What Is It That Converts a Disbeliever into a Believer?

Jesus gave his disciples the commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel.

Matt 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: KJV

The disciples completed that task by reaching the uttermost parts of the known world throughout the Roman empire, reaching from Babylonia to Spain. Note the following passages:

1 Peter 5:13 The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son. KJV
Rom 15:24 Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company. KJV
Col 1:5 For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; 6 Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth: KJV

Their having completed that task, it now falls upon us, the disciples of the 21st century, to carry on the duty of preaching the gospel to everyone of our know world today. What Jesus commanded his apostles to do, we must also do. It is a natural extension of their teaching.

Matt 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. KJV

Since they were given the task to “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations,” in our obedience to all things they taught, we also teach all nations.

The Book of Acts records a significant part of that effort to reach the world with the gospel, revealing many of the great successes, as well as relating those failures of those who rejected the message, choosing to disbelieve. So it is today in our contemporary cultures and societies: there are those who choose to believe, and a greater number who reject the gospel call unto salvation.

It is important to remember that God gives all of us the option to receive His word, or to reject it: to believe Him or to disbelieve Him. The fact that one may not appreciate the great gift which God has provide will factor into his own choice, but it still is his own choice; and God respects that.

Because one does not respond positively to the gospel to become a Christian, we may reflect upon this as our own failure. But the truth of the matter is that we have actually succeeded; we have done that which our master has commanded us to do: we have carried the gospel to yet another lost soul. That someone has rejected the message is not a failure on our part, but rather a failure on the part of the hearer. Remember Paul, as he reasoned with the Jews in Antioch of Pisidia, they rejected the gospel:

Acts 13:44 And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. 45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. 46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. KJV

Note that it was those Jews who were filled with envy who had rejected the preaching. Paul and Barnabas did not fail, rather they succeeded in their charge to speak to them first the word of God. It was the hearers who had judged themselves unworthy. They had given away their opportunity for eternal life: it was they (the disbelieving Jews) who had failed!

Christians should understand that it is not their own abilities of persuasion which necessarily causes one to believe, and that belief to motivate him to do whatever it takes to be forgiven of God. Remember, it is the gospel which calls, and the gospel which creates faith (belief) in the hearer.

Rom 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. KJV

People will develop a faith (a belief) in things based upon what they hear; and what is heard is necessarily what is spoken, taught, or preached. A faith which saves is based upon the pure gospel message, and not a perverted version of it. One must be converted to Christ, and not to the speaker, which means the pure gospel must be preached, or an alternative message will cause that one to believe a fallacious alternative to the gospel, which will not save, but only deceive and redirect the hearer from the only way to be saved.

Consider, also, that it is the gospel, itself, which has the power to convince the sinner to turn from his ways, and which reveals the truth about Jesus, and the truth about himself. No power of persuasion can substitute for God’s word.

Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. KJV

The apostle, Paul, recognized and was inspired to wright the truth that God’s power to save is the gospel.

Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. KJV

Paul and Silas reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews in Thessalonica about Jesus, and the prophecies of his suffering and death upon the cross and of his resurrection from the dead. Earlier, in Thessalonica (where Paul and Silas were sent out by cover of darkness) they had met with the Jews in the synagogue. This was their customary modus aparandi.

Acts 17:1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.

In fact, it was this teaching about Jesus which raised up such a stir which caused the Jews of that city to be filled with jealousy.

Acts 17:10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. KJV

Note, however, that the gospel alone did not convert them in Berea. Yes, Paul had presented as convincing arguments about Jesus as he had in Thessalonica, but it was the hearts, or disposition, of the Bereans which set them apart from the Thessalonians, and for which the Holy Spirit commended them. First, they were ready to hear the truth; and secondly, they did not merely take Paul’s word for it: they searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. They did not just dismiss the report out of hand, not giving themselves the opportunity to learn the soul-saving message of truth. And, upon hearing, they verified and proved that what Paul taught was, indeed, the truth.

So, what is that part of the equation that causes one to believe the truth of the gospel? We have seen examples of people who chose not to believe the truth (those in Thessalonica), and those who chose to believe (those in Berea). In the first case it was their envy which prevented them from humbling themselves and submitting themselves to the teaching. There are other examples of those who rejected the word of God in the teaching of the gospel, such as Felix and Agrippa.

Acts 24:24 And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. 25 And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. KJV
Acts 26:26 For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. 28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. KJV

Felix chose to put off the opportunity he had for salvation. It is not known with certainty whether he had called for Paul later on, or whether he obeyed the command of the gospel call to “Repent ye, and be baptized, every one of you” (Acts 2:38); but I have known many who, after hearing the truth, had decided to put off till later any further consideration of the gospel, who never followed up. They remain lost, and their soul is in peril.

Agrippa was almost persuaded, but not quite. As the song relates:

“Almost persuaded” now to believe;
“Almost persuaded” Christ to receive;
Seems now some soul to say,
“Go Spirit, go Thy way;
Some more convenient day
On Thee I’ll call.”
“Almost persuaded,” harvest is past!
“Almost persuaded,” doom comes at last!
“Almost” cannot avail;
“Almost” is but to fail;
Sad, sad, that bitter wail –
“Almost – but lost!”

Are you almost persuaded? Almost, but lost?

Curtis A. Little, Royse City, TX
Curtis A. Little
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