God’s Word for You
Acts 10:44-48 Speaking in tongues
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, March 13, 2020
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all those who heard the message. 45 All of the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, 46 because they were hearing them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can keep these people from being baptized with water, can they? They received the Holy Spirit just as we ourselves did.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
This is the second or third time that speaking in tongues, also called glossolalia, occurs in Acts. The first was of course at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13). There will be another instance in Acts 18:24-19:7. Another instance is perhaps found in Acts 8:5-25. Paul also talks about this or a very similar phenomenon in 1 Corinthians (chapters 12-14). In Acts 11, when this incident is related by Peter, we will talk about why this took place. For now, it will be helpful to understand what it was that was happening.
This was the same ‘Pentecostal Glossolalia’ that we read about in the second chapter of Acts. These men, who heard the gospel of the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, put their faith in Jesus. When the Holy Spirit “came on (Greek ‘fell upon’) all those who heard the message,” the new converts began to speak in languages they had never learned. Peter will describe this as being the same as what “had come on us at the beginning” (Acts 11:15). The beginning to which Peter refers must be the Pentecost experience itself, when people heard the apostles speaking in human languages; those of the “Parthians, Medes and Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and part of Libya near Cyrene” and so on (Acts 2:9-10). The main differences between the two events are that, first, at Pentecost, the disciples preached in these other languages about “the wonderful works of God” and here Cornelius and his friends “were praising God” (Acts 10:46). Second, at Pentecost, there were many people present who were from the countries mentioned, but here there was only the smallish gathering at Cornelius’ house. Yet we can infer that at least the languages representing the homes of the people present were heard.
The hearing or speaking of tongues is not a mark of the church, but one experience which happened at times within the church. The true marks of the church are stated in the Augsburg Confession: “The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered” (AC VII,1). However, these marks of the church were present here, since the gospel was preached and Peter asked the rhetorical question (meti, μήτι, is used in questions which expect a “no” answer) about baptism.
Where did this baptism take place? We are told twice that Cornelius lived in a house “by the sea” (Acts 10:6, 10:32). Maybe Peter got a little water from one of the jars used to catch rainwater, or from a local well, or from either of the two aqueducts which were newly built at this time. The Lower Aqueduct came from the Nahal Taninim Dam to the north, and the Upper Aqueduct came from the En Tsabarim spring to the northeast. But it might also have been possible that the whole group just walked out to the harbor or a nearby beach and were baptized in the sea.
Here in Caesarea, Jews and Gentiles came together in the name of Jesus Christ and were shown by the Holy Spirit that together they made up the Holy Christian Church, the communion of saints. Theirs was the forgiveness of sins, and it is ours too, through faith in Christ. Give glory to God for your faith and your membership in his invisible church. Recognize the marks of the church, and thank God for faithful pastors who preach the gospel of Christ crucified for our sins.
Pastor Timothy Smith