The Book of Acts is replete with the records of men who have turned from sin to God, from “idols to serve a living and true God.” None of those cases is more interesting, or more typical of the simplicity of gospel obedience, than that of Lydia. “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, one that worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened to give heed unto the things which were spoken by Paul.” (Acts 16:14-35)
How was Lydia converted? Why, says someone, the Lord opened her heart. That is certainly true; but that misses a good portion of the record. First, Lydia “heard us”; then her heart was opened, and she gave heed to the things she had heard. She heard and understood the words that were spoken; she comprehended the importance of the message; and by faith she did the things that she was taught to do. The record then says of her that “she was baptized, and her household.” After she had been baptized into Christ, “she besought us saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.” (verse 15)
<h3> The Philippian Jailor </h3> <p>The remainder of that 16th chapter of Acts has to do with the case of the Philippian jailor. After Paul and Silas had been cast into prison, having first been beaten, the jailor was charged to keep them safely. Having thrown them into the inner prison, he was awakened about midnight, when the earthquake came and opened the doors of the prison, allowing the prisoners to escape at will. The jailor was about to take his own life when the voice of Paul stopped him, “Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.” Upon hearing this voice the jailor came in, fell down before Paul and Silas, brought them out, and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”</p>
This is a simple question, but the answer that Paul gave to it has been as badly perverted perhaps as any statement in all scripture. Answering the jailer’s question, “they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus, and then shalt be saved, thou and thy house.” And right there is where most denominational preachers stop. But the story does not stop there. The very next verse says, “And they spake the word of the Lord unto him, with all that were in his house.” They preached Christ to that man; they taught him the will of the Lord. They explained to him concerning who Christ was, and what Christ wanted him (the jailor) to do. And the jailor was converted to Christ, for “he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his immediately.” (verses 32, 33) There is nothing strange or weird or mysterious about that story; it is the simple straightforward account of a man’s heart being receptive to the gospel of Christ, and of his obedience. The “preaching of Christ” resulted in his obedience to Christ.
<h3> The Thessalonians </h3> <p>The next chapter of Acts (17) tells how Paul for three sabbath days “reasoned with them from the scriptures, opening and alleging that it behooved the Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom, said he, I proclaim unto you, is the Christ.” (verses 2,3) Here was the preaching of Christ, pure and simple. And once again such preaching had its effect, “And some of them were persuaded, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.” Some years later Paul wrote these people reminding them “how ye turned unto God from idols, to serve these people reminding them “how ye turned unto God from idols, to serve a living and true God.” (1 These. 1:9) It was by gospel Preaching the preaching of Christ that the people of Thessalonica were persuaded to turn to God. They did exactly what all others had done when Christ was preached some obeyed and some rejected.</p> <h3> The Bereans And Athenians </h3> <p>When trouble was stirred up against Paul and Silas in Thessalonica “the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who when they were come thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, examining the scriptures daily, whether these things were so.” (verses 10,11) That, to me, is a very important and significant statement. These people heard, they received the word with readiness of mind, and they stated the scriptures to see whether or not the things that were being preached were true. The result was that “Many of them therefore believed.” That is what always happens when people study the scriptures with an open mind. Many people today would believe on Christ if they had the same noble attitude and the same eager desire for truth that these Bereans had.</p>
The last few verses of this chapter record a sad contrast to the Bereans attitude. For these verses tell the story of Paul’s preaching in Athens. The Athenians were a speculative, philosophical, worldly-minded people. And when Paul preached concerning the resurrection, “some mocked; but others said, We will hear thee concerning this yet again.” (verse 32) Thus, once again, we see what happens when Christ is preached: some believe, some reject. But none remain the same as before. The preaching of Christ either converts men, or else it hardens them in sin.
<h3> Ephesus </h3> <p>After having preached in Corinth, and starting the church there, Paul came into the city of Ephesus, where he found certain disciples who had learned only a partial knowledge of Christ. Paul explained the truth to them, “And when they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 19:5) Thus, clearly and indisputably, we see that the preaching of Christ led men to obey him, to be baptized into his body.</p>
There is not a single case of conversion recorded in the Book of Acts which did not take place through the preaching of Christ. In most cases we are clearly told that Christ was preached; in a few cases it is no so specifically stated, but is so obviously implied as to make certain that such was the case. And always, those who “received” the preaching were willing to obey it. They did not hold their judgment in suspense, nor delay action for a long and indefinite period of trying to make up their minds. They obeyed when they heard. That is the New Testament pattern. That way is safe and scriptural.