echoed this same thought again when he said that “baptism doth also now save us” (1 Peter 3:21). When a person believes in Christ, repents of sin, confesses Christ, and is baptized into Christ for the remission of sins, he is converted. Only then has he been born of the water and of the Spirit as referred to in John 3:3-5. The Lord then adds him to the body, the Church, the Kingdom of God (Acts 2:47).
The Bible plainly teaches us that there are steps that we must take in order to obtain salvation in Jesus Christ. Hearing the word, believing in Christ, repenting of our sins, confessing Christ as being the Son of God, and being baptized for the forgiveness of our sins are the steps in which every accountable person must do in order to receive salvation. We then must be determined to live a life that is faithful to Christ, according to His teaching (Revelation 2:10; John 12:48).