Scripture: Ephesians 2:1-10
Leading Question: Will a before-and-after difference always be clear when a person is converted?
We could cite several dramatic conversion stories from the New Testament. But there are other examples, too. Can we say when each of these was converted? Was a difference marked and consistent in their lives? Perhaps these terms could help us understand the differences.
Consistent before/after conversion
Zechariah, father of John the Baptist – no clear point, consistent
Elizabeth – no clear point, consistent
John the Baptist – no clear point, consistent
Peter – erratic, converted several times
Andrew – no clear point, consistent
Nathaniel – no clear point, consistent
James and John – from sons of thunder, to apostles of love
Mary, sister of Martha
Joseph of Arimathea
Question: Our study guide lists two quotations from Ephesians, labeling one as coming before conversion, the other as after. Does such a division apply to the experience of each believer?
Ephesians 2:1-3 (NRSV): “You were dead through the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. 3 All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.
Ephesians 2:4-10 (NRSV): 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”
Question: If a person cannot pinpoint the moment of conversion, does that call into question that person’s walk with the Lord?
Jesus and the Sons of Thunder. Apparently it was Jesus who gave the nickname toJames and John (Mark 3:17). And one incident recorded in the Gospels seems to reflect that label. As recorded in Luke 9:51-55, Jesus and his disciples visited a Samaritan village which did not accept them. This is the incident as recorded by Luke:
Luke 9:51-56 (NRSV): “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 Then they went on to another village.
The official study guide cites 1 John as evidence for the change: the word “love” in its various forms appears 50 times. That’s what Jesus can do for each of us. It’s a story worth sharing.