December 23, 2013 in God's Prophetic Spirit
Volume 4 of God’s Prophetic Spirit
Available on 12/30/13
The fourth installment of God’s Prophetic Spirit will be available for purchase next Monday, December 30th. This fourth volume contains two essays which discuss an often overlooked doctrine in the New Testament: The Mystery of God. The epistles of the New Testament speak of the mystery of God as often as they discuss the topic of baptism. While we teach on baptism continually, we rarely discuss the impact of the mystery in the New Testament. These two essays begin an examination of this important New Testament teaching. This study is worthy of inclusion in this series because much of the New Testament’s teaching about the Holy Spirit is woven into its teaching about the mystery of God. Every Bible student needs to see the connection between the Spirit and the mystery.
Volume 4 contains two essays:
Essay #9: “What is the Mystery of God?”
Essay #10: “God’s Mystery: Established by the Holy Spirit”
Here is a quick preview of Volume 4 for your enjoyment:
God’s actions in the house of Cornelius left a divine stamp of “clean-ness” on the Gentiles that neither Peter nor any of those with him that day could ignore.
The setting of the events in Cornelius’ house is important in appreciating the full impact of the Holy Spirit’s work on that day. In order to piece together the events we must combine the accounts of Acts 10 and 11. Together they provide a complete and helpful picture. One verse in particular stands out as a starting point. Acts 11:4 reads, “But Peter began and explained it to them in order.” Acts 11 is the “in order” or chronological account of the events in Cornelius’ house.
Given the scrutiny that his actions were under, it is easy to understand why Peter would take care to recite in exact order the events of the visions and demonstrations of God that lead up to his decision to “keep company” with the Gentiles and preach to them. Imagine sitting on a witness stand in a trial and being asked to explain your actions. Undoubtedly, you would speak as orderly and as precisely as possible. If you can appreciate that feeling, you can place yourself in Peter’s shoes in the events of Acts 11.
The special light that Acts 11 helps us to understand about Acts 10 is found in verse 15: “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning.” In his orderly recitation Peter then reveals a fact that is not made as clearly in Acts 10 but is critical to understanding the work of the Holy Spirit in authorizing Peter’s preaching to the Gentiles. Compare Acts 10:44 with Acts 11:15:
- Acts 10:44: While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word . . .
- Acts 11:15: As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning.
Acts 10 leaves the impression that Peter was well into a sermon to the Gentiles when the Holy Spirit fell on them. Acts 11’s “in order” account makes the statement more precisely. It tells us at what point “While Peter was still saying these things” that the Holy Spirit moved. Peter was “still saying these things,” because the Holy Spirit fell on the house of Cornelius “as I [Peter – jj] began to speak.” One does not begin to speak after 10 minutes, 5 minutes, or even 1 minute of speaking. One begins to speak with the first word of his speech. The reason Peter was “still” talking was because he had just “begun” to talk.
It is the Spirit’s presence at the beginning of Peter’s speaking that he uses to explain the content of his sermon. The combined record of Acts 10 and 11 show how Peter interpreted the Holy Spirit’s presence in Cornelius’ house:
- Acts 10:47: “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
- Acts 11:16-17: “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way.”
The presence of the Holy Spirit in the Gentiles left Peter no doubt and no choice. The preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles was the will and work of God. The moment Peter opened his mouth to begin to speak the gospel to the Gentiles, God through a demonstration of the Holy Spirit stepped in to authorize and endorse his actions. Peter rightly understood the message. If he failed to open the door of salvation to any man of every nation who was willing to fear God and work righteousness, he would have been standing in God’s way.
The work of the Holy Spirit was the final word of God on whether or not the Gentiles were free to come to Jesus through the gospel. From the beginning, that message was preached under the direct and explicit authority of the Holy Spirit.
 It is worthy of note to mention that the Holy Spirit’s coming on the household of Cornelius is not an indication they were saved at that point. Acts 11:14 makes it clear that it would be through the “message” that Peter spoke that Cornelius and his house would be saved. Yet, Acts 11:15 states that the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles as Peter “began to speak.” One begins speaking with his first word. It necessarily follows that the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit prior to hearing Peter’s message. Just as one notes in the Spirit’s presence upon the rejected king Saul and the sorcerer, Balaam, the Spirit’s coming upon a man should not be taken as an indication of salvation. What Acts 10-11 shows is the Spirit’s presence among the Gentiles was first used to proclaim their “right” to the gospel, not their “reception” of Jesus At the least this text affirms that on one occasion a person’s receiving the “gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 10:45) is not a blessing connected to salvation. Those who believe that the “gift” is the universal and unique blessing of the Christian must allow for Cornelius’ receiving the “gift” before baptism (10:47) and even before his hearing of the gospel (11:14-15).