2. The gospel spreads into Palestine, 6:1-12:25

xiv] The Holy Spirit came upon them


Peter has just preached a gospel sermon to Cornelius, and his friends and family, and now Luke recounts the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the gathered assembly. This sign demonstrates, beyond all doubt, that the "seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord" are for Gentiles as well as Jews, 3:19.


There can be no argument against Gentiles being included in the way, given that they too receive the Holy Spirit.


i] Context: See 10:28-43.


ii] Background:

iWater Baptism in Acts, 2:37-41;


iSalvation by households: Family / household (mum, dad, the kids, + +) is a divine construct, and so it is only to be expected that God works in family units. Salvation is family / household based, cf., 16:31, ie., God's sovereign grace operates within families, given that God designed family as the basis of human society, cf., 16:31.

In justifying the baptism of Cornelius to the Jerusalem church, Peter recounts God's promise to Cornelius: "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 bestowal of divine grace.

The apostle Paul himself gets into the issue when he discusses the matter of divorcing an unbelieving partner in chapter 7 of his first letter to the Corinthians. His use of the verb aJgiazw, "to sanctify", of a unbelieving partner, and aJgioV, "holy", of their children, is interesting, to say the least. See the exegetical notes on 1Cor.7:10-16.

My own personal approach to this issue rests on the proposition that God's grace is beyond measure. For this reason, I always include the members of my immediate and extended family, including those loved-ones who have passed on, in the circle of my faith. I assume that as long as they haven't committed the unforgivable sin of rejecting Jesus as the Christ, then they will share with me in meeting our Lord on that far shore beyond the sunset. Of course, in the end, the Lord will ultimately be the judge of the matter, which is why the communication of the gospel must remain a priority.


iBaptised in /into the Name of Jesus Christ: When Cornelius, along with his family and friends, respond to the gospel and receive the Holy Spirit, Peter 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 baptiser. 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, namely Jesus. 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 is used as a sign of repentance in the early church, a sign 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 baptising 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, the sense of "to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ" remains speculative, and worth further consideration. See 18:24-19:7 for more notes on this subject, and see also Matthew 28:19.


ii] Structure: The Holy Spirit came upon them:

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 baptises 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 in the same way as the apostles received the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Consequently, Peter baptises 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. The church will face this issue at the Jerusalem Council. On this matter, Luke's account 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 event demonstrating the fulfilment of God's promised blessings to the world, and 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.

The crucial element of this narrative is the reception of the Spirit by Cornelius and his family in the same way as the Spirit came upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost. Such confirmed that God shows no favourites, and that righteousness is apart from the law. Given what had happened, there was no reason why Peter should not baptise this Gentile household and so include them in the Way.


For Baptized with the Holy Spirit, Filled with the Holy Spirit; and Speaking in Tongues ("other tongues"). See Excursus 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 - and occurs even before the exhortation, "repent and be baptized in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." The event serves as a significant authentication of the Gentile mission.

lalountoV (lalew) pres. gen. part. "While [Peter] was" - [peter] speaking [still these words]. The genitive participle and its genitive subject "Peter", forms a genitive absolute construction, temporal, as NIV.

ep (epi) + acc. "[came on]" - [the holy spirit fell down upon] upon. Spatial. Typical repetition of a verbal prefix, here for epepesen, "to fall upon." Luke describes the outpouring of the Spirit in the terms of his coming upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost. The importance of the event lies in the fact that Gentiles receive 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 humanity. Note, we are not told whether those who received the Holy Spirit have 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.

touV akouontaV (akouw) pres. part. "who heard [the message]" - the ones hearing [the word]. The participle serves as a substantive modified by the adjective "all"; "all those who were listening to the message", TEV.


ii] The confirmation of tongues, v45-46: The significance of the event is not wasted on the Jewish believers who have accompanied Peter to Caesarea. 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 evidences the present realisation of the kingdom, cf., Zech.8:23. Again, we are unsure what "speaking in tongues" actually involved on this occasion. The best we can say is that unlike tongues today, there is language content, given that the onlookers heard them "glorifying God."

ek + gen. "the circumcised" - [and the faithful] out of, from [circumcision were amazed]. The preposition is being used in place of 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."

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."

oJti "that" - that [and = also upon the gentiles]. 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 just causal, "they were astonished because the Holy Spirit ....", so Culy.

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


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

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

autwn gen. pro. "them" - them. Genitive of direct object after the verb hkouon, "to hear", a verb of perception.

lalountwn (lalew) pres. gen. part. "speaking" - speaking. The participle serves as the genitive complement of the direct object "them", standing in a double genitive construction and asserting a fact about the object "them", namely, that they are speaking in tongues.

glwssaiV (a) "in tongues" - in tongues, languages. 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 understand that Cornelius and his friends are "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, drawn from the LXX, 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 make sure that we align Cornelius' experience with that of the apostles at Pentecost? "They heard them prophesying ecstatically."

megalunontwn (megalunw) gen. pres. part. "praising [God]" - [and] enlarging, magnifying increasing, exalting [god]. The genitive participle serves as the complement of the direct object "them" standing in a double genitive construction and asserting a fact about the object "them", so further defining what they were saying. 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" - then. Temporal adverb.

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


iii] Peter baptises the new believers, v47-48: Peter obviously senses the importance of the occasion, and that by baptising these Gentile believers, he is moving into new territory. Still, who can argue against baptism? Cornelius and his friends have just received the Spirit. The normal order of events usually involves 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 is obviously not an essential element. Clearly, repentance and belief are present, although not stated here, cf., 11:17, 15:7-9. Water baptism is the only event out of order, but it is still administered, even though the Gentiles have 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 the verb "is able"; "is able to refuse." It is unlikely that the believing Jews are 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 is turned on its head. So Peter asks the question: who can 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" - [those] who [received the holy spirit]. Nominative subject of the verb "to receive." "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, authorises their full right of access into the new Israel. It is likely that Peter's desire to baptise 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 = also [we]. Adjunctive. "They received the Holy Spirit exactly as we also did."


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

baptisqhnai (baptizw) pas. inf. "that [they] be baptized" - [they] to be immersed. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech, commanding, as NIV, expressing the content of the order; "that they should be baptized", Barrett. The accusative subject of the infinitive is autouV, "they". It seems that water baptism is intended here although the term "baptized in the name" can also carry the sense of being immersed in the gospel / teaching about the person of Jesus, eg., "he ordered that they be immersed into the teachings of Jesus."

en "in" - in [the name of jesus christ]. The preposition may be instrumental, "by the authority of Jesus", or local, "on the authority of Jesus, Bruce, "under the authority of Jesus", Dunn (= epi, 2:38). 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.

tote adv. "then" - then. Temporal adverb.

epimeinai (epimenw) aor. inf. "to stay" - [they asked him] to remain, stay, continue [certain = some days]. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech, entreating, expressing what they asked, "they asked that he remain some days". The accusative subject of the infinitive is auton, "he." "They asked that he stay on for a few days."


Acts Introduction


Exegetical Commentaries


[Pumpkin Cottage]