While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days. – Acts 10:44-48
When I was in high school I was on the staff of the school newspaper and year book. As a photographer I was given a press pass. I used it for all it was worth. At the football games and other sports events, I would flash my press pass and gain free entry, and access to the sidelines. Whenever I could I would take advantage of that access. It was pretty heady for a 16-year-old boy – even though the evidence was a laminated piece of flimsy cardboard. It was evidence of my status and privilege.
On this occasion evidence of God acceptance was much more significant: the obvious and outward presence of the Holy Spirit. Even more important, this event signifies the opening of the gospel to a whole new class of people. Gentiles would be welcomed fully into the fellowship of Jesus’ followers.
If you look at the book of Acts – sometimes called the Gospel of the Holy Spirit – you will find that the outward manifestation of the gift of the Holy Spirit comes at three significant moments in the unfolding of the mission of God.
- The first happens at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit moved the apostles to speak of the wonderful deeds of God in various languages.
- The second time is here (Acts 10) when the Gospel makes the move into the gentile peoples. This is a landmark case, making a point: Gentiles are legitimate heirs to the rule and reign of God.
- The third occurrence is when “some disciples” were learned to have been baptized into John’s baptism, but not Jesus’ baptism. When they were baptized in Jesus’ name, and they receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1–7).
Some would want to make the presence and the outward manifestation of the Holy Spirit the proof of conversion to the faith. Some would even say that such outward manifestation is necessary to conversation to the faith. There is no biblical basis for such a claim. But this manifestation was God’s testimony to the authenticity of these Gentile’s faith and place in the kingdom of God, and his vindication of Peter’s preaching to the Gentiles.
I wonder if we realize how much of a privilege we have to call on Jesus, to be saved, and to live under the rule and reign of Christ. The message of the Christian church in North America seems focused on trying to get people to want to come to church, rather than proclaiming the fact that God receives all kinds and manner of people for Jesus’ sake. But that is exactly what Jesus does: he receives all who come to him, who call on his name, and who receive his gift of life and salvation – which is not reserved only for the Jewish people.
That’s good news for most of us reading this post: were it not for Peter’s witness to these Gentile people, God’s vindication of their conversion, and the unfolding movement of the rule and reign of God into the hearts of more and more people from every tribe, nation, and language, you and I would likely not be reading this or rejoicing in God’s salvation through faith in Jesus. But here we are. Thanks be to God!