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