The Spirit and the Gospel

Posted: October 28, 2018 in Acts, Uncategorized

Acts 10:24-48, “The Spirit and the Gospel”

We’ve all been there before: you’re trying to watch TV and someone stands right in front of you blocking your view. The common response: “You make a better door than a window!” It may be a bit passive-aggressive, but it’s effective. Sometimes we can just get in the way.

Sometimes we can get in the way of things that are far more important! Worse than blocking someone’s view of the big game is blocking someone’s view of the gospel. It’s when we get between someone and Jesus. Sometimes this happens when our behavior is hypocritical to that of (what should be) a Christian. Other times it’s when we simply refuse to take the gospel to someone. In our view, that person is past hope, beyond the point of anyone to get saved, so we think, “Why bother?” – we’ve become a stumbling block between that person and Jesus even when we haven’t said a word. In fact, it’s our silence that is the stumbling block.

What we need to remember is that when it comes to the gospel, the Spirit does what He wants to do. He reveals Himself to all kinds of people we might never imagine. We ourselves are living proof! After all, to some people, we were the least likely to get saved! The Holy Spirit gave grace to us – He can certainly do it with others. 

Jesus made this point the night He had a lengthy conversation with Nicodemus the Pharisee: John 3:8, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Everyone must be born of the Spirit in order to see the kingdom of God, but no one can actually see the Spirit. We can witness His effect, but we cannot see Him Himself. Many times, the Spirit is working with unexpected people in unexpected ways.

The apostle Peter learned this first-hand with Cornelius! Although Jesus had made it abundantly clear that His gospel was to be preached to all people and every nationality, this idea had trouble sinking into the consciousness of the early Christians. The first believers (the 12 apostles and other disciples) were all Jewish, and the initial focus of their outreach was to their neighbors: other Jews. That was to be expected…but that wasn’t where it was to end. Cultural prejudices made it difficult for those believers to go beyond the Jewish community to Gentiles, and Peter was no exception. But a refusal to go was a stumbling block to the gospel. How would anyone hear the good news of Jesus if no one preached it to them? Peter (and all of the church) was about to learn a lesson about standing in the way of the Spirit. They made better doors than windows – they needed to get out of the way and let the Spirit work!

Don’t miss the importance of this event. How big was it? Luke virtually repeats it in the very next chapter as Peter explains to the church of Jerusalem what happened in Chapter 10 in Caesarea. And it should be a big deal: the gospel had officially gone to the Gentiles, with the proof of God’s blessing of it through the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the Christians around Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, the world had just gotten drastically bigger. This set the stage for the ministry of Paul, which is soon to come.

Before we look at what comes next, we need to remember what came before. The gospel had been spreading far outside the city walls of Jerusalem. The persecution spearheaded by Saul forced Christians to leave the city, and as they did, they took the good news of Jesus with them. The gospel of Jesus went places Jews normally didn’t go, like Samaria (which was witnessed by Philip, Peter, and John), and even to at least one God-fearing Gentile (the Ethiopian eunuch, who was witnessed to & baptized by Philip). All of this was the work of God, as He prepared the Christians to take the gospel even further. Luke illustrates this in the ministry of Peter, as Peter was visiting some of the congregations outside of Jerusalem, working miracles and teaching doctrine in the name of Jesus. In Chapter 9, Peter was in the coastal city of Joppa waiting upon the Lord, and the Lord certainly had plans for him!

In fact, the Lord had plans for more than just Peter. 35 miles away to the north, an angel was sent to Cornelius the Roman centurion, who was told to send for Peter – and soon to follow, the Lord prepared Peter to go, as Peter received a vision and word from the Holy Spirit. Basically, the Holy Spirit spoke to two very different people, and both were obedient to what the Spirit called them to do.

All of that was done to set the stage for the remainder of Chapter 10. Cornelius was convinced God told him to send for Peter, and Peter was convinced that God told him to go to Cornelius. What comes next? What else: the gospel! Peter had but one mission from the Lord Jesus (the same as ours): to make disciples of all the nations, being a witness unto Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. As Peter was faithful to the gospel mission, he saw the wonderful result: God the Holy Spirit moved & saved.

The move of the Spirit and the gospel go hand-in-hand. When the gospel goes forth, the Spirit is soon to follow. Beware that you don’t stand in the way! We want to be messengers of the gospel, and servants of the Spirit; not obstructions to either one. Listen to the Spirit & be used by Him. Share the gospel, and get out of the way!

Acts 10:24–48

  • The Spirit’s work of preparation (24-33). The Spirit prepares us.

24 And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends.

  1. When Luke writes “the following day,” he refers to a four day total wait for Cornelius. Cornelius had his angelic visitor in Caesarea & immediately sent his servants on a two-day journey to Joppa. They arrived around lunchtime the 2nd day, stayed the night with Peter & Simon the tanner, and started their return journey the following day (Acts 10:23). They would have spent one night on the road, and arrived back in Caesarea four days after they had begun.
  2. Somehow Cornelius received word of Peter’s arrival in Caesarea, and had gathered a group of friends & family. They were all anxious to hear what Peter had to say – what was so important that Cornelius received angelic instruction to send for Peter. They were all waiting with baited-breath to hear what he had to say.

25 As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.”

  1. Remember that Cornelius had a righteous fear of the Lord (Acts 10:2) – he wasn’t a habitual idolater. What happened was probably an overjoyed over-reaction. It wasn’t necessarily uncommon for Roman soldiers to fall at the feet of their king, and Cornelius could have been treating Peter in a similar fashion. Whatever was his motivation, the act was that of worship, and it was misplaced.
    1. BTW – This is the problem with the custom of veneration within the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. Although their official doctrine claims that congregants are not actually worshipping the statues and icons of the saints of the past, their actions are plainly worship. The end result is the same, and there’s no telling how many people within the Catholic or Orthodox faiths cannot discern the difference between veneration and worship.
  2. Peter gave the right response! Cornelius had no need to bow in Peter’s presence. Peter wasn’t the pope, and he certainly wasn’t Christ. Peter was a man, just like everyone else, and he didn’t deserve (nor would he receive) any worship.
    1. We neither worship men nor angels; we worship God alone. Any of us can fall into the trap of unintentional idolatry. Even the apostle John absent-mindedly fell to the feet of angels when he was overwhelmed by his heavenly revelation (Rev 19:10). For us, we might give far too much credence to pastors, to celebrities, or to political figures – absent-mindedly worshipping them, even though we might not realize what we’re doing. We could even do the same thing with our Bibles. We should be grateful for the written word of God, obeying it for what it is – but we should never worship it. At the end of the day, it’s just a book. We worship the God of the book; not the book itself.

27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. 28 Then he said to them, “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. 29 Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?”

  1. It was an unusual situation for a Jew to address a group of Gentiles. It wasn’t necessarily unheard of. Jews did have some business dealings with Gentiles with trade & commerce, and certainly the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem worked with the Roman governors when needed. At the same time, it wasn’t the norm, and according to the Jewish tradition in the Talmud, it left Jews ritually unclean. When Peter said that it was “unlawful,” he wasn’t referring to a specific Scripture that forbade the practice; he simply referred to the common tradition. When news got back to Jerusalem of how Peter entered the house of a Roman, people might frown (and they did! – Acts 11:3), although according to the Bible it wasn’t a sin. 
  2. Peter was willing to put all of that aside. He came to Cornelius “without objection” – at least, once he got past the objections in his vision! Once given the opportunity to obey the leading of the Spirit, Peter obeyed fully and without hesitation. He didn’t necessarily know what was going to be involved, but he knew God had led him to this point. His presence was proof of God’s work in him and even among the Gentiles. God was cleansing people that Peter never considered could be cleansed. How it would happen, he wasn’t sure, but he was willing to watch God work.
    1. How willing are we? I wonder sometimes if we don’t get so set in the ways we do things, following our plans and our expectations, that we unwittingly shut ourselves off from the move of God. Don’t get the wrong idea: we aren’t to look for God to move in wild extra-biblical ways. When people start barking like dogs or “toking” on the Spirit, it is flatly unbiblical and blasphemous. But the Bible does show many ways the Spirit has worked in the past, and sometimes it seems like we’ve convinced ourselves that He’ll never work that way again. We’ve got our expectations for how God is “supposed” to work among His church, all the while forgetting that it is His He can do what He wants! If He wants to speak, He will speak – if He wants to heal, He will heal – and if He wants to move upon our heart to go share the gospel with someone who seems to be the polar opposite of us, then He can & He will do it. The only question is whether we’re willing to listen and to obey Him when He does it.
  3. BTW – The vision Peter received in Joppa involved food, but it wasn’t about food; it was about people. “But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” The picture God used was that of a kosher/non-kosher diet, but the real issue is that Peter (like other Jews of the day) thought in terms of kosher/non-kosher people. Peter understood his need to be saved by Jesus, but he believed that his Jewishness gave him a leg-up on the rest of the world. Again, this wasn’t unique to Peter…this was commonly believed among all the Jews. John the Baptist even had to address it in his ministry: Luke 3:8, “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” What the Jews didn’t realize is that apart from the grace of God, they were all non-kosher, common, & unclean. Their birth heritage did nothing to make them righteous in the sight of God; they were blessed to have a covenant with God & the written word of God, but none of that saved them. The Jews, like the rest of the world, could only be saved by grace through faith.
    1. Who is common or unclean in your eyes? Who is it with whom you would refuse to sit, or refuse to share the gospel? Perhaps it’s racial prejudice or social prejudice or political prejudice – perhaps it’s a situation where you believe someone is just “too far gone.” Beloved, even that person was made in the image of God. Even that person is someone for whom Christ Jesus died. Beware that you do not call any man or woman “common or unclean.” The person whom you view today as unclean might tomorrow be your brother or sister in Christ!

30 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, 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God. 32 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.’

  1. This is basically a summary of 10:1-6. Cornelius’ account would have confirmed everything his servants had spoken to Peter. 
  2. BTW – For clarity, Cornelius was not fasting for four days; he simply said that he was fasting four days ago, and that Peter arrived at Cornelius’ home about the same time Cornelius had been praying along with his fast. Apparently, Peter and the others showed up around 3pm, just when the angel had appeared to Cornelius days earlier.

33 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.”

  1. Note: Cornelius didn’t have a clue what Peter was going to say. The angel told him to send for Peter, but the angel never said why Peter was required. Cornelius had been obedient, but no doubt he was extremely curious as to Peter’s message. Four days had gone by, and he’s ready to hear what Peter had to say. 
  2. If any preacher of the gospel had ever received a “softball” opportunity, certainly Peter did with Cornelius! Not everyone is going to be as anxious as Cornelius to hear the gospel, but there will be some people who want to hear. Sometimes we psyche ourselves out, convincing ourselves that no one wants to hear, and that anytime we share Jesus we’re going to be rejected. Not so! The message of Jesus is good news, and there will be some who want to hear, and some who receive. How would it change your motivation to share the gospel if you expected people to respond well, rather than poorly? We’ll never talk someone into salvation, but we can often talk ourselves out of sharing the message of salvation. Change your expectations! We don’t know what God is doing in someone’s heart, but the time you share Jesus might be exactly the time they are prepared to hear of Him.

By this point, Peter probably knew exactly for what reason he had been sent! Can you imagine what went through his mind as he realized how God had prepared him for that moment? How exciting it must have been for him! To know you are being used as an instrument of the Lord God is wonderful, and Peter recognized it in the moment…and he took advantage of it for all he could!

  • Peter preaches the gospel (34-43). Disciples testify of Jesus.

34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.

  1. When Peter said that “God shows no partiality,” he was saying that God has no favorites. Yes, the Jews were the chosen people being the physical descendants of Abraham, but the promises made by God to Abraham were far bigger than Abraham’s children. God’s promise to Abraham was an extension of God’s promises to Adam, and every person of every nation is a child of Adam! God certainly loves His children, but His desire is that all would be His children! His desire is that all would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4).
  2. Among the world, who is it that is accepted by God? “Whoever fears Him and works righteousness.” Be careful not to take this out of context. By no means does Peter say that people can do righteous works and earn their way into heaven. The whole context of these remarks is Peter’s preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is a salvation by grace; not by works. Even within Peter’s single statement, the works of righteousness follows the fear of God, and the proper fear & worship of God can only come through the knowledge of Christ Jesus. To say that someone accepted by God is someone who fears God and works righteousness is to say that they have been born-again by faith in Jesus Christ and their lives (actions) have been transformed as a result. Peter doesn’t describe an easy-believism cheap claim of Christianity; he describes someone with true faith – a faith in Jesus that has altered every other aspect of a person’s life.
  3. How does that all come? Through the gospel, which Peter goes on to proclaim.

36 The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all—

  1. The word” = the gospel, the good news of Jesus. It is the message of Christ and His salvation, which Peter (and all Christians everywhere) are to proclaim through “” Some like to talk about silent-evangelism, one in which people see Jesus in our lives, but without the pressure of speaking words. As Francis of Assisi is often (wrongly) reported to have said, “Preach the gospel – use words, if necessary.” Words are necessary! Should others see Christ in our actions? Absolutely! But actions alone are not enough to share the truth of Jesus and His gospel. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom 10:17). We preach the word! We cannot do otherwise!
  2. Jesus gives “peace.” We need peace with God, and Jesus grants it. He Himself is our peace, because He became the sin offering of God on our behalf. In our sin, we were enemies of God, but Jesus gave us peace. 
  3. Jesus is “Lord.” Not only is Jesus the sacrifice, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world; He is the Almighty King. He is God in the flesh, the Lord of all creation. Don’t miss that part. Of whom is Jesus the Lord? “Of all.” Peter gets it. Jesus is the anointed Messiah of God, and Lord not only of Israel, but of all the world. The King of the Jews is the King of all peoples and nations. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Lord of all. This previews what Peter was currently witnessing: the salvation of Gentiles right along with the Jews. Peter may not have known exactly how the Spirit would soon fall, but he understood what the Spirit was doing the moment: showing Jesus to all who would receive Him by faith.
  4. Interestingly, what follows could be viewed as a summary of the book of Mark. Tradition holds that John Mark became a trusted disciple and ministry partner of Peter (much like Timothy’s relationship with Paul), and the narrative in the gospel of Mark is really a compilation of the preaching and memories of Peter. What Peter preached to Cornelius & his friends was perhaps a preview of what Peter would preach everywhere else he went.

37 that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

  1. Jesus lived among men. For three years, beginning with His baptism by John, Jesus ministered in Judea & Galilee. He taught about the kingdom of God, proving His authority through the miracles He worked. No disease was too difficult for Him to cure, and no demon was too powerful for Him to cast out. The earthly ministry of Jesus may have been short, but more was compressed within those three years than for the entire lifetimes of evangelists to follow.
  2. What did the all of the miracles demonstrate? That Jesus was “anointed” with the Holy Spirit. As with the Hebrew language, the Greek word for “anointed” is related to the word for “Christ.” “Christ” (or “Messiah”) means “Anointed one.” Although the Romans to whom Peter preached may not have been actively expecting the Promised Anointed one of God (as were the Jews), Jesus’ identity as the Christ had to be proclaimed. Jesus is the one chosen by God. Jesus was chosen to bear the sin of the world – Jesus was chosen to rise from the dead – Jesus was chosen to intercede for mankind – Jesus is chosen to be King. Coming to faith in Jesus means believing Jesus is specifically chosen (anointed) by God to be Savior of the world (and thus, Savior for you).

39 And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. 40 Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.

  1. Jesus was crucified. The Chosen/Anointed one of God was killed by men, hung upon a cross of wood, having been sentenced to death as a blasphemer and traitor. Though He died the death of a criminal, there was none more innocent than Jesus. When Jesus was nailed to that cross, He was totally without sin. But as He hung there, He became sin (our sin offering – 2 Cor 5:21), substituting Himself in our place. Jesus’ death satisfied the wrath of God on our behalf, for His death was the death we deserved.
  2. Jesus was “raised.” All men die, but no man gets up from the grave three days later…except Jesus. Jesus truly died upon that cross, with His death verified by none other than a Roman centurion (just like Cornelius). But His death was not final. For three days, Jesus lay in the grave without His heart beating, but on the third day blood once again pumped through His veins and Jesus rose to life! It is the ultimate proof that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God!
  3. Jesus was witnessed. Peter and the other apostles were witnesses of Jesus – not only of His three years of earthly ministry, but also of His physical resurrection. They could testify to the fact that Jesus was no apparition or vain imagination. They “ate and drank with Him” after the resurrection. Jesus was (and is!) alive. This was the news that Peter was sent to proclaim to Cornelius and the others.

42 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. 43 To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”

  1. Jesus is the “Judge.” Not only was Jesus anointed as Christ to be the sacrifice and Savior of the world, it also shows His ordination as the Judge of all humanity. There will come a day when every single man and woman will stand before Almighty God and give an account. In that day, we will see Jesus, and we will see Him either as our Savior and Advocate, or as the Judge who pronounces our eternal sentence. People may try to deny the judgment, but they cannot avoid it. All we can do is be ready! How? …
  2. Jesus gives forgiveness, the “remission of sins.” Our sin requires the judgment and condemnation of God, and there is not a thing we can do to make it right. We need to be ready for the judgment of God, but how can we? We cannot go back in time & undo all of the sins we committed, nor can we somehow go back into the womb and be born with a righteous nature. If we look to ourselves, we are hopeless in the day of judgment…but we don’t look to ourselves; we look to Christ! Jesus removes our sins & transgressions from us, remitting our sin, rolling it back, granting us total forgiveness. There is not a thing we have done that is beyond His ability to forgive, nor is there a person “too sinful” to receive His forgiveness. Peter says it clearly: “whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” “Whoever” means “whoever!” 
  3. This is the good news of God – this is the gospel! This is the testimony of the prophets & all of the Scriptures, and this is the message that the apostles were commanded to preach. This is the message that we are commanded to preach! It is a message of Jesus, of His person & His work.
    1. The gospel is not a message of how to have a better life – it’s not about how to solve all of our problems. The gospel is the message of Jesus! Tell of Him, speak of Him, show Him to the people whom you meet. We don’t need to try to “sweeten the deal,” because Jesus is sweet enough! Tell people of Jesus, and then get out of the way.
    2. Before we go any further, you need to ask yourself if you believe – ask yourself if you have received Jesus as your Lord. Some people claim to be Christian, when what they really did was respond to an invitation of having a better life. Others never wanted Jesus because they didn’t want to have anything to do with the people who claimed that they did know Christ. Today, see Jesus for who He is! He is the chosen Son of God, anointed to be your sin sacrifice & your salvation from judgment. He offers your forgiveness; believe on Him today!
  • The Spirit falls on the Romans (44-48). The Spirit follows the gospel.

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. 45 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. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. …

  1. Notice the concurrent action in verse 44: the Spirit fell “whilePeter was still speaking.” Peter was still preaching the gospel as the Holy Spirit fell upon the Romans with power. Peter had preached the main message of the gospel, but he hadn’t yet gotten to the invitation. He didn’t even get a chance to give an altar call! 😊 The Holy Spirit desired to use Peter in the preaching of the gospel, but the Holy Spirit wasn’t dependent on Peter’s preaching to save anyone. He didn’t need Peter to convince anyone of the need to be saved, to try to talk anyone into making a decision for Christ. The Holy Spirit didn’t need Peter to gin up some kind of emotional response to the gospel. The Spirit certainly didn’t need a choir, special lighting, or anything else of human making. He is fully capable of saving people on His own…and He does! When people respond to the gospel, it’s not because of the skill of the human preacher. It’s not because a Christian debated him/her into the truth, or because the mood was “just right” in the sanctuary. When people respond to the gospel, it’s because they respond to the work of the Holy Spirit in conjunction to the truth of Jesus. He does the work; not us. We are tools He uses in His work, but the work is His alone. John 16:8–11, “(8) And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: (9) of sin, because they do not believe in Me; (10) of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; (11) of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” The Spirit is the one who convicts; not us! He is the one who makes people aware of their need to be saved, and He is the one who saves them through the act of the new birth (Jn 3:6); not us. We don’t save anyone; God the Holy Spirit does.
    1. This ought to take a lot of the pressure off us! We take far too much responsibility to ourselves when we believe we’re the ones who do the work of convincing, convicting, and converting. We can’t do any of those things. All we can do is present the truth of Jesus, and then get out of the way so that people can see Jesus for themselves. The Holy Spirit is who does the rest. You aren’t a failure if you’ve present the gospel and someone didn’t receive Jesus; that alone is proof of your faithfulness to the Great Commission!
    2. It also ought to provide a lot of caution from us inserting too much of human methods in evangelism. It’s not about manipulating the “atmosphere” in a group, or having the right “pitch” with an individual. Salvation is the gift of God; not a sale to be closed.
  2. That the Spirit fell upon the Gentiles was obvious. His work left zero doubt, as the evidence among the Romans was the same that it had been among the Jews at Pentecost: the gift of tongues. “Those of the circumcision” (i.e. the Christian Jews who had come with Peter) were “astonished” (amazed, astounded, put out of their minds) that God would grant Gentiles the same gift as He granted the Jews, but that was exactly what He did. In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free (Gal 3:28). They were all treated exactly the same by God, having heard the same gospel, partaking of the same grace, and receiving of the same gifts. Their salvation simply couldn’t be denied, because what happened with the Gentiles was exactly what had happened with the Jews. (This proof is especially important with Peter, as this was what caused him to exercise his apostolic authority and command them to be baptized.)
    1. Question #1: Does the Spirit always provide proof of His work? Yes! When a man or woman places his/her faith in Christ & is born of the Spirit, he/she cannot help but be transformed. After all, that is exactly what has happened! The Holy Spirit has given life to our spirit – we who were dead in our transgressions are now spiritually alive, and will remain alive for all eternity. We who were bound to sin as slaves are now set free to live as the children of God. We who once were not a people are now God’s people, even made into God’s own temple – indwelt by God the Holy Spirit. How could there not be proof? The evidence is seen in our faith & in our fruit. Not only does our doctrine change concerning Jesus, but so do our actions & attitudes. Paul writes of the fruit of the Spirit being “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,” (Gal 5:22-23). This is all evidence (proof) of the Spirit’s work within us as the children of God. Even human families often have visible evidence that they belong to one another: perhaps the same nose or similar set of eyes, or even some family phrases passed down from the parents. So too with the children of God – we carry the traits of our Heavenly Father, bearing His image through the work of the Holy Spirit within us. There is outward proof as we are conformed into the image of Christ (Rom 8:29).
    2. Question #2: Does the Spirit always provide the same proof (i.e. the gift of tongues)? Contrary to the teaching of certain groups and denominations, the primary evidence of the Holy Spirit is not the gift of tongues. In fact, Scripture is clear that not every born-again believer receives the gift of tongues. All believers receive at least some gift, but not all receive the same gifts. God the Holy Spirit is the one to distribute the gifts, and He does so as He wills (1 Cor 12:7-11). In this particular case, there was a specific reason for the Gentile Christians to receive the same gift as the Jewish Christians: it was proof they were saved in the same way by the same gospel. It wasn’t precedent that all Christians everywhere for all time only have proof of salvation & the baptism of the Spirit through the gift of tongues. For all the people who get saved in the book of Acts, there are only three instances where tongues are listed as evidence (Acts 2, 10, 19). If it was mandatory evidence, we would expect to see it far more often.
  3. Be careful not to miss the forest for the trees. Something amazing had just taken place: the gospel had been preached among the Gentiles (not just a single individual in an isolated circumstance like the Ethiopian eunuch, but a whole group), and people got radically saved! They believed, and the Holy Spirit fell upon them in such a way that the evidence was immediate and visible (and audible!). All of the Jewish Christians who witnessed it were amazed & likely had their jaws hanging open. What now? This was uncharted territory. What should they do? That’s when Peter spoke up…

… Then Peter answered, 47 “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.

  1. Water baptism was only logical at this point! Once a person is saved, the person is to be baptized. Cornelius & the others didn’t need to go through circumcision, training in the synagogue, or any other conversion ritual in order become Jewish before being received as Christian. Their salvation had been accomplished being independent of the Jewish faith, so how could water baptism be forbidden? This was simply the next logical step. Cornelius didn’t need to enter a class before he got saved; the Spirit saved him, and now his salvation was to be made public in baptism. There would be plenty of time for instruction after baptism, but this was a time to celebrate what the Spirit had already done.
  2. Don’t miss this: Cornelius was saved prior to water baptism. We are baptized into the Spirit long before we are baptized into water. The act of baptism does not save anyone, nor is anyone unsaved until they receive their baptism. The idea that baptism is necessary for a person’s full salvation is referred to as “baptismal regeneration,” and is commonly taught by some groups & denominations. Scripture clearly declares it to be false. The thief hanging next to Jesus on the cross had no opportunity to be baptized prior to his death, yet Jesus told him, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise,” (Lk 23:43). And of course, Cornelius and the others with him were clearly saved before any of them were taken to water to be baptized. Baptism is important in a person’s faith, always meant to accompany a person’s salvation. When Jesus gave the Great Commission, He commanded us to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Mt 28:19). Baptism goes with discipling; it is the proclamation that someone is a disciple. But…baptism never saves. To teach otherwise is to teach a works-based salvation; not a grace-based one.
  3. Question: What would have happened if water had been forbidden? A stumbling block would have been put in the way of the gospel. Human men would have usurped the place of God, stamping a “veto” on the work of the Spirit. It would have been as if they said, “No, the Spirit isn’t allowed to work in this way. We’ll be the judge of when He saves someone or not.” How dangerous it would have been…how arrogant! Yet isn’t that the case for many today? Some people are considered off-limits to the gospel, or they’re told they have to “get their life right” before Jesus will save them. “He’s too tattooed… She’s gay… They’re Muslim… All of that needs to change before they come to Jesus.” How else are they supposed to come to Jesus?! In essence, it’s telling people that they need to save themselves before they get saved. That’s not the gospel! That’s the harshest form of works-based religion; it has nothing to do with the good news of Jesus & the gospel of His grace. We dare not put stumbling blocks in the way of Jesus, nor assume we can veto the work of the Spirit. Our job isn’t to tell God whom He can save; our job is simply to be the messengers of the salvation He freely offers through Christ.

Conclusion:

Be the messenger! Take people to Jesus, and then get out of the way (like a door; not a window with the shade pulled down). We want to clearly proclaim Jesus, and then stand back at watch the work of the Spirit. When we do, we can be sure of seeing great things!

That’s what happened with Peter. He was obedient to go to Caesarea to see Cornelius, just as Cornelius had been obedient to send for Peter from Joppa. Once there, Peter simply preached Jesus. Peter gave the gospel as he always did, to people who never had the opportunity to hear it. And once he did, the Spirit worked in a mighty way! And why wouldn’t He? The move of the Spirit and the gospel go hand-in-hand. When the gospel goes forth, the Spirit is soon to follow.

Christian: Our job is to send forth the gospel; it is the Spirit’s job to save. We do one, and we trust Him to do the other. We cannot save anyone apart from Him, nor do we dictate to Him whom to save. All we do is preach Jesus…so preach Him! Preach Him boldly & clearly, and trust God to work in His way exactly as He said He would.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s