We pause to note here that the receiving of the holy spirit by the Roman Centurion Cornelius and his house was separate from any talk of baptism and even separate from faith itself. Certainly the holy spirit fell on the twelve (all twelve, including Mathias chosen to replace Judas in Acts 1) at Pentecost. All there were already believers.
This falling of the holy spirit* on Gentiles for the first time was in Samaria, part of an outreach to the region connected with the 10 tribes and the northern kingdom of Israel (as we noted in our previous study). The word was allowed to go there. This was part of the commission of the Apostles to the Circumcision (Gal 2:7-8).
*we will look later that the difference between the "Holy Spirit" and the "holy spirit" in a future study.
When Peter finally goes to Cornelius the Gentile (of Caesarea) in Acts 10, his whole household has the spirit fall on them and they display the gifts of the Spirit before they are baptized. What we are dealing with in the Acts Age is not just "faith," but a specific calling of a priesthood according to the covenants Israel has with the Lord. Caesarea, then the civil capital of Judaea, was in the boundaries of the promised land and Kingdom.
While Peter was still speaking these words, the holy spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift [singular] of the holy spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the holy spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.
It is clear that the astonishment was in regard to the "gift of the holy spirit" and not that Gentiles could believe. The twelve had seen a centurion believe in Matthew 8 and a Gentile woman believe in Matthew 15. They famously saw the Lord interact with a Samaritan woman (in Samaria) in John 9 (note that the 12 do not interact with her).
Despite the astonishment and the change in the Lord's approach to Israel. He was now grafting Gentiles into the promises to Israel to "make Israel jealous." From that we can conclude several things, but two giant things should stand out:
- God was still dealing with Israel
- Israel was not "the Church"
If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”
Read all of Acts 11. Peter was unequivocal when he explained his vision to the others. Yet these men get accused of being either stupid or rebellious. It is claimed they didn't understand. The men who accuse them of this are the same who accuse the chosen apostles who were taught for 40 days about the Kingdom by the risen Lord himself did not understand the Kingdom!
After all that, we are told that these went "preaching the word to no one but the Jews only" (v.19). They also went unto the "Hellenists." These were the Greek-speaking Jews of the region. But now that God had initiated his calling of the Gentiles into the blessings of Israel, who would go to the Gentiles? God had already made that provision by the calling of Saul/Paul in Acts chapter 9.
“Go, for [Saul/Paul] is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
Paul was going to bear witness before Gentiles. This was spoken by the Lord before Peter went to Cornelius' house in Acts 10. But di not miss that Paul was also called to go to "the children of Israel." Bear witness to the "Church?" To some new thing God had replaced Israel with? No. Just as Gentiles believers weren't grafted into the Church then threatened that they could be cut off from the Church if they became haughty against the Church (see Acts 11), God still had a witness and a calling for Israel that is different from the calling of this current Age.
Gentiles were grafted into Israel. They were told they could be cut off from Israel. And they were warned not to become haughty against Israel.
Immediately after Paul is called in Acts 9 to go bear witness before the Gentiles, what does he do?
Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus. Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.
Paul could not yet go to the Gentiles in Acts 9. We stress again, Gentiles believing unto life was not something that was unknown or unimagined. God has never forgotten the Gentile in all his dealings with Israel since Genesis 12. But we only see God dealing with Gentiles through connection to a Jew or to Israel. Even great Nineveh is known through Jonah and later its dealing with the dispersion.
And as we know from Acts 17, Paul's practice was to go to the Jews first in every city where there were Jews. This is not a practice we follow today (nor should we).
Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures...
The Gentile believers at Caesarea were not the first Gentile believers. They were the first Gentiles believers to be grafted into the root of Israel and her blessings and the first to receive the gift of the holy spirit. And all of that before they were baptized. No "Acts Church" today follows anything resembling the conditions or callings of the Book of Acts, yet almost all believe they do.
Their excuse for not following the patterns and practices of the Acts Age is to blame the chosen Apostles and future judges in Israel of being, in short, ignorant racists. May we repent of these assertions.