Saturday, March 8, 2008

Conversions in Acts, Basil Overton

Conversions in Acts, Basil Overton

I was recently honored to participate in a gospel meeting preaching one night on the theme of “What Must I Do To Be Saved?—Lessons in Conversion from the Book of Acts”. My topic was the conversion of the treasurer of Ethiopia. I had long desired to have a copy of Brother Overton’s book Conversions in Acts, but had not found the time to purchase the book. But, the book was added to our family library as a congratulatory gift from brother Overton on the occasion of the birth of our son, James. The inscription reads, “I hope that James will be a faithful and able gospel preacher—Basil Overton.” I hope his inscription inspires our son to fulfill this high and noble position in the kingdom.

This was the first book I pulled from my shelf to review in preparation for this sermon. The book is very concise at just over 100 pages, but the lessons are weightier when compared to some other books of much longer length. There are those who complain about the faithful proclamation of the plan of salvation at the conclusion of a sermon. I had a discussion with a friend who was of this persuasion. I asked why one would not offer an invitation for those who wanted to respond to the message proclaimed. When he stated he had no problem with inviting people to obey the gospel, I realized his issue was not with the invitation. The real complaint is the explanation of the gospel plan of salvation as part of the invitation. Inviting people to obey the gospel without telling them what to do is like telling them to take medicine without directions. In my opinion, any preacher who refuses to explain the gospel plan of salvation at the end of a lesson is in “dereliction of duty” and should be fired. Likewise, any church leaders who would forbid the proclamation of the plan of salvation should be rebuked. I cannot fathom why some attack the instruction on the steps needed to obey the gospel other than being ashamed of the gospel.

Conversions in Acts examines several incidents of conversions in Acts. Of course, not all of the six steps to salvation are necessarily listed as: Hear, Believe, Repent, Confess, Baptism & Live Faithfully. However, one can readily see this pattern throughout these acts of conversion. For example, the man from Ethiopia heard the gospel preached to him from Philip. Based upon his query for baptism, his belief in the Son of God is implied. His repentance was already demonstrated in his willingness to travel such a distance to worship God in Jerusalem. His confession is recorded plainly in the text as well as his immersion. Although we cannot validate for certain that he remained faithful, there is historical reference that he went back and preached in Ethiopia. Why is it important to study these acts of conversions? Because the only way to become what they became is to do what they did! We cannot become a New Testament Christian unless we follow the commands, examples and implications in the New Testament.

This book also contains chapters dealing with miracles, Holy Spirit baptism, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. All are well written and readily adaptable to sermons that should be preached. The book first appeared as a series of articles in The World Evangelist. Thankfully, J. C. Choate published these articles in book form and several copies were printed.

Brother Overton is the founder of The World Evangelist and has been its sole editor since 1972 until it ceased publication in 2004—over 32 years of articles designed to take the gospel to the world. I have heard that plans are in the works to convert all the issues to a CD, which I hope comes to fruition. His work as editor has had a very positive influence among the brotherhood. I was honored to attend an Appreciation Dinner at FHU Lectureship in his honor. He commented on his view of editing religious journals that should be followed by others. He is also retired Vice President and Bible Professor from Heritage Christian University (formerly International Bible College). He has been a gospel preacher since 1945.

Indeed one of the greatest questions, “What must I do to be saved?” is one to be studied and preached. This book will assist in teaching and preparing others to share the gospel plan of salvation.

Originally printed in West Virginia Christian, Vol. 15, No. 3, March 2008, p. 8. Reprinted by permission.

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