You are reading in chapter 7 of the appendix to the free, global online book, Fellowship With God in the Sixth Path. Navigation at the top and bottom of each page, allows you to open the table of contents, visit the home page, ask questions or share your story.
How are the lost converted?
There are many different explanations from various theologians on this question.
I believe that the following presents much of the process that has been clearly revealed by scripture. I also acknowledge that the order of some of these steps is subject to reasonable debate. With that in mind, I don't believe that we will fully understand until we stand before Christ (1 Corinthians 13:12).
An abbreviated version of this Conversion Corridor is available in 3.1h, "How does one escape Satan's realm?" That version is simpler and easier to grasp. It is better for most people to read that version first.
Unabbreviated Conversion Corridor
a) Before the world was created, God predetermined that every spiritual blessing would be granted, through Jesus Christ, to believers in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14). As you read, observe phrases like "in him", "in Christ", "through Jesus", etc.
- "3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and without defect before him in love, 5 having predestined us for adoption as children through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his desire, 6 to the praise of the glory of his grace, by which he freely gave us favor in the Beloved, 7 in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him 10 to an administration of the fullness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth, in him. 11 We were also assigned an inheritance in him, having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who does all things after the counsel of his will, 12 to the end that we should be to the praise of his glory, we who had before hoped in Christ. 13 In him you also, having heard the word of the truth, the Good News of your salvation—in whom, having also believed, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a pledge of our inheritance, to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1:3-14).
Thirteen times in eleven verses Paul points to Christ as the conduit of every spiritual blessing. There is no spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm which is not available to you if you trust in Jesus Christ. See also 2 Timothy 1:9.
b) Before God begins to act in someone's life, they are spiritually blind. They don't understand or seek Him (2 Corinthians 4:3-4, Romans 3:11).
- "Even if our Good News is veiled, it is veiled in those who are dying, 4 in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving" (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
- "There is no one who seeks after God" (Romans 3:11).
c) God will take the first steps in one's conversion. He does this with everyone (John 6:44, John 12:32).
- In John 6:44 Jesus said, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him"
- Jesus also said, "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself" (John 12:32). ("Lifted up" refers to his crucifixion.)
d) The Holy Spirit takes steps in people's lives, but the Holy Spirit can be resisted by them (John 16:8, Acts 7:51).
- "When he has come, he (Holy Spirit) will convict the world about sin, about righteousness, and about judgment; 9 about sin, because they don't believe in me (Jesus)" (John 16:8-9).
- "you always resist the Holy Spirit!" (Acts 7:51).
e) God will arrange the circumstances of people's lives to cause them to seek Him (Acts 17:26, 27).
- "He (God) made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the surface of the earth, having determined appointed seasons, and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 that they should seek the Lord, if perhaps they might reach out for him and find him" (Acts 17:26,27).
Changing the boundaries of nations is one action God can take to cause man to "Reach out for him", as a blind man groping in the dark. He shakes our foundations to cause us to seek Him. In this way many who did not seek God will seek God and by God's action, find God. So, Romans 10:20 becomes true of them "I was found by those who did not seek me".
In the account of my conversion, at the front of this little book, suffering and instability is what caused me to seek God and find Him.
Seeking God is a prerequisite to believing. This is established by the following verse: "How can you believe, who receive glory from one another, and you don't seek the glory that comes from the only God?" (John 5:44).
f) Everyone who seeks finds (Matthew 7:7, Proverbs 2:1-5).
- "Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. 8 For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds..." (Matthew 7:7-8).
- "My son, if you will receive my words, and store up my commandments within you, 2 so as to turn your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; if you call out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding; 4 if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures: 5 then you will understand the fear of Yahweh, and find the knowledge of God" (Proverbs 2:1-5).
Wisdom is a gift of God (Ecclesiastes 12:11). My conversion occurred after I repeatedly asked God for wisdom as described in Proverbs 2:1-5. I was the youngest child in a tragic, troubled family. After watching a family argument, I realized that no one in my family could teach me how to live life. My family was a sinking ship. I prayed for wisdom every day for two years and then was converted. Wisdom leads to salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). My conversion story is at the very beginning of this book.
Both of the passages quoted above present a conditional, irresistible grace. The condition is to seek. If the condition is met, these results are guaranteed and irresistible. The result is guaranteed because God chooses the result. (The appendix presents a wide variety of choices that God makes under the title "When God Chooses".)
And since the results are guaranteed, they are not dependent on our hard work or ability. They are dependent on God's power and grace. They are granted if we meet the condition... to seek.
Results cannot be guaranteed if they depend on man's hard work or ability. For example, everyone cannot learn aerospace engineering. Any promise that everyone can learn aerospace engineering would be a false promise, unless the one making the promise had the power to infuse anyone and everyone with understanding of that subject.
For the Bible scholars among you who do not believe that the passage from proverbs applies to eternal life I provide an answer below. Those of you who are not interested in that topic should skip to (g).
The "fear of Yahweh" results in eternal life according to Psalm 103:17. The phrase "everlasting to everlasting" in that Psalm is key. In both Old and New Testaments, eternal life has always been by grace, through faith. Here is the verse.
"But Yahweh's loving kindness is from everlasting to everlasting with those who fear him" (Psalm 103:17).
In other words, God shows loving kindness to those who fear Him. He shows this loving kindness "from everlasting to everlasting" (forever). The criteria used by God to determine who will receive His everlasting loving kindness is fear of God.
Fear of Yahweh is the same thing as faith in God. We know this from the passages that describe Abraham's obedience with regard to the offering of his son Isaac. Hebrews 11:17 ascribes Abraham's obedience to "faith", while Genesis 22:12 ascribes it to "fear of God". So, "faith" and "fear of God" are the same thing.
The pouring out of the Spirit on a fool in Proverbs 1:22-23 is an offer of conversion since a fool is an unbeliever. According to Psalm 14:1, a fool is one who is an atheist: "The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." For those who are interested in the Septuagint, "fool" in both Proverbs 1:22 and Psalm 14:1 are rendered as aphron in Greek. My point here is that the conversion of unbelievers is part of the message in the first and second chapters of Proverbs.
Proverbs is the only book besides Genesis and Revelation to mention the "Tree of Life". The Tree of Life is clearly involved in eternal life.
The passage stated:
The phrase "understand the fear of Yahweh" could be paraphrased as "understand faith in Yahweh". So, "understand the fear of Yahweh" is essentially an imputation of faith. We don't understand faith until we have it any more than we can understand water before we drink it. This gift of faith is a conditional, irresistible grace.
- "4 if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures: 5 then you will understand the fear of Yahweh, and find the knowledge of God" (Proverbs 2:4-5).
- "4 if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures: 5 then you will understand the fear of Yahweh, and find the knowledge of God" (Proverbs 2:4-5).
g) All who hear and learn from the Father will be irresistibly drawn to Jesus Christ (John 6:45).
- "everyone who hears from the Father and has learned, comes to me (Christ)" (John 6:45).
h) Those who call on His name will be saved (Romans 10:13).
- "Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:13).
i) By God's actions, people come to the point where they can repent (turn) (Acts 17:30).
- "The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked. But now he commands that all people everywhere should repent" (Acts 17:30).
j) Unbelievers must be born again (John 3:7-8).
- "'You must be born anew.' 8 The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear its sound, but don't know where it comes from and where it is going. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit'" (John 3:7-8).
k) The Holy Spirit preaches the gospel through Prophets, evangelists and other believers who present the gospel (1 Peter 1:12).
- "To them it was revealed, that they served not themselves, but you, in these things, which now have been announced to you through those who preached the Good News to you by the Holy Spirit sent out from heaven; which things angels desire to look into" (1 Peter 1:12).
l) The gospel is heard (1 Corinthians 15:1-7).
- "Now I declare to you, brothers, the Good News which I preached to you, which also you received, in which you also stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold firmly the word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers at once, most of whom remain until now, but some have also fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles" (1 Corinthians 15:1-7).
(Verse 2 indicates that a proof that one has truly believed is perseverance in that belief. So, there is no such thing as one who believes and stops believing. This is also the very explicit teaching of Hebrews 3:6, 14.)
m) The Gospel is heard through the prayers of Saints, praying the prayers of the Conversion Prayer Corridor (See HOW SO in subchapter 4.10)
n) The Holy Spirit convicts unbelievers of sin (John 16:7-9).
- "if I don't go away, the Counselor won't come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. When he has come, he will convict the world about sin, about righteousness, and about judgment; about sin, because they don't believe in me" (John 16:7-9).
o) After hearing the Gospel, God reveals himself, unbelievers choose faith, God grants faith and unbelievers become believers (Ephesians 1:13, Matthew 16:15-17, Philippians 1:29).
- Hearing & Believing: "having heard the word of the truth, the Good News of your salvation—in whom, having also believed, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit" (Ephesians 1:13).
- Revealed: 'He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17 Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven"' (Matthew 16:15-17).
- "choose the fear of Yahweh" (Proverbs 1:29).
- Faith is Granted: "Because it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer on his behalf" (Philippians 1:29).
Regarding the "fear of Yahweh" in Proverbs 1:29 above. Yahweh is the personal name of God as explained in the appendix, subchapter A4. The "fear of Yahweh" is the same thing as faith in God. We know this from the passages that describe Abraham's obedience with regard to offering his son Isaac. Hebrews 11:17 ascribes Abraham's obedience to "faith", while Genesis 22:12 ascribes it to "fear of God". So, "faith" and "fear of God" are the same thing. The context of Proverbs 1:29 is Proverbs 1:20-2:5. In these verses, Wisdom, the personification of Christ, offers to pour out her spirit on fools (unbelievers) but they refused to "choose the fear of Yahweh". So the unbeliever has the ability to "choose" to believe. Some do. Some don't. Proverbs 2:1-5 shows that those who seek wisdom, which is the personification of Christ in the book of Proverbs, will irresistibly " understand the fear of Yahweh, and find the knowledge of God. These passages were explained in greater detail in paragraph f above.
p) The Holy Spirit regenerates (John 3:5-6, Titus 3:5-6)
- "...unless one is born of water and spirit, he can't enter into God's Kingdom..." (John 3:5-6).
- "not by works of righteousness which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy, he saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit..." (Titus 3:5-6).
q) One who has turned to the Lord is no longer blind (2 Corinthians 3:16).
- "But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away" (2 Corinthians 3:16).
r) The Holy Spirit teaches all things to the believer (1 John 2:27).
- "...the anointing which you received from him remains in you, and you don't need for anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is no lie, and even as it taught you, you will remain in him" (1 John 2:27).
s) The Holy Spirit guides the believer through scripture (Psalm 119:105, Ephesians 1:16-19).
- "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things, and will remind you of all that I said to you" (John 14:26).
- "...I bow my knees to the Father... that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that you may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, to the end that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strengthened to comprehend with all the saints what is the width..."" (Ephesians 3:14-19).
Paul gave them the book of Ephesians which is scripture. Then he prayed that the Spirit would enable them to "comprehend". He spoke the words of the Father and prayed.
t) The Holy Spirit teaches through gifted human teachers and preachers (Ephesians 4:11-13).
- "11 He gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, shepherds[a] and teachers; 12 for the perfecting of the saints, to the work of serving, to the building up of the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ," (Ephesians 4:11-13).
God will order the events of people's lives to cause them to seek Him with all their heart. If they do, God will give them faith. So, everyone who truly wants God gets God.
- "for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The corridor of conversion is a complex question. There may be scriptures which I should have included. There may be some that I included but shouldn't have. There may be answers that are better than what I have given. But one who answers this question must answer in a way that is compatible with the scriptures I have quoted above.
These scriptures cannot be ignored simply because they contradict particular creeds or theologies. Creeds and theologies must bend before scripture. Scripture will not bend before doctrines of man (Matthew 15:7-9, Mark 7:6-9).
God will reveal the meaning of these scriptures, to those who PRAY them, to the extent that God intends for them to be understood.
We are not supposed to understand everything in the present age as Paul wrote:
- "12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I was also fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:12).
So, when we stand "face to face" with God, we will "know fully".
We are not to attempt to make clear what God has chosen to leave vague:
- "that in us you might learn not to think beyond the things which are written, that none of you be puffed up against one another." (1 Corinthians 4:6).
This passage is explained in subchapter 1.5 under the paragraph titled "Do not Think Beyond What is Written."
For More Information
If you would like more information on this subject, read subchapter A6, titled "When God Chooses". It is very short and presents scriptures which reveal the following aspects to God's choices:
God's Choices Can Be
Individual or Group (Corporate)
Conditional or Unconditional
Resistible or Irresistible
Pre-Creation, Pre-birth, Pre-Conversion, Post-Conversion
To grant Salvation, Apostleship, Kingship, Adoption, Fruit, etc.