Salvation of Gentiles
Published by Stanley Pouw in 2023 · 26 February 2023
We all want the fellowship of the pure who think like we do. And we want the fellowship of the deserving, those who would be so gratified to have you around. And we usually manage somehow to screen out anybody who doesn’t enhance our image, boost our pride, reinforce our prejudice, or feed our ego. And it’s amazing how difficult it is for us to break into another circle.
We recognize this within our society. And if you go back to the early church, you find the same thing was happening there. The church was born in Jerusalem, and it was comprised mostly of Jews at the beginning. Only some half-breed Samaritans were incorporated with Jerusalem Jews, Hellenistic Jews. And the church had grown up within a faction of people called the Circumcision Party.
And they had come to the conclusion that the only way into Christianity was through Judaism. And in order to keep out undesirables, they made circumcision the standard. And they made Judaism the room before Christianity. But Jesus was in the business of smashing fences, and so as you come to Acts 10, the Lord adds to the church Gentiles. He includes them into the church, into one body.
As Ephesians 3 said, “The mystery of the church was Jew and Gentile one in Christ.” This was God’s design. And so the Gentiles had to be reached, but the Jews were against that. There was no basis for it, because in the Old Testament, it clearly outlined the fact that God didn’t play favorites. Peter says in verse 34, “I am learning that God is no respecter of persons.”
Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person.” And He said, “Make disciples and baptize them in the name of Christ.” So Jesus clearly indicated that the fellowship in Christ was available to all. Galatians 3:26 says, “You are all the sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus. As many as you have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. So there is neither Jew nor Greek.”
When Christ came, God’s promise was fulfilled, and God’s promise was this: That in Abraham’s seed, all the families of the earth should be blessed, and it was not that salvation was of the Jews inclusively, but that it was of the Jews in order that they might preach its complete freedom to the rest of the world. And so they weren’t given the gospel as an end but as a means.
All people equally need salvation. So God provides it equally for all men, and there can be no prejudice. Christ came to be the Savior of the world. Peter had to learn that through a series of things. First God had given him a vision. And little by little, Peter’s attitudes were beginning to break down, and he admits, “I see God is no respecter of persons,” and so he’s ready to preach to Cornelius.
Now Cornelius is a Gentile, and a ruler because he ruled over a hundred men in the army of Rome. And Cornelius is a man who believes that the true God, is represented by the God of Israel. So God brings Peter to preach to him beginning in verse 34. Cornelius is not alone. He has gathered together a whole household of people, and they are all eagerly waiting to hear what Peter has to say.
Now this chapter presents for us the presentation that explodes the gospel to include the world. In this chapter, we see the salvation of individual Gentiles. In order for salvation of the Gentiles to happen, there had to be a sovereign call from God, so He moved in and prepared Cornelius. Then there had to be submissive will. Cornelius needed to respond with a desire to come to know the gospel.
And then once that had been done, you needed a simple proclamation. The heart of Cornelius was ready and so Peter appears with the presentation. In verses 34 - 35 his introduction was, “I’m happy to announce to you and all Gentiles, that salvation is available.” God doesn’t have any favorites. Any man in any nation who fears God, and does righteously, God will accept him.
Then secondly, salvation is in Christ. He says, “You see, Christ is your Savior,” or verse 42, “He is your Judge.” John 5 presents the fact that Jesus Christ was given to be the judge by the Father. So it says Christ is the only way of salvation. Then he concludes in verse 43, “To Him give all the prophets witness.” In other words, “whosoever believes in Him shall receive forgiveness of sins.”
And it doesn’t tell us what happened. It just says the Holy Spirit interrupted Peter in verse 44, “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.” Peter never preached without results. Two things make the difference. Sovereign call and submissive will. Where they are present, salvation occurs. Where they are not present, salvation does not occur.
On the spot, the whole bunch believed. God doesn’t give His Holy Spirit to unbelievers. And friends, from a human standpoint, that’s the only way we can verify anybody’s salvation. By their fruits you shall know them. Three things led to their salvation: sovereign call, submissive will and proclamation. And three things follow: spiritual power, confession and fellowship.
Let’s start with spiritual power. Peter’s message was suddenly interrupted while he was speaking. Look at Acts 11:15, he goes back to report to the folks in Jerusalem, and he says, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, as on us at the beginning.” The moment that Peter said, “Salvation is available. It is in Christ,” and the minute he said, “It is by faith,” they believed.
It doesn’t say, “And then they went out, and Peter told them how to get the Holy Spirit.” There are some Pentecostal friends who teach that you get the Holy Spirit later on. They says that Cornelius was already saved, and this is only the time that he got the Holy Spirit. But in Acts 11:14, Peter said, “who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.”
If this was the occasion of Cornelius getting the Holy Spirit, why did Peter preach him the gospel? This is his and the others salvation. And the moment they believed, God interrupted Peter, and in effect said, “All right, Peter, that’s sufficient. They’ve got the message. I got to give them the Spirit, because they believe.” God saves people from their believing heart which God knows.
It is wrong to say that somebody can be saved and not have the Holy Spirit. God gave them the Holy Spirit when they believed. Now that becomes the norm for every believer from then on. When a person believes, God gives him the Holy Spirit. The first thing that happens when you put your faith in Jesus Christ, is God gives you the Spirit of God who dwells within you from then on.
That is absolutely clear in Scripture. Ezekiel 36:26 says, “A new heart also will I give you.” That’s salvation. The person needs a new heart, because the old one is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” Notice salvation and the Spirit are connected at the same moment. “I will take away the stony heart of your flesh, and give you a new living heart of flesh.”
If you didn’t have the Holy Spirit, you couldn’t obey God. You would not have the capacity to obey God. You wouldn’t have the power to do what you needed to do to get the Holy Spirit. Only through the Spirit do you have the power to do anything. In the Old Testament it says, “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord.” Only then can you do what pleases God.
In John 7:37, feast of tabernacles is going on. The pouring of the water, symbolizing God’s sustenance of Israel in the wilderness. At that moment, Jesus stands says, “If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink.” Remember the water that He gave the woman at the well in John 4? Jesus said, “If you believe in Me, I’ll give you water, and you’ll never thirst again.”
And so there was the promise of spiritual water, a spring of cleansing water of life inside of them. Verse 38 says, “He that believes in Me.” So what is the qualification? He that believes in Me. As the Scripture said, “out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.” Here is a twofold promise, one, you’re going to receive the water; two, it’s going to gush out of you. Not a trickle, but rivers of water.
The gospel record shows us that before the cross of Christ, before His resurrection and before His ascension and before He sent the Spirit, the disciples couldn’t do anything. Mostly, they sat around trying to figure out what they were all about. The power behind the rushing of living water is the power of the Spirit of God. In John 16:7, He says, “If I go away, I’ll send the Holy Spirit to you.”
If you don’t have the Spirit, you’re not saved. You wouldn’t even know who your Savior was if it weren’t for the Spirit of God within you. In 2 Corinthians 6:16, the apostle Paul says, “For you are the temple of the living God.” In Acts 11:17, Peter said, “The Gentiles received the same gift.” Can you earn a gift? If you earned it, it’s a wage. If you earned the Holy Spirit, it is not the gift of Christ.
First, the Spirit is for power to witness. Secondly, you need the Spirit for prayer. Romans 8:26-27 says, “For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
The third reason you need the Holy Spirit is for security. At the moment of faith, you believed, immediately you were sealed by the Holy Spirit. He is the seal. The seal means security. This is secure. The only thing that could break that seal was a higher authority, and there is no higher authority than God. The Spirit is the seal that guarantees that I belong to God and I’m secure.
The Spirit has been given to me as a seal for authenticity. You know how you can tell an authentic Christian? That person has God’s seal which is the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:14 says, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” There’s another reason that you have the Spirit of God. In Ephesians 1:14 it says, the Holy Spirit is the earnest of your inheritance.
The Holy Spirit is God’s guarantee of the full inheritance. And if you didn’t have the Holy Spirit, you couldn’t learn anything. Who’s going to guide you into all truth? The Holy Spirit. 1 John 2:27 says, “We don’t need to be taught by men. We have anointing from God that teaches us.” It’s the Holy Spirit. In Acts 10:44 it says, “While Peter yet spoke these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them who heard the Word.”
“Because they believed and were saved.” But in Acts 8:15 - 17 the Samaritans hadn’t received the Holy Spirit when they were saved. You’re right. Why? God wanted the Jews to know that Samaritans were equal in Christ. He withheld the Spirit’s coming to the Samaritans until Peter and John arrived, so they could report back that the Samaritans got the same thing we got.
Now the only hint about their salvation is indicated at the end of verse 44. “The Spirit fell on all them who heard the Word.” Now there’s hearing and then there’s hearing. Right? Many people who come to church. You can hear without faith; and you can hear with faith. And when they heard it with faith they believed, and the Spirit lives within you when you hear by faith.
Verse 45, And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.” How did they know it? Because it says in verse 46, “When they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.” They heard them speak in other languages. Why? How else would they have known a miracle happened?
Nowhere in the New Testament is tongues-speaking ever recorded as occurring in a single seeking individual, as in most modern Pentecostal experiences. In Acts, on the three occasions where tongues are mentioned, they come to an entire group at once. Verse 47, “Then answered Peter, can anybody forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we?”
We got to baptize them. In the early church, there never was a separation. That’s your public confession. It symbolizes the death and burial and resurrection of Christ as you’re identified with Him. Verse 48, “He commanded them to be baptized in the name of Lord Jesus.” He didn’t do it. He let them do it. Can you imagine those six Jews baptizing all the Gentiles?
When people get involved in something, they usually will defend it. Peter goes back, and says, “Our group baptized them.” He wanted some corroboration to the testimony, so he has them do the baptizing. At the end of verse 48, “Then they asked him to tarry certain days.” The third sign of true salvation is sweet fellowship. They desire to know the Word of God, to be fed. Minister to us.”
God is no respecter of persons. I hope you’re free to share the gospel with anybody and everybody. Jesus always said, He is not the Jews’ friend, nor the Gentiles’ friend, nor the friend of the rich, nor the friend of the poor, nor the friend of the higher up, nor the friend of the prostitute. He is the friend of sinners, and that includes all of us. So share the Gospel to your neighbors and your friends. Let us pray.