THE HOLY SPIRIT ON CORNELIUS
Garden City, Michigan church of Christ Bulletin
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Cornelius and his household was not to save them, but was to demonstrate that God was now accepting the Gentiles into the kingdom. The whole account of the angel appearing to Cornelius, Peter’s vision, the coming of the Holy Spirit on those present, and the effect on the Jewish witnesses, clearly reveals that the Gentiles along with the Jews could now enjoy salvation in Christ. The Jews who heard Peter’s explanation of all that occurred (Acts 11) truly manifested the purpose of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Cornelius when they said, “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18).
Furthermore, Cornelius and his household were to hear words from Peter to be saved. “...Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved” (Acts ). The gospel is the power of God to salvation (Romans ); God chose preaching to save those who believe (1 Corinthians ); men are called by the gospel to the obtaining of the glory (2 Thessalonians ). Peter had not finished his words when the Holy Spirit fell on them. He said, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning” (Acts ). Hence, the Holy Spirit came on them and then Peter continued with the words, the commandments of the Lord, where by they could be saved.
Additionally, Cornelius and his household could not have been saved by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit because as of yet they had not been baptized in water. One must obey the Lord’s command to be baptized in water to be saved or to wash away his sins (Mark ; 1 Peter 3:2 1; Acts ). Peter said, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” (Acts ). Why be baptized at all if they were already saved? verse 48 says, “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” Baptism in the name of the Lord is for remission of sins (Acts ). Thus, in order to be saved they had to do the same as all men everywhere.
The Holy Spirit had part in the conversion of Cornelius, but it was through the Spirit-filled “word” spoken by the apostle Peter. Cornelius was not converted by the power of the Spirit independent of the Word of God. Moreover, the Spirit did not descend upon him and save his soul in direct answer to prayer; neither did the miraculous gifts of the Spirit have any relationship to his salvation from sin. The Holy Spirit never at any time came directly upon anyone for the purpose of conversion. They were always converted by the word of the Spirit (the gospel of Christ) that was preached to them.
Consequently, the Holy Spirit falling on Cornelius was not to save him, but rather was God’s way of demonstrating to those Jews present, and to all men of all ages, that the Gentiles are included in the New Covenant. He was to hear words by which he and all his household could be saved; they were commanded to be baptized in the name of the Lord.