Peter and Cornelius
Gentiles Receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44-48)
Note that it is God who continues to drive this encounter to its predestined outcome.
44 While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God.
Peter and “the believers from among the circumcised” (i.e., the Jewish Christians) knew from direct, personal experience what were the true marks of “the gift of the Holy Spirit [being] poured out” upon the elect. The ideas that Cornelius and his household could have demonstrated this gift by chance or that they were acting with dishonesty are beyond absurd. No, God had acted with unmistakable clarity to ensure this outcome.
Then Peter declared, 47 “Can any one forbid 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.
Peter responds with faithful acceptance and takes immediate action. Everything that has occurred, from Peter’s and Cornelius’ visions, to the circumstances of their meeting, to the proclamation of the Gospel and, finally, to Cornelius’ and his household’s receiving of the Holy Spirit, has provided iron-clad evidence of God’s leading to this point. And so, these Gentiles, this Roman Centurion and his household, these elect souls are “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”
It is thus Peter, not Paul, who has welcomed Gentiles into the Christian Church. Peter, as is his wont, will eventually vacillate on this certain decision from God. It will be Paul who both acts to bring the full harvest of Gentile souls into knowledge of this saving grace and who demands that the Church consistently submit to God’s sovereign choice.
Nevertheless, Peter’s act of trust and faith here, against two-thousand years of Jewish religious and cultural separation, unmistakably confirms Christ’s statement:
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:18)