PLAN OF SALVATION – 5 (Acts 10-11)
We left off in Lesson 4 with Acts 9:19 at the completion of the conversion of Paul. Luke follows
his actions at this point, although a comparison with the first chapter of Galatians indicates that there are some time lapses
here. The scene changes quite abruptly in Acts 9:36 to interrupt the history of Paul and pick up once again with Peter.
A miracle is described there, perhaps to get us back to realizing that the Holy Spirit was still quite (overtly) active with
all of the apostles. Also, it will be Peter that will preach to the first gentiles, and his authority in this regard
should not be questioned. We will see that it was questioned by those who were
inclined to require gentiles to become proselyte Jews before their baptism.
Acts 10 and 11 go together as a unit. These two chapters
are very significant from the point of view of an issue that still haunts mankind today: racism. The Jews had developed
a very overt form of racism (see 10:28), which went beyond the warnings of the Old Testament.
In fact, the Old Testament prophesies the salvation of the gentiles in many places.
The key words to this effect are “all nations.” God’s
promise to Abraham was that through his seed all nations would be blessed, and the great commission sent Christians to all
nations. However, reversing the old mindset of even those Jews who were converted
would prove to be quite difficult. Even Peter had a hard time with it, as we see later on in Galatians 2.
Back to the story in Acts 10. The first thing we see is
the emphasis on the righteousness of Cornelius and the fact that he was a gentile. He was “devout ..., feared
God, gave much alms, ... and prayed to God always.” In a very real sense, he was a believer in God, but had not
yet been exposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Many today would conclude
that such a man would already be saved. But remember, it is not our own works
that save us – it is the blood of Christ.
Cornelius saw a vision and the events were quite similar to what happened to Paul – the vision
did not convert him, it just told him what to do in order to learn the truth. The fact that every example conversion
has the truth being taught through the instrumentality of other men is no accident. This may have been preparing for
the time when the truth would be fully revealed and the direct intervention of God/Jesus through miracles, or the outpouring
of the Holy Spirit, would no longer be needed.
The story goes on and about simultaneously Peter has a vision as well. It is given in Acts 10:9-16. Its obscure nature shows us that God expected Peter to use his head and be able to
figure it out. God just did not come right out and force him to see His intent. However, Peter apparently "got
it," since we see him going with the men that Cornelius sent.
Note that Peter took others from Joppa with him (10:23); this is significant.
There are some preliminaries (Acts 10:24-33) which indicates that Peter either does not know or wants
Cornelius to commit to just what they are getting together for. This could be a building of trust which was necessary
for strangers – especially between a military man and one who had been persecuted.
The teaching starts in Acts 10:34, where is appears that Peter had put everything together and come to
the right conclusion; Acts 10:34-35 “And Peter opened his mouth and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter
of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to him.” There is not a more definitive statement against racism anywhere.
Aside from this, Peter begins to get into the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, before he could
really get started (see Acts 11:15), the Holy Spirit fell on the hearers.
Acts 10:44-48: “While Peter yet spoke these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard
the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the
gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.
Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Spirit
as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then
prayed they him to tarry certain days.
Note the emphasis on who were astonished – those of “the circumcision which believed.” These were Jewish Christians who generally felt that circumcision (i.e., conversion
to Judaism) was necessary prior to baptism.
The context indicates that this outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which later is identified as a baptism
of the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:15-17), was as much for the benefit of these Jewish believers as it was for the gentiles.
While they “heard them (i.e., the gentiles) speak with tongues, and magnify God,” there is no evidence that this
was revealing anything that Peter did not already know. It was confirming to the Jewish hearers the reality of the acceptability
of the gentiles just as they were.
In verse 47, there is an implication that Christian Jews were "forbidding water" from gentiles, perhaps
until after they became proselyte Jews (see Acts 15:1-2). This event clearly indicated that such a prohibition was totally
inappropriate. Note that Peter commanded them to be baptized. This was not a command of Peter, it was a command of Christ, as we saw in Lesson 1. We might speculate
on what would have been their fate had they refused to obey this command, perhaps claiming that since they had clearly received
a baptism in the Holy Spirit, they really did not need water baptism.
Acts 11 is a rerun of the story for the benefit of “they that were of the circumcision” in
That is, down through verse 18. Note verses 11:15-20, which explain some of the
details that occurred.
Acts 11:15-20 “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, as on us at the
beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, ‘John
indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ Forasmuch then as God gave them the
like gift as [he did] unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the
Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
It seems clear from Acts 1:5 and 8 that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 was a baptism of
the Holy Spirit. This was “on us [the apostles] at the beginning.” However, there is no other recording
of any other such outpouring. Had this been a common thing, Peter would not have been able to reference Pentecost in
this way. Thus, this appears to be only the second time that an event is referred to as a “baptism with the Holy Spirit.”
The first came with the first conversion of Jews, this one with the first conversion of gentiles. Those who teach that all references to baptism in the New Testament are referring to Holy Spirit baptism
either do not know the truth or are being intentionally misleading. Holy Spirit
baptism was a promise to a limited number of people; water baptism is a command to all those who want to become part of the
body of Christ (Romans 6:3).
Even this second outpouring was not equivalent to the first. We do not see the "clothen tongues
like as of fire" nor the "sound like a mighty rushing wind." These gentiles did
not become apostles. We never see where they could lay hands on others and impart gifts of the Holy Spirit, while the
apostles had this capability (Acts 8:17-19). Also, the emphasis throughout the book of Acts is that the word came “through
the apostles.” While others had miraculous gifts, none had the measure
that the apostles did.
In Lesson 6 we will take up the next detailed cases of conversion, which are described
in Acts 16. Please e-mail us if you have any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org