Peter, Gentiles and Baptism

Peter jumps on the scene again in Acts 10 where he meets with Cornelius and Gentiles, showing Peter that God has called Gentiles to the fellowship.

Peter talks to them about John’s Baptism and how Jesus Christ came after that and was anointed with the Holy Spirit to do signs and wonders (10:36-38).

The Gentiles readily accepted Peter’s teaching. They received the Holy Spirit, and as was the custom in that day to show they received the Holy Spirit, they spoke in tongues.

Peter recognized the significance and immediately understood they were saved and indwelt with the Spirit. So he says

“Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.”  So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

So, note two things: 1) they had the Holy Spirit before they were baptized and 2) they heard a message and believed it before they were baptized.

In other words, faith is integral to salvation and salvation is not something that baptism produces.

When Peter returns to Jerusalem in Acts 11, he gives his report to the church leaders and apostles there.

“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning.  Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’  So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”

Peter’s understanding of what’s going on is that receiving the Spirit is the new baptism that replaces John’s Baptism. Receiving the Spirit is what salvation is: being born again, no longer a physical but a spiritual creation.

Baptism with water does not save. Baptism with water follows people believing as faith is our part in the salvation equation—God shows grace, we receive it by faith (Ephesians 2).

Baptism does not give people the Holy Spirit. In Acts 11 they already had the Spirit before they were baptized. Earlier in Acts 8 they were baptized but didn’t receive the Spirit until the apostles laid hands on them.

Baptism is a part of the whole, but it is not the whole. Let’s see if this holds up as we continue through the New Testament.

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