The First Gentile Christian #3

In past posts we have studied details leading up to the conversion of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, who was the first Gentile to be converted to Christ. Even in in his uncircumcised state, he could stand equal with every Jewish convert already a part of the kingdom of God.

When Peter arrived in Caesarea and met Cornelius, who explained why he had sent for him by the instructions of Jesus, Peter stated, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted of him” (Acts 10:38-39). Peter then rehearsed, for the benefit of Cornelius and those he had invited, the life, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus; i.e. the gospel (Acts 10:36-43).

While Peter was speaking, a third miracle occurred: the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles who were listening to Peter. Luke wrote, “While Peter yet spake these words the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the word” (Acts 10:44). Those upon whom the Spirit fell were Gentiles: “And they of the circumcision that believed were amazed as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles was poured out the Holy Spirit for they heard them speak in tongues and magnify God” (Acts 10:45-48). On Pentecost the Holy Spirit had fallen upon the apostles and the people there heard the apostles speak with “other tongues”. The multitude was amazed that unlearned Galileans could speak in the tongues of other people. The apostles’ speaking in tongues was a sign to unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:22). The people who gathered to hear Peter speak and the Gentiles speaking in tongues at Cornelius’ house was also a sign to “unbelievers”; i.e. the six Jewish brethren from Joppa. Up to this time these men did not believe that Gentiles could receive the Holy Spirit as Jews had. The people on Pentecost understood the languages the apostles spoke in, even if prior to this the apostles did not. The six Jewish brethren understood the language of the Gentiles, for they were speaking in the Jewish language. The Jewish brethren heard them “magnify God”. If they had not understood what the Gentiles were saying, they would not have known whether they were magnifying God. This third miracle was not to save the Gentiles who spoke in the Jews’ language; it was to convince Jewish brethren that God wanted Gentiles to have the same message preached to them that had been preached to Jews. Peter’s question, “Can any man forbid the water that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit as well as well” (Acts 10:47), would have met with loud protest from the Jewish brethren if they were not convinced that Gentiles also were subject to the gospel.

In the “Jerusalem Conference” Peter spoke of this event when he said, “Brethren, ye know that a good while ago God made choice among you that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knoweth the heart, bore them witness, giving them the Holy Spirit even as he did unto us; and he made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:7-9).

God made no distinction between Jew and Gentile. He gave the Holy Spirit to the Jew and then to the Gentile. He cleansed the heart of Jews by faith; He cleansed the heart of Gentiles by faith. He commanded Jews to be baptized to wash away their sins (Acts 2:38), and He commanded Gentiles to be baptized to wash away their sins “in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:47). How do I know Gentiles were commanded to be baptized to “wash away their sins” when the text does not specifically that? I know because the Jews were commanded to be baptized to wash away their sins in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38), and if the Jew had to be baptized to wash away his sins, the Gentile had to be baptized for the same reason. Peter said that God is no respecter of persons; He made no distinction between Jew and Gentile. If God required one thing of a Jew to be saved, then required of a Gentile something different, He would have been a respecter of persons. He would have made a distinction between Jew and Gentile.

The following conversions of Gentiles show the jailer being baptized and Gentiles in Corinth being baptized as well (Acts 16:33; 18:8). Had Jews been commanded to be baptized to be saved and Gentiles been commanded to be baptized because they were already saved, would God have shown distinctions between Jew and Gentile or not?

Jim McDonald

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