Dec 13th, 2007 by Nathanael
In Acts 10, we are introduced to Cornelius, a converted Gentile who fears the Lord. In a powerful vision, the Lord spoke to him and told him to have Simon Peter visit. So Cornelius sent men to Joppa to bring back Peter. In the meantime, Peter had a vision in which the Lord revealed to him that all Gentiles who believed in Him would be considered clean in His eyes. There was no distinction between Jews and Gentiles in true salvation. So, accompanied by some of his Jewish brothers in Christ, Peter visited Cornelius’ house and gave a powerful, compelling message. Before he was finished preaching, “the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 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. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, ‘Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ 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).
Two things jump out in this text. The first is that the Jews who accompanied Peter to Cornelius’ house were obviously accustomed to seeing tongues accompanying the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Their amazement was not just that people spoke in tongues after the Holy Spirit fell on them, but that the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit. So, we can safely conclude that the initial outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost was followed by more manifestations of this gift not written about in the Acts narrative between chapter two and here in chapter ten. The second thing that jumps out is that there was no need here for the interpretation of tongues. When Peter was preaching, everyone understood his message; so everyone in attendance spoke and comprehended the same language. So in this setting, the manifestation of tongues was a sign. It served as verbal communication between man and God only.
Farther along in the Acts narrative, we see the apostle Paul arriving in Ephesus. There he meets a group of men who were disciples but had only been baptized in John’s baptism of repentance. “And Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all” (Acts 19:4-7).
Again in this instance, the outpouring of tongues was a sign, serving no communication purpose between men, only between man and God. It was visible evidence that “the Holy Spirit came on them” (v 6).