A few days ago a co-worker remarked during a conversation on the economic downturn that â€œItâ€™s a sign of the end, the end of days.â€ Well, maybe so and maybe not. The end is certainly nearer today that it was yesterday. But, maybe in his case itâ€™s just a sign of bad exegesis.
Peter was quoted saying this at the home of the centurion Cornelius, “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came down on them, just as on us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'” (Acts 11:15, 16 HCSB). This was prior to the believers there being immersed (in water) just as had been the case on the first Pentecost. So the two events – the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and baptism in water are clearly not for the same purpose. Here Peter was drawing a mental line from this incident to the earlier incident when the Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost, as covered in Acts two. There should be no discomfort then with the notion that as the pouring out of the Spirit upon the apostles heralded the pouring out of the Spirit upon the penitent Israelites; then the pouring out of the Spirit upon the penitent non-Israelites – the Gentiles, was likewise accompanied with a similar signature.
Many today zero in on the signs. But, I suggest that in both cases, it was not the signs that were important, but rather the events – the giving of the “gift” (singular) of the Holy Spirit, first to the believers of Israel, then to “all nations.” The signs were just that – signs to identify, signs proving and showing that the events witnessed had the approval of heaven. The Bible repeatedly tells us so.
Peter (as recorded in both Acts ten and eleven) was referring to the twelve displaying those first signs in comparison with the like event displayed through the members of Cornelius’ home audience. The signs were identical. So it must be that, in each case, the miracles were worked through the participants, not out of their own purpose or will, but toward a different end – but in each case to identify the path to the Kingdom of God. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” had been the call until these events took place.
What the prophet (and therefore God) had said was that “After this I will pour out my Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and daughters will prophesy; your old men will dream dreams and your young men will see visions. I will even pour out my Spirit on the male and female slaves in those days.”
Everyone would have the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out upon them, “whether Jews or of the nations, whether bond or free” as the Apostle Paul later put it. Some of them would display the same signs and wonders associated with the outpouring as those things would be stretching out in time. God said it would be the offspring of those of that day when Joel first posted it – when the Holy Spirit would be poured out, and these things would be displayed through their progeny. So, it seems that in both cases, in these instances, the attendants, whether apostle, soldier or commoner, though believers all, were incidental to the intent of the signs themselves, in identifying the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
In Acts two the signs were performed through the apostles, but were directed at the multitude. In the miracles at the home of Cornelius, the signs were worked through the members of the audience, but were directed at Peter and the witnessing Jews who had accompanied him. It was God through the Holy Spirit working the signs through the people to get the apostle’s attention and for the notice of the guests from Jerusalem. And the signs were still not the important part. The granting of entrance into the Kingdom of God for the nations was the important part. It was being identified. The signs pointed the way, noting the approval of the God given path.
Are you still with me?