Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 9, 1956


Keith T. Thompson, Owen Sound, Ontario

Although the book of Acts has correctly been called "The Book of Conversions" it also contains the account of many "Nonconversions." By "Nonconversions" we mean those who have heard the gospel yet refused to believe its facts, obey its commands and thus failed to obtain its promises. A most significant question comes to mind as we think of these "Nonconversions": Why were they not converted?

In seeking to answer this question we must observe that conversion may be described as the work of three — God, a Christian worker, and the person who turns. When the three cooperate, conversion is inevitable. Failure to achieve conversion must therefore be attributed to one or more of the parties involved. Let us then consider these three parties and see where the failure lies.

Does The Failure Lie With God?

Some of the theories of men would make it appear that it does. But the Bible affirms that God wishes "all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim. 2:4.) New Testament history confirms what was declared by God upon oath in the Old Testament, that he has no pleasure in the death of the sinner, but in his turning and living. (Ezek. 33:11.) "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16.) Christ commanded that his gospel was to be preached to "all the world." (Mark 16:15.) Those who were not converted had the same opportunities to be saved as those who were convened. They heard the gospel, but declined or postponed acceptance. They could not complain that God, Christ, or the Holy Spirit were partial to the converted.

Some say that if God is all-powerful and if he desires the salvation of all that he ought to simply convert every last man. But there are some things that even almighty power cannot do. God cannot believe for man; he cannot repent for him; he cannot be baptized for him; in short, God cannot do man's part in conversion for him. God has more than done his part in the conversion of man. His Word exhibits his amazing concern for man in planning and executing the marvellous plan for man's redemption. Who will then dare to point the finger of accusation at God?

Are Christian Workers Ever Responsible For The Failure

Paul was able to say with a clear conscience, "I am pure from the blood of all men." (Acts 20:36.) Paul could so speak because of his exemplary "manner of life" (2 Tim. 3:10; Acts 20:18-21) and because he "shrank not from declaring . . . the whole council of God." (Acts 20:27.) Failure in these two respects on the part of Christians can often be partly responsible for nonconversions. If Christians would teach the Truth plainly and live consistently conversions would undoubtedly be much more numerous. But inquirers should search the scriptures for themselves and not be debarred from the enjoyment of salvation by the failures of others.

Even when confronted with those who appeared to be poor prospects for conversion Paul faithfully lived and taught the way of salvation. In a place where it was easier to find an idol than a man Paul delivered a matchless address well calculated to convert any honest soul there. (Acts 17:22-31.) At a time when many would have considered it "practical" to speak of vague generalities Paul fearlessly spoke of "righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come." (Acts 24:25.) His touching appeal and heart-searching sincerity on another occasion demonstrated his unfeigned zeal: "I would to God, that whether with little or with much, not thou only, but also all that hear me this day, might become such as I am, except these bonds." (Acts 26:29.)

The Final Decision Rests With The Sinner

God has supplied all the necessary means, and his Word makes the plan of salvation plain. Whether, therefore, Christians do their duty or not, the honest inquirer is free to learn God's will and act upon it. But "nonconversions" will continue as long as men manifest the same attitudes of heart seen in the "nonconversions" of Acts.

The results of the gospel preaching in Rome are typical of those throughout the book: "And some believed the things which were spoken and some disbelieved." (Acts 28:24.) Although the emphasis is rightly on the "three thousand" who believed and obeyed the gospel, there were doubtless many more who rejected that same gospel. Stephen preached the same gospel that Peter preached; his hearers understood what he preached, but instead of accepting it "they gnashed on him with their teeth." (Acts 7:54.) Bar-Jesus and Sergius Paulus both heard Paul preach the same sermon. The former rejected while the latter accepted the truth of that sermon. Bar-Jesus withstood Paul and sought to turn Sergius Paulus "from the faith." (Acts 13:6-8.) The Athenians are typical of many today: intellectual to the point of vanity; passionate for the new and the different; and worshipping at the altar of the Unknown. Although some made a courageous decision for Christ the majority either chose to "sit in the seat of scoffers" or to delay serious consideration. (Acts 17:32-34.) Countless others today in looking into the mirror of God's Word may see themselves in the wicked lives of Felix and Drusilla. Like Felix they may occasionally tremble at the thought of judgment, but they decide it not convenient to revolutionize their lives. (Acts 24:25.) The modern agnostic finds a brother in Agrippa who decided to remain in a state of indecision. (Acts 26:28.) Remember, friends out of Christ, procrastination is not only the thief of time, but the burglar of eternity.