22 May. Acts 10:23-48

22 May. A Roman army officer's family are filled with the Holy Spirit

"The next day, Peter got ready and went with them [the Roman centurion's servants], and some of the [Jewish] followers [of Jesus] from Joppa joined him. On the following day they came to Caesarea. Cornelius [the Roman centurion in charge of a hundred soldiers] was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends..."

"As he talked with Cornelius, Peter went inside where he saw many people gathered. He said, 'You [non-Jewish] people understand that it is against our Jewish law for Jewish people to associate with or visit anyone who is not Jewish. But God has shown me that I should not call any person "unholy" or "unclean". That is why I did not argue when I was asked to come here.'..."

"Peter began to speak: 'I really understand now that to God every person is the same. In every country God accepts anyone who worships him and does what is right. You know the message that God has sent to the people of Israel is the Good News that peace has come through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Lord of all people.'..."

"'You know about Jesus from Nazareth, that God gave him the Holy Spirit and power... but the Jews in Jerusalem killed him by hanging him on a cross. Yet on the third day, God raised Jesus to life... And we are those witnesses who ate and drank with him after he was raised from the dead... All the prophets say it is true that all who believe in Jesus will be forgiven their sins through Jesus's name.'"

"While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who were listening. The Jewish believers who came with Peter [from Joppa] were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been given even to those who were not Jews. These Jewish believers heard them speaking in different languages and praising God."

"Then Peter said, 'Can anyone keep these people from being baptised with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we did!' So Peter ordered that they be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ."

          (Acts 10:23-48)

 

 

Peter travelled to Caesarea when invited by Cornelius's servants, and shared the Good News of Jesus’s death and resurrection with all of Cornelius’s Gentile family and friends. As he spoke, the Holy Spirit fell on everyone present and the six Jewish believers from Joppa (see Acts 11:12) were amazed that God had poured out his Spirit on this household of Gentiles – as they “heard them speaking in different languages and praising God” (Acts 10:46).

Having been 'baptised' (literally 'filled to overflowing') with God's Holy Spirit, the new Gentile believers were also immediately 'baptised' with water to show they were now followers of Jesus. This water baptism as a sign of entering the fellowship was entirely appropriate at that moment as Peter pointed out, “They have received the Holy Spirit just as we did!” (Acts 10:47).

As Cornelius's house was a Gentile's house, there would have been no 'mikvah' (Jewish ceremonial bath) available for submerging people in, so it is quite likely that they were baptised by 'signing' with a cross from a bowl of water, rather than being baptised by full immersion. In Christian baptism, of course, the water is only symbolic of cleansing from sin, and it is the Holy Spirit who actually does the life-changing cleansing of people when they become followers of Jesus.

After this amazing infilling of a whole household (which would have included children) by the Holy Spirit, Peter stayed in the Gentiles’ house at Caesarea for several days, no doubt teaching them much more about the life and the sayings of Jesus.

The sequence of events recorded here by Luke is fascinating when compared with how we usually welcome new believers into our church families today. Most churches would first teach people about Jesus's life and his sayings (usually in a lengthy formal catechism course), then baptise them in water during a special church service, and finally pray that God will send his Holy Spirit on them.

God turns this order completely on its head in Caesarea, as Cornelius's Gentile household are filled with the Holy Spirit even before the end of Peter's sermon; they are baptised with water immediately, without any instruction; and are only taught about Jesus over the next few days! We should always be prepared for God to do the unexpected, and should not stand in His way by imposing our own 'rules' and traditions.

The photo shows the aqueduct that brought fresh water supplies to the city of Caesarea during Roman times.

You can read more about Peter's missionary activity @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/…/7-journe…/peters-journeys/


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