Baptism is not necessary for salvation. Cornelius was saved before he was baptized. There are two reasons why we know Cornelius was saved before being baptized.
1. Cornelius received the Holy Spirit before being baptized; that he had the Holy Spirit.
1 John 4:13 states that he abided in God and that God abided in him. To abide in God and to have God abide in you describes one who is already a believer not an unbeliever. One can not have God Almighty (the Holy Spirit) abiding in them and still be a child of the devil (unsaved). To have the Holy Spirit means that one is already saved. Such was the case of Cornelius before he was baptized.
Let it also be pointed out that Peter stated that Cornelius received the "same gift" as the apostles and others did in Acts 2:4. That is they were all baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5; 11:16).
To be baptized in the Holy Spirit meant to be "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4). To believe that Cornelius was not saved until he was baptized one must then believe that one can be "filled" with God and still be a child of Satan (lost). This is impossible. By being "filled" with God Cornelius was thus saved and that before he was baptized. Some may argue that it nowhere specifically states that Cornelius was "filled with the Holy Spirit". In response, it doesn't have to say it since it is already established in Acts 2 that to be "baptized with the Holy Spirit" meant to be "filled with the Holy Spirit". In fact, nowhere do we read in any passage that those who heard and believed Peter's message in Acts 3:12-4:4 were baptized. As with the case of Cornelius being filled with the Holy Spirit it doesn't have to specifically tell us they were baptized for the precedent of people believing and then being baptized is established throughout the rest of Scripture. The same thing would hold true concerning the fact that it no where specifically tells us of the baptism of Apollos even though he began to preach that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 18:24-28). See also Acts 13:48; 14:1; 17:34; 28:24. Again the precedent has already been set. Thus Cornelius by being "filled" with God the Holy Spirit was saved before he was baptized.
Still another text that demonstrates that he was saved before he was baptized is Galatians 4:6. By having the Holy Spirit Cornelius was "a son" of God and could properly address Him as "Abba! Father!" In close relation to this, Acts 10:45 states that the Holy Spirit had been "poured out" upon Cornelius. While Romans 5:5 tells us that the Holy Spirit "poured out" (same Greek word) the love of God in his heart. The fact that Cornelius had the love of God poured out into his heart before his baptism proves that he was already a saved man. No unbeliever has the "love of God" in their heart (John 5:42).
2. The gift of tongues was given to those who were already believers not to unbelievers (1 Corinthians 12:10).
Cornelius is said to have spoke in tongues before he was baptized (Acts 10:46, 48). Therefore Cornelius was already saved before being baptized. In relation to point #1, every time in Acts someone spoke in tongues they had already received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4; 10:44-48; 19:6). - Not all believers spoke in tongues (1 Corinthians 12:30) but those who did were already saved.
Also those who have the gift of tongues are said to be already "in the church" (1 Corinthians 12:28) that is Christ's body (Colossians 1:24). Cornelius then was already "in" the church and Christ's body before he was baptized. Notice also the fact that if one speaks righteously in tongues, like Cornelius did for he was speaking in tongues and praising God so much so that Peter knew he was saved, that one is pleasing God. But the unsaved can never please God (Romans 8:8). How could Cornelius be unsaved yet pleasing to God? It's impossible. The fact is by speaking in tongues demonstrates that he was saved.
The "gift of the Holy Spirit" in Acts
10:45 is the same "gift of the Holy Spirit" in Acts 2:38.
1. The same phrase - Peter states that it is the "same gift" (Acts 11:17).
2. The same author (Luke).
3. The same speaker (Peter).
4. The same book (Acts).
5. The same context (the theme of Christ's Lordship/resurrection to unsaved people).
6. The same response (acceptance).
The same phrase, by the same author, by the same speaker, in the same book, in the same context with the same response but two different meanings? Very improbable. The fact that Cornelius already "received" the Holy Spirit and spoke in the NT gift of tongues is more than enough evidence that God gives to us that he was already saved before he was baptized (Job 33:12-14).
When a significant event is presented in the Scriptures, it is useful to examine the account in detail to learn more about what God has taught. The author of the above questions the conclusion that Cornelius and his household were saved when they were baptized, despite Peter's clear statement in I Peter 3:21, "Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." Rather than pulling his argument apart piece-by-piece, let us start with a clean slate and examine the account to determine for ourselves when Cornelius was saved.
Cornelius was a devout man who did good deeds
"There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always." (Acts 10:1-2)
Cornelius served in the Roman Army. In particular, he served in the Italian cohort (or band, or regiment) stationed in Caesarea. A cohort was a company comprised of approximately 600 soldiers. As a centurion, he had charge over a hundred soldiers, making him the equivalent of a captain in today's army. Polybius, in his book History, tells us about the traits valued by the Romans in their centurions: "Centurions are required not to be bold and adventurous so much as good leaders, of steady and prudent mind, not prone to take the offensive or start fighting wantonly, but able when overwhelmed and hard-pressed to stand fast and die at their post."
Surprisingly, this rock-stead man in the Roman army was also a worshiper of God. In fact, he is described as a devout man. His own followers describe him as, "a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews" (Acts 10:22). Even though Cornelius was a Gentile, he had a good reputation among the Jews. This alone is not a small feat to overlook given how much the Jews of that day hated all Gentiles. Cornelius was a good man who was good to people, giving gifts of charity, or alms, when opportunities arose.
He also influenced others for good. We are told that his entire household feared God. When the opportunity arose to hear a message from God, Cornelius pulled in his friends and relatives to join him in hearing the message (Acts 10:24).
Cornelius was a man who continually prayed. When he received a command from the Lord, he promptly obeyed. "'Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do.' And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually. So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa" (Acts 10:5-8). Even though an angel of God was before him, Cornelius was directed to send for a man living in a small town with a common tanner. He had to wait several days for his men to reach Peter and to return, yet we see Cornelius' eagerness to obey God. "'Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.' So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God" (Acts 10:32-33). Here is a man who was receptive to the word of God even before he heard the message.
Think about the devotion required of a man who lived and worked among idolatrous people. Paul gives a very unflattering account in Romans 1:29-31 of what the Gentile society was like. Peter, too, described the difficulty Christians had living among the Gentiles, "For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles--when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you" (I Peter 4:3-4).
Now remember that Cornelius would have been an outsider. He was still a Gentile. In other words, he had not converted to Judaism. Peter was prepared by God for the request to visit a Gentile by his vision of great sheet. He related the difficulty to Cornelius say, "You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean" (Acts 10:28). The difficulty was wide spread, the Christians in Jerusalem objected to Peter's visit to an uncircumcised Gentile. "Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, saying, 'You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!'" (Acts 11:1-3). Consider the strength of Cornelius's faith. He maintained a strong faith in God without any external support from his fellow Gentiles or from the Jews.
And yet God said that Cornelius needed to be saved. "Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved" (Acts 11:13-14). The words Peter would tell him would bring salvation to Cornelius and his household.
There are a lot of good people in this world today. People who are not nearly as devout as Cornelius, but good people none the less. Yet they do not think they need to be cleansed by the blood of Christ. God, in their view, would not destroy a good person. The reality is that their hope of a heavenly reward is based upon their own moral goodness. They hold tightly to the fact that by being good, they will have earned a place in heaven. They do not realize that all of man's "goodness" is not enough; "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Salvation does not come strictly by our own efforts. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:8-10). It takes the blood of Christ to save man. "Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh--who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands--that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ" (Ephesians 2:11-13).
Some reading this will object to this conclusion. "Wasn't he a devout man?" Yes, but the Bible speaks of others who were devout but were not saved. For example, in the synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia, Paul met and talked with devout, God-fearing proselytes of the Jewish religion (Acts 13:43). Yet, many of this same group rejected the message brought by Paul a week later (Acts 13:44-45). Among the Gentiles of the city were devout women, but they too were prodded into persecuting Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:50). Now, devotion was not limited to non-Christians. Ananias was a devout man and a Christian (Acts 22:12). Hence we must conclude that Christians should be devoted to their God, but every devout person is not necessarily a Christian.
"But wasn't Cornelius God-fearing?" Yes he was, and so was his household. But it was obviously not enough in the eyes of God. God-fearing does not mean he was without sin. None of us can truthfully claim that we are without sin. "If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us" (I John 1:10).
You could even claim that Cornelius was evangelistic before his conversion. He brought his friends and relatives to hear Peter preach. But even this was not enough to save him.
Cornelius did charity work. He continually prayed to God. He was a righteous man in the sight of others (Acts 10:22). But, he was not saved. Still, he was a man whom God would welcome into His family. "Then Peter opened his mouth and said: 'In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him'" (Acts 10:34-35).
Salvation is for all men. "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works" (Titus 2:11-14). Salvation is not just for the corrupt and despised people, but it is also for the good and admired people. It must be available to all because no one is good enough (Romans 3:23).
God wants His people to do good, but our salvation is not based on the good deeds that we have done. "For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men" (Titus 3:3-8). Yet while we cannot earn salvation, it does not imply there is nothing to be done on our part. God told Cornelius to send for Peter. Notice that God did not directly tell Cornelius what he needed to do to be saved. God did not even send Peter to Cornelius. He made Cornelius get his own preacher! Then Cornelius had to listen to what Peter told him. "And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, 'Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved'" (Acts 11:13-14). And finally, Cornelius understood that he would have to do the things that Peter taught him. "So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God" (Acts 10:33).
God had works for Cornelius to do, just as God has works for each of us. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). These works do not merit the worker's salvation, but salvation will not be given if the works are left undone. Cornelius would not have been saved if he did not obey the commands of God.
It does not matter if we or others think that we are righteous. If we are our own judge then our righteousness is not of God. Like Paul, we should desire a righteousness that is not based upon our selves; "and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith" (Philippians 3:9). This is the error committed by the Jews. They had established their own system of righteousness, but their system wasn't God's. "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God" (Romans 10:3). When a person loves God with his whole being, he will yield himself to all of God's commands. As Jesus stated, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15).
Cornelius did not trust in his righteousness. God gave him orders, and he hurried to obey. What about you? Are you so confident in your salvation that you will not consider all that God has asked of you to do?
Cornelius was a man who prayed and whose prayers where heard by God
"There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, 'Cornelius!' And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, 'What is it, lord?' So he said to him, 'Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God' " (Acts 10:1-4).
We have all heard that if we wish to be saved, we need to get down on our knees, pray to God for salvation, and our prayer will be answered. When Cornelius had his vision of the angel, he was engaged in prayer. "So Cornelius said, "Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing" (Acts 10:30). It appears that the ninth hour (or 3 p.m.) was Cornelius's customary time for prayer. A Jewish historian, Josephus, states in Antiquities 14.4.3 that public sacrifices were offered in the temple, "twice daily, in the early morning and about the ninth hour." It was customary for the Jews to offer prayers during the time of the offering. Hence, the ninth hour was known as the hour of prayer (Acts 3:1). Though Cornelius was not a Jew or even a proselyte, his practice of praying during the ninth hour demonstrates that Cornelius followed the Jewish practices of his day.
But Cornelius was not just a man who prayed, he was a man whom God heard praying. His prayers and alms were described as ascending as a memorial before God (Acts 10:4). The phrasing is an allusion to the sacrifices done before God in the Old Testament (Leviticus 2:1-2). As the Psalmist requested, "LORD, I cry out to You; Make haste to me! Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You. Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice" (Psalm 141:1-2). Therefore, we do not find it strange that Christians' deeds are described in a similar manner. Paul said of the Philippians' gift to him, "I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God" (Philippians 4:18). Or, as the Hebrew write notes, "Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (Hebrews 13:15-16).
Not only were Cornelius's prayers and alms sacrifices to God, but he was told that God took note of them. Imagine hearing from God that he noticed what you did in His name! The greatest fear for any man ought to be being forgotten or forsaken by his God (Matthew 27:46). Yet, we are told that our deeds can bring remembrance, just as the simple deed of one woman is forever memorialized (Matthew 26:13). It is not that God need man to remind Him of our existence, but the language of the verse describes God's acceptance of Cornelius's prayers and deeds. It tells us that God took note of what Cornelius had done. Just as God takes note of what we do. "For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister" (Hebrews 6:10).
The fact that God heard his prayers shows us that Cornelius had a heart that was willing to obey God. It is the disobedient to whom God will not listen. "One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination" (Proverbs 28:9). I'm sure some reading this will exclaim, "Ah! Now I have you! God doesn't hear the prayer of the sinner, so Cornelius must have been saved." This concept comes from John 9:31 where a formerly blind man stated, "Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him." The man made this claim in response to the Pharisees' charge that Jesus was a sinner (John 9:24). The formerly blind man could not comment on Jesus' standing before God (John 9:25), but he did note that Jesus must not have been such a sinner that God was against him. The fact that God heard Cornelius's prayer, proves that Cornelius was not a rebellious sinner, but a man willing to obey God. We have already noted this point. But Cornelius's willingness to obey doesn't reflect whether he was saved or not.
Cornelius prayed, but the answer to his prayer was not salvation, at least not directly. "And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, 'Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.'" (Acts 11:13-14). The answer to Cornelius's prayer was instructions on how to be saved. In other words, Cornelius was not saved prior to God's response, nor was he saved when God answered his prayer. He was offer a chance to be saved in the future when he did as God instructed him.
The answer Cornelius received was no different from what Saul was told prior to his conversion. "So he, trembling and astonished, said, "Lord, what do You want me to do?" Then the Lord said to him, "Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."" (Acts 9:6). While waiting, Saul continued to pray. "And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." So the Lord said to him, "Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying"" (Acts 9:9-11). Yet even these prayers did not bring Saul salvation. Instead, when Ananias visited Saul he told Saul what he had to do -- and it wasn't to keep on praying until he prayed through to salvation. "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). The answer to Saul's prayer was the same as Cornelius. He received directions on how to learn what was needed to be saved.
Other people expressed the desire to be saved. What commands were given to them?
"Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" 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." (Acts 2:37-38).
"Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. ... But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized." (Acts 8:4-5, 12).
"Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him." (Acts 8:35-38).
"And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptized ..." (Acts 16:13-15).
"And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household." (Acts 16:30-34).
"And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. ... Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized." (Acts 18:4-5, 8).
"Then Paul said, "John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus." When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 19:4-5).
Do you see the pattern of the gospel being preached, that people accepted the gospel by believing, and that with their belief they sought to be baptized? Was Cornelius's case any different from any other Christian? "So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God. ... And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins. ... And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord" (Acts 10:33, 42-43, 48). No, we find the same pattern in Cornelius's conversion that we find elsewhere in the book of Acts.
The desire for salvation, expressed in prayer, is not sufficient in itself to bring salvation to a person. God expects more from us. He expects us to believe what we are told and to do what we are told.
Cornelius experienced miracles
"About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, "Cornelius!" And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, "What is it, lord?" So he said to him, "Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do." And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually" (Acts 10:3-7).
This is not the first time that an angel intervened to instigate a man's conversion. It was an angel who arranged to have Philip meet the traveling Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26). But notice that even though the angel appeared to the man to be converted in Acts 10 and to the preacher in Acts 8, the purpose of the appearance was the same -- to bring the preacher together with a person needing to hear the message of God. In both cases the angel did not preach the message but, instead, arranged for a man to come and teaching his fellow man.
As we read through Acts, not every conversion was accompanied by the appearance of angels, but each conversion followed a similar pattern. A man teaches the gospel and the listener responds to the message. Hence, we conclude that the supernatural actions on the part of God doesn't overrule the requirement for a man to teach the gospel. "For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved." How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?" So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:13-17).
If man must teach man, then why did miracles accompany some conversions? We are told that there was a period of time when the gospel was being revealed and confirmed. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?" (Hebrews 2:3-4). This revelation would not be a continual event, but would take place once in history. "Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). But the spreading of this confirmed gospel was work done by men. "For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus' sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us" (II Corinthians 4:7).
There is no case where an angel taught someone the gospel so that they might be saved. Saul saw and heard a vision of the Lord (Acts 9:3-5), but the Lord directed him to wait for a man to come and teach him (Acts 9:6). Ananias was contacted by an angel concerning Saul, but he was required to go to Saul and teach him about Jesus (Acts 9:10-18).
Hence, we must conclude that while confirmation of the gospel was needed in the original delivery of the message, it does not take a miracle to hear or to accept the gospel. "For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe" (I Corinthians 1:21).
Could the miracles experienced by Cornelius and others happen today? Some do claim to have experienced a miraculous event. Since I wasn't there, it would not be worth arguing whether the event occurred or not. But I am interested in what was told to the one who experienced the miracle. Is it similar to or different from the teachings found in the Bible? If what is told is different, then we need to pay heed to Paul's warning, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8).
My next question concerns what these people now teach. If the Holy Spirit is guiding them and teaching them, then I would expect to find all that they say in harmony with the Scriptures, for the Spirit will not contradict today what He taught in the beginning. "For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints" (I Corinthians 14:33). If there is a difference in the message, then the only conclusion must be that what is being taught did not come from the Spirit of God.
Finally, I must ask what these people do. What evidence is given to you by God to support your claim that you are speaking by the inspiration of God? You see, when Cornelius received the Spirit, he began to speak in other languages (Acts 10:46). Cornelius did not simply claim to have the Spirit. It was evident to those gathered that the Spirit had come upon Cornelius.
Notice throughout Acts 10 that Cornelius's claim to have experienced miracles was not base solely on his own word. Peter received a vision that collaborated what Cornelius saw (Acts 10:19-20). The same was true of Saul and Ananias; each experienced separate visions that confirmed what had happened (Acts 9:5-6, 10-12). By the way, notice that Cornelius and Peter experienced a series of miracles. Cornelius saw an angel. Peter had a vision of a sheet being lowered from heaven. Then Peter was directly told by the Spirit to go with the men Cornelius sent. Finally, Cornelius and his household began to speak in tongues during Peter's lesson. Few people today offer any collaboration for the miracles they claim to experience. It is only their word. They would do well to recall the words of Jesus, "If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true" (John 5:31). Jesus would not lie, but even Jesus stated that the testimony of only one cannot prove the truth.
You know, despite all these miraculous events, Cornelius still needed to hear words from Peter in order to be saved. "Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved" (Acts 11:13-14). The experience of miracles in his life did not save Cornelius. Nor can it save you. You too need to hear words by which you can be saved.
Cornelius received the Holy Spirit
A variety of phrases was used to describe what happened to Cornelius and his household.
- The Spirit fell on them all - Acts 10:44; 11:15
- The gift of the Spirit had been poured out on them - Acts 10:45
- The had received the Holy Spirit - Acts 10:47
- They had been baptized in the Spirit - Acts 11:16
- God gave them the same gift - Acts 11:17
- God gave them the Holy Spirit - Acts 15:8
Peter emphasized that the event experienced by Cornelius and his household was the same thing that had happened at the beginning of the Church. "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, 'John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?" (Acts 11:15-17). Read Peter's words again carefully. It almost sounds like Peter is talking about two different beginnings: at the beginning of the church (i.e. Acts 2) and when the apostles believed. Yet the apostles believed on the Lord Jesus before His death (Matthew 16:18). Was Peter recalling two separate past events or only one?
The answer is that while the apostles did believe on Jesus while he was still on earth, their belief was not based on full knowledge. As Jesus pointed out, the apostles were not ready to hear everything they needed to know. "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come" (John 16:12-13). It was not until after Jesus' resurrection that their minds were opened."Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, "and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. "And you are witnesses of these things. "Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high"" (Luke 24:44-49). Even with this fuller understanding, they still did not comprehend everything. "Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 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 1:6-8). It would take the Holy Spirit to remind them of everything they needed to know when they were ready to teach the gospel. "These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (John 14:25-26). Hence, Peter is placing the beginning of the apostle's faith at the point in time when all the facts came together. Faith was not true faith until they had the full truth in which to believe.
Now, consider what happened at the beginning and notice the similarities to what happened to Cornelius and his household. "When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:1-4).
The event that happened on the day of Pentecost was not common place. The fact that the experience of Cornelius reminded Peter of what happened at the beginning implies that it had not been occurring since the beginning. There are quite a number of conversions mentioned between Acts 2 and Acts 10. The conversion of the Samaritans is given in a fair amount of detail. "But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:12-17). Yet, the experience of the Samaritans is different from Cornelius. The Samaritans were baptized, but they did not receive the gifts of the Spirit immediately. Even though Philip was present, and he had the gifts of the Spirit, these people had to wait until apostles came from Jerusalem. The Spirit was then given to the Samaritans by the laying on of the apostles' hands (Acts 8:18). We must, therefore, conclude that the receiving of the gifts of the Spirit by the hands of the apostles was not the baptism in the Spirit. Otherwise, Peter would have been reminded of more recent baptisms in the Spirit. Instead, he reached all the way back to the beginning of the church. In addition, since baptism in water came before receiving the Spirit in Acts 8 and it came after receiving the Spirit in Acts 10, we must conclude that the receiving of the Spirit in these two came for separate, unrelated purposes.
Let us take a brief sidetrack from our main discussion because frequently there is some confusion as to when baptism is mentioned as to which baptism is occurring -- baptism in water or baptism in the Spirit. Baptism in the Spirit is a baptism that was administered by Christ. John promised that Jesus would baptize with the Spirit. "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Matthew 3:11). And when we read of the two events that are called the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we see that no man was involved in its administration. In Acts 2:2 we are told that it came from heaven and in both events we are told that God gave the recipients the gift (Acts 2:17, 32-33; 11:17; 15:8). In contrast, baptism in water is administered by men. Jesus commanded, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). And when the eunuch was baptized, we see that it was done by Philip. "Both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him" (Acts 8:38).
The baptism in the Spirit was promised by Christ. "Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). And again, "John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now ... 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 1:5, 8). However, baptism in water is not promised, but commanded. Peter commanded it of Cornelius and his household, "And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord" (Acts 10:48). Ananias instructed Saul to be baptized, "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). Jesus commanded his disciples to baptize people of all nations in Matthew 28:19. A command can be obeyed, but a promise cannot be obeyed; a promise must be given.
When we read about people being baptized in the Spirit, we see that signs accompanied the event (Acts 2:4-8; 10:44-46). In particular, those baptized began to speak in other languages (or tongues). But baptism in water did not confer miraculous gifts. Again, the baptisms of the Samaritans prove this point. "But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. ... Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 8:12, 14-16).
Finally, all Christians were not baptized in the Spirit. As we previously noted, there were many baptism between Acts 2 and Acts 10, yet the baptism in the Spirit in Acts 2 and in Acts 10 were unique in the history of the church. Even receiving miraculous gifts of the Spirit was not universal. "And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?" (I Corinthians 12:28-30). The answer to Paul's questions is "No." All Christians did not receive the gifts. However, all Christians were baptized in water.
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19).
"Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?" (Romans 6:3).
"For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Galatians 3:27).
This then leads us to the question, "Wasn't the baptism received by Cornelius the gift of the Spirit promised by Peter in Acts 2:38-39?" Peter promised of the gift of the Spirit would come after repenting and being baptized for the forgiveness of sins. However, Cornelius received the Spirit before he was baptized. Hence, it cannot be the same promised gift.
We must also take note that the gift in Acts 2:38-39 was universally promised. "For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself" (Acts 2:39). Yet we saw earlier that everyone did not receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and everyone did not receive the miraculous gifts of the Spirit. However, there is a gift of the Spirit that has been promised to all who have their sins remitted. "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, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory" (Ephesians 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit is given as a pledge of our inheritance. In other words, there is a gift of the Spirit which serves as our guarantee of a heavenly reward after this life ends. It is not a gift that is accompanied by miraculous signs, but it is an important gift which every child of God would possess.
If you accept that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was not a common event, then we need to address the question as to what purpose the those unique baptism served. For the baptism that occurred on Pentecost, we are told as to its purpose. The Spirit was given to teach the apostles and to remind them of the events that they witnessed. "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (John 14:26). In addition the Spirit would give the apostles power to be effective witnesses of the Christ. "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). It was through the signs that accompanied the apostles that God bore witness to the truth. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?" (Hebrews 2:3-4). Hence, the primary purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was to give witness to the truth.
Before considering the purpose of Cornelius' baptism in the Spirit, let us address what this baptism did not do.
The Spirit did not come to make Cornelius acceptable to God. Cornelius was already a God-fearing man (Acts 10:2). He already had a good reputation before men and God (Acts 10:22). But as Peter stated, Cornelius was already acceptable to God, "in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him" (Acts 10:35).
The Spirit did not come to give Cornelius faith. Cornelius already believed in God (Acts 10:2) and Cornelius came to believe in God's Son through the gospel preached to him. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). Peter testified that by hearing the word of the gospel, Cornelius believed. "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe" (Acts 15:7). Cornelius's faith was by the message preached to him and not by direct intervention of the Spirit of God.
The Spirit did not come to give Cornelius salvation. In neither Acts 2 or Acts 10 is there any mention that by receiving the baptism of the Spirit the recipients gained salvation. It is simply an assumption made by various people that the Spirit would not come upon a person unless he is saved. However, there are instances when the Spirit came upon people who we know were in sin. For example, the Spirit came upon Saul while he was searching to murder David. "So David fled and escaped, and went to Samuel at Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and stayed in Naioth. Now it was told Saul, saying, "Take note, David is at Naioth in Ramah!" Then Saul sent messengers to take David. And when they saw the group of prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as leader over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied. And when Saul was told, he sent other messengers, and they prophesied likewise. Then Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they prophesied also. Then he also went to Ramah, and came to the great well that is at Sechu. So he asked, and said, "Where are Samuel and David?" And someone said, "Indeed they are at Naioth in Ramah." So he went there to Naioth in Ramah. Then the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on and prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he also stripped off his clothes and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Therefore they say, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" (1 Samuel 19:18-24). Balaam also was able to prophesy for God even while he sought for a way to hinder God and make money from the deal (Numbers 23:1-5; II Peter 2:15). At least with the case of Cornelius we are dealing with better material; at least Cornelius was a godly man. But because the Spirit comes upon a person, it does not imply that the person was saved or lost.
In the New Testament, we have several cases where the Spirit is given to those who were already saved. The apostles were chosen by Jesus and were baptizing prior to Jesus' death (John 4:1-2), but they did not receive the baptism of the Spirit until a later time in Acts 2. The Samaritans believed and were baptized prior to receiving the gifts of the Spirit as recorded in Acts 8. Those in Corinth were baptized prior to receiving the gifts as well (Acts 18:8; I Corinthians 12:1-11). The same is true of those in Ephesus. "When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied" (Acts 19:5-6). But even in each of these cases, only one is called a baptism by the Spirit. The rest received gifts of the Spirit by the laying on of the apostles' hands.
Not everyone received miraculous gifts from the Spirit, but all Christians did receive salvation from their sins. We must always keep in mind that Peter reported that Cornelius would hear words where by he would be saved (Acts 11:14). Later Peter also stated that we are all saved by the grace of Jesus, just as Cornelius was saved. "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they" (Acts 15:8-11).
The Spirit did not come to sanctify Cornelius. Sanctification is done through the word of God. As Jesus prayed, "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17).
The Spirit did not come to bring Cornelius forth. This, again, is done by the word of God. "Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures" (James 1:18).
The Spirit did not come to give Cornelius a new birth. This, too, is done by the word of God. "Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever" (I Peter 1:22-23).
The Spirit did not come to cleanse Cornelius's heart. His heart was cleansed by faith (Acts 15:9).
The Spirit did not come as an alternative or as a replacement for baptism in water. Even though he received the baptism in the Spirit, Peter still commanded that Cornelius and his household should be baptized in water. "'Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?' And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord" (Acts 10:47-48).
The Spirit did not come to make Cornelius a child of God. That is done by faith and baptism in water. "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:26-27).
So why did the Spirit come upon Cornelius and his household? The answer is clearly stated by Peter in Acts 15:8-11. "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they." God acknowledged them, or bore them witness, or testified to them (depending on your translation) by giving them the Holy Spirit.
Hence, our next question ought to be, "A witness to what?" Some time after Cornelius's conversion the issue was raised as to whether a Gentile had to become a Jew before he could be saved. "Some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses" (Acts 15:5). Peter's response to this was to point out that the Spirit came to witness that these Gentiles could be saved without being first a Jew. But take note that Peter did not say that the Spirit came to witness that a person could be saved without baptism.
This then leads to the question, "Why did the Spirit come before Cornelius was baptized in water?" In order to answer this question, you need to notice that six Jewish Christians had accompanied Peter to Cornelius's house (Acts 10:23; 11:12). As stated in the text, the Spirit's coming was a shock to these men. "And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God" (Acts 10:45-46). Peter then turned to these same men and asked if they dare object to Cornelius being baptized in water given the obvious testimony of God (Acts 10:47; 11:17).
Also, notice that the Spirit did not come upon the Gentiles until Peter began to speak (Acts 11:15). Here was testimony to all that Gentiles could be saved through the word of God (Acts 11:13-14).
When Peter testified at the gathering in Jerusalem, recorded in Acts 15, he used the example of Cornelius to prove that Gentiles, while remaining Gentiles and not becoming Jews, were accepted by God. Peter did not use the case of Cornelius to prove that everyone should receive the Spirit, or that the Spirit burnt sin out of a sinner's heart, or that the Spirit's coming made him a child of God. Instead, we find that Peter used the baptism of the Spirit as proof that Cornelius and his household should be baptized in water, as recorded in Acts 10 and Acts 11. Peter consistently argued that the Gentiles were to receive the gospel without being bound to the Law. For anyone to claim otherwise would be trying God. "Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" (Acts 15:10).
We are saved in the same manner as Cornelius
The method that saves every Christian saved Cornelius and his household. "But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they" (Acts 15:11). The salvation of Cornelius was the rule and not the exception. He was not saved by extraordinary events but in the same manner experienced by every Christian.
Now, was the baptism of the Holy Spirit common or uncommon? We demonstrated earlier that it was an oddity. It had only happened once before on the day of Pentecost. And, we have no record that it ever happened again after Cornelius was baptized in the Spirit. In addition, we know that both baptisms of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 and Acts 10 were accompanied by miraculous signs, such as speaking in other tongues. We know that all Christians did not have the ability to speak in tongues and that some had no gifts at all. The baptism of the Holy Spirit could not have the means by which Cornelius and his household were saved since Peter said they were saved in the same manner as all other Christians.
How then were other Christians saved?
- Christians are saved by grace (Acts 15:11; Ephesians 2:5).
- Christians are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8).
- Christians are saved by confession (Romans 10:8-10).
- Christians are saved by repentance (Acts 3:19).
- Christians are saved when they repent and are baptized (Acts 2:38).
Did Cornelius experience things which were common to other Christians?
- Cornelius received grace (Acts 15:11)
- Cornelius believed (Acts 15:7)
- Cornelius was granted the opportunity to repent (Acts 11:18)
- Cornelius magnified God, thereby confessing (Acts 10:46)
- Cornelius was baptized in water (Acts 10:47-48)
All of this resulted from Cornelius and his household hearing the word of God (Acts 10:44; 11:13-15). The means by which Cornelius was saved, was taught in the word of God. "Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you--unless you believed in vain" (I Corinthians 15:1-2). Satan doesn't want you to have this word because it will save you from his clutches. As Jesus taught in the parable of the sower, "Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved" (Luke 8:12). This is why Paul declares that the gospel contains the power of salvation. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek" (Romans 1:16).
Cornelius was saved just like you and I. Yes, he experienced several unusual events. He was visited by an angel, but few today claim that you need to see an angel to be saved. His preacher saw visions, but few today would claim that a preacher needs to see a vision before he has permission to teach you the gospel. His preacher was commanded to preach the gospel to him. He was baptized in the Holy Spirit, which only occurred once before in the history of the church. So why do people pick out one exceptional event and then claim it as a rule for salvation? It is especially strange when God through Peter said that Cornelius was saved like everyone else. All Christians were baptized. "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:3-4). This is why Peter, the same Peter who commanded the baptism of Cornelius, stated, "Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 3:21).
Cornelius was saved in the same manner. Are you saved like Cornelius?