Through the Bible in One Year

Day 207

Acts 10:23b-48

So far we have seen Cornelius visited by an angel and told to send men to Joppa in order to find Peter, we saw that on day 205.  The next day, day 206, we saw Peter’s vision concerning the taking of the gospel to the Gentiles.  And we finished day 206 with Cornelius’s search party arriving at the home of Simon the tanner, where Peter was staying.  And today we are going to see Peter going with these men to visit Cornelius in his own home.

The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”

While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”—10:23b-29

Given how the meeting was set up by an angel, it is no wonder that Cornelius had gathered his friends and family to hear the message from Peter.  Cornelius attempted to worship Peter possibly because he was overwhelmed by the experience.  Peter rightly rejected this worship and claimed that he himself was just a man.  Peter’s words explain the unusual nature of a Jew going into the house of a Gentile.  The reason for this prohibition is not biblical though it was common in Judaism of the time.  But Peter clearly understood the nature of his vision: he was to call no human being, made in the image of God, unclean.  The gospel is for all people.

Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.—10:30-36

In verses 30-33, Cornelius reviews the angelic visitation of verses 3-8.  And in verses 34-36, Peter prefaces his words to the crowd with a compact confirmation of the gospel.  First, God welcomes the ones who fear him.  This suggests a healthy fear of God is proper for a person to come to Christ.  Second, believers do what is right, suggesting repentance and a new way of life.

You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”—10:37-43

The first part of Peter’s address rehearses the life, death and resurrection of Christ.  As an eyewitness, he affirms the truth of the claims and offers evidence of numerous post-resurrection encounters.  The apostles had been ordered to spread the of what had happened.  Peter leans on the Word of God as the final authority.  Theses things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures.  The capstone is that everyone who believes in Christ will receive forgiveness, implying that belief in Christ is all that is necessary for Gentiles to be saved; they do not have to become Jews first.

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.—10:44-48

Speaking in tongues was an important evidence that Gentiles were saved as Gentiles.  The fact amazed the Jewish hearers.  Peter was instrumental in this event, and his experience became valuable at the Jerusalem council in Acts 15.  In Acts 10:47, his remark about baptism meant, essentially, “it is impossible to deny them baptism.”  For these Gentiles, the prerequisite for baptism had been completed: faith in Christ.  Acts, and the entire New Testament, is consistent that baptism is for believers.  The people asked Peter to stay to teach them more about Jesus.

God’s Word directs and instructs those who believe in and follow Christ to use Godly discernment and make proper judgments about all things that might appear to be from the Holy Spirit.  “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1).  The following Biblical principles give guidance when we are trying to determine where a person who claims or appears to have been baptized in the Holy Spirit has truly had an experience from God.

  1. A genuine baptism in the Holy Spirit will inspire us to love, honor and worship God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ more than before.  It is the Holy Spirit who causes love for God to grow in our hearts.  But any spiritual experience that draws our attention, prayers, worship or affections toward anything other than God and the Lord Jesus is not from God.
  2. A genuine baptism in the Holy Spirit will make us more attentive to our relationship with the heavenly Father, assuring us that he loves and cares for us as his children.  It will also lead to a greater awareness of Christ’s presence in our daily lives.  But any spiritual experience that does not result in a deeper relationship with Christ and a deeper awareness of God’s care and companionship is not from God.
  3. A genuine baptism in the Holy Spirit will cause a greater love for and appreciation of God’s Word.  The Spirit of truth inspired those who wrote God’s Word to write exactly what God wanted to communicate, and he will deepen our love for and devotion to the truth of God’s Word.  But any spiritual experience that does not increase our hunger to read and obey God’s Word is not from God.
  4. A genuine baptism in the Holy Spirit will deepen our love and concern for other followers of Christ.  True Christian companionship and community must be based on unity that comes from the Spirit.  But any spiritual experience that hinders or lessens our love for those who truly aim to follow Jesus as the authority in their lives is not from God.
  5. A genuine baptism in the Holy Spirit must be preceded by true repentance and by faithful obedience to Christ.  The spiritual effects and influence of the baptism in the Spirit will continue as long as we allow God’s Spirit to keep purifying our lives, developing our character and preparing us for God’s purposes.  This includes depending on the Holy Spirit to lead us and to help us overcome the sinful tendencies of our human nature—to “put to death the misdeeds of the body” and to be “led by the Spirit of God” (Romans 8:13-14).  But any person who has not accepted Christ’s forgiveness and been set free from sin cannot experience a true baptism in the Holy Spirit.  Any power that appears to be on that person is from another source and is likely the deceptive activity of Satan.
  6. A genuine baptism in the Holy Spirit will increase our dissatisfaction with any activities that offend God and defy his spiritually pure nature.  It will also turn us from the selfish pursuit of earthly riches and reputation.  But any spiritual experience that allows the acceptance of ungodly beliefs, behaviors and lifestyles that are common in the world is not from God.  This is because the true followers of Christ “have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God” (1 Corinthians 2:12).
  7. A genuine baptism in the Holy Spirit will give us a greater desire and power to spread the message about forgiveness, spiritual salvation and the gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus.  But any spiritual experience that does not result in a greater desire to see others come to know Christ personally is not from God.
  8. A genuine baptism in the Holy Spirit will cause us to be more open and receptive to the Spirit’s work and purposes within the church as a whole and in our individual lives.  This includes the exercise of spiritual gifts, particularly the gift of speaking in tongues, which is presented in Acts as the initial outward sign of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  But any spiritual experience that does not result in more obvious works of the Spirit in our lives is not consistent with the experience of New Testament Christian as described in the book of Acts.
  9. A genuine baptism in the Holy Spirit will cause us to be more conscious of the work, guidance and presence of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.  After being baptized in the Spirit, New Testament followers of Christ were continually conscious of the Spirit’s presence, power and guidance.  But any spiritual experience that does not increase our awareness of the Spirit’s presence and strengthen our desire to follow his leading is not a genuine experience of God’s Spirit.  In addition, anything that does not reinforce our goal to please God, to accomplish his purposes for our lives and to live a such a way that we promote his work in every respect.

And that is where we will pick up tomorrow, as we see Peter called on the carpet for associating with Gentiles and daring to take the gospel to them.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

2 Chronicles 19-20, Romans 10:14-11:12, Psalm 21:1-13 and Proverbs 20:4-6


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