Here we see the culmination of all the preparation work The Lord had been doing with both the Jews and the Gentiles to bring about the great reconciliation work of the new covenant. As Peter was preaching we see the final changes take place that forever levels the playing field between the Jews and the Gentiles.
The work of the reconciliation is completed once the Gentiles receive the same gifts and promises that he Jews received during and following Jesus’ work on earth. It was stated in prophecy that the Gentiles would be brought into the fold of the people of God through the blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And now it was about to come to fruition as they received Gods gifts.
But we also see in these words some conditions that were laid down. We see Peter establish the importance of the order and process of things in the new covenant in this section which, we need to be aware of also. There is much to learn from this event.
Receiving the Holy Spirit
As Peter spoke to the people assembled in the home of Cornelius The Lord gave the Gentiles there the Holy Spirit and they were heard speaking in tongues and extolling the mighty works of God in prophecy.
This is similar to the events of Pentecost when the disciples first received the Holy Spirit for they too were heard speaking in the tongues of other nations and prophesying about the wondrous works of God.
It was necessary for The Lord to pour out the Holy Spirit in this way on the Gentiles this first time. We know from other places in the bible that the Holy Spirit is also given through the laying on of hands by the elders in the church. However, as discussed in my last post, the great divide that existed between the Jews and the Gentiles was such that the Jews would never have laid hands on the Gentiles to receive the Holy Spirit.
Thus it was necessary that The Lord gave the Gentiles the Holy Spirit at least this first time to show that they were to receive this and all of the gifts of God just as the Jews had done.
As evidence of the fact that the Jews would not have been likely to lay hands on the Gentiles, we see in their expressions the amazement that God had given the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles just as he had with the Jews. Look at what it says in verse 45.
And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.
The Jews among those who had come down from Joppa with Peter were amazed because the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.
Look at that word “even.” The Jews had been brought up believing the Gentiles were lower than them. They thought of the Gentiles as second class citizens. This was part of the prejudice and bias that the Jews grew up with, and as they say, old habits die hard.
The Jews in Peter’s party were literally shocked to see that God had made the Gentiles equal with them by giving them the Holy Spirit. The Gentiles were no longer to be considered second class citizens but were to be accepted as brothers and sisters in the family of God. This was a shocking state of affairs for the Jews for it literally turned their world upside down knowing that God was even prepared to accept these lower class people (as they thought) into His family. I am sure it was an amazing day for both the Jews and the Gentiles when they fully perceived and understood what The Lord had done.
Then we see Peter’s response. He was possibly the only person there who understood what was going on for The Lord had been preparing him with the vision of the unclean animals and how he was not to call anything or anyone unclean whom The Lord had cleansed.
The response Peter made was very significant, not just for those there, but for us also. In verses 47-48 he says these words.
47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.
At any other time the process of baptism in water is an option that all Christians should take, but which they need to consider firstly to ensure they are ready to make a commitment to The Lord. Baptism is a crucial part of the working of the new covenant for it is through baptism that we take on the death of Jesus Christ as our own and by His death we die to sin and we die to the law. And this is crucial for it is in taking on the death of Jesus that the Holy Spirit is given the power to work in our lives to transform us into the image of Jesus Christ.
It is so crucial in a Christians walk that Jesus himself went through baptism, not because He needed to, but so that no one could use His example as a reason not to be baptised. Jesus Himself said to John the Baptist that it was through baptism that it is necessary to fulfil all the requirements of righteousness. (Matthew 3:15)
But now we see these Gentiles receive the Holy Spirit without having been baptised. So Peter now commands them to be baptised. This was no longer a request or an option, it was a command, for Peter knew the importance of this act even though at that time the Gentiles would not have understood.
And Peter remained with them for some days after these events to teach them all about the words and work of Jesus so that they would receive the fullness of the promises of the new covenant. The door was now open to the whole world to come to Jesus and it would never be closed again. And shortly we see the beginning of the work of Paul as he went about preaching to the Gentiles for Paul described Peter as being the apostle to the Jews while Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. And as we know most of the New Testament as we know it is based upon letters of Paul to the Gentile churches.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by DeFig)
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