Friday 15 July 2022

Bible Book:

The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. (vs 45-46)

Acts 10:44-48 Friday 15 July 2022

Psalm 8


Peter had just made a speech to Cornelius and his family, identifying what he had learnt about the breadth of God’s glory through his encounter with them. And then he was abruptly interrupted by the arrival of the Holy Spirit. We are told Peter and his companions were ‘astonished’ (exhestesan). The word literally translates as ‘standing outside’, and it is where the language of ‘ecstasy’ comes from. They may be described, perhaps, as ‘astounded’, ‘beside themselves’, ‘stunned’ or ‘completely thrown’. At any rate, they were more than just mildly surprised!

The language of the Spirit ‘falling upon’ or being ‘poured out on’ the hearers is striking. In the account of Pentecost, in Acts 2, the believers are described as being ‘filled with’ the Spirit, but here it reads more like a heavy downpour, or an emptying out of a vast jar over their heads. The proof of the Spirit’s power at work in them is that they speak ‘with tongues’ or ‘through languages’ (the word can have either meaning). It is not clear whether they are speaking in human languages or ecstatic utterances; in Acts 2, the text speaks of ‘other tongues/languages’, which the crowds are then able to understand, so the question is whether the phrase has the same or a different meaning here, when the tongues are not ‘other’.

This passage often raises the question of infant baptism. Peter orders the whole household to be baptised; does this include children? It is worth noting, however, that modern debates about what baptism is, or achieves, are not prominent in this story. It would be usual and expected for Cornelius, as a Roman head of the household, to direct the religious practices of the family, but it is not clear whether he or any others present did actually decide to be baptised. Peter noted that the Spirit had come upon them, and so ordered their baptism. Baptism was not straightforwardly a declaration of faith, and no promises were made (or at least recorded). Instead, it was a required and instinctive response to the work of the Spirit. If God had accepted these Gentiles, baptism must follow!

To Ponder:

  • What does baptism mean to you? If you have been baptised, what difference does this make to your life? How might you hold onto its significance? Do you mark the anniversary of your baptism in any way, or belong to a tradition that invites the renewal of baptism vows at Easter?
  • When did you last notice the movement of the Spirit? What would you look for to recognise the Spirit at work in your life, church or local community?

Come, Holy Spirit.
Fall on me.
Fill me.
Change me.
Renew me.
Come, Holy Spirit.

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