Acts

10:44-48

2. The gospel reaches into Judea and Samaria, 6:1-12:25

xiv] The Holy Spirit came upon them

Synopsis

In the passage before us Luke recounts the coming of the Holy Spirit upon Cornelius and his extended family, a sign that demonstrates, beyond all doubt, that the "seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord" are for Gentiles as well as Jews, 3:19.

 
Teaching

No one can stand in the way of Gentiles being included in the way, given that they too have received the Holy Spirit, v47.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 10:28-43.

 

ii] Structure: This passage, The Holy Spirit came upon them, presents as follows:

Peter's inclusive vision of the way, v1-16;

Peter's meeting with Cornelius, the Gentile centurion, v17-27;

Peter's gospel sermon to Cornelius and friends, v28-43:

The Holy Spirit came upon them, v44-48.

The outpouring of the Spirit, v44;

The confirmation of tongues, v45-46;

Peter baptizes the new believers, v47-48.

 

iii] Interpretation:

Central to this chapter is Peter's gospel presentation, v34-43. This is the last recorded sermon by Peter. The sermon focuses on Christ, "the Lord", the "anointed" one, the one "with God", "raised" to life" and "ordained to be the judge of the living and the dead", and the grace which he bestows, namely, "that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." Cornelius obviously responds positively to the message because he receives the Spirit as did the apostles some years before. Consequently, Peter baptizes those who have believed. Although it is always dangerous to argue from what is not present in the text, it is worth noting that Peter does not go on to impose law-obedience on Gentiles as a requirement for adherence to Christ. Luke's account of the Acts of the Apostles, or better, the Acts of the Apostle Paul, always reflects Pauline theology.

The importance that Luke places on the conversion of Cornelius is demonstrated by the fact that he later restates the events in detail, cf. chapter 11. For Luke, the story serves as a highly significant theological move demonstrating the fulfillment of God's promised blessing to the world, not just to Israel. "Cornelius moves from being acceptable to be accepted, and the decisive breakthrough of God's blessing to the nations has taken place", Dunn.

 

"You and all your household will be saved", 11:14. Often inclusive words like "all" in v44, "the Holy Spirit came on pantaV (all) who heard the message", are used to express not all of the whole, but a large part of the whole; "No sooner were these words out of Peter's mouth than the Holy Spirit come on the listeners", Peterson. None-the-less, "all" is surely intended here because as Peter reports to the "saints" in Jerusalem, the divine promise made to Cornelius was that through Peter's message "you and your entire household will be saved." Obviously this includes family, but in the home of a centurion there are servants and slaves, and what about the friends who were in attendance?

Throughout the scriptures a principle can be observed whereby God's grace extends to the family as a whole when an individual within the family responds in faith. This principle is enacted a number of times in Acts, eg., the Philippian gaoler. Given that the family, as the basic unit of society, is a divine construct, God deals with its members inclusively rather than individually. This doesn't mean that the faith of one member covers the outright rejection / denial of God by another member, but the faith of one member does somehow include the other members in the dispersal of divine grace.

Although my faith is as small as a mustard seed, God's grace is beyond measure, and for this reason I always include the members of my immediate and extended family, living and deceased, in the circle of my own faith. In the end, the Lord will ultimately be the judge of the matter. Some of my more puritan friends are disturbed by my prayers for the dead, given that it contradicts sound Protestant theology, but I always remind them of my Dr. Who tendencies - time might be our master, but it's not God's master (and God is bigger than Dr. Who!!)

 

"Baptized in the name of Jesus Christ", v48. Given that Cornelius and company have received the Holy Spirit, Peter states that it is right and proper to baptize them with water. He then commands that they be "baptized in the name of Jesus." The word baptizw means "to immerse." We understand what "immerse in water" means, but what about "immerse in the name of Jesus"? Is this the same as "immerse in water"? It could be a shorthand way of saying "immerse in water using the name of Jesus", or "immerse in water under the authority of Jesus", ie., the name of Jesus, his divine character, is declared over the person to be baptized, or the authority by which the baptism is performed is declared to all and sundry. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus sends his disciples out into the world for the purpose of "immersing them (the nations) in the name ....", v28, "teaching them .....", v29. It seems very unlikely that Jesus is talking about water baptism, given that he never immersed anyone in water as a sign of repentance - John was the baptizer. Given the context, "immersing them in the name" looks very much like immersing them in information about Jesus, or more particularly immersing them in the gospel, "the name" being representative of the person. Surely Jesus is instructing his disciples to go into the world and preach the gospel, v28, and then to instruct those who respond, v29. There is no doubt that immersion in water was used as a sign of repentance in the early church, taken over from John the Baptist and certainly not discouraged by Jesus. Yet, it is also clear that the early church linked instruction with water baptism.

On the occasion of the conversion of Cornelius and company, those doing the baptizing were probably "the circumcised believers who came with Peter", and it may well be that they spent a moment going over the ground of the converts' repentance by confirming gospel truth with them, restating the truth where necessary, prior to water baptism. In this way the converts were immersed into the truth about Jesus, into the "name", as well as immersed in water as an outward expression of their repentance - "a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins".

In the end, this sense of "to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ" remains speculative, but worth further consideration. See 18:24-19:7 for more detailed notes on this subject.

 

Baptized with the Holy Spirit, filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues ("other tongues"). See notes on The Pentecostal Blessings.

 

iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
Text - 10:44

"The Gentile Pentecost", Dunn, v44-48. i] The outpouring of the Spirit, v44: Peter is still in the middle of his gospel presentation when the Gentiles receive the Holy Spirit. The reception is similar to that of the apostles - sudden and unexpected. This was a significant occurrence and occurred before the usual gospel exhortation, "repent and be baptized in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." All who heard the message received the gift.

lalountoV (lalew) pres. gen. part. "While [Peter] was [still] speaking" - speaking. The genitive absolute participle forms a temporal clause, as NIV.

eti adv. "still" - Temporal adverb.

epepesen (epipiptw) aor. "came on" - fell down upon, pressed upon. Luke describes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the terms of the outpouring upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost. The importance of the event lies in the fact that a Gentile receives the Holy Spirit in exactly the same way as the apostles received the Spirit, thus completing the movement of the gospel from the Jews, to Samaritans, God-fearers/Gentiles ..... and thus to all people. Note, we are not told whether those who received the Holy Spirit had believed. It is, of course, implied in v43 and in Peter's report in 11:17. "The Holy Spirit took control of everyone who was listening", CEV.

epi "on" - upon. Spacial.

touV akouontaV (akouw) pres. part. "who heard [the message]" - the ones hearing [the word]. The participle forms an adjectival participial phrase which serves to limit "all / everyone", although Cully & Parsons suggest that here touV serves as a nominalizer indicating that the phrase is substantival; "all those who were listening to the message", TEV.

 
v45

ii] The confirmation of tongues, v45-46: The significance of the event is not wasted on the Jewish believers who accompanied Peter. They were "astonished", for the Spirit came on the Gentiles in exactly the same way as He had come on the apostles at Pentecost; they "heard them speaking in tongues and praising God", cf. 2:11. The phrase "praising God" literally means "magnifying God", which probably aligns with the description given on the day of Pentecost, "speaking.... the mighty acts of God." The Spirit's coming on the Gentiles, in exactly the same way as on the apostles, removes any doubt that the doors of the kingdom are open for Gentiles as well as Jews. In fact, this sign further evidenced the presence of the kingdom, cf. Zech.8:23. Again, we are unsure what "speaking in tongues" was like. Clearly there is language content to the experience in that the onlookers heard them "glorifying God." In fact, the experience may have paralleled Pentecost where "each one heard them speaking in their own language."

ek + gen. "the circumcised" - out of, from [circumcision]. The preposition is being used for a partitive genitive; here denoting a member of a certain class, or party, or school of thought, Zerwick, #134. Possibly referring to the members of the circumcision party, although probably here just "the faithful of the circumcised" = "Jewish believers."

oiJ ..... pistoi adj. "believers" - the faithful. The adjective serves as a substantive.

tw/ Petrw/ (oV) dat. "[who had come with] Peter" - [as many as had come with, accompanied] Peter. Dative of direct object after the sun prefix verb "to come with."

exesthsan (existhmi) aor. "were astonished" - were amazed, mad, out of mind, astonished / to remove from a standing position. The outpouring of God's blessing upon the Gentiles was totally unexpected. "Absolutely amazed", Phillips.

oJti "that" - Here introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what they were astonished about, namely that the Spirit had fallen on the Gentiles, but possibly causal, "they were astonished because the Holy Spirit ....", so Culy.

tou ... pneumatoV (a atoV) gen. "[the gift] of the [holy] Spirit" - The genitive is adjectival, of definition, epexegetic; "the gift which consists of the Holy Spirit."

ekkecutai (ekcew) perf. pas. "had been poured out" - has been poured out. The perfect tense indicating a past action with ongoing consequences. "The gift of the Spirit had been given so freely and generously to people who were not Jews", Barclay.

kai "even" - and. Ascensive, as NIV.

epi "on" - Spacial; "upon".

 
v46

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why they were astonished.

hkouon (akouw) imperf. "they heard" - they were hearing. The imperfect expressing continued action.

autwn gen. pro. "them" - Genitive of direct object after hkouon, "they heard", a verb of perception.

lalountwn (lalew) pres. gen. part. "speaking" - The participle serves as an object complement of the direct object autwn, "them", of the verb hkouon, "they heard", genitive in agreement with autwn, "them".

glwssaiV (a) "in tongues" - tongue, language. In the New Testament, in the plural, it refers to the utterance of those caught up in spiritual ecstasy. As at Pentecost, the utterance has language content such that it can be understood, although its ecstatic nature does confuse. The onlookers at least understood that Cornelius and his friends were "praising God", or as noted below, "proclaimed the mighty works of God." The Western text adds "other" tongues, cf. 2:4. This is, in itself, an interesting phrase in that it may imply a possible difference in the Pentecost form of tongues from the form recorded by Paul in Corinthians. Do the editors of the Western text understand such a difference and want to align Cornelius' experience with that of the apostles at Pentecost? "They heard them prophesying ecstatically."

megalunontwn (megalunw) gen. pres. part. "praising [God]" - enlarging, magnifying increasing, exalting [God]. The participle serves as an object complement of autwn, "them", standing in apposition to the participle "speaking", further defining what they were speaking. The word is probably too general to carry the specific meaning of "praising." The word "magnify" is far better, so "glorify". In 2:11 those speaking in tongues proclaimed the mighty works of God. They "enlarged" the information concerning God, albeit in an ecstatic form. So, the phrase here is likely to carry a similar meaning, rather than just "praising God." "Glorifying God", Phillips.

tote adv. "then" - Temporal adverb.

apekriqh (apokrinomai) aor. pas. "[Peter] said" - answered. Peter is "answering" the situation. "At this Peter asked", Moffatt.

 
v47

iii] Peter baptizes the new believers, v47-48: Peter obviously senses the importance of the occasion and that by baptizing these Gentile believers he is moving into new territory. Still, who could argue against baptism? Cornelius and his friends had just received the Spirit. The normal order of events entail: the preaching of the gospel, a response of repentance and belief, water baptism for the remission of sins (a sign of repentance and its consequence, the washing of forgiveness), and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Laying on of hands (a sign of prayer) may precede the gift of the Spirit, but was obviously not an essential element. Clearly, repentance and belief were present, although not stated here, cf. 11:17, 15:7-9. Water baptism was the only event out of order, but it was still administered, even though the Gentiles had already received the Spirit.

mhti "- / surely no [one]" - not. Used in a question which expects a negative answer.

kwlusai (kuluw) aor. inf. "[can] keep / [can] stand in the way" - [is anyone able] to forbid, hinder, refuse. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of "is able", "is able to refuse.". It is unlikely that the believing Jews were unwilling to accept Gentiles into their fellowship, but they would expect normal procedure to be followed: instruction, circumcision, water baptism, followed by the gift of the Spirit through the laying on of hands (prayer). All this was turned on its head. So, who could refuse water baptism, the sign of repentance, for those already baptized with the Spirit?

tou mh baptisqhnai (baptizw) inf. "from being baptized / of [their] being baptized" - [the water] not to dip, immerse. The negated genitive articular infinitive forms a final clause expressing purpose, but leaning toward consecutive, expressing result, or hypothetical result. "Can anyone refuse water for the baptism of these people", Moffatt.

oiJtineV "they" - who. "Men (people) such as have received", Moule.

wJV "just as" - as, just as. Comparative. This is an important statement. The Gentiles' reception of the Spirit, in exactly the same way as the apostles' reception, authorizes the full right of access of Gentiles into the new Israel. It is likely that Peter's desire to baptize these new believers serves as an apostolic confirmation of this divine initiative. It should be noted that the incident can't really be used to support the argument that water baptism is essential to salvation, or that it is a sign of the giving of the Holy Spirit (water baptism is a sign of repentance for the forgiveness of sins). "In the same way as we have", Cassirer.

kai "[we have]" - and [we]. Adjunctive. "They received the Holy Spirit exactly as we also did."

 
v48

de "so" - but, and. Coordinative; "and he gave orders ..."

prosetaxen (prostassw) aor. "he ordered" - he commanded. The action is punctiliar. "He gave orders for them to be baptized", Barclay.

baptisqhnai (baptizw) pas. inf. "that [they] be baptized" - to be immersed. The infinitive forms a dependent statement of indirect speech, commanding, as NIV, expressing the content of the order; "that they should be baptized", Barrett. It seems that water baptism is intended here although the term "baptized in the name" can carry a different sense. It can be argued that it is a teaching term such that Peter immerses them into the person ("name") of Jesus, ie., immerses them into the teachings of Jesus, and does this prior to, or subsequent to, water baptism. So possibly, "he ordered that they be immersed into the teachings of Jesus." See Matthew 28:19, "baptizing them in the name."

autouV pro. "they" - Accusative subject of the infinitive "to be baptized."

en tw/ onomati Ihsou Cristou "in the name of Jesus Christ" - Possibly, Peter "ordered them, in the name of Jesus Christ, that they be baptized", although the NIV / TNIV has the prepositional phrase modifying the infinitive baptisqhnai, "to be baptized." The genitive Ihsou Cristou is adjectival possessive. The onomati, "name" = the person, here particularly the authority of Jesus. The preposition en may be taken instrumentally, "by the authority of Jesus", or local, "on the authority of Jesus, Bruce, "under the authority of Jesus", Dunn (= epi, 2:38).

tote adv. "then" - Temporal adverb.

hrwthsan (erwtaw) aor. "they asked" - they asked, requested.

epimeinai (epimenw) aor. inf. "to stay" - to remain, stay, continue. The infinitive forms a dependent statement of indirect speech, entreating, expressing what they asked, "they asked that he remain some days". "They asked him to stay on for a few days", CEV.

 

Acts Introduction

Exposition

 

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