Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pearls Before Swine? No Longer Certain...

Ok, so I'm rethinking the stance I've taken when it comes to discussing baptism and soteriology with those who deny that Cornelius' household was saved before water baptism in Acts 10. I may not be properly applying, let alone understanding, Jesus' statements concerning throwing pearls before swine. Certainly there must be a time to shake the dust off one's feet, but I'm not sure I'm doing so in the proper timeframe or manner.

As such, Steve, Aaron, Terry, know that I recognize the possibility that I might be behaving immaturely and unbiblically, and that I will be praying about it. In the meantime, I have a request of you if you're willing.

Here is a summary (relevant to the request I'm about to make) of the argument I laid out in "Saving Cornelius," that Cornelius' household was saved before water baptism:
  1. The text says they "received the Holy Spirit," the same language used in Romans 8 and other places which say the indwelling Holy Spirit seals us in Christ, testifies within us that we are children of God, and promises us resurrection and redemption.
  2. The text says they spoke in tongues and prophesied, gifts which 1 Corinthians 12 says are among many gifts which the indwelling Holy Spirit distributes individually to those who are members of the body of Christ.
I guess what has been implicit in this argument is the denial that, post-Pentecost, God gives people these gifts apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and that there are multiple senses in which people receive the Holy Spirit. With that in mind, here is my request of you: Please demonstrate for me that the New Testament demonstrates one of the following post-Pentecost:
  1. The manifestation of tongues or prophecy, gifts given by God, in those who have not "received the Holy Spirit"
  2. Multiple senses in which one "receives the Holy Spirit"
If you can demonstrate either of these, I will be forced to acknowledge the ambiguity a couple of you have claimed is found in Acts 10.


  1. I posted this to the other thread also.

    Chris, you agree that Cornelius and his household and the Apostles are a distinctly separate events than the other passages that show how people receive the H.S. including the Samaritans.

    You agree that Cornelius and his household received the H.S. the same way the Apostles did.

    You agree that in all the cases where the H.S. fell upon or hands were laid upon people to give the H.S. (which was an ability that only the Apostles had, and therefore was not passed onto anyone else before they died) that those believers were then immediately baptized in water.

    You seem to understand there is some importance to water baptism even if merely as an act of obedience.

    You agree that Jesus Christ himself was baptized prior to receiving the H.S.

    Why then (and how) is this not the example we should be following? i.e., baptism and assurance of receipt of the H.S.

    It would seem, to me at least, that you agree with the clear teaching of the Bible in these cases, yet refuse to use this as the Biblical example in your own life.

  2. I will post a link to this comment in the other thread.

  3. No, I do not agree that the Apostles and Cornelius are somehow unique occurrences. This was my point elsewhere where I pointed out that the only other two examples where we're explicitly told when the Holy Spirit was received are the Samaritans in Acts 8 and the Ephesians in Acts 19. Saying two occurrences are the rule and two are the exception is untenable.

    No, I do not agree that whenever someone received the Holy Spirit they were immediately thereafter baptized in water. The Samaritans were baptized in water first, as were the Ephesians. And the Apostles were never baptized in Christ's name.

    Yes, I wholeheartedly acknowledge that water baptism is an important act of obedience.

    No New Testament author ever cites Jesus' baptism, at least not having anything to do with receiving the Holy Spirit. Therefore we cannot know that the order of events in His case is normative.

    You claim I refuse to follow the biblical example in my life, or at least that it seems to you that way. I don't know how, since I was baptized in water many years ago, not long after becoming a believer.

  4. Luke cites Jesus' baptism.

    This is the Biblical example.

    Matthew 28:19
    Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

    Luke 3:21-22
    21When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."

    Acts 2:1-4, 37-41
    1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
    37When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"
    38Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."
    40With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." 41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

    Acts 8:14
    14When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 17Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

    Acts 9:17
    17Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

    Acts 10:44-48
    44While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.
    Then Peter said, 47"Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." 48So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

    Acts 19:1-7
    1While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"
    They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit."
    3So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?"
    "John's baptism," they replied.
    4Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus." 5On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 6When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7There were about twelve men in all.

    The Bible disagrees with you.

  5. You misunderstood me, although I can see why my words came across the way they did. Of course the gospel authors record Jesus' baptism; I'm not a buffoon. What I meant was that no New Testament author ever points back to His baptism as an illustration of how believers receive the Holy Spirit.

    Matthew 28:19 certainly doesn't. Luke 3:21-22 certainly doesn't. Acts 2:1-4, 37-41 certainly doesn't. Acts 8:14 certainly doesn't. Acts 9:17 certainly doesn't. Acts 10:44-48 certainly doesn't. Acts 19:1-7 certainly doesn't.

    I know you believe the Bible disagrees with me, but none of these passages disagree with anything I believe or have said.

  6. Oh, so Jesus shouldn't be our example. okay. All these passages, Luke 3:21-22, Acts 8:14, Acts 9:17, Acts 10:44-48 and Acts 19:1-7, all fit the same pattern.

    Clearly if your view is correct then these must be translated wrong or transliterated wrong or are lies or heresy. Which one though?

    Or I am presupposing that they merely infer baptism since these examples all show clearly that they received the H.S. prior to baptism.

  7. I didn't say Jesus should be our example. I've already acknowledged that, like Jesus, we should submit in obedience to water baptism.

    The only pattern that the passages you've cited establish is that believers are baptized in water, something I've never argued against.

    What I said isn't a pattern is water baptism followed by Holy Spirit baptism. That's the case with Acts 8 and Acts 19, but Acts 10 has it reversed, and in Acts 2 the Apostles receive the Holy Spirit but are never baptized in water. The occurrences in Acts simply provide no pattern for the order in which baptism in water and baptism in the Holy Spirit normatively occur.

    So no, none of the passages are translated wrong, or transliterated wrong, or are lies, or are heresy.

  8. What about the parts of those passages that reference the H.S.?

  9. Now, in Acts 2, where the Apostles were with Peter, I have to submit and agree the Peter is not explicitly said to have been baptized. But Acts 2:41 explicitly says "Those who accepted his message were baptized..". Now you can take it that the Apostles may have been the only ones there that did not accept the message and get baptized, but I think that when Peter tells EVERYONE to be baptized, and then THOSE WHO ACCEPTED THE MESSAGE were baptized it is absolutely clear that nobody left there without getting wet.

  10. Matthew 28:19 only says baptism is to be done in the name of the Holy Spirit; it does not mention the receiving of the Holy Spirit.

    Acts 2:1-4, 37-41 says the Apostles received the Holy Spirit and there's no record of them ever being water baptized in Christ's name. And I argued in another post that Peter tells the Jews in attendance to repent for the forgiveness of sins and they will receive the Holy Spirit; water baptism is commanded there, but receiving the Holy Spirit is tied to repentance, not baptism. Either way, the text says the Jews obeyed and were baptized in water, but it doesn't say when they received the Holy Spirit. Acts 9:17 likewise doesn't say when Paul received the Holy Spirit.

    Acts 8:14 has the Samaritans receiving the Holy Spirit after water baptism, and Acts 19:1-7 likewise has the Ephesians receiving the Holy Spirit after water baptism.

    Acts 10:44-48, on the other hand, has Cornelius' household receiving the Holy Spirit prior to water baptism.

    So the only times we're given any sequential order of water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism are: 1) The Samaritans and the Ephesians who receive Him after water baptism; 2) Cornelius' household who receive Him before water baptism; and 3) the Apostles who receive Him without water baptism.

    There just is no pattern there.

  11. The text says those who "received" (ἀποδέχομαι) Peter's message were baptized. The Greek word means "to accept from another," so Peter could not have "received" his own message. Peter's message was given, not to himself and the other Apostles, but to the Jews in attendance.

  12. I know I'm sort of a latecomer to this thread, and as a paedo-baptist I'm not particularly invested in either side, but for what it's worth I have generally assumed that a) the Apostles had already been baptized with John's baptism, and that b) Cornelius and his family are a special case as the first Gentiles to receive water baptism of whom God "made an example" so that the Jewish Christians would have no doubt.

    There are a few other relevant passages I would like to throw in here:

    Colossians 2:11-13: In him you were circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with circumcision done by the hands of men but with circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

    Romans 6:4: We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the father, we too may live a new life.

    Note the importance of this statement within Paul's larger argument - the crucifixion of the flesh through baptism is a prerequisite to the Spirit-driven life.

    Regarding whether there is a "pattern" in the NT church vis-a-vis baptism, the most obvious pattern is that converts were baptized immediately - no waiting period, baptismal classes, etc. I think this reflects the way baptism was seen as the formal entrance into the covenant.

    Then there is the question of whether infants should receive baptism, but that is a separate question for a separate time.

    God bless.

  13. Infants and children in general do not comprehend guilt or sin and therefore cannot be held accountable for that sin until they can comprehend the guilt that comes from the sin.

    A prime example is when a child causes another person (child or otherwise) pain, they feel no remorse and therefore no guilt.

    Like you say though that is for another place and time.

  14. Hi, Lemuel. Thanks for joining in the conversation!

    The Apostles were baptized in John's baptism, but I do not believe Steve, Terry or Aaron (those whom I've been debating here) would say John's baptism was sufficient. Indeed, the Ephesian disciples in Acts 19 had been baptized into John's baptism, and that was insufficient. So I don't think one can argue that the Apostles, having been baptized by John (assuming all of them had been), had been "born of water" in the sense that proponents of baptismal regeneration insist one must be to be saved.

    Cornelius and his household were a special case, but not terribly much more so than the Samaritans in Acts 8 and the Ephesians in Acts 19. In Acts 2 baptism in the Holy Spirit (which is the saving, indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as I believe I've demonstrated) is only for Jewish believers and proselytes (who are, in fact, Gentiles). In Acts 8 it is extended to Samaritan believers. In Acts 10 it is extended to Gentile Godfearers (Gentiles living largely Jewish lives). And in Acts 19 it is extended to non-Godfearing Gentiles. So no, I do not agree that Cornelius' household was as unique as some make them out to be.

    But here's the thing: even if Cornelius' experience was unique, that is irrelevant to the question I've asked in this post. Perhaps Cornelius' experience was, in fact, unique, and in no way suggests we, today, can be saved before being baptized in water (which position I reject). That doesn't take away from the argument I've put forward in the article I linked to in the OP.

    As for the two passages you cited, those cause no problem for my view, but I'd really like to stick to the topic of this particular post, which is whether or not Cornelius' household was saved before their baptism in water. The verses you cite do not take away from the fact that they had "received the Holy Spirit" using the language of Romans 8, and manifested tongues and prophecy, gifts 1 Corinthians 12 says are gifts manifested by the Holy Spirit amongst the members of Christ's body. Therefore, they were part of Christ's body, sealed by the Holy Spirit, before water baptism.

    I agree that the pattern is that new believers are very quickly baptized. Furthermore, I would agree that this was seen as the "formal" entrance into the covenant in a sense. However, the question is, is one actually part of the covenant before outwardly professing, via water baptism, that one has entered into it?

    But like I said, I'd like to keep that question separate from this post, where I want to focus specifically on Cornelius' household.

  15. Yes, please let's discuss infant baptism elsewhere, as I disagree with both Aaron's most recent comment, as well as the paedo baptism position. I will do an episode in the not-too-distant future addressing one question or the other, and we can engage at that point.

  16. Chris,

    Thanks for the response. Yes, everything you say seems true. There is a difference between saying that baptism is an absolutely necessary prerequisite to eternal salvation (which seems to be the position of your opponents above) and saying that baptism is a step in the salvific process that provides a means for visibly distinguishing the covenant people from the non-covenant people, and which accompanies a person's public confession and repentance. The latter is the historic Protestant view, with some variations.

    And yes, it would be great to hear a podcast from you on the issue of paedo-baptism.

  17. For some time now I've had an empty post in my podcast drafts folder entitled "God Bless the Child," in which I've intended to address just that question :) The problem is, I just haven't researched it enough to be able to speak meaningfully on it.

    Also, I'll confess a little bit of trepidation on my part, because I highly respect R. C. Sproul and I know he is a paedo-baptist; you can imagine the daunting feeling of having to refute Sproul :)