We have here the issue and effect of Peter’s sermon to Cornelius and his friends. He did not labour in vain among them, but they were all brought home to Christ. Here we have,
I. God’s owning Peter’s word, by conferring the Holy Ghost upon the hearers of it, and immediately upon the hearing of it (Acts 10:44): While Peter was yet speaking these words, and perhaps designed to say more, he was happily superseded by visible indications that the Holy Ghost, even in his miraculous gifts and powers, fell on all those who heard the word, even as he did on the apostles at first; so Peter saith, Acts 11:15. Therefore some think it was with a rushing mighty wind, and in cloven tongues, as that was. Observe, 1. When the Holy Ghost fell upon them—while Peter was preaching. Thus God bore witness to what he said, and accompanied it with a divine power. Thus were the signs of an apostle wrought among them, 2 Cor. 12:12. Though Peter could not give the Holy Ghost, yet the Holy Ghost being given along with the word of Peter, by this it appeared he was sent of God. The Holy Ghost fell upon others after they were baptized, for their confirmation; but upon these Gentiles before they were baptized: as Abraham was justified by faith, being yet in uncircumcision, to show that God is not tied to a method, nor confines himself to external signs. The Holy Ghost fell upon those that were neither circumcised nor baptized; for it is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing. 2. How it appeared that the Holy Ghost had fallen upon them (Acts 10:46): They spoke with tongues which they never learned, perhaps the Hebrew, the holy tongue; as the preachers were enabled to speak the vulgar tongues, that they might communicate the doctrine of Christ to the hearers, so, probably, the hearers were immediately taught the sacred tongue, that they might examine the proofs which the preachers produced out of the Old Testament in the original. Or their being enabled to speak with tongues intimated that they were all designed for ministers, and by this first descent of the Spirit upon them were qualified to preach the gospel to others, which they did but now receive themselves. But, observe, when they spoke with tongues, they magnified God, they spoke of Christ and the benefits of redemption, which Peter had been preaching to the glory of God. Thus did they on whom the Holy Ghost first descended, Acts 2:11. Note, Whatever gift we are endued with, we ought to honour God with it, and particularly the gift of speaking, and all the improvements of it. 3. What impression it made upon the believing Jews that were present (Acts 10:45): Those of the circumcision who believed were astonished—those six that came along with Peter; it surprised them exceedingly, and perhaps gave them some uneasiness, because upon the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost, which they thought had been appropriated to their own nation. Had they understood the scriptures of the Old Testament, which pointed at this, it would not have been such an astonishment to them; but by our mistaken notions of things we create difficulties to ourselves in the methods of divine providence and grace.
II. Peter’s owning God’s work in baptizing those on whom the Holy Ghost fell. Observe, 1. Though they had received the Holy Ghost, yet it was requisite they should be baptized; though God is not tied to instituted ordinances, we are; and no extraordinary gifts set us above them, but rather oblige us so much the more to conform to them. Some in our days would have argued “These are baptized with the Holy Ghost and therefore what need have they to be baptized with water? It is below them.” No; it is not below them, while water-baptism is an ordinance of Christ, and the door of admission into the visible church, and a seal of the new covenant. 2. Though they were Gentiles, yet, having received the Holy Ghost, they might be admitted to baptism (Acts 10:47): Can any man, though ever so rigid a Jew, forbid water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? The argument is conclusive; can we deny the sign to those who have received the thing signified? Are not those on whom God has bestowed the grace of the covenant plainly entitled to the seals of the covenant? Surely those that have received the Spirit as well as we ought to receive baptism as well as we; for it becomes us to follow God’s indications, and to take those into communion with us whom he hath taken into communion with himself. God hath promised to pour his Spirit upon the seed of the faithful, upon their offspring; and who then can forbid water, that they should not be baptized, who have received the promise of the Holy Ghost as well as we? Now it appears why the Spirit was given them before they were baptized—because otherwise Peter could not have persuaded himself to baptize them, any more than to have preached to them, if he had not been ordered to do it by a vision; at least he could not have avoided the censure of those of the circumcision that believed. Thus is there one unusual step of divine grace taken after another to bring the Gentiles into the church. How well is it for us that the grace of a good God is so much more extensive than the charity of some good men! 3. Peter did not baptize them himself, but commanded them to be baptized, Acts 10:48. It is probable that some of the brethren who came with him did it by his order, and that he declined it for the same reason that Paul did—lest those that were baptized by him should think the better of themselves for it, or he should seem to have baptized in his own name, 1 Cor. 1:15. The apostles received the commission to go and disciple all nations by baptism. But is was to prayer and the ministry of the word that they were to give themselves. And Paul says that he was sent, not to baptize but to preach, which was the more noble and excellent work. The business of baptizing was therefore ordinarily devolved upon the inferior ministers; these acted by the orders of the apostles, who might therefore be said to do it. Qui per alterum facit, per seipsum facere dicitur—What a man does by another, he may be said to do by himself.
III. Their owning both Peter’s word and God’s work in their desire for further advantage by Peter’s ministry: They prayed him to tarry certain days. They could not press him to reside constantly among them—they knew that he had work to do in other places, and that for the present he was expected at Jerusalem; yet they were not willing he should go away immediately, but earnestly begged he would stay for some time among them, that they might be further instructed by him in the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. Note, 1. Those who have some acquaintance with Christ cannot but covet more. 2. Even those that have received the Holy Ghost must see their need of the ministry of the word.