From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Holman Bible Dictionary [1]

The Old Testament frequently uses the term both in a noun and verb form. The psalmist said that, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” ( Psalm 19:7 ). He affirmed that “sinners shall be converted unto thee” ( Psalm 51:13 ). God declared to Isaiah that “Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness” ( Isaiah 1:27 ). Isaiah was told that Israel's heart would be hardened lest the people would “understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed” ( Isaiah 6:10 ). The prayer of  Lamentations 5:21 is for conversion, “Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned.” (See also   Psalm 85:4 , “Turn us, O God of our salvation.”)

The New Testament uses the noun form only once in referring to “the conversion of the Gentiles” ( Acts 15:3 ) but uses the term repeatedly in other forms. Three of the Gospels make reference to  Isaiah 6:10 (  Matthew 13:15;  Mark 4:12 ,  John 12:40 ). Jesus admonished His disciples, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” ( Matthew 18:3 ). He told Simon Peter, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” ( Luke 22:32 ). The Book of Acts refers repeatedly to the importance of conversion, beginning with Peter's words, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted” ( Luke 3:19 ). Acts uses the term most frequently in describing a person turning to God ( Acts 15:19 ,  Acts 26:20 ) or turning “from darkness to light” ( Acts 26:18 ), or from “these vanities unto the living God” ( Acts 14:15 ). Other New Testament references speak of turning from idols to serve the living God ( 1 Thessalonians 1:9 ) and turning so that “the veil shall be taken away” ( 2 Corinthians 3:16 ). James encourages us with the words “that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death” ( James 5:20 ).

Biblical Examples of Conversion The Old Testament records experiences of several men who in the most basic sense turned to God (they were converted). Of course, they did not have the benefit of later revelation or the understanding that comes from the gospel; but they were confronted by God in a way that made them conscious of sin. As a result, they turned to God in self-surrender. Jacob's experience with God at Bethel was a kind of conversion ( Genesis 32:1 ). Moses, at the burning bush, was surely given a call to mission, and some would call it a conversion ( Exodus 3:1 ). Isaiah had an experience with God that undoubtedly changed his life ( Isaiah 6:1 ). One of the most notable conversions in the Old Testament would have to be that of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, who through a series of unusual circumstances turned to “the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase” ( Daniel 4:37 ).

In the New Testament the list of conversions is much more lengthy. In a very real sense all of the apostles were converted to the messiahship of Jesus and forsook everything to follow Him. The Gospels recount numerous encounters that Jesus had with individuals that resulted in their acknowledging Him as the Christ. They then experienced a radical change in their lives: Zacchaeus ( Luke 19:1 ), the woman at the well at Sychar ( John 4:1 ), the sinful woman in the house of Simon ( Luke 7:1 ), and Nicodemus ( John 3:1 ). The Book of Acts records a number of individual conversions, the most notable of which are the Ethiopian eunuch ( Acts 8:1 ), Saul of Tarsus ( Acts 9:1 ), and Cornelius ( Acts 10:1 ). In addition, several references to large numbers of conversions appear ( Acts 2:41;  Acts 9:35;  Acts 11:21 ).

The biblical evidence, both within the Old and New Testaments, emphasizes the importance of conversion. Persons need to be converted. They are commanded to be converted and can be converted. Conversion is necessary because of sin. Conversion is made possible by the goodness and grace of God.

The Character of Conversion Christian conversion is the experience of an individual in which one turns from sin and trusts in Jesus Christ for salvation. It is personal and inward in nature, but is results in a public and outward change. Each individual's conversion is unique; yet the requirements of conversion are the same for everyone. An individual's conversion will be influenced by temperament, knowledge, and people; but each conversion is the result of the same gospel and the same Spirit.

The characteristics of conversion are summarized in  2 Corinthians 5:17 , “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” A change of the mind, emotions, and will is the result of conversion. The mind is changed in that it seeks to know the truth and accept the truth, whereas before conversion the mind resisted the truth. The emotions are changed in that evil is hated and righteousness is loved, whereas before conversion evil was loved and righteousness was hated. In conversion the will is changed so that it turns away from sin in humble submission to the will of God.

Conversion does not result in Christian maturity, but it does begin the process that leads to maturity. Conversion does not cause perfection, but it radically redirects the personality. Conversion does not produce instant sainthood, but it does change the goals, the values, and the priorities of life.

The Causes of Conversion The cause of conversion is the sovereign grace and mercy of God. “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” ( Romans 5:8 ). The finished work of Christ on the cross is the basis and foundation of individual conversion. That finished work is the result of God's grace. Whatever means and methods God uses to influence individuals—the preaching and teaching of truth, the prayers of the church, the circumstances of life—are the result of God's grace. In conversion God takes the initiative; God causes understanding; God creates desire; God enables response.

The cause of conversion is a confrontation and encounter with God. In genuine conversion one is confronted with the living Christ and faced with decision. It is a personal event, concentrated and focused. Surely every person's conversion will not be as dramatic as someone else's may be, but every person must personally come face to face with Jesus Christ to claim a conversion. Confrontation is not just acceptance of ideas or intellectual assent to plan of salvation. It is not just agreeing to some facts. It involves acceptance of a Person and acknowledging that acceptance to Him. Confrontation is saying to Jesus Christ, “I accept You as my Lord. I trust You for my salvation.” Confrontation is hearing His “knock on the door of my life” and “opening the door for Him to come in.” Confrontation is a personal transaction between me and Jesus Christ.

The cause of conversion is conviction that is the result of the Holy Spirit's witness to the Word of God ( John 16:7-11 ). Christian conversion must be preceded by a basic understanding of the gospel story, some cognitive grasp of truth, a minimal acquaintance with God's redemptive work in Christ. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” ( Romans 10:17 ). The truth of the gospel causes concern and leads people to ask the question asked of Simon Peter after his Pentecost sermon, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” ( Acts 2:37 ). The clear presentation of God's requirements, man's failures, and God's provision for sinful man in Jesus Christ creates the opportunity for conversion as well as the opportunity for rejection.

The Conditions of Conversion If conversion is the result of grace on God's part, it is the result of repentance and faith on a person's part. Repentance is turning from sin and self-centeredness to God and His will. It is a redirection of life, a change of mind, a radical break with the past. A classic biblical example of conversion is the Prodigal Son ( Luke 15:1 ). He felt genuine sorrow for his sinfulness. He made a deliberate decision to leave his old way of life. He turned from his waywardness and sought the mercy of his father. Such is repentance.

Faith is essentially trust. Faith is trust in Christ and His redemptive sacrifice. It is believing in Him alone for salvation. Faith is receiving the grace God revealed through the Person and work of His Son. The numerous admonitions of Scripture are to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation ( John 3:16;  Acts 16:31;  1 John 5:13 ). Belief is more than acceptance of the historical Jesus. It is a personal trust in the living Christ who lived, died, and rose again. It is trust to the point of commitment and surrender to the will of Christ. See Regeneration; Repentance .

Daniel Vestal

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

CONVERSION . The noun occurs only in   Acts 15:3 ( epistrophç ), but in AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘convert’ is found several times both in OT (Heb. shûbh ) and NT (Gr. epistrephô, strephô ) to denote a spiritual turning, RV [Note: Revised Version.] in most cases substituting ‘ turn .’ ‘Turn’ is to he preferred because (1) in the Eng. of AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘convert’ meant no more than ‘turn’; (2) ‘conversion’ has come to be employed in a sense that often goes beyond the meaning of the originals. RV [Note: Revised Version.] has further corrected AV [Note: Authorized Version.] by giving act. ‘turn’ for pass. ‘be converted’ in   Matthew 13:15;   Matthew 18:3 ,   Mark 4:12 ,   Luke 22:32 ,   John 12:40 ,   Acts 3:19;   Acts 28:27 , where the Gr. vbs. are reflexive in meaning. In OT shûbh is used to denote a turning, whether of the nation (  Deuteronomy 30:10 ,   2 Kings 17:13 etc.) or of the individual (  Psalms 51:13 ,   Isaiah 55:7 etc.). In NT epistrephô, strephô are used esp. of individuals, but sometimes in a sense that falls short of ‘conversion’ as the conscious change implied in becoming a Christian.   Matthew 18:3 was spoken to true disciples, and the ‘conversion’ demanded of them was a renunciation of their foolish ambitions (cf. v. 1).   Luke 22:32 was addressed to the leader of the Apostles, and his ‘conversion’ was his return to his Master’s service after his fall. In Acts and Epp., however, ‘convert’ or ‘turn’ is employed to denote conversion in the full Christian sense (  Acts 3:19;   Acts 9:35;   Acts 11:21;   Acts 14:15 [cf.   Acts 15:3 ‘conversion’],   2 Corinthians 3:16 ,   1 Thessalonians 1:9 ). Conversion as a spiritual fact comes before us repeatedly in the Gospels (  Luke 7:47 ff;   Luke 15:17 ff;   Luke 19:8 ff;   Luke 23:42-43 ) and in the history of the Apostolic Church (  Acts 2:41;   Acts 2:47;   Acts 8:5-6;   Acts 8:12;   Acts 9:3 ff;   Acts 16:30 ff.etc.). RV [Note: Revised Version.] brings out the fact that in the NT conversion (as distinguished from regeneration [wh. see]) is an activity of the soul itself, and not an experience imposed from above. This view of its nature is confirmed when we find repentance (  Acts 3:19;   Acts 26:20; cf.   Ezekiel 14:6;   Ezekiel 18:30 ) and faith (  Acts 11:21; cf.   Acts 20:21 ) associated with it as the elements that make up the moral act of turning from sin and self to God in Christ.

J. C. Lambert.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [3]

A change from one state to another. Conversion may be

1. Merely external, or that which consists only in an outward reformation.

2. Doctrinal, or a change of sentiments.

3. Saving, which consists in the renovation of the heart and life, or a turning from the power of sin and Satan unto God,  Acts 26:18 . and is produced by the influence of Divine grace on the soul.

4. Sometimes it is put for restoration, as in the case of Peter,  Luke 22:32 . The instrumental cause of conversion is usually the ministry of the word; though sometimes it is produced by reading, by serious and appropriate conversation sanctified afflictions, &c. "Conversion, " says the great Charnock, "is to be distinguished from regeneration thus Regeneration is a spiritual change; conversion is a spiritual motion: in regeneration there is a power conferred; conversion is the exercise of this power: in regeneration there is given us a principle to turn; conversion is our actual turning.

In the covenant, God's putting his Spirit into us is distinguished from our walking in his statutes from the first step we take in the way of God, and is set down as the cause of our motion,  Ezekiel 36:27 . In renewing us, God gives us a power; in converting us, he excites that power. Men are naturally dead, and have a stone upon them: regeneration is a rolling away the stone from the heart, and a raising to newness of life; and then conversion is as natural to a regenerate man as motion is to a lively body. A principle of activity will produce action. In regeneration, man is wholly passive; in conversion, he is active. The first reviving us is wholly the act of God, without any concurrence of the creature; but after we are revived we do actively and voluntarily live in his sight. Regeneration is the motion of God in the creature; conversion is the motion of the creature to God, by virtue of that first principle: from this principle all the acts of believing, repenting, mortifying, quickening do spring. In all these a man is active; in the other he is merely passive." Conversion evidences itself by ardent love to God,  Psalms 73:25 . delight in his people,  John 13:35 . attendance on his ordinances,  Psalms 27:4 . confidence in his promises,  Psalms 9:10 . abhorrence of self, and renunciation of the world,  Job 42:5 .  James 4:4 . submission to his authority, and uniform obedience to his word,  Matthew 7:20 .

See Calling, Regeneration

King James Dictionary [4]

CONVERSION, n. L. See Convert.

1. In a general sense, a turning or change from one state to another with regard to substances, transmutation as a conversion of water into ice, or of food into chyle or blood. 2. In military affairs, a change of front, as when a body of troops is attacked in the flank, and they change their position to face the enemy. 3. In a theological or moral sense, a change of heart, or dispositions, in which the enmity of the heart to God and his law and the obstinacy of the will are subdued, and are succeeded by supreme love to God and his moral government, and a reformation of life. 4. Change from one side or party to another.

That conversion will be suspected that apparently concurs with interest.

5. A change from one religion to another as the conversion of the Gentiles.  Acts 15 . 6. The act of appropriating to private use as in trover and conversion.

Conversion of equations, in algebra, the reduction of equations by multiplication, or the manner of altering an equation, when the quantity sought or any member of it is a fraction the reducing of a fractional equation into an integral one.

Conversion of propositions, in logic, is a changing of the subject into the place of the predicate, and still retaining the quality of the proposition.

Conversion of the ratios, in arithmetic, is the comparing of the antecedent with the difference of the antecedent and consequent, in two equal ratios or proportions.

Webster's Dictionary [5]

(1): (n.) A change or reduction of the form or value of a proposition; as, the conversion of equations; the conversion of proportions.

(2): (n.) A spiritual and moral change attending a change of belief with conviction; a change of heart; a change from the service of the world to the service of God; a change of the ruling disposition of the soul, involving a transformation of the outward life.

(3): (n.) A change of character or use, as of smoothbore guns into rifles.

(4): (n.) A change of front, as a body of troops attacked in the flank.

(5): (n.) The act of changing one's views or course, as in passing from one side, party, or from of religion to another; also, the state of being so changed.

(6): (n.) The act of interchanging the terms of a proposition, as by putting the subject in the place of the predicate, or the contrary.

(7): (n.) An appropriation of, and dealing with the property of another as if it were one's own, without right; as, the conversion of a horse.

(8): (n.) The act of turning or changing from one state or condition to another, or the state of being changed; transmutation; change.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [6]

This is from ἐπιστρέφω,'to turn to.' It is in scripture the real effect that accompanies the new birth, a turning to God. It is beautifully expressed in the case of the Thessalonians, showing how they "turned to [the same word] God from idols, to serve the living and true God."  1 Thessalonians 1:9 . Paul and Barnabas were able to make known to the saints the 'conversion of the Gentiles.'  Acts 15:3 . In Peter's address to the Jews he said, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out."  Acts 3:19 . Without being converted they could not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 18:3 . The word is used in a somewhat different sense in respect to Peter himself. The Lord, knowing that he would fall under the sifting of Satan, said, "When thou art converted strengthen thy brethren;" that is, when he had returned in contrition, or been restored. In the O.T. the Hebrew words signify the same, 'to be turned,' 'to turn back.'  Psalm 51:13;  Isaiah 6:10;  Isaiah 60:5 : cf.  Isaiah 1:27 , margin

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [7]

Although the word ‘conversion’ may be rare in the Bible, the idea is common enough. People are converted when they turn from darkness to light, from Satan to God, from dead idols to the living Christ ( Acts 15:3;  Acts 26:18;  1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; cf.  Matthew 13:15;  2 Corinthians 3:16). Their changed lives are the outward demonstration of that inward turning which the Bible more commonly calls repentance ( Acts 3:19;  Acts 26:20; see Repentance ). Through repentance, believing sinners receive the salvation of God. They are born anew; they become new people ( 2 Corinthians 5:17; see Regeneration ; Salvation ).

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [8]

a change from one state or character to another. Conversion, considered theologically, consists in a renovation of the heart and life, or a being turned from sin and the power of Satan unto God,  Acts 26:18; and is produced by the influence of divine grace upon the soul. This is conversion considered as a state of mind; and is opposed both to a careless and unawakened state, and to that state of conscious guilt and slavish dread, accompanied with struggles after a moral deliverance not yet attained, which precedes our justification and regeneration; both of which are usually understood to be comprised in conversion. But this is not the only Scriptural import of the term; for the first turning of the whole heart to God in penitence and prayer is generally termed conversion. In its stricter sense, as given above, it is, however, now generally used by divines.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [9]

This great work also is, like the former, the work of God the Holy Ghost. And the Lord Jesus, in his description of his person, describes also his office, work and character. "He shall reprove, saith Jesus, the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." ( John 16:7-15) And to remark the wonderful operations of his grace under those several branches of his almighty power, by which he gives the fullest discoveries of our worthlessness, and the glorious manifestations of Jesus's grace, and fulness, and suitability, these are among the highest instructions the souls of men can attain in the present life. Blessed and Sovereign Convincer! I would say, bring my soul under thy divine illuminations, that my whole heart may be savingly converted unto God.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [10]

 Acts 15:3 Acts 26:18Regeneration

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [11]

kon - vûr´shun  :

I. The Words "Conversion," "Convert," in Biblical Usage

1. In the English Bible

The noun "conversion" (ἐπιστροφή , epistrophḗ ) occurs in only one passage in the Bible, "They passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles" ( Acts 15:3 ). Derived forms of the verb "convert" are used in the Revised Version (British and American) in  James 5:19 , "convert," "converteth" ( James 5:20 ), "converted" ( Psalm 51:13 , margin "return"), "converts" ( Isaiah 1:27 , margin "they that return"). In other instances where the King James Version uses forms of the verb "convert" the Revised Version (British and American) employs "turn again" ( Isaiah 6:10;  Luke 22:32;  Acts 3:19 ), or "turn" ( Isaiah 60:5;  Matthew 13:15;  Matthew 18:3;  Mark 4:12;  John 12:40;  Acts 28:27 ). In  Psalm 19:7 the reading of the King James Version, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul," has been changed by the revisers into "restoring the soul." The words commonly used in the English Bible as equivalent with the Hebrew and Greek terms are "turn," "return," "turn back," "turn again" (compare   Deuteronomy 4:30;  Isaiah 55:7;  Jeremiah 3:12;  Jeremiah 25:5;  Jeremiah 35:15;  Ezekiel 18:21-23;  Ezekiel 33:11;  Malachi 3:7 ). Thus "convert" is synonymous with "turn," and "conversion" with "turning."

2. In the Old Testament

The principal Hebrew word is :שׁוּב , shubh  ; other words are פנה , pānāh , הפך , hāphakh , סבב , ṣābhabh , in Hiphil. They are used (1) in the literal sense, for instance,  Genesis 14:7;  Deuteronomy 17:16;  Psalm 56:9;  Isaiah 38:8 . (2) In the later prophetical writings the verb shūbh refers, both in the Qal and Hiphil forms, to the return from the captivity ( Isaiah 1:27;  Jeremiah 29:14;  Jeremiah 30:3;  Ezekiel 16:53;  Zephaniah 2:7 ). (3) In the figurative, ethical or religious sense ( a ) from God ( Numbers 14:43;  1 Samuel 15:11;  1 Kings 9:6 ); ( b ) more frequently to turn back to God ( 1 Samuel 7:3;  1 Kings 8:33;  Isaiah 19:22;  Joel 2:12;  Amos 4:6;  Hosea 6:11;  Hosea 7:10 ).

3. In the New Testament

The words used in the Septuagint and New Testament are στρέφειν , stréphein , and its compounds, ἀπο , apostr ., ἀνα , anastr ., ἐπανα , epanastr ., ὑπο , hupostr ., and especially ἐπιστρέφειν , epistréphein ̌ . The latter word occurs 39 times in the New Testament. It is used (1) in the literal sense in  Matthew 9:22;  Matthew 10:13;  Matthew 24:18;  Acts 9:40;  Acts 15:36 , etc.; (2) in the figurative sense, in transitive form. ( Luke 1:16 f;   James 5:19 f). In   Galatians 4:9 and   2 Peter 2:21 it denotes to turn from the right way to the wrong. The opposite meaning, to turn from the wrong way to the right, we find in   Luke 22:32;  Acts 9:35;  Acts 11:21;  Acts 14:15;  Acts 15:19;  Acts 26:18;  2 Corinthians 3:16;  1 Thessalonians 1:9;  1 Peter 2:25 . In connection with metanoeı́n , "repent," it is used in  Acts 3:19;  Acts 26:20 . The root word strephein is used in the figurative sense in  Matthew 18:3;  John 12:40 . Septuagint and Textus Receptus of the New Testament have here epistrephein ̌ .

II. The Doctrine

While the words "conversion" and "convert" do not occur frequently in our English Bible the teaching contained therein is fundamental in Christian doctrine. From the words themselves it is not possible to derive a clearly defined doctrine of conversion; the materials for the construction of the doctrine must be gathered from the tenor of Biblical teaching.

1. Vague Use of the Word

There is a good deal of vagueness in the modern use of the term. By some writers it is used in "a very general way to stand for the whole series of manifestations just preceding, accompanying, and immediately following the apparent sudden changes of character involved" (E.D. Starbuck, The Psychology of Religion , 21). "'To be converted,' 'to be regenerated,' 'to receive grace,' 'to experience religion,' 'to gain an assurance,' are so many phrases which denote the process, gradual or sudden, by which a self, hitherto divided and consciously wrong, inferior and unhappy, becomes unified and consciously right, superior and happy in consequence of its hold upon religious realities. This at least is what conversion signifies in general terms" (William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience , 189). In this general, vague way the term is used not only by psychologists, but also by theological writers and in common religious parlance. A converted man is a Christian, a believer, a man who has religion, who has experienced regeneration.

2. Specific Meaning

In its more restricted meaning the word denotes the action of man in the initial process of salvation as distinguished from the action of God. Justification and regeneration are purely Divine acts, repentance, faith, conversion are human acts although under the influence and by the power of the Divine agency. Thus, conversion denotes the human volition and act by which man in obedience to the Divine summons determines to change the course of his life and turns to God. Arrested by God's call man stops to think, turns about and heads the opposite way. This presupposes that the previous course was not directed toward God but away from Him. The instances of conversion related in the Bible show that the objective point toward which man's life was directed may be either the service of idols ( 1 Thessalonians 1:9 ) or a life of religious indifference, a self-centered life where material things engross the attention and deaden the sense of things spiritual (rich young ruler,  Luke 18:22 ), or a life of sensuality, of open sin and shame (prodigal son,  Luke 15:13 ) or even a mistaken way of serving God (Saul,  Acts 26:9 ). Accordingly in conversion either the religious or the ethical element may predominate. The moral man who turns from self to God or, as Saul did, from an erroneous notion concerning God's will to a clear conception of his relation to God is more conscious of the religious factor. Conversion brings him into vital, conscious fellowship with God through Jesus Christ. The immoral man who is awakened to a realization of the holiness of God, of the demands of His law, and of his own sin and guilt is more conscious of the outward change in his manner of life. The ethical change is the more outstanding fact in his experience, although it can never be separated from the religious experience of the changed relation to God.

3. Mode

The mode of conversion varies greatly according to the former course of life. It may be a sudden crisis in the moral and intellectual life. This is very frequently the case in the experience of heathen who turn from the worship of idols to faith in Jesus Christ. A sudden crisis is frequently witnessed in the case of persons who, having lived a life of flagrant sin, renounce their former life. Conversion to them means a complete revolution in their thoughts, feelings and outward manner of life. In other instances conversion appears to be the climax of prolonged conflict for supremacy of divergent motives; and, again, it may be the goal of a gradual growth, the consummation of a process of discerning ever more clearly and yielding ever more definitely and Thus experiencing ever more vitally truths which have been implanted and nurtured by Christian training. This process results in the conscious acceptance of Jesus Christ as the personal Saviour and in the consecration of life to His service. Thus conversion may be an instantaneous act, or a process which is more or less prolonged. The latter is more frequently seen in the case of children and young people who have grown up in Christian families and have received the benefit of Christian training. No conversions of this kind are recorded in the New Testament. This may be explained by the fact that most of our New Testament writings are addressed to the first generation of Christians, to men and women who were raised in Jewish legalism or heathen idolatry, and who turned to Christ after they had passed the age of adolescence. The religious life of their children as distinguished in its mode and manifestations from that of the adults does not appear to have been a matter of discussion or a source of perplexity so as to call forth specific instruction.

4. Conversion and Psychology

Conversion comprises the characteristics both of repentance and of faith. Repentance is conversion viewed from its starting-point, the turning from the former life; faith indicates the objective point of conversion, the turning to God.

Of late the psychology of conversion has been carefully studied and elaborately treated by psychologists. Much valuable material has been gathered. It is shown that certain periods of adolescent life are particularly susceptible to religious influences (compare G. Stanley Hall, Adolescence , II, chapter xiv; E.D. Starbuck, Psychology of Religion , etc.). Yet conversion cannot be explained as a natural process, conditioned by physiological changes in the adolescent, especially by approaching puberty. The laws of psychology are certainly God's laws as much as all other laws of Nature, and His Spirit works in harmony with His own laws. But in genuine conversion there is always at work in a direct and immediate manner the Spirit of God to which man, be he adolescent or adult, consciously responds. Any attempt to explain conversion by eliminating the direct working of the Divine Spirit falls short of the mark. See Regeneration; Repentance .


See Regeneration .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [12]

a theological term, used to denote the "turning" of a sinner to God. It occurs in  Acts 15:3 ("declaring the conversion [ Ἐπιστροφή ] of the Gentiles"). The verb Ἐπιστρέφω is used in the N. T, actively in the sense of turning or converting others ( Luke 1:16, et al.); intransitively, in the sense of "turning back," "returning;" and tropically, to denote "turning to good," "to be converted" ( Luke 22:32, "when thou art converted, strengthen the brethren"). In general, the word is used to designate the "turning of men from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God" ( Acts 26:18.) In a general sense, heathens or infidels are," converted" when they abandon paganism or unbelief, and embrace the Christian faith; and men in general are properly said to be "converted" when they are brought to a change of life through the influence of divine grace upon the soul.

Specifically, then, conversion may be said to be that change in the thoughts, desires, dispositions, and life of a sinner which is brought about when the Holy Ghost enters the heart as the result of the exercise of a saving faith in the atonement, by which the sinner is justified. The process by which this great change is effected is this: The sinner is convinced of sin by the Holy Spirit; he exercises a penitent faith in Christ as his Savior; God immediately justifies him, the Holy Spirit attests to the penitent the fact of his pardon, and instantly sheds abroad the love of God in the heart, when all things are indeed new" (Farrar, Biblical Dictionary, s.v.).

The word is also used, in a narrower sense, to denote the "voluntary act of the soul consciously embracing Christ in faith;" and in this sense it is to be distinguished from regeneration, which is "a second creation," wrought only by the Spirit of God. Kling, in Herzog, Real-Encyklopadie (s.v. Bekehrung), gives the following statement of the relations between God and man in the whole work of conversion: "It is not a purely personal act of man ( Jeremiah 31:18, Turn thou me and I shall be turned), but includes both the divine act and the human. Conviction, calling, and justification are of God. The Word of God declares God's will convincingly in the law, and offers salvation through faith in Christ in the Gospel. In Christ law and Gospel are united. None of these divine acts preclude man's activity ( Philippians 2:12, Work out your own salvation, etc.).... The truth lies midway between that extreme, on the one hand, which teaches that the will of man is entirely absorbed by the grace of God, and that false Synergism, on the other, which conceives man's will as capable of action, in the work of conversion, without the in working. of divine grace."

Wesley (Letter to Bishop Lavington, Works, v. 368) remarks: "Conversion is a term I very rarely use, because it rarely occurs in the N.T." Lavington had spoken of Wesley's idea of conversion as "to start up perfect men at once." "Indeed, sir," replies Wesley, "it is not. A man is usually converted before he is a perfect man. It is probable most of those Ephesians to whom St. Paul directed his epistles were converted, yet they were not come (few, if any) to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." (See Repentance); (See Regeneration).

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [13]

"the grand epoch for a man," says Carlyle, "properly the one epoch; the turning-point, which guides upwards, or guides downwards, him and his activities for evermore."