Tri-County church of Christ, Watertown, NY, North Country

May 1, 2004, Vol.4, No.9.
Two new articles every two weeks. Bible Question? E-mail us.
THIS ISSUE: "Was Cornelius Saved Before
He Was Baptized?
" (see below)
and "
Will the Real Jesus Please Rise?"


Was Cornelius Saved Before
He Was Baptized?

by Tom Rainwater

Cornelius and BaptismQUESTION: Didn't you know that Cornelius was saved before he was baptized? That is because he received the Holy Spirit before he was baptized (Acts 10:44-48). The only ones ever given the ability to speak in tongues like this were those who were already saved.

ANSWER: Hello! Thanks for writing us.

Your claim that Cornelius the Gentile was saved before water baptism is inconsistent with the text of Acts 10 and 11. You've left out some important facts, friend. Please reread it again and answer this:

(a) An angel told Cornelius that Peter "will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved." (Acts 11:13-14). The angel said Simon Peter will "tell you what you must do." (Acts 10:6). Cornelius and his household were ready to hear Peter's commands (Acts 10:33).
(b) The only thing Peter commanded them to do was to be baptized. (Acts 2:47-48).
(c) Therefore, when Cornelius did what Peter said and was baptized, he was saved.

You assume without providing proof that only the saved were ever given the ability to speak in tongues (i.e., speak in languages they had not previously learned). Should I remind you of Balaam's donkey which God gave the ability to speak in a human tongue (Numbers 22:28-30), or do you believe it is counted among the saved?

But let's, for the sake of argument, assume you are correct in saying that whatever followed Cornelius' reception of the Spirit is unnecessary for salvation. If that is the case, not only is baptism eliminated from the plan of salvation, then so is faith. Peter said, "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them...." (Acts 11:15). According to the apostle, the Spirit came on the Gentiles at the beginning of his sermon. This was before he finished providing proofs that Jesus is Lord. This was before Cornelius and company came to believe in Jesus. Notice that Peter doesn't mention belief in Jesus until the very end of the sermon:

"To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins." (Acts 10:43).

Consider the consequences of your position in regard to Christians:

(a) If only Christians received the Spirit,
(b) and Cornelius received the Spirit as Peter began to speak (Acts 11:15),
(c) then, people could become Christians without believing in Christ.

Friend, are you prepared to say faith is unnecessary for salvation? Or will you give up your argument?

Now consider this:

(a) If Peter's words and commands were necessary toward Cornelius' salvation (Acts 10:6; 11:13-14),
(b) and Cornelius received the Spirit before Peter detailed the evidences concerning Christ and gave a command to Cornelius,
(c) then Cornelius received the Spirit before his salvation.

It should be obvious that the receiving of the Spirit and the speaking in tongues were not indications of a person's salvation. It is also interesting to notice that in the case of the twelve men at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7), they received the Spirit and spoke in tongues after they were baptized in water. That's different from the order upon which your position depends.

Now we must ask: Why was the Spirit given to Cornelius and the other Gentiles to enable them to miraculously speak in tongues? God's purpose in this was to show the Jews who were present that He wanted Gentiles to be taught the same plan of salvation as they. First, God had to convince Peter in a vision to even have contact with the Gentiles (Acts 10:9-16,24-29; 11:4-10). As we noticed earlier, it was when Peter began to speak that the Spirit fell upon the Gentiles. This would have timed nicely with Peter's beginning words as he realizes:

"In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him." (Acts 10:34-35).

What a demonstration to the Jews! Those with Peter were "astonished...because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also." (Acts 10:45). After his sermon and after contining to listen to these Gentiles "speak in tongues and magnify God," Peter said to his Jewish brethren:

"Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" (Acts 10:47).

Peter understood clearly what God wanted Him to do next: Command the Gentiles to be baptized (Acts 10:48). None of the Jews present who had witnessed these things dared dispute this conclusion. Peter knew he must do what God wanted and not "stand in God's way" (Acts 11:17, NASB).

When Peter later told about this event to other Jews, their immediate reaction was stunned silence, then praise. They rightly concluded: "God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life." (Acts 11:18). So then, the purpose for pouring the Spirit on Cornelius and company was to convince the Jewish Chrisitans beyond doubt that Gentiles should be taught the same plan of salvation; and when the Gentiles obeyed, they would be saved and have life, too. Jews and Gentiles could now be equals in God's kingdom.

Friend, this passage in Acts doesn't teach that water baptism is unnecessary for salvation. It teaches the very opposite. It clearly and loudly affirms the essentiality of baptism. Baptism is a command God wants both believing Jews and Gentiles to hear.

"And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord." (Acts 10:48).

"...Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins..." (Acts 2:38).

~ ~ ~



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