[forthright] How You Turned

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From: "Forthright Magazine" <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Mon, 18 Sep 2006 15:58:24 -0300
Forthright Magazine
Straight to the Cross

Special news at the end of today's article!

COLUMN: Final Phase

How You Turned
by J. Randal Matheny

The earliest book of the New Testament, 1
Thessalonians, begins by celebrating the
conversion of the recipients in glowing terms. The
story of the Thessalonians' conversion
reverberated throughout the province of Macedonia
and neighboring Achaia. Paul says of them:

   "And you became imitators of us and of the
   Lord, for you received the word in much
   affliction, with the joy of the Holy
   Spirit, so that you became an example to
   all the believers in Macedonia and in
   Achaia. For not only has the word of the
   Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia
   and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone
   forth everywhere, so that we need not say
   anything. For they themselves report
   concerning us the kind of reception we had
   among you, and how you turned to God from
   idols to serve the living and true God, and
   to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he
   raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us
   from the wrath to come" (1:6-10 ESV).

The story of their journey to faith became so well
known that people reported back to Paul how they
had "received the word" and turned from idols to
serve the living and true God. The description of
their "faith in God" in verse 8 is explained
clearly in verse 9 as their conversion./1
Apparently the account of their conversion in the
midst of persecution and trials impressed and
encouraged many.

Using similar language, Paul praised the Roman
Christians. "First, I thank my God through Jesus
Christ for all of you, because your faith is
proclaimed in all the world" (Romans 1:8)./2 J.W.
McGarvey said Paul gave thanks for them "because
their faith had so openly and notoriously changed
their lives from sin to righteousness ..." The
turning of the Romans to Christ was a story to
stir many a heart. Moses Lard stated appropriately
that "[w]ith the mention of their belief would
circulate the name of Christ in whom they

The news of such conversions seems to spread

Peter tells the Jerusalem Jews of Cornelius's
conversion, and they glorify God because of it
(Acts 11:18).

After their first missionary journey, Paul and
Barnabas returned to Syrian Antioch, gathered the
church together and "declared all that God had
done with them, and how he had opened a door of
faith to the Gentiles" (Acts 14:27).

On their way to a meeting in Jerusalem about
circumcision, Paul and Barnabas "passed through
both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail
the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great
joy to all the brothers" (Acts 15:3).

In Acts, after Luke has recounted Paul's
conversion in chapter 9, Paul himself tells his
own story of conversion twice (chaps. 22 and 26).

Paul even remembers details such as which people
were baptized first in an area: Epaenetus, who was
the first convert to Christ in the province of
Asia (Romans 16:5), and the household of
Stephanas, the first converts in Achaia (1
Corinthians 16:15).

Now the telling of these stories of conversion --
and all the "examples" of conversion in Acts --
each has its own purpose with details relevant to
that purpose. Whether to teach the way of
salvation, encourage Christians to be faithful or
spur pagans to confess the name of Christ, each
salvation story contributes to a spiritual

My story may comfort or strengthen someone in
their resolve to follow Christ. Yours may also.

Just yesterday I told of a young man in Belo
Horizonte, who, hearing his first gospel sermon in
a meeting, obeyed without hesitation. When he
heard the message, he knew that was what he'd been
seeking. Though his decision was quick, it was not
impulsive. Decades later, he is a preacher of the
gospel and an effective evangelist in the kingdom
of God.

Such salvation stories motivate us. To convert
ourselves. To remain firm in the faith. To teach

Let's tell these stories, because they move us
toward the main story of salvation in the cross of

With such spiritual purposes in mind, Forthright
announces a new segment, "Conversion Stories." As
brothers and sisters in Christ contribute their
stories, we'll publish them. Check this link for
the first story online and how you can share yours
as well. Share this link with both Christian and
non-Christian friends.

1/ TDNT, vol. VI: 209, 217.

2/ "'Faith' means the receiving of the message of
salvation and the conduct based on the gospel (he
pistis, Rm 1:8 ...)." O. Michel, in NIDNTT
(retranslated from Portuguese into English).

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