by Fred Shewmaker
Years ago in a home Bible study, the couple with whom we were studying complained that the words I was using were too big. Being somewhat inexperienced in home Bible studies, I was surprised by their complaint. The words about which they were complaining were all words found in the Bible. I offered to try to explain any word I had used which they did not understand. One of the words they asked me to define was conversion.
That very week the local newspaper had reported the construction of a sea-water conversion facility to begin near San Diego, California. I asked if they had read that article. They had. They understood the facility was to remove the impurities from the sea-water entering it and produce pure water. Working from this understanding, I pointed out that the facility was called a conversion facility because it converted impure water into pure water. Returning to biblical usage of the word, we noted that conversion involves the removal of the impurities of sin in one's life thereby leaving that one's life pure in the sight of God.
By comparing the parallel between Acts 2:38 - "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,..." and Acts 3:19 - "Repent therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out,..." it is easy to see that by means of baptism God removes the impurities of sin from one's life and converts a sinner into a saint.
Experience and observation have forced me to the conclusion that a good many people who are baptized are not converted. Certainly, this is not God's fault. He has not lost His power to convert through baptism. It is not the fault of Christ. His blood has not lost its strength to cleanse the sinner. The fault cannot be laid on the preacher who has preached the truth. The fault lies with the one baptized, but not converted.
The reasons why some who are baptized are not converted are many and varied. We wish to examine a few of these reasons.
The reason some are baptized, but not converted is their desire to please men rather than to obey God. Children have requested baptism in order to please their parents and parents have sometimes been baptized in order to please their children. Husbands sometimes, desiring to please their wives, request baptism and wives are sometimes baptized to please their husbands. Boyfriends have been baptized to please a girlfriend and girlfriends have been baptized to please a boyfriend. In some communities where the church is large in numbers, merchants have been baptized to please their customers. This list could be continued, but it already is long enough to make the point. Those who have been baptized for such reasons have been baptized, but not converted.
One day my telephone rang and when I answered it, a sister asked me to baptize her neighbor. I was acquainted with her neighbor and this request caused me to wonder if she was really being converted. I agreed to baptize her upon her confession of faith in Jesus as the Son of God. As it turned out, after her baptism, my fears were confirmed. She had merely been convinced that only immersion is baptism. She had not conceded her false religion to accept immersion. Her false religion allowed sprinkling, pouring or immersion; but did not practice immersion. Some of the preachers of that persuasion refuse to administer immersion. She simply did not bother a preacher of her false religion with her desire to be immersed. When the sister was kind enough to volunteer my services, she was glad to accept. She was baptized, but not converted.
A few years back my wife and I engaged in a rather lengthy home Bible study with a lady. She had a quick mind and was able to see and express biblical truths quite easily. Because we desired that she understand what the Bible teaches about the uniqueness of the church, we made an extensive study of Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4-6, 12; showing that the church is the body of Christ ("His body") that "there is one body" and that the "one body" has only "one faith." during the study she indicated that she understood these things. We expected such a willing and capable student to desire to be baptized and true to our expectations, when asked the question Ananias asked Saul of Tarsus, she was ready to be baptized. With joy and great expectations, I baptized her. My expectations were short-lived. She never attended another service of the church. When we asked her about this, she then informed us that she did not accept the teaching that God only approves of one church. She had been baptized, but not converted.