In the first essay on the conversions at the home of Cornelius (the fifth of the nine conversions) we had noted that the particulars required in becoming Christians were in no way different from those found in all the previous examples we have studied up to this point. This is true in spite of the fact that many learners believe that the characteristics here were different.
Upon a careful examination however, I quickly concluded, as you probably did, that things have remained the same, and they were found just as they had been with all the previous detailed conversions we have studied thus far.
The particulars are that the persons seeking knowledge had to come into contact with the word of God — in this case specifically by sending for the preacher. They then had to accept and believe what they were told. Then they had to do as instructed — to follow the prescription and perform the details of what was given, not arbitrarily or in mixing the prescribed items with notions of their own; but by doing as instructed in the words of the apostle. This incorporated a change in behavior and direction.
The last detail was that the preacher told them to be baptized in water, even though that in this case they had already been overwhelmed with the Holy Spirit just minutes earlier. Therefore, I can conclude that the baptism of the Holy Spirit which they underwent was not for the purpose of their gaining salvation. And this is just as was the case with the previous record of baptism of the Spirit in the case of the apostles.
With the examination of this example we have now run out the records of this type of baptism as it is mentioned in the scriptures. And friend, that should dispel the notion that the indwelling of the Spirit of God had anything to do with either their salvation, or by implication, that it has anything to do with yours or mine. God’s book teaches no such thing. Yet the things that they did do are identical to those found in all the previous examples: hear, believe, repent, and be immersed in water.
You might note that up to this point we have had little to say about confession as one of those items that must be accomplished. That is because, although with Paul’s conversion where it is explicit, in most of these examples thus far presented, it is not expressed as much as it is implied. You might wonder how I can with confidence say that. I can do so simply in noting that no one comes to Christ who does not openly confess him as Lord and God, as the Son of God.
Therefore it only makes sense that you cannot serve God without confessing the name of Christ before men and women and through the example of what you do (Matthew 10:32). Romans chapter 10 is the best study for this and would be worth anyone’s time to examine. So, I am not disparaging the need for confession, I am not hiding it or its place as an integral part of the plan of salvation, I will simply note what the text states and we will encourage reasonable accountability to the things that God has prescribed in each case. Jesus is Lord and God and he is the Son of God by title through his obedience in all things, and I must recognize and vocalize that to be acceptable to God, just as Christ had said that I should.
To continue, the text lists Peter’s conclusions as to the meaning of the events in Caesarea better than I can exposit.
Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ He is Lord of all that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.
Notice that it took only these few days and these simple events to solidify the notion that now all nations and peoples were to be included in the good news of salvation. Of course, these things had been prophesied and spoken of since the days of Abraham, but that didn’t mean that it was plain, manifest, or understood. Peter had to be shaken from his complacency through a vision and by this second baptism of the Holy Spirit in order that things might be completely sealed to the leading apostle and the chosen witnesses of the events. So, now the world has the gospel preached to it and men and women of all places, ways, castes, religions, colors and creeds could now be saved, could now be forgiven, and can now serve God and be rewarded openly.
There is more to this than what was just mentioned. In times past, that is under the patriarchs, under the Hebrew and Jewish dispensation and right up to the time of Christ, there were occasional records of some outside of the identified path, outside either when God spoke to the fathers of certain families, or when the children of Abraham were children of covenant, and even through the dispensation of the Jews beyond them, who sought out and worshipped the one and true God aside from being given some specific grant or instruction. These lay outside of the known paths, and with all of them we know nothing about how they came to serve God. We only know that they did. Such was Melchizedek, King of Salem and a prophet of God, and also Job, such was Jethro of Midian, Rahab the harlot, Balaam son of Beor, Jonah the prophet, and the list goes on. These had come to be acceptable to God somehow outside of the covenants given to man. Some had greater success than others did.
But with the coming of Christ things had changed. Jesus said this very unusual and forceful statement, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no man comes to the Father except through me.” No statement prior had ever isolated the coming to God to a certain and defined path. And this is true even though Christ himself said, “…salvation is of the Jews” which itself is a general statement and in context altogether true. Yet, since Christ had come to earth, died and was resurrected, where God had lived with humankind, it was not then possible to access to God through some other path or by some less defined means; not out of your own goodness, or on your own volition, nor by following others, by being taught, or even in imitation. Salvation is only now and forever more found in and through Christ. This is part of the import of the record of this conversion. God heard the prayers of Cornelius and honored his offerings, yet he was coming to God though not a Jew, though not a Hebrew, and though not as some proselyte. He worshipped God, as he had somehow found that he should, and his worship was doing well for his name and his household, that is, until Christ came. Now he had to be put on the correct path as no other path but that would any longer do.
To continue: as part of the Comforter’s duties in the finalizing of the word of God and in the instruction to the apostle’s in all things, there is included this baptism of the Spirit which is only different from the first in its effect and purpose, and in those to whom it was dispensed. And there is certainly no evidence that the “gifts” granted to these gathered at the home of the centurion were the same or on the same level as with the apostles, but it is as Peter states — that the coming of the Spirit upon them and its evidence, how the Spirit manifested itself, was identical to how it had descended and was evidenced by the apostles on that first Pentecost following Jesus resurrection.
Here the Spirit was given to the converts not to the apostles, and its purpose was to identify to the apostle Peter and the established witnesses that this was indeed the work and plan of God in its every aspect and detail. This was the sign and seal of God’s work and not something concocted by others which was then being put forth before their eyes and ears. It was a large part to receiving the Word of God and in adhering to it. Peter said exactly that in his rehearsal of the events when he had returned to the church in Jerusalem. “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” (Acts 11:15 — 17)
The outcome from this was that the word now went forth to all men with the apostles and disciples spreading the good news to everyone who would listen and not just to the Jews and Samaritans. It is also at this point that the apostle Paul now enters into his work in converting the Roman world, concluding the charge of Christ through the apostles to carry the word “to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.”
When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.” Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.
Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. (Acts 11:18 — 26)
And in spite of the desires of men and women who might think otherwise, there is no option and no other offering to be made. There is no alternate path, and nothing that might now be done whether good work or godly thought that will avail a person anything before God save through Christ Immanuel, of whom God had said, “Hear Him.”
The tally is now five sets of detailed conversions that distinguish the same things for converts to follow in order to gain salvation and to be counted as “in Christ.” They had to all hear the word, to believe what they heard, “calling upon the name of the Lord,” to repent and change direction and what they were doing, and they had to be immersed in water as Peter had said earlier “for the remission of sins.”
I ask you the readers, has anything changed in the path to become a Christian? And if it has changed, how is it that it has changed? How readest thou? And what sayest thou?
The next two detailed conversions which we will undertake in examination are both found in the sixteenth chapter of the book of The Acts of Apostles.