The Baptism of Cornelius
Text: Acts 10:34-48
I. Groups who believe in the direct operation of the Holy Spirit in their lives today will cite the conversion of Cornelius and his household as proof
A. Some will go so far as to state that a person is not really saved unless they experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
B. It is almost as if there are two classes of Christians. The regular and those invited into the inner circle.
II. The events
A. The church was established on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.
1. The event was accompanied by the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and possibly others - Acts 1:13-15; 2:1-4
2. About 3,000 were baptized that day - Acts 2:41
3. While Peter promised that those baptized would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39)
a. The coming of the Holy Spirit as it occurred earlier is not repeated.
b. Notice that the gift that Peter mentions is singular
(1) Hebrews 6:4 - Tasted the heavenly gift and made partakers of the Holy Spirit.
(2) Ephesians 2:8 - Salvation is the gift of God
(3) More specifically, Paul says that the Spirit of God is our pledge of inheritance - Ephesians 1:13-14
c. I firmly believe that the gift Peter was referring to was the gift of salvation.
B. Several years pass and the church grew.
1. Its members all came from former Jews.
2. While miracles existed among the believers, not all believers had the ability to perform miracles.
a. One man, Simon, became a Christian and in his eagerness to perform wonders like the Apostles, asked to purchase the gift - Acts 8:9-24
(1) Notice that baptism did not immediately confer miraculous gifts.
(2) Notice that Philip who was able to perform miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit was not able to pass it on.
(3) It required the Apostles to come from Jerusalem.
b. Later, Paul mentions that not all Christians were able to perform miracles - I Corinthians 12:28-31
3. There is no mention of the Spirit coming directly on these believers as it happened in the beginning of the church.
4. It appears that the early believers began to think that you had to be a Jew before you could be a Christians since all Christians were once Jews.
C. God tells Cornelius to send for Peter - Acts 10:1-5
D. Meanwhile God gave Peter a puzzling vision - Acts 10:9-17
E. Peter agreed to travel with these men.
F. On meeting Cornelius, Peter explains why he consented to come - Acts 10:28-29
G. Cornelius was eager to hear what Peter had to say - Acts 10:33
H. In the midst of Peter’s lesson, the Holy Spirit again falls on those gathered, just like it happened at the beginning - Acts 10:44-48
1. They were amazed because the Spirit came on Gentiles.
2. They were amazed because this was the second time that it happened.
3. It was not a regular event - Acts 11:15-16
III. Things to notice about the conversion of Cornelius and his household
A. The coming of the Spirit did not make Cornelius good or religious. He was already recognized by men and God as a devout man - Acts 10:1-2, 4, 22
1. Many claim that men are born so depraved that they cannot become religious without the intervention of God.
2. Yet here is a religious man, who because of his good deeds God notices him and selects him for a special purpose.
3. However, this good man was not saved because he was instructed to learn from Peter.
B. The Spirit did not produce faith by his coming on them. Peter later says that the faith came from hearing the message - Acts 15:7
1. The Spirit’s coming was a witness to their faith - Acts 15:8
2. Faith is unseen by man, but God knows each man’s heart.
3. God gave a visible sign of what he knew was in the hearts of Cornelius and his household.
C. The Spirit did not cleanse or purify their hearts. This was done by their faith - Acts 15:9
D. The Spirit did not save them.
1. This was done by the words of Peter - Acts 11:13-14.
2. Paul later says that we are saved by the Gospel - Romans 1:16
3. Peter commanded them to be baptized into Christ - Acts 10:47-48
a. Salvation is only in Christ (Acts 4:12), yet Cornelius was not yet in Christ.
b. Faith plus baptism puts us into Christ - Galatians 3:26-28
IV. Does it take a miracle to be saved?
A. It is amazing that people emphasize the coming of the Spirit, claiming that it is necessary for baptism.
1. There were other miracles involved that were equally important to the ultimate saving of the Gentiles.
2. An angel was sent by God to tell Cornelius who to talk to about salvation.
a. Do people today need to wait for an angel’s directions to a particular preacher?
b. We are not talking about a “feeling” or a “leading”. Cornelius knew he was talking to an angel and the angel’s message was very direct.
3. Peter was given a vision indicating he should speak to Gentiles.
a. Do preachers today need to wait for permission from God before speaking His message?
4. Peter was told directly by the Spirit to go with men - Acts 10:19-20
a. Do preachers need the Spirit to tell them were to go before spreading the Word?
b. Again, this is not a feeling or leading, but a direct command by God.
B. Why emphasize one miracle when four were involved?
C. What we should ask is why did God send the Spirit on these Gentiles?
1. As we already pointed out, it wasn’t for salvation. That came through other means.
2. Paul gives us a hint - Romans 15:15-16
a. The offering of the Gentiles became acceptable because it was sanctified by the Spirit.
b. Remember Peter said he learned not to call unclean what God called clean?
c. The coming of the Spirit proved God’s acceptance of the Gentiles. They were set apart (sanctified) for salvation.
3. The speaking of tongues were a sign to unbelievers - I Corinthians 14:22
a. Even though those accompanying Peter were Christians, they did not believe the Gentiles could be saved.
b. The speaking in tongues were a sign to these unbelievers and later to those questioning Peter - Acts 11:2-3, 15-18
c. God bore witness to the Jewish Christians - Acts 15:8
V. God has shown that salvation is offered to all of mankind.
A. Will you accept His offer?