There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:1-3)
The Holy Spirit In Conversion
When God created Adam and Eve, He instilled in them the quality of moral choice to make judgments and decisions. Created in the image of the Divine, Adam and Eve were not like animals with no eternal nature and could not make moral choices. God placed the man and woman in the garden with instructions to care for the garden and eat any fruit found in abundance. The only exception was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was forbidden for them to eat. It was in the midst of the garden, placed next to the tree of life. Adam and Eve understood the Lord’s word to eat all of the fruit of the garden (including the tree of life) but not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Satan knew he must find a way to win over the creation of God. He began with the woman convincing her the limitations of God were unfair and that she had the moral choice to do as she desired. When Eve looked at the fruit that was something to make her wise, good for food, and pleasant to the eyes, she took of the fruit. Adam also took the fruit as a free moral agent to choose what he could and could not do. Immediately, the eyes of both of them were open, and they knew they were naked. Their choice had opened the doors of sin to enter the world. Satan never touched Adam and Eve. He did not force them to make a choice. All that Satan did was whisper in the ear of Eve the lie, causing the woman’s moral compass to focus on her wants and needs. Adam followed suit.
When God told Noah the world would be destroyed with a great flood and all of humanity would be destroyed except his family, the Lord was reacting to the moral corruption of the heart of men. After Adam and Eve were cast from the garden, men continued to have the ability of moral choice. Because of the overpowering influence of sin, the heart of mankind grew so wicked they could only imagine evil and wickedness. God did not destroy the world because men were without excuse. The righteousness of the Creator killed everyone save the eight in the ark because the world had chosen to rebel against the word of the Lord. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord through faith measured by the mercy of God. The salvation of Noah was his faith, moving him with godly fear to obey the word of the Lord. God did not force the people to sin nor force Noah to be saved.
Conversion is to change a thing or person into something else. Corn can be turned into many wonderful foods. A tree is cut down and becomes paper through an extensive process. Converting the corn and the tree is a process of change for something of greater value. From the beginning, men have converted their lives into the image of the Father. In a Biblical sense, conversion is when a man uses his moral compass to make a moral decision to accept the word of the Lord. Noah was converted to the truth of God sometime in his life. Living in such a wicked world highlights the incredible nature of Noah’s conversion and would be true of his wife, sons, and daughters-in-law. Conversion is found in the faithful Israelites who believed in God’s word and obeyed God’s commands. David was a believer in the power of God, and at one point in his life, he changed his heart to be fully devoted to God.
In the New Testament, conversion is characterized by those who hear the gospel of Christ, believe it, and obey the message of grace. The Holy Spirit is a vital part of that conversion, as He was with Noah, David, and all those in the Old Testament. Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born of the Spirit and the water showing the relationship of the Holy Spirit to conversion. There is nothing miraculous about conversion. God never forces someone to obey him or reject Him. The Holy Spirit is the agency in which the word of God works in the heart of the lost to show them the light of Jesus Christ. False doctrines assume the Holy Spirit forces His will on men – that is impossible because God will never allow such. Man is a free moral agent responsible for his decisions – good or bad.
Ferrell Jenkins points out that conversion is experienced in the new birth when one is washed in regeneration, made alive in Christ, and obedient to the word of God (faith). There must be purification of the heart by faith, a change of life by repentance, and a change of state or relationship by baptism. All of these are accomplished through the individual’s moral choice to accept the word of God. The Holy Spirit works as the means through which the grace of God is made possible for those facing God’s wrath to be saved. Jenkins illustrates: a man is drowning. A man on shore throws a rope to save the man. The drowning man grabs the rope and is pulled to shore. What saved him? The man casting the rope? The rope itself? The man taking hold of the rope? All had a part! The Holy Spirit convicts and converts, but He acts through the agency or instrumentality of divine truth. There is no difference in how God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son work in the conversion of the lost.
Conversion is a choice made by a man through the agency of the working of the Holy Spirit. If a man does not obey the gospel, the Holy Spirit cannot be blamed. When a man does accept the teaching of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit helps to guide and instruct when the will of the man humbles itself to the will of the Father. Peter told those gathered on Pentecost to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. He also told them they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is not a miraculous gift or manifestation. It is the blessing of God through the Holy Spirit that a man becomes a child of God, cleansed and purified to walk with the Father. Thank you, Holy Spirit.