The Book of Acts (Part 20)

The Book of Acts (Chapter 10:1-34-48) (Part 20)

On the Day of Pentecost a 120 born again believers in the Lord Jesus were baptized with the Holy Spirit and with power.  All of them spoke in languages they did not know and those who were listening were astounded at what they saw and heard that day as the power of the Holy Spirit rested on His 120 disciples. Of course the apostles were also in that company and all of them were praising and magnifying the Lord Jesus Christ. The miracle was not so much in the speaking but in the hearing and understanding of the languages being spoken. The Holy Spirit was drawing men and women to the Lord Jesus Christ. Some thought the 120 were drunk and out of their minds but after Peter had preached to them in a common language they all understood 3,000 were saved in a single day. The manifestation of languages undoubtedly emboldened those who were speaking yet the languages themselves were the catalyst to arrest the attention of the hearers but what saved them was Peter’s gospel sermon in a commonly spoken language empowered with the Holy Spirit.

Not just the Jews

These 120 believers on the Day of Pentecost were all Jewish and so were their hearers. Peter along with the other apostles has seen the Lord Jesus empowering, healing and delivering people from demons and sickness and even raising the dead. Even the Samaritans had been born again and baptized with the Holy Spirit. However, Peter was yet to understand fully that the Lord Jesus wanted to save and baptize Gentiles with the same power that the 120 had received on the Day of Pentecost.

No other name under heaven

About 12 years later after the Day of Pentecost Peter had been staying at Joppa and through a vision the Lord Jesus showed him that he had to go with some men to a Roman Centurion, a Gentile who was a convert to Judaism and knew about the Lord Jesus but had not encountered Him personally in his life. Through the vision given to Peter the Lord Jesus had showed him that God does not show partiality and would now confirm it to him and to the other Jewish believers accompanying him. Cornelius had been a devout believer in the God of Israel and had a faith that was accompanied by works and was commended by God for his piety and charity. However, Cornelius needed to be saved by the Lord Jesus. He needed to know that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by whom we must be saved.” Cornelius was about to have his limited knowledge and confidence in God amply rewarded. Peter was to see that the same baptism with the Holy Spirit would fall upon these Gentiles as had fallen on the Jewish believers on the Day of Pentecost. Cornelius told Peter to speak all he had been commanded by the LORD to speak. Peter began to preach.

(Vs.34-35)  “Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35 but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.”

Peter now realised that God wanted to save Gentiles and bring them into the New Covenant that God had made with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah through the blood of Christ. He now knew that God was not into partiality and that while God was no respecter of persons He was a respecter of faith whether that person was ethnically Jewish or Gentile. (Hebrews 11:6) (Romans 2:11) This was a big lesson for Peter to learn but because he was open to the Holy Spirit he was able to accept what came from the Spirit regarding the Gentiles.

A racial prejudice will hinder the work of evangelism and grieve the Holy Spirit. According to James showing partiality or favouritism is sin. (James 2:9) As Samuel the prophet said; “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Sometimes the Lord Jesus will lead us to someone that we would not normally speak to but when we obey the Holy Spirit we will find that He speaks through us to that person and they are blessed.

The blessed Holy Spirit knows what needs to be said and done and knows how it should be said and done and will work through us as a believer if we are fully yielded to Him. The secret to walking with God is to pray continuously in the Holy Spirit.  We need to work as we pray and pray as we work. As someone said; “We can pray in the context of life or live in the context of prayer!” As we pray in the Holy Spirit He will lead us and empower us moment by moment as we walk in step with Him. Peter understood this as he spoke to these Gentiles.

(Vs.36-37) “The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)— you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. “

There are people today who know about the Lord Jesus at least as a historical character who lived in the first century. Some would even know that He was a preacher and did supposed miracles of one sort or another but that would be the level of knowledge they would have of Him. The Lord Jesus would not even be relevant to them. Then there are others who know about the Lord Jesus from what they were taught at Sunday school. Still others have been going to Church for most of their lives and are familiar with sermons about Him but have never been born again much less baptised with the Holy Spirit.

Sadly there are also multitudes of born again believers sitting in church week by week, including many ministers, who have the Holy Spirit living in them but have never been baptised with the Holy Spirit. Cornelius was aware of what had been happening in Judea and possibly had heard of John the Baptist but that was all he knew. The Holy Spirit used the knowledge that Cornelius and those with him had about Jesus and filled in the details they needed to hear. Peter, being led by the Holy Spirit, already discerned that Cornelius had a limited knowledge about Jesus. He began where Cornelius was in his understanding. Sometimes before we witness to someone about the Lord Jesus we need to see what their understanding of Him is and with the help of the Holy Spirit open their minds to the scriptures concerning who the Lord Jesus really is and what He has done for them. Peter began with the knowledge they had about the Lord Jesus.

(Vs.38)  “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”

The first thing Peter did was to reinforce the knowledge they did have about the Lord Jesus. Peter pointed out that the Lord Jesus Himself was baptised with the Holy Spirit and with power. The Lord Jesus being God manifest in flesh and without sin was always indwelt by the Holy Spirit from His conception in the womb of Mary but needed to be baptised with the Holy Spirit for His Ministry among men. We need to always keep in mind that the Lord Jesus could have done His healing, deliverance and deeds of power by virtue of being God in the flesh but did not use His Divine Power at all but relied totally upon the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.

In the temptation in the wilderness Satan tried to get the Lord Jesus to exercise His power by virtue of His deity but the Lord Jesus would not be sold on Satan’s bill of goods. What did the Lord Jesus do after He was baptised with the Holy Spirit at His Baptism by John? He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. This same Baptism with the Holy Spirit that Jesus received is available for His followers.

Peter had declared this during his sermon on the Day of Pentecost. “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear” (Acts 2:33). This confirmed John the Baptist’s testimony. “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16b).

According to what Peter also said on the Day of Pentecost the new birth and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was available for whoever called on the name of the Lord to be saved with no exceptions or ethnic preferences. (Acts 2:39)

(Vs.39-41)  “We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.”

There is nothing like a first- hand testimony about a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus to arrest the attention of the unsaved, especially testifying to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Talking about Jesus as a historical character and even about Him and what He said may move some but when a believer testifies to the fact the Lord Jesus is alive and well the devil does a knee-jerk reaction quick smart. Testifying about the resurrection undermines Satan’s deception and lies concerning Him. Testifying to the resurrection exposes Satan’s failure and decimates his kingdom.

Some will talk about Jesus and debate His teaching from the Bible but when they are confronted with His resurrection they will often react with some resistance. The implication for them is that if Jesus is alive then they are accountable to do something about Him and this is where the rubber hits the road for many unsaved. Man and women will have Jesus the philosopher, the good man, a great prophet or a great force for good in the world. Some will even acknowledge that He died on the cross but they will not have a resurrected Jesus.

Peter and the apostles and others including 500 believers all together at one time had seen Jesus after He had risen from the dead. For the apostles they ate and drank with Him and had physically touched Him and seen the nail marks in His wrists and the gaping spear wound in His side. Witnessing to the resurrection is only possible to those who have been born again and have encountered Jesus personally. The Baptism with the Holy Spirit is the power given by the Holy Spirit to witness and to testify to the risen Lord Jesus. In fact the Lord Jesus said this would be so. “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37-39). In other words the Lord Jesus specifically said that the Holy Spirit would flow out of believers in testimony to Him after He had been glorified. This overflow of the Spirit would be to witness to His death and resurrection from the dead.

There is a difference between the Spirit indwelling and the Spirit outpoured. After his resurrection and before He ascended back to His Father He personally breathed the Holy Spirit into His apostles (John 20:22). This is the clearest evidence that they were born again by the Spirit. However, He commanded then not to depart from Jerusalem until they had been baptised with the Holy Spirit and with power as He had been. He told them “…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Peter understood this command from the Lord Jesus. And so he continued…

(Vs. 42-43)  “And He (Jesus) ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”

When witnessing for the Lord Jesus to the unsaved the Holy Spirit does not waste words. Paul summed up the gospel message when he wrote; “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

Like Peter, Paul also preached on the life, the atoning death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. This was at the heart of their preaching and testimony for the Lord Jesus especially to the unsaved. It also included the fact that Jesus was not only the Lord and Saviour but also the judge and soon coming king. All of the apostles preached this Gospel of the Kingdom which included Jesus’ Second Coming. The moment Peter mentioned the forgiveness of sins the revelation of the Son of God came suddenly and unmistakably to Cornelius and to those gathered there with him. The Holy Spirt fell on them like a thunderbolt out of heaven!

(Vs.44)  “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message.”

Notice that we are told that “the Holy Spirit fell on them.” There are several terms used in the New Testament for the baptism with the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist referred to the baptism with the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus spoke of the same baptism as “being endued with power from on high” and as “the Promise of the Father.” On the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the 120 as John and Jesus has said, we read where “they were all filled with the Spirit.” Later on when Peter was relating this outpouring on the Gentiles to the apostles at Jerusalem he spoke of it as “receiving the Holy Spirit.” It is also called “the gift of the Holy Spirit.” These terms all refer to the one and the same baptism with the Holy Spirit. It is a baptism of power! Notice that the power of the Holy Spirit fell on them during the preaching of God’s Word. Indeed scripture says that “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).

(Vs.45)  “All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.”

To the Jewish way of thinking physical circumcision was the outward sign of being incorporated in the believing community.  Of course Peter and the other Jewish believers present understood the circumcision of the heart by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 2:28-29) Now the same new birth and baptism with the Holy Spirit was given to the Gentiles who were not physically circumcised. Once again this experience was referred to as; “the Holy Spirit fell on them” and also as “the gift of the Spirit.” For Cornelius and those gentiles with him, who also believed, were born again and baptised with the Holy Spirit all at once. This should be the normal experience for everyone who believes.

As Peter said to the unsaved on the Day of Pentecost; “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise (The promise of the Father) is for you (the Jews present) and your children (their children) and for all who are far off (Gentiles), as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself (every believer in every age)” (Acts 2:38-39).

Having said this we also see in the book of Acts that for some they will be born again and baptised and at some point later be baptised with the Holy Spirit as in the case of the Samaritans. The Ephesian disciples that Paul encountered were saved men but had never heard whether the Holy Spirit had been poured out or given and after Paul had spoken to them he laid hands on them and they received the power of the Holy Spirit.

There are many today who have a clear testimony to being saved and born again but at some point later in their Christian experience they received the Baptism or filling with the Holy Spirit as a definite spiritual experience, just as definite as when they were born again by the same Spirit. Just to name some well-known preachers such as R.A.Torrey, D.L.Moody, William Booth, Charles Finney, and many others who were all saved at a point in time and at some time later were baptised with the Holy Spirit for their ministry and service for the Lord Jesus. In the case of Cornelius and the other gentiles the Jewish believers were amazed. Why were they amazed? We are told…

(Vs.46-48)  “For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.”

When a man or woman or a group of believers are baptised with the Holy Spirit they will have a spontaneous response to God. As their tongue is loosed by the power of the Holy Spirit they will praise and magnify God in the language given to them by the Holy Spirit supernaturally. They will not necessarily understand what they are saying but when it is spoken aloud in the presence of others it will be understood by those listening. Undoubtedly Cornelius and the other gentiles were speaking praises to God in other languages. The text tells us this and that it was the same manifestation of tongues that were seen on the Day of Pentecost. This is why the Jewish believers were amazed! They heard them exulting God. Whether they understood what was being said or not we are not told but they certainly understood what was happening. Cornelius and the other gentiles were speaking in tongues that they had not learned or even knew. They were speaking in the languages of the Holy Spirit.

When we go to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he deals with this manifestation of the Spirit and clearly says that those who are speaking in tongues do not necessarily know what they are saying. Of course when tongues are manifest in public it must be interpreted but when speaking privately in the Spirit it is done to God and the person doing it is edified even though they do not necessarily understand what they are saying. If they are yielded to the Holy Spirit and this includes their tongue then whether the language they speak is understood or not they will be built up spiritually. This is what the New Testament calls praying continuously in the Holy Spirit.

As Jude wrote; “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 1:20). Sometimes He will pray through us and for us and in place of us when words fail us. Sometimes it will be a groaning in our spirits especially in a time of trial, severe temptation or testing. The end result will be that we will be built up in our most holy faith.

When we look at the Day of Pentecost we see a reversal of the confusion of tongues that scattered people at the Tower of Babel. On the Day of Pentecost there was a unity established when through speaking of tongues believers were united together. The Baptism with the Holy Spirit is a common spiritual experience that enables those who have received it to have deep fellowship with others who have likewise been baptized with the Holy Spirit.

The Baptism with the Holy Spirit brings a believer into a deeper dimension in the realm of the Spirit which those whom have not received it do not fully understand or experience even though they are saved and indwelt by the Spirit. The speaking in a tongue unifies those baptised with the Holy Spirit. This was precisely what happened on the Day of Pentecost and in the case of Cornelius. Jewish and gentile believers were united in the Spirit and the outward sign of this was that they spoke in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance and magnified God!

Cornelius and the other gentiles were baptised by immersion after they had been born again and baptised with the Holy Spirit. This was also the experience of the Apostle Paul. He was filled with the Spirit and afterwards baptised by immersion. Sometimes the order will be like this. Some will be born again, baptised with the Holy Spirit and then baptised in water. Others will be born again, baptised in water and at some time later be baptised or filled with the Holy Spirit. The Biblical pattern is repent, believe, be baptised and receive the gift of the Spirit. It should happen in this order but is not always the case in the New Testament and in the testimony of unnumbered thousands in Church history who have had their own personal Pentecost!

In closing, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is referred to in this way to distinguish it from other forms of baptism such as the baptism of John. According to the Lord Jesus He clearly said; “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18b-20).

Go to Part 21