Miraculous Gifts (Part 7)
by Tom Edwards
Next, we want to consider the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the house of Cornelius. This was the only instance (other than the apostles' baptism in the Holy Spirit) in which the Spirit was given without the laying on of the apostles' hands during the church age. An event so singular as this was sure to cause all to take notice -- God was extending His mercy to even the Gentiles!
This was the reason for the outpouring of the Spirit -- in order to convince the Jews that the door of salvation could be entered by even those who were not of the Jewish race.
We need to realize that during the Mosaical age and in the early church, associations between Jews and Gentiles were rare. The descendant of Abraham had viewed himself as being of God's special elect and often looked down upon all others as heathens. Even though God had given the promise ages ago to that great patriarch that "in his seed all nations of the world would be blessed," the Jews did not fully comprehend the significance of this truth.
Notice Paul's remark in Ephesians 3:4-6: "And by referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit: to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members in the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel."
The fact that God had intended to save the Gentiles and give them the same blessings as the Jews in Christ Jesus had actually been a mystery to many of the Jewish people. It was too radical for them to grasp, that a Gentile could also become a child of God.
Peter informs that even the prophets themselves did not always totally understand the very message that God had imparted to them (1 Peter 1:10,11). In Acts 2, Peter had made some statements that indicated salvation for all mankind; but God still had to give him a vision, as revealed in Acts 10, in order to convince him that the Lord had opened a way of salvation for non-Jews as well -- a vision which Peter received just prior to his trip to Caesarea in order to preach to the Gentile Cornelius and all his household.
Notice how that the giving of the Holy Spirit at the house of Cornelius served to convince the Jews (Peter had taken six Jewish brethren with him) that God was willing to save even the Gentiles. Acts 11:15-18 reads: "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, just as He did upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, `John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If God therefore gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way? And when they heard this, they quieted down, and glorified God, saying, `Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life."' They should have realized this before, but God had to work this miracle in order to convince them, and that was through the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles.
No Pleading Necessary
In both cases (Acts 2:1-4; Acts 10,11) the recipients did not have to beg or "pray through" for the Holy Spirit. At the house of Cornelius, they probably had no prior knowledge that God was going to give them the Spirit in the way which He did; it simply happened as Peter began to speak. Since it was a promise and not a command, wouldn't every Christian automatically have it, if it were for today?
Why No Evidence of Holy Spirit Baptism as a Common Practice?
Something else that we can notice in Acts 11:16,17, is that Peter was caused to reflect upon the words of Jesus ("John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit."), and also called to mind the time in which he and the other apostles were baptized in the Spirit. Do you realize that ten years had gone by since then?!!! Why would Peter have to reflect upon the baptism of the Holy Spirit ten years prior, if it was something that was happening all the time? Surely, thousands and thousands of people had been converted to the Lord in those ten years. Peter, however, had to refer back to that time ten years ago because it was the only other time in which anyone was baptized in the Spirit.
What is the "One" Baptism of Ephesians 4:5?
Though many people disagree today as to the purpose of water baptism, virtually all would admit that the Bible speaks of both a Holy Spirit baptism and also a water baptism. In Ephesians 4:4-6 let us look particularly at verse 5, "one Lord, one faith, one baptism." The question is, if at the time of this writing there was only one baptism, which one is it? If this is referring to Holy Spirit baptism then water baptism is not for today. And if it is referring to water baptism, then Holy Spirit baptism is not for today.
It will be most helpful to know the time of the writing of the Ephesian letter. It was written about 30 years after the apostles received the baptism of the Spirit, and about 20 years after those at the house of Cornelius did. The Ephesian letter was written about A.D. 61.
Though the Lord's baptism of the Holy Spirit was temporary, water baptism was to continue as long as time would last. Notice Matthew 28:19,20: The apostles were not only commanded to teach others and baptize them in water, but also make sure that those whom they taught would continue the process.
We, today, still need to teach, baptize in water, and teach those converted to do the same. This is God's plan for reaching those who are lost in sin.
In 1 Peter 3:21 the statement is clearly made that "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." It is quite obvious that this baptism is water baptism, for it states that "Baptism...now saves you," but "not as a removal of dirt from the body." It's not just by getting clean in the water; but through the act, one is making his "appeal" to God for a clear conscience, or in other words, he's asking for God's help, simply through the very act itself.
Let us now ask ourselves, since Peter is speaking about water baptism, when was this letter written? It was written about A.D. 64 or 65. That means it was written even after the time Paul had said in Ephesians 4:5 that there is only "one baptism."
Next week we will consider how the Christian is to be filled with the Spirit and also led. Yes, we still need His good guidance today.