“Which Name Should I Change?”
There was this fellow and his name was Joe Hogbristle. Well, he couldn’t take it any more, so he went to a judge to get his name changed. The judge said that he could understand why he would want his name changed. So the judge asked him what name he wanted. He replied, “Bill Hogbristle, I'm sick and tired of people saying, ‘Hello Joe, whatcha know’?!” The part which needed to be changed remained as it had been. No matter if Joe became Bill, the person in question remained a Hogbristle! Which leads me into a discussion of conversion.
Jesus said, “... Verily I say unto you, Except ye turn [ye be converted (KJV)], and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3. Thayer defines strepho (strepho) as, “1) to turn, to turn around 2) to turn oneself (that is, to turn the back to one who no longer cares for another); metaphorically, to turn oneself from one's course of conduct, that is, to change one's mind.” When we consider the metaphorical meaning, we are considering the change which takes place in the mind. It is a changing of one’s character. Paul illustrates this in Romans 12:2 when he speaks of being “transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” “Be ye transformed” is from the Greek word metamorphoo (metamorphoo) which means “to change into another form.” Thayer. This is a change, which in turn, affects a change in conduct.
We must conclude that to be converted means that a person becomes a new creature in Christ with old things passing away and all things becoming new. See 2 Corinthians 5:17. Is it possible for someone to be baptized without being converted, even if that someone understands that baptism is for remission of sins? Yes! Paul told the Ephesian elders that grievous wolves would enter in among them (Acts 20:29). Who were these wolves if not those who were unconverted? How could they have become a part of the Christian community if not through baptism? And how would they have been received if their baptism had not been accepted by Christians, hence, baptism for remission of sins?
The entering in of these wolves can be illustrated thusly, Mr. Alien Sinner comes to realize a need for a change in his life. This may come about because of marriage problems, financial problems or problems with his job. He is sick and tired of having to deal with these problems. He is convinced that the solution to his problems resides in changing his name. This can be accomplished by baptism. He rejoices at finding the solution to all his problems, or so he thinks. He submits to baptism for remission of sins. The Christian community sighs with great joy and receive him into their fellowship.
What has taken place? Has a metamorphosis occurred? Has the individual become a new creature? Has his desire changed from pleasing himself to pleasing God? Is doing the will of the Father in heaven his number one priority now? Or, is it business as usual? He has a new name but does he have a new life?
A Hogbristle is a Hogbristle whether Joe or Bill and a Sinner is a Sinner whether Alien or Christian. It is so easy to be overwhelmed by the circumstances of life. It is easier still to think we can solve our problems by changing what we think is the cause. O foolish men, change your spiritual hearts not your names. “Repent ye therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that so there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord;” Acts 3:19.