Fancy chandelier in Utah gov’s office.
Thursday, 13 October 2022
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. Acts 10:44
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
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Peter completed his words to Cornelius in the last verse with the words, “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” The words were direct, and they included nothing else. And yet, it now says, “While Peter was still speaking these words.”
There was nothing of what was said to Israel in Acts 2:38 –
“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”
Peter was speaking to Israel who had just crucified their Messiah. There was nothing for these Gentiles to repent (meaning change one’s mind). There was no need for these Gentiles to be baptized in water in order to outwardly demonstrate that they had changed their minds. Instead, the inference that must be derived from the narrative is that when Peter had said, “whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” that they had, in fact, believed.
And yet, it was not a belief that required an outward validation, such as them saying, “Yes, I believe.” Rather, it was an inward belief alone. By simply hearing Peter’s words and then by believing in their hearts (the heart in the Bible is the center of our moral being and the place where our volitional choices are made), it says that “the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.”
This means that they heard the word as spoken by Peter. They had faith in what that word said. They then were endowed with the Holy Spirit. This is the process Paul states in Romans –
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17
From there, the process continues in Ephesians 1 –
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13, 14
The process, then, is – hear the word of God, have faith in the word which is then manifest in the heart (trusting), and at that moment, the sealing of the Holy Spirit is accomplished.
In the case of Cornelius and those with Him, there is a difference to this process though. As Vincent’s Word Studies rightly notes, “The only example of the bestowment of the Spirit before baptism.”
It is the epistles that set doctrine and explain that which is normative for this dispensation. The account now in Acts is a descriptive account. It prescribes nothing, but simply tells what has happened. As the epistles tell what is prescriptive, what is normative, and what can thus be expected, the account now in Acts obviously serves a particular purpose.
That purpose is explained in the words of Jesus to Peter –
“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:17-19
Peter was the apostle selected by Jesus to confirm that access to heaven is granted to the various people groups reflected in Acts – Jew (Acts 2), Samaritans (Acts 8), and Gentiles (Acts 10). He is the only one recorded as being present at all three instances where the Holy Spirit came upon the believers. Thus, it is he who was given as the witness to confirm the events.
He was there in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost. He was there to tell those who did not believe what they must do in order to receive the Spirit – repent, be baptized for remission, and then receive. He held the “keys” to heaven in regard to what they must do in order to be granted remission and given access to God’s paradise.
He was there in Acts 8. The people had already believed the message, but did not receive the Spirit –
“Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” Acts 8:14-17
Until Peter came, the confirmation – meaning the coming of the Spirit – was not given. Peter had the “keys” to heaven, meaning the validation that these believers had been received.
And now in Acts 10, the process is repeated. Remember that the Ethiopian eunuch had already received Jesus. He was saved based on that faith, but Peter was not present. As such, a demonstration of Gentile salvation was still required for Peter who held the “keys” to heaven. That demonstration is now realized.
Acts 2 – for believers: faith in Jesus / visibly receive the Spirit. For those Jewish nonbelievers: follow the words of Peter concerning repentance and baptism because they had first rejected Jesus. From there, receive the Spirit.
Acts 8 – receive the word and believe. Wait for Peter to validate the event. With the laying on of hands, they visibly received the Spirit.
Acts 10 – Peter preaches the word concerning Jesus. Gentiles hear the word and believe in their hearts. The Spirit is visibly received.
And so, the question is, which of these three accounts is normative? Which one is to be expected in the future? The answer is, “None of the three accounts is normative.” Peter has now validated that all – Jew, Samaritan, and Gentile – have been saved by faith and faith alone in the work of Jesus Christ. He had also told those of Israel who had rejected Jesus that they had to repent (change their minds) about their rejection, openly acknowledge this, and they too would receive the Spirit.
That is never needed again, except by those who first reject Jesus, because only Israel had rejected their Messiah. Now, when a person rejects Jesus and he later changes his mind (repents), he receives the Spirit upon belief. For those who have never rejected Jesus, the formula of the epistles (noted above) is what is normative and what now occurs.
No outward display of the Spirit is necessary, nor is it to be expected, because the proof has been provided to Peter, it was witnessed as required by Scripture, and it is now documented in Scripture. Hence, these examples are the recorded proofs necessary for those who believe the gospel to know that they too are saved upon faith alone in the work of Jesus Christ.
Life application: What has been presented in Acts concerning salvation clearly demonstrates that there is one (and only one gospel). It also clearly demonstrates that this gospel is open to all, Jew and Gentile, through faith alone.
Now, our doctrine is to be obtained from the epistles. The varied descriptive accounts in Acts are intended to lead us to the stabilizing instructions found in the epistles. The words of Jesus in Acts 1 are being realized with the reception of the Spirit by Cornelius and those with Him –
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
The word went first to Jerusalem, then to Judea and Samaria. Now, it begins to go “to the end of the earth” with the inclusion of these Gentiles in the presence of Peter. With this baseline established, the word will continue to go forth, but without the necessity of Peter verifying what has occurred. The “keys” to heaven have been used for Jew, for Samaritan, and for Gentile.
Lord God, what a marvelous thing You have done through the giving of Jesus! Thank You that we can be included in Your family through a simple act of faith in His completed work. How grateful we are. And we shall praise You forever and ever because of what You have done. Glory to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.