“SPURIOUS CONVERSIONS & BAPTISM”
1. It was seven years ago August that a number of our kids and parents were at our Church’s first annual summer youth camp on Mount Palomar, near San Diego. And with the preaching of a pastor friend of mine, and the help of my wife and some of our Church people, and the wonderful cooperation of every one of our great kids, God’s blessings were above and beyond my most optimistic expectations.
2. But something tragic occurred at camp that contrasted our Church’s ministry with most other Church ministries in southern California that I know anything about. For about two days there were a whole bunch of very nice kids from various southern California Churches. One night, during their chapel service in the big auditorium at the camp, their speaker was talking about how great it is to be a Christian and to know Jesus. He then proceeded to ask how many of those young grade school kids would like to get saved.
3. Folks, every single kid in that large room raised a hand, indicating he or she would like to get saved. When they did that their speaker led them all in prayer, asking Jesus to come into their hearts. And when they had all prayed he proudly announced that, as much as he could tell, “Praise God, every single one of you kids just got saved.”
4. My friends, what that speaker applauded as a great spiritual victory was, instead, a horrible and devastating spiritual defeat. How many of those approximately 150 kids actually got saved and how many were spurious conversions we will never know. But my experience in listening to sinners convinces me that, just like when I had such an experience when I was a child, most of those precious kids went home from camp still lost in their sins, but now falsely thinking they had been saved.
5. Do you realize that some of those who consider themselves to be Christians are, in fact, not saved at all? That was the experience of our baptismal candidate when she was younger. Do you realize that most people in the United States consider themselves born again Christians? Yet no one in America even considers the possibility that most professions of faith, most religious conversions, most so-called salvation decisions, are
6. Let me explain: The word “spurious” refers to that which is false, that which is counterfeit, that which is not genuine. A spurious conversion, then, is a conversion that is a counterfeit conversion. It’s a salvation experience which is false and does not, in fact, result in a person getting saved. It’s a decision for Christ which is not a decision for Christ after all.
7. We had an evangelist from the Atlanta area preaching at our Church about twelve years ago now. I think it was January of 1993. We had so many people in our auditorium that I asked the men who were Church members to step outside. The marvelous sermon he preached was about Jesus on the cross.
8. At the conclusion of the sermon some 54 people came forward to be saved. But, as near as I can tell, not one single person who indicated he had gotten saved that evening has ever been back to our Church, or any other Church. Some 54 spurious conversions.
9. My friends, I think the United States, I think the world, is full of spurious conversions. Do you doubt what I say? Consider the subject of spurious conversions from two approaches to the subject.
1A. First, ALLOW ME TO ESTABLISH THE REALITY OF SPURIOUS CONVERSIONS
Perhaps you are one of those who thinks a lack of faith is being exhibited whenever there is doubt about the reality of someone’s profession of faith. Perhaps you think that I am just being pessimistic and negative when I question whether someone is truly born again. Maybe you need to see some Biblical examples of spurious conversions. Okay. Let me show four examples to you. Four examples of false professions of faith that cause damage to the cause of Christ and eternal destruction to their own souls.
1B. First, there is the case of Judas Iscariot
1C. You don’t deny that Judas was a lost man, do you? Neither can you deny that he pretended to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ. And my friends, we have no evidence that until the very end Judas Iscariot did not actually believe himself to actually be genuinely saved.
2C. But the fact that he betrayed the Lord Jesus Christ, and that he committed suicide by hanging himself, and is described in the Bible as the son of perdition, clearly shows that Judas was lost. And how many people were shaken by his betrayal? How many turned away from the Savior they were considering because of that man? We do not know.
2B. Second, there is the case of Simon the sorcerer
1C. Please turn to Acts 8.9-13 and read with me:
9 But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one:
10 To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.
11 And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.
12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.
2C. Philip was a great man of God, a wonderful preacher. God sent revival to this city of Samaria where he labored in the ministry. Many people came to Christ. So many, in fact, that perhaps Philip did not have the opportunity to as carefully screen and deal with each and every person who professed Christ as he typically did. The result was some spurious conversions. Simon the sorcerer was one such example.
3C. How do we know Simon’s was a spurious conversion, though his testimony was, like Judas Iscariot’s, convincing enough to fool a number of people? Acts 8.14-24:
14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.
22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.
24 Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.
4C. Several indications that Simon the sorcerer was not genuinely converted, though he had believed, but not to the saving of his eternal and undying soul.
1D. First, he tried to buy the Holy Spirit of God in exchange for money. What does that reveal? It reveals his profound misunderstanding of the personality of the Spirit of God, the deity of the Spirit of God, and the power of the Spirit of God. Such profound ignorance could only mean he was not saved.
2D. Second, this was recognized by Simon Peter, who discerned that Simon the sorcerer had no part nor lot in things spiritual and that his heart was not right with God. Peter then directed Simon the sorcerer to repent and seek God’s forgiveness.
5C. But in case you remain unconvinced, consider Simon the sorcerer’s response to Peter. Apparently having no confidence of access to God’s throne of grace himself, Simon the sorcerer pleads with Peter to pray for him, verse 24. Clearly a spurious conversion.
3B. The third case of a spurious conversion is the Corinthian fornicator
1C. First Corinthians 5. Perhaps you remember reading of this fellow who had committed fornication with his father’s wife. Hearing about this horrible situation from the city of Ephesus, Paul wrote First Corinthians, in part, to order the Church at Corinth to expel this fornicator from the body. Of course, this must mean the fornicator was a part of the body. And that means the Church leadership, either Paul himself when he was there, or those in charge after his departure, thought this fellow was saved and baptized him, bringing him into the body.
2C. Now, many modern commentators think this young man was saved, but only backslidden and in need of rededication. Turn to First Corinthians 5.5, where the matter is cleared up completely. Notice the word “may be saved.” A single word in the Greek New Testament. There are two ways the future is dealt with in the Greek language, either using the future tense of the verb or the subjunctive mood of the verb. Using a future verb indicates something will happen. Subjunctive means something might happen or hopefully will happen. “May be saved” happens to be a subjunctive verb. Thus, Paul isn’t certain this fornicator’s spirit will be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. That can only mean this fellow was not saved. In other words, another spurious conversion.
4B. Finally, there is the case of Demas
1C. Demas was one of Paul’s co-laborers, a man he trusted and served God with. How long he had been with Paul we do not know, but we do know that Paul was a stickler about faithfulness and consistency. After all, his reluctance to allow John Mark to accompany him on a second missionary journey shows that Paul had high expectations of those who served God with him.
2C. Imagine what a surprise it must have been to Paul, then, when Demas, who is mentioned in Colossians 4.14 and Philemon 24, turned out to be a lost man. And how do we know that Demas was a lost man? Second Timothy 4.10: “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.” Consider what Demas did.
3C. Now read Jude 19 with me: “These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.” Consider this verse in light of what Paul said about what Demas had done.
4C. Now read First John 2.15-16 and 19:
15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of
life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
5C. Old Demas was lost, all right. For how long he had fooled Paul, we do not know. Whether he had fooled himself, we will not know till we get to heaven. But understand this, people: Not everyone who says he is saved is saved. Not everyone who thinks he is saved is saved. Not everyone a preacher thinks is saved is saved. And not everyone who lives for a time like he is saved is saved. The reality of spurious conversions is thus established.
2A. Now, LET ME ESTABLISH THE REASONS FOR SPURIOUS CONVERSIONS
1B. First, spurious conversions occur by reason of sinner’s depravity
1C. Sinners are wicked people. Even the very best sinner who has ever lived is a perverse and despicable person in the sight of God. It is not pessimism to acknowledge the complete inability of lost people to do good in the sight of God, it’s reality.
2C. So, because “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,” Jeremiah 17.9, two things can be counted on with many people who claim to be saved:
1D. First, the deceitfulness of their hearts will convince them and will seek to convince others that they are saved when they are not saved.
2D. Second, the desperate wickedness of their hearts will drive many of them to despise and reject the Lord Jesus Christ at the very moment in time they are claiming to embrace Him as their Savior, Isaiah 53.3: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
3C. Friends, to deny that this kind of thing happens with regularity is to deny the reality of what God’s Word says about sinners, and what the Bible illustrates in the lives of the men we’ve just taken notice of; Judas Iscariot, Simon the sorcerer, the Corinthian fornicator, and Demas. I could have given examples of others in the Bible.
2B. But there’s another reason spurious conversions occur. That’s the delusion of the preachers
1C. Judas fooled all the other apostles of Jesus Christ. Simon the sorcerer fooled Philip and, perhaps for a while, Simon Peter. The Corinthian fornicator may have fooled Paul, and he certainly fooled the pastor of the Corinthian Church. And Demas fooled Paul. What does that tell us? It tells us that it is impossible for any man of God to be absolutely certain that he is not being deceived by some wolf in sheep’s clothing, or some goat pretending to be one of the Savior’s sheep.
2C. But imagine how many spurious conversions there are in a spiritual climate such as ours today, that denies even the possibility of spurious conversions, or that treats the whole issue as a casual thing? We know that in times past preachers took great care to make sure that conversions were genuine. John the Baptist refused baptism for the Pharisees and scribes until they showed the genuineness of their profession. Acts 8.37 hints of the caution Philip exercised with the Ethiopian eunuch. Acts 16.15 shows Paul’s determination not to baptize Lydia until she had demonstrated faithfulness. And in our own country’s history before 1830 it was the practice of every conscientious pastor to carefully scrutinize hopeful converts to determine whether or not their conversions were spurious or genuine.
3C. “But pastor, we can’t tell whether someone is saved or not.” We can’t? Then how in the world can we hope to obey God’s command, in Second Corinthians 6.14? “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers?” To be sure, we can’t tell with perfect precision whether or not a conversion is spurious or not. But we can surely do a better job than to foolishly accept as saved and on his way to heaven every person who professes to be a Christian, every person who shouts out that he just got saved. As well, how can any sincere Christian have any hope of obeying God’s command to marry only another believer, unless there is some measure of certainty for those who truly desire to honor God?
1. False professions abound. Virtually everyone says he is or thinks he is a born again Christian. And is it any surprise that someone with a spurious conversion would accept the genuineness of another person’s spurious conversion? Of course not.
2. Our attempt at Calvary Road Baptist Church to address this tragic development in 20th century Christianity is twofold: First, the Gospel will be vigorously preached at our Church and sin will be excoriated, stripped, denounced, and reamed. And second, those sinners who profess an interest in Christ will be examined very carefully, will be questioned closely, will be attended to cautiously to make sure they are indeed genuinely saved through faith in Christ. Aren’t sinners important enough for such personal attention? Yes, they are.
3. Christian? You be careful. You have no Scriptural authority, if things are to be established in the mouths of two or three witnesses, and if a man is supposed to be able to give an answer for the hope that lies within him, for accepting a person as being saved just because he or she says so.
4. We’ve had too much of this “I will say you are saved if you will say that I am saved” nonsense over the last 200 years, and it’s wrecking our country and it has already wrecked most of our churches. For too many years such an approach to getting sinners saved and then mindlessly baptizing anyone we could get into the tank was the prevailing attitude. But no more.
5. Tonight we baptize a woman, not because she claims to be a Christian. She claimed to be a Christian when she was thirteen years old, only to have her subsequent lifestyle show that she wasn’t saved at all. I claimed to be a Christian when I was thirteen years old, only to have my subsequent lifestyle show that I wasn’t saved at all.
6. So, it is not because she claims to be a Christian that we exercise the authority vested in this church to baptize her. It is because she has an answer for the hope that lies within her. It is because she has a credible testimony of how she claims she got saved that agrees with what the Bible teaches about such things. And it is because her life’s testimony since her hopeful conversion has been consistent with such a profession.
7. Throughout the Bible we find that nothing is established but from the testimony of two or three witnesses. The principle was first revealed in the Old Testament, and has since been honored by the Lord Jesus Christ in His dealings, and also with God, Himself. Thus, it would not only be foolish, it would also be unscriptural for our church to accept this woman into membership apart from a sound and Biblical testimony.
8. Those of you who rejoice in this step of baptizing our candidate, and thereby receiving her into the membership of this Baptist church, let it be known by a good, hearty Amen!
 Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 1848.