Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 25, 1962
NUMBER 37, PAGE 5b,13b

"Turning To The Lord"

Jesse M. Kelly, Tulsa, Oklahoma

"And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned to the Lord." (Acts 11:21)

The above was the result of the preaching of some of the Jerusalem brethren who had been scattered because of the persecution that arose about Stephen. The preaching was done in Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and resulted in these Jews "turning to the Lord." Churches in these places were established and Antioch later became a "center" from which Paul worked on his three evangelistic tours. In this article we desire to take a closer look at the phrase "turned to the Lord" than is commonly taken by the religious world in general. Denominational preachers exhort people to "turn to the Lord." Denominational people affirm that they have "turned to the Lord." What does it mean? What does one do when he "turns to the Lord?" What, if anything, is involved in such action? Without a doubt many use the phrase who never learned what it means. Many think that it simply involves belief in Christ. Others think that it only involves some visible sign or outward act of some mourner's bench type of "conversion." Still others think it only means a change of mind with reference to the love and practice of sin. Let us look at the passage carefully.

Note first that those who "turned to the Lord" first believed. Faith is set forth as a prerequisite to this "turning." This is in harmony with the order of conversion as set forth in the Great Commission recorded in Mark 16. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" said the Lord. Again, "Without faith it is impossible to please God...." (Heb. 11:6) In the verse under consideration faith precedes turning, thus is a separate act. We therefore know that simply believing, or faith only, is not the "turning to the Lord" which these people did. In Heb. 11:6, partially quoted above, we are impressed with the fact that "coming" to God is also preceded by faith. "....for he that cometh to God must believe...." Further, John says that Christ gave those who believe on his name "power to become the sons of God." (John 1:12) It is quite evident therefore, that if one is saved the moment he believes, or, if in the act of faith only he "turns to the Lord," he is saved before he becomes a son of God. The plain teaching of John 1:12 is that one has the power to "become a child of God "after" he believes. These passages clearly teach that "turning to the Lord" means something in addition to faith.

But further, repentance also is involved in this turning. In Acts 3:19 Peter exhorts, "Repent therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out...." To be converted simply means to be changed, or turned into a different course of thought and action. Thus whatever "turn" means, both faith and repentance must precede it. Neither faith nor repentance constitute the turning.

In 1 Thess. 1:9 we read of the Gentiles "turning from idols to the true God." They believed on the Christ Paul preached (Acts 17); they had a change of mind regarding whom he preached, and as a result of their repentance, turned away from their idols to serve the true God. "Turned" in the passage represents all that one does between the point from which he starts, and salvation from sin in Jesus Christ. This fact is seen in the answer Peter gave the ones on Pentecost to "Repent and be baptized....for the remission of sins. Their faith which was created within them by the preaching of Peter motivated the question they asked. These were the ones who later were "scattered" and went everywhere preaching.

But while it is said of those of the text, that they "believed and turned to the Lord," it is said that the Corinthians "believed and were baptized." (Acts 18:8) In these passages, "believing and turning" is equal to "believing and being baptized." We therefore conclude that when one believes and "turns" he believes and is "baptized." When he turns he is baptized, and when he is baptized he turns.

It may be well to note also in this connection that Peter told some in Acts 3:19 to "repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out...." Here "repentance and conversion" is equal to "repentance and baptism."

The result of both is the same — "sins blotted out," "remission of sins."

In every case of conversion set out in the Acts of Apostles faith and repentance are either expressly stated or necessarily inferred, but baptism is always specifically mentioned in each of these cases as taking place. This is what is involved in "believing and turning" to the Lord. To "turn" is to render full obedience to the will of God, and to meet every condition laid down in His word. To endeavor to do more or less is to indict the power and wisdom of God.