Was Cornelius’ Household Saved by Baptism in Jesus’ Name?

When Cornelius’ household was saved, some have concluded that they was saved when the Holy Spirit fell upon them while others believe that they were saved when they were saved by baptism in Jesus’ name, and still some believe that they were saved when they first believed before receiving the Spirit or baptism in water. Across Christendom, the salvation of Cornelius’ household is a vital discussion between the differing groups of believers from being saved by faith only to being saved via baptism in Jesus’ name to being saved by the baptism of Holy Spirit. Which is it? Some say that it doesn’t matter and that each person is saved by a different spiritual experience including these three.

The Apostle Peter was instructed by God to go with the three men sent to him from the God-fearing and devout Centurion Cornelius, who gave alms and whose prayers were heard by God. Even though Cornelius was a good man, he was not yet saved. Peter’s mission was to tell Cornelius to “tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved” (Acts 11:14). This is what Peter did, and according to Acts 10:44, “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.”

When the Spirit fell upon Cornelius’ household, Acts 11:15-16 says that this was the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit falling on them as a part of the giving of “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 10:45). In Acts 2:38, the gift of the Holy Spirit was promised after repentance, baptism in Jesus’ name, and the forgiveness of sins. There is a clear disconnect between salvation and receiving the Spirit with His miraculous power in Acts 2:38. Acts 2:38 and other such passages like Titus 3:5-6 show that salvation was not by receiving “the Gift of the Holy Spirit”, but that the Gift followed salvation. This is not to say that the revelation from the Spirit through the Gift is not essential to salvation. The Gift was “poured out” (Acts 10:45) by which these Gentiles spoke in other languages (Acts 10:46). This is in Acts 2 when Peter spoke on how Joel 2 was fulfilled in that the Spirit was “poured out” on them. This is just as Peter revealed to other Jewish believers, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning” (Acts 11:15). Apparently, the miraculous portion of the gift of the Holy Spirit was only directly given to the Apostles in the beginning, and then only unto Cornelius’ family and friends for a specific and unique purpose.

What was the purpose of God giving the miraculous gift to Cornelius’ household before they were saved? This purpose for receiving the Spirit is as Peter said, “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35). Again the purpose is presented by Peter also in Acts 11:17-18, when he said,

“If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God? When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, ‘Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.‘”

Add also that Peter said in Acts 15:7-9 that,

“And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: ‘Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Nations should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.'”

This is why God gave the Spirit and His power to the Gentiles to show that God is not partial.

Therefore, Peter was right to conclude, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:47). Why? One must be born of the water and the Spirit (John 3:5, Titus 3:5-6). Yet, it was not the gift of the Holy Spirit that saved them. It was not the miraculous gifts that saved the Christians in Rome, because the Christians there did not have any gift when Paul wrote them (Rom. 1:11), and yet they did have the Holy Spirit and they were saved (Rom. 8:9-11). These Christians had the Spirit within them. They were saved and did not have the miraculous gifts yet. As Christians at Rome were “freed from sin” (Rom. 6:7) and saved by the power of the Gospel (Rom. 1:16), so was Cornelius’ household saved without miraculous signs from the Spirit. Miraculous gifts does not save one’s soul. Jesus said, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” to those who claimed, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” (Matt. 7:21-23).

To make it even clearer that Cornelius was not saved by the baptism of the Spirit and its miraculous gifts. Acts 11:13-14 makes it clear that the it is by the words of Peter that they were to be saved. Then Acts 15:9 clarifies that Cornelius’ friends and family were saved “by faith“. Their faith was not from the miraculous out pouring of the Spirit, because they believed before receiving the Spirit (Acts 15:7-8). For it is the Truth, the word of God, that sanctifies (John 17:17). The Scriptures teach that one is born of again by the Word, the Truth (1 Peter 1:23).

When were Cornelius’ household saved? Salvation for Cornelius was according to the Word of God spoken by Peter, who said, “To him all the prophets bear witness of the forgiveness of sins to be received through His name for everyone who believes in Him” (Acts 10:43, Verbal Translation). The forgiveness of sins was received through the name of Christ by those who believed. In Acts 10:47-48, there is mention of the salvation in Jesus’ name when Peter said, “‘Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” Here, baptism in Jesus’ name is commanded, which meant baptism in water just as Acts 2:38 says, “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'” Here was the forgiveness of sins by baptism in Jesus’ name. In Acts 2 and Acts 10, salvation and forgiveness is through Jesus’ name, but the receiving of the miraculous power of Spirit came at different times.

Looking further into Acts, this is true that baptism in Jesus’ name is apparent to be the moment of salvation apart from spiritual gifts. In Acts 8, Philip preached to those in Samaria. Philip “preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized” (Acts 8:12). Evidently, preaching “the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” included baptism. Which baptism? This must be the one baptism of Ephesians 4:4. Even though the Samaritans were baptized, Acts 8:16 says, “For as yet He [the Holy Spirit, v15] had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” The Holy Spirit falling on believers was not the same as being baptized in Jesus’ name. These were two different things. Regarding Peter and John, Acts 8:17 says, “Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” It was “through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given” (Acts 8:18). Clearly, salvation was not by the laying on of the Apostles’ hands either, but by salvation of being immersion in Jesus’ name. This is the same that is seen of the 12 men in Acts 19:1-7. These were baptized in Jesus’ name and then they received the gifts of the Spirit by the laying on of an apostle’s hands. Acts 19:4-5 says,

“Then Paul said, ‘John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

These were baptized again into the baptism in Jesus’ name, and then “And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:6). The gifts of the Spirit as the miraculous portion of the Gift of the Holy Spirit are clearly separated from baptism in Jesus’ name. Baptism in Jesus’ name is when one is forgiven, and as Acts 2:41 and 47 show that by baptism in Jesus’ name, these were saved and thus added to the Church.

Holy Spirit Salvation

About Scott J Shifferd

Minister, church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of four. Email: ScottJon82[at]yahoo.com
This entry was posted in Baptism, Christian and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Was Cornelius’ Household Saved by Baptism in Jesus’ Name?

  1. Marc Taylor says:

    No, for John 7:39 teaches that wouldn’t happen until Christ was glorified and the Apostles were saved before that time.
    From the beginning of the NT church (Acts 2:4) and on when the Spirit is received Christ indwells in us as well as His word.
    Don’t you have a specific article dealing with Acts 2:38? You often appeal to it elsewhere but I haven’t seen any article specifically about this passage.


  2. Marc Taylor says:

    Try this:
    When those in Acts 2:4 were filled with the Holy Spirit were they at that time indwelt by Him?


  3. Marc Taylor says:

    When those in Acts 2:4 were filled with the Spirit they were not indwelt by Him?


  4. Marc Taylor says:

    The indwelling of the Spirit did not come at their water baptism. The Bible teaches they were filled with the Holy Spirit before this time.


  5. Marc Taylor says:

    1. The baptism with the Holy Spirit is the same as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When they were baptized wit the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:4 (cf. (Acts 1:5) they were at the very same time indwelt with the Holy Spirit. It is you who are extremely confused about the Holy Spirit.
    2. The Spirit indwells us at the same time of sonship. You ignore Romans 8:9 and 1 John 4:13 at your own peril.
    3. See The New International Greek Testament Commentray by Richard longenecker concerning Galatians 4:6: “For Paul, it seems, sonship and receiving the Spirit are so intimately related that one can speak of them in either order (cf. the almost free intertwining of categories in Rom 8:1-2 and 9-11), with only the circumstances of a particular audience, the issue being confronted, or the discussion that precedes determining the order to be used at any given time or place. So in 3:2-5 Paul begins his probatio by reminding his converts of their experiences as recipients of the Spirit in order then to lead them on to the climax of his argument as to their status as “sons of God” (3:26), with the conclusion being that they are therefore “Abraham’s seed” and heirs of the promise given to Abraham (3:29). In 6-7, however, though building to the same conclusion, Paul is working from a Christological confession of the church and so speaks of sonship as the basis for God’s gift of the Spirit. Clearly, hoti here is casual (“because,” “since”), building on the expressions huioi Theou (“sons of God”) of 3:26 and ee huiothesia (“the adoption,” “the sonship”) of 4:5. The statement is declarative of the Christian’s status: “You are sons” (este huioi). Also declarative is the statement “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts”. Paul is not here setting out stages in the Christian life, whether logical or chronological. Rather, his emphasis is on the reciprocal relation or correlational nature of sonship and the reception of the Spirit.”
    4. Thank you for citing another passage that demonstrates the baptism with the Holy Spirit (Galatinas 3:27). This baptism occurs to those who “receive the promise of the Spirit” (Galatians 3:14). This “promise” (the Holy Spirit) signifies one is a descendant of Abraham, i.e., a Christian (Galatians 3:29). Since the Gentiles “received” the promise of the Holy Spirit this proves that they were already descendants of Abraham/Christians before their water baptism (Acts 10:44-47). The TDNT reads, “3:14 simply shows that Pl. is thinking of a Pentecost of Gentile Christianity, the basic outpouring of the Spirit on the Gentiles” (6:426, footnote #624, pneuma, Schweizer). In other words, “it is the reception of the Spirit through faith which marks the beginning of the Christian life (Gal. 3:2 f.), a gift which fulfils the promise to Abraham and which therefore is another name for justification (Gal. 3:14; 1 Cor. 6:11)…” (NIDNTT 3:701, Spirit, Dunn). Finally, being baptized into Christ is to be clothed (endyw) with Christ (Galatians 3:27). Luke 24:49 teaches that this “clothing” (endyw) occurs upon the baptism with the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:5) – which the Gentiles experienced before their water baptism (Acts 11:16).


    • 1) The filling of the Spirit is different from the indwelling in that one is commanded to be filled with the Spirit after becoming a Christian (Eph. 5:18).

      2) I said nothing different. It is at the same time. After baptism comes indwelling of the Spirit, and therefore after the indwelling comes being a son. This is all at the same time. The scriptures do not contradict.

      3) No disagreement there.

      4) Again, the Spirit was received and with Cornelius (John 14:17), but the indwelling came at baptism in Jesus’ name where there is the forgiveness of sins.


  6. Marc Taylor says:

    1 John 4:13 teaches that one can know they abide in God and that God abides in them because He has given of His Spirit.
    Acts 11:17 and 15:8 teaches that these Gentiles were “given” the Holy Spirit before their water baptism.
    Clearly then did they abide “in God” before their water baptism.
    If one abides in God that means they are saved.


    • “The Spirit indwells us after we are sons.

      “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Gal. 4:6).

      And, we are sons after we are baptized.

      “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27). These two passages are parallel. For “through faith” “in Christ” is just as being “baptized into Christ”.

      The baptism of the Spirit is not the same as the indwelling. You know that God’s Spirit can influence people to prophesy against their will. You are very confused and very mistaken.

      The Spirit was with Cornelius, and in that since he received the Spirit as Jesus’ disciples did during Jesus’ life (John 7:39). This is as Jesus said in John 14:17, “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”

      Romans 8 speaks of the indwelling, which is necessary to be a child and heir of God.”


  7. JoeCool says:

    Consider this friends….God was and is capable of keeping the Bible intact and understandable for all ages to come. Do you really believe that because it was written so long ago that my God who is above all and capable of anything can’t make sure that it is understandable by “regular people”? Your talking about the creator of Heaven and Earth and all things seen and unseen. Just read it for what it says and stop making it more difficult than it has to be. When people argue what it says, they are really saying that “they don’t want to obey it because it’s not understandable”.
    Case in point…..The house is on fire…do you need to know what kind of method started the fire in order to decide to get out now? Obey the Gospel and live, or die in your sins!


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